Manna for Havana or Curse of Obama

An old photograph of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro has lately been circulating on social media, with speech bubbles in which Che asks “When will relations with the US be restored?” and a chuckling Fidel responds: “When the United States has a black president and the pope is an Argentinean, like you.”
Recent developments on that front will presumably inject an extra dose of optimism into celebrations marking the 56th anniversary of the Cuban revolution . The simultaneous announcements in Havana and Washington predicating the inauguration of a new phase in ties took most observers by surprise. The preceding 18 months of negotiations were a well-kept secret.
The start of a new phase in US-Cuba ties surprised many. As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama had indicated his willingness to push the reset button on ties with Cuba, and as president he has vaguely been reiterating the stance since 2009. Intriguingly, though, despite his perceived ‘softness’ towards Cuba, Obama won Florida in both 2008 and 2012.
This could partly be attributed to a phenomenon that the more percipient observers have been commenting on for several years: namely that younger Cuban-Americans tend to be considerably less block headed than their parents about the choices Cuba has made since 1959.
There is also a broad tendency to overlook the fact that the Cuban revolutionaries of that era, notwithstanding their disenchantment with imperialism, were perfectly willing to establish mutually respectful ties with Wash­ington. They were disinclined, though, to pander to US diktat on the economic front, and the nationalization of US-owned enterprises followed the refusal of American firms to refine crude oil obtained from the Soviet Union.
US designs on Cuba go back a long way, and between the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was determined Cuban resistance to annexation that prevented the isle from turning into a second Puerto Rico. Periodic American intervention was almost taken for granted, though, and the dictatorship that Fidel Castro and his comrades overthrew 56 years ago epitomized a neocolonial relationship whereby US-based corporations controlled the Cuban economy and the American mafia operated the casinos and nightclubs in Havana.
There is a persistent school of thought that ascribes the assassination of John F. Kennedy to the failed attempt to invade Cuba in 1961 via the Bay of Pigs, essentially as payback for the broken vow from JFK’s dad that his son would restore mafia ascendancy in Havana if the underworld helped to elect him. JFK sensibly refused to provide US air cover for the CIA recruits sent into Cuba, and the following year also resisted the advice of generals eager to nuke Cuba after it emerged that the island was hosting Soviet nuclear missiles, choosing instead to negotiate with Nikita Khrushchev.
More than half a century later, it is still widely assumed that in the eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation between the superpowers, it was Khrushchev who blinked by agreeing to pull out the missiles. However, the Soviet leader crucially got JFK to agree that the US would desist from attempts to invade Cuba.
Washington has stuck by that undertaking, although it didn’t prevent it from pursuing assassination attempts against Fidel Castro. Meanwhile, which of the two sides blinked in the lead-up to this month’s rapprochement remains a matter of perception, just as the consequences of the new deal remain open to conjecture.
Obama lacks the power to lift the economic blockade: only the US Congress can do that, and it will inevitably be reluctant to proceed under Republican control — although by no means are all Republicans opposed to an opening, albeit chiefly under the assumption that restored ties will enable the US to play a more dominant role in determining Cuba’s post-Castro future.
Obama himself channeled that line of thought in declaring that the change of tack was necessitated by the fact it hadn’t worked for more than 50 years, rather than because it was reprehensible. For several decades now, an annual resolution against the blockade has won overwhelming support in the UN General Assembly, lately with only the US and Israel opposing it. It will be interesting to see which way the US votes in 2015.
The US president is meanwhile expected to use his executive powers to loosen the embargo, facilitate travel between the two countries and authorize the re-establishment of full diplomatic ties — even though some legislators have vowed to thwart funding for an embassy and congressional approval of a new ambassador.
On both sides, though, the recalcitrants are in a minority, and within Cuba there is substantial evidence that even those hungry for greater economic opportunities and a dose of glasnost are keen to retain the outstanding gains of the revolution, notably the region’s highest standard of education and a level of healthcare that extends to almost a knee-jerk deployment of Cuban doctors in disaster zones the world over.

Need of Idling Time

The last few days of every year make me feel the justification of taking it easy, as one would like ample breaths at the end of a long run. The fact that the worst of heart attacks, hemorrhages, road accidents happen around the same time, does not take away the justification of this sense of ease. Many a medical man has actually worked throughout the midnight and finally walked out of the ward at the dawn of a new year, feeling absolutely restored, after restoring another’s life. The few times this has happened with me, are my most precious memories. The patients may not have realized it, their family may have cursed them for the absence, but these are the most cleansing memories, because one had justified an ‘idling time’ in the first place.
That brings us to the concept of “work”, “hard work”, concepts beaten in a child’s mind, by parents, social reformers, political leaders. Further down in economics it is per capita input in national productivity, per capita income, unemployment rate, GDP, plan deficit, trade deficit, inflation, and collapsing economies. Is it all because some countries are lazy, spendthrift, or are there other mega-controls derived from the initial sermonizing, with large quantities of the world’s booty, being run on equations exactly the opposite to the morals taught at the floor level!
Some years back, “outsourcing” had become a big issue, as so many more in a country shall remain “un-employed”. Well, if a worker in country “A” can work the same as three in country “B”, you still retain the other two workers in country “B”, because the revenues are still the same. Or, in addition, give them lighter, more creative jobs, with less working hours, and further add to their incomes, for the newly directed assignments offered. “Out sourcing”, therefore was an economic boom, where a country could buy some creative idleness for its people. Economists however know better!
Idleness, a word considered low in ethical content, mostly because of sayings as, “an idle mind is a devil’s workshop”, because Idle limbs are somehow tantamount to idle minds. What is not stated is the quiet, concentrated mind, that is the cradle of creativity. Many corporates retain a select, even post retirement cadre, that knows how to shuffle between the manual and the intellectual, surviving happily on plush pensions. That does not cut jobs, by creative expansion, adds to them. Such re-investment may be considered at par with CSR (corporate social responsibility). You are creating more worthwhile jobs, more worthwhile education.
The mention of “idleness” in the present context comes from two sources. One, the concept as dealt particularly in Bertrand Russell’s works, and the others, and because of the power punched slogan by the present government, “Make in India”. There is an addendum to this now, “Use made in India”. The revision, I believe is to give “make in india” a chance to get its proper platform for competition.
The above stated facts, came as a reflex as well as afterthought, particularly, the addendum. The means to take this horse to water, have to be understood. There has to be a need for ample freedom, the sort you get in university campuses, or in “A” class research Institutes. Creativity requires the right amount of manual and intellectual involvement. Next it requires is that “idle” moments like “that flash upon the inward eye”, as Wordsworth would put it, or as Archimedes floating in his bath-tub realized his “Eureka”!, or Isaac Newton got crazy about the apple that fell!
Human education, industry, economic policy, probably needs to provide a bit more of unbiased, uncontaminated time to its elite think tanks to work out individual, even co-ordinated truths. Repetition of decades old curricula, age old rules for emoluments, promotions, post retirement compensatory posts, in good for nothing departments, strictly dictated to protect the powers that be, need to be slowly shifted to the sidelines. Meanwhile, more Indian talent in the bureaucracy, law, health, education, economics, should have external placements in world bodies, and their contribution and influence be assessed.
An Indian misses out much of his creativity because of human congestion, competition to survival to slog hours and hours to get a technical, medical, bank, railway, state, allied, and the top of the cake, administrative job. These are long, delirious, dark, single exit tunnels. Little aptitude is inculcated. The only solace being that if you are good, and still don’t make it after the third attempt, the coaching institute may offer you a job.
One day from now, the 30th Dec, would be the death anniversary of Dr Vikram Sarabhai. From heading the esteemed Sarabhai-Squibb in his time, the Calico Mills of Ahmadabad, he made IIM-A, ATIRA (Ahmadabad textile industries research association), PRL (Physical research laboratory), School of Architecture, National Institute of Design, Community Science Centre (to provide unlimited resources to senior science students), the Satish Dhawan Space Application Centre, headed India’s Space Program, and rather reluctantly further took over the Atomic Program on Mrs Gandhi’s request, after the tragic demise of Dr Homi Bhabha.
The conventional abhorrence to “idleness”, is because of what has been attributed to it. Along with “Make in India”, our systems should change, socially, academically, administratively, to let each worthy citizen has the time to creatively “Think in India”!
I would still vouch for “essential idleness”! The “sprawl” is sometimes so necessary after the “crawl”
Happy New Year!

A Freedom of Expression Day: Desired in India

Give us the occasion, the Indians will give you the Day. We’ve adopted Father’s Day and Mother’s Day from the West, we have Children’s Day (Chacha Nehru’s in-perpetuity birthday gift), we have Teacher’s Day (former President S Radhakrishnan’s birthday), Sardar Patel’s birthday will be marked as Unity Day, and we have just inaugurated Good Governance Day.
Now that babus have commemorated Atalji’s birthday by clocking in to office on Christmas, how about a day that commemorates a fast dying freedom, namely Free Expression Day? Most newspapers only get three holidays in a year: Republic Day, Holi and Diwali. News gathering happens 24×7, 365 days of the year. But just as the PM has chosen to remind government servants that Christmas isn’t a time for carols but to keep the files moving, maybe we in the news media also need a Day to recall the values of the Fourth Estate. So how about a ‘Freedom of Expression’ Day?
Yes, the Constitution guarantees free speech, but is that enough? After all, these days free speech is as endangered as the spotted leopard. Big Brother is perpetually watching. If you’re not a ‘loyalist’, you’re a ‘traitor’. If you voice any criticism, you are struck off important lists. If you protest at the possible horror of a Godse Day you may be dubbed an ‘anti-national’. If you ‘offend sentiments’, moral policing thugs are liable to ransack your home. Books are being banned, films are sought to be boycotted and top leaders take pride in their contempt of journalists. Fear is the key.
Sonia Gandhi, Mayawati and Jayalalithaa won’t speak, Rahul is incommunicado, Mamata stages walkouts and the PM prefers to tweet rather than take questions. Source-based newsgathering is getting tougher: old fashioned document-driven investigative stories are under threat from political bosses. Editors are content managers and field reporting is considered expensive. Today’s media groans under three pressures: corporatization, sensationalism and politicization.
A is for aliens, B is for bans. If aliens arrived in India, would they find bans a defining feature of our culture? It’s paradoxical. While our populous diversity engenders rich cultural production, it has become extraordinarily fashionable to discover hurt to one’s sentiments and ban any cultural product not to one’s liking through intimidation. If the censor board clears a film, attempts to ban it thereafter are unlawful. This is as it should be. Given the amount of work that goes into making a movie and risks associated with producing it, India’s brilliantly successful movie industry will die an early death if any self-appointed censor is allowed to thwart screenings.
India should imbibe Obama’s zeal to protect free speech. For once Obama has acted sensibly. It relates to the Christmas release of Sony pictures’ The Interview is good news for everyone who upholds democratic values and wishes to stand up against cyber bullies. After hackers (believed to be from North Korea) attacked Sony’s servers in November, leaked sensitive documents and threatened movie theaters that screened The Interview — a satire about an assassination attempt on North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco — Sony cancelled its release.
United States President Barack Obama criticized the production company’s decision as a “mistake”, following which Sony decided to have a limited release of the movie. Sony, by releasing the movie, and Mr Obama, by voicing his support, have showed that no matter how big the threat is, bullies must not be entertained.
Shelving The Interview would have set a wrong precedent. As rightly put by Mr Obama, “imagine if producers and distributors and others start engaging in self-censorship because they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of someone whose sensibilities probably need to be offended”. Unfortunately, we, in India, are not alien to such self-censorship.
Be it the release of a book by Wendy Doniger (The Hindus: An Alternative History), or the screening of a war documentary by Callum Macrae (No Fire Zone) or a joint art exhibition by Indian and Pakistani artists in Ahmedabad, the organizers and government have caved in at the slightest hint of protest from fringe groups. Rather than protecting the enshrined right to freedom of expression, the government has often taken the easy — and lazy — option of banning works of art, academia or literature.
There is a lesson New Delhi can learn from the ‘Interview’ saga — when the rights of an organisation or a person are threatened, it is the duty of the State to step in and ensure that they are protected. It is not enough if Obama is invited as the chief guest for the Republic Day or more H1B visas are granted to Indian techies in the US.
Along with pushing for greater economic ties, New Delhi should also imbibe Washington’s zeal, as seen in this case, to protect free speech. Often India and the US are compared as great democracies, but it is the State’s approach towards these principles that defines the character and depth of a democracy.
The ever-present threat of withdrawal of ads from government or big business ensures muzzled journalists. A sound bite-driven society has little time for a lengthy report: these are hit-and-run times for hacks. That’s why citizens and journalists need a special day to remind ourselves of the joys of free speech and thought. If good politics is good marketing and if the idea of ‘good governance’ can be ‘sold’ through a ‘Sushasan Divas’, how about the ideals of India’s free press being advertised through a Freedom of Expression Day?

Year of ‘Ontario Scandals and Fiascoes’: Liberal Government Establishes a Record of Scandals

Who says that scandals are a close preserve of non-whites. Premier Wynne’s government is in a hurry to make immigrants.oops, new Canadians , feel at home; and her government establishes a new record. The year 2014 can safely be designated Year of ‘Ontario Scandals and Fiascoes’. It was a year of political careers made and broken at ‘Queen’s Park Scandals and fiascoes. Here is the litany… However excuse me, in case I have left any- that’s quite possible.
It started with Premier Kathleen Wynne going door-to-door handing out food baskets to people affected by the ice storm. A hastily thrown together gift card program forced would-be recipients to line up for hours for the cards, often to find they’d run out.
In February, a scathing report by ombudsman Andre Marin confirmed what many homeowners suspected — Hydro One’s billing system was a mess.
Also that month, the OPP anti-rackets squad raided the offices of a data storage company, looking for deleted e-mails that could shed light on the gas plant scandal.
March saw Wynne launch a bizarre libel-chill-on-steroids lawsuit against PC leader Tim Hudak and his energy critic, Lisa MacLeod. It started with the release of a letter calling on Hudak to “stop making false and defamatory accusations regarding allegations that an individual came into the former premier’s office to delete records.” The comments occurred at a news conference in response to release of OPP documents relating to the deleted e-mail scandal. The lawsuit is still dragging through the courts.
In April, Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli announced the debt retirement charge (DRC) will be dropped from your hydro bill Dec. 31, 2015. Except the DRC should have been paid off years ago. Introduced in 2002, it was intended to collect $7.8 billion toward the stranded debt left behind by the old Ontario Hydro.
In 2011, the auditor general reported that as of March of that year, $8.7 billion had been collected. But the Liberals continued to collect 0.7 cents a kilowatt hour on your hydro bill — only they slipped another $4 billion onto that, which they claim is “interest.” Now the Liberals have announced they’re going to drop that charge — after collecting another $1.5 billion of your money from now.
There’s a “but” in this — and it’s a big one: They’re also going to scrap the so-called Ontario Clean Energy Benefit (OCEB). That’s the 10% rebate you get on the first 3,000 kilowatts of electricity you use. Fittingly, the provincial budget was May 1. Send out a distress signal: Mayday, Mayday.
The day after the budget, New Democratic Leader Andrea Horwath said she couldn’t support the budget. Wynne didn’t wait for a vote — she pulled the plug on the legislature, calling a June 12 election.
Mid-election, former Newmarket-Aurora MPP Frank Klees revealed the government is preparing to bail out a failing real estate project in downtown Toronto to the tune of $317 million.
Liberals gave $71 million to build a second tower at the MaRS research center at College St. and University Ave., and provided a $234-million loan for the project, but cabinet documents show the registered charity and the New York-based real estate developer can’t repay the money.
Despite that fresh scandal, Hudak hit a wall. On May 30, he made the biggest mistake of his political career. He pledged to cut 100,000 public sector jobs — 25% of them through natural attrition. The Liberals pounced. Hudak’s fortunes began a slow slide to the election rout. The night of election day June 12, voters gave Liberals 58 seats, Tories got 28. The NDP lost the balance of power and ended up with 21 seats.
July brought the first round of smug Liberal triumphalism. The new government signaled it was back to the same-old, same-old on throne speech day. Among other favored guests was former premier Dalton McGuinty. It was hugs and air kisses all around as the guy who scrapped the gas plants was welcomed back.
Later in the month, the same budget that had triggered the election passed easily. And Moody’s credit ratings agency downgraded the province’s economic outlook from “stable” to “negative.”
In August, elementary teachers gave Wynne a rough time at their annual convention, whining that they could no longer bank sick days.
September saw the last day on the job for outgoing Lt.-Gov. David Onley. After seven years, Onley and his wife, Ruth-Ann, bid farewell to the plush Queen’s Park offices. He’d served overtime in the office because it would have been tricky to replace him during a minority parliament. The same month saw Elizabeth Dowdeswell, a former environmental bureaucrat, take over the job.
After his unexpectedly strong showing against John Tory in the mayoral election, October saw renewed speculation that Doug Ford would run for the leadership of the PC party. In November, Ford said he wouldn’t be running, saying he needs to focus on his family business.
Meanwhile, newly elected Sudbury NDP MPP Joe Cimino shocked his colleagues by abruptly quitting his seat.
December was chock full o’scandals. First, the province’s new welfare computer coughed up a hairball — and thousands of incorrect cheques. Then provincial auditor general Bonnie Lysyk released a scathing report on smart meters. Chiarelli blew a fuse and accused her of not understanding the energy file.
A massive document dump the Friday after the House rose for Christmas revealed massive expenses racked up by folks at TO2015 — the Pan Am Games organizers.
Sudbury New Democratic MP Glenn Thibeault announced he’s running provincially for the Liberals.
And OPP search warrants allege the spouse of a senior adviser in the office of former premier McGuinty told investigators he was paid $10,000 to wipe the computers of political staff prior to the takeover of Wynne as premier. Wynne’s office later announced the party will reimburse taxpayers the $10,000.
Can you find a single month that can be deemed to scandal-free. Hail Premier, we the new Canadians welcome your approach to comedown to the level of original native countries, so that we do not feel home sick. Bravo for keeping up with the traditions prevalent in home countries of the immigrants.

Contradictions Between Reality & Theory of Political Islam

Muslims have become so used to modern nation-states that many of them will put up a fight if forced to give up their Pakistani, Afghan, Syrian or Algerian identities in return for a new identity introduced by the likes of bin Laden or Mullah Omar. Political Islam is an attractive concept for many Muslims and some expect it to resolve some of the economic, political and cultural problems they face. But most don’t know how this will happen.
From the early 19th to the mid-20th century, the Islamic world produced a string of scholars — Jamaluddin Afghani and Syed Abul A’ala Maududi in British India, Hassan al-Banna and Syed Qutub in Egypt and Ali Shariati in Iran — who provided an intellectual basis for what is now known as ‘Political Islam’.
What they wrote made sense in an era when most of today’s Islamic nations were either under direct colonial control or had just regained independence and were still struggling under a colonial legacy. But the fundamentalists, unlike the nationalists, never believed that the end of colonial rule will also bring economic, social and cultural freedom from Western influence. “When the British left the subcontinent, they also left behind a system, and enough people to run that system, which prevents the formerly colonized nations to attain full independence,” says Khurshid Ahmad, a leading intellectual of Pakistan’s Jamaat-e-Islami party.
Notions of an ‘Islamic system’ Economy: Ahmad argues that the developing world currently owes a total of $3.242 trillion to the richest countries of the world. He points out that the richest 1 per cent of the world earns as much as the bottom 57 per cent. Ahmad and other similar Islamic economists blame the world’s interest-based economy for this disparity and want to establish an interest-free economic system.
But the problem is, they haven’t been able to implement the Islamic system. Individual financial institutions have tried to implement this new system in some countries, but at best they offer cosmetic changes or rephrase the economic jargon to justify the prevalent interest-based system.
Culture: Another major complaint fundamentalists often voice is the West’s cultural domination. They want it to be replaced by an Islamic culture. But ‘Islamic culture’ itself is a contentious term. Muslims in Iran or South Asia are culturally as different from Arab Muslims as all of them are from Western culture. In fact, all of them have borrowed more from Western culture than they have from one another.
Politics: Politically, the Islamic world is even more divided. Perhaps the only common factor in more than 50 Muslim nations is that most of them are run by autocratic rulers.
Several major Muslim states have serious differences with one another and have also often gone to war against their co-religionists. The conflict in Syria and the ISIS’s surprise takeover of several Sunni cities in Iraq once again confirms that for many fighting the opposite sect is perhaps more important than fighting the so-called ‘infidels’.The role some neighboring Arab, and non-Arab, countries have played in fanning sectarian differences in Iraq and Syria indicates that the Middle East may soon be divided into blocs. Iran, Iraq, parts of Lebanon and Syria may form the Shia bloc and the rival bloc may include Sunni Arab states. This may eventually lead to the breakup of some Arab states, like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, on sectarian lines.
But unifying the Islamic world was always a difficult task. And it is understandable why. To provide an intellectual basis for the unification of more than 50 nations with such major economic, cultural and political differences is not easy. Theories produced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries have become irrelevant. And since the 1960s, the movement known as political Islam has not produced any major intellectual.
Islamic political parties also have had very little experience in running a modern state. The only country that has remained under religious rule for a considerable period is Iran, where fundamentalists toppled the shah in 1979.
But there is little in the Iranian experience that fascinates Sunni Muslims. Most Muslims outside — and many inside — Iran blame the religious elite that is running the country for creating more problems than they resolve. Another example is Afghanistan, where extremists like the Taliban and Al Qaeda had an opportunity to create a model Islamic state but failed miserably.
For almost five years, the Taliban and Al Qaeda movements had an entire country at their mercy, with full freedom to do what they wanted. Osama bin Laden and his clique had enough resources and plenty of connections in oil-rich Arab states to get the finances they needed to build roads, schools, hospitals and factories destroyed in 20 years of war and civil strife. Instead, they turned Afghanistan into a launching pad for terrorist attacks against the Western world, which led to the US invasion after 9/11 and has created a situation which has further weakened the Pakistani and Afghan states. Political scientists fear that if the gradual radicalization of the two societies is not stopped soon, both Pakistan and Afghanistan may disintegrate into smaller and ungovernable entities.
Pakistan also, has suffered tremendously with the mixing of religion with politics. The religion failed to become the unifying factor that Pakistan’s founding fathers had hoped it would be. But it did create dozens of highly radicalized religious groups who know how to kill in the name of religion but do not know how to run a modern state. Now the country’s army, which played a key role in forming many of these radical groups, has been forced to launch a major offensive to eliminate them. They may succeed in doing so but this process may also create new divisions within the Pakistani state. But if the operation fails, it may undo the Pakistani state.
What would a modern Islamic nation-state be like? Political Islam has so far been unable to resolve the differences that exist between their version of an Islamic state and the modern nation-states that exist in today’s Islamic world.
Their ultimate goal is to create an international fraternity of Muslim nations that can slowly be guided toward a united caliphate. But how they intend to make modern Muslim nation states accept such a caliphate, they’re at a loss to say. Will nation-states such as Iran, Saudi Arabia and Morocco be forced to join such a caliphate? Will they willingly give up their sovereignty for the sake of a greater unity or be forced to do so? How would the rest of the world react to the emergence of a new religious bloc in the world? Will it lead to a greater jihad against the rest of the world?
Within the caliphate, how much power shall the caliph enjoy and how much freedom will its citizens be allowed? Will there be a free media? Can women appear on television and cinema screens? Can there be music in an Islamic state? Will women be forced to wear the veil? Will it be compulsory for every man to have a beard?
It is not that political Islamists do not have answers to these questions. They do. The problem is that their answers are not acceptable to an overwhelming majority of Muslims.The modern, interest-based banking system is well-entrenched in many Muslim countries. Poor Muslim nations depend on financial assistance from the United States and other Western nations and financial institutions. They cannot defy them. Rich Muslim states neither have the desire nor the intellectual depth needed to create an alternative economic system. They are even less willing to share their riches with poorer Muslim countries. Workers from poor Muslim countries in these rich states are often treated like slaves and return home with a taste of bitterness that remains with them for the rest of their lives. Middle-class and educated Muslim women are not willing to wear the veil, at least not the type presented by the mullahs, though many cover their heads with scarves.
Many of the Muslim men and women are addicted to Western-style television shows, films, music and other cultural influences and are unwilling to give them up. They are unwilling to go along with the religious groups or the traditional mullahs, like the Taliban. They fear that in a Taliban-like state, or the Iranian-style Islamic republic, they will be marginalized and will be forced to accept an orthodox version of Islam that they do not believe in.
Muslims have become so used to the modern nation-states, many of them will put up a fight if forced to give up their Pakistani, Afghan, Syrian or Algerian identities in return for a new identity introduced by the likes of bin Laden or Mullah Omar. Rich Muslim states are not likely to abolish visas and open their doors to poorer Muslims just because religious groups want them to do so.

Resolving the Kashmir Conflict

The national interest demands that on the security front, the Center must have a clear vision and an unambiguous policy, including directions to the Army and full resistance to any dilution of the Army’s presence
Rarely have analysts applied the theory of conflict management in the 25-year long externally sponsored internal conflict in Jammu and Kashmir. This is because there is lack of clarity among strategic thinkers on how to apply such a theory to a typical situation of irregular warfare. The complete application of the theory would need a dissertation, but simply placed on the matrix of J&K’s sponsored internal conflict, we can presume that the conflict initiation stage lasted from 1989 to 1991, the conflict progression from 1992 (entry of foreign terrorists in sizable numbers) to 2007 (actualization of the effects of the Line of Control fence resulting in extensive control over infiltration), while the first stage of conflict stabilization lasted from 2008 to 2010, the agitation phase being a manifestation of stabilization. The necessity of placing the prefix “sponsored” before all mention of internal conflict is a necessity because this is not just a festering internal issue, but a carefully crafted proxy war the planning of which is entirely managed from within Pakistan; that aspect has special applicability in conflict management.
The period 2011 to 2014, marked by absence of agitation and weak attempts at resurgence of the internal conflict, can be explained as the second phase of the conflict stabilization stage. Even though both phases witnessed sporadic acts of violence, the reducing terrorist footprint gave sufficient opening for initiatives towards transforming the sponsored internal conflict and reducing Pakistan’s capacity to calibrate even while it continues its support from across the LoC. The successful conduct of Assembly elections irrespective of political out-come, failure of Pakistan’s attempts to upset the equilibrium and the deep interest witnessed in the post flood recovery and development agenda appear to mark the beginning of the next stage — conflict resolution.
Transcending from stabilization to the resolution stage is always fraught with danger as there are no clear “way points”; the adversary continues adopting methods to upset progress; the security forces are unsure of the concept they should follow to ensure security and eliminate residual terrorist strength; the last-mile effort in counter-militancy is always dangerous for the inevitable mistakes and the possibility of over-confidence and over kill; the political leadership in such situations flounders at the altar of uncertainty, struggling to regain political space which appears to be slipping away from the hold of ideologues; and lastly, the populace remains torn between a perceived betrayal of the cause and its need for “hygiene factors” — the everyday needs of people. (In J&K it translates into “roti, kapda, makaan”.)
That is the situation in J&K as we move towards the 15th year of the millennium and 25th year of the conflict situation — a fairly long period for any such a conflict. Application of the theory of conflict management is never done in strict calendar years and ambiguity is actually strength while formulating counter narratives. Yet, in J&K’s extremely ambiguous scenario, some definitive does help in evolving clarity towards establishing a policy for conflict resolution, a stage which may itself take a couple of years to travel through.
The last phase of conflict stabilization needed political direction which, unfortunately, was missing and bogged in wrangles over such issues as AFSPA, the continued role of the Army in the counter-terror grid and alleged human rights violations. Political transition at the Center did not allow sufficient time for clarity in policy. As could be expected, Pakistan made strident efforts to treat the LoC and the Jammu international border sector as symbols to remind the world of the fast fading hyphenation of India with Pakistan, post the arrival of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the national scene.
India’s more-than-adequate military response, however, remained shrouded in its inability to generate any fresh options to send a stronger message. This is a phenomenon that will continue to affect our military responses in the coming year and beyond; the conventional military space being acutely limited. Pakistan’s last desperate act of the year, the Uri fidayeen attack, was designed to send a message of its ability to continue calibrating the conflict, in spite of an extremely reduced footprint.
In the first calendar year of the inevitably long conflict resolution stage what should be the policy and what factors will contribute to enhanced effectiveness?
The first constant that will prevail is Pakistan’s continued intent to intervene, maintain its ability to calibrate the alienation and violence and project its status as a stakeholder. Which ever political dispensation the state has, there can be no going away from a more avowed development agenda which must be the cornerstone of governance. The political dispensation will decide the degree of strength between the Central and state governments, but as the Prime Minister stated, it should be national interest which prevails. National interest demands that there be much closer coordination between the Center and the state on all economic issues. It additionally demands that on the security front, the Center must have a clear vision and an unambiguous policy, including directions to the Army and full resistance to any dilution of the Army’s presence; the situation is too tenuous yet to experiment with any major changes. It, in fact, calls for greater energy in the intelligence agencies and the will to execute action against trends, which are well established. This would translate into action to curb radical trends and protect Kashmiri youth from extraneous influence while, simultaneously, zealously enabling their freedom to study and work anywhere in India.
The inherent dangers from the trends within Pakistan are likely to remain. The security establishment must understand that the nexus within Pakistan will try hard to tip the situation back to conflict through irrational acts, including fidayeen-type operations as seen at Uri. These operations had, in 1999-2002, tied down the security forces by forcing a higher level of defensive measures.
The relevance of the Pakistan Punjab based radical groups, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, so assiduously promoted by Pakistan as a strategic asset, is an issue which will remain in contention through 2015.
Pakistan’s announced intent of not differentiating between good and bad terrorists is unlikely to translate into effect. Carefully nurtured negatives to provide a strategic advantage do not get diluted by single acts of horror such as the Peshawar massacre; it will take much more for Pakistan to change any of its policies towards India, particularly its involvement in J&K.
Lastly, there can be no better symbol to force the hyphenation of Pakistan with India than the LoC and the Jammu international border. We have not seen the last of acts of violence and irrationality on the part of Pakistan; if anything, more of these are likely as Pakistan struggles on in a state of uncertainty.

India’s Urgent Need: Ocean Diplomacy

Reviving the long-dead proposal for a zone of peace in the Indian Ocean is not the answer to the new maritime challenges that confront India. Multilateral diplomacy is an important but minor part of a new Indian Ocean strategy that New Delhi needs to develop. The core of such a strategy is about building India’s own naval strength and expanding its maritime partnerships with other countries through bilateral, trilateral and multilateral means. India needs to deepen its military security cooperation in the Indian Ocean with the US and France and initiate a maritime security dialogue with China.
In the past, when India saw itself as a weak, non-aligned state, Delhi believed the nation’s security dilemmas could be addressed through moral politik. This approach created severe problems for the nation’s security decision-makers. When China tested its first nuclear weapon in 1964, for example, India ran to the United Nations seeking a treaty that would abolish nuclear weapons.
Instead, India got the non-proliferation treaty, which only prevented the spread of these weapons. Rather than build a nuclear arsenal, India spent the next three-and-a-half decades denouncing the NPT and proclaiming a commitment to nuclear disarmament. Similarly, India believed that the UN would provide answers to a historic shift in its maritime environment — the withdrawal of Great Britain from east of the Suez after nearly two centuries of dominance over the Indian Ocean. As America replaced Britain as the dominant naval power in the Indian Ocean and its rival Soviet Union sought to compete, Delhi backed Colombo’s proposal for a zone of peace in the Indian Ocean.
Delhi contested the very idea of a power vacuum in the Indian Ocean and bet that the region could build a system of collective security. India asked the great powers not to acquire military bases in the region. It also told Washington and Moscow, “by the way, don’t even think of bringing your nuclear weapons into the Indian Ocean”.
If Delhi’s strategic innocence in the 1960s was breathtaking, some of its neighbors, like Pakistan, thought India was being simply devious; they believed Delhi wanted great powers out of the Indian Ocean so that it could establish its own dominance. So much for the consequences of Indian idealism. Irrespective of their lip service for the zone of peace, most Indian Ocean states actively sought military support from one or the other external power to counter presumed threats from their neighbors. That world has not disappeared.
Maritime China
Invocation of the zone of peace proposal is widely seen as an Indian counter to China’s growing naval presence in the Indian Ocean. Delhi has noted with concern the recent docking of Chinese naval submarines in Colombo and watched warily as the Chinese navy matched India’s fresh water diplomacy in the Maldives. India’s rhetoric about keeping extra-regional powers out of the Indian Ocean was directed at America in the 1970s and 1980s. As India has expanded its interaction with the US military since the early 1990s, some of that rhetoric had taken a backseat.
As China eyes the Indian Ocean, Delhi is playing the old song again. But that little ditty is not going to limit China’s rising naval profile in the Indian Ocean. After it first showed up in the Indian Ocean three decades ago, the Chinese navy is here to stay. Like all great powers before, Beijing is bound to establish a permanent military presence in the Indian Ocean. The question is not “if” but “when”.
Indian Response
To cope with the rise of China and the changing power balance in the Indian Ocean, Delhi needs to look beyond the outdated zone of peace proposal. India’s ocean diplomacy needs a strong domestic foundation, built on more rapid naval modernization, the expansion of civilian maritime infrastructure, development of island territories, capacity to undertake projects in other countries across the littoral and more vigorous naval assistance to other countries.
On the political front, India needs much better political relations with its maritime neighbors like Sri Lanka and the Maldives, which are playing the China card as an insurance against hostile Indian policies. Delhi also needs stronger partnerships with other island states, like Seychelles and Mauritius, which are being wooed by China with great vigor today.
India needs to deepen its military security cooperation in the Indian Ocean with the US and France and initiate a maritime security dialogue with China. On the foundation of these unilateral and bilateral initiatives, India can expand its maritime multilateralism through such initiatives as the Indian Ocean Rim Association and the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium. For all this, Delhi needs the civilian leadership — both political and bureaucratic — in the defense ministry to wake up to the new imperatives of maritime strategy and naval diplomacy.

Meninism – An Outcry Against Feminism

As a reaction to the feminist movement, a new philosophy called “meninism” seems to be taking root, gathering a sizeable following on social networking sites. After being named the feminist celebrity of this year, Emma Watson might be the face of the movement that has been fighting against misogyny. But in Twitter verse, it’s a new movement that’s grabbing the headlines a counterattack comes from men who call themselves “meninists”.
When the first meninist comments first began to be seen on social media, the BBC had reported, “#MeninistTwitter was initially started by men sharing jokes some of which were criticized as offensive by feminists. But supporters of the hashtag say it’s become a channel for men to express the difficulties of being a man in the 21st century.” The hashtag has picked up even more momentum recently, with the Twitter handle The Meninist currently counting upwards of 95.8 thousand followers. While many like the sexist humor the handle peddles, others feel some of the posts veer towards the offensive.
Feminists think meninists are cut off from the situation on the ground, and therefore do not really have cause for a movement. “It is women who are always at the receiving end there are lakhs of women who suffer (from gender related harassment) compared to perhaps the two men in lakhs who might have to put up with similar treatment,” says sociologist Nandini Sardesai. Nandini also points out that in most Asian countries with the exception of a few communities a patriarchy persists. “So-called civilized man has always put the woman in a subordinate position. Be it in her private or public life, she has very little say. So, I do feel it’s the women who need to stand up and assert their authority (rather than men).”
The entire movement can be thought of in terms of the philosophical terms of “thesis, antithesis and synthesis”. It explains how when one gender (women) felt suppressed, they created the feminist movement or the “initial thesis”. The antithesis would be the meninist movement where men feel that sometimes, women are given more leeway. The synthesis would be where the next generation finds some balance for a while. While meninism will eventually be “nothing more than a glorified hashtag,” in reality neither sex needs an ‘ist’ movement for any kind of liberation. Meninism (and similar movements) could be a product of the social media age. There was a point when you had to be sensible and literate enough to express your opinion. But now even a monkey can write an opinion, and even that will have 15-16 followers.
Some women at least seem to be taking the whole meninism movement with a pinch of salt. They believe in letting men cry if they want to, because that is what will make them sensitive towards their surroundings. However, if meminism is meant to be taken seriously, nobody is going to burn her bra! Let’s face it, this is a man’s world. The day it becomes the other way round, I will personally take up cudgels for men. But not today.
Movements like feminism and meninism come from different space. Feminism was a movement, centered around body and imagination, centered around struggle it has a sense of the erotic as well as the sense of political. We cannot confuse the movement with a network. They are very different in the political space. The meninism trend will eventually get ironic, paradoxical or pornographic. Not many are taking the meninists seriously and perhaps they are not intended to. But the social network has definitely has.sparked a debate which can be redeemed only by reflection.

Tunisia With Morocco Herald Transforming the Maghreb

With Tunisia successfully concluding its first presidential elections under a new Constitution, the legacy of the Arab Spring – which started in this small North African nation in 2011 – can now boast of another bright star. It was in Tunisia that the wave of pro-democracy protests began when a street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi immolated himself to protest against government harassment and corruption. The incident sparked off popular demonstrations against the regime of long-time strongman Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, who was forced to step down.
The demonstrations in Tunisia soon spread to other Arab nations in North Africa and the Middle East. While these were welcomed as a new awakening in the region, the ultimate results haven’t been entirely desirable. In Egypt, the Arab Spring movement has been completely reversed with the army back in charge. Muslim Brotherhood leaders including Egypt’s first democratically elected president in the post-Hosni Mubarak era, Mohamed Morsi, are facing trial. Mubarak himself was recently acquitted in a case that accused him of overseeing the killing of nearly 900 protests during the 2011 demonstrations.
In Libya the situation has gone from bad to worse after a bloody civil war resulted in the death of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The country has been overrun by a multitude of militias and remains in limbo. In Syria, the Arab Spring uprising degenerated into a sectarian struggle between Sunni rebels and the Alawite-dominated government of Bashar al-Assad. In fact, the resultant turmoil created space for the Islamic State terrorist group to emerge and even declare an Islamic caliphate straddling Syria and Iraq. In doing so, the group has emerged as the single biggest threat to international security in recent months.
Taken together, it would be fair to say that the Arab Spring movement has resulted in more chaos than positive democratic transitions. Only two countries stand out in stark contrast. The first is Morocco where the monarch King Mohammed VI was quick to anticipate the sentiments of the people and ordered the drafting of a new Moroccan Constitution in 2011. Accordingly, King Mohammed also devolved much of his powers to the elected government, increasing the latter’s responsibility and accountability. Popular elections were held under the new Constitution that saw moderate Islamists of the PJD form a coalition government.
All of these helped Morocco stave off the kind of turmoil experienced in Egypt or Libya. Since 2011, Morocco has emerged as an island of stability in North Africa. It has been at the forefront of championing regional economic partnerships and has even taken the lead in pushing back the scourge of rising Islamic extremism. Rabat has been pursuing the latter objective through the promotion of moderate Islam and training imams from partner countries. This along with determined efforts to bust terrorist cells wherever they are found has won Morocco international praise – Spanish Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz recently commended Morocco for helping his country jointly dismantle four terrorist cells in 2014.
That US think-tank Atlantic Council has asserted that Morocco today is well-positioned to serve as a hub for creating and analysing different models of sustainable development in Africa bears testimony to the political stability that the country has ensured in the wake of the Arab Spring movement. Hence, Morocco is clearly a model for other Arab Spring countries to follow.
Which brings us to Tunisia. Although the latter’s democratic transition has been more tortuous than Morocco’s it is welcome that Tunisia has completed the process in a relatively peaceful manner. Following the Constituent Assembly polls in 2011, moderate Islamists of the Ennahda movement formed an interim coalition administration. But the Islamists were found lacking in administrative experience. Add to this fears among many Tunisians that the Islamists would turn the clock back on Tunisia’s extremely progressive gender equality laws. The murder of two secular leaders last year blamed on jihadists added substance to those fears.
Thankfully, however, Ennahda was able to show flexibility and adopt a consensual approach to the Constitution writing process. Although the new Tunisian Constitution recognises Islam as the state religion, it also guarantees freedom of belief and conscience and professes equality of gender – a far cry from the Sharia-compliant Constitution that fringe extremists wanted. Meanwhile, the rise of the secular Nidaa Tounes party as exemplified by the parliamentary polls in October – the first under the new Constitution – and Beji Caid Essebsi’s presidential election victory, shows that the majority of Tunisians want a secular and stable dispensation to guide Tunisia into a brighter future.
In this regard, both Tunisia and Morocco as the leading post-Arab Spring countries should partner each other to not only serve as shining examples to the region but also build a progressive regime in the Maghreb. The two countries have huge scope for cooperation ranging from counter-terrorism and education to agriculture and services. In fact, Tunisia and Morocco can be the fulcrum on which an integrated Maghreb Union is built, serving as a common market for investment and Maghrebi resources. This is a project whose time has come. And if Tunisia and Morocco take the lead, others such as Algeria are bound to follow or risk isolation.
Besides, a Tunisia-Morocco partnership is absolutely essential to fight extremism in the Maghreb. While extremist elements in Tunisia remain on the fringes, with Rabat’s help Tunis needs to nip this problem in the bud and reverse any advances made by groups such as the Islamic State in the region. Together Tunisia and Morocco can script a bright new chapter in the history of the Maghreb.

OPEC- The Organization Most Loved

What’s not to love about OPEC? There has rarely been a better model of an international body banding together with a mission to stabilize a stubbornly unstable market. As steward of 75 per cent of the planet’s crude oil reserves, OPEC can give the US Federal Reserve, the United Nations and Al Gore a run for their money in its power to simultaneously influence the world’s economy, its politics and its climate.
For all its efforts, OPEC has rarely had much affection directed its way from the rest of the planet in its 54 years of existence. Granted, few have gone to the extremes of Carlos the Jackal, who took it upon himself to kidnap several oil ministers of OPEC member countries back in 1975. But the organisation forever remains a prisoner of that pariah of a label: cartel. Further, OPEC’s price-fixing — a must for all cartels — unfortunately contributes disproportionately to inflation and economic downturns worldwide. Its stock in trade, fossil fuels, is blamed for making oceans rise, environmental degradation of cities and profoundly distorted weather patterns. Its member governments are generally not terribly popular in the international community, and mostly not even with their own citizenry. OPEC’s is, indeed, a thankless task.
Despite all its challenges, thanks to the extraordinary leadership of the Saudi Arabians, OPEC recently stood up to the upstart unconventional North American producers scouring shale and tar sands for “tight oil”. OPEC’s solidarity in not cutting supplies has launched a price war — sheikhs vs shale, as The Economist puts it. Arcane price benchmarks, from West Texas Intermediate to Brent crude, plunged — exactly what the Saudis were hoping for, to slow US shale production by making it uneconomical. Economics professors used to love to use OPEC as an example of a solution to one of the enduring problems of game theory — the prisoner’s dilemma. In its November meeting in Vienna, OPEC produced a brand new game-theoretic lesson — keep prices lower than a “break-even price”, enough to deter those rascally entrants. Indeed, the strategy appears to be working in the near term. Already, new well permits for North American shale oil and gas fell 40 per cent in November. By all accounts, behind an agreement on this price cut was a painful process of arm-twisting by the Saudis.
Today, it is time for some of us to show a bit of love for OPEC for giving us cheap oil. This is especially true for the average Indian, who must pay 110 % of his/her daily income to purchase a gallon of petrol, the second-highest among 61 countries, analysed by Bloomberg. OPEC deserves some love at the very least from Messrs Narendra Modi and Arun Jaitley, hoping to pare back fuel subsidies and trimming one of Asia’s largest fiscal deficits.
Putting aside the grief of American shale upstarts, at least US President Barack Obama ought to show some love for OPEC. Cheap oil should help American consumers and businesses feel richer; Obama badly needs some good news on the home front. Internationally, collapsing world oil prices will continue to put pressure on his nemesis, Vladimir Putin, who relies on oil and gas revenues for his swagger and cross-border adventures.
Indeed, all those leaders of liberal Western democracies who fret about autocratic governments ought to be showing some love for OPEC. The discipline brought about by the Saudis has kept countries such as Iran and Venezuela in check. Without sufficient oil revenues, they have less wiggle room to cause trouble, and may even be forced to consider political reforms someday. The Chinese should love OPEC, too. They must like their oil at prices below $70 a barrel, given their status as the world’s largest net importer of petroleum and liquid fuels.
Much of the rest of the world owes OPEC some gratitude. It has been a tough year for OPEC. It has had to grit its collective teeth and fix prices — and keep them low, rather than where member countries would like to fix them: as high as they possibly can. This could not have been easy.
Will the situation get any better next year? Will oil prices be higher or lower than at the end of this year? Making predictions about longer-term directions of oil prices is hazardous for three principal reasons. ALTHOUGH economic growth is the government’s mantra, whether it will utilize the recent free fall in crude oil prices to turn the economy around is a moot point. The battle of the sheikhs vs shale gas has not only impacted geopolitics, it has also brought the oil price at Brent crude (the global oil price benchmark) to $59 a barrel. Meanwhile WTI, the US benchmark, has dropped to $55 from well over $110 in June 2014.
Pakistan’s economy is in shambles, a situation exacerbated by poor leadership and bad governance. One result is that a 45% reduction in petrol prices has translated into only 15& reduction for motorists. The recent drop in oil prices can improve two crucial data points: the energy crisis and external balance of payments. The deepening power shortage has sparked violent protests and cost thousands of jobs in a country already beset with high unemployment. The government has failed to take full advantage of falling oil prices.
OPEC’s more powerful members are willing to bear the crunch of oil prices as low as $50 a barrel to take on Russia, Iran (even though it is a member of OPEC) and US shale revolution. This opportunity must be used by the government to end the energy crisis. A quick look at Pakistan’s energy crisis shows the gap between supply and demand exceeded 6,000 megawatts in summer, and remained around 4,000 to 5,000 MW for most of the year. This shortfall, representing about one-third of the total demand, saw one-third of the consumers remain without power for over 20 hours at a time.
The question is, will the governments adopt the simple strategy of increasing efficiency, and then running power plants at full capacity by utilizing the low oil prices until viable? In the current situation, this is an excellent short-term solution and an easily executable strategy. For any policymaker in the energy sector in oil-importing countries, this is no less than a heaven-sent opportunity.
Keeping the volatility of global oil prices in mind, it would be wise for the government to execute a new, rational and robust national power policy based on the Energy Vision 2035 document. Meanwhile, it will not take rocket science, but simple mathematics and a sense of purpose, to turn around the energy crisis.
One is that OPEC has a rather miserable record at coordinating among its members, an essential element of the tradecraft of running a respectable cartel. OPEC has repeatedly failed to respond on a timely basis in the past when prices fell — in the mid-1980s or in 2008. Members have recently had so much on their plates to make them somewhat distracted, and less-than-reliable, comrades in price-fixing over the long haul. Saudi Arabia and Iran are running a proxy war, pitting Sunni against Shia. Iraq is being devastated by the Isis. Libya has been a victim of protests and political instability, while Nigeria has to deal with oil theft, corruption and terrorism organised by an emboldened Boko Haram. No one seems to give a hoot about Venezuela, beset by a litany of problems, with no charismatic Hugo Chavez at the helm.
A second reason why it is hard to accurately forecast oil price movements year to year stems from the increasingly wide variations in weather patterns. The extremes of climate change make it harder for producers to ratchet production up or down to meet sudden unplanned spikes or troughs in the need for oil. Third, while OPEC and the shale producers may be playing an elaborate chess game around the break-even price, it is clear that the shale industry was propelled by an abundance of spunk and innovative spirit. The drive to innovate and improve productivity is likely to continue and keep pressure on that break-even number, which will keep the rivals on both sides guessing.
Yes, at the end of a dramatic year for OPEC, it is time for the world community to come together and recognize a unique institution. OPEC’s solidarity might hold the key to unlocking higher growth rates across the global economy. Any agency with a mission to “ensure the stabilization of oil markets in order to secure an efficient, economic and regular supply of petroleum to consumers, a steady income to producers and a fair return on capital for those investing in the petroleum industry” is the ultimate in all-round win-win. Such high-mindedness ought to be an inspiration to the rest of us.
In an undisciplined world, we must be thankful for the few exceptions that stand firm, despite the odds.

Unscheduled Truce

What if they gave a war and nobody came? Exactly who first raised this question is disputed, but that does not detract from its validity. It may have been prompted by a remarkable — even miraculous — event that occurred 100 years ago today.The battlefields in France were by then already a mess, although much of the mass slaughter that defined the First World War still lay ahead. In some quarters it had been claimed that the war would be over by Christmas. But by the time the festive season rolled along, almost everyone involved had realized that they were in it for the long haul.
On Christmas Eve, though, something unusual was afoot in sectors along the western front, where British and German troops were entrenched within shouting distance. Letters written by British soldiers suggest they were taken by surprise when lights appeared on the opposite side, and then silhouettes of the kaiser’s troops as they emerged, some with their arms stretched out to indicate they bore goodwill rather than guns.
According to some accounts, it was the sound of the hymn Stille Nacht that alerted British soldiers to a change in mood across the battle lines. And they apparently responded with carols of their own, possibly including Silent Night. As the Germans tentatively walked into no-man’s land, the British reciprocated.
‘Enemies’ thus met up in the snow, shook hands and exchanged greetings as well as cigarettes and sweets. This wasn’t a solitary event: unexpected civility broke out in several places across the battlefront. In letters home, soldiers even spoke of engaging their adversaries in impromptu football matches.
A century ago, enemies met up in the snow and shook hands. Both sides also took the opportunity to bury their dead. But once the festivities were over, they went back to killing each other.
It stands to reason that at least in some cases the resumption of hostilities must have been fraught with misgivings. Recalling the Christmas truce in his memoirs, Otto Hahn, a German platoon commander who eventually went on to win the Nobel prize in chemistry, writes that when the orders to resume firing were given, “We asked our company commander where the enemy was, since we could not see any and therefore did not know where to shoot.”
There is some evidence that many junior officers either participated in the fraternization or tacitly encouraged it. The generals, though, were for the most part livid. How could you possibly conduct a war amid unauthorized outbreaks of camaraderie and reminders of a shared cultural heritage?
Orders were promptly dispatched decreeing that this sort of nonsense must never be repeated. And for the most part it wasn’t. It’s not hard to see why the masters of war were so perturbed by the prospect of participants in mortal combat realizing that their foes were simply fellow human beings.
That is a perennial problem, of course, for all purveyors of hate — not just in the context of open warfare or terrorism, but even in respect of tensions over class, ethnicity, immigration, refugees and the like. The possibility of perceiving objects of hatred or fear as no different from oneself inevitably undermines the bases of conflict.
Some commentators on the centenary commemorations of the Christmas truce have argued that romanticizing the couple of days when all went quiet along sectors of the western front detracts from the catastrophic consequences of the First World War for all concerned.
That’s a valid point. On the other hand, the brief respite from the exigencies of organised brutality is one of the only commendable takeaways from that utterly reprehensible exercise in industrial-scale slaughter. Another would be the poets who gave voice to their apprehensions, often in trenchant verse from the trenches.
Perhaps foremost among them was Wilfred Owen, killed in the last days of the war, who in Strange Meeting envisaged a posthumous encounter with a foe who harbored the same idealistic dreams: “… Whatever hope is yours,/ Was my life also. I went hunting wild/ After the wildest beauty on earth…”
It would be imprudent, even perverse, to deny the Christmas truce the status it deserves as a singular shining moment in four years of darkness and despair. There’s something to be said, however, for the contention that it should not be allowed to overshadow more consequential instances of fraternization on the eastern front, where the tsar’s foot soldiers were able to share with troops representing his German cousin the enticing revolutionary propaganda of the Bolsheviks.
It was working class revolts in Germany that ultimately persuaded the kaiser to abdicate and facilitated the end of the war, almost exactly a year after the second Russian revolution of 1917.
Among the Germans officers who resented the truce, and even more vehemently despised the popular actions that effectively spelt the end of the hostilities, was a certain Corporal Adolf Hitler.There was another truce as well that was expected to come later on. but the fear brought about it much sooner. It was the surrender by Pakistani forces to joint command of Indian Army and Mukti Bahini of Bagladesh.
I quote page 520 of the Hamoodur Rehman Commission report, which said that Niazi had failed to defend Dhaka and agreed to a shameful and premature surrender, in spite of his own assertion before the commission that Indians would have required at least a period of seven days to mount an offensive and another week to reduce the defences of Dhaka. The report added, “He [Niazi] displayed a shameful and abject attitude in agreeing to surrender when he had himself offered a ceasefire to the Indian commander-in-chief; in signing the surrender document agreeing to lay down arms to the joint command of the Indian forces and Mukti Bahini; in being present at the Dacca airport to receive the victorious Indian General Aurora; in ordering his own ADC to present a guard of honour to the said general; and in accepting the Indian proposal for a public surrender ceremony which brought everlasting shame to the Pakistan army.” The report mentioned an incident on December 7, 1971, when the governor of East Pakistan, A.M. Malik, called Niazi and asked about the situation on the war front: “The governor hardly said a few words when Niazi started crying loudly with tears.” Page 534 of the report suggested: “If General Niazi had done so and lost his life in the process, he would have made history and would have been remembered by coming generations as a great hero and a great martyr but the events show that he had already lost the will to fight The writer never mentioned that the Pakistan government had discharged Niazi after stripping him of his military rank, the pension usually accorded to retired soldiers and his military decorations, because a commission of inquiry had charged him with misconduct and corruption in Dhaka.
Verily unexpected wars lead to uneasy and unexpected truces- giving birth to fresh controversies.

Fiction & Fact Coalesce in US-Pakistan-ISI Relationship

In fiction nothing is false. except names and dates, while in history nothing is true except in name and dates. The TV serial Homeland is a testimony to the first part of the statement. In case you have been watching the television drama Homeland’s Season 4, now into its 11th episode, you might be confronted by the startling revelations like : The United States has broken off diplomatic ties with Pakistan following a terrorist attack by the ISI-backed Haqqani group on the American Embassy in Islamabad in which some 40 American diplomats and personnel were killed. All American diplomatic personnel have been evacuated from Islamabad and the US President has ordered the nuclear-armed Fifth Fleet towards Karachi. After spending three seasons in the middle-east, Homeland, featuring a psychotic female CIA operative in the lead, has moved into Pakistan, often portraying the frayed US-Pakistan ties with startling accuracy, and as evident from this lead, with some hyperbole.
Pakistan’s worthless, paranoid existence, its dalliance with terrorists groups, including its coddling of the Haqqani Group (who attack the US Embassy after inside information leaked by the compromised husband of the US ambassador), its spy agency ISI’s treachery and double-dealing, Washington’s own bumbling inter-agency fights, all feature in the action drama that has even spookdom — among nearly two million first time US viewers — in thrall.
But the constant feeling that courses through the hit series is the utter contempt and revulsion for Pakistan in Washington. “It’s not even a real country. It’s a fucking acronym!” sneers the CIA chief, calling Pakistan a “shithole” when Carrie Mathison, his principal agent, asks to be posted to Islamabad as station chief “They hate us. All they want is to stab us in the back,” he spits out another time. In another episode, when a colleague tells Carrie the information came from the ISI, she snaps, “I don’t trust the fuckers.”
Incidentally, the two-faced, double-dealing ISI officer in the drama is played by the Indian actress Nimrat Kaur, who acted as a homemaker in The Lunchbox. In fact, most Pakistani principals in the serial are played by Indians or Brit-Asians. The serial was shot in South Africa.
So how close to reality is Homeland? The broad themes are all well-known and oft-recited in Washington: Pakistan’s fostering of terrorism, ISI’s double-dealing, the centrality of the army and intelligence in Pakistan, the ineffectualness of its democracy, etc. Where the series gets it right is the nitty-gritty, including drone attacks, suicide bombings, and a street shooting escapade that is redolent of the Raymond Davis episode.
Developed by the Israeli writer-director Gideon Raff, Homeland’s screenplay is crafted by a team of experienced American writers. The serial’s maker, Showtime, ostensibly hired former CIA operatives as consultants. Two former CIA agents, who between them boast of 60 years of operational experience and served as station chiefs in seven countries, reviewed the Season 4 finale in the Daily Beast last week and concluded that it has been able to “accurately present the mission, intensity, pace, contradictions and complexity of a CIA station.”
Maintaining that the CIA protagonists portrayed in the serial “rings true to those us who have been there,” the agents, Chuck Cogan and John MacGaffin, also underlined the difficulties in the fictional Islamabad station chief Carrie Mathison’s attempts at dealing “a duplicitous host government and liaison service whose real interests and intent differs from hers.” “In reality, there is no such thing as a ‘friendly’ intelligence service. ISI, however, is the poster child for ‘duplicitous,'” they added.
While Pakistan gets trashed in Homeland, in reality, the US approach to Pakistan and its intelligence agency, far from being castigatory or punitive, is feckless to the point of embarrassing. Despite repeatedly and even publicly admonishing Pakistan for supporting terror groups, and even citing ISI hand in the Mumbai attacks and for funneling money into the US political system (through the Kashmiri separatist Ghulam Nabi Fai), Washington has done little to reign in the terror-backing spy outfit and its proteges. This is evident given the ease with which Hafiz Saeed and now Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi have been protected by the Pakistani establishment.
In fact, according to ProPublica, former Pakistani army chief Ashfaq Kayani bluntly rejected the request of his American interlocutors to divest Lakhvi of his cellphone in prison. As if to rub it in, they even allowed him conjugal visits in jail through which he fathered a child, say Indian sources familiar with the developments, adding, with a degree of envy, that the “Pakistanis run rings around Americans.” The Indian side also believes that successive Pakistani Army chiefs have made fools of Americans by alternately adopting an attitude of complete submission or threatening a reckless suicide scenario.
Every Pakistani general is greeted by Washington as a liberal, westernized, professional soldier, just because he plays golf or smokes or has pet dogs, one Indian official said in a recent conversation, recalling the glowing, credulous profiles in the US media that accompanied the ascension of Musharraf and Kayani. Every Pakistani general is a jihadi because it is written into their DNA and their motto Iman, Taqwa, Jihad fi Sabilillah, the official added bleakly.
It was against this background that the Indian side closely watched the visit last month of Pakistan’s new army chief Gen Raheel Sharif, once again hailed by Pakistani apologists as a man who would take on terrorists. It was an unusual visit by any standard, lasting more than two weeks. Prefaced by ratcheted up coverage in the Pakistan media of an imminent ISIS (Islamic State) takeover of the country (and “scarily,” its nukes), the trip was aimed ostensibly at repairing damaged relations with the US, and more importantly to extract money from Uncle Sam, long time patron of its informally designated terrorist client state on whom it has already splurged $ 28 billion sine 9/11.
The visit, which lasted the entire second half of November, got even more mysterious when after a few pro-forma meetings in Washington, a Pentagon ceremony to receive one of those feel-good medals the US hangs on its favored third world generals, a visit to the Central Command in Miami, and an engagement in the Bay Area, Sharif disappeared from view. He didn’t go back home, and he dispensed with official protocol in America. The scuttlebutt was he was visiting a sibling or son in the Chicago area.
When he surfaced again at the end of the month, it was for an unusual weekend meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry, a long time patron saint of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. In an engagement that effectively recognized the military as the de facto power in the country, Kerry, without a trace of irony, praised the Pakistani army as a “truly binding force,” forgetting, perhaps in a senior moment, that the force actually lost half the country in 1971.
Co-author of a legislation that lavished billions of dollars on Pakistan throughout the years the country fostered terrorist groups, often killing US soldiers in Afghanistan, Kerry evokes mixed feelings among Indian interlocutors. On surface, he is affable and charming with Indian officials and speaks highly of India (he’s headed for the Vibrant Gujarat summit in January). But his inexplicable support for Pakistan even when it is brazenly using terrorism as a policy instrument according to the administration’s own insiders is something that baffles Indian officials, none of whom would speak on record.
In fact, Kerry’s reputation as an apologist for Pakistan is vividly chronicled even in the opening title sequence of Homeland. Whereas Hillary Clinton is shown with her famous “You can’t keep snakes in your backyard and expect them to only bite your neighbors,” admonition of Pakistan, Kerry is shown defending the country, saying “there are things that Pakistan has done, as complicated as this relationship is.”
In the days following the Kerry-Raheel meeting, it became evident that there are still things that Kerry and his ilk in Washington hope Pakistan will do, as complicated as this relationship is, in return of course for more life-giving aid, sustenance, and military hardware. Within days of Sharif’s return to Pakistan, its military took out two prominent terrorists, including al-Qaida fugitive Adnan el-Shukrijumah (who had been on the lam for more than a decade) and Umar Farooq. In return, the US ordered the release of Latif Mehsud, the Pakistan Taliban’s No 2 from a military prison in Afghanistan. Intelligence circles suspect the attack in the Army School in Peshawar is linked to this.
As far as the Indian side is concerned, all this is part of a continuing faustian bargain between US and Pakistan that will have no winners, only losers. The Pakistani DNA cannot be changed, even though the current situation offers a golden opportunity to change course. “External and internal shocks are often pivotal turning points encouraging countries to reorient their national security strategies,” says Prof. T.V.Paul, an international relations scholar at McGill University and author of The Warrior State: Pakistan in the contemporary world. “But) it is hard to predict where this will lead, for an elite known for missing opportunities for change due to their narrow tactical as opposed to progressive vision on the future of the country.”
Most US analysts too hold out bleak prospects of Pakistan revisiting its “good-terrorists-bad terrorists” policy. One exception: CNN’s Peter Bergen, who described the Peshawar school attack as Pakistan’s 9/11, recited the entire Pakistani military narrative of fighting terrorism, and wrote that “Today the Pakistani military understands that the Frankenstein that it helped to create must now be killed.”
But Pakistan’s own analysts were scoffing at the idea this would happen. “Pakistan’s greatest enemy is denial,” cautioned the country’s former ambassador to US Hussain Haqqani, maintaining that the establishment, set in its ways, will not change easily. That became evident soon enough when it sprang 26/11 planner Zaki-ur Rehman from prison (ostensibly on bail), prompting Christine Fair, a Pakistan expert at Georgetown University, to note that even seasoned analyst such as Peter Bergen ”embrace rhetoric as fact.”
“Alas, the (Peshawar) attack — no matter how heinous — will not motivate Pakistan to abandon its long-held reliance upon Islamist militant groups,” wrote Fair, reckoning that, “many tens of thousands of Pakistanis will die long before the army gives up its jihad habit.” Under the headline “Crucible of terror threatening the world: How the future of Pakistan is getting darker,” Michael Burleigh had this to note in the Daily Mail: “The venal political class in Pakistan has united in its revulsion at this latest atrocity, but by next week they’ll be back to their old ways.” It didn’t take so long. Less than 48 hours elapsed between the Peshawar bombing, Lakhvi’s release, and his temporary re-incarceration after a mostly Indian outcry.

Pakistan Still Stuck There Stuck in 1947

Frozen in time, Pakistan needs to be thawed. The gods of the past ought to be questioned if the goddess of present is to smile. Pakistan, however, is still stuck in 1947. It is, of course quite a progress in case we see that the fundamentalists are still shackled in mindset of the seventh century. Time heals everything, they say. But the adage holds true only if time really goes by. The tyranny of time is that it loses its healing power if it keeps repeating itself.
In his 1967 masterpiece, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez tells the story of seven generations of the fateful Buendia family of the town of Macondo, which was stuck in vicious circle of time. Everything that happened in the imaginary town of Macondo was surreally similar with previous events, bearing an indelible mark of its history and the inescapable past. The past determined the present and events happening in present and future were quite the same despite belonging to different stages of time. Same seems to be the case with Pakistan.
Modern nation states seem to have moved on from their respective blood-stained pasts. Despite the universal appeal of French Revolution, the reign of terror that followed the revolutionary events is barely the defining characteristic of contemporary French society. Germans are ashamed and have distanced themselves from their Nazi past. Tough questions are being raised in China about the Cultural Revolution and the subsequent killings of millions of Chinese people. The African-American Civil Rights Movement in the past century in the US has raised serious questions about implementation of United States Declaration of Independence. Arundhati Roy in India is calling into question the godlike stature of Mahatma Gandhi. Iranian youth is seeking reforms in the electoral process hitherto controlled by the clergy which was the direct product of Iranian Revolution.
Time has not passed since the time it was created. Pakistan is only recreating itself in its own image over and over again. The blood of the children perished in Peshawar is not different from the blood of those millions of unfortunate souls slaughtered during the tragic events of Partition. It is just the continuation. The baggage of blood is still pulling the strings of the present. The country has failed to get over its painful past. Ideology has come to be so overbearing, so suffocating that it has become impossible for the children to breathe. They are dying.
The generals did not really invent the doctrine of ‘strategic depth’. They merely discovered it. It was already there, brewing in the very foundations of Pakistan, waiting to be found out. It was a very simple yet unresolved question: the country got separated from its eastern neighbors because of a distinct religion, but then what about the western neighbors? If religion were to be the basis of nationhood, then why were the western neighbors a different nation despite having belonged to the same religion?
The generals solved the equation towards the end of the Cold War. They called it ‘strategic depth’.
The ideology is not new nor is it old. Having roots in nationalistic movement of undivided India, it has taken countless forms from the so-called two-nation theory to national interest, territorial sovereignty, citadel of Islam, strategic depth, and still counting. They are different shades of the same color. The ideology will continue to resurface and recreate itself in one form or another.
Actually, there is no such thing in the world as a true ideology – ideologies are seen and analysed in the context of how they operate and influence the present scenarios. The question as to whether or not Jinnah wanted a secular Pakistan is not relevant anymore. This debate is dead and buried under the accumulated debris of 68 long years. The more pertinent question is how the ideology, in any of its forms, has shaped today’s Pakistan and how it has been used as a paradigm to take decisions on national level.
The only yardstick to have been employed in shaping the country’s national narrative since its inception is the ambiguous ideology of Pakistan. Starting from the Bhabhra massacre in Charsadda district of KP in 1949, when around 400 unarmed workers of Khudai Khidmatgar movement were killed by the then provincial government, to the brutal killings of children in Peshawar in 2014 by the Taliban; there is a pattern and method in this madness. Right from the very first day, the country has assumed the role of a security state hell-bent on enforcing and protecting an equivocal cause at the cost of its citizens.
The ludicrous One Unit Scheme was introduced in 1954 on the same pretext of national unity which ultimately led to the separation of East Pakistan and the genocide of hundreds of thousands of Bengalis. The malady afflicting the Koh-i-chiltan in Balochistan is of the same nature that haunted Bangla people in the forests of Sundarbans. The same hegemonic mindset is responsible for the killings of Baloch people that tormented the much larger Bangla population.
The specter of national security swallowing the people irrespective of ethnicity or creed wears the same green and white cloak with the shades of crimson frozen in time. Over all these years, this self-destructive and highly exclusive aspect of the ideology, together with its tinge of religion, has been getting exposed more and more every day.
The notions of a true Pakistani and a true Muslim have been made to appear quite interchangeable in Pakistan. In the name of national interest, people were expelled from of the circle of ‘true Pakistanis’. The practice started right after the inception and reached its climax in 1974, when the state assumed the task of excommunicating people out of the ‘circle of Islam’.
The Takfiri ideology has made inroads in the society under the auspices of the state. Fueled by dubious ideology, the obsession of making the countrymen more Pakistani and more Muslim led to delegating powers of excommunication to non-state actors. The policy has proven catastrophic to large segments of society. Such is the grief, such is the magnitude of each tragedy that it stumps the imagination, before reality rears its ugly head again to reveal something even worse. The recurring cycle of atrocities seldom leaves much space to see outside of it. Pakistan is prisoner of a past that keeps coming back again and again in guise of the present. The present is Taliban and Pakistan is completely mistaken if it thinks that this is the worst that things can get. The past is still alive. The ideology is still breathing.
In Macondo, the most extraordinary events happened in the most mundane, most ordinary manner, during those one hundred years. During 68 years of national solitude dictated by the most ambiguous ideology, the extraordinary has come to be the most ordinary in much the same way. “It rained for four years, eleven months, and two days.” Marquez wrote. The uncanny message in that line can only be matched by the newspaper headlines proclaiming: “131 schoolchildren were killed in Peshawar”.

Intensified Militarization by Germany – A Matter for Concern

Germany wants to be the “driving force in Europe of a parliamentary controlled European army,” reported December 8. It cited a position paper produced by military experts in the Bundestag. These experts want a European Union military academy and a permanent military headquarters. But is having Germany in the driver’s seat of a European army cause for concern?
Rainer Arnold, the Social Democratic Party’s (SPD) defense policy spokesman, presented the paper to the Bundestag. The authors in the paper recognize Germany as an international power house economically, but decry its laughable foreign and military policies. These policies, Arnold said, are “urgently in need of improvement.” The signs are there for all to see. This will be an EU army under strong German control.
These SPD demands come as Germany is independently building bilateral and multilateral projects with other European nations, particularly their militaries. Brigades from national armies are joining with the Bundeswehr and coming under the command of the German Army. “Never before has a state renounced this elementary and integral part of its sovereignty,” wrote Die Welt’s political editor, Thorsten Jungholt. Dutch brigades joined the German Army on June 12.
On October 29, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen signed a declaration of intent on German-Polish cooperation with Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak. This declaration of intent is not limited to training drills but provides for “placing combat battalions under the other’s command.” After the agreement, von der Leyen’s ministry declared the “German-Polish cooperation is a trendsetting milestone for the development of European integrated military structures.”
Hans-Peter Bartels, the chairman of the German parliament’s defense committee, left no doubt as to the final destination of all these additions. “The hour has come, finally, for concrete steps towards a European army,” Bartels told Die Welt. Apart from integrating other nations’ armies into theirs, the Germans also want to consolidate the defense industry. The German minister of the economy requested an EU armament industry based primarily in Germany—but the main requirement is that the armament industry be independent of the United States.
The government-affiliated German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) believes that America’s changing global role is a good reason for establishing an EU army. Claudia Major, deputy director of SWP’s “Security Policy Research Group,” wrote that the recent years have shown that national sovereignty is illusory. In a globalized world, major developments, like the financial crisis, do not stop at state borders and the only way to counteract the risks is through cooperation. Because of America’s shift to Asia and Africa and a 2011 rebuking of its European allies to serve more in world affairs, “the EU will need to assume more responsibility around the world.” Berlin will not be able to overwhelm Iran in the near future unless it is working on a special strategy right now.
Some of this German strategy is well known. For example, the German press often writes about “the Merkel Doctrine”—Chancellor Angela Merkel’s attempt to create an anti-Iran alliance by selling weapons to Iran’s enemies. Germany is already surrounding Iran, establishing deployments and making deals across the Middle East. But there’s more. European military planners are getting the Continent ready for a clash with Iran.
The European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS) is an official EU agency responsible for analyzing defense and security issues. In May, it published a report titled, “Enabling the future—European military capabilities 2013-2025: challenges and avenue,” with examples of threats it believes the EU needs to prepare to deal with. This is scenario number six .
Aggressive regime in the Middle East
Risk/threat: An unpredictable but increasingly powerful regime in the wider Middle East conducts its first atomic test. A year later, the regime demonstrates that it has a working and deliverable nuclear capability to a range of 2,500 km: European territory could be directly threatened. The regime, feeling safe under its newfound atomic umbrella, becomes increasingly aggressive, harrying commercial vessels in the Gulf and supporting terrorist jihadi organizations throughout the Levant. The situation escalates when the country mounts incursions into a smaller pro-Western neighbor, whose freedom is deemed critical for the security of world energy supply.
Response: Given the severity of the situation and the potential number of actors implicated, any response would likely be international in character. Europeans, however, would be expected to provide a substantial force component for large-scale expeditionary warfare, which would need to be backed up with tactical and strategic ballistic missile defenses.
The “unpredictable but increasingly powerful regime” is clearly Iran. The EUISS sees that Iran may have to be dealt with, and it is recommending that Europe change its military in order to do so.
Think back to the early ’90s, when the Trumpet first began forecasting Europe’s clash with Iran. Iraq was the big worry. Germany had only just reunited. The euro was years away and the European Union was even more divided than it is today. Two decades later, an official EU report is saying, We need a plan for confronting Iran!
The Iranian scenario wasn’t the only one to stand out. Scenario five sees Islamist jihadists take control of the Suez Canal. Such an event could force the Europeans to launch an “extended” mission “to protect one of their most precious pieces of overseas infrastructure,” it states. According to EU strategists, the Suez already belongs to them. The report argued that the EU needs to be willing and able to defend “zones of EU privileged interests”—areas around the EU such as the Mediterranean Sea or Indo-Pacific region. In an intelligence brief on May 8, Joe de Courcy wrote, “The use of such terminology is eye-catching not just because it is so unfashionable but because its very employment reveals the scope of the EU’s ambition to become, and to be seen as, a global power. This is the vocabulary of major sovereign powers, not trading blocs.”
The report is clear on the way to prepare for this confrontation. De Courcy summarized the report’s recommendations as “arguing for a maximum push towards military integration within a relatively short time span.”
The report noted that “contrary to current conventional wisdom and media reports, the European Union as a whole still is, de facto, the world’s second-strongest military ‘power,’” possessing “some of the most capable and effective armed forces in the world.” The key to Europe’s continued military prowess in a dangerous world, it concluded, is more cooperation among these forces.
A Military Union
Many of the components for a pan-European military that the EUISS recommends are already in place, and have been for some time. In an emergency, Eurocorps can deploy French, German, Belgian, Spanish and Luxembourg forces under a single command. Although in theory Eurocorps could command up to 60,000 soldiers, in practice no more than a few thousand have ever been mobilized at one time. At the heart of Eurocorps is a Franco-German brigade, over 5,000 strong, with the French and Germans sharing leadership positions.
Other multinational forces include the I. German/Dutch Corps, made up of one Dutch and one German division, acting as NATO’s “High Readiness Force Headquarters” and serving in Afghanistan. The corps is a land force designed to deploy within 20 to 30 days. Brussels also has EU Battlegroups—a set of forces, each at least 1,500 strong and made up of multinational coalitions. Two are ready for deployment at any one time; they are designed to deploy within five to ten days.
The results of the cooperation is mixed. None of the battle groups has ever been deployed. Some appear to exist only on paper. When the soldiers from the Franco-German brigade actually hit the ground in Afghanistan, they split up—the Germans going north and the French east.
On the other hand, some multinational forces have been hugely successful. The Dutch and Belgian navies, for example, work so closely together that the two forces “have all but merged,” Reuters recently wrote. Across Europe there are small-scale success stories where two or more countries are training or fighting together.
Despite some failures, all these multinational military arrangements are a foundation for future cooperation. Politically, such ventures enable European countries to establish policy and procedures. Practically, they make the military personnel within Europe accustomed to working with each other. These groups are setting an important precedent, preparing the groundwork for something more. And Berlin is pushing for much more.
Intensifying European Militarization
The EUISS report drew attention to the way the eurozone has been forced to work together following the economic crash, calling for similar structures to be put in place for the military. But this is where, at first glance, Germany disagrees with the experts at the EUISS. In his speech at the start of the 2013 Munich Security Conference in February, German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière told the world’s foremost military leaders that Europe does not need “the vision of a joint European army.”
Why the difference? Not because of any fundamental disagreement. Germany is simply impatient. Grand agreements between EU nations on things like military cooperation take time, especially when Britain is doing all it can to slam on the brakes. Germany wants to take action now, and isn’t waiting for the EU to get its act together.
“Germany is driving the integration of European defense,” Deutsche Welle reported in May. “Germany is Europe’s biggest partner in military cooperation.” Berlin offers to do the jobs that smaller militaries can no longer afford, it said. Germany made a monumental step forward in its push for defense cooperation in May. De Maizière signed an agreement with Dutch Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert on May 28 that puts Dutch paratroopers under the command of the German Army.
This isn’t a token gesture. The Dutch 11 Airmobile Brigade is 4,500 strong and designed to be at the front of any attack. It can deploy paratroopers, light vehicles, anti-aircraft weapons and artillery anywhere in the world within 20 days. These are the Netherlands’ only airmobile forces; they are twice the size of the Netherlands Marine Corps. Along with the Korps Mariniers, this is the branch of the Netherlands’ military that strikes first, that establishes the beachheads and landing grounds that allow the rest of the army to follow. Without these warriors, it is almost impossible for the Netherlands to launch an expedition. And beginning in 2014, the Dutch military’s advance guard will be commanded by Germans. The Dutch will no longer begin a war without German permission. The Dutch have crossed the Rubicon and handed over control of a vital part of their armed forces to Germany. Will it stop there? These two militaries already work closely together, exchanging officers, conducting joint exercises and training together. The agreement signed in May will deepen this cooperation. They will work together in buying new equipment and developing new submarines.
A separate development indicates that the Dutch may continue to serve under Germany in Afghanistan. “The Netherlands will again opt to be active under German command in any NATO mission in Afghanistan after 2014, should the decision for the Netherlands to participate be made,” wrote the General Dutch Press Agency, citing NATO diplomats in Brussels. “In the current, soon-to-expire mission, Dutch soldiers also operated under German command” (June 10).
Also in May, de Maizière signed a memorandum of understanding with his Polish counterpart, Thomasz Siemoniak, for closer cooperation between the two countries’ navies. The agreement paves the way for 28 joint projects between Germany and Poland, including joint monitoring of the Baltic Sea, combined training missions and possible cooperation in shipbuilding. A statement on the Polish Navy’s website said it was the largest cooperation “by far” between the two navies. Berlin and Warsaw are already working out the details for more concrete joint projects. Watch for German-Polish naval cooperation to continue along similar lines to the Dutch-German relationship.
What could persuade one nation to sign over thousands of its troops to another? Money, or the lack thereof. The Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf revealed that drastic cuts to the Dutch military budget were partially responsible for the merger. Even before the agreement, the Dutch were sending their tank units to train in Germany because they couldn’t afford to do so at home.
The Poles were also driven by finance. “Together we are stronger for sure,” Siemoniak said, adding that together the two nations could “better spend our taxpayers’ money on defense.”
But why did the Dutch give the Germans command of their soldiers? We have no way of knowing what went on in those negotiations, but why didn’t they copy one of the many other European joint-command structures? Is money that tight for the Dutch?
Europeans everywhere are feeling heavy monetary pressure. Governments are stumbling under debt and pension obligations. Politically, it is easier to cut military budgets than many other areas of state spending. Cut the defense budget, and some people grumble. Cut social spending, and a lot of people riot. But European nations are still keenly aware of the need for military spending. They see America retreating and radical Islam spreading in northern Africa.
France’s spending problems have made François Hollande the most unpopular president in that nation’s history, yet he still refuses to cut defense spending. President Hollande has committed to keeping France’s defense budget at €31 billion (US$41 billion) a year. But the pressure on Hollande will only intensify. Saving money by sharing militaries will become an increasingly tempting “win-win” prospect. Each nation involved gets to cut its costs, while the resulting army is stronger than the sum of its parts. Ten 1,000-strong battalions from 10 different countries cannot be as effective as one 10,000-strong division—provided that division is well integrated. Not only can the larger division work better together, but all the support staff can be organized much more efficiently. Plus, you don’t have to worry about defending against those other nine countries.
As Germany is pushing Europe into military cooperation, economic constraints across the continent are accelerating the trend. This is another instance where Europe’s financial crisis, which was deliberately caused by design flaws in the euro, is forcing nations to relinquish their sovereignty and unite.
German diplomats are undoubtedly forging similar relationships with other countries. If Germany can prove that integration can work with the Netherlands and Poland—and they can save a lot of money doing so—other nations will want in. Once Berlin brings a few more countries online, this project will gain critical mass.
The result would be an EU army, or a very closely coordinated group of armies, centered on Germany. This unified force will become a greater and greater priority for Germany as the confrontation with Iran becomes more urgent. France has got to be a key target for German strategists. Germany has roughly 500 soldiers stationed around North Africa. France has nearly 7,000, as well as several air bases. Those would be invaluable assets in confronting radical Islam’s spread across North Africa.
A New Military Super Power
Germany has proven adept at controlling the EU behind the scenes. But trying to negotiate a unified army through the European Union would be difficult. It would be hard to stop countries like France from gaining some control over a force formed through EU politics. Instead, by building the army itself, Germany gets to be the undisputed leader.
Of course, when Britain quits the EU and the whole system shrinks to 10 nations or groups of nations Germany would not oppose a grand sweeping plan to create an EU army. It would probably lead the charge. But in the meantime, it will work on forming its own alliances, arrangements that will give the nation extra clout if the EU creates a new force.
In 1945, at Yalta, Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt and Josef Stalin signed a declaration that stated: “It is our inflexible purpose to destroy German militarism and Nazism and to ensure that Germany will never again be able to disturb the peace of the world. We are determined to disarm and disband all German armed forces; break up for all time the German General Staff that has repeatedly contrived the resurgence of German militarism, remove or destroy all German military equipment .…”
Now, major German newspapers talk about how Germany is leading Europe to unite militarily, the Dutch are putting their advance forces under German control—and the world simply isn’t interested. Those words from the Yalta Agreement, with their distinct Churchillian ring, are a warning for us. Germany consolidating Europe’s militaries should be deeply disturbing. For too many, it is not. De Courcy is one of the few who sees the danger. If the EU were “to integrate in the way proposed, that would result in the UK’s ultimate nightmare: a single power dominating the continent,” he wrote (op. cit.).
German Vice President of the European Parliament Alexander Graf Lambsdorff expressed, “Only a European approach” to military issues can keep the “economic giant” that is Germany from remaining “a political dwarf, when it involves seriously defending western values and interests.” German political leaders see the establishment of an EU army as Germany’s means of exerting influence on the world.
The SPD—in conjunction with Germany’s ruling parties—“want to be the driving force in Europe of a parliamentary controlled European army,” and it is “pursuing this objective relentlessly,” reported Already we see the nucleus of a European army emerging with the German Bundeswehr agreements with Poland and the Netherlands. The German press stated the Bundeswehr is the “trailblazer for a European army.”
Germany’s dream of a European super-army controlled from Berlin, and independent of America—is now becoming reality—and should startle Western policymakers. The last time Germany attempted to exert its influence upon the world, it did not go well.

Alcohol in Any Form Results in Hangover

The morning after Christmas and most of us are having a splitting headache, the body seems to be weighed down , but then so what? Hey look, we all know the truth: if you have a bad hangover, or wept at the Christmas party, it was simply because you were very drunk. Am I wrong? No, I have seen people shed copious tears for no reason at Christmas parties as Punjabi mothers do at the wedding of their daughters. But I always do think whether different drinks have different effects on your mood, why do funny-colored drinks make you more drunk and what causes the worse hangovers?
I’ll never forget the rubbish party I attended at a youth club when I was a fledgling teen. There was music, high jinks and a bowl of fruit punch as big as a duck pond. The youth leaders thought it would be amusing to tell us that the punch was alcoholic. It had an oddly musty taste, which turned out to be brandy flavoring, and sure enough, the leaders stood back and watched the room descend into animistic chaos.
What the youth leaders, who were barely adults themselves, didn’t know was that they’d have been taken in just as easily, had the tables been turned. It is extraordinarily well documented how easy it is to trick people into thinking they’re drunk. In fact, so infectious is drunkenness that even people who attend parties fully aware of their sobriety talk of getting a free ride off the boozers.
The alcohol placebo effect doesn’t only make people less inhibited and prone to monkeying around. It can impair memory and judgment, as well. In 2003, a bunch of students in New Zealand were tricked into thinking that the flat tonic and lime they were drinking was vodka. It was presented convincingly at an actual bar, in sealed vodka bottles. Lo and behold, the unsuspecting undergraduates easily swallowed false information and had serious recall issues, while their contemporaries who were told they were drinking tonic water did not.
Everyone has drinks that they avoid because they make them mad or sad. I don’t need to tell you that gin, for example, is an infamous tear-jerker. But talk to a biologist, and they’ll tell you that the active ingredient – ethanol – does the same job, whatever the drink. The only differences are the concentration, how easily it is absorbed, how it is consumed and our own expectations. Tequila might unleash your inner kick-boxer, but if you drink any strong spirit in ritualistic shots, with everyone egging you on, it is likely that you’ll act wild and crazy in some fashion or other.
Admittedly, there isn’t a huge amount of empirical evidence on this subject. To get funding, research tends to need to be seen as potentially beneficial to society or be of commercial use. Besides, people of a scientific bent don’t feel much need to be further convinced that alcohol is alcohol is alcohol. In 1970, though, researchers did compare the effects of vodka and bourbon on alcoholics who were holed up together for 18 days. The participants drank bourbon for nine days, then vodka for nine days. Suffice to say, “no consistent differences in behavior” were detected. The subjects consumed similar amounts of each beverage, and both drinks made them more sociable at first, before they steadily sank into anxiety, depression and hostility. The most intoxicated even became “grossly psychotic”, observed the researchers. So next time you’re deliberating at a bar between bourbon or vodka based upon the direction you think each will send your mood, just flip a coin.
It does seem, however, that funny-coloured drinks make people more drunk. The Oxford experimental psychologist Charles Spence refers me to a paper from a team at Southampton University in 1997, which found that when people were given an unfamiliar drink (a blue, peppermint concoction), they become more intoxicated, faring worse at tasks such as word searches, than others who drank beer of the same strength. “This, of course, links to St Patrick’s Day, when people drink bright-green beer,” Spence says.
OK, OK, wines, beers and spirits contain chemicals other than ethanol. These do affect how we feel, but more in that some are toxic and will lead to worse hangovers than others, rather than one making us dance really well while another makes us better at playing pool. Yes, there is always absinthe, which contains the psychoactive compound thujone, but only an innocuous amount in the stuff (don’t let that get in the way of booze mythology, though).
“Cheaper wines,” says Professor Roger Corder of Barts and the London School of Medicine and the author of the Wine Diet, “often have all sorts of rubbish in them and give terrible hangovers.” And the adage that darker drinks (whisky, beer, red wine) make you feel worse the next day seems to be true: they usually contain more congeners – chemical byproducts from the production process which often contribute to the flavour of the drink.
One congener which deserves a special mention is methanol, which is like ethanol, only more poisonous, and there is often too much of it in brandy, port and even some wines. Methanol can’t be metabolized, says Corder, until all the ethanol is cleared from the system, because the enzymes that process it prioritise ethanol. “It just washes round in your body until it is eventually converted to formaldehyde and formic acid, which are neurotoxins.” These will make you feel poorly. Methanol is deemed safe if below 200mg a liter. “But sometimes it’s over that level,” says Corder.
A lot of people say they get the worst hangovers from champagne. This is probably because they guzzle it on an empty stomach having just arrived at a party, feeling skittish. There is, however, some evidence that it gets you drunk quicker. Barry Smith, a philosophy professor who heads the Center for the Study of the Senses at the University of London and writes about wine (polymath alert), subscribes to the theory that bubbles cause the pylorus valve, which drains the stomach when it’s full, to open even when it’s not full. Not much alcohol is absorbed by the stomach, whereas 80% gets into the system via the intestine.
As an aside, Smith has also been observing the affects of different music on champagne enjoyment. He found that syncopation best compliments the waves of bubbles – otherwise known as the mousse – washing over the tongue. “If the rhythm matches the bubbles, the brain seems to notice and say, hang on, there’s a correspondence here. If it sees some synchronicity between two things then it locks on to them, and becomes much more activated.” Jazz and fizz it is then.

The Idea of Pakistan : The Seeds of Nationalism & Conflict

After decades of scuffles and strife, today, the idea behind Pakistan may not mean what it meant back when Jinnah led its creation in 1947. There’s a war on in Pakistan and it’s largely existentialist in nature. It’s a war for the mind, body and soul of the idea that drove the ‘Pakistan Movement’ and succeeded in creating a separate and sovereign Muslim-majority enclave in South Asia. It’s not a recent war. It’s been raging between various political, intellectual and religious sections of the enclave’s polity and society for over six decades now.
On numerous occasions, the governments of Pakistan claimed to have reached a synthesis from this tussle through various constitutional resolutions and conclusions, none of which have stuck. On the contrary, they have only managed to open numerous Pandora’s Boxes that have been almost impossible to close. Nevertheless, the evolution of the idea which all the fight is about, has seen a gradual retardation. Today, this idea may not mean what it meant when Mohammad Ali Jinnah led the creation of Pakistan in 1947.
To some, the idea was not allowed to freely evolve and deliver its promise of a prosperous and progressive Muslim homeland (in South Asia). To others, however, it is not retardation at all but an ideological process bearing the kind of fruit that the idea was always destined to sprout.
The idea behind the momentum that gave birth to Pakistan was Muslim Nationalism. One section of Pakistanis considers it as an idea that was to evolve and shape Pakistan into a modern and progressive Muslim-majority society and state. The other section sees it as an idea that was to grow and lay the foundation of a unique Islamic state; or a strong theocratic island in a sea of western ideas and of the ‘pseudo-secularism’ of Hindu-dominated India.
Though the state and governments of Pakistan have for long attempted to find a middle-ground in this context, such a ground has increasingly shifted towards the rightist sides of the existentialist divide. This shift is lamented by those who explain it as the gradual retardation of the idea of Muslim Nationalism. Their opponents on the other hand have welcomed this swing to the right, explaining it as the natural direction Muslim Nationalism was destined to take.
So what was this idea destined to achieve? The idea of nationalism as an ideology with which a man identifies with his nation (on the basis of shared political and cultural commonalities and borders) is largely an 18th century construct that emerged in Europe. Its development was accelerated by the eventual expansion of the politics and economics associated with the rise of European colonialism and the assertion of the mercantile and trader classes.
Nationalism was first introduced in South Asia by British colonialists after they strengthened their economic and political grip in the region in the aftermath of the collapse of the 500-year-old Muslim rule in India.
Though 20th Century Islamic scholars such as Abul Ala Maududi almost completely rejected any linkage between nationalism and Islam, Pakistani author and researcher, Dr Nasim Ahmed Jawed, in his 1999 book, ‘Islam’s Political Culture’, suggests that ‘Islam in itself is a sort of nationalism in which the Muslim community (ummah) occupies the place of a nation.’ In this context, Jawed is actually echoing the basis of a Muslim Nationalism that was first set up and built upon by 19th century Indian Muslim scholars, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Syed Ameer Ali.
According to eminent Pakistani historian, Dr Mubarek Ali, when Muslim rule began to collapse in India, many prominent Muslim thinkers became alarmingly conscious of the minority status of the Muslims in the region. Dr Ali adds that it was at this point that Muslim thinkers and reformers began to overtly talk about the ummah, suggesting that they were a part of the global Muslim community.
This thinking was a way to pad the reality that even though Muslims had ruled India for over 500 years, compared to the Hindus, they were still a minority in the region. The creeping minority complex was offset by the notion that Indian Muslims were part of the large Muslim community — a universal nation of men and women who shared a common faith. Muslim Nationalism for revival of Indian Muslims. This was the basis upon which men such as Syed Ahmed Khan and Syed Ameer Ali began to construct a Muslim Nationalism which would evolve into becoming the main engine behind the movement that created Pakistan.
The ummah factor was adopted from the Pan-Islamism of 19th Century thinker and activist, Jalaluddin Afghani. But as the state of the Indian Muslims began to degrade after the complete collapse of Muslim rule in India, Syed Ahmed Khan and Syed Ameer Ali concentrated more on improving the condition of India’s Muslim minority.
Both emphasised the importance of gaining ‘western education,’ and participating in the economic activity of British colonial rule. To ward off criticism from orthodox Muslim clerics and scholars, they also pleaded to understand Islam’s holy scriptures in a more rational and non-literalist manner, insisting that Islam was a modern, dynamic and enlightened religion.
Though Ahmed and Ameer Ali often reminded the Muslims of India of their royal past as a ruling class, they paralleled this with a plea to look forward and regain this past through modern means ( i.e. mainly through modern education and the rejection of the superstition, obscurantism and anti-intellectual bias that they believed had crept into the thinking of India’s Muslim subjects).
The idea of this Muslim Nationalism was mainly to reinvent the region’s Muslims from being the degraded left-overs of a fallen empire into becoming a resourceful, enlightened, and above all a separate cultural entity of India. It was from this Muslim Nationalism that the All India Muslim League was formed in 1906.
But this nationalism still retained its initial seeds of Pan-Islamism and many Muslim Nationalists took an active part in the ‘Khilafat Movement’ that was launched in 1919 to halt the fall of the Ottoman Empire in Turkey. Interestingly, though the movement did not succeed in saving the Ottomans, it did trigger one of the first battles among the Muslim Nationalists of the region over the essence of the ideology. For example, Mohammad Ali Jinnah (who, was yet to become a prominent Muslim Nationalist), criticized the Khilafaf movement of being fuelled by religious fanaticism, whereas Muslim Nationalists such as Mohammad Ali Johaur and Shaukat Ali played a prominent role in it.
Johar and Shaukat saw Muslim Nationalism as an ideology that was to dismantle British rule in India through the formation of an Islamic caliphate. Ironically, the movement was also supported by Mahatma Gandhi’s Indian National Congress. The collapse of the movement was a blow to the Pan-Islamic elements within the time’s Muslim Nationalism. But that aspect of the idea of Muslim Nationalism that was first set into motion by Syed Ahmed Khan and Ameer Ali had been largely successful in rehabilitating the economic and social status of some Muslims (also giving birth to a Muslim bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie in India). It was still mostly an idea preoccupied by the social, academic and economic improvement of the region’s Muslims. It didn’t have any political pull as such.
To become this it required a coherent political philosophy and narrative. This eventually came through the mind and pen of a renowned Muslim philosopher and poet, Mohammad Iqbal. But when Iqbal began to construct the political dimensions of Muslim Nationalism, the idea had already experienced its first schism.
As mentioned earlier, the start and collapse of the Khilafat Movment (1919-1924) had fragmented the views of Muslim Nationalists, with one section looking at it as a universal Pan-Islamic idea whose epicenter was India, and the other faction holding on to the idea’s India-centricity, concerned only with the economic and social uplift of the region’s Muslims.
Iqbal’s writings in this context attempted to bridge the gap between the two poles. He expanded upon Syed Ahmed Khan’s pleas to liberate the Muslim mind from superstition and the anti-intellectual orthodoxy of the clergy, and on his (Syed’s) insistence that Islam’s scriptures should be read and understood in the light of reason. But Iqbal also emphasized that Muslims need not be taken in by modern concepts such as secularism because Islam was inherently secular as there was no concept of the Church and/or official clergy (as a mediator between God and man) in Islam. Iqbal’s Muslim Nationalism rejected the traditional Muslim clergy and hierarchical spiritual leaders (as mediators between God and man), but advocated the somewhat Plutonian enactment of a ‘spiritually enlightened’ and learned assembly of men who would decide the political, economic and legislative fate of the Muslims. Iqbal called this ‘spiritual democracy.’Just as Syed Ahmed Khan had done, Iqbal too saw the Muslims of India as a separate cultural entity. But he added that they should now politically strive to carve out their own sovereign abode.
However, he wasn’t quite clear exactly what would be the geographical shape of such an adobe because like the Pan-Islamists, Iqbal too saw the Muslims of India as being part of a universal Muslim nation. Iqbal’s was a giant undertaking because he was constructing a politically relevant Muslim Nationalism by incorporating into it all that inspired and impressed him: From his intense interpretation of Islam’s holy texts, to Pan-Islam’s notion of religious and political (Muslim) universalism, to Syed Ahmed Khan’s idea of constructing a robust Muslim class in India, to even Kamal Ataturk’s secular Turkish nationalism and all the way to Nietzsche’s notion of ‘will to power.’
A lesser thinker would have exhausted himself in trying to weave together such distinct ideas into becoming one coherent indication of nationalism. But Iqbal largely succeeded in at least inspiring the growing number of Muslim bourgeoisie to begin seeing the All India Muslim League as a stirring expression of Muslim Nationalism.
But Iqbal’s epic undertaking was such that it also attracted the admiration of the Pan-Islamists who by now had become to be known as ‘Islamic nationalists.’ These were prolific Islamic scholars such as Abul Ala Maududi who, however, rejected Muslim Nationalism’s new separatist tendencies (because it supposedly negated Islam’s essence of universality). Instead, Islamic nationalists such as Maududi understood Iqbal’s ideas as allusions to the creation of a universal Islamic state that would mushroom from India and then spread.
But the Muslim League, especially under Mohammad Ali Jinnah, understood and saw Iqbal in a different and more localized light. Till even the early 1940s, Jinnah’s Muslim Nationalism was still embedded in the act of safeguarding the economic, cultural and political interests of India’s Muslims. He saw Iqbal as a contemporary extension of the enlightened endeavours of Syed Ahmed Khan and Syed Ameer Ali who wanted to mould the Muslims of the region into a robust community at par with India’s Hindu majority.
But as communal tensions between India’s Hindu majority and Muslim minority continued to rise, the League increasingly attempted to become the major political organ of the region’s Muslims.
Till even the mid-1940s, India’s Muslims were being represented by a host of political and religious outfits that included the Muslim League, The Unionist Party, The Jamiat Ulema Islam Hind, the Khudai Khidmatgar, the Majlis-e-Ahrar, the Khaksar, and Jamat-i-Islami. The Unionist Party was largely a pragmatist political group dominated by influential Muslim feudal, spiritual and business elites of the Punjab. It was also close to the Indian National Congress.
The Jamiat Ulema Islam Hind (JUIH) was a well organised party of Deobandi ulema and clerics who were opposed to the League’s notion of Muslim Nationalism, even though some of its leaders broke away and began to support the League’s calls for a separate Muslim homeland.
The Khudai Khidmatgar (also called the Red Shirts) was a left-leaning Pushtun nationalist party that was entirely opposed to Muslim Nationalism, believing it to be a construct of Punjabi and North Indian Muslim elites.
The Majlis-e-Ahrar and the Khaksar were radical right-wing Islamic groups that, along with the Jamat-i-Islami, rejected the idea of Muslim Nationalism, which, to them, was a secular colonial construct and detrimental to the political and spiritual interests of the Muslims of India.
It was during the legislative assembly elections of 1946 in India that the League was finally able to give a more articulate political dimension to its Muslim Nationalism. Ideas from Syed Ahmed Khan and Iqbal’s notions of Muslim Nationalism were merged with the more contemporary political and ideological declarations largely authored by men such as Choudhry Rehmat Ali and Danial Latifi. Rehmat, a graduate of the Cambridge University in the UK, authored a passionate pamphlet in 1933 titled ‘Are We to Live or Parish Forever.’ In it he openly called for the creation of a separate Muslim state carved out from the Muslim-majority regions of India (and even beyond). Rehmat’s Muslim Nationalism was a direct response to what he perceived to be the rise of ‘Hindu Nationalism’ in the guise of the Indian National Congress. He urged the Muslims of India to follow the example of Islam’s Prophet who had united the Arab tribes in the 7th Century. To him, such a unity was the only way India’s Muslims would be able to challenge the onslaught of Hindu majority-ism.
Jinnah gave Rehmat’s Muslim Nationalism a cool-headed spin when he advised a more pragmatic and patient approach. In 1944, Jinnah asked Danial Latifi to transform the Muslim Nationalism of the League into a coherent political, social and economic program. Latifi was the leading socialist in the League at the time. In 1944, he authored and published the first complete manifesto of the All India Muslim League.
The manifesto was patronised by Jinnah and floated to attract Muslim votes in the 1945-46 legislative assembly elections, the results of which finally turned the League into the largest Muslim party in India. The very next year it succeeded in creating Pakistan. Though a committed ‘scientific socialist’, Latifi married ideas of bourgeoisie Muslim economic advancement (through meritocracy) to Iqbal’s idea of ‘spiritual democracy’. According to Latifi, the League would promote policies that would benefit and encourage the enterprising economic spirit of the Muslim middle-classes, and at the same time protect the Muslim masses from the oppression of the Hindu, Muslim and British Colonial elites.
Latifi also expressed the League’s idea of a separate Muslim state as an organ that would eventually transcend and resolve religious differences in the region, because a Muslim-majority state was inherently more equipped to appreciate religious plurality, harmony and diversity than a state dominated by a large Hindu majority. This was strongly alluded to by Jinnah during his first major speech as the Governor General of Pakistan in August 1947. Furthermore, Latifi envisaged the League’s idea of the state as something that had a soul. According to him the state (under the League) ‘will be the alter-ego of the national being and in good time the two would merge to form an ordered and conflict-free society. During the 1945-46 election campaign, the League wielded Rehmat’s pleas for Muslim unity to gain a separate homeland and Latifi’s notion of the League being ‘the (political, economic and social) manifestation of the (Muslim) national soul.’
So the Muslim Nationalism that led to the creation of Pakistan was not quite a monolithic idea as such. Over a period of many decades it evolved as a patchwork of various ideas – from Syed Ahmed Khan and Syed Ameer Ali’s pro-assimilation pleas of Muslim progress (on the basis of adopting modern education and a rational understanding of the faith); to Iqbal’s philosophical mediations on the state of Islam in the 20th century and a nationhood based on an inspirational self-will of the Muslims; all the way to Rehmat Ali’s passionate call for the geographical separatism of the Muslims, and Danial Latifi’s promise of the creation of a progressive ‘state with a soul’ that would provide economic benefits and care across the classes.
Pan-Islamist ideas too informed the creation of this Muslim Nationalism, but once the idea rapidly moved towards the ambition of carving out a separate Muslim state in the region, Pan-Islamists and ‘Islamic nationalists’ decided to oppose it. They derided it as a myopic experiment that would be detrimental to the spiritual and political well being of the Muslims of India and to the Pan-Islamist ambitions of reviving the concept of a universal caliphate.
Nevertheless, the later view was largely co-opted within the Muslim Nationalist tendency after the creation of Pakistan. But the co-option only managed to intensify the battle between the two poles of the ideology, leaving the nation locked in a constant battle between two sides of a single idea. That is a conflict which is yet to enjoy a widespread consensual resolution.

Shall the Jinx Be Eternal

Will the Pakistan military-intelligence complex renounce its dangerous liaison with terrorism? Will the people of Pakistan stop celebrating jihadis, dead and alive (see the massive support for Arshad Mehmood, who was executed on Friday, or Salman Taseer’s killer) or will Pakistani courts stand up to top jihadi leaders (Malik Ishaq of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was reportedly let off )?
These are motherhood questions for which there is no really accurate answer. Pakistan is the world’s best known sanctuary for an entire alphabet soup of jihadi groups: Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Moham-med, Pakistan Taliban, Afghan Taliban, Punjabi Taliban, al-Qaida, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Jundallah, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat and Haqqani network, to name just a few. Pakistan’s politicians, army and the quasi-extremist ISI have all nursed these formations. The adherence to these extremist groups is also mixed up with Pakistan’s political issues with India and Afghanistan and the US.
The temptation to protect LeT but go after TTP is very strong. If Pakistan’s economy continues to underperform, the army could fall back upon the old line that terrorists are the only answer to India. All this is well known in India’s security discourse. How then, should India work out relations with Pakistan?
Thankfully, Narendra Modi is no believer in “irrelevant borders”. Borders, especially those that are well defined are very important in the India-Pakistan context, both for economics and security. India should be available for better trade and business relations with Pakistan, but let Pakistan make up its own mind about when it’s comfortable with opening up trade.
Modi made an interesting offer in Kathmandu – India would help to eradicate polio in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It’s of a piece with his announcement that Indian schools should observe a two-minute silence for the Peshawar victims. It’s a bold offer, but it’s not surprising Pakistan has not taken us up on it.
There is really no harm in restarting official dialogue. But let’s break the taboo on talking to the Pakistan army. If Pakistan’s government is comfortable with sending their army chief to talk to the US, why should India cavil? John Kerry did not have to wear a uniform to meet Raheel Sharif. Sushma Swaraj is just as capable.
Both India and Pakistan are comfortable with their short memories. The Mumbai attacks did not make us better prepared to handle either lone wolf attacks (Sydney style) or coordinated assaults (like Mumbai or Peshawar). The horrors of Peshawar will fade from Pakistan as the old excuses for terror practitioners will soon start again. This cycle should break

Global Tremors:A Cause of Concern for India

Narendra Modi’s first six months in office reflected “achhe sitare” (lucky stars) more than “achhe din” (good days). But luck can turn nastily. Suddenly, dark global clouds over Russia (and maybe even China) signal the risk of “bure din” (bad days) ahead.
Is last week’s rouble collapse the start of a debacle like the 1997-99 Asian Financial Crisis? Will the Chinese slowdown end in a hard landing? The chances are probably no more than 10-15%, but India could suffer serious pain.
The 1997-99 crisis was sparked by the exit of foreign investors from all emerging markets, causing currencies and commodity prices to crash. Russia and other countries defaulted on foreign debt. The crisis spread globally, exposing all emerging markets as brothers in vulnerability.
Last week, the Russian rouble, once worth 30 to the dollar, collapsed to 70 before recovering a bit to 60. The slide began with western sanctions, was exacerbated by falling oil prices, but became a debacle only when panicky investors (and Russians) began fleeing roubles for dollars. This crisis is one of finance more than oil.
Other emerging market currencies have also fallen, from 5% for India to 15% for Turkey. Crashing oil prices threaten to bankrupt Venezuela and Nigeria. If any countries default on foreign debt, the contagion could infect many emerging markets (as in 1997).
China has slowed from 12% growth to a projected 7.5% this year. Even this estimate looks inflated, says analyst Ruchir Sharma: growth of car and electricity sales is just 2%, and demand growth for steel and oil is zero. This is the biggest reason for the halving of prices of iron ore, coal and oil. China’s high growth boosted all world economies in the 2000s. Its slowdown may sink them.
Indians are delighted with the fall in oil and food prices. Wholesale price inflation is zero. What’s not to like? Alas, if commodity prices fall enough to wreck important economies, panic can cause global finance to flee all emerging markets, sinking country after country. What started as a Thai financial crisis in 1997 snowballed into a gigantic collapse of all emerging economies. This caused India’s GDP and industrial growth to crash, many companies went bust, and the Sensex halved from its peak. The rupee fell from Rs 35 to 49 per dollar between 1997 and 2001.
Today, India and all other emerging markets today are much better prepared to face a financial crisis. They have substantial forex reserves, lower current account deficits and foreign debt ratios, and bigger contingency borrowing arrangements. Yet some (notably Russia, Nigeria and Venezuela) look vulnerable.
West Asian oil exporters are major destinations for Indian exports and labour, so crashing oil prices can mean a steep fall in India’s exports to and remittances from the Gulf. This will be offset by cheaper oil imports, but the equilibrium may be reached at a slower GDP growth rate.
Foreigners find western bond yields very low, and so have invested over $5 trillion in higher-interest bonds in emerging markets like India. But when the local currency begins to depreciate, bond investors rush out: their potential currency losses far outweigh potential gains from higher interest rates. That outflow was evident last week.
Global finance may be poised to exit from emerging markets anyway with the end of quantitative easing and expected rise in US interest rates in mid-2015. Remember, when the Fed indicated higher interest rate in August 2013, a tidal wave of dollars exited all emerging markets. This took the rupee from Rs 55 to Rs 68 per dollar and the Sensex crashed. That panic subsided in a few months. The Fed said it would not raise rates for quite some time. Money flooded back into India and other emerging markets in 2014. Modi’s victory and the promise of reform made India a global favourite, and dollars flowed in.
Can global events now spark another panicky outflow of 2013 magnitude, driving down the rupee and stock markets? It’s possible, though not probable. Of the $43 billion of foreign financial inflows in 2014, $36 billion went into bonds. So a bond outflow could be very large. India is much better paced to withstand this than it was last year, yet could suffer a lot.
Let’s not overdo alarmism. Today’s financial panic may subside and be reversed, just as in late 2013. The US Fed may decide not to raise interest rates in 2015 given ultra-low inflation. So, emerging market currencies and stock markets may rise again. Yet we stand warned. Optimists like finance minister Jaitley predict 6.5% GDP growth for India next year, but none should assume a painless upward path. We can hope for achhe din, but must prepare for the possibility of bure din.

India Getting Suffocated- Conflict BetweenWest & Eastern Thoughts

The ancient Romans worshiped a deity called Janus, who had two opposing heads: one looked at the past, the other at the future. If the urban legends are true, then the Janus analogy fits UPA-II nicely. During the twilight of the Manmohan Singh-led UPA-II regime, analysts wrote about so-called ‘policy paralysis’ that had hobbled decision-making in our administration. Many said that a patriarchy — a party led by Sonia Gandhi and an administration led, feebly, by Singh — was unworkable.
Think about it: during UPA-II, Singh and his cronies like Montek Ahluwalia and C Rangarajan stared through their telescope and saw a marvelous future. But alas, to get there, they had to push through laissez faire reforms that would inflict agonies like inflation, fewer blue-collar jobs, lax safety and environmental regulations, on people today.
No gain without pain, as the IMF and gym instructors say. On the other hand, Sonia and her friends in the National Advisory Council supposedly looked through a microscope at the inequities of the past. They pushed for rights based, welfarist measures that made it tough for developers to acquire farmland, made education compulsory, choking the supply of cheap child labor, hiked minimum rural wage rates through NREGA and supplied cheap food to the poor.
Perhaps this Janus-like contradiction slowed growth and frustrated the ambitions of millions of voters, who saw in Narendra Modi the prospect of a decisive leader who would do what the UPA could not. They brought his BJP to power with a brute majority after 30 years of coalitions. For seven months, bankers and corporate chieftains, workers, students and unemployed kids chafing to get off the farm for jobs in cities, have held their collective breath to see their dreams come true. But, boo to you.
The first big disappointment was Modi sarkar’s first Budget, a lackluster affair that offered no reforms and, almost digit by digit, repeated numbers quoted in UPA-II’s coda. Since then, not a single large new project, capable of employing people, has materialized. Land and environmental rules that were supposed to be strangling growth remain unaltered.
October numbers, released this month, show industry shrank by more than 4%, the steepest fall in three years. Latest numbers show that the gap between what India imports and exports has widened to over $10 billion, double the same time last year, largely because manufacturing is failing. The deficit would have been far bigger had the price of oil, our main import, not collapsed 46% in 12 months.
RBI governor Raghuram Rajan has shined the light on the dirtiest secret between India Inc and state-owned banks: the financing of large projects by liquid businesses. This is done after converting loans to equity, presumably by paying off administrators. This, he says, can lead to banking and financial crises as many projects go belly up, as they will.
Markets are tanking: today, the biggest stocks are 8% off their six-month peak, and mid caps down a little more than 7%. The pessimism is gathering momentum: most losses have been incurred in the last 30 days.
Meanwhile, Modi is silent on subjects like so called ‘love jihad’ that polarize voters in north India. He refuses to speak in Parliament when it protests mass conversions by revivalist outfits run by the RSS. In his frequent travels across the world over the last few months, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has continually affirmed that India can re-emerge as the “Vishwaguru”. Modi’s global dream for India, however, is at odds with the deeply divisive religious agenda and the anti-modernism that have been unleashed by the RSS and its affiliates.
That India, as one of the world’s oldest and continuing civilizations, may have much to teach the world is not a new proposition. Different schools of Indian nationalism, including those which focused on India’s past and others which understood modern India’s future potential, believed that an Indian leadership role on the world stage was inevitable. Even those who were deeply suspicious of nationalist passions, both religious and secular, were convinced that India’s spiritual civilization had much relevance for the contemporary world.
India’s higher economic growth rates in the reform era and the steady expansion of its relative weight in the international system have lent new credibility to the notion of an Indian international leadership. The example of China has been difficult to miss. After three decades of rapid growth, China is now the second-largest economy in the world and its aggregate GDP will soon be larger than that of the United States. Beijing is also the world’s largest defense spender after America.
The dramatic expansion of China’s comprehensive national power has allowed Beijing to now begin reshaping the Asian and global orders. A similar prospect awaits India if it continues to modernize and grow its economy at a reasonable clip. Much of the international enthusiasm for Modi, like that for his predecessor, Manmohan Singh, in the middle of the last decade, was based precisely on that expectation.
Faster growth rates of the last decade triggered international calls on India to become a responsible global power and a “net security provider”. Yet Delhi has been hesitant to accept a leadership role. Many in Delhi interpreted these calls as a pressure point rather than the recognition of India’s expanding weight in the world. Modi, in contrast, is discarding this defensiveness and embracing the prospect of a leadership role. Whether Delhi actively pursues such a role or not, India’s democracy, which thrives amid extraordinary diversity, religious, ethnic and linguistic, is a source of quiet optimism in a world that is being torn apart by multiple tensions.
Modi’s hopes for India as “Vishwaguru” are inspired by Vivekananda. The swami spoke of the contributions that India’s rich vedantic heritage could make in addressing the spiritual challenges of the contemporary world. Modi, of course, is stretching the idea a bit when he speaks of how India’s democracy and demography can be deployed in the service of the world today.
Modi also believes the diaspora that has spread around the world and has impressive resources, intellectual and financial, can help realise India’s potential as “Vishwaguru”. He reminded his audiences in Sydney that Vivekananda had urged his countrymen to forget their gods and goddesses for 50 years and worship only “Mother India”.
His suggestion that development might be more important than religion is obviously not shared by the extremist outfits of the Sangh Parivar, which have lost no time in pushing their polarising politics on the nation. Modi is surely aware that the growing assertiveness of the Hindu right will complicate the development agenda that was at the heart of his successful election campaign. At equal risk is the BJP’s promise — “sab ka saath, sab ka vikas” — to put development for all above the sectarian Hindu agenda.
Given his own experience in Gujarat and the political consequences of the 2002 riots, Modi has every reason not to let religious controversies overwhelm his prime ministerial tenure. In his maiden Independence Day speech this August, Modi declared that casteism, communalism and regionalism were obstacles to development and called for a 10-year moratorium on divisive issues.
The last few weeks have shown that the RSS and Hindu-right outfits are not ready to heed Modi’s appeals to avoid derailing his government’s development agenda. Modi should also be aware that the new Hindutva agenda at home will also seriously complicate India’s external relations, a domain in which Modi has surprised everyone with his passion and effectiveness.
It is easy to forget that domestic stability holds the key to a successful foreign policy. A nation that is at war with itself will inevitably be diminished on the world stage. When a nation turns faith into a contentious question, it invites intervention from religious extremists from around the world. It will also draw into the debate secular forces around the world that want freedom of faith and a separation of religion and state in India.
The new push for a Hindu rashtra, then, is bound to generate many costs for Indian diplomacy. Just when Modi appears to have succeeded in reducing the fears of the neighbours and the world about India’s internal orientation under the BJP, the RSS and the Hindu right seem determined to revive them. Equally problematic for India is the resurgent anti-modernism of the Sangh Parivar. Its leaders, including the prime minister, have made extravagant claims, ranging from the proposition that astrology is superior to science to the suggestion that Vedic India conducted nuclear tests.
While asking his countrymen to take pride in their rich cultural inheritance and appreciate its relevance to the modern world, Vivekananda had also insisted that India must sit at the feet of the West to learn about improving the nation’s material condition. India, then, must strive to be a good teacher and a better student. It must invest in the serious study of its ancient heritage and master modern knowledge. But if Hindu extremism prevails, India will have little to give the world and be in no mood to learn. Unless he acts now to check these negative forces, Modi and the agenda for India could end up being a minor part of the vast collateral damage.
When a self-proclaimed sadhvi and lawmaker asks Delhi voters to choose between those born of Ram and those who’re, well, bastards, Modi can only mumble a few words in her defence in the House. He is mum on crimes against women. And what is his defense when another of his legislators demands statues of Mahatma Gandhi’s killer to be built across India? Doubtless, Modi coins catchy slogans like ‘Make in India’ or ‘Swachh Bharat.’ But do they have any content or policy momentum?
Who’ll make in India, if Indians are rushing to invest overseas? Here’s the catch: Modi talks of development haphazardly, while the RSS is hell-bent on reviving Hindutva. Both cannot coexist. Most reforms need parliamentary approval and Modi lacks a majority in the Upper House. His silent compliance with rabble rousers has united opposition resistance in Parliament. Even within the RSS, many don’t support the reforms India needs.
If two-faced Janus led to policy paralysis in UPAII, the reigning deity now is Brahma, the lord of creation in Hindu mythology. Brahma is depicted by four heads, representing the four Vedas.
Today, one head spouts development slogans, with complete centralization of administrative authority. Another is mute, representing mantris with portfolios but no responsibility. A third talks the language of division: pitting faith against faith, gender against gender, language against language. The fourth, aghast, contemplates this mess and muses about the social and economic future of a giant nation, with 1.2 billion people aspiring for a better tomorrow. Which way lies India’s salvation in this sea of contraries?

Should One’s Faith be Subject to Conversion

Over three thousand years of recorded or authenticated human history, may be the same years of some faith, belief and religion, around two hundred and fifty named and unnamed wars, and to date, most, if not all attributable to the realization of the wisdom parted by religion – that’s as far as we pilgrims have progressed! After the evolution of the mind, or call it intellect, the first celebrated tools were the spear, knife and dagger, to hunt lesser species for food.
With the wheel and the domesticated horse, came the next big idea to slaughter your own brother for money, land, lust and power. Just to remind you, people of wisdom and science were there. The Nobel Peace Prize, was after all classified by the inventor of the dynamite! Lesser mortals took a full five years, presuming the intentions of a demon, to believe and declare it! There was a rider too. The Peace Prize would be decided by a Norwegian jury, as that was believed to run on more democratic norms.
Not that the planet was abandoned by Gods, as Gods descended on earth, or as humanity believed it to be, mostly in retrospect, further clashes were justified as “holy wars”, “dharma yuddha”, “Jihad”, that were rather self serving names. Religion was used beyond the defined purpose of religion enunciated.
How power plays around greatness, is to be perceived, in order to be believed. Conquests as of Alexander, or Caesar were concluded as true signs or greatness. The Pharaohs believed in their own form of immortality, that only the Ramses would have an eternal post life, well equipped in their tombs. The kiss of the monarch’s toe could cure syphilis (or even impart one). Lesser regional saints could cure pimples, and divine witchcraft could exorcise schizophrenia.
I wonder, who passed the orders, that after the passage of each divine emissary of God, as was understood, maybe understood even now, that belief and ritual (again as understood by the foremost in progeny) should be spread across the world, by love, affection, and the sword, the sword being the foremost on occasions.
The messages imparted by divinity, though similar in essence had enough reasons to take on each other in the bloodiest of wars. Worldly concerns and power again appeared to be the main reasons. Christianity took its administrative form in the third century, with Constantine shifting the capital to Constantinople, but not without a war with his brother, and severe differences with his mother. More than ten decades later, with the advent of Islam, King Sulaiman of Turkey took charge, and established “Istanbul”. That sparked another set of wars, including the Spanish Crusaders, and the Islam took hold of southern European Mediterranean countries, as far as Austria. In a repeat of the earlier propagation, was regional hegemony a greater reason, that the belief of a spread of faith!
Christianity too was to have its splits. The Church of England came into existence because the more that flamboyant and ambitious Henry the VIII refused to marry his brother’s widow, the daughter of the Ferdinand of Spain, that was , against the Catholic rules. I suppose, there were reasons for Christians to choose their own Bibles, and propagate new moral rules and religious dogma! Be a catholic, or choose to be a Protestant. Lesser confrontations were seen here, though the recent IRA uprise (thankfully over), does identify religious animosity as a main cause, I can’t comment on religious undertones, if any between Napoleon and Duke of Wellington confrontations. WWII and the “ethnic cleansing” of a certain race, has raised questions, but there are others who have worked it out! One unanswered question remains at the end of every war! Could the truce not have been reached any other way?
One good that came of Henry the VII  efforts was a better compiled Bible, close to the “Lincoln Bible” that President Obama chose for his oath taking ceremony.
In essence, all faiths, no matter how noble and visionary in belief of their first followers, were transformed by succeeding generations to enhance numbers, land under control, absolute powers by the term called “conversion”. Philosophy of brotherhood, peace, merit, though same in definition, could only be rewarded, even recognized, only if you belonged to a particular school of religion. Humanity still has to break the shackles towards an all embracing human race.When the famous Pakistani cricket player-turned-playboy Imran Khan married Jemima Goldsmith in 1995, she converted to Islam. She was brought up as a Jew. She was just one example. In the first decade of the 21st century, more than one lakh people converted to Islam in Great Britain alone. Add to this the figures of other European countries, and you will get an idea of how conversions are becoming very normal, especially among non-Muslims.
But let me ask the difficult question that most people dare not ask in India. How many Muslims from Muslim countries are converting from Islam to another faith? And even those who dare convert are forced to keep it to themselves or escape the country in order to avoid persecution and penalty. In many cases, citizens are awarded some of the harshest punishment for what is considered a human right in most non-Muslim countries of the world.
The problem in India is not that a few dozen Muslims have decided to convert to Hinduism, but the fact that, historically, we have told sweet lies to ourselves and pacified ourselves in order to forget the traumatizing experience of the first Islamic colonization and later the British colonization. Millions of Hindus have been forcibly converted, and the British have forced Indians to sit in third-class compartments while they themselves traveled first class. Winston Churchill thought that we Indians did not deserve to get the life-saving grain, even though he had the powers to redirect the supply to India. It caused the death of millions in the ensuing famine. We have forgotten all that. But they are still facts of India’s historical life.
When Salman Rushdie was in Denmark a few years ago, he was interviewed by a leftist writer, Carsten Jensen. To one of the questions asked about India, Rushdie told a beautiful story of modern-day India. He said that he had researched very well the life of the Mughal Emperor Akbar, and his conclusion was that the Indians have told fairy tales and made Bollywood films like Mughal-e-Azam about the life of Akbar. It is not true that Akbar’s wife remained a Hindu or Rajput. No, she converted and that can be proved, but Indians still want to believe that at least one Mughal emperor was wise, secular and interested in promoting the rights of all religious minorities.
No matter how much deeper we poke the ostrich’s nose into the sand, we cannot always avert the desert storm. So it is with some historical facts. We can tell some sweet lies that the Indian history is full of periods when all kinds of kings ruled softly and their subjects enjoyed most of the freedoms that we know of in the modern world. But it is a simple lie. Just as it is a lie that ostriches bury their heads in the sand. We have been told that and we keep telling that to others without thinking of how that poor bird would breathe.
What we should not do, of course, is blame the present-day Muslims for the evils of the past. Nor should we blame the present-day Hindus for the bad arithmetic of the caste system. A few Muslims converting to another faith is no big deal, especially when most of the Muslims of Southeast Asia are simply all converts. It is funny how they still use words like “Bhumiputra”, a Sanskrit word, to justify their demands for more rights in Malaysia.
By confronting the past, we should start making efforts to reconcile our history. The chance we are given at the present historical moment is to make the miracle of secular India work. An India where all are free to convert, marry and divorce. An India where the freedom of religion and conscience is a fundamental pillar whose existence is accepted by all.
Modern-day secularism is an unprecedented moment in our history. Let us cherish it. And let us be thankful that we do not have to live by the brutal standards of the previous centuries.
Not breaking away from the defining principles of a sovereign, and constitutionally binding India, it is easier for me to tackle the recent incidence of actual, presumed and predicted religious conversion camps. Personally, I believe these are tactical signals that the right to conversion, with constitution guarantees in place, are valid for all religions. A land, liberalized just more than sixty years back, is realizing how so much of its population was converted to any religion, because it had no powers, little resources, and perhaps much less will to take care of its have-nots. I would take the mixture of all religions as one of our biggest assets. India, on the other hand, was the cradle of many religions, and a place of opportunity for others.
Buddhism, the only example of a human that aspired to be at par with God, grew here. Today, rather appropriately it has become the guiding philosophy for the rest of the world. It has done away with the constraints of religion generally defined as sin and punishment. In the background was a bloody war, where the great Emperor Ashoka eliminated the kingdom of Kalinga for his own aggrandizement. So remorseless was he, that he could only find solace in the principles of Buddha. There could not have been force as a modem of propagation of his new found faith. He instead sent his son Mahendra, and daughter Sanghmitra to the south-east to spread the message. No armed accomplices were sent. Buddhism is a main religion, in its many forms in Japan, and most of south-east Asia. No wars though, and other religions survive on their own beliefs. Jainism. A minority religion, exists peacefully, somehow breeding the world’s best business minds. The land prospered.
The migrant Parsees, today are the topmost industrialists in the land, command brand loyalty from every citizen, and are the world’s largest employers in software. They can only go further. India has gained!
I discussed with my Muslim philosopher friend before writing this. This is a temporary political arrangement. The actual essence is that we never cared for our downtrodden. Religious aggregation became a convenient vote bank, that began to dictate divisive, even destructive politics.
For quite some time we have to concentrate on prosperity, and create an undying one-nation, one people feeling. Behind political posturing, India has a better insight into all of world’s religions. As a somewhat less developed of the developing countries, this political show had to come.
Much is changing though. Religion and militancy are being dissociated rather speedily. Waiting for the time when everyone has enough, and enough to live by. You would never want to know your colleague’s religion!
So says Ghalib:
“Imaan mujhe rokey hai, kheenchey hai mujhe kufr
Qaaba mare peechey hai, galeecha mere aagey”
(My belief in Allah holds me back, as non-belief pulls me forward,
The holy mosque is behind me, though the temple in front)

Rightists in India: Past & Present

I must tell you the story of the time when I went to meet the first Hindu suicide squad. But why are you laughing already? There is nothing much to say but for the fact that it was over 12 years ago, and that a handler lined up the boys, most of whom were malnourished, and that they giggled when they were described as a suicide squad that would take on Islamic terrorism. It was not even a story.
The Congress politician, Pramod Tiwari, who once said that Bal Thackeray’s “senility” was caused by the women in his family, is not a politician whose intellect is taken seriously. Yet, recently he made an intriguing comparison that the wise took note of because it was convenient to do so. He found parallels between Hafiz Saeed, a terrorist in Pakistan, and Hindu fanatics. It is an atrocious comparison.
There is no doubt that Hindu fundamentalism is dangerous and has in the recent past committed brutal crimes against humanity, but there is a reason why it is benign in comparison to Islamic fundamentalism. And the reason has nothing to do with the alleged potency of Islam, a measure of which, some people may point out, is the large supply of young people who are willing to self-destruct for a cause. That this is a poor understanding of Islam is a pointless line of thought. It is a poor understanding of self-destruction.
From the pedestal of an atheist, which has become taller after the massacre of children in Pakistan, it would appear that all believers have blood on their hands. For, the reasoning goes, is it not true that believers, however innocuous they might seem to be, promote and corroborate a powerful hallucination that grants the demented an honourable cause to perform their slaughters? It is in response to this unspoken allegation that we often hear a sentence, which would reveal itself as obtuse if we only stare at it long enough: “This is not Islam”. In other times, in other places, people have said: “This is not Christianity”, “This is not Hinduism”. To say “this is not religion” implies that religion is something else, but then faith, according to its undeniable definition, is what a person believes it is.
Yet, a growing body of evidence suggests that if it were not for religion the psychopaths and the miserable would have found other causes to kill or to kill themselves. It does appear that radicalisation is not a process of assembling devouts, but collecting the criminal and the suicidal. Often it is a process of criminals enlisting the suicidal, the strong using the weak. Various studies over the last decade indicate that a high proportion of suicide bombers were, very simply, suicidal. They showed signs of various forms of depression. Their handlers were seldom suicidal. They usually had criminal histories.
A study of young Tibetan men who immolated themselves without harming anyone else, too, points to fatal depression that sought exalted purpose in martyrdom. So did the ‘human bombs’ among the Sri Lankan Tamil militants. The exaggeration of purpose was then transmitted by mourners and the opportunistic, further infecting the vulnerable. And where there was a system to exploit them they were used.
Hindu extremism is benign not because criminals find it hard to misinterpret its sacred text, not because it is so self-assured that it does not even mention the ‘others’, the ‘infidels’, but because Hindu extremism does not have a reason to be more potent than it already is. It is not the struggle of the underdogs, it was always the assertion of a majority religion diffused by the suspicions that the lower castes harboured of the higher.
Also, there is the matter of electoral politics. For all its faults, electoral politics in India has been a precious vent for the people. Urbane Indians have contempt for the sheer number of political parties, their long abbreviations, and how messy a list of Indian election results looks in comparison with the brief elegance of American or British poll results. But the fact is that there are hundreds of political parties because they all have a market. There are that many serious local grievances and issues and biases and hopes. In such an irreversible environment, which has been nurtured over decades, any social movement that wishes to be taken seriously has no choice but to enter electoral politics. The reason why the anti-corruption movement became a political party. The reason why the Hindu nationalist movement too is a political party. The reason why even billionaires have a political party.
Most politicians rise as specialist anarchists, but to grow they realise they must become reasonable generalists. That is why many of them do not remain unreasonable for long. That is why Narendra Modi, who used to speak a very different language a decade ago, now ducks when asked his opinion about his saffron friends trying to convert Muslims and Christians to Hinduism. Modi is unable to even speak his mind on the subject. That is how powerful electoral politics is. It reminds powerful men at all times there is much at stake, there is much to lose. Once upon a time Hindu extremism lifted Modi from oblivion, but now he has no reason for it. He is with the bigger thug, democracy.
We must consider it our fortune that we live in a land where the Right wing is largely, if not entirely, restricted to saying that Russians were all Hindus once. We must not grudge our Right wing its deserved release.

Who is less Corrupt- China or India

Comparing India and China regarding their respective levels of corruption is fraught with misleading hypothesis. And still after the Transparency International’s report political pundit started all the discussiions about which country is less corrupt and why: possibly they love their sound bytes. The media went wild this month when Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index showed India, ranked 85th , as being less corrupt than China, ranked 100th , for the first time since 1996. This was deemed a sufficient cause for celebration by some jingoists.
What this discourse overlooks is how the Transparency Index is fundamentally flawed. Comparing India and China on corruption — nations with vastly different cultures and politics — is worse than comparing apples and oranges. At least apples and oranges are both fruit. The nature of ‘corruption’ in India and China is completely different.
China is a top-down bureaucracy, running a vast but relatively homogenous country. India is a boisterous, factionalised democracy, with a variety of different religions, dozens of official languages, hundreds of political parties, and thousands of social groups all pulling in different directions.
The way politics operates is consequently different. China does not really have ‘rule of law’. Instead, bureaucrats run things behind the scenes and the law is more a tool to get things done than an authority to be followed. Decision making is not transparent, happening in backroom negotiations and via subtle political signalling — leaving a lot of room for graft. Political factions conspire with each other; people compete for influence behind the scenes. This rarely comes into the open. Losers are quietly sidelined, or if they’re particularly problematic they’re violently expelled — witness China’s official execution spree or the downfall of former rising political star Bo Xilai.
India is very different. Law matters far more. Politicians spar openly — their fights are splashed across newspapers and blared on television, in contrast to China clamping down on political reporting. Corruption is much easier to find in India. In China, this discussion is limited to internet rumours that are scrubbed clean by censors. In India, accusations are hurled everywhere. Everyone knows where corruption happens and who’s responsible.
Unfortunately, India’s overwhelmed legal system is incapable of dealing with the huge number of cases, letting lots of corrupt officials run free.
China may have a nominal legal system, but in reality corruption is dealt with by bureaucratic consensus. When leaders agree someone has to go, that someone goes — quickly. But officials often get away with corruption because the system is opaque; nobody discovers their graft. There are few open records and no real media scrutiny. That’s why despite President Xi Jinping’s ‘Tigers and Flies’ anti-corruption campaign China failed to climb the rankings. Transparency International notes, “Prosecutions in China are largely seen as efforts to clamp down on political opponents of the regime as opposed to genuine anti-corruption commitments.”
In other words, though China punished over 80,000 officials for corruption in two years, a Chinese official might have been punished because of corruption — or because of a political struggle. Nobody knows for sure.

Christmas – Indian & Foreign Festival- HRD Take Care

India is a land of contradictions and a sponge for soaking up. It does not discriminate, but the politicians do – discriminate or try to create the feelings of separateness to cultivate this thought. That is why despite inane and stupid actions of Indian Human Resources Development, Christmas is a thoroughly Indian festival.
Christmas Day as Good Governance Day? Santa’s day out with kids to be negated in order that kids may recite poems about governance, as if to sneakily suggest that Christmas is somehow a ‘foreign’ festival, Christianity a religion from foreign lands, celebrated by ‘non-Indians’ read westernized Macaulay putras? So marking Christmas is a colonial hangover, its repudiation a sign of ‘Indian’ distinctiveness from the rest of the world? How wrong can you get, HRD ministry!
Markets even across the so-called Vedic heartland are alive with trees, stars, angels and carols, in Kerala mass is said in Malayalam, in Goa in Konkani, and a typical Christmas meal ranges from cake to spicy local fare, ladies attend church in their best saris, and the ubiquitous red costume and flowing beard of Santa is beloved of all kids. Santa speaks the language of love and the language of kids. The star of Christmas doesn’t just rise in Bethlehem, it also rises in the town of Kunnamkulam in Thrissur district where Christmas stars are made and sent across India.
There are even Bharatanatyam adaptations of the Christmas story, with Carnatic music and Christmas carols together providing the musical score for a classical dance rendition of the birth of Christ. Localities in Kolkata even perform Sri Jesus puja. Midnight Mass in cities like Kolkata and Mumbai is a thoroughly universal occasion, with scores of non-Christians streaming in to sing carols.
For the millions of Indians like me,educated in missionary schools, Christianity was hardly the religion of fear that the Sangh Parivar may believe it to be. We convent-educated types were never in danger of conversion, we decorated Christmas trees, sang carols and ate Christmas cake because of the plural non-denominational festival of fun that Christmas was and is, its universality resting in the fact that this is a day dedicated to joie de vivre, a day marked by a plural Indian Christianity, where Christmas tree and carols coexisted easily with kanjeevaram saris and traditional Hindu homes. Christmas was always about a homespun desi Christianity in which as historian Ramachandra Guha puts it, teachers named Mohammed Amin and Prem Sagar Dwivedi presided over a college named St Stephen’s.
Today, like all festivals, the spiritual may have become the commercial but all the colours of India are represented at Christmas. So, no, HRD ministry, there’s no loss in civilization identity for those who heartily belt out jingle bells and Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer on December 25

Change Perceptions: Abuse vs Invective

The first week of this month witnessed in India political discourse plumbing the depths of vulgar abuse. It can only undermine democracy unless it is stopped by severe condemnation. On Dec 1, the Union Minister of State for Food Processing Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, asked the people “to decide if they wanted a government of Ramzadon (followers of Ram) or of “—–zadon( bastards)”. The reader can guess the rhyming word.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi rejected the opposition demand that she be sacked. Of a piece with Jyoti’s foul abuse was the language used by the chief minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee. She publicly threatened to wield a bamboo on the backside of her critics. In both cases, what was on display was neither wit nor political invective; it was vulgar abuse which should be visited with prompt and deterrent punishment.
Of this, there is no danger. For only an alert and assertive public opinion can prod the prime minister or the West Bengal governor to administer a strong public reprimand; if not, indeed, dismiss the offender. The inaction in both cases does not stem from the deep political polarization in India today. It stems from political decay. And that decay lies at the root of the malfunctioning of various institutions and the distortions in the working of the constitution.
Formerly, politics centered around the clash of policies, programs and principles. It now centres around unbridled pursuit of power for its own sake. In the former case, anger was expressed in wit and invective; in the latter, it is expressed in coarse language. The anger of politicians is expressed in coarse words.
The debates in the Central Legislative Assembly of India before independence, were not free of passion, spirited repartee and sharp invective. Sample this: “Have you no eyes, have you no ears, have you no brains?” That was Mohammad Ali Jinnah addressing British officials in the assembly in 1925 on the report of the Reforms Inquiry Committee. When the clash with the Congress intensified, Jinnah used his armory of invective, honed in the years at the Bar, to deadly effect.
The most striking instance of this was the famous telegram to Maulana Abul Kalam Azad in which he branded him as a ‘show-boy’. It stuck. Even admirers of Jinnah questioned the use of the word. The exchange is recalled to illustrate why invective was used calculatedly for political reasons and not as sheer abuse.
On July 12, 1940 Azad wired to Jinnah: “Is it the position of the League that she [sic] cannot agree to any provisional agreement not based on the two-nation theory? If so, please clarify by wire.” This was too clever by half. Elucidations on matters sensitive are sought in meetings; not through telegrams.
Jinnah seized on Azad’s prefatory caution ‘confidential’ to reply “cannot reciprocate confidence”. Jinnah went on to add: “I refuse to discuss with you, by correspondence or otherwise, as you have completely forfeited the confidence of Muslim India. Can’t you realize you are made a Muslim ‘show-boy’ Congress president to give it color that it is national and deceive foreign countries? “You represent neither Muslims nor Hindus. The Congress is a Hindu body. If you have self-respect, resign at once. You have done your worst against the League so far. You know you have hopelessly failed. Give it up.”
While critics have a point, the context must not be overlooked. The maulana was engaged in parleys with the premier of Punjab, Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan, to detach him from the League. That posed a serious threat to the Muslim League. Hence Jinnah’s remark, often ignored, “You have done your worst against the League so far. You know you have hopelessly failed. Give it up.” The retort was given with a political purpose. The telegram was published before it reached Azad. He never recovered from the blow.
Two of the greatest masters of invective were Benjamin Disraeli and David Lloyd George. Both were merciless towards their adversaries. Each destroyed his foe in a famous debate. Disraeli ruined Robert Peel in a debate in 1841. Lloyd George ruined Neville Chamberlain in the historic debate on May 7, 1940.
He said: “The nation is prepared for every sacrifice so long as it has leadership, so long as the government show clearly what they are aiming at, and so long as the nation is confident that those who are leading it are doing their best. I say solemnly that the prime minister should give an example of sacrifice, because there is nothing which can contribute more to victory in this war than that he should sacrifice the seals of office.” Chamberlain won the vote but by so small a margin that he resigned.

Viability of China’s Ambitious Infrastructure Project -New Silk Road

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 fiber-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. New silk road is China’s ambitious infrastructure project envisages opening up Central Asia, but will it work?
If the Chinese vision is realized it could transform the country’s relationship with its neighbors 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 neighbors would dramatically expand the mainland’s potential market for goods and services. Meanwhile, relocating China’s old, polluting and labor-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 center in southern Baluchistan 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 15th century. China’s latest project is unlikely to be as smooth as its name might suggest.

Why India Does Not Face Uprisings

India has the largest number of poor people. A third of the poorest of the poor in the world live here. We also have the largest number of children under five who die every year, uncared for, untreated. Over 60% of us shit and piss under the skies. We have no toilets. We have no homes either. There are more homeless people here than anywhere else. Those who live in slums outnumber Britain’s population three times over.
But hold. India is the undisputed land of contradictions. It also has the sixth largest number of dollar billionaires. The top 100 Indian billionaires have a collective net worth of $175 billion. More than Hong Kong, Switzerland, France. Mumbai (with all its slums) is among the world’s top 20 billionaire cities. It boasts the world’s richest home. It’s the City of Gold. More lives and careers are built and destroyed here than anywhere in the world.
Despite such extreme poverty and extreme wealth, India lurches from one election to the next as a living, throbbing, flourishing democracy. Yes, there’s occasional violence born of conflict among communities and castes but these are dealt with and people swiftly go back to living together in what Galbraith described as the world’s best functioning anarchy. Our elections have high turnouts despite widespread disillusionment with corrupt politicians. Our largest political party, which ruled us for the longest time, was recently demolished by a party which had barely two seats in Parliament till a few years back. But the transfer of power was smooth, easy.
Considering the vast differences, the sopcial sceintist would argue that it is ripe for revolutions and uprisings. Wrong. These conditions have existed from times immorial, and people have accepted their lot with the patience of Job. There’s no widespread upheaval here, no nationwide protests barring those for crimes against women and (sometimes) rising prices. There’s no sign of the revolution the Marxists had predicted. In fact, the Marxists have vanished despite chunks of the countryside still being under what we call Maoist dominance.
Are we too lazy to protest? Or are we too genteel? Or, despite our love for politics, are we actually apolitical? I think: None of the above. Yes, many of us are lazy, too lazy to get up and fight for what is rightfully ours. That’s why the Government gets away with so much. But we are by and large a decent lot. And yes, while we love politics we see it more as entertainment than as a means of changing things. There lies the problem.
That’s why we are unlikely to ever have a Tiananmen Square or an Arab Spring. Our young today are too busy looking for jobs and careers to repeat the idealism that once fired the Naxalbari movement or the Paris uprising in the sixties. They wear Che on their tees but have no clue what he stood for.
|The Indians have learnt to be patient. The religion has taught them to revere poverty . The Law of Karma has taught them to suffer all indignities and oppression without a murmer, so that next life is better. Religion has itself exploited Indians and taught other exploiters to use it as a lever for exploited them further.
And not the Indians have found new gods the gods that make them oblivious to all sense of injustice. Now the opiate of religion has more companions.
Now Indians have found three instant vents, apart from religion, to vent their grievance. While religion taught them not to protest against oppression, the new vents are useful for letting out the steam. The new gods are: News TV, Twitter, Bollywood. These make them feel free, liberated, self contented. All their anger, and frustrations find expression and voice through them.
When did the Naxalbari movement start faltering? In the mid-seventies when an Angry Young Man took over the silver screen. He whipped the badasses for us. He hammered the money lenders. He scorned the politicians and power brokers. He brought the corrupt cops to their knees. And, as millions of young Indians cheered, Amitabh Bachchan lived out their innermost fantasies, lent his baritone to their rage.
Intellectuals call our movies escapist. They are. But they serve a crucial social purpose. They have bonded us as one nation, helped us to survive our disappointments. While Nehru was busy building the temples of modern India, the young Indian was living out his real dreams in the dark auditoria of single screen theatres, beating up the corrupt, wicked system.
Then came television. And with it, News TV. Dull, dreary, boring, it told us what we already knew and thus made our lives even more unbearable. Till another angry young man came in about eight years ago and changed all the rules of the game. News became instant theatre. Bad guys were beaten up. The corrupt were exposed, shouted at. Politeness was replaced by endless badgering. Arnab Goswami is not a newscaster. He is judge, jury, hangman. No, he is not always politically correct. But he stands for the right issues. He knows what the guy on the street wants. His villains, like Amitabh’s, have no shades of grey. They are black, black. His heroes are few. For middle class India, he’s the hero, the new version of the Angry Young Man. He has spawned a new genre. Angry. Hysterical. Cathartic. And yes, liberating.
Twitter, on the other hand, needs no interlocutor. It’s your personal vent machine. You can go there and scream, abuse, rant and, in Salman Khan’s famous words, do whatever you want, man. If that makes you look like a bit of an idiot, don’t worry. No one will notice. If they do, change your twitter handle. Your anonymity is your strength. You hate your wife, go abuse all wives. You hate your neighbour, go attack all neighbours. Chased by a street dog? Demand all strays be killed. Create your own universe of hate and anger. Rage, rant, filibuster. And gang up with fellow hate mongers to create new heroes, new villains.
As long as the strangulating hold of religion is there, for as long as Bollywood flourishes, and for as long as News TV and Twitter dominate all intellectual scene, India is unlikely to witness an uprising. That’s why, whatever they may say, every regime loves these gods. They keep India out of the hands of revolutionaries.

A Catalogue of US Failures & Middle East Disaster

When America was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, it declared a war on terror. For the next 13 years, it fought to defeat tyranny, destroy weapons of mass destruction, and promote democracy and Western ideals. American firepower would make the world a better place— it was hoped.
The opposite happened. In the Iraq and Afghanistan battlefields alone, some 2.5 million United States troops put their lives on the line. Yet an Iraqi civil war and anindefatigable Taliban are destroying all America built. In Somalia and Yemen, American drones hover in the skies above and rain fire on enemies below. Yet America’s allies are on the run.
In Egypt, U.S. pressure helped topple a dictator ally and replace him with a democratically elected terrorist who hated America. Another coup soon followed, and a new dictator. In Libya, America bombed Muammar Qadhafi. In his wake came warring militias with terrorist links, a dead U.S. ambassador, and an ongoing deadly civil war that has killed tens of thousands.
America has great power, but in theater after theater U.S. policy is failing dramatically. In 1967, Col. Muammar Qadhafi inherited one of the poorest nations in Africa. By the time he was assassinated, Libya was Africa’s wealthiest nation. Libya had the highest life expectancy and highest gross domestic product per capita on the continent. Fewer people lived below the poverty line than in the Netherlands. In some respects, it was considered the Switzerland of Africa. Wealth was being generated; schools and hospitals were running, and were free. In 2011, the U.S. led an air campaign supporting the “Arab Spring,” ousting Qadhafi from power. The result was catastrophic. Oil production was halved to 810,000 barrels per day. Since 2011, 32,000 people have been killed. The nation is locked in war. It is a terrorist haven, and some 250 militias now “run” what once was the wealthiest country in Africa.
In 2003, Iraq was invaded by a U.S.-led coalition to remove Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, destroy weapons of mass destruction, and create a democracy. Eight years later, 7,888 U.S. soldiers and contractors were dead, along with 190,000 Iraqi civilians. Total cost including reconstruction: $2.2 trillion. Less than two years after America declared “mission complete,” the U.S.-built Iraqi Army had virtually collapsed, the radical Islamic State had proclaimed a caliphate, Iraq was engulfed in civil war, and over 24,000 more people were dead. Today, Iraq is essentially split into three warring regions: the area controlled by the Islamic State in the middle, a Kurdish autonomous region in the north, and a Shiite-controlled south. On Nov. 7, 2014, President Barack Obama announced he would send 1,500 additional troops back to Iraq to support the 1,500 who already returned to the country America just withdrew from.
After more than 13 years of war and the death of Osama bin Laden, America is bringing its troops home. The war cost $710 billion and 2,349 lives of American soldiers. The result: After spending $56 billion to equip the Afghan Army, it is unclear whether it will continue the fight the Taliban—or switch sides and join it. At the start of the war, the Taliban fielded an estimated 2,000 soldiers. Now, that number has swelled to 60,000. The mission is a failure in other ways too. America invested $7.6 billion in programs to counter opium production, but opium production is now twice what it was when America first invaded. Afghan leaders now appear to be cutting deals with the Taliban in preparation for America’s complete withdrawal.
In 2009, President Obama approved a dronebombing campaign to help the Yemeni government combat Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the north. America’s involvement turned the local populace against the ruling government. By 2011, the Yemeni Army and American drones were also fighting al Qaeda in the south. Today the country is mixed in civil war, its capital city is controlled by the Houthi, and the U.S.-backed government faces collapse.
Washington is trying to help the Somali government to 1) retake control of vast parts of its country lost to the Iranian sponsored terrorist group al-Shabaab, and 2) maintain a foothold on the strategic Gulf of Aden waterway. In October 2013, President Obama approved U.S. boots on the ground to act as advisers. About 220 terrorist operatives have been killed by U.S. drone strikes. About $700 million has been spent propping up the Somali National Army and training African Union forces to combat al-Shabaab. So far, al-Shabaab remains undeterred.
In February 2011, America helped push long-standing ally Hosni Mubarak from the presidency. This ushered in an era of instability and violence. Three leaders later, GDP growth is cut in half from 4 percent to less than 2 percent; unemployment has jumped from 9 percent to 12 percent; external debt has climbed from $34.7 billion to $45.3 billion. Meanwhile, vehicle thefts have increased fourfold, homicides have tripled, and armed robberies have risen from 233 the year before Mubarak’s resignation to 2,807 in 2012. Politically, America’s one-time ally now regards the U.S. with skepticism.

The Reality of ISIS threat Extends Terror Beyond the Madrassa & Revenge

The dramatic and deadly rise of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has completely changed the form of terrorism. ISIS has succeeded where al-Qaida had failed — it has globalized as well as decentralized terrorism. For all its claims, al-Qaida’s appeal was limited to some countries and it had to provide training and finance to its members to carry out terror attacks. With the rise of ISIS, Islamist terrorism has become self-propagating and self-sponsored.
ISIS has also made Islamist terrorism more protean. The terror landscape has been totally transformed. For the first time we face a situation where we don’t know who could be a terrorist or an ISIS sympathizer. It could be anybody — from a civil engineer in Kalyan to an MNC executive in Bengaluru to a self-proclaimed cleric in Sydney. “Lone-wolf” terrorism is for real, and it is hard to combat.
“Jihad” has become cool. Young, English-speaking and perfectly normal youths are leaving their jobs and western lifestyles to join the ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria. There is a new kind of brutality, broadcast and subscribed to on YouTube. The “popularity” of a terrorist is being measured by the number of followers on Twitter and Facebook. We have entered an age of “reality terrorism”.
The ISIS phenomenon is challenging several hitherto established — real or preconceived — notions about Islamist terrorism in India too. Till now, terrorism in India had a few simple explanations and clear categories. First and widely agreed, Pakistan is the main source and sponsor of terrorism in India. Pakistan, till the time it can, will continue to sponsor and promote terrorism in India.
Second, for Hindu rightists, madrassas and radical clerics are mainly responsible for homegrown terrorism in India. For them, madrassas are the nursery of terrorism in India.
Third, for a section of Muslims and liberal intellectuals, the homegrown Islamist terror in India is persisting because of two unfortunate events — the demolition of the Babri mosque in 1992 and the 2002 Gujarat riots. These two events made it easier to draw victims and disgruntled youth towards terrorism. Gujarat 2002 earned the dubious distinction of being a “laboratory of Hindutva” and Modi a tacit supporter of it. A lot of terrorists proclaimed themselves to be the “avengers” of the Gujarat riots. The Islamist terrorism in India had a readymade explanation — blame it on Gujarat and Modi.
There is no doubt that both the madrassa and Gujarat 2002 explanations hold some validity for the continuation of the Islamist terrorism in India. But ISIS is posing totally new challenges. The lure of ISIS among Indian youths tells us that Islamist terrorism has moved beyond the madrassa and Gujarat 2002 theories. Arif Majeed — the Kalyan youth who had gone to the Middle East to fight for ISIS — is a civil engineer. Mehdi Masroor Biswas — the handler of one of the most popular ISIS Twitter accounts, @ShamiWitness — was working in an MNC in Bengaluru. Then, there are some other South Indian youths who are reported to be fighting for ISIS in Iraq and Syria. None of these ISIS supporters were radicalized in a madrassa. Neither were they victims of a riot nor were they out to avenge it. Clearly, there is something else which is motivating them.
The increasing appeal of ISIS across the globe is complex and difficult to decipher. The first obvious answer is that ISIS is a validation of Samuel Huntington’s theory of the “clash of civilizations”. ISIS, to some extent, has transformed a regional war into an “Islam versus the rest” war. Otherwise, how do we account for youths from the UK, France, Germany, Australia and India leaving their relatively secure lives to go and fight for ISIS in Iraq and Syria?
ISIS is a question mark for the believers in multiculturalism too. England, which used to pat itself on the back for being a successful multicultural society, has become the main source of foreign fighters for ISIS. France, rather entire Europe, also needs to look into its assimilation process. Somehow, these countries have failed to fully integrate their minorities into the mainstream.
The attractiveness of ISIS signals the blurring of lines between the real and the virtual worlds. The real has become a theatre to act out our virtual lives. Many of us fantasize to live an anonymous and double life. The technological progress of our generation has made it possible. Mehdi Masroor Biswas would do a 9-to-5 job by the day and turn into an ISIS tweeter by the night.
No longer is there a need for a school and a teacher to motivate an individual to turn into a jihadi. Twitter, Facebook and other internet platforms are being used to indoctrinate, motivate and train them. These tools have made propagation of jihadi ideology easy, cheap, hard to detect and readily available 24/7 across the world.
The good thing is that India is at the fringe of the ISIS battle. The appeal of ISIS is limited to a few young Muslims. However, the ISIS-inspired “lone-wolf” terrorist is a real threat for India and can’t be ignored by security and intelligence agencies.

China’s Aggressive Emerging Afghan Role as India Suffers From Trust Deficit

As the American occupation of Afghanistan comes to an end, China is getting ready to play a significant role in a country that has seen many great powers bite the dust. In a meeting with the Afghan leader Abdullah Abdullah in Astana, Kazakhstan, this week, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said Beijing is ready to play a “constructive role” in promoting national reconciliation and economic development in Afghanistan.
Although China’s articulation of its Afghan policy is understated, India must come to terms with one important transformation unfolding in the northwestern subcontinent. Afghanistan, which has long been a contested zone among Euro-Atlantic powers, may now see an Asian power take the lead role in the Great Game. New Delhi must also recognise that there is widespread international and regional support for Beijing’s strategic entry into Afghanistan. Kabul has been urging China to take greater interest in Afghanistan for many years now. Former President Hamid Karzai travelled frequently to Beijing to press the Chinese leadership to launch big development projects and persuade its close ally Pakistan to stop destabilising Kabul. His successor, Ashraf Ghani, who has chosen Beijing as his first foreign destination after he took charge of Afghanistan, is betting on China to secure the nation’s future.
Exhausted by its longest war ever, America has ended its combat role in Afghanistan this month. Almost all of its remaining 10,000-odd troops in the country will go home by the end of 2016. The US and its Nato allies are now more than happy to see someone else pick up the pieces in Afghanistan. Russia, which is one of Beijing’s major political partners, supports a stronger role for China in Afghanistan.
China has good relations with most of Afghanistan’s neighbours, including Iran and the three Central Asian Republics — Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. But it is Beijing’s emerging partnership with the Pakistan army in Afghanistan that is the most interesting new element in the region.
Sino-Pak Alliance
Post-Partition geography has made Pakistan the most important regional actor in Afghanistan. However, despite its best efforts, the Pakistan army could not gain a decisive say in Afghan affairs. Given its limited national resources, Rawalpindi’s reach always exceeded its grasp in Afghanistan. But in alignment with a great power, Pakistan has had great impact in Afghanistan.
After the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan at the end of 1979, the Pakistan army joined America in setting up the jihad against “godless” communists and ousting Russian troops by the end of the 1980s. But Pakistan found it hard to control the developments in Afghanistan after the US turned its back on the latter in the 1990s. America drafted Pakistan into the great war on terror after the 9/11 attacks on Washington and New York in 2011. This time, the US “alliance” with Pakistan was a forced one. It was based on America’s threat to bomb Pakistan to the stone-age rather than a convergence of interests.
Pakistan waited patiently to undermine American strategy in Afghanistan. As it sees off the Americans, Pakistan is drawing China in to achieve its long-term strategic goal of establishing a friendly regime in Afghanistan and a special say in Kabul’s internal affairs. For its part, Beijing hopes that collaboration with the Pakistan army in Afghanistan will help weaken the negative forces of violent extremism, religious fundamentalism and separatism that threaten China’s internal security, especially in the restive Muslim majority province of Xinjiang.
China values the geographic centrality of Afghanistan in promoting transborder economic linkages between western China, Central Asia, the Persian Gulf and the subcontinent. A stable AfPak region, Beijing believes, can help consolidate China’s “Go West” strategy and strengthen its influence in inner Asia.
Taliban Challenge
In the last couple of years, China has stepped up its Afghan diplomacy. While strengthening ties with Kabul, Beijing has established direct contacts with the Taliban with the help of the Pakistan army. Beijing is now ready to “facilitate” a conversation among all the Afghan factions. Beijing has plans to extend its ambitious silk road initiative to cover Afghanistan and integrate it with the project to develop the China-Pakistan corridor. The biggest imponderable, however, remains the Taliban. It has set near-impossible conditions for the peace process — the withdrawal of all foreigners from the country, ending Kabul’s military partnerships with foreign powers and the imposition of Sharia law.
In the past, development incentives offered by outsiders did not make a difference to the Taliban’s worldview. Many in Pakistan say the Taliban has changed and is ready for pragmatic engagement with the world. For China, though, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. Rawalpindi’s capacity to reorient the Taliban holds the key to a potentially successful Chinese role in Afghanistan.
Much like his predecessor Hamid Karzai, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has begun his tenure with a serious effort to mend fences with Pakistan. Relations between the two countries, which share close ethnic, religious and economic ties, have been marred by mistrust and hostility. To prepare the ground, Ghani visited Pakistan’s patron Saudi Arabia and sought advice, if not intercession, concerning Pakistan.
In Beijing, he sought increased Chinese involvement in stabilising the economic and security situation. On his insistence, the Pakistan army chief and DG (ISI) separately visited him in Kabul. On his maiden trip to Pakistan as head of state, Ghani’s first port of call was the Army GHQ, where substantive discussions were held, not in Islamabad, from where the lameduck civilian government operates. Ghani has concluded there can be no peace in Afghanistan without the blessings of Pakistan’s military establishment. But on what terms will he bring peace?
The GHQ, which calls the shots on Pakistan-Afghan matters, has always believed in interventionist policies. With the impending exit of US-led forces, the Pakistan army claims the right to shape Afghanistan’s political transition. It senses an opportunity to achieve its objective of strategic depth. It also supports Afghan proxies and provides a base for the Taliban, the Haqqani network, and the Hizb-e-Islami to operate out of Pakistan. It has scuttled all efforts by Afghanistan to reach out to the Taliban, arresting and eliminating those inclined to respond to Kabul’s overtures.
The GHQ is unlikely to change. In its operations in North Waziristan, the Pakistan army has not moved against groups that it uses as instruments of State policy. Ghani is seen as speaking from a weak position but he does not have the mandate to prostrate before Pakistan. The Taliban too would not want to play second fiddle to him. They see an opportunity with the departure of foreign troops and are escalating violence.
Indian Worry
So should India worry? Well, one cannot ignore that Ghani’s pitch is publicly to Rawalpindi, not Islamabad. Pakistan has quickly promised to raise, train and equip a brigade in the Afghan National Army. Ghani has relegated India to the role of a supporting actor, with the lead conceded to Pakistan.
It would be no better for India if Ghani’s initiative failed to achieve a quiet border. This would mean a deterioration in the security situation in Afghan provinces bordering FATA and Kyber Pakhtunkhwa. These are the areas where India-specific terrorist groups established bases in the 1990s. Given the Lashkar-e-Taiba’s links with the Haqqani network, the formation of an Indian-led al Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent and the appeal of ISIS, there would be clear and present danger to Indian interests. Indian consulates in Kandahar and Jalalabad would become vulnerable. With the Afghan border having been secured by its proxies, the Pakistan army would be able to divert energies and resources to the border with India. Jammu and Kashmir would be the first to feel the heat. Proposals such as road transit to Afghanistan through Pakistan would then be abandoned.
India should leverage its goodwill and mobilise assets who would react against both appeasement of Pakistan or its escalation of violence. The Hazaras and Tajiks who back Ghani’s rival, Abdullah Abdullah, would be natural allies but extricating Uzbek leader Abdul Rashid Dostum from Turkey’s grip would require some doing, given his antipathy to Mohammed Ata, the Tajik strongman and his rival. India needs to reach out to Pashtuns above all.
China has on and off sought intelligence cooperation to deal with Uighur militants and escalating violence in Xinjiang. However, its track record in Afghanistan is unremarkable. It obtained mining concessions but is yet to exploit them. Its contribution to development is meagre and is unlikely to involve itself in stabilising the security situation. China’s involvement in Afghanistan, however, may not be to India’s disadvantage.
Iran, wary of a resurgent Sunni Taliban, is a potential ally even if it takes some effort to convince Washington about giving Iran space in Afghanistan. Iran’s involvement will invite a Saudi reaction, drawing in the attendant problem of Sunni radicalism. Nevertheless, Tehran needs to be mobilised. Development of the Chabahar port, linking it to the Zaranj-Delaram road built by India, should be expedited to provide Afghanistan access to the sea.
There is also an opportunity with Russia. Isolated by the West over Ukraine, Moscow has already knocked on Beijing’s doors. It has reason to be concerned with the concentration of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan militants on Afghanistan’s borders. Afghanistan would have figured during President Vladimir Putin’s visit to New Delhi, but Moscow may have little enthusiasm for a proactive role owing to its economic woes.
The US thus remains the key to India’s interests in Afghanistan. While it cannot now be persuaded to reinforce its remaining military presence, signing and ratification of the bilateral security agreement and President Barack Obama’s approval for US’ military missions against the Taliban are welcome. America’s mistrust of Pakistan continues but Washington needs to be persuaded to withhold Coalition Support Funds to make the GHQ fall in line. Obama’s forthcoming visit to Delhi provides the right opportunity.
India today is in a better position to deal with the situation in Afghanistan than at any time since the emergence of the Taliban in the 1990s. It cannot afford to ignore developments in what has been called as the ‘gateway to Central and South Asia’ situated on ‘the highway of conquest’.
What India needs to overcome is a trust deficit. Doubts have emerged over New Delhi’s credibility as a reliable partner. Its inability to arrange supplies and spares for the Afghan National Army (ANA) contributed to the belief that on critical issues India hesitates to act. With the decisiveness Prime Minister Narendra Modi has shown on security matters doubts on this score can be removed; but as the situation exists today, it is China that is playing the lead role.

Taliban Terror The Never Ending Nightmare

The Taliban’s justification of the carnage may be self-serving, but it also tells us that their acts had context. For the most part, the language we have used to describe the massacre of 132 school children in Peshawar has consisted of cliché: the perpetrators were evil, cowardly, animals. This language of righteous rage tells us next to nothing about the perpetrators and why they acted as they did. The Taliban’s justification of the carnage may be self-serving, but it also tells us that their acts had context. It is important to understand this context, because the ideals that drove the perpetrators are inexorably shaping Pakistan’s destiny, no matter what the outcome of the war between the state and the Taliban might be. There is a possibility that in the days to come, it could all turn into a farce in which military apologists blame politicians, politicians blame each other. There is a possibility that in the days to come, it could all turn into a farce in which military apologists blame politicians, politicians blame each other.
The story dates back to the late-1970s, to when military despot Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, flush with Saudi cash and United States arms, launched his great jihad against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The jihad saw the recruitment of thousands of young men from Pakistan’s northwest. The recruits were mainly young men with some elementary secular or seminary education, and ambitions far greater than the roles traditional tribal society had assigned them.
Following 9/11, the Islamic utopia these men had sought to build in Afghanistan imploded, and they returned home. In 2004, the US pushed military ruler General Pervez Musharraf into action against Arab, Chechen and Uzbek jihadists operating from Pakistan’s South Waziristan Agency, with the help of local warlords who had fled Afghanistan after 9/11. The offensive proved disastrous. Facing rebellion from within his force, Musharraf sold the US the idea that he could co-opt the jihadist leadership using his intelligence services.
In April 2004, key warlord Nek Muhammad Wazir agreed to stop support to foreign jihadists. In a video recorded in the spring of 2004, Nek Muhammad garlanded Lieutenant General Safdar Husain, head of Pakistan’s XI corps. “The most important thing”, he said, “is that we are Pakistani soldiers, too. The tribal people are Pakistan’s atomic bomb. When India attacks Pakistan, you will see the tribals defending 14,000 kilometers of the border.” Days later, though, the Shakai agreement unraveled. Nek Muhammad refused to hand over foreign jihadists. He began assassinating traditional tribal leaders who competed with him for power.
The warlord’s story goes to the heart of who the Pakistani Taliban’s leadership are. The son of a farmer from the village of Kalosha in South Waziristan, Nek Muhammad was schooled at an influential Islamist-controlled seminary, the Jamia Dar-ul-Uloom, before going to study at a college run by the secular-nationalist Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party. He soon dropped out and set up a shop in the main bazaar of Wana, South Waziristan’s main town. Less than 18 years old at the time, Nek Muhammad volunteered for service with the mujahideen in Afghanistan. He was operating alongside the Taliban by 1995-1996. He became close friends with Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan chief Tahir Yaldashev and Uighur jihadist Hasan Mohsin. Following the events of 9/11, Nek Muhammad returned to Waziristan and grabbed power in the Shakai valley, using his al-Qaeda contacts. Pakistan’s army, still hoping to plant jihadists back in power in Kabul, wasn’t displeased.
Every peace deal since Shakai has ended in the same way, for pretty much the same reasons. In February 2005, the Pakistan army signed a peace deal with Baitullah Mehsud, then chief of the Pakistan Taliban, operating in South Waziristan. Within months, clashes broke out again. In the Mohmand Agency, Taliban commander Abdul Wali, who prefers the pseudonym Omar Khalid Khurasani and was among the Lal Masjid jihadists, was handed total power. “Polio vaccination was stopped, sharia courts were established, women were directed to wear the veil in public and criminals were arrested and judged in sharia courts,” the journalist Amir Mir reported.
Perhaps the most unsuccessful peace effort involved Maulana Fazlullah, now head of the Pakistan Taliban, whose jihadists barred Swat’s girls from schools and unveiled women from the streets. In February 2009, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s battered provincial government agreed to implement the sharia-based Nizam-e-Adl laws, conceding Fazlullah’s demands. Floggings, beheadings and suicide-bombings replaced the law.
“None of the agreements with Taliban factions involved in attacks in Pakistan”, journalist Daud Khattak has recorded, “lasted for more than a few months, and the breaking of each agreement resulted in severe bouts of violence, including attacks on government installations, security forces and civilians.”
The Pakistan army’s Zarb-e-Azb offensive in North Waziristan, the war that built up to the Peshawar carnage, is the latest in a series of similar campaigns: Rah-e-Rast, Rah-e-Nijat, Sher-Dil, Khyber 1, Khyber 2, even the farcically-named Daraghlam (I’m Coming), Bia Daraghlam (Here I Come Again) and Khwakh Ba De Sham (I’m Going To Fix You). Zarb-e-Azb has, military experts agree, gone further in targeting jihadist combat units than its predecessors.
Yet, these offensives have done nothing to erode the actual reach and influence of jihadism across the country. The army has, in particular, remained allied to pro-government jihadists east of the Indus, in the plains of Punjab and in Sindh. The state may fight jihadist fighters, but not their project.
For decades, scholar Pervez Hoodbhoy has written, Pakistanis have been taught that their country’s “raison d’être was the creation of an Islamic state where the sharia must reign supreme”. It’s a task successive governments, both military and civil, have participated in since 1953: it was, after all, so-called democrat Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who proscribed the Ahmadi minority.
The jihadists see themselves as revolutionaries fighting to build the utopia promised in 1947. Large numbers of Pakistanis, especially an affluent but disenfranchised petty bourgeoisie fed up with both an elite-run democracy and military rule, don’t disagree with their ideals. The state has neither the will nor the desire to reinvent the idea of Pakistan: no government, after all, has even shown a desire to overturn Pakistan’s toxic blasphemy laws.
Even as Taliban violence has escalated, polling data shows, support for violent Islamist groups has held steady, expanding in some regions. The data also shows that India, notwithstanding visiting journalists’ accounts to the contrary, is seen as the principal enemy. There are some, like Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, who have cast the killing as an Indian plot, thus seeking to protect the jihadist ideal from the acts of its practitioners. There are others who have even refused to condemn the Peshawar slaughter.
Umberto Eco, the great Italian scholar and author, described a visit to an amusement-park house-of-horrors thus: “there are mirrors, so on the right you see Dracula raising the lid of a tomb, and on the left your own face reflected next to Dracula’s, while at the same time there is the glimmering image of the Ripper or of Jesus, duplicated by an astute play of corners, curves and perspective, until it is hard to realise which is which”.
Five decades ago, and more, Pakistan threw away the moral compass that could have guided it out of the darkness. Each day it spends in the house-of-horrors, dystopia will seem a normal state of being. Its has to learn that the so called Strategic assets no longer maintainable. A nation is in mourning, but its leaders still have to answer if they are ready to fight both terrorism and the radicalism that gives birth to such violence.
For many, this is indeed Pakistan’s 9/11. Notwithstanding the Taliban’s attack on schools and both hard and soft targets in the past, the terrorists seem to have crossed a line with this attack. The prime minister called an all-party conference and the army chief took a flight to Kabul to demand the extradition of the chief of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Mullah Fazlullah. Interestingly, the responsibility for the attack was claimed by the wing of the TTP that has joined the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the recent past.
But a more important question is whether those who want to draw attention away from the Taliban will succeed in distracting the government and society at large. In a television programme after the incident, former military dictator Pervez Musharraf pointed at India as the main culprit behind the attack. Indeed, he talked about launching a counter-offensive. One of his main supporters in the media, a television anchor reputed for his close association with military intelligence agencies, suggested banning India’s overhead flights. Not surprisingly, the Lashkar-e-Toiba’s Hafiz Saeed made a similar claim. It could possibly be days before others, like the retired general Hamid Gul, also come out of the woods and begin to sermonise about the main threat being external. There may be an internal division within the armed forces regarding what is considered a bigger threat — the internal or external — but there is almost a consensus on India being the key enemy.
A long trail of blood and bodies, but Pakistan’s state and society may not be close to solving its terrorist problem. There is a possibility that in the days to come, it could all turn into a farce in which military apologists blame politicians, politicians blame each other, as the environment is just not right to ask tough questions of the military, and it ultimately comes to nothing. In the coming days, people will gradually lose the strength to pointedly ask the military commanders about the logic of supporting terror groups that may not be involved internally but are engaged outside. Yet, it is the connection between those who create violence internally and externally that keeps the Taliban machine running. I remember once asking a senior military commander if the army had an automatic button to ensure that those who joined the good Taliban would not turn bad later. He did not seem to have an answer then. Nor do they appear to have one now.
The army chief, the man in charge of running the country’s foreign and defense policies, has certainly come under a lot of pressure as about 80 per cent of the children in the school were from military families, especially junior officers. The question is, would it move him to stop thinking of some militants as critical pawns for the Afghan chessboard, particularly when some of his serving and retired officers sound confident talking about Afghanistan in front of a foreign audience.
The Peshawar school attack reflects how the policy of maintaining strategic assets is no longer maintainable. It has to be dismantled and destroyed, including its root cause — the radicalism narrative. There are structural deficiencies that Pakistan suffers from, such as the poor judicial system and a law enforcement apparatus that fails to bring violent extremists to justice. Nevertheless, all of these issues pale in front of the need to eliminate symbols of terrorism and radicalism. With Hafiz Saeed riding around on horseback in the country’s urban centres like Lahore peddling jihad, or the Lal Masjid cleric going about his business in the heart of the capital city, or the government and political parties shying away from amending rules on blasphemy, the basic mindset that drives violent extremism is likely to continue and even thrive.
Ask an ordinary but sensitive Pakistani today, and they will say they can’t be bothered with any great geopolitical game and would be happy with the gift of life, health and education. Policymakers, of course, are a different story.
Tragedy can precipitate momentous change. The government-commissioned Hamood-ur-Rahman report confirmed that a sweeping overhaul was necessary if what remained of Pakistan was to emerge on the other side of 1971 bolder, better, and more just. In short, Pakistan had an opportunity to write a new script, to come to terms with the fact that the hitherto conceived ‘Pakistani nation’ was a myth that just did not correspond to our existing material reality.
Sadly, although in hindsight, predictably, we decided only to reassert our ‘Islamic’ essence with greater vigor than before. One argument is that the roots of ‘Islamisation’ can be traced to the early 1970s, before the coming to power of the Zia junta, when a thoroughly demoralized military establishment initiated a covert program to finance and train guerrilla fighters — those who soon afterwards became known as the mujahideen.
However any tragedy can lead to crucial changes. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Burhanuddin Rabbani and others who would become prized ‘strategic assets’ — all had been patronized by the Pakistani security apparatus for years before the Soviet ‘invasion’ of Afghanistan. The politics of jihad was not a defensive reaction to the communist superpower, it was a well-thought-out, long-term strategy to change the face of the region, and indeed Pakistani society itself.
In the final analysis, then, the depths plunged between March and December 1971 did induce change. More than four decades later, there can be no gainsaying just how much the jihadi infrastructure and ideology have transformed Pakistani lives. Yet, predictably, they simply refuse to acknowledge the historical choices and political-economic structures that have given rise to a form of violence that is eating away at our collective psyche. Within hours of the attack , everyone and sundry was chanting the standard slogans about wiping out the last of the terrorists, and backing the heroic soldiers.
We have heard it all before, and it is very likely that we will hear it again. That half a dozen men dressed in paramilitary uniforms marching into an army-run school in broad daylight and killing about 150 children in cold blood only induces nationalistic refrains about taking ‘Zarb-i-Azb’ to its logical conclusion is an indicator of just how emaciated our political imagination has become.
The truth is that Pakistan refuses to see the political economy of jihad for what it is. There are dozens of political organisations in the mainstream — including those in elected government — that cobble together a statement or two in the wake of such incidents, but never venture further because to do so would be to implicate themselves.
Lest we forget, it was only a few short weeks ago that the former emir of the Jamaat-i-Islami Munawwar Hasan announced that ‘Qital-fi sabilillah’ is mandatory for all pious Muslims. Many would see this as an invocation to the types who carried out Tuesday’s attack.
One day something will have to give. In the media, in schools, on the floor of parliament, maybe even within military barracks — the historical myths and ideological edifices of ‘Pakistaniat’ will have to be subjected to public censure. We will have to explode the falsehood that is Pakistani exceptionalism. We will have to call a spade, a spade. Till now, the only language in which this dialogue has taken place is that of violence. Whether it is the violence of the ‘terrorists’ or the violence of the state, both claim legitimacy in the name of Islam. They are two sides of the same coin.
Only when religion is separated from the affairs of the state will there be hope of stopping the carnage. This does not amount to a conspiracy against Islam, as the mullahs scaremongering always suggests. It means only to say that religion does not have to be the source of all legitimacy, particularly in the realm of politics. Jihad has been mainstreamed by the generals and their ideologues across the length and breadth of society. And it is in the trenches of this brutalized society that the decisive phase of this battle must be fought.

Cold War Still On

A COLD war is on between the West and Russia in right earnest. Its immediate cause is, of course, the Ukraine. But Prof John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, and one of the few dissenters in the US, points out in Foreign Affairs that “the taproot of the trouble is Nato enlargement”.
The West’s backing of the pro-democracy movement in Ukraine beginning with the Orange Revolution in 2004 aggravated the situation. “For President Putin, the illegal overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elec­ted and pro-Russian president — which he rightly labeled a ‘coup’ — was the final straw. He responded by taking Crimea, a peninsula he feared would host a Nato naval base.” He began working to destabilise Ukraine until it abandoned its efforts to join the West. This provoked a slew of unprecedented sanctions on individuals; tensions mounted as charges were traded.
Ukraine is not a Nato member, and is not covered under its umbrella, but it has expressed interest in joining. Three other former Soviet republics have joined the alliance since the end of the Cold War, as well as the former Warsaw Pact states of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria.
Jack Matlock, former US ambassador to the then USSR is a scholar, who prizes objectivity over the claims of ‘patriotism’. He said emphatically that “If there had been no possibility of Ukraine ever becoming part of Nato, and therefore Sevastopol becoming a Nato base, Russia would not have invaded Crimea. It is as simple as that. Why don’t we understand that other countries are sensitive about military bases from potential rivals not only coming up to their borders, but taking land which they have historically considered theirs?”
The US is mistaken if it thinks it can unilaterally shape the world order. The US has persecuted Cuba for over half a century. Its Monroe Doctrine remains intact; but it has no qualms about poaching in the vicinity of another power’s frontier.
Mikhail Gorbachev risked a lot in his quest for a détente with the US. In his memoirs Gorbachev quoted US secretary of state James Baker as proposing during a meeting in 1990, that a united Germany be allowed to remain in Nato “with the guarantee that Nato jurisdiction or troops would not extend east of the current line”.
Matlock adds that “Gorbachev’s account coincides with my notes of the conversation. … Therefore, both he and the Soviet foreign minister Shevardnadze assumed that they had assurances that Nato would not replace the Warsaw Pact in Eastern Europe. After all, that would have been a direct violation of the understanding at Malta that the United States would not ‘take advantage’ of a Soviet military withdrawal from Eastern Europe”.
Archival evidence dug out recently by Prof Mary Elise Sarotte proves the deception. The then German chancellor Helmut Kohl met Gorbachev in Moscow in February 1990. He had received two conflicting letters before the meeting. President George H.W. Bush suggested that Nato could move eastward. Secretary of State James Baker suggested it would not.
Kohl followed Baker’s line and assured Gorbachev accordingly. His foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher told his Soviet counterpart Eduard Shevardnadze “Nato will not expand itself to the East”. But this is what Kohl heard from Bush at Camp David that month. “To hell with that. We prevailed, they didn’t. We can’t let the Soviets clutch victory from the jaws of defeat.” This triumphalism reflected an arrogant cynicism and governs Ameri­can policy.
Putin sounded the alarm as far back as in February 2007, when he attacked American’s ‘unipolar’ behaviour at a conference in Munich. The United States had “overstep­ped its national borders in every way”, imposing on other nations its “economic, political, cultural and educational policies”. He was particularly bitter regarding Nato enlargement. “What happened to the assurances our Western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact?”
He cited not only James Baker’s private words to Gorbachev and Shevardnadze, but a public statement by Manfred Worner when he was Nato secretary-general, who had stated in a speech in Brussels in 1990: “The fact that we are ready not to place a Nato army outside of German territory gives the Soviet Union a firm security guarantee.”
In contrast, in 1990 Gorbachev cooperated with Bush on the Iraq war. So did Putin on Afghanistan and continues still to do so on Syria, Iraq, Iran and the militant group the Islamic State.
The United States is sadly mistaken if it imagines that it can unilaterally shape the world order especially in Asia without the cooperation of Russia, China and the Third World countries. The problems are too great for any single power to acting alone to resolve them. President Barack Obama has reached out to Iran. He will do well to do the same to the Russian federation.

March Towards Mahan Bharta or MahaBharta

After the assertion that astrology makes a pygmy of other sciences, that khap panchayats protect us against social evils, we now have the suggestion that the Bhagwad Gita must be recognized as the ‘rashtriya granth’ or National Scripture. To transform the Gita into a statist government textbook when its mysteries or rahasyas have enthralled every individual in richly varied ways is an injustice to its philosophy.
If the government indeed needs a National Book, why not the Constitution which in its progressive ideals should be the blueprint for a modern India? Yet BJP, in its aggressive defense of Sanskrit, Vedic science, palmistry, astrology and the authenticity of the epics, seems set on a collision course with modernity itself.
BJP has a problem with the modern. While the PM promises a globalized future, the HRD minister attempts to banish the teaching of German and impose Sanskrit. While the PM announces Make in India, the Swadeshi Jagran Manch says it prefers ‘Made by Indians’. During polls BJP reached out to the youth voter, but now Sangh outfits are the main moral policemen on youth, opposing love and kissing as anti ‘Indian culture’. This Sanskrit imposing, khap panchayat upholding mindset runs counter to the thumping youthful mandate for a forward-looking India.
ICHR head Y S Rao says we need to accept the epics as ‘true’ accounts to roll back the evil influence of Leftist Macaulay putras who saw them as myths. Should 21st century scholars try to prove the Mahabharata really happened? Or should they instead dignify the Ramayana and Mahabharata (which 70s’ Leftists failed to do) by modern interpretation?Sanskrit in its time was a language of prestige and excellence. As a tribute to Sanskrit why not encourage linguistic excellence in modern global languages instead of trying to resurrect the Gupta Age by government diktat? Imposing Sanskrit on one hand and winning elections through the verbal violence of Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti on the other, hardly bolsters the cause of linguistic excellence among youth.
Narendra Modi’s indebtedness to the Sangh for the victory of 2014 is clear: intensive Sangh mobilisation made possible the massive win. No wonder Modi is perhaps bound to let the Sangh have its say on education and society. But has not RSS, having made Modi the figurehead of its triumphal car, also accepted the need for its own personal transformation? If you anoint an individual who stands for business-friendly economics, how can you oppose free market reforms? If you anoint a youth idol, how can you crack down on kissing?
The task of a modern reform-oriented government is to strengthen institutions so that rule of law and transparency is established. Keeping investors and markets in suspense on what the PM will say in one speech after another is rather old-fashioned strategy. The policy-announcements-by-speeches tactic is a reflection of the tightrope that Modi walks on where to draw the line with the Sangh.
The Sangh view of modernity is needlessly jaundiced. Modernity need not mean only half-naked licentious youth, Leftist history and MNC-dominated economy. Every woman BJP member who is not a sadhvi today drips sindoor and mangalsutra as if battle-ready to fight globalization. Yet the T-shirt clad wrestler champions, the Fogat sisters from rural Haryana probably keep alive the boldly modernist spirit of the Upanishadic Gargi more than the heavily veiled sati savitris who only uphold Victorian morality in Indian costume.
When even the Vatican is re-examining its teachings on gay marriage, why does the BJP-Sangh see tradition as fixed in stone? A new mandate deserves a new rethink. It’s time the BJP-Sangh, which now politically leads the country, also led the country in a comprehensive social and intellectual rethink. Vatican II was the Catholic Church’s collective introspection on how to deal with the modern age. The Sangh needs a Hindu Vatican II.
BJP as a right-wing party must fashion a modern conservatism based on thought through positions on the economy, modern education, gender justice, inter-religious marriage, youth morality and Hindu-Muslim relations. The social agenda is too important to leave to loonies who attack lovers, modern women and Muslims as part of a so-called ‘traditional’ mission.
Conquering the communal demon is central to BJP achieving modernity. As long as Sadhvi Jyoti remains a vote catcher BJP cannot achieve a modernist image. Indeed Modi’s central dilemma at the moment is where to draw the line between the Sangh worldview and a modern political BJP. A modern BJP should locate its right-wing identity in economics, not in religion.
Whether it likes it or not, the BJP-Sangh now needs to embrace a more substantive modernity beyond the smartphone-Vedic science combination. Modi won because he answered a cry for change and must balance the pulls of the Sangh by enlivening tradition with bumper doses of modernity. Don’t see Sans-krit as frozen Vedic glory; instead imbibe its spirit of excellence. Don’t get lost in proving the ‘trueness’ of the Mahabha-rata, instead as a tribute to it, throw open the world of books instead of thought policing and book burning on campus. Don’t defend astrology as the best science, instead ensure every child has access to quality teaching, so modern India can replicate the golden era of mathematics.
Do the ancients a favour by imbibing their readiness to change and innovate, don’t destroy them by making them enemies of progress.
‘Illiteracy’ of the Uneducated Politicians minister-zaade:
BJP Union minister ‘Sadhvi’ Niranjan Jyoti and her foul mouth dominated news for some time. No amount of gargling with boric acid will cleanse that. Or her mind. She may have apologized but the fact that she uttered those words in the first place is shocking enough. An even more shocking aspect of this incident is this: are we really upset by what she said? As upset as we need to be? Or will we take her gutter language in our stride and move on? Will we also overlook Mamata Banerjee’s crude ‘bamboo’ remark and put it down to yet another ‘Didi outburst’? Are we getting so accustomed to vile language being spewed in public by prominent political players that we no longer react to these crude remarks with the abhorrence they demand?
The worst aspect of the ‘Sadhvi’ speech was Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu’s weak attempt at justifying it by saying that she is ‘a woman from an economically weaker background who has risen without all sorts of support.” So? Can her modest beginnings be used to condone her atrocious remark? He added he had ‘counselled’ her and she had ‘realized her mistake’. He then tried to put a lid on the controversy by declaring, “There the matter ends’. Oh no, it doesn’t. If anything, there the matter begins!Mamata has never needed anybody to either defend or counsel her — nobody would dare attempt it either. Nor would anything work in her case. Unlike Union Minister Niranjan Jyoti (the 47-year-old is minister of state for food processing industries), the West Bengal CM lays claim to many impressive college degrees, and on paper at least, is a highly educated person. Which makes one wonder what we mean by education these days! Is this the language used by ‘educated’ people? Should one start divorcing education from culture, upbringing, sensitivity, knowledge, and civilized conduct?
Look at the Sadhvi’s track record — here’s a person who has made it to this enviable position after winning from Fatehpur, a constituency which the erudite V P Singh had nurtured and won twice. Jyoti belongs to a community of boatmen — seen as an important vote-bank in the state. She was the only woman to be sworn into the 21 member council of ministers. It was believed she was being rewarded by the party for helping the BJP crack the dalit and backward classes in Uttar Pradesh.
This is yet another example of the politics of convenience and opportunism. Sure, she is an elected representative of the people and nobody can take that away from her. But did she have to be given a ministerial berth she is clearly not qualified for? And if she has been placed there, should she be allowed to cross all limits of decency? Why should the offended people of India passively accept her programmed, hollow apology and go along with the government when it declares it a ‘closed chapter’.
Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti calls herself a ‘Katha Vachak’. She is someone who delivers religious sermons through storytelling. She also describes herself as a social worker. Most would agree her latest speech disqualifies her on both counts — if that was her idea of a good story, sorry, it sucked. And what sort of ‘social work’ does she do apart from inciting followers? It is disingenuous to say that her speech was not made inside Parliament, and therefore can’t be held against her. It is precisely this kind of arrogant justification of blatant wrongdoing that is worrying voters. If the Sadhvi gets away with this, it will encourage others to follow suit, test the waters of tolerance and see if they too are honorably exonerated by the powers that be. Parliamentary conduct and language be damned, we have witnessed disgraceful scenes of hooliganism indulged in by all the parties at some point of the other. The disturbing trend has to stop and strong disciplinary action taken against those who misbehave and break laws of civil conduct — within and outside the Parliament.
If she had been asked to step down, it would have sent the right signal across party lines and perhaps, deterred future hate-mongers from making such inflammatory comments. But will we ever show such sense? Unlikely. There is too much at stake — all sorts of nasty equations to safeguard, and dubious factions to protect. That leaves the Bewildered Indian wondering what went wrong, when and why. We remained silent when we ought to have spoken up. People like Niranjan Jyoti don’t suddenly pop out of nowhere. They wait, knowing when to strike because they also know who’ll protect them when they do open their mouths. It’s the Sadhvi today — who will it be tomorrow?

Beslan Recreated in Pakistan

Tragedies are supposed to be cathartic, but the sort of blood bath witnessed in Peshawar is downright disgusting. It beings back the memories of atrocities and inhuman practiced of Belsan. maybe, human beings need to sensitized to this level of butchery every few years, since human memory is very short.
Coming on the heels of the Sydney hostage incident, the attack on a school in Peshawar by Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan militants has shocked the international community. Over 100 people, mostly students, have been killed by armed jihadis who forced Pakistani security personnel to carry out emergency counter-terrorism operations. This attack is eerily similar to the 2004 Belsan massacre that saw Islamist terrorists take over a school in North Ossetia, resulting in the death of 186 children. The Peshawar incident highlights the growing scourge of extremism in Pakistan and also exemplifies the increasing threat that children face in that country.
Ironically, only days earlier Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai — who survived Taliban bullets to champion the cause of educating children — was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. That jihadis continue to target students in Pakistan stems from two factors. First, schools and children are extremely soft targets. An attack like the one in Peshawar is bound to have huge shock value across Pakistan and the world. Second, modern education is anathema to Islamists who see it as a western conspiracy. Even when Pakistani Taliban took over Swat valley a few years ago, jihadis blew up several school buildings.
That said, the immediate trigger for this Peshawar attack appears to be Pakistani military’s ongoing operations in North Waziristan. These operations seem to have dealt a significant blow to jihadis in Pakistan’s northwest tribal belt. This in turn has disrupted Taliban’s plans to make the most of the emerging situation in Afghanistan, where US troops are slated to gradually hand over combat operations to Afghan forces. Through the Peshawar attack Taliban wants to up the cost of Pakistani army’s offensive against it.
However, the dastardly attack on school children should steel Islamabad’s resolve to fight terrorism tooth and nail. For far too long the Pakistani establishment has carried out a duplicitous policy of distinguishing between good and bad Islamists. This has boomeranged in a terrible manner. Targeting jihadis in North Waziristan while turning a blind eye to the activities of the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hafiz Saeed simply won’t do. If Pakistan is to protect itself from descending into complete chaos and protect its children, it must adopt a comprehensive approach to fighting terror.

Pakistan’s Greatest Enemy: A State of Denial

Over the last few decades, Pakistanis have become accustomed to terrorists, as well as terrorism. But the Taliban’s slaughter of schoolchildren in Peshawar on Tuesday was an unprecedented act of savagery. It has caused grief and generated outrage that earlier attacks on hotels, mosques, shrines and even the army headquarters did not.
But will Pakistanis respond to the Peshawar school attack by starting to change the national narrative that has brought us to this point? Or will the narrative take over, as it has done after previous tragedies, allowing tweaking of Pakistani policy without significantly changing it? The December 16 attack is the result of a sustained national policy gone wrong. It can only be changed by a new, sustained policy.
The origins of Pakistan’s ill-fated romance with jihadism lie in the notion that the country faces an existential threat from India. Driven by six decades of insecurity, the Pakistani deep state wants the country to have parity in status and power with India, a country more than six times the size of Pakistan and increasingly wealthier. Arguments about the 1947 Partition and the two-nation theory, hardly relevant in the current context, continue to fuel the ideology of Pakistan. The division of Pakistan and the birth of Bangladesh, with support from India, in 1971, also still looms large in the Pakistani elite’s imagination.
Jihadi militancy and terrorism have just been ways of enabling Pakistan to stand up to a bigger and increasingly powerful India through asymmetrical warfare. During the war against the Soviets, Pakistan used American money, weapons and training not only to equip fighters to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, but to also raise brigades of irregular fighters for Jammu and Kashmir and for permanent influence across the Durand Line.
The problem with ideologically motivated warriors is that their ideology can morph and mutate in directions unacceptable to a pragmatic state. The attacks within Pakistan by the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) and other militant groups should have made the Pakistani deep state realise some time ago that asymmetric warfare through ideologues is not a reliable military capability.
Islamist extremism has always brought with it a domestic component that hampers Pakistan’s evolution as a modern state. There will always be extremists who say, “Why are women wearing Western dress? Why are girls going to school? Why are we accepting Shias or Ahmadis or non-Muslims as equal citizens?” Similarly, the Inter-Services Intelligence might feel reassured by commitments from the Haqqani network, Mullah Omar’s Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Toiba/ Jamaat-ud-Dawa to not conduct militant operations inside Pakistan. But there is no guarantee that these instruments of regional influence would not, in turn, support groups such as Sipah-e-Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Pakistani Taliban, which can attack inside Pakistan.
Hillary Clinton, the then US secretary of state, had told Pakistani officials in October 2011, “You can’t keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbors.” She also predicted that “Eventually, those snakes are going to turn on whoever has them in the backyard.” There was wisdom in those words that Pakistani leaders have yet to heed.
The policy of allowing militant groups to operate on Pakistani soil has proved disastrous. Jihadi militants do not accept the neat divisions between global, regional and local conflicts. Once they are convinced of the righteousness of their cause, they are willing to fight and blow themselves up anywhere.
Pakistan’s greatest enemy at the moment is denial. It is time to acknowledge that jihadi groups cannot be trusted or considered allies of the state. However useful the Pakistani deep state might consider them for external purposes, they will always be dangerous internally. And their usefulness in expanding Pakistan’s external influence is also severely overstated.
Armed with a nuclear deterrent, Pakistan can shed the paranoia and insecurity that have led to the current establishment mindset. Instead of being content with sporadic battles against groups like the TTP, as in Swat in 2008 and North Waziristan more recently, the Pakistani military could take the lead in trying to change the national narrative completely.
The new narrative would acknowledge the dangers of jihadist extremism without ifs and buts and would give up on the projection of national power disproportionate to Pakistan’s size and resources. Without that fundamental change, we will continue to have tragedies similar to the one on Tuesday, followed by transient anger and remorse.
Instead of cultivating only those elements in the Pakistani discourse that support the jihadi perspective, maybe it is time for the Pakistani establishment to stop treating the anti-jihadists within the country as its enemies. As out of control extremists widen their war to take Pakistan back to medieval times, those deemed traitors by Pakistan’s establishment might prove to be the only ones interested in saving Pakistan as a contemporary state. Alas, the establishment, set in its ways, does not change easily.
The question on every mind is, when the grieving is over, will the nation unite against the spectre of terrorism? If the past is any guide, the sad answer would be no. Pakistan is given a lot of credit for being a resilient nation. I think most of that is down to the state of denial we choose to live in. There are always a myriad conspiracy theories circulating within this society. For reasons unknown, people choose to believe them.
People find the distant, often most improbable explanations for simple acts of violence plaguing the nation. The workplaces, public places, government offices, security installations, hospitals, places of worship and now schools all have come under attack. After every gruesome incident, TTP or one of its uncountable affiliates takes responsibility; often releases video clips with the assailant’s taped speeches before attack, and yet we refuse to believe it. That state of denial, in essence, is the terrorist’s biggest weapon and his ultimate victory. The logical question after a tragedy of this magnitude is about the rehabilitation of those who survive. Of the amputees, the irreparably wounded, and in this case, the innocent minds scarred for a lifetime.
But curiously enough, in this age of vibrant media, no one asks such questions. We count our dead, hardly mention their names, bury them, offer condolences, condemn the attacks and return to our normal lives without sparing a thought for those who have been handicapped for life. Usually nations of the world devise social security nets for such victims — not our nation. And to think that this country has lost over 50,000 souls to terrorism; that in terror attacks the number of wounded is always higher than the slain; is to realize how many precious lives have been destroyed just because of our apathy, denial and lack of ownership.
And of course, the issue of intelligence sharing needs a mention here. A day before the Wagah incident, an evening newspaper carried the headline that a plan to attack a ceremony at Wagah was afoot and that the suicide attacker had entered Lahore city. No notice was taken. Keep in mind that such papers usually have access only to low levels of intelligence hierarchy.
Yet, the report was spot on. It was originally envisaged that an intelligence sharing mechanism would be devised. However, since it was to take place under the aegis of interior ministry, the inclusion of input from ISI proved to be tricky. Why both the counter-terrorism body and the intelligence sharing mechanism could not function under the direct supervision of the prime minister’s office is mystery to me. The chief executive of the United States, its president, receives briefings directly from the intelligence community every day. Why can’t Pakistan have a similar set up?
And this discussion cannot be complete without the mention of the counter terrorism rituals. Often, when a terror attack of high magnitude takes place, an All Parties Conference (APC) is convened. In this conference, parties from across the spectrum are invited to deliberate on the incident. Actually, the forum better suited for such deliberation is that of the parliament, where decisions are made through majority vote. However, in the APCs, the majoritarian principle is abandoned in favour of total consensus. And since some political parties are known to have a soft corner for religious militants, they manage to obscure the discourse, ensuring that the outcome is never actionable in nature.
And then there is mind-numbing outrage against the counter terrorism legislation in the parliament. Parties that claim to act as bulwarks against terrorism and extremism transform into shrieking banshees against laws for fighting terror. I understand that there often are aspects of law that can be abused, but the real trouble, which we have all grown too immune to even hear anymore, is courts letting the terrorists go scot-free. Of course, they do.
What else can the courts do in the absence of appropriate laws clearly defining the offenses and the nature of the evidence? Similarly, there is the issue of terrorists on the death row. International community and center-left parties all seem averse to the idea of hanging the criminals. People are often told that perks like the GSP-plus will be withdrawn if any of these terrorists are hanged. I am not a supporter of capital punishment either. But when these terrorists conveniently manage to operate their terror outfits from within the confines of prison, which are often easy to breach, one has to wonder how many innocent lives this compassion of ours can cost us.
Honestly speaking, if one were to do justice to the subject of terrorism, this piece would never end. However, the important point here is that when, after 14 years of war and over 50,000 deaths, if these basic questions are still unresolved, can society expect any dramatic change overnight? No, it can’t.
So, let me put it bluntly that people’s own apathy and denial have killed these innocent children in Peshawar. If the nation does not put its house in order now, there is no guarantee this will not happen again. It is time to ask your elected representatives to stop wasting time and start acting. Is it asking too much?

Pakistan and the Chinese Relationship

Writing in Vanity Fair magazine recently, Nobel Prize-winning economist and one of the world’s top intellectuals Joseph E. Stiglitz highlighted a fact that marks the end of an era in world history and holds immense promise and benefits for Pakistan and its citizens. According to Stiglitz, at the turn of new year, China will become the world’s largest and most powerful economy — overtaking the US and thus launching an era which he says “will last for a very long time, if not forever”.
How this has been established and why it has escaped the attention of the world’s news media is not the subject here and is best explained by the Nobel Prize-winning professor and the fourth most influential economist by academic citation himself.
What is important for Pakistan is that this rise in its ‘greatest friend’s’ stature could be the most fortunate event in what has so far been a rather forgettable new millennium for Islamabad. From the fallout of the 9/11 attacks to the growth of internal insurgencies and an increasingly beleaguered economy, the country has been dragging itself along with predictions of doom and disaster hanging over its head.
But China’s ascendancy — coinciding with the end of the Afghan conflict — means a new dawn could be approaching. It’s not all conjecture: between them, Pakistan’s past two governments have managed to inveigle a $43.5 billion investment deal from Beijing. What is needed now is the proper management and planning of the resulting schemes. “Pakistan must be more transactional in its relationship with China,” said Dr Akbar Zaidi, a senior economist. “Over the years a lot of MoUs have been signed but rarely have these been translated into actual projects.”
Dr Zaidi cited the example of the Thar Coal project, launched with much fanfare in 2011 but which has since run into financial trouble. While the government insists that it’s still on, he says that past history suggests that it is highly unlikely to be completed on time, and may never actually get operational. “China has seen enough of Pakistan’s troubled governance to know that what is set in stone today may well all have melted away tomorrow,” he said. “They may put in amounts as seed money which may seem enormous, but which is peanuts for them — and then wait and see what sort of response comes from the national government in question. They have done this in Africa and Latin America, and have walked away when things got stuck in a rut.”
Dr Zaidi’s hypothesis certainly remains true for most bilateral civilian projects. But it appears to lose weight when tested on defence cooperation between the two sides. Technology transfer for initial weapons development from China for the M-11 / HATF 3, or the co-production of weapons systems such as the F-7P jet have resulted in a Pakistani weapons production industry that now looks set to prosper.
According to the ministry of defence production, military exports have doubled in the past year. This was clear at the recent IDEAS arms fair with greater interest shown in Pakistani defence goods than in those being displayed by renowned international firms.
One reason for the weapons industry’s success in comparison to the civilian sector is the predominance of the Pakistan military in relations with any foreign power. However, if that was actually the case here, it would still not account for the number of MoUs signed or the fewer number of agreements reached in spheres that are purely civilian and where the grants given cannot be re-allocated to defence needs.
The biggest current example is of course the Pakistan-China trade corridor, seen as a game changer for the country. It also remains a top priority for the current government, something emphasised by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif himself. Yet the project, which envisages the construction of a vast transport and communications infrastructure to connect Chinese Kashgar to the Gwadar port, is already in dispute.
“Our problem is that our priorities remain narrowly confined to political and provincial domains,” said Daud Khan Achakzai, head of the Pakistan senate subcommittee on communications and transport. “This project will be developed over a period of at least 15 years and it needs long-term vision and planning, whereas each new government has been trying to amend it to best benefit its constituency.”
In such a move recently, the PML-N led government has diverted the original route through Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, to include Punjab and parts of Sindh. This has resulted in an uproar from the benches, especially from KP and Balochistan MNAs. Achakzai, who is from Zhob, says that while he agrees that Punjab and Sindh should also derive benefits from the project, this should not be at the cost of an already greatly discriminated Balochistan. “Each province should get its just share; as should Pakistan,” he contends. “We must have a greater debate over the investment from China, as they stand to gain over 10 days in transport time for goods and energy. Currently, it takes them 12 days to ship goods and fuel from the Middle East, whereas the corridor would cut this down to 24 to 36 hours.”
This is particularly important, as Stiglitz points out. He says that while China may have moved into the number one economy slot, that does not mean its pace of growth is going to slow down anytime soon. In particular, experts agree, this means a growth in its demand for fuel and oil will increase, the largest proven deposits of which lie around the Persian Gulf.
As such, almost all indicators suggest that Beijing’s best years lie ahead. That’s something that its adversaries are well aware of and want to control as much as they can. None perhaps as much as the US, as is evident with current American President Barack Obama’s pivot to Asia policy which experts like Stiglitz maintain is nothing less than the encirclement and containment of the Chinese Dragon, preying on the fears of its smaller neighbours over territorial disputes.
The only exception to this appears to be Pakistan. In a recent conversation with this reporter at a defence seminar, Chinese officials described the relationship between the two countries by clasping their hands together and calling the two nations “brothers”. While some of this may be rhetoric, there is also a strong element of truth in it. As such it puts Pakistan in an enviable position to propel itself through the 21st century. The only obstacles in the way appear to be self constructed; their timely removal could help propel Pakistan into a new league of economic success.

India’s ‘Crude Opportunity”

Given India’s long record of fiscal imbalances, few governments at the Center have had the good fortune of starting off with economic tail winds behind them. The UPA, during the first half of its 10-year stint at the helm, was lucky enough, having taken over in 2004. Growth was rebounding and capital flows were abundant in that era of cheap money. A continuing grouse of the current Narendra Modi-led government is that it has been left with a bad hand on the economic front — the last couple of years saw growth rates below 5 per cent and the government balance sheet looks stretched.
That may well be true. But in a fortuitous turn of events, the government, which faced the daunting challenge of boosting investments, has been presented with a terrific opportunity to raise funds that could possibly finance infrastructure, at a time when private corporates are loath to do it, even if they are sitting on a mountain of cash.
On December 15, Brent crude hit a five-year low of approximately $60 a barrel. The slide in global crude oil prices opens a window of opportunity for the government to impose a surcharge or an additional cess on either petrol or diesel, allowing the state to bankroll infrastructure projects such as the construction of roads, ports, new cities and towns or industrial corridors. Public finance experts see a cess or a surcharge as a bad tax because it is invariably open-ended and the record of utilisation of funds has not been inspiring, going by the cess collected under various heads by Central ministries. There is also the philosophical argument that since collections from the levy of a cess are not shared with states, it goes against the grain of cooperative federalism.
But a departure from the past could help. A new levy on either petrol or diesel, or both, instead of cutting prices each time crude prices fall further could help raise Rs 10,000-20,000 crore annually. To convince taxpayers, a fresh levy should be imposed only for a limited period, say, three to five years, and then be reviewed by Parliament, which anyway approves such levies and votes on the spending of the proceeds. The money raised could then be transferred to the Public Account and a separate fund could be created to help finance equity or other contributions to defined infrastructure projects, especially those being promoted by the states, rather than restricting the proceeds to just the oil industry. The administration of the fund could lie outside the government. It could be administered by an agency that is accountable to government, its membership consisting of representatives from both Central and state governments as well as those respected for their governance and public policy record.
Funding infrastructure for a new city or a township is not easy. Take the example of Andhra Pradesh, where Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu has reached out to global investors, underlining the fact that many states are finding it tough to create assets, given the slowdown over the last few years and the knock-on impact of revenues falling well below estimates this fiscal. A fund created through a fixed levy has the potential to provide, for instance, the initial equity contribution for new infrastructure projects promoted or driven by the states, which can then leverage it to raise debt funding. Any such offer of funds should be contingent on certain conditions, such as an improved or new governance structure in the agencies building or developing infrastructure projects, including new cities, besides commitments from those drawing these funds to charge development and user fees.
Given the natural skepticism surrounding the use of funds by the government, convincing the country’s taxpayers will be important. That confidence could be raised if the government were able to put in place a system where the utilisation of the fund was closely monitored, reviewed and placed in the public domain. India’s national auditor, the CAG, does this job now, but it would help if lawmakers exercised greater oversight over this process.
Historical trends show that the consumption pattern of some petro products has not altered much because of oil prices being on the boil, except in the case of diesel, to an extent. But more importantly, if there is to be a recovery after the slowdown of the last few years, it is inevitable that the states have to shoulder a greater part of the burden of infrastructure development. Given the resource crunch, and the fact that over half of the revenue of many states goes into paying salaries, pensions and interest charges, there is little capital spending. Realistically, what that means is that the Center will have to step in to bridge the gap to help build durable assets, which will hopefully pay them back for their investments.
A large stretch of India’s national highways were built from the proceeds of a cess first imposed well over a decade ago. The spin-offs are reflected in the growth of industries and services close to the highways. That is now part of the legacy of the previous NDA government, led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. It is ironic that the UPA, which had arguably the best economic advisors on board, scored poorly on execution. The Modi government may score high on the quality of its economic advisers but it has also promised better execution. The chance of a windfall, offered by the decline in crude prices, has to be seized.

Russia’s Sinking Economy Poses A Global Threat

Russia’s suddenly escalating financial crisis risks spilling beyond its borders and endangering parts of the global economy. With economies in Europe, Japan, China and Latin America already ailing, fresh threats have emerged from Russia’s shriveled currency, its move to dramatically boost interest rates, the damage from plummeting oil prices and Western sanctions over Russia’s action in Ukraine.
The alarming 10 per cent drop in the ruble over the past two days has amplified the economic turmoil in Russia. Investors fear that Russia may default on its foreign debt obligations – a move that would inflict hundreds of billions in losses on lenders abroad. Some analysts also worry that tensions will further escalate between Russia and the United States and its European allies that imposed the sanctions. The White House upped the pressure Tuesday when President Barack Obama committed to approving additional sanctions.
Few see President Vladimir Putin as backing down. “I do not expect him to blink,” said Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, a political risk and consulting firm. The financial consequences for the United States could be modest because of Russia’s diminished economic stature. Yet the geopolitical risk could ripple across continents. Russia began the year as the world’s eighth-largest economy, with a gross domestic product of $2.1 trillion, according to the World Bank. A single ruble is now worth less than two pennies, having lost about 50 per cent of its value against the dollar since January. This means Russia’s GDP has been halved in dollar terms, putting it roughly on par with Mexico and Indonesia as the world’s 15th largest economy.
Before financial markets opened Tuesday, the Bank of Russia hiked its key rate to protect the ruble’s value. In doing so, the bank hopes investors will find it more financially appealing to keep their money in Russia. Nevertheless, the ruble fell in trading to close Tuesday at 80 rubles to a dollar, compared with 65 on Monday. It recovered in late trading to a rate of 68 to the dollar.
Russian officials have already projected that their economy will shrink nearly 5 per cent next year. That will, by extension, affect its trading partners in Europe and Asia. Russia imports about $324 billion in goods annually, primarily from China, Germany, Ukraine, Belarus and Japan. Those imports have grown costlier because of the falling ruble.
One potential global risk comes from Russia seeking to retaliate against the sanctions by stepping-up cyber attacks against U.S. targets and asserting itself more aggressively in Ukraine and other nearby countries, Bremmer said. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov argued in a French TV interview that the sanctions were intended to end Putin’s regime.
Unlike during the previous ruble crash in 1998, Russia is unlikely to receive help from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, organizations backed by the United States and its European allies that contend that Russia has funneled direct support to rebels fighting in Ukraine.
Isolated and alone, Russia might then choose to default on some of its debt. “Our deepest fear has been – and still is – that putting Mr. Putin in a ‘nothing-to-lose’ situation removes any constraint he might have had against reneging on his foreign debt obligations, which Russian borrowers probably cannot pay off or service now,” writes Carl Weinberg, chief economist at High Frequency Economics. Foreign lenders would have to brace for $670 billion in losses.
This possibility has sparked an investor retreat from Russia. But that pullback has also caused investors to flee other emerging market currencies that are deemed risky. They include Turkey, Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia, noted John Higgins, chief markets economist at Capital Economics. Higgins said that oil prices are the central factor that will determine “the depth of Russia’s problems and the consequences for the global financial markets.” Should oil continue to collapse, the financial and geopolitical turbulence in Russia will worsen.
U.S. crude oil markets rose 2 cents to close at $55.93 a barrel Tuesday, while the international counterpart dipped below $60 a barrel for the first time since May 2009. Oil prices have been cut in half over the past six months.
Analysts generally attribute the plunge in oil prices to rising supplies and slowing demand as Europe and Japan falter and China’s growth weakens. But as the price drops further, fears are intensifying that the decline is pointing to slower growth than many analysts had expected. That could make the situation for Russia even more dire. Oil hasn’t found a bottom yet, so the pain is only going to get worse as the price of oil continues to fall.
The impact on India is also very deleterious.
The BSE Sensex slumped to a two-month low of 26,500 on Wednesday, while the rupee weakened to 63.89 per dollar – a level not seen since November 2013. The sudden fall in Indian stock and currency markets has been triggered by an economic crisis in Russia, where the rouble crashed to 80 per dollar on Tuesday, a slide of 23 per cent in 24 hours despite the central bank raising interest rates by a whopping 6.5 percentage points. Here’s how the Russian crisis is impacting India:
1) Russia’s currency – the rouble- has depreciated about 50 per cent since January because of a crash in oil prices. Crude oil has dropped below $56 a barrel from a summer high of $107. The bulk of the government’s revenues come from oil.
2) The sharp fall in the rouble has diminished Russia’s position as an economic power. It’s GDP, in dollar terms, has halved from $2.1 trillion in January 2014 and it is no longer the world’s eighth-largest economy in dollar terms.
3) The crisis in Russia comes at a time when economies in Europe, Japan and China are slowing or are in a recession. Russia is a large trading partner for some of the world’s biggest economies such as China, Germany and Japan, so the economic crisis in the country may lead to a global contagion.
4) Global economic organizations such as IMF and the World Bank are unlikely to come to the rescue of Russia because of economic sanctions imposed by Western countries for its aggression in Ukraine.
5) Investors fear that Russia may default on its foreign debt obligations, which would inflict hundreds of billions in losses on lenders abroad. There are also fears that the Russian authorities will impose capital control to prevent the ruble from sliding. These possibilities have caused investors to flee from Russia.
6) India has come in the crossfire because it has been the recipient of over $40 billion in foreign inflows this year. The financial contagion in Russia has led global investors to exit riskier assets and countries where they have earned good profits. Indian stock markets are up over 25 per cent year-to-date despite recent fall.
7) Foreign investors have been net sellers of Indian stocks over the last six sessions. On Tuesday, they sold shares worth Rs 1,247 crore, their biggest daily net sales since October 17. Foreign investors have also turned sellers of debt for the first time in December on Monday, having sold a net $146.56 million.
8) Part of the liquidity crunch is also on account of profit booking by foreign investors as the calendar year comes to an end. But, a significant sell off in the coming days would indicate risk aversion and would be negative for stocks and the rupee.
9) Companies that have businesses in Russia have come under sharp sell off. Drug makers such as Dr Reddy’s Lab and state-run ONGC, which have sizable operations in Russia, have fallen sharply on fears of slowdown in Russia.
10) Countries with relatively stronger economies such as Britain, Germany and Japan have seen inflows. Bond yields in these countries have hit record lows. The US dollar has gained because the American economy is on a mend. Long-dated yields in US reached their lowest since late 2012.
What is happening to India is a foretaste of what is in store for the rest of the world. Take care!

Iran Air Strikes: A Dramatic Change in Tactics & German Response

Late November bore witness to a dramatic and ominous change in Middle East geopolitics. On November 30, Al Jazeera aired video footage purportedly showing Iranian jets conducting airstrikes over Iraq. Pentagon officials stated that they had no reason to doubt the images.
Iran allegedly struck Islamic State targets in the Iraqi province of Diyala. This province has seen the closest fighting to the Iranian border, and is covered in part by Iran’s self-proclaimed buffer zone. Iran’s aging F-4 Phantom fleet carried out the raids. These American-built planes come from the days of the shah of Iran, when the country was one of the U.S.’s closest allies in the region. Now these planes fly openly in Iraqi skies, showing that Iran is moving beyond its usual tactics.
For decades now, Iran has worked from the shadows. It backs Hezbollah in Lebanon and Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria. In Yemen, the Houthis are armed by Iran. Bahrain’s riots are stoked by Iranian protesters. All across the Middle East, Iran’s instigating presence can be felt. But Tehran has used subterfuge and proxy wars, keeping its activities quiet and at arm’s length, giving itself a degree of plausible deniability for its involvement.
What is happening in Iraq today is something different. Iran’s campaign in Iraq has been anything but covert. Tehran has done little to hide that its Revolutionary Guard Corps are working alongside Iraqi soldiers. It has also made no bones about arming Shia militias within the nation. Under the guise of stemming the march of the Islamic State, Iran now wages open military missions within Iraq.
Then there is Iran’s Gen. Qassem Suleimani. The mysterious general is responsible for orchestrating numerous attacks on U.S. military targets, as well as overseeing Iran’s role in Lebanon and Syria. Until recently, the man had been little more than a ghost. Today, however, he is living larger than life in Iraq. Suleimani has been seen leading troops in eastern Iraq, and has already gained a string of victories against Islamic State forces.
Following closely on Suleimani’s heels has been the airstrikes on Islamic State targets. Put these developments together and you clearly see the dramatic change in Iran’s tactics. Iran is fighting in the clear light of day.
Even more remarkably, the United States has endorsed Iran’s aggressive military campaign within Iraq. Secretary of State John Kerry called Iran’s actions “positive,” saying that if Iran was targeting Islamic State and having an impact, it was a good thing. If Iran needed Washington’s stamp of approval, it got it. Such an endorsement cements the effect of this policy change on the Middle East. A nation with an aggressive foreign policy being given the nod of approval by the U.S. is certain to have an impact on other nations in the region.
Consider Saudi Arabia. The Saudis are the key regional counterweight to Iran. The two nations wage proxy wars against one another throughout the region. The Saudis are putting out fires all along their southern and eastern borders as Iran stirs up unrest in neighboring nations. Now they are faced with Iran’s air force operating next door in Iraq.
Iran has one of the largest standing armies in the region with about 545,000 active personnel. It is an aggressive nation; it is the world number one state sponsor of terror. Its desire to dominate the region is no secret. Look at its already vast area of influence. It is working to establish control through weakening and destabilizing other nations. Now that it has been unofficially approved to have a military presence in Iraq, what will its next frontier be?
And once there are troops in Iraq, where else will Iran look? Will it offer military support in other unstable regions where other Shiites are threatened? Syria? Lebanon? Yemen? Bahrain? This is the threat now posed by Iran. The Iranian military is no longer fighting cloak-and-dagger—it is fighting out in the open.
Watch Iran make the most of this opportunity to grow its presence in the Middle East. Iran has pushed the boundaries of its influence, and it has received America’s endorsement. Watch Iran try again, pushing further to dominate the region. But also be aware of where this pushy foreign policy will lead. Iran’s military expansion in the region won’t go unchecked. Iran is growing bolder, changing its tactics and pushing harder than ever.
Iran is the number one terrorist-sponsoring nation in the world. It has helped the Muslim Brotherhood take over Egypt. It is providing aid to Syria, where the government is terrorizing its own people. It is involved with al Qaeda in gaining control over Libya. It supports terrorists in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip that are attacking Israel. It is behind strikes on allied forces in Afghanistan. It is deeply entrenched in Iraq, and is pushing its Islamist agenda in other nations throughout the region and beyond. It is defying the will of the Western world by continuing to develop its nuclear program.
Tehran is pushing its own strategy very effectively. However, this is about to dramatically change. The Germans are excellent war strategists and warriors. They are savvy enough to realize that they will never have peace with Iran. They know that sooner or later, their two religions—their two civilizations—will clash. The Iranians are so focused on conquering their own objectives that they don’t see what the Germans are doing. They don’t recognize how Germany is planning for the bigger war to come! The facts are visible for anyone to see.
Germany has expected to clash with Iran, and it has been working on a strategy for a decade or more. That strategy is almost complete. Germany has surrounded Iran.Iran is spreading its influence westward into Egypt and Libya. But across Libya’s western border lies Algeria. Germany recently crafted a deal that sends $10.5 billion worth of military hardware to that country. It also has a personnel carrier plant there. It has a deal to manufacture rifles in Algeria. Berlin has connections even within Egypt and has sold it hundreds of millions of dollars in armaments, including two attack submarines worth $700 million.
To the southwest, Germany has a handful of soldiers and police officers in Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Much closer to Iran, directly across the Persian Gulf, lie the Arabian Peninsula nations. Germany has sold $2.6 billion in weapons to Qatar, including dozens of Leopard II tanks. It has sold $9.3 billion in weapons to the United Arab Emirates and built a munitions factory there.
Germany is also working on some massive deals with Saudi Arabia. Among them: It is building a machine-gun factory there, and sending the Saudis 72 Eurofighters and somewhere between 270 and 800 Leopard ii tanks. There are also German military personnel in Djibouti and Somalia. In the Arabian Sea, the Bundeswehr has a frigate, maritime surveillance planes and 340 troops.
Look on the far side of Iran, and you see 4,400 German soldiers staying in its eastern neighbor, Afghanistan. Washington is eager to get out—but Berlin has something else in mind. Just north of Afghanistan is Uzbekistan. There, the German military operates an air base in Termez, with about 300 military staff plus transport aircraft.
Germany also has a strong presence to Iran’s north. To the northwest, in the Mediterranean, lies Cyprus, a strategic military and intelligence asset. The terms that Germany dictated for Cyprus’s economic bailout in mid-April basically gave the EU control of this island.
The Bundeswehr has deployed two anti-aircraft missile batteries in Turkey, along with 400 soldiers. In addition, it has developed the nation into a massive weapons export market, selling Turkey 715 tanks, 687 armored personnel carriers, 300 air defense missile systems, 197 ground survey radar units, eight frigates, two support ships and 15 submarines in the last two decades.
The German military has two patrol boats off Lebanon and up to 300 soldiers on the ground. It also has the largest contingent in Kosovo—1,249 soldiers—and a small presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Germany is third in arms exporting behind the U.S. and Russia, and will probably become number one soon! And this doesn’t even touch the weapons industries and the land, sea and air power amassing inside Germany itself—or the deployments and power of its European, African and Middle Eastern allies—or the economic power of the European Union, which is dominated by Berlin.
Why is Germany so involved, stretching over the Middle East and much of the world? It is preparing for a whirlwind of destruction. Germany thinks in terms of the Reich, which means empire. The Allies never rooted out that deep feeling after World Wars I and II. After the Second World War, the Allies said, “It is our inflexible purpose to destroy German militarism and Nazism and to ensure that Germany will never again be able to disturb the peace of the world.” But look at the map and you can see WHO is really preparing for war! Just as in 1870, 1914 and 1939, German militarism is about to again disturb the peace!
Germany has surrounded Iran and radical Islam, . Soon that whirlwind is going to start rotating and whirling against the king of the south like a well-armed—probably nuclear-armed—vortex!
Of all the countries and cities and seas that Germany is spreading its strategy over, there is one city you need to remember in particular. It is right in the middle of that whirlwind of warfare: Jerusalem.

Lima Accord Achieves Results – More Competitive Action

It’s as if traffic flow has resumed on a long blocked motorway with the Lima call for climate action. Developed countries were burning the bulk of fossil fuels when UN climate change talks took off two decades ago. That’s less the case now and they refuse to be the only ones delivering emission cuts. But developing countries argue, rightly, that their per capita emissions still remain significantly lower and developed countries must do more to mitigate their current emissions while assuming responsibility for historic pollution. The Lima Accord finds a way out of this rich-poor impasse: Every country will declare its own commitment, albeit in light of different national circumstances.The annual UN climate summit of 194 nations, scheduled to conclude Friday in Peru, finally finished in overtime on Sunday. The modest agreement that was reached keeps the process alive.
However, while a deal was concluded, including agreement for the first time that all countries (not just developed states) must cut greenhouse gas emissions, many of the hard issues have been deferred. With prospects for a comprehensive, global treaty with the required ambition remaining uncertain in 2015, there is growing consensus that a better and faster response to climate change is badly needed.
Unlike talks at the international level, domestic climate change legislation and regulation is advancing at a rapid pace. Indeed, since Kyoto was negotiated in 1997, almost 500 domestic climate laws have been passed across the world covering almost 90% of global greenhouse emissions.
This is particularly the case in developing countries, which will probably provide the motor of global economic growth in coming decades. In 2013 alone, as documented in a study released earlier this year by the Grantham Institute at the London School of Economics, there was substantive legislative progress in almost 10 countries and positive advances in around 20 others.
In Asia-Pacific, for instance, China published its national adaptation plan and made progress in drafting its national climate change law; Indonesia extended its forest moratorium; Kazakhstan introduced a pilot emissions trading scheme; and Micronesia passed its climate change law.
In the Middle East and North Africa, Jordan passed its national climate change policy and UAE launched a mandatory energy efficiency standardisation and labelling scheme. In Sub-Saharan Africa, Kenya adopted a 2013-2017 climate change action plan, Mozambique embraced a 2013-2025 national strategy for climate change, and Nigeria’s legislative council approved the adoption of a national climate change policy and response strategy.
In the Americas, Bolivia passed its framework law on Mother Earth and integral development to live well and El Salvador adopted a national climate change strategy. In Ecuador, Decree 1815 established the intersectoral strategy for climate change while Costa Rica has approved a general law on climate change.
Despite this sea change there remains a significant gap between the cumulative level of ambition of national action and that required to limit global average temperature rise to the agreed UN limit of 2°C above pre-industrial levels, the level many scientists say we must not breach if we are to avoid the worst risks of climate change.
As difficult negotiations continue in coming months, a key danger is that some countries might lower their long-term ambition. At a time when the climate change debate is undergoing profound change, this would be ill-timed. Indeed, now is exactly the right time for countries to invest more in climate diplomacy and practical international cooperation, to help expedite a comprehensive global treaty in 2015.
Indian Environment minister Prakash Javadekar says he got what he wanted. What’s now needed is a blueprint of how his government can contribute to prevent global temperatures rising more than 2°C over pre-industrial levels, which would risk triggering catastrophic climate change. Around 190 countries should be submitting this over the coming months, and these ‘intended nationally determined contributions’ should fructify in a comprehensive global pact next December in Paris.
Of course that’s not going to be a cake walk. But since all national action plans will be published on the UNFCCC website, peer pressure should encourage governments to make more ambitious commitments than they would in a business-as-usual scenario. Don’t underestimate the strategic power of naming and shaming. Plus, domestic targets will reflect domestic opinion. China has pledged emissions peaking by 2030 because its citizens are protesting pollution. Similar pressure is building up in India. We want clean air too. But we also want economic growth and poverty elimination. And our per capita emissions are far lower than China or developed countries. At the end of the day locally driven emission curbs will have greater odds of success than top-down global targets.
The challenge to countries like India is how to reconcile targets like economic growth, manufacturing revolution, job creation and sufficient energy for all of this with controlling emissions. This is where vision and differentiation will be critical. Keep pushing for technology and financial transfers from developed countries, and create new economic opportunities around these. For example, we will remain dependent on coal in the foreseeable future but we can shift from ‘dirty’ to ‘clean’ coal. Reverse coal nationalisation and encourage sophisticated overseas mining companies. Be visionary not dogmatic, enterprising instead of faint-hearted.