Whither Future Warfare

The system of warfare is ever-changing. Gone are the days of saber rattling, bows and arrows, guns and canons, bombs and grenades. Stories about killer robots, machine-augmented heroes, laser weapons and battles in space – outer or cyber – have always been good for filling cinema seats, but now they have started to liven up sober academic journals and government white papers.

However, war is about much more than combat or how we fight. Is the sensationalism of high-tech weaponry blinding us to technology’s impact on the broader social, political and cultural context that determines why, where and when war happens, what makes it more or less likely, and who wins?

Consider artificial intelligence (AI). The potential for developing lethal autonomous weapons systems grabs headlines (“killer robots!”), but the greatest impact of AI on conflict may be socially mediated. Algorithmically-driven social media connections funnel individuals into trans-national but culturally enclosed echo-chambers, radicalising their world-view.

As robots relieve humans of their jobs, some societies will prove better prepared than others in their use of education and infrastructures for transitioning workers into new, socially sustainable and economically productive ways to make a living. Less prepared nations could see increasingly stark inequality, with economically-excluded young people undermining social stability, losing faith with technocratic governance, and spurring the rise of leaders who aim popular anger at an external enemy.

Looking beyond individual technologies allows us to focus on the broader and deeper dimensions of the transformation coming our way. Professor Klaus Schwab, chairman and founder of the World Economic Forum, argues that the collapse of barriers between digital and physical, and between synthetic and organic, constitutes a Fourth Industrial Revolution, promising a level of change comparable to that brought about by steam power, electricity and computing.

Something that makes this revolution fundamentally different is how it challenges ideas about what it means to be human. For instance, neuroscience is teaching us more about our own fallibility, and also just how ‘hackable’ humans are. As science continues to uncover difficult truths about how we really operate, we will have to confront basic assumptions about the nature of human beings. Whether this deep transformation will reinforce or undermine a shared sense of human dignity, and what effects it will have on our relationship with organized violence, remain open to question.

The experience of past industrial revolutions can help us begin to search for answers about how this will transform the wider context of international security. In the first industrial revolution, deposits of coal and iron ore were one factor determining the “winners” in terms of economic and geopolitical power.

Today, new modes and artefacts of industrial production will also change demand patterns, empowering countries controlling supply and transit, and disempowering others. Progress in energy production and storage efficiency, for instance, is likely to have profound consequences for the petro economies and the security challenges of their regions. Although the set of natural resources critical to strategic industries will change, their use as a geo-economic tool will probably be repeated.

For instance, this is widely thought to have happened when, in the midst of a maritime dispute with Japan in 2010, China restricted export of “rare earths” that are critical for computing, sensors, permanent magnets and energy storage. With ever more commercial and military value embedded in the technology sector, such key materials will be deemed “critical” or “strategic” in terms of national security, and be subject to political as well as market forces.

The 19th Century Industrial Revolution showed how technological asymmetry can translate into geopolitical inequality – in the words of Hilaire Belloc’s poem ‘The modern traveller’, spoken by a European about Africa: “Whatever happens, we have got the Maxim Gun, and they have not”. (The Maxim Gun was the first recoil-operated machine gun).

What will be the Maxim Gun of our time? Who will have it, and who will not? In the 20th Century, the “haves and have-nots” of the nuclear weapons club membership became the major determinant of the post-war global order, and – as seen in the cases of Iran and North Korea today – this continues to be relevant. Stealth technology and precision guided missiles used to impose a “new world order” in the early 1990s showed how the gap in military capability separated the United States from others, sustaining its leadership of a “unipolar” order.

According to the current US deputy secretary of defence Robert Work, “There’s no question that US military technological superiority is beginning to erode”.

History can only tell us only so much. There is a need for fresh thinking about the implications of the Fourth Industrial Revolution for international security.

Strategic de-stabilisation

1. Waging war may seem “easier”. If increased reliance on machines for remote killing makes combat more abstract from our everyday experience, could that make it more tolerable for our societies, and therefore make war more likely? Those who operate lethal systems are ever more distant from the battlefield and insulated from physical danger, but this sense of advantage may prove illusory. Those on the receiving end of technological asymmetries have a stronger incentive to find other ways to strike back: when you cannot compete on a traditional battlefield, you look to where your adversary is vulnerable, such as through opportunistic attacks on civilians.

2. Speed kills. “The speed at which machines can make decisions in the far future is likely to challenge our ability to cope, demanding a new relationship between man and machine.” This was the assessment of US Major General William Hix at a conference on the future of the Army in October 2016. The speed of technological innovation also makes it hard to keep abreast of new military capabilities, easier to be misled on the actual balance of power, and to fall victim to a strategic miscalculation. The fact that some capabilities are deliberately hidden just makes it harder. Because offensive cyber capability relies so much on exploiting one-off vulnerabilities, it is difficult to simultaneously demonstrate and maintain a capability. Once a particular vulnerability has been exploited, the victim is alerted and will take steps to fix it. General Hix again: “A conventional conflict in the near future will be extremely lethal and fast, And we will not own the stopwatch.”

3. Fear and uncertainty increase risk. The expectation that asymmetries could change quickly – as may be the case with new strategic capabilities in areas like artificial intelligence, space, deep sea and cyber – could incentivise risk-taking and aggressive behaviour. If you are confident that you have a lead in a strategically-significant but highly dynamic field of technology, but you are not confident that the lead will last, you might be more tempted to use it before a rival catches up. Enhanced capacity to operate at speed puts security actors into a constant state of high alert, incentivises investment in resilience, and forces us to live with uncertainty. Under these conditions, war by mistake – either through over-confidence in your ability to win, or because of exaggerated threat perception – becomes more likely.

4. Deterrence and pre-emption. When new capabilities cause a shift in the balance between offensive and defensive advantage – or even the perception of such a shift -, it could increase the incentives for aggression. For example, one of the pillars of nuclear deterrence is the “second strike” capability, which puts the following thought into the mind of an actor contemplating a nuclear attack: “even if I destroy my opponent’s country totally, their submarines will still be around to take revenge”. But suppose swarms of undersea drones were able to track and neutralize the submarines that launch nuclear missiles? Long-range aerial drones can already navigate freely across the oceans, and will be able to fly under the radar deep into enemy territory. Such capabilities make it possible in theory for an actor to escape the fear of second-strike retaliation, and feel safer in launching a pre-emptive strike against aircraft in their hangars, ships in port, and critical infrastructure, with practically no chance of early warning. Indeed, cyberattacks on banks, power stations and government institutions have demonstrated that it is no longer necessary to fly bombers around the world to reach a distant enemy’s critical infrastructure without early warning. The idea of striking a `knockout blow` may come to seem feasible once more.

5. The new arms race is harder to control. One of the mechanisms for strategic stability is arms control agreements, which have served to limit the use of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. When it comes to the multiple combinations of technology we see as a hallmark of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, one of the obstacles to international agreement is caused by uncertainty about how strategic benefits will be distributed. For instance, the international community is currently debating both the ethics and practicality of a ban on the development of lethal autonomous weapons systems. One of the factors holding this debate back from a conclusion is a lack of consensus among experts about whether such systems would give an advantage to the defender or the attacker, and hence be more likely to deter or incentivize the escalation of conflict. Where you stand on the issue may depend on whether you see yourself as a master of the technology, or a victim. Another obstacle to imposing control is the wider cast of players –

6. A wider cast of players. As cutting-edge technology becomes cheaper, it spreads to a wider range of actors. Consider the development of nuclear bombs – the last breakthrough in weapons technology that re-wrote the rules of international security. Although the potential for a fission bomb was understood in terms of theoretical physics, putting it into practice involved thousands of scientists and billions of dollars – resources on a scale only a few nations could muster. Over 70 years later, the club of nuclear weapons states remains exclusively small, and no non-state actor has succeeded in acquiring nuclear capability.

In contrast, there are more than 70 nations operating earth-orbiting satellites today. Nano-satellites are launched by Universities and Corporations. A growing list of companies can launch and recover payloads on demand, meaning even small states can buy top-notch equipment “off the shelf”. As Christopher Zember put it, “Once the pinnacle of national achievement, space has become a trophy to be traded between two business owners”. These days, even a committed enthusiast can now feasibly do genetic engineering in their basement. Other examples of dual-purpose technologies include encryption, surveillance, drones, AI and genomics. With commercial availability, proliferation of these technologies becomes wider and faster, creating more peer competitors on the state level and among non-state actors, and making it harder to broker agreements to stop them falling into the wrong hands.

7. The grey zone. The democratisation of weaponisable technology empowers non-state actors and individuals to create havoc on a massive scale. It also threatens stability by offering states more options in the form of “hybrid” warfare and the use of proxies to create plausible deniability and strategic ambiguity. When it is technically difficult to attribute an attack – already true with cyber, and becoming an issue with autonomous drones – conflicts can become more prone to escalation and unintended consequences.

8. Pushing the moral boundaries. Institutions governing legal and moral restraints on the conduct of war or controlling proliferation date from an era when massively destructive technology was reserved to a small, distinct set of actors – mostly states or people acting under state sponsorship. The function of state-centric institutions is impaired by the fact that states’ militaries are no longer necessarily at the cutting edge of technology: most of the talent driving research and development in today’s transformative dual-use technologies is privately employed, in part because the private sector simply has access to more money. For example, the private sector has invested more in AI research and development in five years than governments have since AI research first started. Diminishing state control of talent is epitomised by Uber`s recruitment of a team of robotics researchers from Carnegie Mellon University in 2015, which decimated the research effort they had had been working on for the United States department of Defence.

The fact that the trajectory of research – and much of the infrastructure critical to security – are in private hands need not be a problem if state actors were able to exercise oversight through traditional means such as norms development, regulation and law-making. However, the pace and intensity of innovation, and difficulty of predicting what new capabilities will be unleashed as new technologies intersect, makes it difficult for states to keep up. State-centric institutions for maintaining international security have failed to develop a systematic approach to address the possible long-term security implications of advances in areas as diverse as nanotechnology, synthetic biology, big data and machine learning. Nor have industry-led measures yet filled the gap.

9. Expanding domains of conflict. Domains of potential conflict such as outer space, the deep oceans, and the Arctic – all perceived as gateways to economic and strategic advantage – are expanding via new technologies and materials that can overcome inhospitable conditions. Like cyberspace, these are less well-governed than the familiar domains of land, sea and air: their lack of natural borders can make them difficult to reconcile with existing international legal frameworks, and technological development is both rapid and private sector-driven, which makes it hard for governance institutions to keep up.

Those who secure “first mover” advantage may also seek to defend it against the establishment of regulation and governance in the common interest. Access to the technology needed to reach and exploit space, for example, allows belligerents to compromise the effectiveness of defensive measures that rely on satellites for communications, navigation, command and control technology. Even a very limited strike on a satellite would likely cause space debris, damaging systems used by the wider community. Despite a 1967 United Nations treaty calling for the peaceful use of Space, the United States Deputy Secretary of the Air Force recently warned that “there is not an agreed upon code of conduct” for space operations.

10. What is physically possible becomes likely. History suggests that any technology – even one that gives moral pause – will eventually be developed in order to be used as a weapon. As the political theorist Carl Schmitt explained, political conflict is the “realm of exception” in all sorts of ways that make the morally unthinkable not only possible, but more likely. Professor Ole Wæver and the Copenhagen School of international relations developed the concept of “securitisation” to describe how a security actor invokes the principle of necessity as a way of getting around legal or moral restraints. Policy-makers can argue that because non-state actors, terrorist and criminal groups can access new technology, they are obliged to pursue weaponization, in order to prepare an adequate defence. Public disquiet can also be bypassed by conducting research in secret; we now know from de-classified accounts of Cold War studies that soldiers were used as guinea pigs to research the effects of new weapons, and military experiments may well be underway today in areas such as human enhancement. The tendency for the logic of conflict to drive the development of technology beyond what is considered acceptable by society under normal conditions is one more reason to pay closer attention to trends in this field.

Institutional shifts

International Security is destabilised at the institutional level by the way the 4th Industrial Revolution is empowering the individual through technology, and the way that blurs the lines between war and peace, military and civilian, domestic and foreign, public and private, and physical and digital. The democratisation of destruction has been mentioned above, but non-state groups’ leveraging of global social media – whether to gain support, undermine the morale of opponents, sow confusion, or provoke a response that will create an advantage – has increased the strategic importance of shaping perceptions and narratives about international security. ISIS’s use of online videos provide an extreme example of a non-state actor using social media to drive recruitment, while state security services in select countries employ online “trolls” on a large scale. Consider the implications for democratic control over armed force when technologies like big data analytics, machine learning, behavioural science and chatbots are fully enlisted in the battle over perceptions and control of the narrative.

The hacking attack suffered by Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2014, allegedly motivated by North Korea’s political grievance, highlights these blurring lines – and the resulting difficulty of deciding who should be responsible for security in this new reality. If someone were so offended by a movie that they burned down the studio’s warehouse, one would expect the police to step in. But is it ultimately the responsibility of the state or of corporations to prevent or deter the kind of attack experienced by Sony Pictures? What is the appropriate response? When does an attack on a private company constitute an act of war? As an increasing proportion of what we value gets uploaded onto a global infrastructure of information and communications technology, do we expect it to be protected by service providers like Apple, or by our state’s security agencies?

Little by little, the responsibility for defending citizens is effectively shifting away from the state and towards the private sector. It is, for example, your bank’s security chief who bears responsibility for protecting your money from international cyber theft, whether it comes from straightforward criminal groups or those acting under the sponsorship of sovereign states. A report by Internet security company McAfee and the think-tank CSIS estimated the likely annual cost to the global economy from cybercrime at more than $400 billion – roughly equivalent to the combined defence spending of the European Union, or the Asia region.

According to 17th century political theorist Thomas Hobbes, the citizen agrees to give up some freedom and render loyalty in exchange for protection and to escape the “natural condition” of life, which was otherwise “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. In return, the state expects respect for its laws. But if citizens lose confidence in the state’s capacity to guarantee their security, be it through military protection or domestic justice and policing or social safety nets, they may also feel less of an obligation to be loyal to the state in return. In effect, the unravelling of the Hobbesian ”social contract”. This can undermine mechanisms for global governance, which consist of inter-state institutions that rely on state power for their effectiveness.

Could the relative loss of state power fatally undermine the system of international security? Several well-known tech entrepreneurs have talked in ways that suggest they see national governments not as a leader in norms development, but as an unnecessary inconvenience. Genetics innovator Balaji Srinivasan has envisioned “Silicon Valley`s ultimate exit” from the USA. Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel has floated the idea of establishing a sea colony to literally offshore himself from government regulation. Elon Musk has talked about colonising Mars. There is serious interest in businesses formulating their own foreign policy. These are interesting ideas, but until there is a credible rival the state for the role of main international security actor to meet the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the character of state action on security will need to adapt to the new environment, re-position itself to accommodate other actors, and renegotiate relations across a widespread network of partnerships.

What is to be done?

As attitudes adapt to the new distribution of security responsibility between individuals, companies and institutions of governance, there is a need for a new approach to international security. There is plenty of room for debate about how that approach should look, but the baseline can be drawn through three points: it will need to be able to think long-term, adapt rapidly to the implications of technological advances, and work in a spirit of partnership with a wide range of stakeholders.

Institutional barriers between civilian and military spheres are being torn down. Outreach to Silicon Valley is a feature of current US Defence policy, for example, as are invitations to hackers to help the Department of Defence to maintain its advantage in the digital domain. The “third offset strategy” promoted by US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter is based on a recognition that private sector innovation has outstripped that of military institutions in the post-Cold War era, and a more open relationship with business as well as with academic and science institutions could prove vital to maintaining the dominance of US military capabilities.

Such is the speed, complexity and ubiquity of innovation today, we need a regulation process that looks ahead to how emerging technologies could conceivably be weaponized, without holding back the development of those technologies for beneficial ends. “Hard governance” of laws and regulations remain necessary, but we will also need to make more use of faster-moving “soft governance” mechanisms such as laboratory standards, testing and certification regimes, insurance policies and mechanisms like those set up by academics to make potentially dangerous research subject to approval and oversight. This will need to proactively anticipate and adapt to not only technological changes, but also macro-cultural ones, which are a lot harder to predict.

States and other security actors need to start exploring with each other some of the concepts and modes of operation that would make such a networked approach sustainable, legitimate and fit for the ultimate purpose of maintaining stability and promoting peaceful coexistence in the emerging international security landscape.

Instead of meeting each other in court, as the FBI met the Apple Corporation to settle their dispute about encryption, security providers could meet across a table, under new forms of public oversight and agile governance, as partners in a common endeavour. Instead of struggling along in denial, or wasting energy trying to fight the inevitable, stakeholders who have been working in parallel siloes can learn to collaborate for a safer world. What cast of actors populate this wider security ecosystem? What are shared priorities in terms of risks? What are some of the potential models for peer to peer security? How can the 4th Industrial Revolution be used to give citizens a stronger sense of control over choices of governance, or to deny space to criminal organizations and corrupt practices? Can smart contracts using block chain technology be applied to build confidence in financial transactions and peace agreements? Can defensive alliances be expanded to include or even consist entirely of non-state actors? Should international law extend the right to use proportionate force in self-defence in cyber conflict to commercial actors? What aspects of these challenges are a matter for legal instruments and regulation, and what aspects will require a new approach?

The future of national security may lie in models of self-defence that are decentralised and networked. As Jean-Marie Guéhenno, CEO of the International Crisis Group, wrote: “distribution of security measures among a multiplicity of actors – neighbourhoods, cities, private stakeholders – will make society more resilient. And over time, smaller but well-connected communities may be more effective at preventing and identifying terrorist threats among their members.” Several of the critical ingredients of such a de-centralized model are becoming available: more security responsibility is being taken up by city mayors and even civil society groups like the global hacktivist collective “Anonymous”, who declared war on the self-styled Islamic State. So far, however, this has been a haphazard phenomenon and its impact is diminished by a lack of coordination.

The answers that may emerge to these questions are unpredictable – but what is clear is the need to have a conversation that reaches across generations and across disciplines. This conversation has to be global. International security is threatened by a loss of trust, in particular between those who drew power from the last industrial revolution and those whose power is rising within a fluid and complex environment. The conversation needs to foster mutual understanding, dispel unjustified fears, and revive public confidence in new forms of responsive leadership that manifestly serve the common good.

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Compatibility of Islamic Practices with French Republican Values

When you follow the controversies in France on Muslim-related matters, the tough stand taken by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board on the Uniform Civil Code and the sharp reactions to it have all the trappings of an inter-collegiate debating competition. The next French presidential election will be held in April-May next year. But the campaign for it is already underway. Niggardly economic growth, unemployment, steady dismantlement of the welfare state and the Brexit shock are some of the issues that pit one party against another.
Overriding them all however is this question: Does the presence of a large, if diversified, Muslim community in France threaten to dispossess French society of what has held it together in the past – culture, language, lifestyles and, above all, the republican values that have sustained it for more than two centuries? The latter include a single legal system for all citizens, adherence to basic freedoms, gender equality and a strict separation of religion from the public sphere.
The Muslim question has gained greater salience in public discourses and private conversations in the wake of a succession of Islamist terror attacks in France over the past two years. Add to this the continuing influx of migrants from Africa and the Middle East. These developments have generated rage among the Right-wingers and rattled the Leftists and the liberals.
Leading the pack of Muslim baiters is Éric Zemmour, author of two books that have been instant bestsellers, a widely read columnist of the conservative daily Le Figaro and a celebrity panellist on radio and TV shows. Zemmour wields the axe when a surgeon’s knife would have done the job. Here’s one example: “There are no moderates in Islam. There are simply those who practice Islam to the letter and those who don’t. The ones you call good Muslims are regarded by Islam to be bad Muslims.”
Left-wing and liberal commentators have debunked Zemmour as a dangerous demagogue whose intent, they allege, is to shore up the electoral fortunes of the extreme Right-wing National Front. In their commentaries, they harp on the failure of the French state and society to address the issues that explain Muslim alienation: lack of education and skills, massive joblessness, a miserable existence in ghettoised suburbs, growing Islamophobia, French policies in the Middle East and so forth.
In the midst of the ideological battles, the publication of an opinion survey conducted by the prestigious Institut Montaigne on Muslims in France has nonplussed the Leftists and liberals and generated a wave of I-told-you-so gloating in the ranks of their adversaries. These are some of the findings: 29% of Muslims think that the shariah (Islamic law) is more important than the laws of the Republic; 40% believe that employers should pay heed to the religious obligations of their employers; the same percentage bats for polygamy and is hostile to secularism (an article of faith for the French); 60% favour the right of Muslim girls to wear the hijab in schools; 14% Muslim women don’t want a male doctor to treat them; and 44% won’t swim in a pool along with men.
Faced with these numbers, the debate on Muslims in France has, if anything, become more raucous and intractable. Over lunch in Paris last month i asked Régis Debray, one of the country’s most stimulating, if controversial, thinkers whether he saw a way out of the impasse. I was aware of some of his positions garnered through his books and interviews: when politics ceases to be a secular religion, when it is no longer a bearer of collective memory and hope, when it is driven solely by technology-led economic modernisation, revealed religion once again assumes a political avatar. When the public weal is lost sight of, the trader, the networker, the spin doctor and the guru take over.
So what is in store for France in the presidential election? The question clearly bores Debray. He laments, without cynicism, that today the hoodlums of the Right and the mediocrities on the Left inspire no confidence since they are far removed from the cultural, historical and political DNA of the French. Que sera, sera …

Migrant Crisis: Unworkable European Approach

Between January and November 2015, approximately 1.5 million migrants reached the European Union through the Mediterranean Sea. This high level of migration continued in 2016.
Several European countries that previously had open door policies have shifted their position on refugees and migrants who attempt to reach their shores from Africa.
The policy response by European countries can be divided into two categories. The first seeks to address the root causes of why refugees or migrants flee their countries of origin. The second involves erecting a “”fortress” around Europe in the form of strong, anti-migration policies.
We argue that fortress Europe is not a sustainable way of dealing with this migration “problem”. Europe’s attempt to keep migrants out will continue to fail as long as no emphasis is placed on investing in development in the countries from which refugees are fleeing.
The other major change that needs to take place is that Europe must stop making policy decisions that undermine Africa’s development policies. One example is the European Union’s (EU) Fisheries Access Agreements (FAAs) with West African countries. This gave little consideration to the sustainable development of the African countries concerned. The policy provided European fishing vessels with access to West Africa’s fish resources but resulted in irresponsible fishing and a depleted resource base. Ultimately it handicapped the development of the West African fishing industry.
Addressing the root causes
Refugees and migrants who come into Europe originate from Africa and the Middle East. They make the perilous journey spurred by sociocultural and political injustices, adverse economic conditions, conflict and war.
The EU sought to address these root causes at its 2015 EU-Africa Valletta summit on migration. But such attempts remain just political affirmations.
The Political Declaration and Action Plan drawn up at the Valletta Summit were vague and constituted largely of repeated commitments made at previous forums. These included the 2014 Declaration on Migration and Mobility and the 2015 Addis Ababa Action Agenda. These action plans have not been significantly implemented – and some might argue that they’ve failed altogether.
The root cause of refugees and migrants fleeing remain unaddressed and migration to Europe continues.
European countries therefore resorted to more extreme measures that create physical barriers against migrants. One example is Hungary’s razor wire fence erected to keep migrants out. It seeks to have this fence monitored by 3,000 “border-hunters” who will reinforce about 10,000 police and soldiers already on patrol.
EU countries have also established a European Border and Coast Guard Agency to secure and protect them against floods of refugees and migrants.
None of this has stopped migrants from continuing their attempts to cross into Europe. The UN refugee agency says that 2016 is poised to be the deadliest year for refugees and migrants. As of October, approximately 3,700 had died trying to cross the Mediterranean.
Clearly, a “fortress” around Europe is not working.
The restrictive regime only makes migrants and refugees resort to desperate and illegal means to enter Europe. They often using human smugglers. Some of them make it, only to be arrested and deported. The dangerous cycle of attempting to reach Europe starts all over again.
Towards a sustainable system
Putting up physical barriers against migrants contradicts the legislation and policies the EU has enacted over the years to welcome and accommodate non-European nationals.
There are some alternatives.
Firstly, the EU could revisit its stringent policies and accommodate the migrants. These individuals could contribute to EU economies. They could also contribute to their home country’s economy through remittances. This could reduce migrant outflows.
Secondly, numbers could be reduced if the focus was shifted from keeping migrants out to supporting projects that would keep them at home. The funds pledged at the Valletta Summit should be directed towards such initiatives. The issue is that, by June 2016, the EU and member states had only fulfilled 4.5% of the Trust Fund’s initial budget of $1.93billion.
Thirdly, the EU must ensure that its non-development policies do not undermine development policies in Africa. One example is the EU’s common agricultural policy. This creates distortions in global markets because of the production and export subsidies given to European farmers. African farmers can’t compete with their European counterparts. And their work is made even harder because their produce is expected to comply with stringent environmental and health standards for it to enter the market.
The threat to people’s livelihoods generated by such policy incoherence leave them with fewer choices than to, among other things, migrate to seemingly “greener pastures”.
Erecting a “fortress” not only neglects the root causes of migration. It is also a violation of fundamental principles relating to the right of movement. Article 13 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state and the freedom to leave any country.
The implementation of decisions made at EU-Africa migration summits should start by pragmatically matching actions with available funding. It shouldn’t be based on pledges. Also, the apparent recycling of action plans and declarations suggests a lack of consensus between the parties, especially African states. Only through a well-formed consensus on how best to tackle the migration problem will both continents begin to meaningfully deal with it.

Possibility of Native Trump Emerging in Pakistan

The world scene has made some wonder if a similar surge will hit Pakistan as well. The rise of Modi, and the accompanying band of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, in particular, raises speculation over a countering force emerging on this side of the border. Will Pakistan see its own variant of the movements that have placed Trump, Le Pen, Modi, Erdogan, and Duterte in positions of political prominence?
To answer this question, it’s useful to put together a hypothetical blueprint of what contemporary populism would look like in 21st-century Pakistan. Common amongst most populists elsewhere is their appeal to an identity segment that commands sizeable votes, but is imbued with a sense of resentment or marginalisation. This is true for middle and upper-caste Hindus aggrieved at quotas in India; white people angry at immigration, economic slowdown, and cultural change in the US, France, and Britain; and conservative Muslims weary of state-sanctioned secularism in the Anatolian heartland of Turkey.
Given Pakistan’s history, there are two potential social groupings/identities that provide the raw numbers for a populist takeover of the state. I say potential here because while they may add up on paper, they have only partially existed as self-aware political communities over the past 70 years.
There are some inherent failings in Pakistan’s political system, which may act as an inadvertent bulwark against populist frenzy.
The first of the two would be a conscious Punjabi ethnic grouping, composed of north and central Punjabis, and post-partition settlers in south Punjab. If, by some miracle, a nationalist leader was to capture the province’s imagination and votes on an explicit agenda of Punjabi nativism and supremacy, he or she would control roughly 40pc of the total electorate. That would be enough to garner a plurality under our existing political system, but probably not an outright majority.
There are several obvious impediments to a Punjabi populist emerging in the present. The first is that Punjabi cultural identity has few takers in Punjab. The language and any attendant cultural artefacts are usually ditched in the process of urbanisation and upward economic mobility. Second- and third-generations belonging to the middle- and upper-middle class are especially quick to adopt English and Urdu. Consequently, there is no widespread understanding of what constitutes Punjabi culture in urban Punjab, except for some adherence towards kinship/biradari-based marriages and a vague sense of entitlement over residential land.
The other obvious impedimnt is that Punjabis have no reason to feel marginalised or excluded. Apart from their strong representation in the state, the province outstrips all others in terms of development indicators. Successive governments — civil and military — have built on a favourable colonial endowment and invested heavily in its economic well-being. Poverty rates are low, and constant reminders of how bad things are elsewhere in the country makes Punjabis feel secure about their own position. Finally, as of this moment, two major political parties provide strong representation to the interests of Punjab’s elite and middle class, and so there is little need for an outsider to protect and further their agenda.
The second potential grouping for a populist upsurge is Pakistan’s Sunni population. At around 80pc of the total electorate, this particular group is numerically sufficient to mount a complete takeover of all political institutions. However, there are obvious impediments to this theocratic fantasy as well. The first is drastic internal variation with regards to belief, ritual, and orientation towards clerical authority. If a Sunni upsurge were to take place, how would it reconcile Barelvi practices with Deobandi orthodoxy? What role would a growing Salafi following have in its overall construction?
In Pakistan’s history, the only time Islamists have shelved their theological and organisational differences is when faced with a common enemy. Good examples of this include the JUP-JUI-JI alliance against Bhutto in 1977; the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal’s rise against American presence in Afghanistan; and most recently, a Hurmat-i-Rasool combination in defence of the blasphemy law. Providing a proactive, rather than reactive, narrative for the voters has eluded Islamist politicians so far, and this is visible in the low seat and vote totals accumulated by religious parties in successive elections.
Another strong impediment is that the state has already co-opted an agenda of religious chauvinism and xenophobia. The Constitution is laced with Islamic rhetoric and places clear distinctions between Muslims and non-Muslims. Similarly, various amendments to the Penal Code create some semblance of an Islamic legal system. The army regularly presents itself as a defender of true faith, and the country is projected as a fortress of Islam. Essentially, the cultural agenda of Islamists has been fairly successful over the past 70 years, which is partially why its political agenda is less attractive in the present.
Finally, there are some inherent failings in Pakistan’s political system, which may act as an inadvertent bulwark against sweeping mobilisation and populist frenzy. Across the country, the bulk of the electorate is tied in hierarchical, personalised relations of patronage that form the basis of their political participation. Voters access state resources and largesse through local elites and strongmen, and their subsistence and survival is often based on this access. In most cases, these elites operate along tribal and ethnic affiliation, thus adding another layer of difference within the voting public. Even during the height of Pakistan’s populist phase (1968-1972), Bhutto’s anti-India nationalism and left-wing rhetoric could only capture the imagination of voters in two out of five provinces
For an ideologically motivated project to succeed today, it would have to supersede ties of patronage and undercut the ethnic, caste, kinship, and tribal distinctions which define them. At this moment, this appears to be an improbable task for a country in which ideology, other than ethnic or provincial, has played little role in determining peoples’ political participation over the better part of four decades

India Still Living in an Era of Darkness?

The central question that Shashi Tharoor, the author, the diplomat and the parliamentarian, raises in An Era Of Darkness is whether the 200-year-long British Raj was a Good Thing or not. Tharoor’s verdict is very emphatic — it was not. The empire’s apologist Niall Ferguson may murmur.
Be that as it may, in contemporary India, few people would care for the question, with only a Parkinson-ed minority having experienced the alien, aloof and imperial Raj. Even the worst elements of Hindutva are not bloody keen on an apology for Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919 or for a reparation for the economic exploitation during the colonial era. All they want from Theresa May is liberal visa rules. Maybe, no temple or mosque was torn down during the British Raj and that explains the absence of hate when it comes to the English language and Englishmen, unlike our relationship with our blood brothers across the border. And today Britain not only has Kohinoor but Vijay Mallya too.
It is this apathy—selective, if you care to remember Babri Masjid—towards the past that precisely makes Tharoor’s An Era Of Darkness: The British Empire In India (Published by Aleph, Pages 333, Price Rs 699) an important event and a must-read for our times.
Tharoor, an outstanding public intellectual and parliamentarian, realised that the moral urgency of explaining to today’s Indians—and Britons—why colonialism was the horror it turned out to be could not be put aside—especially after the kerfuffle that his Oxford speech in May 2015 calling for an apology for Jallianwala Bagh massacre and a symbolic reparation to be paid over the next 200 years evoked.
Tharoor is completely justified in saying that “as we embark upon the twenty-first century, it seems ironically clear that tomorrow’s anarchy might still be due, in no small part, to yesterday’s colonial attempts at order. In looking to understand the forces that have made us and nearly unmade us, and in hoping to recognize possible future sources of conflict in the new millennium, we have to realize that sometimes the best crystal ball is a rear view mirror.”
An ordinary Indian would not be comfortable with Tharoor’s intellectual daring. This book, which has all the makings of a turning out to be a bestseller, is for those who care deeply for his nation’s history and its tryst with destiny.
Tharoor says history is its own revenge. From that acute perspective, ‘An Era of Darkness’ is a stimulating read. You tend to agree with Tharoor when he says there are no victimless colonial actions: everything the British did echoes down the ages.
Tharoor marshals vast resources—he brings in American author and historian Will Durant, British historians Jon Wilson and Alex von Tunzelmann, Pakistani historian Yasmin Khan and a host of others—to present a convincing argument that the British Raj ruined India economically (a just reparation would be $3 trillion in today’s money) and failed to give it political unity. Tharoor also tells us that the much-vaunted democracy and the rule of law were a sham, the Raj’s divide and rule policy led to Partition and its enlightened despotism a myth.
The British colonial rulers had no interest in the well-being of the Indian people, a point of view few nationalists would disagree with. India was what the scholars Acemoglu and Robinson call, in their path-breaking Why Nations Fail, an extractive colony. “Thanks to British imperialism, the organic development of the Indian state and its scientific, technological, industrial and civic institutions could not take place, as it did between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries in Europe.”
While handling an intellectual challenge so vast in its scope Tharoor still surprises the reader with little yet relevant observations that explain the contemporary. He narrates that the seafaring prowess of the Muslim Kunjali Maraicars prompted the Zamorin of Calicut in the mid-sixteenth century to decree that every fisherman’s family in his kingdom should bring up one son as a Muslim, to man his all-Muslim navy. How many Malayalis do know this?
As is Tharoor’s genius, he even tries to win over schoolchildren while dissecting the flaws of the British empire. He writes: “Ëvery Indian schoolchild must lament the influence of the British dress code on Indians—especially the tie as a permanent noose around the necks of millions of schoolchildren, in India’s sweltering heat, even today.”
There are only three things that make Tharoor raise a toast for the British Raj. The first is tea, the second is cricket. The third is the creation of the Mahatma legend. The iconoclastic, irreverent Tharoor has said no other politician would dare to say in India while castigating the British empire. Tharoor debunks Gandhi with vigour and a wink. “It is ironically to the credit of the British Raj that it faced an opponent like Mahatma Gandhi and allowed him to succeed.”
Tharoor finds few instances of the effectiveness of Gandhism. “In Mahatma Gandhi’s own day non-violence could have done nothing for the Jews of Hitler’s Germany, who disappeared unprotestingly into gas chambers far from the flashbulbs of a war-obsessed press.” He writes that the much vaunted Gandhian ‘self-reliance’ is too often a cover for protectionism and a shelter for inefficiency in developing countries. Tharoor has no time for pieties and is convinced that “the successful and prosperous countries are those who are able to look beyond spinning charkhas to silicon chips.”
As Tharoor reminds us the virtues of rear view mirror to understand the future, it would be worthwhile to recall B R Ambedkar’s words to understand the past itself. The maker of India’s Constitution said: “India’s cultural unity did not lie in tolerance of diversity or accommodation of differences as some upper caste intellectuals liked to claim; instead it was built on a foundation of oppression rooted far deeper than the political rule of the Raj.”
With increasing instances of atrocities against the Dalits and the marginalised Muslims, with the centre not repealing the Victorian era sedition laws and morality strictures (Section 377 of the IPC) one may not be way off the mark in asking the question: are we still living in an era of darkness?

The Super Hornet Purchase & Muzzling of Officials Shows All is Not Right

The Liberal government headed by Justin Trudeau, is paying for its unjustified criticism of Harper’s F-35 deal. That deal showed an interest in futuristic technology, while Super Hornets are on the way out. Why buy some product that is already scheduled to be obsolete? The country is paying extra to solve a political problem Liberals created.
This week’s announcement by the federal government that it intends to sole-source the purchase of F-18 E/F Super Hornets to fill a perceived “capability gap” in Canada’s military commitments is spin-doctoring at best — and at least, a questionable use of defence dollars.
To begin with, the notion of an “urgent” capability gap is a fabrication, created by the Liberals to ensure that parochial party promises are kept. There is no pressing need to rush this decision. Canadians were given assurances by professionals in the Canadian Armed Forces that the CF-18 fleet could be kept fully operational until 2025, giving them plenty time to properly procure a replacement fighter. All the necessary work has been done already to run a competitive procurement process that meets commitments and requirements. We don’t need to take five years to run a competition and make a decision.
The Defence Policy Review was supposed to be released in early 2017. Surely this week’s replacement decision could have waited until then — particularly when National Defence Minster Harjit Sajjan admits that the Super Hornets will not be fully operational until the late 2020s. Meanwhile, Australia plans to phase out their Super Hornets in favour of F-35s. The U.S. Navy plans to phase out its Super Hornets by 2040, giving Canada roughly 10 years of common use before the Super Hornet becomes prohibitively expensive to maintain — and technically redundant.
By the time the first Canadian Super Hornet is operational, the U.S. Air Force will have transitioned to the F-35 for NORAD operations, which will require upgrades to NORAD infrastructure. This sole-source purchase is not a logical solution, especially when there will only be 18 Super Hornets to fill the “capability gap” that, according to the minister, 77 CF-18 Hornets cannot meet today.The RCAF will need to support two platforms, two training systems, and two maintenance and logistics systems during the transition. That will be hugely expensive.
The Liberal government was elected on a platform of transparency and a promise to consult Canadians. It is evident that the Standing Committee on National Defence shaped the public discussion on fighter requirements to match the Liberal narrative — and then cherry-picked the responses to suit this replacement decision.
This puts the integrity of the current government in question on all issues of governance they put to the public. The government may appear to be consulting Canadians, but it’s becoming clear that they do not care to listen as experts from all areas clearly were of the opinion that an open competition would be the best means for selecting a replacement fighter.
Economically, the decision is also suspect. The CF-18 and the Super Hornet are two distinctly different airplanes both in size and content. The Super Hornet is physically 25 per cent larger and the two aircraft have no internal avionics systems in common. So the RCAF will need to support two platforms, two training systems, and two maintenance and logistics systems during the transition. That will be hugely expensive.
Using Australian and Kuwaiti purchases as indicators, Canadians will spend roughly US$5 billion to procure a marginal capability for the 2030s that will not meet current commitments, will be technologically inferior by then and will logistically expensive.
This simply isn’t a cost-effective path to take. The economic rationale for this decision rings hollow for a government not known to concern itself with military commitments.
Sole-sourcing of military equipment is warranted when there is full military support for the identified equipment and it provides clear value for the defence dollar. The C-17 and the C-130J purchases were good examples of this. But the Super Hornet decision meets neither of these criteria. It’s obvious that political gerrymandering in the military procurement process continues unabated.
The claim that this is an interim solution is nonsensical. The numbers of fighters involved, the full costs and the timeline do not add up. The rationale for sole-sourcing of the Super Hornet is ridiculous, wrong on so many levels — while the decision-making process itself is being driven by the same factor the Liberals criticized when the Conservatives were in power: parochial politics.
Moreover the muzzling of over 200 civil servants in this connection shows the reality. More than 200 federal civil servants involved in replacing Canada’s aging fighter jet fleet have been forced to swear they will not discuss the project for the rest of their lives. Revelations of the “lifetime” non-disclosure agreements come as the government prepares to start negotiations with U.S. aerospace giant Boeing to purchase 18 Super Hornets.
The government says it needs the Hornets to address an urgent shortage of warplanes until a competition to replace all 77 of Canada’s CF-18s can be finished – a process it says could take up to five years. Critics say the air force does have enough planes and the decision to buy Hornets now and punt a competition to later is part of a larger Liberal plan to avoid buying the controversial F-35 stealth fighter.
National Defence spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier says 235 officials were required to sign the permanent non-disclosure agreements starting in January to “remind” employees of their obligations to keep secrets. “Given the subject-matter and commercial sensitivities associated with the work, it was deemed to be an appropriate and necessary procedure,” he said in an email.
Federal procurement officials have been occasionally required to sign such documents in the past, particularly when it comes to selecting a winning bid, Le Bouthillier said. However, he said, “in this case, a non-disclosure is principally used as a reminder to ensure sensitive and corporate information is protected in the long term.”
Two former military procurement chiefs told The Canadian Press in separate interviews that they had never seen such agreements used for procurement projects before. “I can’t recall anyone in any of my project teams having to do that,” said Alan Williams, who served as assistant deputy minister of materiel at National Defence from 2000 to 2005. “Any of our people, I trust them to use their judgment.”
Dan Ross, who oversaw the F-35 project from 2005 to 2012 as assistant deputy minister of materiel, said there are significant technical and commercial secrets at stake with the jet program. But he said such secrets are protected with existing security classifications, which carry the threat of prison time and have proven more than sufficient. Both Williams and Ross said the decision to force officials to a lifetime of secrecy was worrying and a heavy-handed attempt to keep them on a tight leash.
The non-disclosure agreements were revealed in records tabled in the House of Commons this week in response to a question from Conservative defence critic James Bezan. Bezan said he believes the Liberals are trying to hide the fact their decision to buy 18 Super Hornets and put off selecting a replacement for the CF-18s for five years is about keeping Canada from buying the F-35. “My suspicion is that the Liberals don’t want anyone talking about how this has been completely politicized, or that this isn’t the plane that National Defence was recommending,” he said.
One must question whether it’s the intention of this government to emasculate the fighter force so future governments can’t simply “whip out our CF-18s and show them how big they are” when we’re called upon to provide Canadian security to the international community.

Economic Nationalism is India’s Need

The biggest upset win of this year – Donald Trump’s victory in the US General Election – was on the back of the white working class in the key states in the American Rust Belt. These states – Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin in particular – that once supplied the arsenal of the West in its fight against the Nazis, upturned the American political map by breaking away from the Democrats and voting for Donald Trump. So even though Trump lost the popular vote, he won a comfortable Electoral College victory that led him to the White House.
But why did the working communities support him? As Michael Moore aptly noted before the election, when Trump threatened factory owners with punitive tariffs should they offshore their production facilities, the workers saw a real ally in him. The reigning consensus of free trade and globalisation had served them badly. Instead of the magical post-industrial service-based economy that America’s coastal elites promised these working communities, well-paying manufacturing jobs disappeared, their country witnessed unprecedented peace-time trade deficits and the corporate elite became too obsessed with short-term profit margins to worry about upgrading factories.
Trump’s promise of protectionism and of taming America’s globalist industrialists and financiers was a breath of fresh air for a community that had been repeatedly told that globalisation and its discontents were inevitable.
We don’t know whether Trump with his baffling incoherence and his ridiculously thin skin, shall be able to resuscitate life into America’s diminishing industrial base.
But should India, which has been struggling to build a hefty industrial base in the first place, take a leaf from Trump’s playbook on economic nationalism? In other words, should India explicitly embark on a policy to nurture domestic industry via protection from ruthless foreign competition, assistance in exports or acquisition of technology and other preferential policies?
India’s current growth story leaves much for wanting. As is very well known, manufacturing as percentage of our GDP at approximately 16% is unnaturally low when compared to other emerging economies like China or Malaysia. India has neither a sizeable global lead in labour-intensive sectors like textiles nor any base in sectors that belong to the future like electronic components.
The performance of the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) has been decidedly mediocre over the past year. Exports, the most important sign of a competitive manufacturing sector, in 2016 are going to be less than in 2014. Indeed, our total export value of 2015 – approximately USD 260 billion – was surpassed by the Chinese in the year 2000 itself. Today, the Chinese export upwards of USD 2.2 trillion annually.
The existing government’s attempts at promoting manufacturing have mostly been limited to the neoliberal economic framework that focuses on the need for ever-greater deregulation and liberalisation. Thus we have seen branding campaigns like “Make in India”, devotion to ever freer movement of capital through FDI reforms and an unlearnt focus in improving the Ease of Doing Business.
The results are “Make in India” exhibits that have led to MoUs that remain unfulfilled, foreign direct investment that forms a miniscule part of overall investment in the economy, and a constant disappointment in making any major dent in Ease of Doing Business rankings.
It is clear that this government’s policy-choices have not led to a fundamental change in India’s economic trajectory. We continue to – as we have for the past 27 years – put up a mediocre performance in manufacturing, and grow on the basis of bulging domestic consumption and services.
Can economic nationalism be the answer? Can active government support through temporary protection, subsidies and other interventionist measures be the key for building a manufacturing ecosystem that rivals China?
Absolutely. The fact is that economic nationalism has been the begetter of spectacular industrial stories – whether the case be Germany, Japan or the United States itself. For instance, the United States employed tariffs till at least the First World War to power its domestic industry. Alexander Hamilton, the first American Secretary of the Treasury, explicitly called for tariffs as means to cushion American “manufactures” from British competition. Trump’s supporters have often used this precedent to argue for his protectionism.
Yet nowhere has economic nationalism been more evident in promoting development than in East Asia. China and Japan have a well-documented history of putting informal but insurmountable import barriers to foreign competition and preferential policies for their local industry. The Japanese car market remains to this day quite protectionist – rarely allowing foreign carmakers a consolidated market share of more than 8%. And similarly, the steel glut in the world that is likely to put a death nail on British manufacturing is a product of ruthless subsidisation by China of its domestic steel industry.
The strategy for East Asian economies has largely been to pay lip service to ideals of globalisation and free trade that form the bedrock of editorials in the Financial Times and The Economist newspapers, and perhaps every financial outlet in India, but mercilessly promote their own domestic champions through hidden subsidies via currency manipulation, mercantilist trade strategy and selective implementation of red tape. When Trump says that the Chinese don’t play fair at trade – he is broadly right.
Such policies work because more than better compliance and regulation, industry demands technology, supplier-base, scale and demand. This takes time to develop – during which the government ought to guard against adverse effects of excessive foreign competition and provide it all the help it can.
One good example of such an approach applied in the Indian context is the very limited success the Modi government has seen in promoting the assembly of smartphones in India over the past one and half years. Almost two-thirds of all smartphones sold in India today are ‘”manufactured locally” – but with more than 90% of their value imported. The key reason is because of the duty exemption provided to local manufacturers in 2015 for importing electronic components. This way, the duty structure renders the finished imported product more expensive than the one assembled in-house, tilting the playing field purposefully towards domestic suppliers in the process.
In the era of unnatural dominance by East Asian countries in electronics and other high-end manufacturing segments, the Indian government (overtly or tacitly) needs to stand behind its manufacturers without hesitation and realise that they need the extra push. No manufacturing ecosystem historically has arisen without outright support by its government, and India can’t be any different.

Quirky Things Invented In Switzerland

Switzerland is the country known for its aesthetic beauty of lakes, mountains and rivers. But how can we forget the cheese fondues, exotic chocolates, finely crafted watches, and the Swiss knife. Switzerland is known for many things, like its no-interference policy, but here are 6 things you had no idea originated in Switzerland!
1. Bobsleigh
Wondering what that is? It is an Olympic sport played in winters in which teams of four or two jump into a sleigh before pushing it down a long, twisting and narrow ice slide! Scary huh? So if you are looking for that adrenaline rush with the scenic beauty of Switzerland, don’t forget to bobsleigh down the winding tracks in the Alps.
2. White chocolate
Did you know that the white bar that we used to devour in our childhood was the first form of white chocolate? A Swiss company first came out with this chocolate bar way back in the 1930s and is now the most common white chocolate! An interesting thing about white chocolate is that it’s not a proper chocolate in the strict sense, as it doesn’t contain cocoa solids but rather cocoa butter. But who cares, cocoa or not, we still love white chocolate!
3. Cellophane
The very same plastic sheet which we use to cover food with to keep it fresh and wrap our bouquets in to make them look presentable! The idea for this a clear, protective, packaging layer was first thought of in the 1900s. Being a European country, wine was a common drink and so were wine spills on tablecloths! So a Swiss textile engineer attempted to create a liquid repelling material and voila! We now have cellophane to save food from any kind of moisture!
4. Pascal language
The devices we use the most, whether it’s our computers, laptops or smart phones, they all use a common language to make everything comprehensible for us. Some of us might have heard of C, thanks to our computer classes in school, but what many of you don’t know, is that Pascal was the first procedural programming language. Designed by Niklaus Wirth in the early 1970s, it was named in honour of a French mathematician, Balise Pascal.
5. Muesli
Ever wonder where the famous breakfast dish came from? Well, a Swiss physician, Maximillian Bircher Benner had eaten a similar dish on a hike in the Alps and that, sparked the inspiration for this dish. This healthy dish has become the most common breakfast choice for health conscious people around the world. Now, start your day by thinking about the Alps and take in a spoonful of the mountains with each bite of your muesli.
6. Velcro
The name itself is a combination of the French words for velvet and hook, which would literally translate to a ‘velvety hook’. The idea of this fastener, fastened onto George de Mestral’s mind while he was strolling through the woods. He was getting quite annoyed with the burrs sticking to his trousers and wanted to make some better use of them. And after some pondering, Velcro was invented!
So many things were discovered in the inspiring land of Switzerland. From cable carts to ice caves, someone was walking in the woods while the other found his inspiration while eating a delicious meal in the mountains!
When you go visit Switzerland, be ready to be inspired because you may come away with an idea for something original and find yourself inventing something quirky in the 21st century.

Sunday Special: 1991- A Peep in History

It all happened in 1991. 25 years later, India is more than half-way through its economic reforms but the political classes are unable to jettison subsidy culture and afraid to broaden tax base and reform banking sector. For all that, the change is visible and remarkable compared with the calamitous days of balance of payment crisis when India had to mortgage its gold reserves.
But who is the architect of India’s economic liberalization? Is it the then finance minister Manmohan Singh or the prime minister P V Narasimha Rao? Or the bureaucrats who had all along prepared the action plan and rationale for reforms? Or was it simply an irresistible idea whose time had come as Manmohan Singh borrowed Victor Hugo’s words to sell his agenda in Parliament?
Once—when he was in power—derided as Procrastinate Vacillate Narasimha Rao, the late prime minister, whose legacy has been abandoned by his own party, Congress, is being given a revival of reputation by historians and a section of ‘interested’ political class.
Former editor and distinguished teacher Sanjaya Baru in his brilliant book 1991: How P V Narasimha Rao Made History (Published by Aleph, Pages 216, Rs 499) gives his unequivocal verdict—it was Rao who was the architect of economic reforms in 1991 for he showed the political will to go ahead with a course of action advocated by many in the past, especially since 1980 when Mrs Indira Gandhi returned to power.
This Aleph book is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding contemporary India and its political economy. Baru, a one-time information advisor to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, puts his former boss in his rightful place, again. Baru does not discredit Manmohan but ensures that without the support of Rao, the finance minister would not have been able to implement the reform agenda. He also draws attention to the fact that more than the finance minister’s budget, it was the industrial de-licensing policy, announced a few hours earlier to the budget presentation, that was crucial in spurring the reforms. And who held the reins of industries portfolio? Narasimha Rao.
In his celebration of the complex genius of Rao, Baru argues that it was political will that mattered in dragging India towards the path of liberalization, and in that sense, more than Manmohan Singh, Rao deserves the credit for liberalization, for change with continuity, when for Congress it was a break from Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. It should be noted that Rao was both PM and Congress president when he pushed through reform. Curiously, Baru quotes an unnamed former finance ministry official as Rao’s take on this debate: “A finance minister is like the numeral zero. Its power depends on the number you place in front of it. The success of a finance minister depends on the support of the prime minister.”
Baru, however, ignores that these reforms were half-hearted. The rollback of subsidy withdrawal to urea is a case in point. Baru, to his credit, points out that challenges that India faced, not just internally, but with changes in global geopolitical equations, were onerous indeed. The fate of erstwhile USSR in the wake of Michael Gorbachev’s perestroika might have tempered Rao’s instincts for liberalization.
Baru argues that by taking charge of policy in the summer of 1991, Rao made history. But to survive, Rao had to be careful not to take individual credit for it, claiming that what he did is what Rajiv Gandhi would have wanted to do.
In fact without Rajiv, Rao would not have been the prime minister. Rajiv contributed to the Congress victory in 1991 with his life as Baru notes that it was his dastardly assassination that gave his party the numbers to form the government.
A trenchant critic of Congress and party president Sonia Gandhi these days, Baru admits that Rajiv helped manage the economic crisis even in his death by giving his imprimatur to the policies that Rao eventually implemented. His verdict is that Rajiv did not have the political courage to do so. Rao had.
But as Baru himself admits the policy unshackling of 1991 was waiting to happen as modern capitalism took root in a feudal society transformed by agrarian change and urbanization.

When Olympics Witnessed Exception Moments

The Olympics are most commonly associated with sporting excellence, but the history of the Games is also littered with moments of great cultural, political, and socio-economic significance. From the first female athletes and the birth of the Paralympics, to black rights and terror in Munich, here are some of the key moments in the history of the greatest event in sports.
Female athletes compete for the first time
Women first took part in Olympic events at the 1900 Games in Paris, when out of a total of 997 athletes, 22 were female. Back then, they were only allowed to compete in five sports: tennis, sailing, croquet, equestrianism and golf.
Thankfully, things have changed an awful lot since. The 2012 Games in London were the first in which women competed in all sports on the programme, and any new sport to join the Olympic programme must have female competitors.
Jessie Owens defies Adolf Hitler
The 1936 Summer Olympics in Nazi Germany were supposed to act as a showcase for Aryan racial supremacy, but the most successful competitor at the Games was black athlete Jesse Owens. The American – now regarded as one of the greatest Olympians of all time – won gold in the 100m, 200m, the 4x100m relay and the long jump.
In the latter event, Owens was given advice by German athlete Carl Ludwig Long, who would go on to finish in second place. After the event, Long was the first to congratulate Owens, and the two walked arm-in-arm to collect their medals. Owens later said: “It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me in front of Hitler … You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn’t be a plating on the twenty-four karat friendship that I felt for Luz Long at that moment”.
A landmark for disabled athletes
In 1948, Sir Ludwig Guttman, a neurologist working with war veterans suffering from spinal injuries in the UK, weaved sport into his patients’ rehabilitation programme. Over time, other spinal injury units began copying Guttman’s methods and athletic competitions were arranged between hospitals.
At the 1960 Olympics in Rome – the first to be televised – Guttman brought 400 wheelchair athletes to compete in what was called the Parallel Olympics. Since then the Paralympics have gone from strength to strength – at London 2012, 4,302 athletes from 164 National Paralympic Committees participated in 503 events.
Muhammad Ali lights up centenary Games
The late Muhammad Ali had a long affiliation with the Olympic Games. Cassius Clay, as he was called at the time, won Olympic gold in Rome in 1960, and was a passionate supporter of the Games and his US teammates, despite deep racial divisions in his home country.
Clay loved the Olympics, and slept with his medal by his side, but when he was refused service in a whites-only restaurant back in the US, he threw it into a river. Thirty-six years on and despite suffering from Parkinson’s disease, Muhammad Ali lit the flame at the 1996 Atlanta Games, 100 years after the first modern Olympics in Athens, and the International Olympic Committee presented him with a replacement medal.
Black Power salute in Mexico, 1968
Perhaps the most blatant political demonstration in the history of the Olympics took place at the Mexico Games in 1968. After winning gold and bronze in the 200m sprint respectively, African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists in a “Black Power” salute while the flag was being raised and the national anthem played during their medal ceremony.
Their demonstration took place at the height of the US civil rights movement, when some civil rights leaders were calling on black American athletes to boycott the Games. Instead, the non-violent gesture by Smith and Carlos brought international recognition to the struggle for civil rights.
Smith later claimed the demonstration was a “human rights salute” rather than a Black Power salute, and all three men on the podium – including white Australian athlete Peter Norman, who supported Smith and Carlos – wore Olympic Project for Human Rights badges during the ceremony.
Terror in Munich
The Olympics is often associated with cooperation and friendship between nations, but that image of international peace was shattered at the 1972 Games in Munich, when Palestinian terrorist group Black September took hostage and killed 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team (a German policeman was also killed).
After scaling the fence to the Olympic Village, the heavily-armed attackers used stolen keys to access the apartments occupied by the Israelis. After killing two of the athletes, another nine were taken hostage and eventually killed when several rescue attempts failed.
African nations boycott 1976 Games
Outraged that New Zealand, whose rugby team had toured South Africa earlier in the year despite the country being under apartheid, was allowed to take part in the 1976 Olympics, 25 African nations staged a boycott of the Games in Montreal. Iraq and Guyana also joined the boycott.
The foreign minister of Kenya at the time, James Osogo, said in a statement: “The government and the people of Kenya hold the view that principles are more precious than medals.” South Africa, meanwhile, had been banned from sending a team to the Olympics since 1964 due to its apartheid policies.
The ’76 boycott wouldn’t be the last at an Olympics – in 1980 the US athletes stayed at home in protest at the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Cathy Freeman unites Australia
The pressure on Australian athlete Cathy Freeman at the Sydney Games in 2000 was immense. The runner was just one of 11 Aboriginals in the host nation’s 628-strong team, and it was hoped her performance on the track could help promote the image of a modern, tolerant Australia.
Freeman was chosen to light the Olympic flame, but her real focus was the 400m, for which she was the overwhelming favourite. Rather than buckle under the pressure, Freeman – wearing an iconic skinsuit – comfortably won the 400m final in a time of 49.11 seconds, becoming Australia’s 100th Olympic champion in the process. Freeman carried both the Australian and Aboriginal flag on her victory lap.
North and South Korea unite … briefly
In a truly historic Olympic moment, the North Korean and South Korean teams marched as one at the opening ceremony of the 2000 Games in Sydney.
Grasping the “flag of unification”, a blue outline of the entire Korean peninsula on a white background, female basketball player Chung Un Soon from South Korea, and Park Chong Chul, a male judo coach from the North, led the united teams (who were holding hands and wearing identical uniforms) into the stadium.

Save Africa from China’s Imperialism

With the U.S. more interested in finding Hillary’s emails and measuring Trump’s hand size, it’s no surprise that Africa, the continent with the fastest economic growth rate in the world, has been painfully absent from this election cycle. With the notable exception of Green VP candidate Ajamu Baraka, virtually no candidate even bothered to second-guess the many covert operations carried out by U.S. military forces in Africa or to examine what Washington’s role should be in promoting development in Sub-Saharan Africa. And for better or worse, that void has been rapidly filled by China.
In an opinion piece published on October 23, China’s newly appointed ambassador to Nigeria emphasized Chinese investors’ eagerness to invest into the development of Nigerian infrastructure, manufacturing and agriculture. The ambassador, Zhou Pingjian, also noted the enthusiasm and optimism prevalent among the Chinese business community in Nigeria, stressing the prospect of a lasting and beneficial partnership between the two countries. These developments are just the latest example of China’s desire to step up its involvement in Africa. While the relationship has existed since the 1970s, in recent years, China has taken this investment to a new level. At last year’s Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), Chinese President Xi Jinping encouraged African leaders to “open a new era of China-Africa win-win cooperation and common development”, pledging investments of $60 billion.
During a time when Chinese involvement in Africa is rapidly increasing, surveys have shown that the African public holds a generally positive view of China’s growing economic role on the continent. Surveys by Afrobarometer revealed that Africans rank China second only to the US as a model for their own country’s economic development. In three out of five regions surveyed, China matched or even outpaced the US in terms of popularity as a model for development. In terms of perceived influence, China and the US were second only to former colonial powers. On average, 63 percent viewed China’s influence as positive.

While these positive attitudes may be linked to the potential positive effects on Africa’s economic growth, as analyses from the World Bank suggest, China’s involvement with African leaders does not necessarily benefit the local populations. In the past, Beijing has not hesitated to leverage its important role on the continent for its interests using the threat of withdrawal of support to ensure the success of commercial and political objectives. For example, in 2006, China’s ambassador to Zambia threatened to cut ties if an opposition candidate who was critical of Chinese investment policies won power.
African leaders regard Chinese money pouring into their country as an appealing alternative to Western funds because in contrast to Western aid, Beijing does not insist on strengthening human rights or the rule of law.
Consequently, China has come to forge close relationships with brutal and autocratic African heads of state. China has had longstanding ties with Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe since funding his guerilla fighters in the 1979 Rhodesian Bush War. When Mugabe took power in 1980, China helped to build a new sports stadium, hospitals, and a power station. Most importantly, China became Mugabe’s primary arms supplier. In the decades since, Mugabe and his administration have been accused of a wide range of human rights violations, including repression of activism and civil liberties, and violence leading up to elections, while Mugabe’s security forces have even been accused of using torture camps. Last December, President Xi Jinping made it clear that China still shares a bond with Zimbabwe, promising multibillion-dollar investments. While it might be appealing to African politicians, China’s willingness to look the other way when it comes to human rights violations has certainly not been good for the people of Zimbabwe.
In another example, China’s relationship with Egypt’s increasingly autocratic President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has been growing closer. With reduced tourism and support from Europe, Egypt has been turning towards China. For its part, the Chinese government is offering Egypt assistance with multiple infrastructure projects, including transport, housing, and power. China is looking towards Egypt as a focus of its “One Belt, One Road” plan to rebuild its ancient maritime Silk Road trade routes connecting China to Europe and Africa.

China’s business plans frequently serve to prop up dictatorial regimes, and often hold little benefit for the people suffering under them. In Djibouti, profit from foreign military installations rarely improves the lives of Djiboutians, 42 percent of whom continue to live in extreme poverty and 48 percent of whom are unemployed. Meanwhile, China continues to ramp up investment in the nation, investing in multibillion-dollar infrastructure projects such as a new port, two airports, a new railway and other projects. Most importantly, China has started building its first overseas military installation in Djibouti. This support continues despite the fact that Djibouti’s strongman President Ismail Omar Guelleh was accused of killing opposition supporters in the run up to the general elections in April, during which he also severely strangled press freedoms.
Despite enjoying a positive image among much of Africa’s population, China’s involvement in Africa often ignores glaring human rights abuses in order to accomplish political and commercial goals. While this might provide much needed funding for infrastructure in the short term, enabling autocratic regimes to act with impunity will be a detriment to Africans in the long run. For Africa to move past the post-colonial authoritarianism of last century, it needs aid that respects Africa’s right to self-determination, but also does not tolerate human rights abuses and autocracy.

Nalwa- The Ignored Military Genius

Afghanistan has been the grave of great military strategists and generals. Nobody could win this rugged country of proud people- British, USSR, USA all failed miserably. There was one general – one and only one- who could conquer this country and administered it. A great general of Maharaja Ranjit Singh- Hari Singh Nalwa can be reckoned at par, if not superior to, with world famous generals. Around 1881, a debate ensued in English and French papers as to who was the most successful military general in the world. Some names which were much talked about then were Napoleon, Marshal Hindenburg, Lord Kitchener,  or Duke of Wellington. After mention of the generals from European sub continent, Halaku Khan, Changez Khan, Alaudin of Asia were also counted in. But when the mention of S. Hari Singh Nalwa came, the British writer GW Leitner bowed his head in reverence to the most successful army General of the world. For his ability to triumph over Afghanistan where the British rulers had failed despite unlimited resources of manpower and money available to them. If S. Hari Singh had so much resources, he could have conquered Europe and middle east. He was not only a capable General but an administrator of high caliber, a man of very high and noble character, a scholar, a farsighted person endowed with unique quality of self sacrifice. He spent his whole life in the service of the Panth. His love for the Panth is evident from his statement that he made when the time for choosing a worthy successor of Panth.Panth is evident from his statement that he Khalsa Raj came up. He said : “I consider Khalsa Raj as something of trust of Panth Khalsa. Before its reigns are entrusted to any one, the subject demands greater deliberation.”
Battle of Naushehra.
Yaar Mohammad Khan had been appointed as Governor of Peshawar by the Khalsa Darbar. He was the brother of Azim Khan the ruler of Afghanistan. Mohammad Azim Khan was much unhappy at the continued prosperity of Khalsa Raj. So he invaded Peshawar. Yaar Mohammad Khan escaped into the mountains.
Azim Khan occupied Peshawar and prepared himself to face the Khalsa army in the plains of Naushehra. These news reached Lahore Darbar as well. In order to settle the issue with Pathans once for all, the cantonment commanders were instructed to leave just sufficient army to look after the cantonment and mobilise the remainder to participate in the battle. On hearing the order, S. Hari Singh marched with his army to Attock. Prince Sher Singh also reached there and met S. Hari Singh.
They constructed a boat bridge over river Attock. When they learnt that the enemy had taken up defensive position in the field of Jahangira, they launched an attack the next morning. The Pathan army was four times more than the Khalsa army. Prince Sher Singh advanced deep into the hills in hot pursuit of the enemy. He was soon trapped by the Pathans. S. Hari Singh lost no time in breaking the encirclement. Mohammad Zaman Khan seized the opportunity in this chaos. He took some soldiers and cut loose the ropes of the boat bridge. The boats were washed away by the swift current of the river. As a result the route of re-inforcement of the Khalsa army was cut off.
When the Maharaja and Baba Phula Singh Akali reached river Attock at the head of their army, they were surprised to see the bridge washed away and damaged. Hearing the din of battle coming from across the river, in the surge of emotion of love for the nation, Akali Phoola Singh spurred his horse into the waters of river Attock.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh followed him . Before the Khalsa army could join the fray, the battle had already been won. But a bigger battle was yet to take place. Countless Pathans assembled in the battlefield of Naushehra under the flag of Jehad. They were approximately 45,000. Mohammad Azim Khan provided 15,000 men and 30 guns to his brother Dost Mohammad Khan and ordered him to join the Pathan forces at Naushehra. Pathans were now moving like swarm of locust.
So a supplication prayer was made after the singing of Asâ kî Vâr on the morning of 14th March 1823 and Lord’s permission was sought to attack the enemy. Right then an informer conveyed the news that Muhammad Azim Khan has reached the open grounds of Kheshgi with heavy artillery under his command. Hearing this Maharaja Sahib felt that the attack should be delayed for some times when the artillery of Khalsa army would also fetch up.
Baba Phula Singh Akali did not subscribe to the views. Maintaining the sanctity of the supplication made a little while earlier, he marched towards the battlefield with his Jatha and charged at the enemy. By then Khalsa artillery had also arrived. So the Maharaja ordered S. Hari Singh and General Ilaral to head for Kheshgi against Azim Khan. The artillery guns were also placed under their command. Khalsa army snatched away the guns of the Pathans and were used against them. Seeing the precarious position of his force now, Mohammad Azim Khan absconded from the battlefield and headed straight for Kabul. This field fell into the hands of the Khalsa but at the heavy cost of life of Baba Phula Singh Akali. Peshawar was invested. S. Hari Singh was asked to stay there for sometimes to set the administration in order.
This short narrative shows the keen insight that this most capable, but often ignored Indian general possessed into the minds of the enemy, and how he was able to succeed, where others fail. He has been ignored persistently. It is time to recognize his talents.

The Fear of Secession

India is united at the surface, but it does confront movements for secession, as it often has since Independence, and which it treats as an existential threat. There is justification to this posture as its experience in this regard has been very poor: secession is accompanied by civil wars and ethnic cleansing.
There is of course Partition, which resulted in more than a million dead and 15 million displaced, the largest forced migration in history. But more salient from the point of view of the present is its continuing legacy, where bad blood between India and Pakistan seems to get worse rather than improve over time. The two countries have fought four wars and the tenuous ceasefire that held between them over the last decade has been blown away in the last few months.
Pakistan may have broken away from India but it is unable to forget India; its foreign policy continues to be India-obsessed. Its continuing support of terror groups for strategic purposes means that policy, not to put too fine a point to it, boils down to “we’ll go down, but we’ll take India down with us”.
In the developed West, by contrast, it’s conceivable that smaller states break away from larger ones through a process that’s largely peaceful. This is because multiculturalism is the norm in Western societies, and secession needn’t be accompanied by civil wars and ethnic cleansing. If a state splits in two, both the units will be multicultural and capable of picking up normal state-to-state relations in a short while.
Although this hasn’t happened yet there have been many sovereignty movements in the developed West, from Quebec in Canada to Catalonia in Spain, as well as referendums to decide the issue. Following Brexit, a splitting away of Scotland and Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom could be on the cards. Nevertheless, that this hasn’t happened yet suggests multiculturalism is the glue that holds together nation-states in the developed and democratic West.
The United States of America occupies a fairly unique position in this respect. Any breach in that unity hasn’t been thinkable in the 20th century, certainly during its latter half, after the American Civil War more or less settled matters in the 19th.
That, coupled with America’s social heterogeneity and capacity to absorb talented immigrants from across the world – as symbolised by the Statue of Liberty holding up a torch and facing outwards from New York harbour – has contributed to its aura as a superpower through most of the 20th century and into the 21st. Contrast that with another superpower, the Soviet Union, which broke up the moment it ceased to guarantee its integrity through force.
In that context it is novel that following Donald Trump’s triumph in presidential elections secessionist sentiments surfaced in California, calling for Calexit on analogy with Brexit. Let me hasten to clarify, nobody’s suggesting that California is on the verge of seceding from the US. But let’s say US immigration puts a stop to the flow of foreign talent that makes California’s economy tick. In that case the very fact that many Californians will be querying whether it’s worth associating with the US any more bodes ill for the latter, and its future status as a superpower.
Moreover protests have broken out across major American cities on the very first day following the election of Trump, and CEOs of more than 1,100 companies have jointly written to him asking him to unite the United States. This is without precedent.
Trump can ignore such counsel and protests only at his own peril. If he does so it will mean that a Trump presidency, far from making America great, will become a coda to American decline.
To India it is very important that the idea of America survives, because that is conjoined in many ways with the idea of India. BR Ambedkar, the architect of India’s Constitution, spent many of his formative years in America. India may have borrowed many of its forms of parliamentary democracy from Britain, but it derives its idea of a constitutional republic from America. The fact that there is bipartisan support for India among American politicians suggests there is recognition of this affinity at some subconscious level.
Neither is it surprising that some sections of the Hindu right wing, who hate the idea of India, should feel energised by some of Trump’s more unsavoury campaign rhetoric and celebrate his victory. But they should be careful what they wish for. They should know that the backlash against immigrants, when it comes, will not be confined to Muslims alone.
They should also know that if the pluralist idea of India fails, Pakistan wins as it will be able to point to India and say there is no more difference between the two countries. Moreover, secessionist movements in India will gain succour. In which case not just the semblance but even the reality of India will approach Pakistan, as a failing state, much more.
America, of course, is too big to fail. But it faces a decline in its status and credibility as a superpower, and even a contraction of its economy, if it embraces some of the more divisive ideas articulated by Donald Trump in the heat of his election campaign.

Type A Personality Identified

An ideal candidate for heart attack – Type A person. Are you one? Type A person provides sustenance and livelihood to pharmaceutical industry. They are not what Frost referred to when he said, “The brain is a wonderful organ; it starts working the moment you get up in the morning and does not stop until you get into the office.” He certainly wasn’t thinking about Type A people when he said that. They barrel into the office like they’re racing for a pot of gold, and they never seem to lose momentum. It’s as if they’re driven by a motor that never shuts off.
We each have our own understanding of what it means to have a Type A personality, but what does this term really mean and where did it come from? It actually started in a waiting room shared by a pair of cardiologists. The doctors noticed that their chairs didn’t have wear on the backs as expected—the wear was only visible on the front edge of the seats and the armrests, suggesting that patients were literally waiting on the edge of their seats, ready to jump up the second their names were called.
So, the cardiologists—Doctors Friedman and Rosenman—wanted to find out if the strange wear pattern on their chairs was because impatient people are more prone to heart disease. They discovered that their hunch was correct. They also found that people’s personalities tend to lean in one of two directions, which they labeled Type A and Type B.
Most think of Type A people as driven and highly strung and Type B people as carefree and even-keeled, but there’s so much more to it. Type As, in particular, are often misunderstood, as we just don’t understand the motivation behind their behavior.
To fully grasp what it means to be Type A, you need to hear it from the horse’s mouth. Don’t take my word for it—let’s see what they have to say:
We believe that winning is the only option. We’re really hard on ourselves. Our desire to do our best often morphs into a desire to be the best. After all, if someone else does something better than us, then we mustn’t have been trying hard enough, right? This ensures that even the most mundane activities become a competition.
We live and die by our goals. We don’t do anything “just because.” There’s an end aim for everything. That morning cup of coffee? The goal is to wake up. Half an hour of Pokemon Go at lunch? It’s about squeezing in some exercise and capturing more Pokemon than our friend down the hall. Heaven help anyone who slows us down or gets in our way. We’re nothing if we don’t reach our goals.
We’re always stressed. Achieving our goals is so important to us that we often get stressed out about our progress. It’s that specter of wasted time or missed opportunities hanging over our heads that gets us all riled up.
We squeeze something into every possible moment. It may seem hypocritical that we’re sometimes late even though the rest of the time we’re impatiently drumming our fingers, waiting for meetings to start on time. The problem is that we try to squeeze a task into every possible minute, and sometimes we overdo it. In our determination to avoid downtime, we sometimes inadvertently create downtime for other people.
We want you to get to the point. Skip the long preamble; if we have questions, we’ll ask. There’s no need to waste time on the setup when you have something important to tell us—just tell us. The theme here is efficiency; we’re interested in hearing the main points so we can begin taking action.
We hate to wait. We don’t hate being stuck at a red light or cooling our heels in a doctor’s waiting room because we think we’re too good to wait. We just like to be efficient with our time and don’t like things getting in our way. Every minute spent waiting is a minute we could have spent doing something productive. It’s a minute that we’ll never get back.
We’re conscientious. Like “later,” “good enough” isn’t part of our vocabulary. Things are either right or they’re wrong. And they always, always have to be right. No matter what we’re doing, we care too much to settle for mediocrity.
We multitask. We’re not being rude, and we’re not bored. We just have a sense that the value of our day is measured by how much we get done, and we accomplish more when we do two (or more!) things at once.
We have a tough time relaxing. Relaxation isn’t a measurable goal, and it feels like a waste of time when nothing is getting done. It’s very difficult for us to sit around and “just be”; instead, we prefer to be actively “becoming” whatever lies at the end of our current ambition. Anything else amounts to lost time.
We have an unrealistic sense of urgency. From our perspective, “now” is the only time that exists. There’s no sense in putting something off till another time. While that’s often a good thing, we tend to give trivial issues a greater sense of urgency than they deserve.
We follow a schedule. Our time is carefully orchestrated so that each day we accomplish what we intended. Again like “later,” “whenever” isn’t part of our vocabulary. Everything gets scheduled and added to lists, and we take great satisfaction in ticking all the boxes.
We’re restless. Our motors are always running, so when we have to idle, that excess energy manifests in various nervous habits, such as fidgeting or biting our nails. Don’t worry, we’re not freaking out. This is normal behavior for us.
We know that we can be awfully hard on everybody, but we’re even harder on ourselves. This may be difficult to see because no one else is privy to the perfectionist that’s goading or berating our every move inside our heads. Just know this: We care—we care a lot—and we really are sorry if our personality makes us hard to get along with sometimes.

A Forgotten Bandit and a Lesson in India-Pakistan Diplomacy

There is the story of bandit who created a diplomatic scruffle. It became a classic case in conduct of diplomacy. Jagmal Singh was a bandit who caused some India-Pakistan tension in the 1950s. How did Government of India respond?
Whenever terrorists attack India, many Indians expect their government to condemn Pakistan, if not go to war outright. Politicians humour the public with belligerent words but the government’s own response—not to be confused with the Prime Minister’s speech in a poll-bound state—is always more calibrated. That’s the time-honoured way of diplomacy, and it is well illustrated in this 60-year-old true story.
In India, and maybe also in Pakistan, the word bandit brings to mind Gabbar Singh, the villain of Sholay. The only real bandit with instant recall in India was Phoolan Devi, who surrendered, and after some years became a member of Parliament. But long before them another bandit was making headlines.
Jagmal Singh and his gang operated on India’s western border in the 1950s. His reign of terror had started in India’s Rajasthan state in 1953, and soon all the moneyed people in an area of 50–60 square miles had fled to safer places. Jagmal’s gang killed many people, and at times struck more than 100 miles deep on the Indian side, but each time Rajasthan Police failed to catch him.
On December 15, 1957, the deputy inspector general of Rajasthan Police gave a statement to the press, claiming they were helpless against Jagmal because they did not have vehicles to give chase. India was still a very poor country. The more shocking claim was that Pakistan not only sheltered Jagmal but also helped him retreat under cover of police fire from its side.
The government of Rajasthan state also sent a report to Government of India claiming that Pakistan was sheltering this gang.
India had complained to Pakistan about the help Jagmal got every time from police on its side, but when the matter was raised by Indian MP Jaswant Singh in Parliament on December 17, 1957, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru made a distinction between Government of Pakistan and its officials.
“The honourable member has possibly in his mind some local officials at the border or some local police at the border. That is not necessarily the Pakistan government,” he said, and asked the MP: “How is it possible for our government to say whether the Pakistan government is doing this unless they do it openly and publicly?”
Jaswant Singh wanted firm action on the ground — what’s called a ‘surgical strike’ these days — because Jagmal was from his village and the people suffering the most were his constituency. Nehru reminded him: “It is patent, sir, that we cannot enter Pakistan territory in chasing these dacoits or for any other purpose. The only arrangement we can make in their territory is through the Pakistan government.”
Seeing that Jaswant Singh was not satisfied with anything the government said on record, Nehru gave him a brief lesson in diplomacy: “When the answer is in diplomatic language, he should understand what it means. We do not use in matters concerning diplomacy language which is sometimes more precise.”
In other words, it is not always politic for the government to promise or prove a surgical strike.

Feminine Foreign Policy: Need of South Asia

South Asia needs mutual accommodation in solving problems. It needs a feminist foreign policy. Not much distinguishes Indian and Pakistani women from each other. Not much distinguishes Indian and Pakistani women from each other.
Hogen, a Chinese Zen teacher, lived alone in a small temple in the country. One day, four traveling monks appeared and asked if they might make a fire in his yard to warm themselves. While they were building the fire, Hogen heard them arguing about subjectivity and objectivity. He joined them and said: “There is a big stone. Do you consider it to be inside or outside your mind?” One of the monks replied: “From the Buddhist viewpoint everything is an objectification of mind, so I would say that the stone is inside my mind.”
“Your head must feel very heavy,” observed Hogen, “if you are carrying around a stone like that in your mind.” Source: Zen Flesh, Zen Bones
When I was a child, my father, a mid-century embodiment of the news junkie, who was my idol, succeeded in getting me hooked to newspapers and radio broadcasts. Dad would listen to the evening news on All India Radio and I would sit by his side. After the Indian news bulletin was over, he would switch to Radio Pakistan. That was when I discovered the etymology of hostility. Every word in those broadcasts, it seemed to me, was spoken against India, my home, me. To an eight-year-old, this was unfathomable.
And there was Fatima Jinnah. My father told me she was the sister of the founder of Pakistan. To me, she was the Voice. The Voice came on air every night, almost, and delivered what was a constant tirade against India. That hostility seemed to project itself across ether and land right in the small living room where we sat. For me, it was an introduction to the politics of the Subcontinent, to the problem of Kashmir (which seemed to obsess Ms Jinnah) and the tangled, inter-woven histories of both India and Pakistan.
I have retrieved this shard of memory because even to this day, children in both countries are fed a diet of ignorance and propaganda about the other country. Almost 70 years since Partition and independence for both countries, even as the world has changed around us, time has stood still as far as India and Pakistan are concerned. The old players have gone, replaced by new voices, but the crumbling sets are the same, the cobwebs of the past distort vision, the chorus is a broken record, and the detritus of 70 years in our relations accumulates on the stage. From the galleries on both sides, the bellicosity has grown, and there is a götterdämmerung feel about the place. To top it all, both countries are nuclear-capable now, so we tend to be upbeat about our possession of weapons of mass destruction. Having stirred poison, we seem ready to imbibe it.
I often wonder what a feminist foreign policy for South Asia would look like. (In Europe, the Swedes have it; we do not.) Can we not consider a discourse that speaks of matters beyond war and peace (peace in the South Asian subcontinent seems to be associated with white flags, surrender, submission, weakness)? Do we think of a South Asian Commons? Not an arena for mutual jousting where we bait each other in blood sport, but a space for maturity of peaceful purpose, robust civility, and mutual accommodation. We have built towering babels around ourselves, but we have not cleared a way for the Commons.
Not much distinguishes Indian and Pakistani women from each other. We share similar genealogies, and labour under the same masculine patriarchies. We care similarly about our children, our homes, our environments. We are programmed to be peacemakers, each in our own small way and we weep similarly for lives lost. We want literacy, empowerment, liberation from hierarchies that keep us confined in spaces and prevent the full flowering of our talents as capable, gifted, human beings. So why, then, do we women subscribe to the popularly expressed shibboleths about India and Pakistan, the endless litany of retributive give-and-take?
This cannot be a relationship that has nuclear weapons at its core. Neither can it just be about victimhood: Indians as victims of cross-border terror or Pakistanis as victims of perceived Indian arrogance or inflexibility. It is about our future, and whether we wish to sentence ourselves to the nightmare we have made our own because win-win is not a concept we understand. Through it all, there is the festering problem of Kashmir — Kashmir, the incomparable, the Valley that embodies the crucible of our opacity and rigidity (in both India and Pakistan), of sorrow, of alienation.
A feminist foreign policy would embrace the idea of a South Asian Commons; it would speak and act in favour not of ravishing disunities, but of rationalising unities, of merging capacities to build, to develop, to link. It would exercise vetoes to block war, not peace; it would emphasise the right to food, the right to health, the right to knowledge and learning, the right to reject the disconnects, the worn clichés and mental barriers that divide us. It would weigh the interests of humanitarianism against the interests of power with far greater precision and wisdom. It would say no to violence, against all, but particularly crimes against women and children. It would reject the voices of the far right and the far left. It would feel the true pulse of the unknown, the marginalised, the excluded. It would have a people-centred approach (on both sides of the divide across the LoC) to healing the wounds in Kashmir. It would promote business-to-business engagement, building the infrastructure for trade, removing non-tariff barriers, facilitating commerce, understanding the economics of proximity rather than promoting proximity as a peril. Why sacrifice these benefits at the altar of history? Rather, promote these possibilities as assets that can alter the narrative of the past, and realise the prospects of peace that have hitherto been so elusive. That is the killer app that the India-Pakistan relationship must possess today.
Is this an idea for our time? Cynical, public trials conducted in the Indian or Pakistani media do not provide the answer. We need sense and sensibility, not pride and prejudice, in relations between India and Pakistan. Yet another feminine voice of our region, Vijayalakshmi Pandit, once said to a global audience: “Let us sweat in peace, not bleed in war”. Can we, as South Asians, particularly as Indians and Pakistanis, have the courage, the boldness, the foresight to think differently? Learning the art of mutual accommodation in solving the problems that have kept us in this state of hostility and mutual enmity is not a loss of manhood. It may just signal the dawn of a truly feminist region.

Visible but Unnoticed Rise of IS: Wake up South Asia

Just four days back a cataclysmic event took place, and nobody noticed the reality. Monday’s appalling suicide attack on a Shia mosque in the heart of Kabul highlights the bloody, expanding footprint of the militant Islamic State group in Afghanistan. It portends a dangerous future not only for Afghanistan but also for Pakistan and India. The world stands on the edge of precipice, and nobody seems to be bothered. While the Middle East is burning. South Asia is just about to become engulfed in flames. Despite President Ashraf Ghani’s frequent assertions that IS poses no significant threat to the Afghans, the group is spreading its tentacles from Nangarhar province to the nation’s fortified capital and beyond.
Over 30 civilians, including children, were killed and scores wounded in the bombing of the Baqir ul-Uloom mosque in the Darul Aman area — the third devastating assault on the Shia community since July. The two previous strikes had also been claimed by the militant Sunni group, which is intent on striking fear in people’s hearts through large-scale massacres.
IS-perpetrated terror has sparked grave concerns and outrage in the minority sect, which has good reason to criticise the government and its US allies for being unable to prevent a recurrence of terrorist acts against it. Such incidents have contributed to stoking tribal and factional rivalries in a country once known for sectarian harmony. In July, IS bragged about targeting Hazara protesters in Kabul. At least 80 people were killed in the suicide bombing.
The Shia community, constituting 10-15pc of Afghanistan’s population, has long complained of discrimination, killings and kidnappings. Thousands of Hazara people were killed or brutally tortured during the Afghan Taliban’s rule. Both in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Hazaras have been a prime target of the Taliban, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and IS.
IS has shaken Kabul, which can hardly cope with the situation. IS operations in Nangarhar, Kabul, Balkh and Zabul provinces have shaken an administration that can hardly cope with the challenges before it, notably the security situation. Every time the president touts his government’s security gains, both the Taliban and IS return with greater vengeance. And that’s why the presidential assertions are no longer taken seriously by cynical civilians, who have borne the brunt of the violence.
A string of high-casualty attacks are illustrative of a new dimension that IS has added to the conflict in Afghanistan, which has witnessed decades of fighting. However, sectarian strife was never as pronounced as it has become in the past two years. Mounting Shia-Sunni tensions are bound to exacerbate Kabul’s security woes.
Additionally, the latest incident will dramatically corrode confidence in the government’s ability to protect minority lives and properties. Belying official claims that IS has been contained in small pockets in the remote eastern mountains, the group’s stepped-up activities demonstrate its fast-growing presence in Afghanistan, a country that has traditionally been hostile to aliens.
The number of IS fighters in Nangarhar alone is said to range between 2,000 and 4,000, most of them reportedly ex-rebels from Pakistan’s Orakzai Agency and some disgruntled Afghan Taliban. Sustained air strikes and ground offensives by American and Afghan forces notwithstanding, the guerrillas stay entrenched in their strongholds in Achin, Kot, Khogyani and Pachiragam districts, as well as other areas near the Pakistan border.
Armed to the teeth and familiar with the region’s geography, they either relocate to another district or cross the Durand Line to escape a big counter-insurgency push on either side. As leaders of the ruling coalition struggle with internecine rifts, military commanders openly acknowledge the government’s current COIN approach is neither top-down nor bottom-up.
This has led to deepening ethnic divisions and a yawning gap between government and people. Worse still, the terrorists have exploited chinks in the Afghan military strategy. Instead of exploring ways to prevent IS extending its reach into urban areas, the rulers continue tilting at windmills.
Going by the Global Terrorism Index, IS is now the deadliest terror outfit in the world. In 2015, it killed more than 6,000 people, posing a threat to many countries. As part of its ambitious agenda, it seeks to establish a ‘caliphate’ by conquering 67 nations, ie over two billion people. The terrorist outfit regards Shias as those who must be exterminated.
After setting up bases in northern Afghanistan, the movement could try to steal into Central Asia. At the moment, however, it has set its sights on Kunduz, Baghlan and Badakhshan — bordering Tajikistan. For the Central Asian mission, which may not be accomplished anytime soon, it is said to have recruited former members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
The US president-elect can learn from Barack Obama’s faulty timelines for ending America’s longest war in the “graveyard of empires”. Being a shrewd business tycoon, Donald Trump must have an idea of how long US taxpayers can pay for Afghanistan’s security expenditures and fund more than 80pc of its budget. Each one of the 10,000 US soldiers still stationed in Afghanistan costs Washington $4 million annually.

Monopsony Creeping in to Vitiate Labor’s Wages

The labor in most of the developed economies is witnessing the insidious, and persistently creeping in of an onslaught on the right to get wages as you deserve. There is evidence that monopsony is slowly, but surely , becoming the order of the day.  Monopsony is not a word that rolls off the tongue, but it’s increasingly a term that anyone paying attention to the U.S. labor market should understand. Monopsony refers to a market where there is only one buyer, in contrast to the more familiar term monopoly, which refers to a situation where there is only one producer in a market. While it’s very uncommon to see a situation of only one buyer, monopsony is a useful way to understand important trends in the U.S. labor market, such as inequality, declining worker mobility, and the gender wage gap. A new report from the President’s Council of Economic Advisers details the influence of monopsony.
But first, some quick background on the theory of monopsony. In a perfectively competitive labor market, something like monopsony does not happen. Employers and employees are both “price takers,” meaning that their individual actions have no control over the wages employers will pay employees. That wage setting happens through the impersonal collective workings of the labor market. In contrast, in a monopsonic labor market, employers do have the power to set wages and can use this wage-setting power to reduce the wages of workers below what would normally prevail in a perfectly competitive labor market. Of course, an actual monopsonic market where there is only one employer rarely happens, yet monopsony can be a useful basis for understanding how employers in industries where there are few competitors for workers can have wage-setting power over their employees.
How does monopsony happen? The new Council of Economic Advisers report runs through a number of ways that firms could have wage-setting power in the U.S. labor market. The first is that firms in the U.S. economy are becoming more concentrated, giving them more power not only in the markets for the goods and services they provide but also in the markets for the labor they hire. The council’s report also notes that direct collusion by employers and the use of restrictive non-compete agreementscan give employers wage-setting power. The CEA authors also note that “job lock”—induced by employer-provided health insurance—can make workers more reticent to leave a job and therefore give more bargaining power to employers.
What these sources of monopsony power (and others mentioned by the report) have in common is that workers are denied or hindered in the ability to use another job as a bargaining option. That appears to be a major source of the power imbalance—that employers are restricted in finding other jobs. The policy options proffered by the CEA report include policies that would directly increase the bargaining power of workers, such as increasing unionization and a higher minimum wage.
The new report also suggests policies that would help increase the mobility of workers between jobs, such as curbing the use of non-compete agreements so workers can more easily move to new jobs, paid family and medical leave to help workers deal with family responsibilities that often hinder job switching, and reforming land-use regulations to allow for more housing in areas where workers are more in demand. Empowering workers in this way may be an effective way to counteract the creeping influence of monopsony in the U.S. economy.

Today’s Version of Hare, Tortoise And Monkey

Such was the apparent chariness of Chinese leaders about their country’s economic and military resurgence being seen as a threat, that in 2006 they amended the political goal of a “peaceful rise” to “peaceful development”. The militaristic overtones of “rise”, it was felt, were best avoided.
For years China’s persuasive leaders and scholars claimed that daunting internal battles against poverty and inequality made fears of Chinese expansionism over cooked. Under Hu Jintao, China pledged to build a “harmonious society” and made “soft power” a part of national strategy.
Yet less than a decade later, in November 2014, the world held its breath as Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Japan’s Shinzo Abe exchanged one of the frostiest handshakes in recent history in the backdrop of China’s aggressive bid to claim the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands raising the spectre of armed conflict.
Earlier that year, Vietnam erupted in public fury over China’s provocative act of placing an oil rig in disputed waters. If decades of close economic ties with Japan did not deter China’s strong arm conduct, it did not spare a much smaller communist neighbour from its unsubtle power play either.
China is eyeing a lot of maritime real estate. The nine dash line claims so much of the South China Sea that it leaves the Philippines and Vietnam with barely a coastline. Military base building in the Spratly Islands is more evidence that China is a “revisionist” power keen on reviving its “natural” hegemony at the cost of neighbours and by swatting aside inconvenient international laws.
Given China’s instinct to head butt neighbours and rivals, the swifter pace of India’s military and civil infrastructure development along its border with China is neither a “peer to peer” play nor a case of hare versus tortoise as Kai Xue has misleadingly suggested in these columns (“Who’s The Overconfident Hare?”, 18 October). Rather it’s a belated bid to deter China’s persistent attempts to bend the line of actual control in its favour through repeated “incursions”.
China sees itself as a challenger to American dominance. But China needs to consider why the billions of dollars it spends in aid and development do not give it a fraction of the returns Hollywood and Harvard deliver to US. Maybe China’s choice of allies like nuclear blackmailer North Korea and terror junction Pakistan doesn’t exactly inspire confidence of many nations.
Amid global economic uncertainty, Chinese leaders are unbeatable when it comes to economic forecasts. In March 2015 Premier Li Keqiang set a 7% goal for GDP. In October he carefully noted the target is not cast in stone. But his fears proved baseless; China grew at 6.9% in 2015. In March this year, China announced a 6.5%-7% growth target. No prizes for guessing what the GDP will finally be.
The real problem for China may be a lot worse than a communist cell massaging economic data before release by the national bureau of statistics. China is no longer growing at 9% and it is not folding up either. But it might be stalling. Despite his commitment to reforming state enterprises by giving markets a “decisive role”, Xi has been unable to implement required reforms. China may remain stuck in the middle income trap and worse, Chinese people may realise they have been fed opiates.
India’s GDP figures, despite not capturing all relevant data, are more transparent. Its GDP forecasts mirror those of World Bank, IMF and OECD that see a 7.5% growth for 2016, hardly at variance with RBI’s 7.6% prediction for 2016-17. Further, economic statistics are subject to vigorous analysis with a free media ensuring plenty of dissent and discussion.
Future trends see faster growth for India. By 2020, China’s growth is expected to stabilise at around 4.8% while India should tick along at 5.7%. So denying the emerging realities won’t help. Rather a pragmatic assessment should fashion China’s policies. Given their preoccupation with ensuring social and political control, the import of this scenario cannot escape China’s leaders.
China’s great success in improving the health and education standards of its population is matched by subtle but firm political control. While the party has managed to stay out of the way of the daily lives of common citizens, it relies on a permit system (hukou) to regulate rural-urban migration. A secretive central organisation department charts careers of thousands of officials and government-supported NGOs quietly infiltrate the civil society space.
India’s democracy despite its warts and aberrations prevented dictatorships that visited famine and death on millions of Chinese, as during Mao Zedong’s rule. When he set course for China’s rise as a modern nation, Deng Xiaoping advised his colleagues that it might be useful to “hide your strength, bide your time”. He also suggested that the best way to cross a river may be by “feeling the stones underneath”.
China’s elites perhaps believe that it is time to get rid of subterfuges. After all 2016 is not 1978. But 2016 happens to be the year of the monkey, an animal more agile than either a hare or a tortoise and one that might recognise the value of testing the strength of a branch before essaying an injudicious leap.

Onslaught on Free Speech by Canadian Parliament

On October 26, Canada’s parliament unanimously passed an anti-Islamophobia motion, which was the result of a petition initiated by Samer Majzoub, president of the Canadian Muslim Forum. The petition garnered almost 70,000 signatures. According to the text of the petition: “Recently an infinitesimally small number of extremist individuals have conducted terrorist activities while claiming to speak for the religion of Islam. Their actions have been used as a pretext for a notable rise of anti-Muslim sentiments in Canada; and these violent individuals do not reflect in any way the values or the teachings of the religion of Islam. In fact, they misrepresent the religion. We categorically reject all their activities. They in no way represent the religion, the beliefs and the desire of Muslims to co-exist in peace with all peoples of the world. We, the undersigned, Citizens and residents of Canada, call upon the House of Commons to join us in recognizing that extremist individuals do not represent the religion of Islam, and in condemning all forms of Islamophobia”.
While a motion will have no legal effect unless it is passed as a bill, the symbolic effect of the Canadian parliament unanimously condemning “all forms of Islamophobia,” without making the slightest attempt at defining what is meant by “Islamophobia,” can only be described, at best, as alarming.
What exactly are they condemning? Criticism of Islam? Criticism of Muslims? Debating Mohammed? Depicting Mohammed? Discussing whether ISIS is a true manifestation of Islam? Is any Canadian who now writes critically of Islam or disagrees with the petitioners that ISIS “does not reflect in any way the values or the teachings of the religion of Islam” now to be considered an “Islamophobe”?
No one knows, and it is doubtful whether the members of the Canadian parliament know what it means themselves. It would seem, however, that the initiator of the petition, Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Samer Majzoub, knows. This is what he had to say in an interview with the Canadian Muslim Forum after the motion passed:
“Now that Islamophobia has been condemned, this is not the end, but rather the beginning … We need to continue working politically and socially and with the press. They used to doubt the existence of Islamophobia, but now we do not have to worry about that; all blocs and political figures, represented by Canada’s supreme legislative authority, have spoken of that existence. In the offing, we need to get policy makers to do something, especially when it comes to the Liberals, who have shown distinct openness regarding Muslims and all ethnicities… All of us must work hard to maintain our peaceful, social and humanitarian struggle so that condemnation is followed by comprehensive policies.”
Whereas the Canadian parliamentarians seem entirely unaware of what Muslim organizations have in store for them in terms of “comprehensive policies”, it is clear that to the parliamentarians, the motion constitutes “virtue-signaling” at its worst. Whereas the parliamentarians might now feel good about themselves, does their vote mean that those Canadians who dare to criticize Islam and disagree vehemently with the premises of the motion are likely to be considered (even more) beyond the pale of civilized society? Does it mean that only one view is correct and that any view that differs from it will now be, by default, incorrect — if not criminal?
It will almost certainly deter people from speaking up, for fear that they will be labeled “racists” or “Islamophobes” by arbitrarily creating a threatening atmosphere of political correctness, where those who do not adhere to the groupthink are shamed and ostracized. Such strangulation of opinion also cannot be beneficial to any country’s national security. How can anyone warn the authorities about virtually anything if they have to worry first that their warning might be considered “Islamophobic”?
There were, of course, no parallel motions in Canada’s parliament to condemn “Christianophobia” or “Judeophobia,” the latter being much more prevalent than “Islamophobia.” In fact, according to statistics, Jewish Canadians are more than 10 times as likely to be the victim of a hate crime than Muslim Canadians.
It was exactly this kind of toxic, politically correct atmosphere in the United States that enabled Major Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, to gun down 13 people and to wound 29 others in the Fort Hood massacre in 2009. His former classmate, Lt. Col. Val Finnell, told Fox news at the time that, despite Hasan’s suspicious behavior, such as giving a presentation justifying suicide bombings, nothing was done about Hasan to see if he might be a security risk. Instead, he was treated with kid gloves. “The issue here is that there’s a political correctness climate in the military. They don’t want to say anything because it would be considered questioning somebody’s religious belief, or they’re afraid of an equal opportunity lawsuit”, said Lt. Col. Finnell.
In December 2015, a man who had been working in the area where the San Bernardino terrorist Syed Farook lived told CBS Los Angeles that : “he noticed a half-dozen Middle Eastern men in the area in recent weeks, but decided not to report anything since he did not wish to racially profile those people. “We sat around lunch thinking, ‘What were they doing around the neighborhood?'” he said.
The fear of being labeled an “Islamophobe” is real and has had lethal consequences. It is this fear that the Canadian parliament has now elevated into a parliamentary motion, signaling that this sentiment is shared by the highest echelons in the country, those who make the laws.
A democratic parliament presumably should not be cowing its citizens into silence. The term “bullying” comes to mind. Parliamentary bullying and reckless disregard of the freedom of speech should have no place in a society that cares about the values of freedom and national security. Canada has already seen, to its disgrace, attacks on free speech against Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant, among others. Is this the country Canada wishes to become?
The motion is reminiscent of the US House Resolution 569, “Condemning violence, bigotry, and hateful rhetoric towards Muslims in the United States,” which was introduced in the House of Representatives on December 17, 2015. This Resolution is more detailed than the short condemnation of Islamophobia from the Canadian parliament, but the essence of both appears to be the same: Criticism of Islam or of Muslims is wrong and should be condemned, if not outright criminalized.
In condemning “all forms of Islamophobia”, Canada’s parliament has in effect done everything the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) — consisting of 56 Muslim states plus “Palestine” — could wish for. Fighting “Islamophobia” is at the very top of the agenda of this organization, which is headquartered in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The OIC is aggressively promoting the so-called Istanbul Process, which aims to forbid all criticism of Islam and make this ban a part of international law.
Ironically, the Saudi Arabian flag flew on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on November 2, as Canadian public officials met with a so-called “human rights” commission from Saudi Arabia. This commission publicly supported Saudi Arabia’s mass executions in January 2016, in which 47 people were executed by the authorities, saying that they “enforce justice, fulfill … legitimate and legal requirements, and protect the society and its security and stability”. That, apparently, is not problematic in the eyes of Canadian parliamentarians.
As recently as October 24, the General Secretariat of the OIC held a meeting “to review the media strategy for countering Islamophobia”. The meeting was scheduled to “discuss the OIC media strategy and ways to counter Islamophobia in light of the recent developments and hate campaigns in different parts of the world, especially with the increasing number of Muslim refugees in Western countries and the mounting hate discourse in a manner that causes serious concern. The meeting aims to come up with clear and practical mechanisms for a counter-Islamophobia media campaign that highlights the true noble image of Islamic and contributes to halting the ongoing deliberate defamatory campaigns waged in different Western fora”.
The question, naturally, is whether Canada’s motion will be replicated in other parliaments in the West. The OIC is particularly active in Europe, having opened a Permanent Observer Mission to the European Union in 2013. The OIC also recently formed the so-called Contact ‎Group for Muslims in Europe, whose formation was announced at the OIC Istanbul Summit in April 2016, and includes Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Algeria, Egypt, Somalia, Malaysia and Jordan.
The establishment of the OIC Contact Group for Muslims in Europe “aims at ensuring the effective cooperation between the relevant parties, in order to lay out strategies to eliminate hate speech, physical assault, practices of intolerance, prejudice, racial discrimination and Islamophobia, and to support intercultural dialogue and social inclusion.‎ Further, the Group ‎can be a platform through which Muslims from various nationalities can exchange experiences, define best practices, with a view to increase Muslim participation in the political and social life in Europe”.
The EU apparently sees the OIC as a friendly and benevolent organization with shared values. According to the EU’s European External Action service (its diplomatic service, which assists the EU’s foreign affairs chief): “The OIC has undergone important changes during the last decade: it made advances in support of freedom of speech and freedom of religion/belief. It enlarged its cooperation to economic, cultural, development and humanitarian fields.”
Seriously? In what parallel universe can the efforts of the OIC to stifle free speech possibly be considered advancement of freedom of speech and religion?
As the OIC steps up its media campaign and its efforts in Europe, European parliaments are likely to experience initiatives like the petition in Canada. The European Union, for one, looks as if it would be happy to facilitate such a motion.

What Donald Trump Means for Asia

A staggering restructuring of power is coming to this volatile region. On November 8, Donald Trump shocked much of the world by winning the United States presidential election. In a little over two months, a man with little-to-no political experience will take the helm of the world’s mightiest nation. In the wake of this unexpected event, nations around the world are beginning to ask: What does this mean for me?
Characterized as a loose cannon, Donald Trump has left many nations unsure of what his foreign policy will look like. Two policies in particular caught the world’s attention. Throughout his campaign, Mr. Trump repeatedly remarked that it was time for America to stop policing the world. Too much money and blood has been spent, with little gained in return, in his view. Added to that, he made it clear that he would only support America’s allies if they agreed to pay their share. He feels that America should not have to foot the bill for other nations’ security.
As a man who has spent his entire life in business, Mr. Trump’s view of the world seems to be limited to cost and benefit. To “Make America Great Again,” he intends to retreat from the world stage as a means of cutting costs, bring jobs back to America to increase profits, and keep foreign military bases open only if the return is good. However, foreign policy is more than a business transaction.
One region in particular is taking special interest in Trump now that he’s the president-elect: Asia. With many smaller nations in the region depending on America as a deterrent to Chinese expansion, their security hangs on whether Mr. Trump follows through on his campaign promises. Following are just a few of the nations taking note.
Japan
The land of the rising sun has been an integral part of America’s foreign policy. In a desire to curtail Japanese expansionism shown in World War II, America introduced Article 9 into the Japanese Constitution, revoking Japan’s right to a conventional military. Officially, Japan has only a self-defense force with strict limits. America promised to provide military force in the event of a foreign invasion.
Following the Communist takeover of China in 1949, Japan proved to be a strategic buffer for America. From Japan, America could limit China’s expansion throughout Southeast Asia.
In the 70 years since the end of World War II, America has slowly loosened its grip on Japan’s military restrictions, but always recognized its strategic importance in projecting power to the region. With Donald Trump, that could all change.
During the first presidential debate, Mr. Trump singled out Japan as a nation that the U.S. would stop defending if it didn’t pay up: “Just to go down the list, we defend Japan, we defend Germany, we defend South Korea, we defend Saudi Arabia, we defend countries. They do not pay us. But they should be paying us because we are providing tremendous service, and we’re losing a fortune. … We can’t defend Japan, a behemoth, selling us cars by the million[s].”
Comments like these are making many in Japan nervous. Japan is currently locked in a territorial dispute with China over the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands. Should America abandon the region, Japan would be unable to defend itself against China.
But what is more troubling is President-elect Trump’s solution to the situation. Not wanting to leave Japan high and dry, Mr. Trump believes allowing Japan access to nuclear power would be a sufficient deterrent to cover America’s retreat from the nation. In a town hall meeting in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, earlier this year, Mr. Trump commented, “You have so many countries already—China, Pakistan, … Russia— … right now that have [nuclear weapons]. Now, wouldn’t you rather, in a certain sense, have Japan have nuclear weapons when North Korea has nuclear weapons?”
Though the Japanese government followed up Mr. Trump’s remarks by affirming its commitment to never own or make nuclear weapons, these are startling statements. Rather than risk American lives and money, Mr. Trump wants to risk the security of Southeast Asia by turning it into a nuclear powder keg. It’s little wonder that many in Japan are concerned about what a Trump administration will mean for their future. If Mr. Trump were to withdraw America’s presence from the region, it could incite a nuclear arms race.
South Korea
In a similar vein to Japan, South Korea relies heavily on American power and influence in maintaining its security and independence. Having experienced the effects of a Communist-empowered invasion, South Korea is all too aware of what would happen should Mr. Trump decide it’s no longer worth investing America’s military there.
Already South Korea faces the threat of an American exit if it doesn’t increase its share of the bill for the American military presence. Next year, the cost-sharing agreement on maintaining military bases is up for renegotiation. In 2014, South Korea paid $850 million for base maintenance, according to its budget. However, according to Mr. Trump’s foreign-policy adviser Pete Hoesktra, this may not be enough: “The threats that they face—if they’re not willing to pay for it or if they just go into it saying, ‘We don’t have to worry about it, the United States is going to pay for it,’ that is not a healthy relationship.”
Following his election, Mr. Trump did call South Korea’s president to affirm his commitment to protect the nation. However, this did not stop the president from calling an emergency meeting with her national security council to plan for what the future may be without the United States there to protect them.
If America did retreat, South Korea would have to secure its own nuclear weapons. Already, “some members of the South Korean parliament have suggested that the country has little choice but to consider nuclear armament if U.S. forces are withdrawn,” according to Reuters. Arming South Korea with nuclear weapons, right next door to an already unstable and nuclear-armed North Korea, could lead the entire region into nuclear war.
Another troubling implication of an American retreat from the nation is the security concern to America itself. Currently America and South Korea have an agreement to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense antimissile system in the nation to counter missile threats from North Korea. While the system has not yet been deployed, it would prove an added layer of defense against North Korea. Should North Korea ever decide to launch a nuclear missile at the United States, it could be shot out of the sky long before it got near American soil. However, if the United States pulls out of South Korea, it loses a powerful defense against such attacks.
The Philippines
Since the election of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte earlier this year, relations between the U.S. and the Philippines have eroded. The newly elected president has repeatedly railed against America and openly cursed President Barack Obama.
In the past few months, the Philippine president has made repeated moves to end dependence on American power. He announced that the joint military exercise between the Philippines and the U.S. in October was the last one between the two countries; he canceled an arms deal with the U.S.; and he announced that he wants all U.S. troops out of his country in two years. He has voiced his desire to instead strengthen and improve relations with China and Russia.
After Mr. Trump’s election victory, President Duterte was quick to congratulate Mr. Trump. Many have said the two men are very similar, but that won’t stop Duterte’s pivot to China. Bloomberg reported last week that “at an early morning briefing in Davao, Duterte said that while the U.S. would remain a friend and ally, the Philippines’ foreign policy was now geared toward China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.”
Despite Mr. Trump’s victory, the Philippines is already on a trajectory away from the United States. It has already committed to strengthening its relationship with China, much to America’s chagrin.
Russia
Trump’s election elated Russia’s parliament and President Vladimir Putin. When the election results were broadcast, the State Duma reportedly broke out into applause, and President Putin sent Mr. Trump a congratulatory telegram.
The Kremlin announced shortly after the election victory that Mr. Putin hoped “to work together for removing Russian-American relations from their crisis state.” Examining what Mr. Trump has said about Russia, makes it clear why Russia would celebrate his victory.
While campaigning for the presidency, Mr. Trump made numerous statements supporting Russian actions in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. On multiple occasions, he expressed his desire to lessen the U.S. commitment to NATO. Russia has viewed NATO as the restraining force that has stifled its ambitions in Eastern Europe. American cutbacks could effectively cripple NATO. Trump also stated that he would consider lifting sanctions on Russia in connection to its annexation of Crimea and recognize the area as Russian territory. This would make him the first Western leader to recognize that territory and legitimize the Kremlin’s conquest of Ukraine.
All these moves would embolden and empower Russia, seriously tipping the balance of power in its favor in Europe and the Middle East. The probability of such empowerment is making those in Europe nervous and has its own serious implications for the world.
China
As a businessman, Donald Trump focused much of his attacks on China during the campaign season. In his “Seven Point Plan to Rebuild the American Economy,” he states his plan to “use every lawful presidential power to remedy trade disputes if China does not stop its illegal activities, including its theft of American trade secrets.” Many commentators are warning that if he does implement his trade policies toward China, it could lead to an all-out trade war.
Already this rhetoric has caught the attention of the Chinese government. President Xi Jinping told Mr. Trump in a phone call earlier this week that cooperation was the only choice for the world’s two largest economies.
China has already begun pushing back at Mr. Trump’s trade plan. As Reuters reported, a nationalist tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party called the Global Times said if Trump imposed tariffs on China, there would be consequences: “When the time comes, large orders for Boeing planes would switch to Europe, U.S. auto sales in China would face setbacks, Apple phones would essentially be crowded out, and U.S. soybeans and corn would be eradicated from China.”
While it remains to be seen what Mr. Trump will do when he takes office, the Chinese are not taking his statements lightly. A clash between the world’s two largest economies would send ripples throughout the entire global economy.
What’s Next?
Right now, the world is waiting—waiting to see how much of Mr. Trump’s campaign promises will be implemented. Any number of those policies could change the balance of power in Asia and the world. The possibilities are dire.
America’s Asian allies face abandonment. Nations like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines and others rely on the U.S. for protection. Without that protection, they cannot stand up to an increasingly belligerent China. America would also lose its ability to control Chinese expansionism in the region.
America’s Asian enemies face empowerment and legitimization. Russia is poised to receive sanctions relief and international recognition for its actions in Ukraine. It also stands to gain from a weakened NATO. China is preparing to take control of the entire South China Sea if America pulls out. Already it is pushing hard to gain control of this crucial region through its island-building policy. Without an American presence, China could gain a stranglehold on trillions of dollars of trade through that region.
While it does not yet appear what Mr. Trump will do, a major reshaping of power in Asia was coming. At the head of this alliance will be Russia and China, but there are many smaller nations in Asia that will join as well. Could Donald Trump’s policies of disengagement from the region lead to this reshaping? It is important to watch events in this crucial region of the world.Events soon to happen in Asia will have a devastating effect on the entire world. The free materials offered above will give you valuable insight into what the Bible says will happen shortly. But in the end, there is great hope for America, Asia and the world. All these events are leading directly to the greatest event in the history of mankind: the return of Jesus Christ to rule in righteousness over the entire world.

The curious case of China’s remarkably consistent economic growth

China’s economy has managed a curiously singular feat for any country: Growing a steady rate of 6.7 percent for the third quarter in a row. “It’s definitely unusual in an international context,” noted Julian Evans-Pritchard, a China economist at Capital Economics on Wednesday. “There are almost no countries that have such stable GDP growth rates.”
The GDP trifecta is the first since at least 1992 when Reuters began compiling data. “It suggests quite significant smoothing of the data behind the scenes. Even by Chinese standards, this is quite rare,” Evans-Pritchard said.
China’s economic data routinely face market scepticism over accuracy, so it’s not terribly surprising that the release on Wednesday of gross domestic product (GDP) data showing the third quarter’s economic growth kept an even keel for a third quarter – in line with forecasts and smack in the middle of the government’s 6.5-7.0 percent target range – would also spur scrutiny.
Evans-Pritchard noted that the steady reports likely reflected that growth this year has stabilized somewhat in the world’s second-largest economy. He noted that the slowdown earlier this year likely wasn’t fully reflected in the official figures.
“There’s incentive for the statistics bureau to take advantage of [the underlying recovery] to bring the official figures closer in line with reality,” he said. “It’s a question of reversing the previous distortions.”Evans-Pritchard wasn’t alone in noting the stability of China’s data.
“In China, these numbers don’t tend to bounce around a lot. They tend to be remarkably smooth,” said Louis Kuijs, head of Asia economics at Oxford Economics. “The authorities feel so strongly about the GDP numbers that the whole government apparatus are always doing everything they can, especially in terms of policies and stimulating growth to make sure that the activity numbers, the economic growth numbers are pretty close to what it’s targeting.”
Kuijs said he viewed the focus on meeting the 6.5-7.0 percent economic growth target as a setback. He noted that last year, high-level policymakers had indicated that it would be acceptable to miss growth targets, but then late in 2015, the government returned to a rigid interpretation. “Many economists find that unfortunate,” Kuijs said. “If you have organic growth in your economy of around 5.5 percent in a context of a pretty subdued global economy, if you continue to insist of 6.5 percent growth, that means you have to rely on rapid credit growth and other macro-economic stimulus to achieve it.”
China’s economy has been expected to slow as the mainland transitions from manufacturing-led growth toward consumption. Concerns have persisted over the mainland economy’s health, as private-sector debt has surged even as the amount of growth from additional debt has declined

1914 Revisited: Open World Order Coming Apart

The age of globalisation generated great prosperity. As the flow of goods, money and people across borders surged, millions benefited. But the elite gained the most. And as inequality rose, it stirred pockets of fierce resentment among those left behind. When the great shock came, the discontented turned to nationalist firebrands, who promised to impose controls on free trade, global banks and immigrants. Globalisation stalled. A new age of deglobalisation hit full stride.
That great shock came in 1914, with the outbreak of World War I, and it ended an extraordinary four-decade period of rising migration and trade. But that era provides clear parallels to the globalisation boom that gained momentum in the 1980s and stalled during the financial crisis of 2008. Today globalisation is once again in retreat. Populists are on the march, as evidenced by Donald J. Trump’s stunning victory last week. They have already won control of the government in Britain and gained momentum in Italy, France and Germany.
It is not clear how Trump, who has called for protectionist measures and tighter borders, will govern. But it is clear that the open world order is breaking apart. The new age of deglobalisation is on, and it is likely to last.
National economies move from boom to bust in cycles that last a few years, but globalisation is different. At least since Genghis Khan secured travel along the Silk Road, the flow of goods, money and people across borders has advanced and retreated in decades-long waves. The retreat that began in 1914 continued for three decades, weakening the world economy and feeding the resentments that erupted into World War II. The retreat that began in 2008 is still gaining strength, and it is time to recognise the likely fallout, which is slower growth, higher inflation and rising conflict.
The parallels between the two booms are striking. The recent advance of globalisation was driven by changing technology – including container ships and the internet – and new rules that opened the world’s most populous country, China, to commerce. Before 1914, steamships and the “Victorian internet,” the telegraph, as well as novel rules that opened the 19th century’s largest economy, Britain, to imports, drove globalisation. By the eve of World War I, the world was in some ways as connected as now. Measured as a share of the population, immigration to the United States was three times greater in 1914 than any time since.
The social tensions generated by rapid globalisation in the early 20th century also ring familiar. The share of income going to the richest 1% of Americans rose steadily from 1870 to a peak of nearly 20% in the late 1920s, as global commerce created a “gilded age” plutocracy. Popular resentment spread, and politicians began working to seal the borders, particularly after 1929, when the economy crashed into the Great Depression.
America turned inward. Congress passed the sweeping Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act in 1930, prompting a global trade war. Measured as a share of the world economy, trade peaked at 30% in 1914, and fell to a low of 10% in 1933. That year, Congress passed the Glass-Steagall Act, which barred big banks from the investment business. The movement of money from country to country slowed to a trickle in the 1930s and 1940s.
The United States also virtually shut down immigration in the early 1930s, when the influx of people declined to a few tens of thousands, down from more than a million annually before 1914. As many as one million Mexicans went home in this period, with 80,000 deported by the federal authorities and many more scared off.
Closing the borders reduced competition and commerce, prolonging the Depression. In the United States, populists were fringe figures promising to “share the wealth” and chanting, “America First.” But in Europe and Asia, they took power as the militarist autocracies that started World War II.
After the Axis powers were defeated and the victorious democracies began rebuilding an open world order, it took decades for the flow of trade, money and people to regain momentum. Global trade did not recover to its 1914 peak until the 1970s, and capital mobility – the scale and ease of money flows – did not recover until the 1990s. Once these flows gained speed, however, they thundered along right up to the financial crisis.
Today, 2008 looks to be as clear a turning point as 1914. With global demand weak, and many nations erecting import barriers, trade is slumping. Measured as a share of global gross domestic product, trade doubled from 30% in 1973 to a high of 60% in 2008. But it faltered during the crisis and has since dropped to 55%.
The flow of capital – mainly bank loans – is retreating even faster. Frozen by the financial crisis and squeezed afterward by new regulations, capital flows have since slumped to just under 2% of GDP from a peak of 16% in 2007.
The flow of people is slowing, too. Despite the flood of refugees into Europe, net migration from poor to rich countries decreased to 12 million between 2011 and 2015, down by four million from the previous five years. Between 2009 and 2014, the number of Mexicans leaving the United States outnumbered new arrivals by 140,000, and that was before Trump’s first anti-Mexican tirades.
In an echo of the 1930s, the slowing of trade, global investment and migration are further weakening the global economy. There are many reasons to expect that this new age of deglobalisation will last, as the postwar order is under assault from both popular autocrats in emerging powers like Russia and China, and populist candidates in Western democracies.
The recent trade boom was fuelled by relatively simple deals that cut import tariffs. But trade deals have become more complex, and now take much longer to complete. At the same time, the world’s major economies have imposed hundreds of protectionist measures since 2008, led by India, Russia, China and the United States. And once such protectionist walls spring up around one industry, they tend to grow and spread to other industries.
Changes in China’s economy will further slow trade. When China opened up in the 1980s, its vast population turbocharged global trade almost overnight. Nations all over the world prospered by supplying raw materials and parts to plants in China, and later in countries like Poland and Mexico. Before 2008, much of the global trade boom involved intermediate goods travelling within these supply chains. But this trend has reversed. Supply chains are contracting, particularly as China moves to make its economy less dependent on trade, and its factories learn to make more parts at home.
Recently, the International Monetary Fund and other institutional bulwarks of the postwar order have mounted a defense of globalisation. They point to research blaming automation and other forces unrelated to globalisation for middle-class job losses. But the technocrats are missing the political reality: The tide has turned against immigrants and trade. It is time to recognise the implications of deglobalisation.
During and between the two world wars, the anti-global agenda reduced competition and worsened weak economic growth with rising inflation. Today, populists are again calling for protecting domestic industry and sharing wealth, which could have the same impact.
Redistributing wealth within nations could have the salutary effect of narrowing the income gap between individuals. But more protection could widen the wealth gap between nations. Since World War II, few nations have escaped poverty without a huge lift from exports, and rising trade barriers will make it harder for developing countries to do that. The economic advantage is shifting from export-driven economies, such as South Korea and Taiwan, to those that rely on large domestic markets, such as India and Indonesia.
More worrisome is the geopolitical fallout from closing borders. As the open global order has faltered since 2008, the number of democracies has stagnated. More than 100 of the countries tracked by Freedom House have shown a decline in freedom since then (some 60 saw gains), as democracies have grown more xenophobic and autocracies more repressive. At a time when approval ratings are plunging for political leaders worldwide, a combative few are maintaining their popularity by playing the nationalism card, including in Russia and in China.
These governments are increasingly willing to close borders and to project military power. Though hardly global threats on a par with the Axis powers before World War II, they pose challenges on three main fronts, with China pushing into the South China Sea, Russia testing Europe’s borders and Iran’s proxies spreading across the “Shiite crescent” in the Middle East. Regions facing these newly adventurous powers are racked with tension, made worse by perceptions that the United States has been in retreat since 2008. While global military spending was flat worldwide for much of the last decade, it is up 75% in East Asia, 90% in Eastern Europe and 97% in Saudi Arabia.
World War I shattered the hope that an increasingly interconnected world would render armed conflict between nations obsolete. Similar hopes surfaced in recent decades. But the connections are fraying, tensions are spreading and my-nation-first populism is gaining, including in the United States. During the campaign, Trump called for toughening border security, renegotiating or blocking major trade deals, and cutting support for allies the United States has backed since 1945.
Mr. Trump may not follow through on all these proposals, but his direction is clear. The global movement of goods, money and people is likely to continue slowing. The lesson of the past is that just as night follows day, deglobalisation follows globalisation – and can last just as long.

Our Foreseeable Future

Fifty years ago, a dogged anti-colonial thinker by the name of Aimé Césaire wrote that individuals like Hitler were not aberrations but in fact products of the very bourgeois ‘civilisation’ that decries such ‘outsiders’. Césaire’s warnings of a dark future are now a reality. Do we still have time to avert a decline into barbarism?
Following the previously unthinkable victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential election everyone is trying to explain how and why he won, as if a right-wing demagogue taking power in a ‘democracy’ is an anomaly. On the contrary, individuals like Trump have spearheaded populist movements in the past, and will continue to do so long as the dominant political-economic order remains intact.
Trump’s success was based on the fact that he branded himself an ‘outsider’, untainted by the sins of Washington’s establishment. He managed to sustain this image — largely due to the media’s penchant for sensationalism — despite the fact that he is amongst the richest men in America, and has for decades been one of the faces of the very exclusionary political-economic order that he claims to stand against.
The fundamental contradiction between what Trump claims to be and what he is in practice finds a parallel in many right-wing populists all over the Euro-American world, most of whom are also genuine contenders for political power in societies that are now realising that the mythical ‘global village’ that everyone was celebrating not so long ago is not all that it was made out to be.
The rise of right-wing populism confirms that the growing disaffection within Western societies vis-à-vis ‘globalisation’ is not based on solidarity with the losers of the system but instead with a concern for how its winners are also feeling some of the pinch of global capitalism’s current travails. In the US, Europe and Australia, white-majority populations are taking aim at non-white immigrants who work more hours for less money, even though increased labour flows from poor to rich regions are only just a symptom of the problem rather than its actual cause.
We exist in a stupor of mindless consumption. As the Bernie Sanders example illustrates, those on the left who are actually willing and able to call the system what it is are considered much more of a threat than ‘outsiders’ like Trump and therefore kept on the fringes of the intellectual and political mainstream. A handful of left challengers to the status quo have made it into government in some Western countries, only to find that they simply cannot bridge the gap between popular expectations and the imperatives of the system — Syriza in Greece being the most recent and notable example.
The situation in the non-Western world is as bad, if not worse. The Latin American ‘new left’ that was riding high until recently is also suffering from the vagaries of globalisation — while the fruits of the Morales and Chavez regimes in Bolivia and Venezuela have accrued to the historically oppressed segments of those countries’ populations, the overreliance on oil and gas in the developmental project has been exposed with the decline of petroleum prices in global commodity markets.
Asia and Africa can boast of no left-oriented regimes of note, with Nepal’s unified communist government struggling to contain internal discord, let alone cope with globalisation. The examples of China and Vietnam — where communist parties remain in power — demand more than just a cursory mention, but suffice it to say here that even though growth remains impressive, inequalities are rising whilst environmental degradation is fast emerging as a serious concern.
When one thinks of where the world is headed on the basis of where we stand at present, it is hard to look beyond the question of ecology. The bursting of the ‘globalisation’ bubble has confirmed that development under capitalism is always uneven, but it is now also painfully clear that capitalist development is unsustainable for humankind in the long run. Yet, as with every other major question in the contemporary era, ecology is paid little more than lip service, not to speak of the fundamental reordering of production and consumption patterns necessary to make the earth habitable for future generations.
In fact, the thick smog that descended upon the plains of Punjab earlier this month made clear that the earth is uninhabitable even now — even if such episodes are still sporadic.
Arguably, the most defining feature of the modern era has been humankind’s conviction that it has acquired a certain level of ‘rationality’ that both equips it to tame the natural environment and meet basic human needs and feed its recreational urges. Unsurprising­­ly, philosophical scepticism about this ‘rationality’ has heightened over the past few decades. Yet, on the whole, we exist in a stupor of mindless consumption, unwilling to defend basic freedoms and think critically about our world and its future in the face of state and corporate power (and bogeymen like ‘terrorism’).

From ‘Yes, we can’ to ‘Abki baar’( This time)

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), who is known to have loved Macbeth, wrote in an 1863 letter to Shakespearean actor James Hackett (1800-1871), “I think nothing equals Macbeth. It is wonderful.” Today, as his Republican Party appears at the crossroads, his countrymen will need to reconcile to the famous lines from the play: Fair is foul, and foul is fair.
A week after America elected its new leader, a tweet from NY Times columnist and co-author of ‘Half the Sky’, Nicholas Kristof, on Wednesday morning, pretty much summed up the mood one was in as Hillary Clinton was losing to Donald Trump despite winning the popular votes.
“My job is not to applaud elected leaders, but to stand up for what I believe in. We comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” He got an unwanted reply though.
In decades, Trump appeared the most uninspiring leader of the greatest power on the earth ever, at least in his winning moment – a big change from Barack Obama’s “yes, we can” to “abki baar”; from a family man Obama to a serial “offender”, you have come a long way, America. Even as Obama’s Nobel Prize will remain a joke, he has been called “a man of integrity, dignity, and generous spirit” by The New Yorker that describes Trump victory as An American Tragedy. George W. Bush, even in his second stint, had one thing going for him – the War on Terror had made him a world leader. While the towering Republican Abrahm Lincoln led the United States through its Civil War, abolished slavery and strengthened the federal government, Trump has divided America like never before. One wonders if this is the same GoP, or the same US people across the world look up to.
The ‘ Abki baar’ chant
Here in India, where some Trump supporters see his victory as the reassertion of ‘abki baar’ chants of 2014, they may have missed the point. Whereas Indian PM Narendra Modi starts tightening screws on black money by banning notes (though panic has set in everywhere, with death toll, directly or indirectly, touching 33 by Nov 16, according to the Indian Express), Donald Trump is an alleged tax evader. His much trumpeted ad campaign “abki baar Trump sarkar” should not make sense here as India bans notes. While Modi engages in ek teer se do shikaar (killing two birds with one stone) – terrorism and corruption – Trump can boast to Howard Stern of several victims. Moreover, he is the same candidate who had cried rigged polls in the run-up to the voting, with no faith in democratic practices. In victory, he has fallen silent. Here in India, Modi may have gone on to assure us of a “good rapport” with Trump, the American President-elect is a far cry from the Indian PM, who has now called for state funding of polls elections to improve transparency in public life.
So, it would be naive to use the “abki baar Trump sarkar”slogan to validate his claims about all that is wrong with this man. Modi and Trump cannot be equated by any stretch of imagination. It seems his vulgar comments and obnoxious past mean nothing to American voters. America has given us a new leader – The times they are a-changin’. See the irony, this year, the Nobel-winning writer of the lyrics remained elusive for quite some time.
The controversial President-elect
It would be fitting to mention why CNN journalist and author Fareed Zakaria was not wrong when he said Trump is a scam artist. Trump has been embroiled in racial housing discrimination, Trump University row, tenant intimidation, breaking casino rules, Polish workers scandal, buying books and Cuban embargo controversies (according to a TOI report). If this is not enough, 72 times he has been sued in federal court since 2000 and 1300 times he and his companies have either sued/been sued since 2000.
Hillary’s loss
Americans may have gambled a lot, but no game is interesting without some edge-of-the-seat suspense. And a win is a win is a win – for them at least. But in his White House days, President Trump will have to change the way candidate Trump conducted himself.
Hillary’s qualifications – from Wellesley and Yale – will be of academic interest only, nothing much. Emails may have done her in and the legacy of the “bad boy” Bill Clinton, apart from Benghazi debacle and fund-raising row.
Americans may have lost something, Hillary and you, the Seat of Power. But you will remain a source of motivation for millions of women and men across the world. You are the winner. Here in India, we choose scamsters and gangsters again and again, there in the US, they defeat candidates like you, whose alleged crimes may or may not stand in the court of law. When FBI director James Comey acquitted her in the email case, he said: Mrs Clinton’s use of a private internet server instead of an official e-mail was “careless” but did not warrant an indictment.
“Hillary Clinton was a flawed candidate but a resilient, intelligent, and competent leader, who never overcame her image among millions of voters as untrustworthy and entitled,” The New Yorker writes.
Trump rules the empire
President-elect Donald Trump has indicated he might dismiss the FBI Director after taking office in January. You heard it right. Trump dynasty is already looking like UP politics. Want more proofs? According to IBTimes, “President-elect Donald Trump reportedly wants his oldest children to have top secret security clearances even though nepotism rules prevent them from being hired to work in the White House.”
Where we go from here
As per reports, Modi has said there was no reason to apprehend any dramatic change in bilateral relations, adding, Republicans “on the whole have been friendlier to India”. However, with Trump, you can never be sure as to how India-US relations pan out. Trump, in his comments ranging from “banning Muslims to jailing opponents if elected to blame foreigners for economic hardships”, has already shown the glimpse of what he can become. No wonder, Zakaria calls him “a cancer on American democracy”.
Kamala & Angela – New hope
Hopes spring eternal. Even as Clinton failed to break the glass ceiling, the US has started talking about the first woman president, with India-origin Kamala Harris, who won the California Senate seat, has denounced Trumpism and launched a nationwide campaign against his anti-immigrant policies and mass deportation. The US media thinks she could become the first woman president.
While his challenges are manifold, in Trump’s triumph America seems to have lost a world leader. Amid protests across the US, an online petition asking the Electoral College to elect Hillary Clinton instead of Donald Trump for president of the United States had amassed over 4.3 million signatures till Nov 12, while the focus has now shifted from Trump as the world leader to his German counterpart Angela Merkel.
In the teeth of Trump’s “contrary policies on migration, climate change and sanctions targeting Russia”, Merkel is seen a ray of hope. Merkel, who let in nearly 900,000 people last year – a stance that Trump branded “insane”, according to the AFP – is seen as the harbinger of new hope. The question is if Merkel will run for the fourth term and become the European flag bearer amid a weakened America in the wake of the US retreat as “world police” under Obama and Trump’s possible reconsideration for protection for NATO allies. The other, more important point is Germany is not even a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Hence, her role as next power centre looks limited, as of now.
Cometh the man
All said and done, Trump, whom a premier weekly calls “the demolition man”, has no doubt defied the status quo and poll pundits and is largely expected to give what is due to his countrymen: the American way of life. That is why, @BhaskarGogoi told @NickKristof: For 1 yr you thrashed Trump but now he is President. You failed to read the mood of the nation. Accept your failure and rest.
Over to the new victor: Salute the rising sun. In India, we call it: Ugte sooraj ko salaam karo.

Weekend Special: The Quintessential Peacemaker Rumi

One of the world’s most celebrated poets, storytellers, and mystics, with a universal appeal in his message, is Mawlana Jalal al-Din Mohammad Rumi (1207-1273). Indeed, he is like a diamond among the Muslim thinkers that dazzles — a jewel in the crown of Muslim civilisation. Acknowledging his greatness, Unesco dedicated 2007 as the ‘Year of Rumi’.
Rumi is well known not only in the Muslim world but in many other societies as well. William Dalrymple, in a Guardian article on Nov 4, 2005 says, “It seems almost unbelievable in the world of 9/11, Bin Laden and the Clash of Civilisations, but the bestselling poet in the US in the 1990s was not any of the giants of American letters — Robert Frost, Robert Lowell ….; nor was it Shakespeare or Homer or Dante or any European poet. Instead, remarkably, it was a classically trained Muslim cleric [Rumi].”
Great scholars like A. Schimmel, R.A. Nicholson, A.J. Arberry, to name a few, have devoted substantial time studying Rumi. In Muslim societies, he has been highly regarded as a Sufi, and his Mathnavi is termed as the “Quran in Pahlavi language”, due to its teachings based on the Holy Book.
Rumi implies that human experiences create multiple perspectives.
Rumi promoted many significant concepts, but the one I wish to focus on is peacemaking. He promotes peace by reconciling contradictory, paradoxical riddles caused by the diversity of human experience through simple stories. Take, for example, his story of the elephant and blindfolded strangers experiencing the elephant in a dark room. The people end up debating among themselves whose knowledge is accurate as to what kind of an animal it is. When they are shown the entire animal by lighting the room with a candle, they feel flabbergasted to see the actual animal as compared to what they had felt in the absence of light.
Rumi implies by the story that human experiences create multiple perspectives that often lead to debates about the truth, and what we need to do is to share our interpretations and learn from, rather than fight with, each other. In one of his Mathnavi verses, he says, “Do not take a single step towards separating people from each other; as the Prophet (PBUH) has said the most unwanted thing to me is the separation (talaq)”, thus giving a strong message of unity. Similarly, in another verse, Rumi says/: “[O human beings], you have been commanded to unite, not to divide, people.”
Rumi draws arguments for diversity of forms by appealing to human nature. Referring to diversity of languages in which God is worshipped, he says: “God’s praise is in many forms; for a person living in Hind, his language of praise is Hindi, and for the same reason, a person living in Sindh, will use Sindhi [language] to praise God.” His story of Hazrat Musa and the shepherd further supports this argument.
He alludes to the diversity of human conditions in which we practice certain things, which may, in appearance, look awkward, but, at a deeper level, are reconcilable. In another verse, he further extends this thought by saying, “God looks not at just the outer (biroon) condition and words spoken (qaal) by those who worship; but their inner condition (daroon) and state (haal) of their existence with which they pray”.
In times of the dialogue of civilisations today, Rumi provides firmer grounds, and powerful language for meaningful engagement. He demonstrates by examples the rootedness of the human experience in sociocultural contexts while admitting the essential unity of human oneness. He does not base his message of peacemaking on mere superficial grounds of ‘tolerance’ but on much deeper grounds of human nature and diversity of experience. He demonstrates the dictum “we see things, people, events and phenomena, not as they are, but as we are!”
G. Hofstede, a researcher, calls culture the “software of the mind” which filters all information that our brain accesses, in terms of our own cultural norms. Seeing the ‘other’ in an objective manner becomes very, very difficult, if not impossible. Rumi tries to sensitise us to this position of the ‘other’, advising us to be humble and not arrogant.
Rumi’s approach is so inclusive that people of many backgrounds — Muslim or otherwise — find relevance in his thoughts. The latter promote peace and connectedness. He abhors dividing people based on differing interpretations of life.
In sum, Rumi’s humanistic and inspiring thoughts promote brotherhood and peace among the entire human fraternity by showing reconciliation between apparent contradictions and inner harmony. He urges us not to just observe only external appearances and forms and pass judgements, but also to reflect on the diversity of human experience in different cultural contexts. For building peace on sound ideas, such rich thoughts may be the guiding principles for inter-communal and civilisational dialogues and harmony.

Indians Need a CARD-Civility, Acceptance, Respect, Discipline

My friends in India are worked up with me.The more I write about the woes I see here the more they are put off with me. It is as if my being quite will abate the misery. Something similar to ‘out of sight, out of mind!’
It is alright if the poverty struck Indians, the ones who make the ugly underbelly, are killed for less than a dime. Their lives have anyhow been worthless for centuries. Yet, I should look away!
It is alright if the ‘Dalits’- the lower class people, men, and women alike, are beaten black and blue by the ‘Gow-Rakshakhas’ – the cow vigilantes in the name of safeguarding the religion. This is when the same Dalits are expected to carry out this work for centuries and are still expected to do the same on the sly. Yet, I should stay silent.
It is alright if people get caught in never ending jams, have their homes flooded whenever the nearby ‘nala’ or ‘pond’ runs over, have property and lives destroyed by calamities aggravated by human folly. Yet, I should ignore.
It is alright to accept rape, superstitions, pollution, garbage, breakdowns, bans, ‘bandhs’, all as a part and parcel of a package called India and move on in life.
After all, if I cannot change it, I have no right to comment.
Right! Wrong.
Guess what. My Indian roots cringe when I am expected to be silent.
I know that I alone cannot change it but ‘We’ can. We must!
So this time, I will not focus on what is wrong but how to set it right.
Of course, there are issues which could be settled at a macro level but require a tough political and public will. Be it with regards to more stringent traffic rules and segregation of slow and fast moving traffic. Be it with regards to removing the religion or even surname from all job and academic applications. Be it with regards to ensuring more stringent rules and controls to ebb corruption and allow the black money to flow back into the economy and not just pile up with the corrupt and the rich.
These are issues which Indians love to discuss over a cup of tea or after the second drink to browbeat the respective governments of the day knowing fully well that nothing will change as it is difficult to reach a consensus in India. These are issues which I would, therefore, leave for you to gossip over in your next party with good ol’ friends and get high on!
Let us rather talk about what we can do at our level for which we do not need anyone else to intervene. That which you and I can enable!
Let us make a simple wish ‘CARD’. A ‘CARD’ made of Civility, Acceptance, Respect and Discipline.
Civility – Can we please remove our X-Ray stares from the breasts or faces of the women we see on streets and stop behaving as sexual predators? Can we please wait for others to step out before we enter an elevator, bus or train? Can we hold the door for the next person behind us? Can we bow and wish the person standing beside us and recognize his existence?
Acceptance – Can we really accept that not everyone can be same and others may have differing views, religion or even sexual preferences? Can we accept that if there are White people in the world whom we envy, then God has also made Blacks, Yellows, Browns, Purples and what have you and everyone has the right to be treated as a human? Can we stop whistling or laughing at fellow Indians or even foreigners who look different than us? Can we actually accept that ‘our’ God and ‘their’ God may differ in his/her name and yet perhaps be the same creator? Or the same ‘created’ concept by different societies!
Respect – Can we treat people living on streets – beggars, rickshaw pullers, street workers and vendors, homeless gypsies, as humans and not as a burden on our society? Can we start providing some respect to our home service providers- the aiyas, maids, chowkidars, drivers, toilet cleaners and treat them as equals? Can we ensure that they are not served left overs, are provided better clothes and accommodation, are given even an iota of benefits like paid leaves, medical coverage, etc., that we accept for us? Simply put, can we treat them as humans with as much wants and desires as us?
Discipline – Can we try and follow traffic signals ourselves or request our drivers to follow them? Can we try and follow lane driving than fighting to snatch every single inch of the road to go past others? Can we try to be on time for our appointments? Can we for a minute consider that freedom does not mean spitting or pissing at all possible locations? Or even throwing garbage out of our cars? Can we throw our waste plates in dust bins provided and not leave them on the table? Can we clean up our mess before we leave a public place?
I know. I know. It is difficult to change the world and you and I are no saints. I know old habits die hard and it is difficult to change. It took me a while to change myself!
But this wish ‘CARD’ is human. Simple enough for us to follow! And from my experience, it does not bite or cripple you or makes a robot out of you. It only makes life more beautiful and enables you a far better spiritual richness.
So when do you wish to start playing your ‘CARD’? And yes, when we all play together, we can really have the winning draw spread out for India!
Keep playing

Mainstream Media versus Social Media

The key to Trump’ march to victory was a sensibly crafted strategy and it was the heavy reliance on social media. In fact, using social media to mobilise the masses is a technique that is increasingly being used by politicians across the globe. And most of these leaders belong to the right-wing strand of politics. This made American media’s penchant for painting Trump as a monster backfire spectacularly
We have seen this in India during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections when Narendra Modi and the BJP effectively used social media to move a large chunk of the electorate. Social media is also being leveraged by right-wing parties in European countries such as France and Germany. In the latter case, the trend has given a fillip to neo-Nazi groups who are using the Syrian refugee crisis to galvanise supporters. And in addition to xenophobia and racism, they are broadening their appeal by mixing together nationalism, angst stemming from unemployment, and disenchantment with economic liberalism.
In fact, since social media by its very nature is designed for the masses, these right-wing parties have sensed an opportunity in this technology. Social media is actually tailor-made for spreading rumours – the so-called viral phenomenon – and stoking people’s anxieties. It also provides people with a sense of anonymity which allows users to behave in a way that might be deemed inappropriate in public life. Thus, social media is perfect for spewing venom, misrepresenting facts, exaggerating and stirring up people’s passions. Again, these are things that are socially unacceptable in public life. But in the world of social media, they are par for the course.
Hence, in social media right-wing parties have obtained a tool to appeal to the lowest common denominator. These are people who aren’t particularly educated, don’t bother to verify facts, and are easily swayed by populist passions. In fact, during the American presidential elections, many Trump supporters admitted that their primary source of information was social media. They also confirmed their distrust for mainstream media which they believed totally pandered to corporate interests.
As a matter of fact, mainstream media too is responsible for the current state of affairs. The big media houses have allowed themselves to be labelled — right-wing or left-wing — lowering public trust in them. Hitherto there was even a theory that if mainstream media parcelled itself into different ideological boxes then the industry as a whole could claim objectivity. But this discounts the possibility of each mainstream media constituent being viewed as biased and therefore the entire industry being viewed as prejudiced.
And this is precisely what is happening today, allowing social media, with all its imperfections, to fill this perceived vacuum of objective news. Of course, social media itself is far from objective. But it provides a sense of free expression to the masses, making it seem objective. And this is what right-wing parties are capitalising on to mould public opinion.
Let me be clear, I am not saying that social media is bad. In fact, social media can be a force for good and facilitate myriad entrepreneurial opportunities. In the same vein, mainstream media isn’t devoid of objectivity. But it needs to fight the perception it is. Both mainstream media and social media can co-exist. However, mainstream media needs to fight the misinformation being spread by social media. It can do this by itself raising standards of objectivity and calling out manipulative social media rumours and trends. This will raise standards of journalism overall.
Mainstream media needs to take back some of the space it has ceded to social media. While the latter is welcome, it can’t be a substitute for mainstream media. If this happens, all kinds of antediluvian forces can take advantage of social media to mould public opinion.

Fear Of Change: Two Americas led by Clinton and Trump inhabit separate political galaxies

A spectre hovers over America, the spirit of change. For many, it’s a blithe spirit heralding optimism about today and tomorrow, even as change drives life at a relentless speed. For others, it’s a haunting spectre, recklessly disrupting tradition, mores and social order.
The two worlds inhabit separate political galaxies, with very little travel in between. As the current election campaign enters its final laps, political polarisation in the US is as good as frozen. Donald Trump leads a part of the population which sees, with mounting fear, an America changing for the worse; Hillary Clinton leads the other part that sees the country as doing quite well amidst change and promises bright days ahead. The twain can no longer hope to meet.
Fear of change, of course, hangs over much of the world. It began to intensify in the 1990s with the advent of a new phase of globalisation in various forms: technological, economic, cultural, social, psychological. It swept across the globe at high speed, simultaneously generating anxiety and heady optimism. The storm rages on, disrupting the status quo everywhere.
In the US, however, fear of change may have deepened because of two factors apart from the economic, social and workplace disruptions caused by trade and technology. One is race; the other is gender. Both seem to have played significant roles in solidifying political polarisation.
The election in 2008 of Barack Obama as the country’s first African-American president was a cathartic event. Minorities, liberals and moderates celebrated; the hard right and its supporters played on persisting race anxieties to create a political movement to resist the demographic and cultural changes that Obama’s election signified. Trump in fact became a notable player in US politics by stoking precisely those anxieties. He led a drive demanding the president’s birth records to find out whether he had been born in Kenya, as some alleged, or in Hawaii.
Eight years of Obama’s presidency seem to have hardened attitudes on both sides of the political divide. And now comes the possibility of a woman occupying the highest office in the land. The very idea of a woman poised to succeed a black president appears to have sent many cultural conservatives scurrying to Trump in the hope that he will turn back the wave of change.
To clarify, Trump’s followers are by no means all race-biased or sexist. But many are, as opinion polls have shown during his campaign. His campaign staff includes a few near-extremists.
America has been an outlier among democracies when it comes to having a female head of state. India, Britain, Israel, Germany, Brazil and several other democratic nations have boasted female top leaders. Not the US. Why this is so is difficult to answer precisely. But one reason could be that cultural conservatives here have long had an influential presence in politics.
Hillary is the first ever woman to be a presidential candidate of either major party. As she campaigns, criticism of her appearance and looks and expression follows her. Now, many commentators argue legitimately about other shortcomings she may have as a presidential aspirant, but far too often the criticism strays, openly or implicitly, into gender characteristics.
Even her impressive debate performance last Monday had its share of male critics of her smile, demeanour and movements on stage. She is criticised, not least by her opponent, for not looking “presidential” or lacking “stamina” or raising her voice or not smiling as well as smiling too much!
Anna Waters, a debate coach and a junior year college student, wrote a fine essay in the Washington Post last Sunday listing some of the negativity that dogs women debaters, or any female in a male-dominated environ like US politics or business, from as early as high school.
She quotes another young woman on the matter of looking presidential: “To look presidential, includes a lot of things a woman can master and that any good debater should master, but ‘presidential’ as a concept has only ever come to us in the form of a man.”
Indeed. Again, how do you compare that other concept, ‘charisma’, in a woman leader when political charisma is largely defined by masculine models? Maybe women impress followers differently. Ask the seemingly uncharismatic Angela Merkel. One helluva tough leader, isn’t she?

Pakistan: Islamic State Version 2 – A guide to deal with terror-sponsoring neighbour without firing a bullet

What do we do with Pakistan, when it continues to provoke us? India has carried out a surgical strike but doesn’t, and shouldn’t, want a full blown war.
There are two main reasons. One, we Indians at our core are not violent people. The second big one is the nuclear threat, from a place where nobody knows who is in charge. We don’t know much about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, or who sits at their control panel. It is certainly not Nawaz Sharif, the titular Pakistani PM who probably has less power than the Delhi CM.
Is it a bunch of hot-headed, unelected army generals who have no real accountability to the people? Is it a random group of fundamentalists, army officers, terrorist group heads and priests? Is it a sleepy officer at the nuclear base who can set it off? We don’t know.
All we know about Pakistan is it could set off a nuclear bomb without thinking about the consequences. The Random Bunch of People Who Control Pakistan (RBPWCP) can destroy the world in weeks. Hence, the best strategy the world adopts is to leave them alone.
They could still engage in madness, without provocation. Maybe a general loses a round of poker one day, has one drink too many or doesn’t like that a Bollywood heroine didn’t respond to him on Twitter and boom! Bye Delhi. And bye Pakistan, with much collateral damage to the rest of the world. Yes, it’s a low chance but it isn’t entirely implausible. Such is the world we live in.
India however, does not have the luxury of leaving Pakistan alone. The RBPWCP keep on poking us in the eye. Terrorism is their foreign policy. They kill our innocent people, from innocent citizens in Mumbai to soldiers in Uri.
What are we to do? Avoid cricket? Wish their toothless PM on his birthday? Invite them for tea parties? Do people to people exchange? Should we just accept that we lose a hundred lives a year, the cost of being their neighbour?
Well, none of the above works. We aren’t dealing with a real country here, but a terrorist territory. Here is a plan that may work (without firing a bullet):
We, as a nation, officially decide that Pakistan is a failed state. It is not even a nation, but a terrorist territory armed with nuclear bombs, the most dangerous combination for world peace today. This is the narrative we communicate to the world. Pakistan is Islamic State-2, where the government no longer controls the state.
Second, we cut diplomatic ties with Pakistan. There is no need for a sprawling Pak consulate at Chanakyapuri in New Delhi. Why are we giving it space in our capital? As a base for its terrorist missions? Is there an IS consulate? Worse, there are parties held at the Pak consulate that our ministers attend. Do you really expect the world to have sympathy for us after that?
Third, the romanticised notion that India-Pakistan is a family feud has to end. The world doesn’t have time to look at the details. If they see India and Pakistan fight, but all the bhai-chaara on the side, they get confused. They will dismiss this as a fight between friends.
Pakistani people may be nice. It’s irrelevant. It’s the RGPWCP who are the biggest threat to the world. Let’s communicate that clearly.
Fourth, we book ads, as we do for Incredible India campaigns, in leading world publications. In a simple manner, we explain what India has to suffer. We explain how India bears the brunt of terrorism, not just to save itself but also the world from a nuclear threat. The world needs to know what the RGPWCP are doing. Only then will we have global support.
Fifth, we don’t have to ban any artistes. Art transcends nationality and talent should always be welcome. However, we can offer (not coercively) an asylum programme for Pakistani artistes and their families, especially to those who speak up against terrorism and fear retribution.
Even if half a dozen artistes take it up, we can tell the world how artistes are escaping Pakistan and coming to India. Also, we cannot force any artist to say things, but it is fair to try and use them as ambassadors to tell the world what India goes through. If they want to be quiet, it is their choice, but their Indian fans should know that they haven’t taken a stance. Again, no coercion in any of this.
If we undertake the actions above, slowly the world will believe Pakistan is a failed state. It is then that options like breaking up Pakistan, sanctions and dismantling its nuclear weapons will be widely considered.
There’s some collateral damage here. Some liberals may feel we aren’t being fair and egalitarian enough. That going against bhai-chaara attempts is unnecessary and wrong. However, it is important we take the world on our side by being clear in our communication and actions. Equality and brotherhood is a luxury we enjoy in peaceful times. Not when our people are being killed.

The Change Maker Triumvirate (Trump, Modi, Abe,& Putin)

Today is International Men’s Day and hopefully it will be celebrated in many countries to raise public awareness and bring focus on issues that affect men in what many today describe as the post-factual or post-modern world. Men do not tend to show political solidarity towards their own gender as women do. Therefore, despite the fact that there are more men than women who commit suicide in the western world, very little help is provided. In the countries that I have lived in for the past decade such as Sweden and Denmark, you would find ten times more women´s homes than men’s homes, or establishments which excel in providing shelter during winter and food for the poor and homeless.
Men are supposed to manage by themselves. The presidential elections in the United States changed that for a while. Men, some say white men, voted in huge numbers to insist that they are being left out and are basically losing in the game of globalization. A male candidate, Donald Trump, listened to their woes and worries and formed a domestic and foreign policy that keeps most people guessing and on the tip of their toes.
So on this day, let me remind all of us that men can be good fathers, good workers, teachers, doctors and also good politicians. If we are ready to give the benefit of the doubt to Donald Trump, he can only surprise the world positively. The verdict is clear: Donald Trump is the President of the United States. Experts on international affairs would have us believe the worst-case scenario where the United States under Trump leadership would become inward-looking, isolationist, incoherent and ill-informed. But these projections might turn out to be a biased coverage by the media, primarily in US, which, with exceptions of a few, unequivocally demanded total support for Hillary Clinton. The media in India fortunately did not fall into that trap.
On International Men’s Day, I would like to bring attention to four male leaders who can shape the outcome of the coming decade for billions of people whose lives are shaped and affected by policies, affiliations and relationship of trust.
Trust matters, not just in our private relationships with our spouses, but also when it comes to building relationships between nations and their peoples.
Some do not trust Trump. Carl Bildt, a former Prime Minister and later Foreign Minister of Sweden, wrote this week in Washington post that we are probably going to see the end of the West as we know it. Trump´s friendship with EU skeptics like Nigel Farage bothers EU leaders as they see the European Union crumbling apart in different directions as a result of the migration and monetary crisis facing the continent.
But then there are those who are optimistic. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reiterated that he had a very candid discussion after having an unofficial meeting with President elect Donald Trump in New York. Abe became the first head of state to meet in person with Trump. He laid emphasis on building trust. Trump himself has been absolutely explicit in his admiration of India´s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and has explicitly spoken in favor of both Modi and the Indian diaspora during the election campaign. Trump mentioned that India and the United States are going to be the best friends.
We are probably going to look at a totally new configuration, four male leaders, Trump, Modi, Putin and Abe, from four different corners of the world, coming together to form a sort of pragmatic alliance of the willing.
What do they have in common? They are all despised by the elitist media. Except for two American newspapers, most of the traditional mainstream media endorsed Hillary Clinton and not Donald Trump. The leftists and the liberals have collectively condemned these leaders for being nationalist, and fear the worst-case scenario. The four male leaders have a chance now, if they want to prove the media wrong. Instead of isolationism, they could engage in constructive dialogue for creating an atmosphere of peace and understanding.
Vladimir Putin is equally disliked in the educated circles of the European media, and his policy of being an unwavering ally of Bashar-al-Assad of Syria has shocked the European leaders. The guess of the town was that it was a question of a few months before the Assad regime would collapse. It never happened. Now Assad, another male leader, might consider that Trump will give him a chance and they might end up as trusting allies.
Many political pundits are predicting that the place where America needs to invest its time and attention is Asia and not the Middle East. With a heart full of compromises, it looks as if Trump and Putin can work out an agreement on Syria and ISIS. They are both keen on fighting ISIS and if Russia bombs ISIS, then Trump would without hesitation support such action. On the other hand, Trump might withdraw the support to the insurgents and other innumerable jihadist groups fighting Assad, paving the way for a mutually trusting relationship.
We are probably going to see an end to the accidental bombings of the Assad regime’s soldiers by NATO planes and there would be a better co-operation on adjusting America’s and Russia’s strategic national interests. Is this good for the world? I bet it is.
Narendra Modi and Shinzo Abe have both co-operated well and Japan is one of the biggest investors in India, responsible for building and finishing fine engineering projects, thereby benefitting the Indian population. They have a good mutual chemistry.
So my hunch is this: Contrary to all expectations, we will see fewer wars, larger and mutually agreeable trade deals and better co-operation and intelligence sharing between India, Japan, America and Russia.
Russia has never been keen on being pushed to create an alliance with China, and hopefully with Trump in power, Putin can relax and assume that there would not be major provocations at the borders of Russia forcing him to take military measures.
This spells an era of peace, not war. The co-operation between them will shape the lives of billions of people and I think we all should give it a chance. Hopefully, thanks to the Indian diaspora in the United States, who worked very hard to convince both the Democrats and the Republicans that partnership with India is in the interest of the United States, we are now witnessing the beginning of a mutually beneficial partnership. Trump has reiterated that India and the United States are natural allies.
With all due respect to those who all along have been skeptical of Donald Trump, I feel like saying that he has come out with positive statements about India and Hindus. His daughter Ivanka Trump took a day off her calendar to spend time with Indians celebrating Diwali. Compare this with most of the tolerant leaders of the European Union who, with the exception of UK, have never been heard saying anything regarding the Hindu minority, which on the global level constitutes the third largest religious minority.
For all that talk on tolerance, we might be positively surprised that Donald Trump, despite his strong rhetoric, might end up as a pragmatic leader, striking deals and agreements that not only benefits poor Americans but might be agreeable to a number of other countries which are democratic in their political governance.
On International Men’s Day, I took the exceptional liberty to comment on male leaders trying to refute the tide of skepticism prevailing, which is not always objective. Male leaders need to be positive role models and we must stem the tide of negative focus on men just because there are a few incompetent and corrupt male leaders, too. I have said something positive about men in a world that is turning hostile and indifferent to the sufferings of marginalized male members of many western countries, who are dying early, lonely and facing exclusion. Criticism of leaders in a democracy is legitimate but singling out male leaders just because they are male is being partial not fair. Men want jobs and want to live up to their roles as bread winners of the family, and in the western world they are increasingly feeling marginalized and forgotten.
Men are sometimes subjected to mistrust, false accusations, longer prison terms, and sometimes diagnosed with several psychiatric illnesses on ill-founded grounds. Gender equality also means treating men with respect. Because we men are brothers, fathers, sons, and we, too, are capable of loving our fellow beings and respecting the other gender. We love our children as much as women do, even if we do not give birth.
Abe took the initiative. Modi should follow the course and Trump should invite all the above-mentioned men to create a sense of direction in his foreign policy.
Other countries are important, too. But the time has come for America to put its genuine efforts in Asia. It is in the interest of the United States to forge this long-lasting partnership, which hopefully will soon prove those doomsday philosophers wrong.

Pakistan Excels India On Everything Nuclear

India, Japan have just signed a landmark Nuclear Energy deal after six years of wrangling and intense negotiations. The agreement will allow Japan to supply nuclear reactors, fuel and technology to India, which will be the first country that has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty or NPT to have such a deal with Tokyo. is well known that unlike India, China became a nuclear weapon state well before the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty (NPT) came into force in March 1970. But on the whole, Pakistan has always outsmarted India in the sector of Nuclear energy.
As such, in the NPT, China was recognized as a nuclear weapon state and India was put in the category of non-weapon states, which could not acquire or posses nuclear weapons ever in the future. Unfortunately, China has not shown any respect for the obligations and responsibilities which came with its status as a nuclear weapon state. It found a clandestine way to escape these conditionalities and continued to violate them with impunity. It wanted to help its two close friends, Pakistan and North Korea, in the area of nuclear and missile technology. So it worked out a neat and convenient arrangement with them under which it agreed to supply nuclear weapons technology to Pakistan and missile technology to North Korea. Pakistan and North Korea were then supposed to exchange these technologies and arm themselves with both nuclear weapons and missiles to deliver them at the desired destination. The world soon came to know about this clandestine trade, but turned a blind eye to it with consequences, which are there for all to see today.
When India went for its nuclear tests in May 1998, Pakistan was already a nuclear weapons state. The tests enabled India to only establish strategic parity with Pakistan in the area of nuclear weapons, not to overtake it. The Pakistani nuclear tests of 1998 were a sham only to enable it to come out of the closet. While the Indian nuclear development programme has all along been an entirely indigenous programme developed by Indian scientists with very little help from elsewhere, the Pakistani nuclear programme has been based entirely on charity by China and the theft of nuclear technology and equipment from other sources, AQ Khan notwithstanding. No wonder, therefore, that India has always been regarded as a responsible nuclear state and Pakistan as an irresponsible violator of all norms. It is a pity therefore that China is playing into the hands of Pakistan and opposing India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group. It is even more surprising that imitating India as it always does, Pakistan has also become a candidate for the membership of the NSG, and India has found it fit to say that it has no objection if Pakistan is also admitted as a member.
India entered into binding commitments, even compromising on its sovereignty, when it entered into the nuclear deal with the US. When the deal was being negotiated, we were told that India would be able to get from the US and other countries sensitive and sophisticated technologies specially in the area of enrichment and reprocessing of spent fuel. India had even agreed to set up a separate reprocessing facility to ensure that the civilian nuclear programme was kept completely away from its weapons programme. It also agreed to place this new facility under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The US has already gone back on this commitment and ensured that no other country also would be able to supply such technologies to India by encouraging the NSG to impose a ban on the transfer of such technology to non-NPT states in 2011. India has not only kept, quiet but has also gone ahead with the implementation of this flawed and now broken deal.
And what has Pakistan done?
It has quietly entered into arrangements with China under which it gets what India gets under the nuclear deal with America and more, but without any of the conditionalities which cripple us under the US deal. Obviously, once again Pakistan has been cleverer than us. According to informed reports, it has more nuclear bombs than India and unlike us, no commitment of no-first-use. Despite the NPT of which China is a signatory, Pakistan continues to get nuclear technology and equipment from it and despite the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). it continues to get missile technology from Beijing and North Korea.
King’s College of London has now come out with a startling report which damns both China and Pakistan fully and completely. The Centre for Science and Security Studies at King’s College undertook a project called Project Alpha. This project was established in 2011 with funding from the British Government to counter illicit nuclear proliferation-related trade. Extracts from the report clearly establish the nexus which exists between China and Pakistan as far as illegal trade in nuclear materials, equipment and technologies is concerned. According to this report, Pakistan maintains a network of at least 20 trading companies in mainland China, Hong Kong, Dubai and Singapore and uses them to covertly funnel dual-use goods to its strategic programmes. These companies procure these goods from manufacturers in Europe, US, China and elsewhere and then export them to Pakistan.
The report says that the scale of Islamabad’s procurement of sensitive material from Beijing is so substantial that it must be concluded that the Chinese state is either complicit in supplying Pakistan’s programmes, or negligent in its control over state-owned enterprises. China is the most important supplier of all forms of goods to Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programmes. Chinese private firms are big suppliers, so are the state-owned enterprises, and they knowingly supply Pakistan’s strategic programmes with sensitive equipment. Pakistan’s claim that it is a responsible nuclear state stands completely destroyed by these deceptive and clandestine operations. The report concludes ‘Pakistan cannot expect to be welcomed into the NSG when it continues to secretly and systematically undermine NSG members’ national export systems through the use of front companies and other deceptive techniques.’
For India, this is a God-sent opportunity to expose both China and Pakistan. It should use this report to the hilt to ensure that Pakistan is never admitted into the NSG and should withdraw its ill-considered advocacy of Pakistan’s case.

And then Mahatma Blushes!!!

With a pink hue in the background, spilling over a better angled smile, there is a presumptive blush in the world familiar face of the father of this nation. Turn it round, and you see our endeavour to scan the fourth rock from the sun—Mars. It stands astrologically for firmness, it stands for preparedness for war.
There are rumours regarding the GPS nano chips. That means that whether you deposit the money in a bank or not, it has already been clocked in your iCloud account. Since this last bit of information shall take time to confirm, you may keep a cap on the unused space of your iCloud account. Have deeper pockets, as the chips may have solar charging, and if the teller counts your wad more than two times, be sure he is adding frictional energy that may be caught in case a satellite is just crossing over the skies. That does not convert your white labours to black, but chances are you might get a tan of a blemish. For the first time there is a lurking fear of reversal of the statement that “money can burn your pockets”!
Besides, there are twenty-odd features, like a “2000” printed in a conspicuous place, the angles of the flaps of the satellite, the exact number of the mini-minarets of the Red Fort. Pink is an adorable colour for women especially for their “dearness” allowances (and certainly has much more than fifty shades), and little girls for their piggy banks. It is the hue in the skies of every sunrise, or perhaps shares a shade with the “lotus”. If that be the case, maybe the Taj Mahal would have been a better imprint to show on the smaller denomination, more so to bolster the martial instincts of a fort, and an instant recognition of India as the origin of the currency. The Red Fort may have won its place because it is the permanent site for unfurling of the Independence flag. The message that emanates is that true love only comes after true independence!
Nevertheless, this is an unprecedented moment in the history of the nation. A full-bloodied sledge-hammer attack on concealed incomes, which were only making it poorer by the year. We were servicing termite mounds that were eating away productive growth, only to spread further and gnaw at the whole system.
No economy or an individual can grow beyond a point, if the foundation “nuts and bolts” can be manoeuvred and sifted at will. The estimated 2-4 lac Cr that the new reform (actually, I really don’t know how much it is), shall be a boon to the economy, but it shall be much more.
Truly, we had become a dishonest people. Almost all forced to unscrupulous transactions. The Indian national lived with a warped conscience, and the world could see a mal-aligned corrupt and unreliable system. The worse was that the rules were such, that to survive, everyone was to follow the same path. For any transaction, a school, college admission, buying a house, a job selection, a certain sum had to be set aside, or one would be out of the game. A neat economy is not only healthy, but builds a national character, which is essential for a nation with a future.
The dangers of unconcealed incomes are innumerable. Under the present exigencies it is that such money is used for nefarious activities, whether it be law and order issues, safety of women and children, narcotic trade, illicit weapons, and finally feeding terrorism.
Danger number two. When money alone becomes the single factor that makes money grow, there is a shift in the society from diligence, skills and specialization towards other loopholes for means of survival that count. Skills, professionalism, research are the real bearing on which an economy survives. These take the back-seat!
Take, amongst many others, the example of Mr Sridharan. As an apex engineer of the Railways, he could well have bought a “bullet train” for 10,000 Cr, taken his cut in hundreds of crores, and left enough for the ministry and the government, further taking seat as a Governor of a state.
On the other hand, just add in financial terms what the country has gained daily in terms of gas, traffic modality, safety, green points, and transport infrastructure. The unending effect is that every Indian city shall now have a metro, and India shall become a net exporter/innovator in metro train transport. Another such person is Mr Narayan Murthy and his Infosys, which used to bag tenders even at the highest global bids. If he is a man of thousands of crores, that is a by- product which he finally used in funding of new start-ups!
Un-accounted wealth comes with graver vices for the society. Imagine a capitation fee of 20 lacs for medical graduation, and 40 for post-graduation. What skills do you expect from such a system, and considering the investment on the product, what become the initial tariffs for what is called ROI! Thankfully and remorsefully, you have the “dowry system”!
Political parties that take a hefty sums for a party ticket (I suppose all), obviously give it to those who have amassed wealth through improper means. Obviously, the candidates shall expect to at least to triple the amount, because for most it is a one-time gamble. Expect a change in the local police superintendent down to the sergeant, because certain traffic should flow and so many illicit or unpaid goods should cross the state barrier post. Expect arms, terrorists, and other stuff that fetches high vale in the market. The sons of Satan stick as brothers, whereas believers of the divine law, at the most leave their foot-prints on the sands of time, where actually there should be a trail!
Surely I am describing a prevalent system. It is not for me to start a blame game. Far from it.
Virtuous systems do have material gains. What the Constitution states, but is not compelled to define so clearly, is “The right of every citizen to live an honest life”, because only such societies shall survive. Right to earn is not being denied, even being upheld! For a long race, both means and ends do matter.
To be pragmatic, it seems to fall in place. An early budget. High expectations of foreign investments and collaborations, and a prosperous, honest and proud India!
There are huge Ads on “Ease of doing business”. When you follow the rules, have a merit based system, creativity and productivity also come, even though investments are an essential part! That is the essence of “ease of business”. If the investor has to pay commissions for every facility, can’t secure his legitimate revenues, surely he shall suffer enough dis-ease
My biggest expectation from this new reform is that it should be applied uniformly, surely taking care of the imminent and transient miseries of the poor (for soon their skills shall be acknowledged by receipt), a big encouragement for the middle classes, for they shall be well compensated.
The final bliss shall be for the soul, that we now can live honest lives. Prosperity is bound to come!
Should this be the “Re-Discovery of India”.
I hope I am still being realistic!
“Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection…
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever widening thought and action…
Into that heaven of freedom my Father, let my country awake”
– Tagore

US Gets Shock Therapy

As the marathon quadrennial circus in the US drew to a close last week, most people expected to hear a monumental sigh of relief as the curtain came down. Instead, there was a sharp intake of breath as Trump emerged to have the last laugh, mocking all the pollsters and pundits who had confidently predicted that after all his grotesquely entertaining antics, the abominable jester would fall flat on his face.
Intriguingly, though, in his first public appearance, president-elect Donald Trump struck a very different note from candidate Trump. Suddenly, he was uncharacteristically conciliatory, even gracious in victory. The woman he had derided for months as “crooked Hillary” and threatened to throw into jail turned into “secretary Clinton” who — would you believe it? — had done the nation considerable service, apart from putting up a formidable fight in the electoral contest.
Clinton reciprocated the goodwill in her somewhat belated concession speech, and the incumbent and his unexpected successor put up a reasonably convincing show of bonhomie on Trump’s visit to what will be his residence for the next four years from Jan 20, despite having relentlessly derided each other not just in recent months but over the years, with the unpleasant businessman leading the charge among those who refused to believe Barack Hussein Obama was American-born.
Last Thursday, Trump was humbly playing the apprentice, visibly thunderstruck by the enormity — in every sense of the word — of his achievement and the responsibilities that lie ahead. Unfortunately, at the end of the apprenticeship Obama will not be able to declare: “You’re fired!”
Post-election, most analysts and commentators have cheerlessly been willing to confess they have little idea of what a Trump presidency will look like. That’s not on the grounds the Republican nominee gave no indication of what he had in mind, but because it’s perfectly possible quite a bit of the campaign rhetoric will not directly be translated into policy, either because it was only ever intended to attract attention, or because Congress, despite both chambers being Republican controlled, will thwart or at least water down particularly egregious excesses.
There can be no excuse for complacency, though. It’s not hard to envisage a scenario in which Trump stumbles on issues such as reducing the US military presence abroad, backing out of trade deals, slapping tariffs on Chinese imports, setting up a vast infrastructure programme, restoring America’s manufacturing base, resetting ties with Russia and putting up an impenetrable barrier on the border with Mexico paid for by the Mexicans. He might find it easier, though, to summarily expel large numbers of undocumented immigrants, slap a moratorium on Muslims entering the country, rescind the Affordable Care Act, and facilitate a conservative Supreme Court majority willing to criminalise abortion, among other measures.
Not everything he has given notice of intending to do falls in the deplorable category. One can hardly ignore the fact, though, that extremists from the Ku Klux Klan to neo-fascists across Europe launched their jubilations as soon as Trump crossed the line on election night, and there have been reports from the US of a spike in racist and sexist harassment.
It was inevitable that the particularly reprobate elements in American society enthused by the Trump candidacy would be emboldened by its unexpected success, but it’s highly unlikely that a so-called whitelash after eight years of the first black president was key to last week’s result. Arguably the primary factor was that the Democratic contender represented the status quo, a neoliberal consensus that has simply not worked for vast numbers of working-class and middle-class Americans. Hillary Clinton may not have forgotten the key phrase from her husband’s first presidential campaign — “It’s the economy, stupid” — but she offered no convincing answers to the current malaise.
In view of the popular mood, Clinton was clearly the wrong candidate, long embedded within a distrusted establishment and propelled by a sense of entitlement — and the fact she won the popular vote doesn’t count for much beyond serving as a reminder that the electoral college is a potentially undemocratic anachronism. Sure, Trump’s anti-elitism is a sham, given he’ll be the richest US president in history, but the fact he’s never been part of the policymaking elite probably redounded in his favour.
Could Bernie Sanders have defeated him, as some commentators are claiming, given that he strongly appealed to the dispossessed and the disillusioned? Maybe. We’ll never know for sure. But the senator from Vermont may well seem, in the next four years, to effectively be the leader of an opposition the US will direly require, as the angry protests of the past few days demonstrate.
Meanwhile, as psephologists pore over the statistics to determine what “went wrong”, the fact that about 47 per cent of the electorate did not bother to vote at all stands out as a searing indictment of a debased democracy.

Empowerment of Smart Manufacturing The Fourth Industrial Revolution

Technology is all around us, and also within us. We experience it daily in the way we stream music, in how we use an app to navigate a museum or a shopping centre, or to check our calorie burning and heart rate. This technology is changing our lifestyle and consumption. There is, of course, a lot more technology around us that we don’t see or touch at source. A wave of technological innovation has started to fundamentally alter how we make stuff. And it signals an era of huge change.
In the 1920s, Russian economist Nikolai Kondratiev linked waves of technological change occurring every 50 years or so with cycles in global GDP growth. He suggested that radical inventions could profoundly revolutionise the techno-economic nature of economies. Indeed, the subsequent spawning of countless minor and incremental innovations could penetrate every aspect of the economy.
The idea of Kondratiev waves is that as old technologies exhaust their potential for new ideas to boost the economy, they slow down until a critical mass of new technologies comes to fruition all at once. That then kicks off a new technological wave that is able to trigger a spate of new applications in new processes, new products and new services.

Radical Tech
You can see this in the cellphone to smartphone shift. This was made possible by digital technology which created a common platform across a number of functions: communications and internet, imaging, video, GPS, the digital camera and of course apps. This is radical innovation and from it, subsequent hardware and software variants have added marginal value.
And so, each wave fundamentally changes which resources are used and how they are used, as well as reshaping the organisation of production. New sectors are created while others become obsolete. This dynamism resets the economy and sparks growth again.
There is some consensus that four industrial revolutions can be associated with new technological waves. Innovations related to steam power, cotton, steel, and railways helped to give us the first industrial revolution of mass production and mechanisation. The second was triggered by the introduction of electricity, heavy and mechanical engineering and synthetic chemistry. The third was triggered by innovations in electronics and computers, petrochemicals and aerospace.
Industry 4.0
And what about the fourth? Right now, a host of new technologies are driving a wave of innovation that takes us into a new age.
Think of the internet, nanotechnology, bioscience, electronics, photonics, advanced materials and renewable energies. Changes to our own techno-economic system started in the mid-1980s, but we had to wait the turn of the century to witness their impact on our production methods.
Smart manufacturing may enable the upgrading and anchoring of manufacturing activities even in advanced and high-cost economies such as the European Union.
We can identify some key characteristics. First, we see new technologies initiating new sectors or upgrading old ones. Core to this is the symbiosis between traditional manufacturing and services, through processes of “servitisation”. Take Rolls-Royce, which of course produces engines, but also sells them within a “power-by-the-hour” maintenance package that restructures its offering as a service that delivers the ability to fly planes rather than simply selling a one-off product.
Co-creating and producing
There are also untapped market niches for personalised and customised products. These need to be produced in small batches or even as unique pieces. Such niche markets require customers to co-innovate or even co-produce with the manufacturer. Digital communications enable manufacturers to manage small scale businesses that have design and produce locally while connecting with global customers.
Local Motors, a small US manufaturer, focused on low-volume, open-source designs which are assembled in microfactories. Products have included cars and motorbikes as well as electric bicycles, children’s ride-in toy cars, and remote-controlled toy cars and skateboards. It 3D prints some of the components used in making its products. Its Rally Fighters cars have involved “co-creation”, where the product is designed cooperatively with the customer.
3D printing enables innovators and inventors to become manufacturers and to connect directly with markets both locally and globally. One company, Shapeways, spun out of the Dutch electronics giant Phillips in 2007. Now based in New York it offers a 3D printing marketplace and service. You can design and upload 3D printable files, which are then made for you or a client from materials including acrylics, stainless steel, food-safe ceramics, and silver. Alternatively consumers and designers can work together in “co-creator platforms” to design unique things which Shapeways prints.
Products like this tend to have a high content of technology, innovation, customised design and servicing. Moreover, their consumers tend not to be as price sensitive, so technology, knowledge and innovation are the key elements which shape the competitiveness contest.
Sustainability
Another prediction for smart manufacturing is that it will redesign product supply chains by integrating the local and the global more strategically. Some hands-on innovators in the so-called “makers movement” are making the most of a trend towards linking innovating and making. They choose suppliers nearer to home, but connect with demand both close and far from home.
It promises a more efficient form of production, which we can also see in the increased use of more sustainable processes, where resources are re-manufactured and components re-used, or where bio, waste or natural products are used as feedstocks. There are echoes of the circular economy, where waste is fed back into the production process, where alternative energy changes business models, or food production and consumption is “relocalised”. And it is this kind of efficiency at the heart of smart manufacturing that presents a real opportunity for advanced economies to pursue more distributed and sustainable socio-economic growth.

Brands and Breeds

Accept it or reject it, the world collectively runs on these. The world of politics, marketing, religious sermons run quite consistently on these too. One may have given promises, but ruling cabinets shall continue to expand like inflation. All reasoning and promises aside, to garner support you need a brand that is followed by his breed.
In this unique democracy often clichéd for its “unity in diversity”, there are brands by regional representation, and in each region, breeds as per local definition, certainly following their brands. Brands come through hierarchy, or family, or clanship, or one can be created from a rebel of the clan.
So, finally the job of politics is to create some sort of unity after perpetuated diversity. It may not be different in other democracies. The triad of Welsh (first, because they did so well in Euro), Scots, and the truly English, were constituencies that after the referendum, may have different roles, but cross-over equations shall run.
In the US, the “Blacks vs White” comes as a historical division. Though, the US had visionaries to cover the gap. Ironically, the inspiration Martin Luther King imbibed was from the Mahatma. It is said, that JFK, initially trailing in the political polls, got his crucial home run by a well-publicized call to King who was behind bars. King was a brand with his breed (if I may excused this rhyming word). Finally the Kennedys became a brand, with Ted Kennedy the highest ranked and respected democrat, who stood for President Obama. He would go down in history for having made the first Black (not a decent word anymore) President. Is the the momentum now to make an ex “first lady” go on for the equalizer to make the first “first man” for the US, after claiming Presidency? An open question! Mr Trump is the best quarterback the Republicans have this season. Certain aspects of his speeches have not got the appreciation he sought even within his own party, but can he give a golden pass at the closing stages that becomes the winning run!
The common man has a right to entertainment in a world title match!
The UK (there may be a change in nomenclature now) keeps its flock together by unflinching loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen, and covering up the rest by titles as “Prince of Wales”, “Duke of Edinburgh”. That in a way mops up all.
A retro analysis may probably put the spoils of referendum, to a similar tactic that dismembered the mighty USSR. The rules were so changed, that an able Mr Gorbachev was left without a constituency. It may be a co-incidence, but there was an alcohol avid “Boris” (Yeltsin), there too!
The crux of politics, may be close to Gen Patten’s famous words. You may gain by strengthening your cadres, but the job is only complete when you can spread rout in the opponents.
Though the analogy of brands and breeds stays, the trick is in raising a brand, but nurturing the breed by your own ground staff. Therein you bring in the necessities of life and growth. There certainly can be better inputs that should go to the impoverished lot. Go by what are topmost needs for survival and what spurs the local economy, and gives immediate gains. The regional parties have a leaf in their books that needs to be read. You never win without dedicated ground support. Rule number 1 — reduce criticism to the least!
As a lesson, the Great Marathas lost the Third Battle of Panipat, because they estranged the Rajputs and the Sikhs, their natural allies. The Nawab of Oudh opened his granaries under duress to aggressor Abdali. The end was a forgettable and tragic rout. The three to five lakh pilgrims travelling with them, migrated to the hills, and are the Pants, Joshis, Tiwaris of Kumaon and Garhwal!
Napoleon, would not have met his Waterloo, had he not diverted his major forces fighting the Prussians, instead of taking on The Duke of Wellington head on. In fact Napoleon was miles away from Waterloo, when he met his Waterloo! A point that may have been contributory to the Duke’s, victory was that only 30% of his troops were English. The rest were Scots, Welsh, Belgians, and Prussians, but shared a common cause to beat the mighty Napoleon!
The essence is to contribute, comfort, and let locals find a better alternative. It should be their own motivation and ground leadership. The strategy certainly could be elsewhere.
Brands and breeds is the way the world runs. Winners are the ones who know the subtle rules. Sometimes it is better to open a front that the rivals are not equipped to handle. If you have two enemies, start inculcating friendliness with one. That exactly is what happened in Brexit. Imperial instincts were incited, when times were for economic co-operative zones. I would be interested in a book, or a movie that analyses the strategy. Finally, it’s a mind game!

Welcome Presidency of Quintessential Trump

Moreover, unlike his predecessors, by his own campaign assertions, Trump will be a foreign leader of no integral purpose to the world, including South Asia. Analyse him dispassionately and South Asia would seem among the leading vestigial zones spread across the continents that are less than crucial to anything Trump plans to do in his allotted four years. He is not sending Richard Armitage to the region. Stay blessed.
Trump wants to cancel or change international pacts, both economic and security, which he sees as costly obligations. He wants to stay home in his own version of Brexit. Being a builder, he plans to refurbish his country with more tunnels, flyovers and highways, to use his words, to generate a few extra jobs. All this is predicated, of course, on giving the world the boot. So why is there such commotion as if we have seen a nationalist ogre for the first time?
Trump has problems with China. Are the Chinese showing signs of nervousness? If anything, for better or worse, they have just unveiled a stealth bomber. Let the Pentagon figure that out. An inward-looking America will be good for Sino-Indian rapprochement. Should Sino-US economic ties hit the doldrums under Trump, China has presciently cast its net wide for the contingency, including the trade highway through Pakistan to Africa and beyond.
India should stop worrying about Uttar Pradesh elections and find a way to join the Pakistan-China bonhomie. Imagine Kashmiri carpets in Africa via Gwadar. Imagine leather and tea heading to the vast Central Asian markets via Afghanistan. What has Trump got to do with that? If the dislike of Trump can turn on South Asia’s rusted faucets of collective struggle we will owe the president-elect a debt of gratitude.
The new president will be inclined to repair relations with Russia. Some of my more knowledgeable friends in the anti-nuclear war camp have seen this with relief. Regardless of its potential to calm things down in the Middle East or Ukraine, is Vladimir Putin jumping with excitement in anticipation of the imminent rendezvous with Trump?
Are the Iranians jittery? Yes, President Rouhani could lose next year’s election if Trump tinkers with the nuclear deal. Interestingly, while the president-elect is hostile to the treaty with Iran, he must be the first American leader in years who didn’t genuflect before the omnipotent American-Israeli club. On the contrary, on occasions, his campaign was dubbed anti-Semitic.
He has problems with the militant Islamic State group and Nato. He should be encouraged to put his foot on the accelerator. One excels in slitting throats and commandeering religion for mass rape; the other threatens to annihilate the world over any untenable ruse.
Trump is particularly paranoid of extremist Muslims of whom there’s a troubling whole lot in Pakistan. Pakistan has to fix it, and we are told the army is doing precisely that already. Where does Trump come into the picture if Pakistan and Afghanistan and Bangladesh among others can do the cleaning up by themselves?
Terrorism needs to be attended to, urgently, doesn’t it? Any help in this regard, even loose change, will go some distance in preventing a future massacre in a Dhaka restaurant, in the streets of Mumbai, in a Sufi shrine in Pakistan. What’s the consternation about? Don’t we need help to fight fanatics who are killing our people?
Trump has problems with African Americans, and also with Mexicans in his country. They will fight him, as they should. But when did Indians or Pakistanis or Bangladeshis join hands with the cause of the blacks, leave alone Mexicans in America? If they feel compelled to join a just fight for any refreshing reason they must go ahead with full force, but that would be against their selfish tradition. The Palestinians have been pummelled perennially regardless of who sat in the White House. Did we lift a finger for the ghettoised inhabitants of the West Bank or Gaza?
If the dislike of Trump can turn on South Asia’s rusted faucets of collective struggle and we join the gathering chorus for justice worldwide we will owe him a debt of gratitude. Remember that when Bush’s ratings were rock bottom everywhere, India defied the pattern by embracing him. There may be a chance here for it to abandon its grocer-like foreign policy of seeking petty advantages.
Strangely, so many of us have started counting the worry beads, unnecessarily pulverised by the Israeli flags at Trump’s victory rallies. It smacks of hypocrisy. Who is fighting Israel — not with worry beads but with their lives on the line? Are they India and Pakistan? Trump ignorantly said: “I love Hindu.” His minders told him he meant India. He looked puzzled but agreed. The question in either case is the same: will his love result in more visas for the techies? Live in hope.
If anything, the Indian prime minister’s ‘Make in India’ distress call is on a head on collision with Trump’s ‘Make in America’ mega project. Craven analysis sees Trump resembling Narendra Modi. Look again. Modi’s campaign was sponsored by a system that owns TV channels. Trump’s election exposed the media pundits and their contrived predictions. Moral of the story: the media is cat’s paw of the system in America as it is now in India. Trump defied the system; Modi was shored up by it.

Trolling- An Occupational Hazard

Every so often, both the mainstream and social media get terribly worked up over trolling — the e-age version of stalking. The custodians of good taste and civility tut-tut over individuals (often anonymous) who send tasteless and hurtful messages to celebrities they either dislike or disagree with. More than indicating disagreements, these messages are aimed at causing maximum distress to their recipients and are often slanderous. Indeed, the proliferation of trolls has been so marked — particularly on political issues — that many individuals have thought it prudent to abandon social media altogether.
That social media (SM), initially welcomed as a great interactive innovation, has now acquired an unwholesome facet is worrying. True, facilities to unfriend and block habitual abusers exist on popular SM sites. The site administrators themselves have often responded to complaints by cancelling accounts of those who have misused their platforms. In a few cases, there have also been complaints to the police, though state action often carries the corresponding risk of the authorities being exposed to charges of censorship and denial of free speech.
In the absence of any real meaningful deterrent, it is now generally agreed that disagreeable trolling is now an occupational hazard of SM. The growing consensus is that celebrities must acquire a thick skin and take the good with the bad. Crafty users of SM, particularly Facebook, have also evolved their own methods of keeping their personal accounts relatively sanitized.
In the past few years, the problem of trolling has acquired a sharp political dimension. That SM has become a battleground of rival points of view and competitive inclinations is not a bad thing at all. In the pre-SM age, it was difficult and often impossible for ordinary readers/viewers to get their points of view across, particularly if those went against the grain of conventional wisdom. True, each publication had a Letters to the Editor section but, very often, the selection of readers’ correspondence did precious little to give space to the contrarians. SM has successfully ended the editors’ monopoly over correctness.
More important, since the print and electronic media had their own hierarchy of news — the decision of what is important, what is a footnote and what should be blacked out altogether — SM has emerged as an important counter to motivated censorship — although the veracity of some of what passes off as information is distinctly dodgy. It would be fair to say that with SM, it has become virtually impossible to either suppress information or present a partial view of an event. SM has made it almost impossible for the wholesale blacking of news that marked, say, the Emergency of 1975-77, to be replicated. The information overload of SM has become a potent deterrent to thought control.
If the SM explosion has resulted in the “mass amateurisation” of the news and opinions space, what explains the indignation of those who believe it has also lowered the tone of the discourse to the level of the gutter? It is not that the trolls dominate the SM platforms. My guess is that unsavoury posts — including those that incite — form a minuscule fraction of all that appears on SM. The true reasons for a growing allergy to SM must be sought elsewhere.
At the heart of the attack on SM seems to be the determination of a clutch of media professionals to steer public conversation in their own way by decreeing what is important and what is not. But it is more than just a turf war to uphold a professional monopoly. There appears to be an ideological dimension as well. A survey of 700 British journalists by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism in Oxford found that 55% saw themselves as Left and only 18% as Right. Similar studies in America found that journalists were four times more likely to be Democrats than Republicans. Does the journalistic endorsement of Donald Trump correspond even remotely to his popular support?
There are no similar studies conducted for India but my guess is that the opponents of the Narendra Modi government are likely to outnumber the so-called bhakts 4:1. At the same time, the anti-Modi media guys are four times more likely to be casualties of trolling than those who are supportive of the PM.
To some, this may indicate an organized campaign of intimidation. The alternative explanation of inarticulate, but real fury over political condescension needs to be considered.

Bay of Bengal’s glad tidings

Dhaka and Colombo’s commitment to regionalism indicates that the climate is right for bringing South and South East Asia closer.
As the Subcontinent looks beyond the SAARC for a productive regional forum that is not constrained by Pakistan’s veto, the Bay of Bengal beckons. The moment for turning the Bay of Bengal into a zone of regional cooperation may finally be with us thanks to a number of recent developments. If the collapse of the SAARC summit in Islamabad has made the consideration of alternatives an immediate imperative, the extraordinary enthusiasm of Sri Lanka’s prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, for Bay of Bengal regionalism is showing us a way forward. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s special interest in linking South and South East Asia and Dhaka’s traditional commitment to regionalism have now aligned the stars.
In a series of recent speeches in Tokyo, Jakarta, Singapore and Delhi, Wickremesinghe has laid out an agenda for both sub-regional — between Sri Lanka and south Indian states — and trans-regional economic integration among the South and South East Asian nations bordering the Bay of Bengal littoral. He points to the fact that Sri Lanka and India’s five southern states together have a population of 272 million people and a combined GDP of over $500 billion. The Sri Lankan PM insists that if Delhi and Colombo work together this economic zone can emerge as one of the world’s most dynamic. Dhaka meanwhile has championed sub-regional integration in the eastern subcontinent.
Last week in Delhi, Wickremesinghe called for a tripartite trade liberalisation agreement between Lanka, India and Singapore. The Lankan PM wants India and Singapore to collaborate in the development of a port in Trincomalee on Sri Lanka’s eastern seaboard. Familiar with the Japanese role in the economic modernisation of South East Asia, Wickremesinghe is betting that Tokyo could contribute to the rapid economic transformation of the Bay of Bengal littoral.
The Lankan PM reminds the region of the rich history of maritime commerce across the Bay of Bengal between peninsular India, Sri Lanka and South East Asia. He believes the Bay of Bengal could rival the Caribbean as a high-end tourist destination. He imagines cruise liners sailing from Kochi to Singapore via Maldives, Sri Lanka, Andamans and Thailand. Wickremesinghe sees enormous possibilities for regional economic cooperation among the members of the BIMSTEC forum that brings five nations from South Asia — Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka — and two from South East Asia — Burma and Thailand — under one umbrella. He also suggested inviting Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore into the BIMSTEC forum. The BIMSTEC or the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation has been on top of Delhi’s mind for some time now. Well before the SAARC crisis, Modi had decided to invite the leaders of the BIMSTEC to the outreach segment of the BRICS summit in Goa this week. Modi is eager to breathe some new life into BIMSTEC that had remained moribund since its formation two decades ago. The prospect of the Bay of Bengal emerging as a vehicle for regional cooperation was also presaged by the formation of the BBIN grouping that brought four contiguous states — Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and India — in the eastern subcontinent together after Pakistan’s reluctance to sign on to the South Asian connectivity agreements at the SAARC summit in Kathmandu in November 2014.
The BIMSTEC or the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation has been on top of Delhi’s mind for some time now. Well before the SAARC crisis, Modi had decided to invite the leaders of the BIMSTEC to the outreach segment of the BRICS summit in Goa this week. Modi is eager to breathe some new life into BIMSTEC that had remained moribund since its formation two decades ago. The prospect of the Bay of Bengal emerging as a vehicle for regional cooperation was also presaged by the formation of the BBIN grouping that brought four contiguous states — Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and India — in the eastern subcontinent together after Pakistan’s reluctance to sign on to the South Asian connectivity agreements at the SAARC summit in Kathmandu in November 2014.The BBIN constitutes a natural sub-region of the Subcontinent. Besides shared land borders, they all have a big stake in the Bay of Bengal: For the two landlocked Himalayan states, Bhutan and Nepal, the shortest sea access is to the Bay of Bengal and it runs through the two littoral states — Bangladesh and India. For parts of southwestern China too, the Bay of Bengal is the nearest sea. And China — reaching there through Burma — has also promoted the idea of sub-regional collaboration among China, Burma, Bangladesh and India. A corridor through the four countries is now part of President Xi Jinping’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative. Although Delhi is wary of China’s OBOR, especially the western corridor through Pakistan and the central corridor through Nepal, it is a wee bit more open to engaging China on the eastern corridor.
The BBIN constitutes a natural sub-region of the Subcontinent. Besides shared land borders, they all have a big stake in the Bay of Bengal: For the two landlocked Himalayan states, Bhutan and Nepal, the shortest sea access is to the Bay of Bengal and it runs through the two littoral states — Bangladesh and India. For parts of southwestern China too, the Bay of Bengal is the nearest sea. And China — reaching there through Burma — has also promoted the idea of sub-regional collaboration among China, Burma, Bangladesh and India. A corridor through the four countries is now part of President Xi Jinping’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative. Although Delhi is wary of China’s OBOR, especially the western corridor through Pakistan and the central corridor through Nepal, it is a wee bit more open to engaging China on the eastern corridor.
The new hopes for Bay of Bengal ride on the fact that Lanka and Bangladesh have long been champions of regionalism. In the 1960s and early 1970s, when Delhi was smug about its self-imposed economic isolation, Lanka was eager to join the ASEAN institutions. In the 1980s, it was Bangladesh that took the lead in promoting the idea of SAARC. It also now hosts the secretariat for the BIMSTEC. Colombo and Dhaka are raring to go forward in uniting the Bay of Bengal.
Delhi, which chafed at Pakistan’s reluctance to allow progress under the SAARC framework, now has the opportunity to demonstrate that it can do a lot better in the Bay of Bengal. The PM’s meetings with the leaders of Bay of Bengal in Goa this week provides a big opportunity to set a new agenda for regional cooperation under the BIMSTEC forum. The initiatives could range from coastal shipping to counter-terrorism and from the development of underwater resources in the Bay to protecting the marine environment.

Comprehending Millennials

Working millennials ask a lot of their employers, but game rooms and rock walls are low on the list. In fact, baby boomers more than millennials seek out jobs that are fun and encourage creativity, according to a new Gallup report that identifies what employers get right, and wrong, about millennials in the workforce.
What that rising generation seeks is actually pretty simple: Millennials — those Americans born between 1980 and 1996 — just want to know where they stand and where they’re going.
“They want a workplace that helps them progress, but they also want to see their own value,” said Jim Harter, chief scientist for workplace management and well-being for Gallup’s workplace management practice.
The Changes in Leadership are as:
Past                                                                                  Future
My Paycheck                                                                    My Purpose
My Satisfaction                                                              My Development
My Boss                                                                             My Coach
MyAnnual Review                                                     My Ongoing Conversation
My Weaknesses                                                           My Strengths
MyJob                                                                                    My Life

The report — the results of surveys of tens of thousands of Americans — lays out six broad changes that organizations can make to attract and keep what is now the dominant generation in the workforce.
Employers have to change what they offer people they expect to attract and retain millennial workers, according to Gallup.
The first is a shift in focus from paycheck to purpose.
When professional and personal lives were more cleanly separate, a paycheck was enough. But because of the erosion of the wall between work and play, millennials also expect to derive a sense of purpose from their jobs. Work is life.
Job satisfaction still matters, but millennials are increasingly concerned with their development; they want to see their careers progressing. As a result, leaders should act like coaches, and rare, formal reviews should be replaced with ongoing conversations.
“Giving out toys and entitlements is a leadership mistake, and worse, it’s condescending,” Gallup Chairman and chief executive Jim Clifton writes in the report. “Purpose and development drive this generation.”
Employers should take note, especially because millennials are a particularly flighty generation.
About 60 percent report being open to a new job opportunity — a full 15 percentage points higher than non-millennial workers. More than a third — 36 percent — said they will actively look for new work if the job market improves in the year ahead, compared to just 21 percent of non-millennials.
But don’t mistake that flightiness for a lack of commitment. Millennials are just dissatisfied: 55 percent report feeling unengaged at work, five points higher than Gen Xers, seven points above boomers and 14 points more than traditionalists.
“Many millennials likely don’t want to switch jobs, but their companies are not giving them compelling reasons to stay,” Gallup reports. “When they see what appears to be a better opportunity, they have every incentive to take it.”
When they’re looking for new work, Millennials want to see signs that bode well for their career development. The top five things they consider, according to Gallup, are: opportunities to learn and grow, quality of their manager, quality of management in general, interest in the type of work and opportunities for advancement.
Although those qualities are important to members of every generation, millennials are particularly concerned with some of them. For example, 59 percent of millennials rate opportunities to learn and grow as “extremely important” when applying for a new job. Just 44 percent of Gen Xers and 41 percent of baby boomers say the same. Exactly half of millennials rate advancement opportunities as extremely important in a job search, compared to 42 percent of Gen Xers and 40 percent of boomers.
Boomers and millennials hold quality of managers and management and interest in work in similar regard, while Gen Xers are slightly less concerned about those, although many still rate them as extremely important.