Basic Income for All- A Utopia That Seems Realistic

Once dismissed as a utopian dream of the left, the idea of a minimum basic income – a government guarantee that citizens receive a certain income regardless of working status – is about to be battle-tested in Ontario and is being considered in other provinces as well.
Ontario plans to launch a pilot project next year, studying the effect of replacing some of its social assistance infrastructure with a monthly payment of at least $1,320 per person. Support for such a scheme is also building in Alberta, while Prince Edward Island passed a motion earlier this month to pursue its own pilot project.
This actually isn’t the first time this has been tried in Canada. A test case was run in Dauphin, Manitoba in the 1970s, but it was cancelled when the government changed.
That the idea has come back with force is likely due in part to the increasingly uncertain employment landscape, says Trish Hennessy, director of the Ontario office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. “With the rise of precarious work, there are a lot of people that are looking for different answer to address when you fall through the cracks.”
The Finnish government has begun a pilot of a radical new policy aimed at overhauling the benefits system in the northern European country. Under the proposed system, the government will pay a basic income to citizens seeking employment.
The pilot scheme of 2,000 people, randomly selected to participate, awards €560 ($781) to each participant by the state for a two-year period.
No tax is paid on that amount, nor are there any conditions, such as in the U.K. where claimants of Jobseeker’s Allowance, which amounts to around $500 per month, are required to sign a Claimant Commitment detailing how they will search for employment.
In Finland, jobseekers are entitled to an allowance of up to €25/day ($35/day) – approximately €758/month ($1,057/month). Around 805 of workers in Finland are also members of employment insurance schemes, which pay out the daily allowance plus 45 percent of the difference between their previous job’s pay and the allowance, in the event of unemployment.
Finland has experienced troubled times economically in recent years, with high levels of unemployment at 8.1 percent in November 2016, which was unchanged from the previous year.
The policy hopes to challenge issues such as benefits claimants turning down low-paid or short-term jobs for fear of losing benefits.
According to Trading Economics, the average monthly wage in Finland is €3,384 ($4,721), and the minimum “living wage” for individuals in the country is €1,200 ($1,675).
Universal Basic Income For India Suddenly Trendy. Look Out
A recent headline claims that Jammu and Kashmir is the first state in India to “commit to a universal basic income” (UBI). A glance at the original source quickly negates this claim: it is based on nothing more than “seeds of a thought” (sic) from the Finance Minister of J&K about possible cash transfers for a small minority of poor households. This is not a commitment, and it is not UBI anyway.
There have been other cases of active promotion of UBI in the business media in recent weeks. For example, a guarded statement by Professor Guy Standing, welcoming news that UBI might be discussed in the forthcoming Economic Survey, was widely relayed as an insider’s revelation that UBI was about to be launched in India. Similarly, reference is often made to Finland as “the first country with UBI,” yet Finland has gone no further than a tiny pilot scheme of unconditional cash transfers for 2000-odd recipients. Clearly, UBI has become a subject of half-truths, if not post-truths.
I have liked the idea of UBI for a long time. In countries (like Finland) that can afford a generous UBI and also have first-rate public services, it has two attractive features. First, UBI is a fool-proof way of safeguarding the right to dignified living. Second, it gives people the option to live without working (or rather, without doing paid work) if they are willing to settle for a simple life. And why not?
As far as India today is concerned, however, UBI proposals strike me as a case of premature articulation. To start with, the said NIPFP estimates go back to a study published in 2003 and based on 1998-9 data – almost 20 years old. More recent work, also at NIPFP, suggests much lower subsidy figures as a proportion of GDP. Note also that many of these subsidies are implicit (for instance, railway tickets sold below transport costs), and that the bulk of the non-merit subsidies are given by state rather than central governments. Recovering this so-called “fiscal space” is not going to be easy.
Further, why should the bulk of this fiscal space (such as it is) be claimed by UBI alone? There are many other urgent claims on public expenditure – education, health care, environmental protection, essential infrastructure, to name a few. Mobilising 3.5 per cent of GDP for UBI is bound to take many years under any plausible script, not to speak of 10 per cent (if it is advisable at all).
Meanwhile, should the limited resources available for cash transfers be used to kick-start UBI at a very low level of “basic income”, or are there better options? I believe there are. Universal maternity entitlements and social security pensions would be a good start. If UBI “is really an extension of the idea of pension,” as Bardhan aptly points out, then why not begin with pensions? Maternity entitlements, for their part, are due since 2013 under the National Food Security Act.
How will it work?
There’s a lot of leeway here, but the principle is that all working age residents are eligible for a basic no-strings-attached income level. This can come in the form of a tax credit for those who have a job or a straight-up check from the government. Some have advocated that anyone would be eligible for the full amount, regardless of their income, but it’s more likely there would be some sort of clawback to any payment for those who earn significantly more than the minimum level.
As far as the Ontario project goes, a broad-strokes discussion paper by Hugh Segal, the province’s special advisor on basic income, advocates a minimum monthly income of at least $1,320 for a single person, with an extra $500 for people with disabilities. The payment would be non-taxable and available for adults aged 18–65.
Whether the basic income would be in addition to existing social services or would replace them is part of what will be examined in the pilot project.
What are the benefits?
The main idea of a guaranteed income is as a safeguard against poverty, and an improvement on current assistance schemes that make claimants jump through hoops to qualify.
Advocates point to the impact of the introduction of the Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors in the 1960s, which sharply reduced poverty rates in the upper age group.
And researchers expect wider benefits, including better health, education, a more mobile workforce, and a removal of the ‘welfare wall’, the prospect of losing income and housing benefits currently faced by recipients who try to re-enter the workforce.
It would also reduce the stigma attached to seeking out social assistance, says Michael Urban, a policy associate at the Mowat Centre, a policy think tank associated with the University of Toronto.
“The idea there is that if everyone receives a payment from the government, then it becomes much more like health care than welfare. No one looks down their nose at someone for going into a hospital and making use of the universal healthcare system.”
Who pays?
One of the reasons minimum basic income has never found real traction is the cost. That much money flowing to that many people has to come from somewhere. But much of the cost could be born by reducing current social assistance programs that would become unnecessary with the minimum income. Health care costs could also come down with the spending power translating into better food decisions.
Urban says it would also reduce government administration costs, because everyone would get a payment. “It could be administered through the tax system, so you don’t need this whole apparatus that administers all these other programs currently,” he says. “It really appeals to people who prefer smaller government.”
In the end, it seems likely taxes will have to rise to pay for it, but that will have to be weighed against the social benefits.
There are also arguments against basic income that go beyond the price tag. Some worry that a guaranteed income would be a disincentive to work. Such concerns prompted Switzerland to reject a minimum basic income in June. “That’s always the concern that gets raised,” says Hennessy, pointing to the results of the Dauphin, Manitoba, project in the 1970s. “A lot of people who got that basic income check said it helped them buy time to find the right job, not just the next job, and that’s important for labour market stability,” she says.
Next step
While the wheels are turning, it will be some time before this becomes ready for consideration as a widespread policy. Ontario is currently mulling its next step and could begin to implement the pilot project early next year, with a recommended duration of at least three years.
Consider for a moment that from this day forward, on the first day of every month, around $1,000 is deposited into your bank account – because you are a citizen. This income is independent of every other source of income and guarantees you a monthly starting salary above the poverty line for the rest of your life.
What do you do? Possibly of more importance, what don’t you do? How does this firm foundation of economic security and positive freedom affect your present and future decisions, from the work you choose to the relationships you maintain, to the risks you take?
The idea is called unconditional or universal basic income, or UBI. It’s like social security for all, and it’s taking root within minds around the world and across the entire political spectrum, for a multitude of converging reasons. Rising inequality, decades of stagnant wages, the transformation of lifelong careers into sub-hourly tasks, exponentially advancing technology like robots and deep neural networks increasingly capable of replacing potentially half of all human labour, world-changing events like Brexit and the election of Donald Trump – all of these and more are pointing to the need to start permanently guaranteeing everyone at least some income.
A promise of equal opportunity
“Basic income” would be an amount sufficient to secure basic needs as a permanent earnings floor no one could fall beneath, and would replace many of today’s temporary benefits, which are given only in case of emergency, and/or only to those who successfully pass the applied qualification tests. UBI would be a promise of equal opportunity, not equal outcome, a new starting line set above the poverty line.
It may surprise you to learn that a partial UBI has already existed in Alaska since 1982, and that a version of basic income was experimentally tested in the United States in the 1970s. The same is true in Canada, where the town of Dauphin managed to eliminate poverty for five years. Full UBI experiments have been done more recently in places such as Namibia, India and Brazil. Other countries are following suit: Finland, the Netherlands and Canada are carrying out government-funded experiments to compare against existing programmes. Organizations like Y Combinator and GiveDirectly have launched privately funded experiments in the US and East Africa respectively.
I know what you’re thinking. It’s the same thing most people think when they’re new to the idea. Giving money to everyone for doing nothing? That sounds both incredibly expensive and a great way to encourage people to do nothing. Well, it may sound counter-intuitive, but the exact opposite is true on both accounts. What’s incredibly expensive is not having basic income, and what really motivates people to work is, on one hand, not taking money away from them for working, and on the other hand, not actually about money at all.
Basic income in numbers
What tends to go unrealized about the idea of basic income, and this is true even of many economists – but not all – is that it represents a net transfer. In the same way it does not cost $20 to give someone $20 in exchange for $10, it does not cost $3 trillion to give every adult citizen $12,000 and every child $4,000, when every household will be paying varying amounts of taxes in exchange for their UBI. Instead it will cost around 30% of that, or about $900 billion, and that’s before the full or partial consolidation of other programmes and tax credits immediately made redundant by the new transfer. In other words, for someone whose taxes go up $4,000 to pay for $12,000 in UBI, the cost to give that person UBI is $8,000, not $12,000, and it’s coming from someone else whose taxes went up $20,000 to pay for their own $12,000. However, even that’s not entirely accurate, because the consolidation of the safety net and tax code UBI allows could drive the total price even lower.
Now, this idea of replacing existing programmes can scare some just as it appeals to others, but the choice is not all or nothing: partial consolidation is possible. As an example of partial consolidation, because most seniors already effectively have a basic income through social security, they could either choose between the two, or a percentage of their social security could be converted into basic income. Either way, no senior would earn a penny less than now in total, and yet the UBI price tag could be reduced by about $220 billion. Meanwhile, just a few examples of existing revenue that could and arguably should be fully consolidated into UBI would likely be food and nutrition assistance ($108 billion), wage subsidies ($72 billion), child tax credits ($56 billion), temporary assistance for needy families ($17 billion), and the home mortgage interest deduction (which mostly benefits the wealthy anyway, at a cost of at least $70 billion per year). That’s $543 billion spent on UBI instead of all the above, which represents only a fraction of the full list, none of which need be healthcare or education.
So what’s the true cost?
The true net cost of UBI in the US is therefore closer to an additional tax revenue requirement of a few hundred billion dollars – or less – depending on the many design choices made, and there exists a variety of ideas out there for crossing such a funding gap in a way that many people might prefer, that would also treat citizens like the shareholders they are (virtually all basic research is taxpayer funded), and that could even reduce taxes on labour by focusing more on capital, consumption, and externalities instead of wages and salaries. Additionally, we could eliminate the $540 billion in tax expenditures currently being provided disproportionately to the wealthiest, and also some of the $850 billion spent on defence.
Universal basic income is thus entirely affordable and essentially Milton Friedman’s negative income tax in net outcome (and he himself knew this), where those earning below a certain point are given additional income, and those earning above a certain point are taxed additional income. UBI does not exist outside the tax system unless it’s provided through pure monetary expansion or extra-governmental means. In other words, yes, Bill Gates will get $12,000 too but as one of the world’s wealthiest billionaires he will pay far more than $12,000 in new taxes to pay for it. That however is not similarly true for the bottom 80% of all US households, who will pay the same or less in total taxes.
To some, this may sound wasteful. Why give someone money they don’t need, and then tax their other income? Think of it this way: is it wasteful to put seat belts in every car instead of only in the cars of those who have gotten into accidents thus demonstrating their need for seat belts? Good drivers never get into accidents, right? So it might seem wasteful. But it’s not because we recognize the absurd costs of determining who would and wouldn’t need seat belts, and the immeasurable costs of being wrong. We also recognize that accidents don’t only happen to “bad” drivers. They can happen to anyone, at any time, purely due to random chance. As a result, seat belts for everyone.
The truth is that the costs of people having insufficient incomes are many and collectively massive. It burdens the healthcare system. It burdens the criminal justice system. It burdens the education system. It burdens would-be entrepreneurs, it burdens both productivity and consumer buying power and therefore entire economies. The total cost of all of these burdens well exceeds $1 trillion annually, and so the few hundred billion net additional cost of UBI pays for itself many times over. That’s the big-picture maths.
The real effects on motivation
But what about people then choosing not to work? Isn’t that a huge burden too? Well that’s where things get really interesting. For one, conditional welfare assistance creates a disincentive to work through removal of benefits in response to paid work. If accepting any amount of paid work will leave someone on welfare barely better off, or even worse off, what’s the point? With basic income, all income from paid work (after taxes) is earned as additional income so that everyone is always better off in terms of total income through any amount of employment – whether full time, part time or gig. Thus basic income does not introduce a disincentive to work. It removes the existing disincentive to work that conditional welfare creates.
Fascinatingly, improved incentives are where basic income really shines. Studies of motivation reveal that rewarding activities with money is a good motivator for mechanistic work but a poor motivator for creative work. Combine that with the fact that creative work is to be what’s left after most mechanistic work is handed off to machines, and we’re looking at a future where increasingly the work that’s left for humans is not best motivated extrinsically with money, but intrinsically out of the pursuit of more important goals. It’s the difference between doing meaningless work for money, and using money to do meaningful work.
Basic income thus enables the future of work, and even recognizes all the unpaid intrinsically motivated work currently going on that could be amplified, for example in the form of the $700 billion in unpaid work performed by informal caregivers in the US every year, and all the work in the free/open source software movement (FOSSM) that’s absolutely integral to the internet.
There is also another way basic income could affect work incentives that is rarely mentioned and somewhat more theoretical. UBI has the potential to better match workers to jobs, dramatically increase engagement, and even transform jobs themselves through the power UBI provides to refuse them.
A truly free market for labour
How many people are unhappy with their jobs? According to Gallup, worldwide, only 13% of those with jobs feel engaged with them. In the US, 70% of workers are not engaged or actively disengaged, the cost of which is a productivity loss of around $500 billion per year. Poor engagement is even associated with a disinclination to donate money, volunteer or help others. It measurably erodes social cohesion.
At the same time, there are those among the unemployed who would like to be employed, but the jobs are taken by those who don’t really want to be there. This is an inevitable result of requiring jobs in order to live. With no real choice, people do work they don’t wish to do in exchange for money that may be insufficient – but that’s still better than nothing – and then cling to that paid work despite being the “working poor” and/or disengaged. It’s a mess.
Basic income – in 100 people
Take an economy without UBI. We’ll call it Nation A. For every 100 working-age adults there are 80 jobs. Half the work force is not engaged by their jobs, and half again as many are unemployed with half of them really wanting to be employed, but, as in a game of musical chairs, they’re left without a chair.
Basic income fundamentally alters this reality. By unconditionally providing income outside of employment, people can refuse to do the jobs that aren’t engaging them. This in turn opens up those jobs to the unemployed who would be engaged by them. It also creates the bargaining power for everyone to negotiate better terms. How many jobs would become more attractive if they paid more money or required fewer hours? How would this reorganizing of the labour supply affect productivity if the percentage of disengaged workers plummeted? How much more prosperity would that create?
Consider now an economy with basic income. Let’s call it Nation B. For every 100 working age adults there are still 80 jobs, at least to begin with. The disengaged workforce says “no thanks” to the labour market as is, enabling all 50 people who want to work to do the jobs they want. To attract those who demand more compensation or shorter work weeks, some employers raise their wages. Others reduce the required hours. The result is a transformed labour market of more engaged, more employed, better paid, more productive workers. Fewer people are excluded, and there’s perhaps more scope for all workers to become self-employed entrepreneurs.
Simply put, a basic income improves the market for labour by making it optional. The transformation from a coercive market to a free market means that employers must attract employees with better pay and more flexible hours. It also means a more productive work force that potentially obviates the need for market-distorting minimum wage laws. Friction might even be reduced, so that people can move more easily from job to job, or from job to education/retraining to job, or even from job to entrepreneur, all thanks to more individual liquidity and the elimination of counter-productive bureaucracy and conditions.
Perhaps best of all, the automation of low-demand jobs becomes further incentivized through the rising of wages. The work that people refuse to do for less than a machine would cost to do it becomes a job for machines. And thanks to those replaced workers having a basic income, they aren’t just left standing in the cold in the job market’s ongoing game of musical chairs. They are instead better enabled to find new work, paid or unpaid, full-time or part-time, that works best for them.
The tip of a big iceberg
The idea of basic income is deceivingly simple sounding, but in reality it’s like an iceberg with far more to be revealed as you dive deeper. Its big picture price tag in the form of investing in human capital for far greater returns, and its effects on what truly motivates us are but glimpses of these depths. There are many more. Some are already known, like the positive effects on social cohesion and physical and mental health as seen in the 42% drop in crime in Namibia and the 8.5% reduction in hospitalizations in Dauphin, Manitoba. Debts tend to fall. Entrepreneurship tends to grow. Other effects have yet to be discovered by further experiments. But the growing body of evidence behind cash transfers in general point to basic income as something far more transformative to the future of work than even its long history of consideration has imagined.
It’s like a game of Monopoly where the winning teams have rewritten the rules so players no longer collect money for passing Go. The rule change functions to exclude people from markets. Basic income corrects this. But it’s more than just a tool for improving markets by making them more inclusive; there’s something more fundamental going on.
Humans need security to thrive, and basic income is a secure economic base – the new foundation on which to transform the precarious present, and build a more solid future. That’s not to say it’s a silver bullet. It’s that our problems are not impossible to solve. Poverty is not a supernatural foe, nor is extreme inequality or the threat of mass income loss due to automation. They are all just choices. And at any point, we can choose to make new ones.
Based on the evidence we already have and will likely continue to build, I firmly believe one of those choices should be unconditional basic income as a new equal starting point for all.

Germany- Going to be Hit by Economic Crisis

Germany’s biggest banks are in big trouble. That’s not exactly news. Before the financial crisis, Deutsche Bank’s share price was nearly €100 (US$135) a share. At the start of this year it was €21.45 ($24). It hit its lowest value since 1973 and currently stands below €11. Now its situation is so dire that its name is trending on Twitter.
Since the 2008 financial crisis, Germany has been the rock of stability for Europe’s economy. It has weathered the storm with low unemployment, while economic crises upended entire political systems elsewhere in Europe. Now the banks at the heart of Germany’s economy seem on the brink of going under. The global economic crisis that began in 2008 could be about to hit Germany.
This is far more than a problem for rich shareholders. It has implications for German Chancellor Angela Merkel personally, German politics as a whole, the euro crisis, the immigration crisis, and all of Europe. As Geopolitical Futures founder George Friedman wrote a week ago: “Germany is the fourth-largest economy in the world, the largest economy in Europe, the lender of last resort, and the foundation of European stability. If Germany weakens or destabilizes, Europe destabilizes, and it is not too extreme to say that if Europe destabilizes, the world can as well.”
The immediate trigger for the uncertainty came on September 16, when the United States Department of Justice announced that the bank could have to pay fines of up to $14 billion to settle claims of miss-selling mortgage-backed securities. Normally, $14 billion would be a trivial sum for a bank. But judging by its share price, Deutsche Bank is only worth $18 billion. The final number it ends up paying will be less—probably by a few billion dollars. But the company is losing billions of euros each year—it seems only a matter of time before the bank is worth less than nothing.
On September 26, the bank denied rumors that it had asked Chancellor Merkel for help with the fine and had been turned down. The rumors sent the share price falling another 7 percent.
Share price and profitability do not determine bank solvency. A catastrophic drop in share price alone doesn’t mean a bank will go under. But it does show the institution has some huge problems. And it does mean that people are quickly losing confidence in the bank.
This summer, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) declared Deutsche Bank the most dangerous bank in the world. Among globally systemically important banks, “Deutsche Bank appears to be the most important net contributor to systemic risks,” it wrote on June 30.
Deutsche Bank is one of two banks at the core of Germany’s economic system. The other is Commerzbank, and it too is in trouble. It shares Deutsche’s long-term problems. Before the financial crisis, Commerzbank’s share price nearly hit €300 ($415) a share. Now, it’s less than €6. Its problems are also in the news—it announced it would cut 10,000 jobs and give no dividends this year.
Deutsche Bank is older than Germany itself. Known as the Big Three, Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank and Dresdner Bank bankrolled Germany’s economy for decades. In the mid-1980s, a German government study found that they control the voting authority of three quarters of shares in most big German companies. Dresdner Bank failed in the 2008 financial crisis and had to be bought out by Commerzbank, so the Big Three is now the Big Two. “Disaggregating Deutsche Bank from the German government’s political goals or the structure of German corporations is impossible,” reported Geopolitical Futures. “They are all inextricably linked.” If either of these banks goes under, a huge number of German businesses will take a major hit.
A crisis in Deutsche Bank would also spread far beyond Germany. The bank has deep links to banks around the world, including many in the United States. It would bring about the worst episode of the euro crisis yet seen. And it would put Ms. Merkel in an impossible position.
A bankrupt Deutsche Bank would trigger a political crisis in Germany, at the same time as the eurozone goes into economic meltdown. Therefore it seems almost certain that Deutsche Bank and probably Commerzbank would get some form of state aid if they were about to go bust.
That would be the lesser of the two evils, but it is still dangerous. In the recent Berlin elections, fringe left-wing parties—the Greens and the Left Party—won around 30 percent of the vote. A lot of Germans would not be happy to see their government bailing out fat cats, as they would see it. The pressure on the Christian Democratic Union to get rid of Merkel would increase.
And Merkel’s whole strategy for the euro crisis would unravel. “[I]f Deutsche does go down, it is looking increasingly likely that it will take Merkel with it—and quite possibly the euro as well,” wrote Matthew Lynn in the Telegraph. He wrote:
The politics of a Deutsche rescue are terrible. Germany, with is chancellor taking the lead, has set itself up as the guardian of financial responsibility within the eurozone. … For Germany to then turn around and say, actually we are bailing out our own bank, while letting everyone else’s fail, looks, to put it mildly, just a little inconsistent. … In truth, it would become impossible to maintain a hard-line in Italy, and probably in Greece as well.
And yet, if Deutsche Bank went down, and the German government didn’t step in with a rescue, that would be a huge blow to Europe’s largest economy—and the global financial system. No one really knows where the losses would end up, or what the knock-on impact would be. It would almost certainly land a fatal blow to the Italian banking system, and the French and Spanish banks would be next. …
In fact, Merkel is playing a very dangerous game with Deutsche—and one that could easily go badly wrong. If her refusal to sanction a bailout is responsible for a Deutsche collapse that could easily end her chancellorship. But if she rescues it, the euro might start to unravel. It is hardly surprising that the markets are watching the relentless decline in its share price with mounting horror.
But the most disturbing aspect of this story comes when it is put in context with other worrying signs coming from Germany. The German economy depends on exports. Weak growth in the eurozone means that other European nations can’t afford to buy as many goods from Germany. They have so far made up for this lost business by selling to China and the U.S. However, America is now importing less. This is having a knock-on effect on China, meaning that Germany’s last two growing customers will be cutting back simultaneously.
At the same time, international bodies are warning about the health of the entire global economy. With Germany’s reliance on imports, global problems very quickly become German problems. The Bank of International Settlements warned in its quarterly report on September 18 of growing instability in the financial market, especially in China. The instability that it warns of “does not seem to be cataclysmic,” wrote Friedman, “but given that Germany is at the heart of the earthquake, even a moderate shaking will bring it down.”
The annual report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, published on September 22, is more dire. In “UN Fears Third Leg of the Global Financial Crisis—With Prospect of Epic Debt Defaults,” the Telegraph’s international business editor Ambrose Evans-Pritchard warned that the coming crisis could “prove to be the definitive crisis of globalized capitalism, the demise of the liberal free-market orthodoxies .…”
A crisis in just Deutsche Bank, or even in Deutsche and Commerzbank, could possibly be fixed with a bailout. Germany’s debt is manageable, and it is taking in more money in tax revenue than it is spending. But when you view the whole situation, it’s clear that the bank crisis is a symptom of a much deeper sickness—one that cannot be cured so easily. Last week, Friedman warned:
In my view, there is a growing sense in Germany that the German system is failing … the tremors are now being felt by the finest financial analysts in the world: ordinary people who work for a living and need their paychecks to survive. The political base of modern Germany is crumbling .…
Economic crises in the 1930s drove Germans to vote for the Nazis and Communists. Now they are already voting for fringe parties like Alternative for Deutschland and the Left Party. These parties are not the same as Nazis and Communists, but the trend points to the same rejection of mainstream politics.
At the same time, economic troubles in Germany would open up all the old wounds and questions in the euro crisis. Such a crisis would transform Germany and Europe.
We’ve seen this already in Greece. The nation is ruled by Syriza, a party that won only 5 percent of the vote before the financial crisis. The party came from nowhere to govern the country. If the same kind of political earthquake hits Germany, its effects would be felt around the world.
Even if these problems don’t come to a head soon—if investors never test the assumption that the German government will always stand behind its main banks, for example—the weaknesses are still there, ready to ensure that any global crisis rocks Germany to its core.
The euro crisis exposed that the eurozone cannot function in its current form—it must either fall apart or come together as a superstate. Europe has taken some important steps toward that superstate. But a fresh outbreak of the banking crisis, this time in Germany, would put the eurozone under far more pressure than even in 2008. It would change German politics, while at the same time forcing at least some eurozone countries to unite

India’s Future Main Battle Tank Without Life-Saving ‘Active Armour’

India’s future main battle tank, the T-90MS ‘Tagil’, which will be license manufactured in Avadi in Chennai, will not be equipped with new-generation active armour systems that destroy incoming missiles and shells before they can hit the tank. Active armour systems have saved the lives of dozens of tank crew deployed in Israeli combat operations in Gaza and have now been deployed by the Russian Army in operations in Syria.
For decades, tanks have depended on their armour to protect their crew from enemy shells and anti-tank guided missiles. However, the singular vulnerability of modern tanks to the latest anti-tank guided missiles in the ongoing Iraq and Syria conflicts have raised serious question marks on the ability of armour alone to prevent casualties among tank crews.
Active armour systems are meant to counter this threat. Radars fitted on tanks detect the launch of hostile missiles and tank shells, predict their incoming trajectory and launch guided ammunition that can destroy or deflect hostile projectiles upto 50 metres away from the tank. The ensuing blast destroys the enemy missile, rocket propelled grenade or shell before it can pierce the armour of the tank.
Russian ‘Arena’ active armour system and the Israeli ‘Trophy’ system were both being considered for the Indian Army’s new T-90MS tanks based on the formidable reputation they have earned during combat. However, the ‘Arena’ system was withdrawn from the competition at the technical evaluation stage prior to field trials being held because it did not meet the technical criterion spelt out by the Indian Army.
The withdrawal of the ‘Arena’ resulted in a single-vendor situation with only the Israeli ‘Trophy’ remaining in the race. This is a scenario the government looks to avoid in major defence purchases since it no longer has the ability to choose the least expensive system among the shortlisted options available. Accordingly, in late October this year, the Defence Acquisition Committee rejected the import of all active armour systems. These were likely to have cost approximately Rs. 2 crore per tank. Now, the government has ordered a feasibility study to see if the systems can be developed in the country under the government’s flagship ‘Make in India’ programme which may involve a joint venture with a foreign firm.
The delay in the acquisition of active defence systems for its tanks is a cause of concern for the Indian Army. Videos of the conflict in Syria and Iraq uploaded by rebel fighters on YouTube clearly show modern American-built M1 A1 ‘Abrams’ and German designed Leopard 2A4 tanks being destroyed by Russian or American anti-tank guided missiles which have been supplied to rebel fighters. According to the website ‘War is Boring’ which has monitored the conflict in Syria, “There’s no fewer than 1,800 T-55, T-62 and T-72 tanks plus BMP fighting vehicles exploded, burned, disabled or seized by rebels – with potentially thousands of crewmen also being killed injured or captured.”
In November, the government cleared a Rs. 13,448 crore deal to acquire 464 brand-new T-90MS ‘Tagil’ tanks. India already operates more than 800 T-90S tanks first delivered by Russia in 2001. These are considerably less capable than the T-90MS which has now been ordered. All T-90s form the cutting edge of the Indian Army’s armoured formations and would be an integral part of any offensive across Punjab and Rajasthan in the event of war with Pakistan. At the moment, no tank in Indian Army service has an active armour system.

Trump’s Executive Order on Refugees: Rampant Hysteria Exposed

  • The Naturalization Act of 1790, which limited citizenship to “any alien, being a free white person,” drastically restricted the ability of Muslims to become citizens.
    In a notable 1891 case, the Supreme Court highlighted “the intense hostility of the people of Moslem faith to all other sects, and particularly to Christians.”
  • Scores of Muslim immigrants were turned away at U.S. ports in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Christian immigrants suspected of secretly being Muslims were also excluded. In 1913, a South Carolina court rejected the citizenship petition of a Lebanese Christian, saying that his skin complexion, “about [the color] of walnut, or somewhat darker than is the usual mulatto of one-half mixed blood between the white and the negro races,” provided evidence of miscegenation with Muslims. Ahmed Hassan — a native of Yemen and the first Arab Muslim to apply for citizenship — was denied naturalization in 1942
  • Indeed, the first court ruling to grant naturalization to an Arab-born Muslim was for a Saudi man, in Ex Parte Mohriez, in 1944 — and, even then, based only on the finding that Arabs should be considered part of “the white race.”
  • The dismantling of the Naturalization Act and immigration quotas opened the door to immigrant Muslims from various corners of the Arab world, South Asia and Africa, boosting the U.S. Muslim population from 200,000 in 1951 to more than 1 million in 1971.
  • Today in the United States, Islam is practiced by 8 million people, a growth rate higher than any other faith group.
  • First, the order temporarily halts refugee admissions for 120 days to improve the vetting process, then caps refugee admissions at 50,000 per year. Outrageous, right?
  • Second, the order imposes a temporary, 90-day ban on people entering the U.S. from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. These are countries either torn apart by jihadist violence or under the control of hostile, jihadist governments.
    The ban, however, contains an important exception: “Secretaries of State and Homeland Security may, on a case-by-case basis, and when in the national interest, issue visas or other immigration benefits to nationals of countries for which visas and benefits are otherwise blocked.” In other words, the secretaries can make exceptions — a provision that would, one hopes, fully allow interpreters and other proven allies to enter the U.S. during the 90-day period.
  • Third, Trump’s order also puts an indefinite hold on admission of Syrian refugees to the United States “until such time as I have determined that sufficient changes have been made to the USRAP to ensure that admission of Syrian refugees is consistent with the national interest.” As of 2015, more than 2.5 million undocumented people had been deported by immigration authorities since President Obama took office in 2009, a total which is indeed record-setting. During the two terms of his predecessor, President George W. Bush, just over 2 million people were deported.
  • This is perhaps the least consequential aspect of his order — and is largely a return to the Obama administration’s practices from 2011 to 2014. For all the Democrats’ wailing and gnashing of teeth, until 2016 the Obama administration had already largely slammed the door on Syrian-refugee admissions. The Syrian Civil War touched off in 2011.
  • In other words, Trump’s executive order is a dramatic climb-down from his worst campaign rhetoric. You can read the entire executive order from start to finish, reread it, then read it again, and you will not find a Muslim ban. It’s not there. Nowhere. To be sure, however, the ban is deeply problematic as applied to legal residents of the U.S. and to interpreters and other allies seeking refuge in the United States after demonstrated (and courageous) service to the United States.
    Trump’s order isn’t a betrayal of American values. Applied correctly and competently, it can represent a promising fresh start and a prelude to new policies that protect our nation while still maintaining American compassion and preserving American friendships

The noise being created by the opponents of Trump about his order makes one feel as if POTUS is the reincarnation of Halaku or Taimur. Reality is very different. The hysterical rhetoric about President Trump’s executive order on refugees is out of control. Let’s slow down and take a look at the facts. To read the online commentary, one would think that President Trump just fundamentally corrupted the American character. You would think that the executive order on refugees he signed yesterday betrayed America’s Founding ideals. You might even think he banned people from an entire faith from American shores.
And then look at history. Muslims Were Banned From America LONG BEFORE Donald Trump. Most leftists don’t realize that America has banned Muslims in the past. We specifically mentioned “Muslims“. This includes apparently most mainstream news media folks, Democrat politicians, ACLU lawyers, and at least one federal justice that we know of.
Donald Trump’s calls for a ban on Muslims entering the United States and, more recently, for “extreme vetting” of anyone seeking to immigrate to the United States have been condemned as breaks from the nation’s traditions of religious tolerance and welcoming immigrants. Actually, Trump’s proposals reflect a long-standing, if ugly, strain of U.S. immigration policy, one that restricted the entry of Arab and South Asian Muslim immigrants and barred them from becoming citizens until the middle of the 20th century.
The Naturalization Act of 1790, which limited citizenship to “any alien, being a free white person,” drastically restricted the ability of Muslims to become citizens. The requirement meant that immigrants seeking lawful residence and citizenship were compelled to convince authorities that they fit within the statutory definition of whiteness. Arabs, along with Italians, Jews and others, were forced to litigate their identities in line with prevailing conceptions of whiteness — which fluctuated according to geographic origin, physical appearance and religion. Courts unwaveringly framed Islam as hostile to American ideals and society, casting Muslim immigrants as outside the bounds of whiteness and a threat to the identity and national security of the United States.
Long before 9/11 and the war on terrorism, U.S. courts painted Islam as more than merely a foreign religion, but rather as a rival ideology and “enemy race.” In a notable 1891 case, the Supreme Court highlighted “the intense hostility of the people of Moslem faith to all other sects, and particularly to Christians.”
Scores of Muslim immigrants were turned away at U.S. ports in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Christian immigrants suspected of secretly being Muslims were also excluded. In 1913, a South Carolina court rejected the citizenship petition of a Lebanese Christian, saying that his skin complexion, “about [the color] of walnut, or somewhat darker than is the usual mulatto of one-half mixed blood between the white and the negro races,” provided evidence of miscegenation with Muslims. Ahmed Hassan — a native of Yemen and the first Arab Muslim to apply for citizenship — was denied naturalization in 1942, because, a court said: “It cannot be expected that as a class they [meaning Arabs, a term used synonymously with Muslims at the time] would readily intermarry with our population and be assimilated into our civilization.”
The United States’ functional ban on Muslim immigration persisted until 1944, two years before Trump’s birth. It was shifting U.S. geopolitical interests, not evolving perceptions of racial or religious inclusion, that drove dissolution of the restrictions. The post-World War II era saw the United States in direct competition with the Soviet Union over regions of influence, including the Arab world. The naturalization of Arab Muslim immigrants promoted the broader project of enhancing the United States’ profile in strategically important nations, most notably oil-rich Saudi Arabia. Indeed, the first court ruling to grant naturalization to an Arab-born Muslim was for a Saudi man, in Ex Parte Mohriez, in 1944 — and, even then, based only on the finding that Arabs should be considered part of “the white race.”
Despite the Mohriez decision, the Naturalization Act remained the law of the land until 1952, and restrictive immigration quotas stayed on the books. These quotas sought to “preserve the ideal of U.S. homogeneity” and prevent the entry of Muslim immigrants. Before 1965, the Muslim American population was overwhelmingly composed of native-born African Americans. The dismantling of the Naturalization Act and immigration quotas opened the door to immigrant Muslims from various corners of the Arab world, South Asia and Africa, boosting the U.S. Muslim population from 200,000 in 1951 to more than 1 million in 1971.
Today in the United States, Islam is practiced by 8 million people, a growth rate higher than any other faith group. But the threat of the Islamic State and intensifying Islamophobia has Trump, more openly than any other politician, actively revisiting America’s dark chapter of xenophobia and anti-Muslim animus.
In that sense, “Make America Great Again” is far more than a campaign slogan. It is a racial plea that evokes a time in the United States when whiteness was the legal hallmark of American citizenship, and Muslim identity the embodiment of everything un-American.
And now just look at the rhetoric. Here’s Chuck Schumer: If you thought only Senator Schumer saw tears in Lady Liberty’s eyes, think again. CNN, doing its best Huffington Post impersonation, ran a headline declaring “Trump bans 134,000,000 from the U.S.” The Huffington Post, outdoing itself, just put the Statue of Liberty upside down on its front page. So, what did Trump do? Did he implement his promised Muslim ban? No, far from it. He backed down dramatically from his campaign promises and instead signed an executive order dominated mainly by moderate refugee restrictions and temporary provisions aimed directly at limiting immigration from jihadist conflict zones.
Let’s analyze the key provisions, separate the fact from the hysteria, and introduce just a bit of historical perspective. First, the order temporarily halts refugee admissions for 120 days to improve the vetting process, then caps refugee admissions at 50,000 per year. Outrageous, right?
Not so fast. Before 2016, when Obama dramatically ramped up refugee admissions, Trump’s 50,000 stands roughly in between a typical year of refugee admissions in George W. Bush’s two terms and a typical year in Obama’s two terms. In 2002, the United States admitted only 27,131 refugees. It admitted fewer than 50,000 in 2003, 2006, and 2007. As for President Obama, he was slightly more generous than President Bush, but his refugee cap from 2013 to 2015 was a mere 70,000, and in 2011 and 2012 he admitted barely more than 50,000 refugees himself.
The bottom line is that Trump is improving security screening and intends to admit refugees at close to the average rate of the 15 years before Obama’s dramatic expansion in 2016. Obama’s expansion was a departure from recent norms, not Trump’s contraction.
Second, the order imposes a temporary, 90-day ban on people entering the U.S. from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. These are countries either torn apart by jihadist violence or under the control of hostile, jihadist governments. The ban is in place while the Department of Homeland Security determines the “information needed from any country to adjudicate any visa, admission, or other benefit under the INA (adjudications) in order to determine that the individual seeking the benefit is who the individual claims to be and is not a security or public-safety threat.” It could, however, be extended or expanded depending on whether countries are capable of providing the requested information.
The ban, however, contains an important exception: “Secretaries of State and Homeland Security may, on a case-by-case basis, and when in the national interest, issue visas or other immigration benefits to nationals of countries for which visas and benefits are otherwise blocked.” In other words, the secretaries can make exceptions — a provision that would, one hopes, fully allow interpreters and other proven allies to enter the U.S. during the 90-day period.
To the extent this ban applies to new immigrant and non-immigrant entry, this temporary halt (with exceptions) is wise. We know that terrorists are trying to infiltrate the ranks of refugees and other visitors. We know that immigrants from Somalia, for example, have launched jihadist attacks here at home and have sought to leave the U.S. to join ISIS. Indeed, given the terrible recent track record of completed and attempted terror attacks by Muslim immigrants, it’s clear that our current approach is inadequate to control the threat. Unless we want to simply accept Muslim immigrant terror as a fact of American life, a short-term ban on entry from problematic countries combined with a systematic review of our security procedures is both reasonable and prudent.
However, there are reports that the ban is being applied even to green-card holders. This is madness. The plain language of the order doesn’t apply to legal permanent residents of the U.S., and green-card holders have been through round after round of vetting and security checks. The administration should intervene, immediately, to stop misapplication. If, however, the Trump administration continues to apply the order to legal permanent residents, it should indeed be condemned.
Third, Trump’s order also puts an indefinite hold on admission of Syrian refugees to the United States “until such time as I have determined that sufficient changes have been made to the USRAP to ensure that admission of Syrian refugees is consistent with the national interest.”
This is perhaps the least consequential aspect of his order — and is largely a return to the Obama administration’s practices from 2011 to 2014. For all the Democrats’ wailing and gnashing of teeth, until 2016 the Obama administration had already largely slammed the door on Syrian-refugee admissions. The Syrian Civil War touched off in 2011.
Here are the Syrian-refugee admissions to the U.S. until Obama decided to admit more than 13,000 in 2016: Fiscal Year 2011: 29 Fiscal Year 2012: 31 Fiscal Year 2013: 36 Fiscal Year 2014: 105 Fiscal Year 2015: 1,682 To recap: While the Syrian Civil War was raging, ISIS was rising, and refugees were swamping Syria’s neighbors and surging into Europe, the Obama administration let in less than a trickle of refugees. Only in the closing days of his administration did President Obama reverse course — in numbers insufficient to make a dent in the overall crisis, by the way — and now the Democrats have the audacity to tweet out pictures of bleeding Syrian children?
It’s particularly gross to see this display when the Obama administration’s deliberate decision to leave a yawning power vacuum — in part through its Iraq withdrawal and in part through its dithering throughout the Syrian Civil War — exacerbated the refugee crisis in the first place. There was a genocide on Obama’s watch, and his tiny trickle of Syrian refugees hardly makes up for the grotesque negligence of abandoning Iraq and his years-long mishandling of the emerging Syrian crisis. When we know our enemy is seeking to strike America and its allies through the refugee population, when we know they’ve succeeded in Europe, and when the administration has doubts about our ability to adequately vet the refugees we admit into this nation, a pause is again not just prudent but arguably necessary.
It is important that we provide sufficient aid and protection to keep refugees safe and healthy in place, but it is not necessary to bring Syrians to the United States to fulfill our vital moral obligations. Fourth, there is a puzzling amount of outrage over Trump’s directive to “prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.”
In other words, once refugee admissions resume, members of minority religions may well go to the front of the line. In some countries, this means Christians and Yazidis. In others, it can well mean Muslims. Sadly, during the Obama administration it seems that Christians and other minorities may well have ended up in the back of the line. For example, when Obama dramatically expanded Syrian refugee admissions in 2016, few Christians made the cut: The Obama administration has resettled 13,210 Syrian refugees into the United States since the beginning of 2016 — an increase of 675 percent over the same 10-month period in 2015. Of those, 13,100 (99.1 percent) are Muslims — 12,966 Sunnis, 24 Shi’a, and 110 other Muslims — and 77 (0.5 percent) are Christians. Another 24 (0.18 percent) are Yazidis.
As a point of reference, in 2015 Christians represented roughly 10 percent of Syria’s population. Perhaps there’s an innocent explanation for the disparity. Perhaps not. But one thing is clear — federal asylum and refugee law already require a religious test. As Andy McCarthy has repeatedly pointed out, an alien seeking asylum “must establish that . . . religion [among other things] . . . was or will be at least one central reason for persecuting the applicant.” Similarly, the term “refugee” means “(A) any person who is outside any country of such person’s nationality . . . and who is unable or unwilling to return to . . . that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of . . . religion [among other things] . . . [.]”
Religious considerations are by law part of refugee policy. And it is entirely reasonable to give preference (though not exclusivity) to members of minority religions. Finally, you can read the entire executive order from start to finish, reread it, then read it again, and you will not find a Muslim ban. It’s not there. Nowhere. At its most draconian, it temporarily halts entry from jihadist regions.
In other words, Trump’s executive order is a dramatic climb-down from his worst campaign rhetoric. You can read the entire executive order from start to finish, reread it, then read it again, and you will not find a Muslim ban. It’s not there. Nowhere. To be sure, however, the ban is deeply problematic as applied to legal residents of the U.S. and to interpreters and other allies seeking refuge in the United States after demonstrated (and courageous) service to the United States. Twitter timelines are coming alive with stories of Iraqi interpreters who’ve saved American lives. Few have bled more in alliance with America than Iraq’s Kurds, but the order itself provides for the necessary case-by-case exemptions to the temporary blanket bans.
It is vital that General John Kelly, the newly confirmed secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, move expeditiously to protect those who’ve laid down their lives in the war against ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban. Given his own wartime experience, I believe and hope that he will. Trump’s order was not signed in a vacuum. Look at the Heritage Foundation’s interactive timeline of Islamist terror plots since 9/11. Note the dramatic increase in planned and executed attacks since 2015. Now is not the time for complacency. Now is the time to take a fresh look at our border-control and immigration policies. Trump’s order isn’t a betrayal of American values. Applied correctly and competently, it can represent a promising fresh start and a prelude to new policies that protect our nation while still maintaining American compassion and preserving American friendships.

History is Important, so is Geography

India and Bangladesh have wasted opportunities for shared advantages. The mistake need not be repeated. History is fine (and sometimes not so fine), but our main inspiration and most compelling reason for inter-state cooperation between India and Bangladesh lies in our location. Just as countries can be prisoners of geography, so can geography be our liberators — if we have the ability to see it. In the case of India and Bangladesh, we seem to have singularly failed to do so.
For Bangladesh, India is one of its two neighbours. But that does not tell the whole story. Given its huge all-round presence, it is practically the only neighbour, a giant one with enormous military and economic capabilities, potentially both for good and bad, depending on the nature of the relationship. For India, on the other hand, Bangladesh is one of six contiguous neighbours. Again, that does not tell the full story. Bangladesh is the only neighbour that is practically enveloped within India’s own borders, again with tremendous potential for good and bad.
History tells us that geography has been crucial in determining the destiny of countries. But it remains far below its potential here. In the case of India and Bangladesh, geography has tied us so intricately together that any underestimation of both the potential for mutual prosperity — and mutual harm — can only testify to our collective foolishness. The allure of the positive, and the legitimate fear of the negative, should compel us to always search for solutions to problems, never allowing them to fester long enough to become too difficult to solve.
Seldom has a country contributed more towards the independence of another country as India has for Bangladesh, including the sacrifice of nearly 2,000 Indian soldiers, the sheltering of millions of refugees during the nine months of our liberation war and the enormous economic hardship suffered, so that we Bangladeshis could be free.
So, why have we failed to build a model bilateral relationship? Simply put, we have never given our heart and soul to it. Every time “breakthrough opportunities” come, we fail to seize them and allow our “business as usual” habit to destroy them by failing to think “outside the box”.
Take the case of transit. India has been insisting on it for decades; now that it has come about, progress is slow, piecemeal and held back by pathetically low levels of investment. Instead of a comprehensive, multi-model, transit accord or treaty, what we have are fragmented deals, totally lacking global vision. On both sides, river transit is being handled by one ministry, railway by another and road by yet another, with the attending inter-ministerial mismatch and bureaucratic delays.
Imagine how far we would have moved if all our transit potentials were brought under one masterplan, with one vision and clear goals of improving trade, commerce and connectivity in all sub-regional, regional, trans-Asian and trans-continental aspects. Such a global view would have generated the resources to realise the true potential of what we can achieve. Only if we saw our maps a little more, the potential would have hit us on the face.
Water sharing also remains a core vexing issue. There is no new thinking on this matter. The problems between the central and the West Bengal government may be real, but to us, these appear more as an internal issue of India which should not affect our bilateral relations.
Like transit, here again, we need a comprehensive water management accord which will deal with all our common rivers and not one by one, as we have been doing so far. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will, reportedly, carry such a proposal during her upcoming visit. We hope it will be considered with the seriousness it deserves.
A new irritant is also the Rampal power plant whose location, near the Sundarbans, is a very serious concern for the environmentalists of Bangladesh, their fears shared by Indian counterparts. So far, such concerns have fallen on deaf ears.
Much has been accomplished under Sheikh Hasina on our side and Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi on the other. But it remains far below potential. On Bangladesh’s side, the biggest step forward was responding to India’s security concern and removing all terrorist camps within our borders — which shouldn’t have been there in the first place. On the Indian side, duty-free access to Bangladeshi goods was the biggest positive move, whose benefits are beginning to be realised. Again though, the area remains below expectations. Illogical non-tariff barriers continue as irritants and retard progress. Meanwhile, India selling much needed electricity to Bangladesh has had positive results; more such supply would really help.
Given the changed political climate on both sides, progress in our bilateral relations should have moved forward faster and more substantially. Much remains stuck at the policy and planning level — less than expected can be seen on the ground.
As a media person, I have never been able to understand the indifference of the Indian media towards Bangladesh’s issues, especially those affecting bilateral relations. The saddest example is the Farakka barrage, which, in my view, was the first major cause of the rise of grassroots-level anti-Indianism in the late eighties. This lasted for decades and still lingers — but this was never reported in depth in India by any mainstream print or audiovisual media.
This barrage devastated the ecosystem of northwest Bangladesh, destroying thousands of acres of arable land, resulting in the rise of salinity in river and underground water. Only with the signing of the 30-year Ganges Water Treaty in 1996 has some of its negative impact been mitigated. In fact, water sharing of our common rivers remains a blotch in our relations. The failure to even talk about Teesta, when a deal was ready to be signed in September, 2011, has greatly disappointed us in Bangladesh. The rationale for Bangladesh’s position on this crucial water sharing issue has almost never found adequate space in the Indian media.
There are many other issues that can be cited. Nothing about Bangladesh is covered except for occasional instances of communal violence — which is endemic to the subcontinent — and the so-called rise of terrorism that Bangladesh is waging a frontal onslaught against.
So how do we move forward? Without fretting over lost opportunities and putting aside a litany of our mutual errors, we need to seize the opportunity that is before us. If there ever was a propitious moment to make a dramatic change in Bangladesh-India relations, it is now.
There are too many examples of lost moments in the history of our relationship. Let us not repeat them.

Pure Red Herring: Modi to Create New Indian- an E echo of Mao & Gandhi

Purity versus pollution have been part of the Indian way of life for millennia, manifested most perniciously in our caste system, which divides people between the highest, who are ritually the purest, and the lowest who are the most polluted. Ritual purity is the feature of many religions, but nowhere has it had the malign impact that it has in India.
Confined to religious and social practice and scientific practice, the concept now seems to have leapt across social and religious practice into the contemporary political discourse. Speaking to the nation on New Year’s Eve, Prime Minister Narendra Modi weighed in, terming the whole demonetisation exercise as ‘a historic rite of purification’ aimed at ridding the society of the ‘badness’ and ‘evil’ that had crept in in the form of corruption, black money and counterfeit currency.
‘Purity’ is fine as a scientific concept, but applied to religious, political, social and economic categories it is troublesome. We often hear of temples being washed after Dalits have entered them, or Dalits being segregated from upper castes in schools, villages and eating places. The ‘ghar wapsi’ movement calling for the reconversion of those whose ancestors had allegedly converted from the Hindu faith is another manifestation of this, as are movements to dictate dietary choices. Most crippling remain the notions of purity applied to the female body, which are the foundation of the poor status of women in our society.
But what is ‘purity’ when it comes to economic development and growth? Modi’s words suggest that it means a society without corruption and an economy where everyone pays his/her taxes. This is perfectly fine as an ideal for a society, but to term them as a sine qua non (essential condition) for economic growth is both ahistorical and fraught with risk.
A glance back at the growth of capitalism will reveal that the industrial transformation of the West came along with crass exploitation, colonialism, robber barons and genocide. Subsequently these countries have cleaned up their act, though instances of corruption and bribe often pop up in countries like Sweden, Norway or the UK. The Chinese version of growth between 1990-2010, too, came with huge corruption, which Xi Jinping is now trying to fix. But wealth came before the cleanup.
Actually, the closest parallel to emphasising ‘purity’ in a society comes from the failed socialist experiments ranging from the utopians like the Saint-Simon or Robert Owen and the Marxist-Leninists. Indeed, in their zeal, the latter committed even greater crimes in pursuit of that ‘pure’ ideal called communism. There is, of course, our own version of a pure society in Ram Rajya, which is entirely mythical.
With the decline of communism, almost everyone agrees that some form of capitalism is the best means of economic progress. ‘Pragmatism’ in policy is the key word – once a goal is identified, appropriate ways and means are worked out to achieve it without being over-burdened by ideology. We are all agreed that India should become a developed economy, with a special thrust on inclusiveness, given our background of exclusion of large chunks of society. The issue of ‘pure’ versus ‘impure’ means, or ‘goodness’ and ‘badness’ of people or society are red herrings.
The essence of modern capitalism is the freedom of choice, constrained by rules and laws to make an otherwise brutal system, humane, efficient and inclusive. Certainly, India need not go through the terrible 19th century experience of capitalism. Fighting corruption and tax-evasion is important, but it cannot be a pre-condition to the growth process, but only part of a more complex process that irons them out over a period of time through appropriate policy.
India’s obsession with purity has cost us dear through history. The opportunity costs of denying social mobility to large segments of the population, especially the Dalits and women cannot even be computed. What we do know is that a society so divided was unable to offer resistance to repeated invasions of the country because purity rules demanded that only certain castes could wield weapons.
It almost seems that Modi is looking to create the New Indian, an uncomfortable echo of Stalin and Mao’s New Socialist. But there is also an echo of his fellow Gujarati, Mahatma Gandhi, who believed that impure means could never deliver pure ends. Our Independence had to be obtained through non-violence, the Mahatma believed, and our economy based on satisfying the minimal needs and a rejection of mass industrialisation. Eventually, Independence came because World War II bankrupted Britain. And, fortunately, Gandhi’s heirs rejected his ideas of a village-based economy which would have been a disaster of epic proportions.
Where will the current drive for a ‘pure’ means of attaining economic growth lead us? No one knows, probably not even Modi.

Chinese Dragon Readying to Gobble Pakistan a la Tibet

The Chinese Dragon was always viewed with some amount of trepidation ever since the Korean War. I have read many books written by Chinese and the biography on Mao revealed that during the Korean War even when the North was losing, Mao refused to give up as he said he had millions of Chinese who could be sent to the front. They were used as cannon fodder.
China has come a long way since the Mao era but it has also under the nose of the US proliferated weapons of mass destruction to North Korea and Pakistan. In fact, were it not for China’s active support North Korea would have ceased to exist as a rogue state. It seems China likes to keep monsters in its backyard much as Pakistan does. Perhaps this is why it refuses to declare Masood Azhar a terrorist even though China is quite clear on the terror strikes he has been involved with in India.
Perhaps in a crazy way they equate the Dalai Lama a man of peace, almost worshiped around the world with Azhar a man with the blood of many innocents on his hands. Even after decades they cannot countenance the fact that India gave this man of God, sanctuary.
Today they have allowed North Korea to threaten the US with an intercontinental ballistic missile, which North Korea would have had to get help from China to develop. The President-elect Trump has said clearly that it cannot scare America and is suspicious of the game China in playing, as he should be.
China would be stupid not to deter North Korea and equally shortsighted not to accept that Masood Azhar is a terrorist. After all such people can make things very bad for the great economic corridor that China is building right through Pakistan. It would be far better to help to put them away.
To the world at large it is clear that China is supporting states that sponsor terror and their insistence on a harmonious society and world rings hollow. One of America’s greatest Generals- MacArthur said during the darkest period of World War II:
“I have no fear that we will not ultimately defeat the Japanese, nor do I fear any dread of conquest by them. My great fear is the Chinese, with their increasing militancy and aggressive tendency, they’re the great Asiatic menace.”
MacArthur’s words are prophetic and should be taken seriously. China controls the minds and lives of 1.5 billion people and has brainwashed them into thinking they will be the next great power.
With China taking over territory near the Philippines and securing them with lethal weapons, while the world is distracted by the civil war in the Middle East, it is clear that unless stopped China will ultimately control Pakistan as it has done Tibet and slowly but surely colonise African states that have the resources it seeks. And in the process it will protect and feed terrorist states.
If this gives them the unique title of a nation supporting terrorist states, so be it. China has never cared much about International bodies or international laws. In fact, their own draconian laws only apply to its citizens. China seeks more territory and more power. It will do anything to achieve this.

Saturday Special: Indian Male-The Global Role Model for Misogyny

One thing you’ve got to agree with, even if you don’t find it agreeable, is that finding women to be easy targets for random or planned acts of abuse and violence is a subcontinental trait.
Honed over centuries and adapting to changing conditions, the Indian male, in particular, has unknowingly been a role model for misogyny the world over.
It is an accepted fact that much before the ancient Texans and the modern Wahhabis, it was the Indian who discovered the zero, invented the flying machine (and subsequently forgot how to make it, strangely), built the first nuclear weapons, and ensured that women would be treated inferior to men as a gender and goose.
Once this radical model was set and its result turned out to be general social stability, ‘values’ — that stunningly meaningless word meant to mean something apparently deeply fundamental about a people — embraced this androcentric model.
So effective was this misogyny that no one really thought about it being proactively anti-woman — or, as historians and Oped-writers later would call this dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women: misogyny.
Today, many of us outraged by it but first seeking ‘a more nuanced understanding of where such a misogynistic culture comes from’ could call it: alt-patriarchy.
The New Year’s Eve mass molestation — and a separate CCTV-captured grab-and-run the next evening — in Bengaluru, the rape and death of an 80-year-old in Haryana last week, along with the many other micro-‘events’ of women’s bodies being attacked have made many of us horrified and sick.
That is truly touching. But the fact that there is a quality of reacting to shock-and-awe-inspiring natural events — seasonal landslides, belting storms, sheet lightning, heatwaves — in this outpouring of ‘OMG!’ outrage can be easily ascertained by the other fact that no real attempt is made to change what horrifies and sickens us each time in the first place.
An alien could be forgiven for mistaking these ‘liberal’ howls against these ‘beastly’ sexual bullies, predators, molesters and rapists as some participatory ritual. Y
You know, like the Petameat industry complex, the former feeding off the other. So, when ideologues of misogyny like Abu Azmi, president of the Samajwadi Party’s Maharashtra unit, says on national TV, “If there’s petrol near fire, it will burn. If there is sugar, ants will come,” he is dipping into standard operational thinking, and not being a radical clergyman in a brothel.
That taut tautology, ‘Boys will be boys’ (with the silent corollary, ‘Girls should be girls’), and the horrified reaction it gets from many of us, hide the Real McCoy: that shit happens because we allow the shit to happen
Over and over again. We actually feel better about ourselves feeling outraged. What else, bhaiyon aur behenon, would explain our following all these ‘stories’ of molestation, detailed narratives of ‘rape’, with an increased heartbeat and then — nothing.
If, as in the case in Bengaluru on December 31, 2016, people entrusted to maintain law and order did nothing while men sexually terrorised women on the crowded street, do we sound out a no-holds-barred message through the law? Naming and shaming is hardly a deterrent for those whose idea of shameis a woman in shorts or out ‘at night’.
It’s not that we take all crimes as chalta hai. Harrowing crimes, such as not standing in a cinema while the national anthem is being played, is taken seriously. No one really wants to disincentivise harassing women, treating them as chattel, ‘putting them in their place’, ‘teaching them a lesson’, molesting and raping women ‘who are aware of the risks but still…’.
Because you, holding this paper or scrolling down this page, treat women as if they were men with a few happy tweaks, don’t find the idea of rape appealing, find molesters appalling, and probably think of women in terms of ‘mothers and daughters’ — unless, of course, she happens to be your wife or girlfriend or your niece. Which should have been enough for everyone else to emulate.
Which is also what the law, in its implementation, seems to think: acts against women being transgressions, not really real crimes in our ‘post-feudal’ society where even retail stores have different sections for ‘western wear’ and ‘ethnic wear’.
The law, after all, is a rarely opened Collected Works of William Shakespeare on the shelf. Why won’t women in this country continue to be humiliated and assaulted every day? It is the Indian way of keeping the peace. For the sake of any dearth of the Unadarsh Bharatiya nari, we bloody invented misogyny.

The Looming Disruption

Backlash against globalisation, technological innovations and rivalries between great powers threaten India’s economic and security applecart. Thanks to the election of Donald Trump as the president of the United States, there is no longer an American consensus.
Troubles tend to come in threes. Three broad international trends that matured this year are set to disrupt the world in 2017. The revolt against globalisation in the developed world, a technological transformation that threatens to kill jobs in multiple sectors and the renewed great power contestation are likely to reinforce each other. Together, the three trends could upend Delhi’s core assumptions about India’s national, economic and security strategy in the reform era that began a quarter century ago.
Since the 1980s, the idea that economic globalisation and liberalisation are the only paths to development was called the “Washington Consensus”. Thanks to the election of Donald Trump as the president of the United States, there is no longer an American consensus. Trump has promised to tear up free trade agreements and launch a tariff war against China. He is also threatening to penalise American companies that move factories abroad and import the goods back into the United States.
Trump has railed against the H-1B visa system that he says replaced American technical workers with in-sourcing of cheap labour from India and other places. He wants to throw illegal immigrants out from America and build a great wall on the Mexican border. Unlike his predecessors, Trump is expected to follow through on some of his threats, for his narrow electoral victory in the elections was made possible by the hostility to trade and immigration among the white working classes in America’s mid-west.
Trump is not the only one capitalising on the current dark mood in the West. The surprising vote in favour of Britain leaving the European Union in the summer of 2016 showed the depth of resentment against globalism and supra-national economic institutions in the old continent. Brexit may well be followed by “Frexit” as France holds elections in the next few months. The far-right candidate Marine Le Pen has promised a French referendum on leaving the EU if she’s elected president in 2017. Right-wing populists are on the march all across Europe.
Until now, India’s strategy has been to globalise at its own pace and resist Western pressures for sweeping reform. If the West turns against globalisation, Delhi will need a lot of new thinking on post-reform economic strategy. Meanwhile, there is a second trend — the so called fourth industrial revolution — that is boosting the backlash against globalisation in the developed world. Technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics and big data expected to be far more disruptive than the earlier transformations.
The single greatest impact of the fourth industrial revolution will be on employment. A report issued by the White House last week said automation and robotics have “the potential to disrupt the current livelihoods of millions of Americans”. In the past, technological breakthroughs produced more jobs than they eliminated. This time around, they could not only destroy a wide range of occupations but also significantly reduce the labour costs in the production process. This dramatic devaluation of labour would require a massive restructuring of modern societies.
The impact of the technological revolution could make it hard for India to expand employment through the planned rejuvenation of its manufacturing sector. The growing anti-globalisation sentiment in the West and the impact of new technologies suggest India can’t replicate the Chinese economic strategy of the last three decades — making in India and exporting to global markets. Debating the contradictory imperatives of the emerging technologies — of investing more in them while finding ways to cope with their social consequences — must be a major priority for India in 2017.
The fourth industrial revolution and accompanying political instability are bound to affect global power distribution. Those successful in adaptation will improve their relative standing within the great power constellation; those who fail will fall behind. Domestic politics within the major nations is also likely to emerge as a major variable shaping the global balance of power. Those powers that can manage the political turbulence at home are likely to prevail over those who can’t.
Meanwhile, the era of relative peace and harmony among major powers since the collapse of the Berlin wall is coming to an end. The assertion of Russia in Europe and China’s muscle flexing in the South China Sea over the last few years signal a new confidence in Moscow and Beijing that they can challenge the post Second World War American primacy in Eurasia. President Barack Obama sought to make America come to terms with its relative decline through policies of retrenchment and restraint.
“Not so fast,” says his successor Trump. The president-elect is determined to push back. “Let it be an arms race,” Trump declared last week after tweeting that the US will expand its nuclear arsenal. He also wants to build up American navy, invest in artificial intelligence and other autonomous weapons technologies as part of his effort to restore American military advantage and make “America great again”. Delhi, which has managed its post Cold War international relations reasonably well, must now prepare itself for considerable turbulence and a few fleeting strategic opportunities that might present themselves.

India Take Note When Davos Man Starts Talking of Inclusive Growth

When Samuel P Huntington first coined the world Davos Man he used it to mean people in the global elite group who thought of themselves are purely international in the words and deeds. Though they included women and men of widely different background irrefutable credentials the focus of the Davos Man has however been largely about globalisation and wealth creation with other issues relegated more to the background.
However things seems to be changing fast. The World Economic Forum has now come forward with The Inclusive Growth and Global Development Report 2017 which seeks to draw up a strategy for ensuring greater synergy between economic growth and more broad based improvement in living standards of the people.
True this has not been a sudden development. A beta version of the policy report had in fact been released two years back. But things have moved faster now with the WEF even compiling an Inclusive Development Index (IDI) to compare the performance of 109 countries. Unfortunately India’s situation is rather discouraging because the problems are numerous.
IDI ranks India 60th among 79 developing countries. This is despite the fact that its economy has done well with its per capita GDP growth among the top ten, strong improvement in labor productivity, falling poverty levels and better access to finance. On the negative side the sustainability of government spending is suspect given the high government debt, educational enrollment rates are low and education at different levels is of poor quality. Moreover there is low labor force participation, a large informal economy and vulnerable employment situations. To make matter worse poor infrastructure, corruption, and administrative burden for starting and running companies are too large for comfort.
Now let us look at China whose economy is ranked 15 by the IDI. Though China has some India like characteristics including strong per capita GDP and labor productivity growth it has other severe drawbacks. The worst is it has the highest carbon intensity of GDP among developing nations. And wealth inequality has shot through the roof. But then once again other problems are similar to that of India including slack investment in productive infrastructure, need for greater improvements in healthcare and access to infrastructure. There is also an immediate need for a better social safety net and targeted financial transfers.
India’s low ranking in the IDI should set off alarm bells in the government so that greater priority is given to more efficient governance and improved delivery of services so that the anomalies are quickly corrected and the country can hope for more inclusive growth.

India’s Eternal Time Warp

There were as many Indian participants at this year’s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum as there were Chinese, but nobody noticed India at all
Is India going to miss the bus yet again? I asked myself this question many times last week as the mightiest of our business leaders wandered about with doleful expressions because of the almost total absence of India in the conversations the world is currently having.
There were as many Indian participants at this year’s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum as there were Chinese, but nobody noticed India at all. More depressing still was that Xi Jinping was greeted by this gathering of the rich and powerful as if he were the emperor of the world.
While listening to his excellent speech, I marvelled at the irony of a Communist dictator being kowtowed to by people who believe in democracy and free markets. These do not exist in China. They do in India, but no Indian leader has ever attracted the kind of attention the Chinese President did. Why? When I asked myself this question, images of China’s modern highways, superfast trains and orderly cities rose in my head and the answer became evident.
China realised in the Seventies that central planning and Marxist economics would not bring prosperity. So it changed course. India did not change course till 15 years later when P V Narasimha Rao began to dismantle the licence raj. He did this slyly without telling people why change was necessary. This stealthy approach to economic reform has unfortunately been copied by every prime minister since then. Most Indians continue to be fooled by rubbish about how the rich have stolen money and resources that belong to the poor. So in a truly tragic way we remain mired in an economic time warp.
Narendra Modi began what seemed like a process of real reform by abolishing the Planning Commission, but he did this without explaining why it had become an anachronism. Not only did ordinary Indians not understand what the disappearance of this symbol of central planning meant but even Narendra Modi’s ministers seemed not to see the NITI Aayog as a new idea. Modi should have not just explained this reform but also explained why India had to open her economy to change and private investment.
If in his conversations with ordinary people on Mann ki Baat he had asked whether government should be running businesses or concentrating on governance, it is hard to think of any Indian who would not have agreed that the government had no business to be in business. Modi himself said this often in those early months of his tenure when he travelled the world asking overseas Indians to put their faith and their money in India. So what changed?
When did he change from being a dedicated economic reformer to suddenly becoming Robin Hood? If he talks to ordinary people, he will discover that the main reason why there has been huge popular support for the currency withdrawal is because they believe that money taken from the rich will be put in the bank accounts of the poorest Indians. Modi has himself taken to talking about how the money of the poor has been looted by corrupt people, lending dangerous credence to these rumours. Has he noticed yet how much damage the hysteria over black money has caused? Has he noticed that since he took office there has been almost no major foreign investment in new projects?
In the main bazaar in Davos, I spotted a sign for Make in India and it reminded me once more of the bus India could be missing again. Inside the conference halls of the World Economic Forum nearly all conversations were about the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the consequences of digitisation on jobs and businesses. The great manufacturing opportunities that China benefited so cleverly from 20 years ago now no longer exist. Besides, making in India will only become possible when our transport systems improve dramatically. The money needed for modernising India’s infrastructure is huge. Can the government find it without private investment?
Since demonetisation, Modi has urged Indians to accept that the world has changed and that they will have to learn to use digital systems of banking and commerce. He is absolutely right. But once more India fails when it comes to the infrastructure needed for us to become participants in this Fourth Industrial Revolution.
If India misses the bus once more, it will be a long, long time before we are able to catch the next one because buses are moving much faster today than ever before and they are travelling on highways that we could not have imagined even five years ago. A session on solar cell technology in Davos and another on the use of holograms in medical science made me feel I had come from another planet. The world is no longer what it was but alas India is exactly as she was.

The Coming War

India had a rehearsal of this experience when Narendra Modi was elected. The media was not ready for such an outsider, who also had the blame for the 2002 riots to overcome.Narendra Modi wants to take India to the top. Donald Trump is worried that America has slipped from its top position. The idea that the BJP could choose him to head the campaign for the parliamentary elections was anathema to many people. Yet, Narendra Modi won more than handsomely. After 25 years, a single party got a majority. Many Congress supporters could not believe their party could fall so low.
Six days back, Donald Trump was sworn in as the forty-fifth President of the USA. It promises to be a noisy, divisive occasion. It will also mark the biggest change in American policy. Trump is an outsider whom no one expected to win. There are shell-shocked people who worry that something must be wrong with the country to have elected Trump.
Trump is also an outsider to elections and political life. He behaves and acts as an untrained, uncontrollable person. He denounces individuals and nations in a way which has not been heard for many decades. But as in the case of Modi, while the professional politicians and media don’t approve, the people love him.
They are both nationalists but there is one big difference. Modi wants to take India to the top. Trump is worried that America has slipped from its top position. He wants to make America great again. Trump is worried America may be on its way down in the power league. Modi just wants to get India higher up that league.
The synergy between these two leaders will come in international relations. Take four nations — America, Russia, China and India. It is seriously likely that the coming years will see a heightening of tensions among the four. America and India have been coming closer ever since Vajpayee’s days. Manmohan Singh and George Bush got along like wildfire. Under Barack Obama, the alliance got closer. There is an implicit understanding that India and America will stand together.
Together against which country? India and Russia have been allies for decades. Trump has expressed admiration for Vladimir Putin. India has a border dispute with China going back 60 years. Trump has singled out China as the major economic problem for America. Russia, on the other hand, has no problems with China.
Take the worst-case scenario. It is America and India against China. Russia may stand aside from this confrontation. But if there is an actual military conflict, it will be across the India-China border and in the South China Sea. When Trump seeks to make America great again, he wants to put China in its place. He sees China as having taken the greater share of gains from trade. This may be the case in fact or not, but Trump is serious. This is why he took the unusual step of being friendly with the President of Taiwan. It took America 25 years before it recognised the People’s Republic of China as the legitimate power rather than Taiwan. In reversing the policy, Trump was not being naive. He knew he was tweaking China’s tail.
It may not come to a military conflict. But it is more likely than not, for the first time in 50 years, that it will.

The World Today Resembles One Before World War I?

A backlash to globalization appears to be gaining strength around the world. U.S. politicians on both the right and left have called for curbing free trade deals they say benefit foreigners or the global elite. President Donald Trump has championed tariffs on imports and limits on immigration, and suggested withdrawing from international alliances and trade agreements. Meanwhile, populist and nationalist governments have gained ground in Europe and Asia, and voters in Britain have elected to withdraw from the European Union.
To some, it looks ominously like another moment in history — the period leading up to World War I, which marked the end of a multi-decade expansion in global ties that many call the first era of globalization.
In a recent report, Josh Feinman, the chief global economist for Deutsche Asset Management, says that the world could see a substantial backsliding to globalization in decades to come. After all, he writes, we have seen it happen before, in the years of chaos and isolationism that encompassed the First and Second World Wars and the Great Depression.
“The first great globalization wave, in the half-century or so before WWI, sparked a populist backlash too, and ultimately came crashing down in the cataclysms of 1914 to 1945,” says Feinman.
Other economists have proposed similar theories in the past. Branko Milanovic, Dani Rodrik, Niall Ferguson, Fred Bergsten and others have argued that globalization is a cyclical process, accelerating and retrenching over decades, as global integration naturally gives rise to a backlash. Like Feinman, many see the period leading up to World War I as an illustrative example.
From the mid-19th century to 1914, advances like steamships, the telegraph, the telephone and the Suez and Panama canals dramatically shrunk distances and increased communication, and the world underwent a period of rapid globalization.
Roughly 60 million Europeans left low-wage countries in Europe for resource-rich lands in the United States, Canada, Argentina, Australia and elsewhere, Feinman says. Countries also lowered their barriers to imported goods and embraced trade. As this chart from Feinman’s report shows, merchandise exports rose as a share of the economy, evidence of globalization.
These changes spread the benefits of the Industrial Revolution around the world, Feinman says. But in some places, particularly wealthier countries, they also worsened inequality. Trade enriched some people but left others behind, triggering unrest and a political backlash.
As Feinman writes, countries gradually introduced more trade barriers and restrictions on immigration. With the support of American workers, the United States passed a law in 1921 that imposed strict quotas on immigrants, especially those who were poor or from outside of northern Europe. With the World Wars and the Great Depression, globalization collapsed, and nationalist movements and economic isolationism reigned for decades.
In the decades following World War II, the pendulum swung in the other direction. The United States led the world in creating and expanding international organizations like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the precursor to the World Trade Organization — institutions that creators believed might help make another world war impossible. Since then, the world has experienced what many think of as the second great wave of globalization.
There are many differences among these eras of globalization and retrenchment, Feinman is careful to say. The World Wars and Great Depression were not just about a rejection of globalization, and that rejection of globalization was as much a result of those events as their cause, he writes.
Yet there are some strong parallels, Feinman says. “Modern globalization has been spurred by some of the same forces that powered the pre-WWI epoch: New technologies, an open, free-trade, rules-based world economic system underpinned by the leading power of the day, and a period of general peace among major countries.”
Today, the free flow of capital and trade exceeds what it was in the pre-World War I era. And the share of Americans who are foreign-born and the share of wealth owned by the richest Americans — an indicator of inequality — have returned to pre-World War I levels, after dipping during the mid-1900s
As before World War I, the second great wave of globalization led to a surge in immigration and increasing inequality in some countries, which likely helped to trigger the current backlash.
Feinman says that globalization is far from solely responsible for the economic malaise that some in the United States and around the world experience. In addition to globalization, technology, social changes and government policies have all been instrumental in determining who benefits and who loses out from global economic integration in past decades.
But globalization has also hurt some less-skilled workers by exposing them to competition. In addition, globalization may make an easier political scapegoat, says Feinman: It’s easier for politicians to blame foreign countries for their troubles than technology, since technology is often viewed in a positive light.
Economically, we are seeing signs that globalization may be shifting into a lower gear.
In September, the WTO projected that global trade growth would fall to 1.7 percent in 2016, the slowest pace since the 2009 financial crisis. The share of America’s population that is foreign-born has decelerated. And the world is seeing more trade barriers and a dramatic slowdown in the crafting of new trade pacts.

Islamic Renaissance Shall Reverse the Narrative of Extremists

The wealth and pomp of several Muslim monarchies notwithstanding, the world of Islam is in tatters. Torn by internal strife, lack of focus on starving millions and controlled by greed as well as external powers, Muslim governments are in a state of disarray.
Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran have reached such levels that they are waging proxy wars against each other in Syria and Yemen. Iranian pilgrims were not able to perform Haj last year. The wars have created major humanitarian crises, producing famine, poverty and millions of refugees with nowhere to go.
These political games are aimed at grabbing power and space within the region, and politics and religion are being exploited to the detriment of civilians. Divides have been created amongst an already polarised Muslim world. Sectarian feelings are worked up on social and mainstream media, where pictures of atrocities allegedly committed by one or the other party are posted.
There is a need to reverse the narrative used by extremists. In Pakistan, each year, hundreds of ‘firebrand’ clerics are banned from entering the more ‘sensitive’ areas of the country during Muharram. Members of minority sects are regularly and brutally attacked, ostensibly by the Pakistani Taliban or their splinter groups, but also by others. The pulpit is often used to spread hatred.
Centuries of textualist interpretations of the Quran, belief in questionable ahadith and tribal and patriarchal customs have created a troubling rhetoric, comprised of social and religious demands by self-righteous clerics.
Pakistan’s policies of the 1980s led to the mushrooming of brutal fanatics who have used Islam for wanton killing. Recognition of this fact and the rise of internal terrorism led to Operation Zarb-i-Azb. What is now needed, more than ever, is a ‘zarb-i-fikr’, a term so aptly coined by Javed Ahmed Ghamidi for reversing the narrative used by extremists and their supporters. I am using this term here in its wider sense.
The Muslim world, its scholars and leaders who are seriously concerned about the rapid deterioration of Muslim politics and society, must find alternative routes of thought and create platforms of open discourse and debate. This must happen at local, country, regional and global levels. The objectives would include development of tolerant and pluralistic societies, as Muslim societies should be, but equally to take measures for technological and economic progress through inclusiveness, education and social cohesion.
The approach to this could include analysis of what is going wrong and acceptance of responsibility, without emphasis on Western ‘conspiracies’.
Countries — Pakistan in particular — could begin to accept differences of religious opinion and clamp down on those who oppose freedom of expression, not the other way around. Too many instances in the distant and near past indicate that succeeding governments have either supported or buckled under the pressure exercised by groups that would have Pakistanis live under fear and terror.
A scholar of the calibre of Fazlur Rahman had to leave the country in the 1960s because of his ground-breaking work on the Quran. Many Muslims who would like to hold discussions on religious matters cannot do so for fear of being branded ‘apostates’ or ‘blasphemers’. In contemporary times, laws on domestic violence and patriarchal killing are either resisted or toned down. The recent bill in Sindh on criminalising forced conversions, which follows the Islamic spirit, is being touted as ‘un-Islamic’. Laws have been based on questionable interpretations and implemented for personal gains against unsuspecting innocents.
Today, the message of Islam, which called for rational thought and deliberation, discussion and a free and open mind and freedom of choice, must be reiterated. The individual must be free to follow any religion or sect of her/his choice and the state must turn its attention to the welfare of people, providing health and education and intervening only where the weak and the innocent are oppressed.
Scholars need to come together and discuss exactly what they are bickering about and whether their stances are aligned with Islamic teachings. Muslims should be free to discuss what the Sharia means to their individual and collective lives and which form of it may or may not be relevant.
The thousands of ‘alims’ churned out by madressahs must be monitored for what they learn and subsequently do. Khutbas in mosques need to be carefully assessed and any vitriolic content removed. Institutions such as the Council of Islamic Ideology that have been blamed for promoting misogyny and restricted intellectual growth must be done away with. These measures must have the protection of laws with teeth. Research should be encouraged in matters related to Islam and joint research with other countries should be carried out. An Islamic renaissance is essential.

India Should Reclaim the Gulf

The region is eager to see India return to its traditional role as a major economic and security partner. Delhi’s emphasis on self-reliance saw the dismantlement of the strong economic links that emerged between the undivided subcontinent and the Middle East through the 19th century.
When the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, arrives in Delhi as the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations this week, he will only be the third leader in 70 years from the Middle East to grace the occasion. Delhi had hosted only two other leaders — the president of Iran, Mohammed Khatami (2003), and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia (2006). This indeed is surprising, given the multiple factors binding India and the region and Delhi’s persistent post-independence claims on political solidarity with the Middle East. Delhi has had reasons to serenade even Pakistani leaders (1955 and 1965) and a Chinese PLA General (1958) as honoured Republic Day guests. Since the end of the Cold War and the proclamation of the Look East Policy, Delhi has hosted many Asian leaders, but so few from the Middle East.
Thereby hangs the sad tale of India’s engagement with the Middle East. No other region outside of the subcontinent is so critical for India’s security and prosperity than the Middle East. Yet, the region never gets sustained high-level political attention in Delhi. The visit of Sheikh Mohammed and the signing of a strategic partnership agreement will hopefully mark a big change in Delhi’s mindset and help consolidate a more productive third phase in India’s engagement with the Middle East.
In the first phase, India’s emphasis was on anti-Western and anti-Israel solidarity with the Middle East. This was driven in part by the presumed need to prevent Pakistan from scoring a march over India by playing up its religious affinity with the region. But it also prevented India from coming to terms with the many other contradictions of the region — between republics and monarchies, conservative regimes and radical Islamists, Shia and Sunni, to name a few. Despite expansive goodwill for India in the region, Delhi seemed to have little to offer beyond rhetorical support.
Delhi’s emphasis on self-reliance saw the dismantlement of the strong economic links that emerged between the undivided subcontinent and the Middle East through the 19th century. The oil boom in the Gulf saw the dramatic expansion of India’s interdependence region — through labour exports and energy imports. Delhi, however, was ill-equipped in building on this interdependence in the first phase. As it emphasised non-alignment and opposed military alliances, independent India discarded the Raj legacy of providing security to many regimes in the Gulf and the greater Middle East. The second phase, which began at the turn of the 1990s, saw a more pragmatic Indian approach to the region. Delhi normalised diplomatic relations with Israel without having to sacrifice its expansive interests in the rest of the Middle East.
As the scale of India’s economic interdependence on the Gulf grew rapidly in the reform era, Delhi began to move away from mercantilism to deepening trade and investment links with the region. The second phase also saw the renewal of military exchanges and security cooperation with the countries of the region. But the profound convulsions affecting the region seemed to prevent bolder Indian military partnerships in the Gulf.
That the region does not figure high on Delhi’s political radar was marked by the fact that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh travelled to the region only four times during his decade-long tenure — two of those trips were to attend the non-aligned summits. To make matters worse, the first months of the NDA government seemed to suggest Prime Minister Narendra Modi might be more interested in Israel than the rest of the region.
There was a solid corrective in the last two years. Even as he brought the Israel partnership into the open, Modi has devoted much energy to engaging the Gulf states. As he pointed out in his recent remarks at the Raisina Dialogue in Delhi, “we have redefined, in a short span of time, and despite uncertainty and conflict, our partnerships with Gulf and West Asia, including Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Iran”. The prime minister added that Delhi’s intensive engagement has helped “protect and promote our security interests, nurture strong economic and energy ties and advance the material and social welfare of around eight million Indians”.
India’s current intensive engagement with the UAE is a test case for India’s credibility in the region. Amidst the shifting external and internal balance of power in the Middle East, the region is eager to see India return to its traditional role as a major economic and security partner. On its part, the UAE has laid out a bold agenda for bilateral cooperation in areas ranging from investments in civilian infrastructure to defence production. It is ready for deeper collaboration on counter-terrorism and regional security.
That a small military contingent from the UAE will join the military march on Republic Day is a powerful reminder of India’s historic role as a security provider in the region and the opportunity today for reclaiming that role. What stands in the way is Delhi’s bureaucratic inertia that has so consistently limited the nation’s international prospects and repeatedly frustrated India’s putative partners.

Trump Reviving Established Old Americn Policy: ‘America First’

As if it has ever been anything but America First! Only recently was America straying away from the path of being America First. Trump will only serve as a catalyst for accelerating a trend captured by another clichéd phrase, Asia’s Century.
The inaugural address of America’s 45th president trumpeted an evident self-interest, whose only moral compass is the conviction that self is right, a self-interest does bode good for the Us, but also promises to cede more elbow room to rising powers hitherto hemmed in by overarching American presence. Hide that smirk, President Xi!
Politicians who come to power feeding and feeding off a majority’s sense of victimhood have to genuflect, once in a while, to the bogey they rode but would, if they have sense, concentrate their energies, having assumed power, on building up an alternative, real agenda — say, development .
Some do not. Hitler chose to persist with the Jews, pursuing their extermination to the Holocaust and associated politics by other means across the globe. Trump told Americans they were the victims of elite selfishness and grandiose altruism that saw America sacrifice its own security and prosperity for the benefit of others.
His inaugural speech promises to reverse that selfishness and altruism, to bring back to America jobs, prosperity, greatness, and, implicitly, a way of life in which men were men, brought home the bacon for the wife to cook, cheerfully looking up recipes from Good Housekeeping and other such trusted guides of the homemaker.
History shows that but for some deviation, especially in Obama time, American policy has always put, surprise, America first.
General MacArthur carried out land reforms in Korea and completed these in Japan while also giving that country a pacifist constitution and strong trade unions as a counterweight against militarism. All this was not altruism but to nurture prosperity and stability in a vital part of Asia under American auspices.
True, America funded the Marshall plan, to rebuild Europe. But that, too, furthered American prosperity and security. American entrepreneurs thrived, American factories hummed and gave Baby Boomers their day jobs as America supplied the wherewithal for rebuilding a bombed out Europe.
European nations rebuilt themselves as loyal members of the anti-Soviet alliance led by the US. Keeping the communist menace at bay was not just a virtue in itself but also a handy excuse for toppling the liberal democratic government of Iran, supporting the authoritarian governments in Arab lands, including in Israel, and imposing American hegemony over the most plentiful source of oil of those times.
America championed free trade, not because it would kill American jobs but because it would give American firms the run of foreign markets. At a later stage of globalisation, the same free trade rubric allowed big American banks and other financial firms, and their cousins from Europe, to gain hegemony over global finance.
True, China runs up a huge trade surplus with the US. But the bulk of the value added in the production of iPhones shipped from China to the US accrues to Apple and its investors.
The same policies that Trump denounces allowed a handful of American tech companies to straddle the world like modern titans, enabled Hollywood to release movies in Shanghai and Bengaluru on the same day they premiere in the US, empowered US companies to peddle sugary drinks and junk food while American advertising companies convinced the world that this was how the good life tasted. People around the world Uber their way to work and shop on Amazon.
American pop culture directly permeates the lives and consciousness of the elites of the emerging world, whose children yearn to study in the US and come back as ambassadors of Americana.
Capitalism has made the world in its image, wrote Karl Marx in 1848. Prematurely.
America is making the world in its image today, thanks to the policies Trump denounced as something other than America First.
Today, the US has the world’s most powerful military and its largest and most innovative economy and is the biggest wielder of soft power. Presumably, not because Trump’s predecessors chose America Last policies.
Yes, Trump has an audience for his tosh because the gains of global American ascendance have not been shared equally by all Americans.
Instead, globalised growth has enriched a tiny entrepreneurial elite while the incomes of large swathes of industrial workers have stagnated and some jobs have disappeared.
But contrary to Trump’s conviction that protection would bring those jobs back, protection would just lower the living standards of ordinary Americans, the bulk of whose daily consumption comprises stuff produced in China and other lowcost locations.
Trade has killed American jobs. So has technology, even more effectively. Today, Adidas is relocating a sizeable chunk of its shoe production from Asia to Germany. But additive manufacture and robotics will allow 150 people do the work of 1,000 workers in Asia.
Manufacturing will return to the US, regardless of Trump, but manufacturing jobs will not. Advances in artificial intelligence will, in the near term, make a whole lot of white collar jobs redundant, too.
People need to learn new skills and locate new opportunities in a global division of labour that caters to a global market in a production process that draws on pools of global capital and global talent.
That calls for being smart, not in the smug, tax-evading sense displayed by Trump on his campaign, but in training children to learn the skill of learning.
They will have to learn, all through their lives. Simple faith in the verities of the Bible or the supremacy of whites will not get vindication from any rash of populist policies, whatever America nth you call them.
Isolationist America will dwindle in economic might and global power. Trump will only serve as a catalyst for accelerating a trend captured by another clichéd phrase, Asia’s Century.

Tomorrow’s Production Systems Will Have Closer Proximity to Nature

The global economy has been a steady engine of growth for nearly six decades, and during this time there have been a number of positive advances for humankind. But the fourth industrial revolution is now speeding towards us and it promises to be even more innovative and disruptive, merging new technologies with social inclusion, physical structures and biological foundations.
Until recently, production patterns often determined the development pathway of a country. Industries in well-resourced developed countries outpaced production in less developed countries. While there have been some measurable advances for all countries, the effects of current production systems on our society and environment are not sustainable with the changes set to occur.
As the global economy shifts to a more interconnected and holistic phase of the digital age, the world’s less-developed countries are actually better positioned to leapfrog past developed countries and lead the next revolution. Not only are many of them home to some of the world’s most valuable natural resources – necessary for producing new technologies as well as providing a stable and resilient climate for our well-being – but these countries do not have the expense of transitioning from arcane infrastructure, investments and systems.
Taking the leap, however, requires understanding how the great achievements in the last century have affected our society, our economies and environment. Moving forward, we will need to identify new opportunities to use our technological achievements to advance a more inclusive society, along with a greater appreciation for our finite resources.
When it comes to the key elements for shaping future production systems, it’s clear that our biological world must be part of the answer.
Protecting our global commons – the ecosystems, biomes and natural processes that regulate the Earth – and integrating the value of these ecosystem services into our public and private sector accounting systems – will be vital. The monetary value of goods and services provided by ecosystems, alone, is estimated to amount to some 33 trillion US dollars per year – nearly twice the global production resulting from human activities.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has shown that when natural infrastructure is combined with engineered or built infrastructure, it can optimize performance and financial benefits. In regards to water infrastructure, this amounts to an added value of $29 trillion per year in services, such as filtering contaminated water and storm protection.
Safeguarding these natural processes can also help us discover greater efficiencies and models for future production systems, such as closed-loop and zero-waste value chains, which are highly efficient and interdependent; much like nature.
Unfortunately, though, the unprecedented rate loss of species and ecosystems will impact our ability to meet future challenges, unless we can reverse this trend. Between 1970 and 2010, WWF estimates the planet lost 52% of its biodiversity, while the human population nearly doubled.
A recent study published by IUCN found that more than 80% of the world’s ecological processes that form the foundation for healthy marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems – such as changes to genetic diversity or seasonal migration – are already showing signs of distress as a response to climate change. Moreover, the study warns that these impacts on species and ecosystems will have a direct effect on people and productivity in sectors such as fishing and agriculture. But it also underscored that nature’s responses to climate change could provide vital information on the adaptive measures needed for us to survive.
The pace of digital and technological change also feeds into the current debate about protectionism versus globalization, and it raises important questions about how to optimize production systems that make sense based on a country’s resources, skills and labour, while at the same time acknowledging that many of the new technologies are going to change the current political and economic landscapes that we know today.
By working with leaders from government, industry and academia to assess countries and sectors, the World Economic Forum’s Future of Production council plans to shine a light on the opportunities for future production systems. So long as safeguarding nature remains at the forefront of this transformation, we can look forward to continued economic growth that is more inclusive and sustainable than ever before.

Xi Jinping Defends Globalization Blasts Populism

Populism has been the big bogeyman at the World Economic Forum at Davos this year. Ray Dalio who runs the world’s largest hedge fund firm Bridgewater said populism is now the No. 1 economic issue for market participants, more important than central banks.
“Populism by definition is nationalist and protectionist. And it’s also a matter of values. There is a sense of threat, [the sense that] my country is losing its values to internationalism,” Dalio said.
When policymakers act on this sense of threat, when internationalism retreats and protectionism advances, that’s bad news for the economic globalization which has fueled markets and incidentally breathed life into the World Economic Forum.
Samuel P Huntington had described the Davos Man thus: “These transnationalists have little need for national loyalty, view national boundaries as obstacles that thankfully are vanishing, and see national governments as residues from the past whose only useful function is to facilitate the elite’s global operations.” These days the above description is cited abundantly but mournfully, like a requiem for an out of date breed. As if that dream is dying.
But a surprising knight in shining armor has ridden to the rescue of Davos Man. The way in which Xi Jinping became the champion of globalization in the snowy Alps is surprising not only because no other Chinese president has even bothered to attend the World Economic Forum before but also because however much China has benefited from globalization it has hardly had a stellar record of economic openness.
Still what Xi did he did robustly: “Economic globalization has powered global growth and facilitated movement of goods and capital, advances in science, technology and civilization, and interactions among peoples.”
Huntington, in describing the denationalization of the Davos Man and noting that “the central distinction between the public and elites is … nationalism versus cosmopolitanism,” had actually sounded a warning that has proved prescient: “America’s elites have forgotten the mystic chords of memory. The American people have not.”
Xi also laid out a warning, against the dangers of going in the opposite direction, and trying to raise walls that just cannot hold:
“Whether you like it or not, the global economy is the big ocean that you cannot escape from. Any attempt to cut off the flow of capital, technologies, products, industries and people between economies, and channel the waters in the ocean back into isolated lakes and creeks is simply not possible. Indeed, it runs counter to the historical trend.”
“History is created by the brave. Let us boost confidence, take actions and march arm-in-arm toward a bright future.”

A Sorry legacy- Challenge fo Trump

Barack Obama has left the White House after eight years of flip-flop on the longest war in America’s history, Afghanistan continues to be in turmoil. Despite paying a colossal cost in treasure and blood over the past decade and a half, the US has been unable to stabilise the country.
Although he has not yet outlined his policy, President Donald Trump has inherited a sorry legacy from his predecessor, who had held out high-sounding promises of ending the so-called good war. Alas, Obama honoured in the breach his oft-hashed commitments to wrapping up the military mission.
Much before the flabbergasting outcome of the presidential election, Washington had spent more than $850 billion on the Afghanistan war in addition to losing 2,400 service members. However, the Obama administration’s plans were not up to snuff. As things stand, one can safely predict the conflict will be a hard-to-clear muddle for the new commander-in-chief.
The Afghan war will be a challenge for Trump. Obama’s intentions might have been good, but his policy was surrounded by perplexity all along the line — a drawdown of troops, jacking up deployment, arming the military with greater powers to hunt terrorists, ending the combat mission and then an abrupt return to the shifting battlefront.
Granted, Al Qaeda suffered spectacular setbacks, notably the death of Osama bin Laden and other dreaded rebel commanders, during the Obama presidency. But the terrorist outfit is once again regrouping in Afghanistan’s shambolic east and not-so-restive north.
Undeterred by bombing campaigns and ground offensives, the militant Islamic State group has progressively expanded its foothold from a few districts in Nangarhar to Kabul and beyond. Worse still, the Taliban are increasingly challenging a beleaguered Afghan government.
More than half of US reconstruction aid since 2002 has gone into building, equipping and training Afghan forces, but they are far from capable of securing the country. As of August 2016, only 63.4pc of the country’s territory was under government control, shrinking from 72pc in November 2015.
On the face of it, large investment has not yielded results. Afghan forces could not instil any sense of security in residents of the countryside, where local disputes are still decided by Afghan Taliban courts. Under their verdicts, men and women are executed in full public glare on the flimsiest of charges.
Insurgent outfits retain the capability of launching high-casualty attacks even in major urban centres. The Jan 10 bombings near parliament in Kabul and bang in the middle of the governor’s office in Kandahar city bloodily highlighted the weak spot of a clueless security establishment that always looks for scapegoats to conceal its failures.
The fatalities, numbering close to 100, included five diplomats from the UAE, the deputy governor, security officials and innocent civilians. The Kandahar governor and UAE ambassador were among several people wounded in the brazen assault. The Taliban have denied complicity in the deadly explosions, saying no one would bite the hand that feeds them.
By the end of his second term, Obama had promised the US would have only an embassy-level military presence in Afghanistan. But more than 8,000 US soldiers remain. Similarly, his vow to work for a broad political settlement has also turned out to be a lie.
Obama could not deliver what was expected of him. Disappointingly, he did not prove different from his jingoistic predecessor George W. Bush. On Obama’s watch, dangerous nostrums like regime change and Arab Spring were brashly pursued by State Department and Pentagon hawks.
Trump will now have to deal with grim security challenges in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Somalia. What he will do to stop the bloodletting in Afghanistan is a mystery at this stage. However, he must know that the war is not winnable through military means alone.
Well into its 16th year, the US presence in Afghanistan has been raising eyebrows in Iran, Russia, China and Pakistan. The regional powers, some already having gone ballistic over America’s indefinite stay in their backyard, have made no secret of their desire to have their say in any future settlement.
The new administration is likely to take a hard look at the situation. Acutely mindful of the destabilising effects of regional proxy wars, the Trump team will not cut and run. Instead, it would let a flexible number of troops stay in Afghanistan to keep an eye on China, Iran and Pakistan.
Eradication of endemic corruption and drugs, sustainability of the gains made over the past 15 years, transparency in mega contracts, improved revenue collection, infrastructure development and maintaining a sensitive geopolitical balance in the region will be some of the main challenges for the new president.

Barack Hussain Obama, Goodbye

Two years less than a decade and the world is a mess. Just eight years ago, a frisson of excitement ran through the world as Obama became the first black man in the White House. It was a culmination that bid fair to be a game-changing moment, not just for America but also for the world. His oratory, his political and human rights activism, his opposition to war with Iraq, his inclusive vision, his beautiful family, his intelligence and composure, and his unfailing courtesy and humour made him an icon even before he embarked on his presidential voyage.
It was expected Obama would bring Americans together under the banner of ‘hope and change’ and ‘yes, we can’. He would renew the promise of America to a divided nation and a jaded world. He was progressive without being radical. He connected with the deprived at home and the denied abroad in a way that nothing seemed impossible. Although he inherited a collapsed economy and a polarised world, he would gather the best of minds and reach out to the worst of adversaries to forge a practical answer to every challenge.
Or so we hoped. In the event, Obama did achieve a number of things. Obamacare provided insurance to around 25 million Americans who had no health cover. He restored growth and jobs within a relatively weak recovery. He instituted a number of legislative and regulation reforms if not basic financial reform including sending criminal Wall Street ‘banksters’ to prison. Given the implacable and half-crazed Republican opposition that controlled Congress, these achievements were noteworthy.
Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Pakistan have all been disasters for Obama. Obama was prematurely awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace for ‘resetting’ relations with Russia, including the negotiation of a nuclear arms agreement. He was embarrassed by the award so early in his tenure and probably wished to win it again in order to deserve it. Late in the day, he made historical breakthroughs with his visit to Cuba and reaching a nuclear agreement with Iran. However, none of these achievements are assured of survival under Trump. Moreover, US relations with Russia plummeted to the lowest since the Cuban missile crisis. He failed to fulfil his promise to shut down the Guantanamo detention camp.
Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Pakistan have all been disasters for Obama. His China policy turned out to be contradictory and counterproductive rather than balanced and foresighted. His spat with Netanyahu merely irritated but did not pressure Israel in the least. It produced nothing in the way of progress towards a sustained dialogue for a durable two-state solution. Nor did it alleviate the horrendous political and human rights situation of the Palestinians.
Obama led the US to defeat and humiliation in Syria while becoming party to the indescribable butchery and displacement of its citizens. He effectively put on hold and partially reversed his decision to get out of Afghanistan and Iraq. He ‘led from behind’ to bring about the wanton murder of the Libyan leader Gaddafi and the destruction of Libya. His sanctions on Russia and containment of China brought these two mutually suspicious great powers together in an alliance and strategy that threatens to minimise the relevance and influence of the US on the future course of Asian developments.
Obama’s massive escalation of the use of drones in what was effectively a global assassination programme, his similarly massive expansion of special (black) operations and airpower to replace a ‘boots on the ground’ military strategy, his CIA- and NSA-conducted cyber-intelligence warfare against friend and foe alike, and his overseeing an American and global economy that exceeded all historical records of inequality severely marred his moral stature and his presidency. Oxfam has revealed that the eight richest people on earth (including six from the US) have a combined income greater than half the entire global population ie 3.6 billion people! What could be more evil and globally destabilising?
Such inhuman inequality accounts for much of the rise of political fascism in the West. Similarly, continued Western state terrorism in support of discriminatory and unjust policies abroad (particularly in the Middle East) enabled non-state terrorism to become immune to military defeats. Historians will question what Obama did to counter these trends. Regarding gun control and homicidal police racism in the US, Obama was appalled but largely helpless. On climate change, however, Obama consistently fought for a sensible survival strategy against a lunatic domestic opposition and helped achieve a weak Paris Agreement, which his successor is threatening to tear up.
With regard to Pakistan, bilateral relations are at a mutually unsatisfactory level for which Pakistan is as much to blame as the US. Given Pakistan’s centrality to peace in Afghanistan, over eight years Obama should at least have found time for a visit to reset an important relationship. This would, however, have required him to pay greater attention to the volatile situation in India-held Kashmir, which if not addressed will dangerously feed into the prospect of an India-Pakistan nuclear confrontation. India-Pakistan relations are critical for both countries. But without sustained effort by a third country that has leverage with both, positive movement on the core issues of Kashmir and terrorist violence seems unlikely. Obama could have done much more than he did.
Tragically, Obama paved the way for his political nemesis Trump to succeed him and threaten everything he achieved and sought to achieve. He grievously erred in ignoring Sanders. Obama, a fine man in so many ways, ultimately failed largely because of a demented opposition and his own risk aversion. Trump may be an uncouth and narcissistic ignoramus destined for ignominy. He risks early impeachment and the loss of his own electoral base. Ironically, Obama exits with the highest approval rating of a departing president while Trumps comes in with the lowest. Nevertheless, Trump’s views on Russia and Nato are more realistic than Obama’s. He also claims to be a deal-maker who will not risk war. If he doesn’t sink himself within his first two years, he might actually achieve more than the far more sophisticated and talented Obama. Sadly, the legacy of Obama will be that he flattered only to deceive.

Sunday Special: A Short History of the Transatlantic Relationship From Early Explorers to Trump

The history of the transatlantic relationship between north America and Europe has been a long and bumpy one. Here are some of the key moments.
1492 and Christopher Columbus
In 1492, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus landed on the shores of the Caribbean and a year later establishes the first, but short-lived, colonial settlement on present-day Haiti.
1607 and Jamestown
More than a century later, the English arrive in what is now Virginia and establish what becomes known as the first permanent English settlement, in Jamestown. The local Paspahegh tribe of Indians appear to have been wiped out within four years, due to conflict with the colonists and likely exposure to new diseases.
1620 and the origins of Thanksgiving
In 1620 the ship The Mayflower arrived at Plymouth Rock, this time laden with the “Pilgrim Fathers” – men, women and families who had set sail to escape religious persecution from the English King, James I. They are credited with the founding of modern-day America, and their first harvest in 1621 is the origin of Thanksgiving Day, celebrated every year in America on 24th November.
1775 and the War of Independence
By the mid-18th century, cracks had formed in the relationship between America and its “mother country”, England. Two incidents became famous for their part in the outbreak of the War of Independence in 1775: the Boston massacre and the Boston Tea Party.
In March 5, 1770 a squad of British soldiers let loose a volley of shots into a crowd, killing five.
In December 1773, locals protested new taxes on the tea trade imposed by England. They boarded three ships in Boston harbour and threw 342 chests of tea overboard.
By 1775 the British Parliament declared Massachusetts to be in rebellion, marking the official start of the war.
On 4 July 1776 Congress issued the Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson. The declaration was a formal statement justifying the North American colonies’ break with Great Britain.
1777 Formal recognition of the United States
France formally recognized the United States, and a formal treaty of their alliance followed on February 6, 1778.
1783 The end of the War of Independence
The Treaty of Paris of 1783, negotiated between the United States and Great Britain, ended the revolutionary war and recognized American independence.
1619-1865 The role of slavery in transatlantic relations
By the mid-17th century, transatlantic trade was dominated by ships from Europe travelling to the West coast of Africa and onto America. Whilst in Africa, traders would exchange goods for captured people who were then taken to America to work as slaves on sugar and tobacco plantations.
In 1807, the British government passed an Act of Parliament abolishing the slave trade throughout the British Empire.
In America the movement to abolish slavery was also gaining ground. It was a key factor in the American Civil War of 1861-65. The 13th Amendment to the American Constitution, adopted late in 1865, officially abolished slavery.
Close allies
The United States has long forged positive relationships with its European counterparts. As early as 1781 the French were helping George Washington win the battle of Yorktown.
In more recent times, America’s closest allies have also been European.
1949 and NATO
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation created a mutual defence force against Communist expansion. The United States and 11 other Western nations signed it. The Soviet Union and its affiliated Communist nations in Eastern Europe founded a rival alliance, the Warsaw Pact, in 1955.
The “Special Relationship”
The term “special relationship” refers to the specific relationship between the leaders of the US and those of the UK. Winston Churchill first coined the phrase in 1946 during a speech made in Fulton, Missouri. He called for “a special relationship between the British Commonwealth and Empire and the United States”, who can “work together at the common task as friends and partners”.
Since then the special relationship has endured, although different leaders have placed different emphasis on its importance.
Margaret Thatcher referred to Ronald Reagan as “the second most important man in my life”, while George W. Bush and Tony Blair were also famously close.
But Barack Obama was openly critical of then prime minister David Cameron’s foreign affairs policies, accusing him of being responsible for the “mess in Libya”.
The 1990s trade agreements
In 1995 President Clinton signed the New Transatlantic Agenda (NTA). This provided for further joint action between the US and EU in the areas of peace, stability and global development. The resulting Transatlantic Economic Partnership was launched in 1998 in order to expand cooperation and dialogue about trade and investment.
1991 and 2003: The Gulf and Iraq Wars
European allies such as Britain and France contributed the bulk of non-U.S. forces in the Gulf War that liberated Kuwait from Iraqi occupation in 1991.
Tony Blair famously wrote to George W Bush to affirm that the UK was behind him all the way in the War on Iraq, which lasted from 2003 to 2011. Blair stated that he took Britain to war to eliminate the threat from Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Subsequent investigations showed the Blair government had overstated the threat. No significant stocks of WMDs were ever found in Iraq.
2011 – A diluted special relationship
The US, under President Barack Obama, signalled a shift in focus from Europe to Asia. Obama saw trade with Pacific nations as crucial to his country’s economic recovery.
In 2014, The US and the UK began a series of negotiations designed to make it easier for US companies to trade here and UK companies to trade over there. However, no agreement has yet been reached, and many say it never will.
2017 and Donald Trump
Donald Trump alarmed some NATO members when he said during election campaigning that he would not necessarily come to their defence if they did not pay their share of costs. Since being elected he has assured Britain that it is still a “special place”.
Mr Trump openly called for Britain to leave the EU during the referendum campaign. He has also attacked transatlantic and international trade deals, saying he will renegotiate them putting “America first”. Negotiations on the TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), a trade agreement between the US and the EU which could cover 45% of global GDP, are already fraught.

Saturday Special: The United States and the Word-Trumpisms and Bushisms Constitute the Essence of Americanism

Donald Trump’s (perhaps) unintended coining of a new word – “unpresidented” – is hardly unprecedented. Considering some of his predecessors have also added new words and expressions to the English language, philologists may have misunderestimated (to borrow George Bush’s felicitous contribution) the US President-elect. Or have they?
Notwithstanding his Ivy League education, Trump has shown he is no mug with neologisms, spoonerisms, malapropisms and other lapsus linguae that characterised the Bush innings in the White House. From his patented “yuge!” (for huge) to “bigly” (for big league), to “I’m not unproud,” (of his tweets trashing a former Miss World), Trumpisms have made a mild splash in Lingua Americana modestly enriched by Bushisms.
American presidents going back to its founding fathers have had a reputation of being language mavens, albeit underwritten by erudition that is alien to Bush and Trump. Presidential historians and lexicographers say George Washington coined, among many others, the expressions “hatchet man” and “out-of-the-way” (for secluded), and popularised the word “indoors” and “administration” (for government).
Thomas Jefferson was a matchless neologiser (someone who coins new words) who fabricated “belittle” to convey something less important by verbising the word little. Among some 100-plus words he contributed were “Anglophobia” and “odometer”. From his days in Paris, he fashioned the word “pedicure” to describe the care of feet, toes and toenails. “I am a friend to neology. It is the only way to give to language copiousness and euphony,” he wrote to John Adams.
Lincoln sweetened the language with “sugarcoat” and FDR came up with “iffy” to tactfully knock down Supreme Court decisions with which he disagreed. It was Theodore Roosevelt, forging terms such as “lunatic fringe” and “bully pulpit” among others, who was a linguistic “loose cannon” (also his expression).
Around this time, American politics also threw up many election-related terms such as whistlestop, barnstorming and stump speech, as maverick candidates (after Samuel Maverick, a Texas rancher who refused to brand cattle like others did) travelled the countryside in trains, making campaign speeches on tree stumps (hence, stumping) outside barns, often in “bellwether” states that offered a glimpse into the mood of the nation. Bellwether itself came from a sheep around whose neck shepherds would tie a bell so that they could locate the position of the entire flock.
By the turn of the 20th century, the US was getting over anti-British sentiment. Shakespeare – arguably the greatest wordsmith in English history – was all the rage. Lincoln had the Complete Works of Shakespeare in his study in the White House, and in early 1900s, it was said American households typically kept two books at home: the Bible and Shakespeare.
Americans loved the Bard because they saw in him a pioneer: an inventive wordsmith who coined new words and expressions –1,700 by one estimate – all the time. While snooty Brits clung stubbornly to an unchanging lexicon, Americans downsized doughnut to donut and would later pare down programme to program in the spirit of Noah Webster, who had called for rescuing “our native tongue” from pedantry imposed by British aristocracy, and argued that language belonged to the people.
In fact, when the Folger Shakespeare library was inaugurated in Washington DC in 1932, it was said the US capital had three great memorials that “stand out, in size, dignity and beauty, conspicuous above the rest: the memorials to Washington, Lincoln, and Shakespeare.”
Yep, not Thoreau or Twain, Shakespeare was the literary icon. There were calls to bestow honorary US citizenship on the Bard. Further down in history Kennedy, Reagan and Clinton were all avid Bardolators, frequently citing a man who bedazzled America with new-fangled words such as scuffle and swagger.
Typical of America, swagger has now been sized down to “swag” to denote stylish confidence, a quality that Bush and Trump possess despite their obvious lack of scholarship. Although Bush’s coinage of “misunderestimated” found qualified praise, with some linguists appreciating one compact word to describe “underestimating by mistake”, his periodic murder of grammar was underscored by a query he once posed at a school event: “Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?” Trump has chipped in with “Somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds” while describing sedentary hackers.
Such verbal train wrecks suggest that together they will not constitute the 800lb gorilla of American argot.
President Obama himself is no great shakes with neologisms despite his soaring oratory and literary flourish evident in his two books. During his election campaign, he startled Americans by sending out an email with the subject-line “Hey!” Apparently, his digital team tested 18 different combinations of emails and subject lines before concluding that the casual, informal “Hey!” worked better than any official and presidential greeting. “Hey!” became his signature call.
Another time, Obama berated critics of his healthcare bill for getting “all wee-weed up”. Wordsmiths got their knickers in a twist trying to decipher this unheard of expression, forcing the White House to clarify that “bed wetting would be the more consumer-friendly version” of wee-weed up.
The American love of language was brought home starkly to me one evening on InterState-90 when I was pulled over by a cop, a term that originated in England but was banned by the Brits because it was seen as insulting to policemen. When he had walked languidly over and asked me for my registration,I told him it was in my dicky. “What is a dicky, sir?” he asked. “The boot of the car, officer,” I responded. That still left him bemused.
The American word for dicky, aka boot, is “trunk”. A lengthy discussion on the discreet charms of the English language – during which time I was hoping he would forget my infraction – did not save me from the $150 ticket. He did not misunderestimate my honey-tongued spiel.

Europe’s Craziest Startup Conference: Pirate Start-up Summit

Steve Jobs, once asked, “Why join the Navy if you can become a Pirate, “A 21st century start up entrepreneur looking at the pirate ships of the 1700’s – would immediately recognise today’s “new ideas” as having their roots in an on “older reality”
Pirates such as Jack Sparrow, Blackbeard, and Captain Kidd were fighting against powerful and established navies of big empires.
Today, start-ups; such as Uber, AirBnB, DropBox, take the figh tto establishment stakeholders, Government regulation, andcorporates such as Hilton, XEROX,
In everything old there is something new…in everything new is something old.
The game has changed, but the rules are still the same. Pirates had focused on illegal activities, however start-ups today maybe amongst the most law abiding organisations, leveraging their innovation and flexibility. Interestingly, many of the qualities that were required to run a successful pirate operation in the 1700s, are just as important today when running a start-up.
A great pirate
We can’t expect a Pirates of the Caribbean without a Jack Sparrow – can we expect a Flipkart without a Sachin Bansal? The work culture followed by a pirate is much less hierarchical than that in the navy, just as the work culture of a start-up is compared to a corporation. In a Start-up structure; ownership, initiative and resolve facilitate fast action in face of difficult circumstances, as opposed to interminable, inter-departmentalmeetings.
Team Building
Without competent and motivated crew, a pirate remains anchored at the docks. Once at sea, it is impossible to change the crew. In start-ups it is possible to hire and fire, but, the wind blows both ways; it is much easier for team members to desert your start-up ship for other opportunities. For an early stage start-up sudden loss of key staff can cost the company critical growth and hamper other plans. Hiring for key positions today should be seen as a continuous process.
Bootstrapping
Pirates sailed out to sea with what they had. Perhaps not the best or most suited to the task at hand but they had to make the most of their limited resources. Large defence companies on the other hand are renowned for their immense spending budget overruns. With a start-up company, flexibility is a key ingredient for success. Don’t spend too much time on making it perfect – instead, make it work and let it improve with time.
Positioning
Three pirate ships strategically placed at the entrance of a harbour could take on a much larger fleet of enemy ships. Start-ups must also carefully choose their niche. They need toconcentrate all resources on maximising benefits. Negotiated agreements can be more profitable than war. If your superior position in the market is clear, competitors, no matter how big, may choose to collaborate with you rather than fight you.
Seas of Change
Pirates may have tried to forecast weather patterns months in advance, but the environment they were in was too volatile making these predictions often futile. Today, the business environment is constantly changing. Making long drawn-out predictions (especially in the tech-based and fin-tech sectors) won’t add much value when investors are considering a company. Instead, focusing on general macro trends will be more practical, and simultaneously may give more insight and comfort to investors.
Set in Cologne, Germany – the Pirate Start-up Summit brings the true pirate story to life. It is a trade show for start-ups, attended by many prominent companies / start-ups / investors. Although it is a largely a Eurocentric event, there was significant representation from Silicon Valley, and start-ups like Boltt Sports Technologies from India were also present.
The Pirate Summit changes the way we look at our business reality and surroundings. Walking into the summit felt like you had entered a Pirates cove in the Caribbean – The freely flowing rum & fantastic food, after party till 3 am, and the ‘Burning the man’ bonfire, hang-over breakfasts surely helped to add to the fantastic, edgy, and innovative atmosphere. There are two important rules, 1. No Suits allowed (Who would wear a navy uniform on a pirate ship?) 2. First name only (Pirates don’t believe in titles, they believe in reality and action)
All ships in the navy may be alike, but all pirate ships areunique. Unfortunately, we will have to wait till September 2017 to board this pirate adventure again, till then… the navy will keep us safe.

Audacity of Hope Gets a New Meaning as Trump Becomes POTUS

My Facebook timeline is awash with pictures of the Obamas. So many friends had the good fortune to have met them at the White House or at some event over the last eight years. Those photographs are now profile pictures: flickering in proud but wistful solidarity like a thousand lighters (or iPhones) at a farewell concert for a beloved rock star.
There is a #ThanksObama campaign to replace profile pictures with those of the ‘Best First Family’ ever on Inauguration Day. It’s an emotional farewell, albeit a symbolic one. But that’s wholly fitting for a presidency that was also suffused with symbolism.
“Symbols should not be dismissed as insubstantial; but nor should they be mistaken for substance,” writes Gary Younge in The Guardian pointing out that the nostalgia is often about who the Obamas were, not necessarily for his policies. Had Obama’s policies been more fruitful, had he taken on the big banks and income inequality with greater vigour, he might have delivered the White House for Hillary Clinton. Instead, exit the cosmopolitan, enter the vulgarian.
Or, as the poet would have put it, ‘And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,/ Slouches towards the White House to be sworn in?’
Donald Trump has spent the days leading up to the inauguration in one Twitter firefight after another: about the CIA, a civil-rights leader, and Meryl Streep. There’s no reason to believe he will curb his Twitter-finger as president either because they serve as ‘beautiful’ pop culture distractions to other more damaging stories: the records of some of his nominees, his tangled web of business interests, his interest in lifting sanctions blocking a $500-million Exxon-Mobil oil deal with Russia.
While the media and the liberals are aghast at the outrageous things he says, Trump understood that his followers like exactly that about him. It’s not because they are all misogynist or racist. But they know that his outbursts incensed the liberals — and they relished that.
The departure of Obama and the arrival of Trump poses a peculiar challenge to the media. The normal rules of engagement do not apply any more. His truth is not just slippery. It eats its own tail.
Even his own cabinet picks disagree with him on a slew of issues from the ‘Mexican wall’ to climate change to a ‘Muslim ban’. It does not matter because Trump did not win on facts. He won on an attitude of nonchalance towards facts.
Now he shows the same nonchalance towards the institutions of Washington. He has no compunctions about refusing to take questions from CNN because he dislikes their coverage.
It leaves the media spluttering because they are playing their accustomed parts while Trump is on a completely different script. He has no intention of playing magnanimous winner because he knows he was not elected to be magnanimous.
The crowds want to boo and Trump will give them their vote’s worth. The resistance to the arrival of Trump seems to reflect this confusion.
Some 40-plus Democrats have decided to boycott his inauguration. The party is torn about the way forward: how much it must bend to court the angry white vote. There are massive women’s marches planned.
Anthropology groups are doing read-ins, discussing a lecture by French philosopher Michel Foucault, ‘Society Must be Defended’. A-list stars have turned down invitations to perform at the gala.
But with Republicans in control of both House and Senate, and Trump at the White House, the political resistance again seems to have more symbolic bark than teeth that can draw actual blood.
This presidential inauguration, thus, is like no other. It really inaugurates a new and unprecedented era in politics. It’s not just about the new buzzwords of ‘post-truth’ and ‘alt-right’. Those who would take comfort in Trump as some kind of radioactive aberration have to realise he is just the latest in a parade of tough-talking drain-the-swamp nationalists: Vladimir Putin, Narendra Modi, Recep Erdogan, Rodrigo Duterte.
Oddly, it’s Modi who seemed to sound gentle warning to Trump in the Raisina Dialogue saying,
“Self-interest alone, is neither in our culture nor in our behaviour.”
Obama tried to project himself as the intellectual striving for consensus, the sensitive 21st-century man.
That does not mean Obama’s drones were not dropping bombs: 26,171 bombs in 2016, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
But Obama also issued pitch-perfect Diwali messages and comforted a Muslim boy wrongly accused of terror for his alarm clock project.
The reassurance of a Barack Hussein Obama was that ‘the other’ was not so alien, that the other could also find a place at the table. For the moment, that reassurance is gone. It does not mean it is gone forever.
But one thing is for sure. An iconic photograph from the Obama White House was of the president bending down to let a small child feel his crinkly hair. It was a picture that spoke volumes about race, power and what Martin Luther King Jr called the arc of the moral universe.
There will be no such photograph for the man with the orange hair. His presidency will have no need for such symbols.
As he gets ready to become the 45th president of the US, Donald Trump’s approval rating is barely 48%, as compared to Barack Obama’s 75% at the time of his first inauguration. Trump has his work cut out: to win over millions of Americans who didn’t vote for him, even though the likes of Meryl Streep may be out of reach.
Trump’s transition path resembles a Hollywood action film’s trailer in which he is on the offensive every day. During his campaign, he had alienated a large section of Muslims and African-Americans by his disparaging remarks. His recent tweets about civil rights leader and US Congressman John Lewis have further widened the chasm between him and African-Americans, a community that has witnessed increasing racial attacks in the last two years.
His threat of repealing Obamacare has sent shock waves to 20 million Americans who were its beneficiaries. His yetto-be-confirmed cabinet resembles a billionaire club. In India, the media keeps harping on the alleged exploits of a son-inlaw.
But the US presidentelect suffers no qualms and has designated his son-in-law Jared Kushner as his senior adviser. And he doesn’t seem to have any intention of divesting himself from his trusts.
Having serious differences with all the three intelligence agencies over Russia, and an ugly public spat with the media, doesn’t augur well for President Trump. His threat of penalising companies that send jobs outside has caused concern. GeneralMotors, Nissan, Carrier and Lockheed Martin among others have been at the receiving end. Indian IT biggies TCS, Infosys, Wipro and HCL are equally perturbed with prospects of tighter H1B visas and a hike in visa fees.
Trump is challenging the international trading system by threatening to impose punitive import duties and restricting market access. So, it didn’t surprise many when he dismissively described the United Nations as a place “to have nice time”.
While he has reiterated his plan to build a wall along the Mexico border and get reimbursed, he has accused China of currency manipulation and warned Beijing not to treat the US’ one-China policy as sacrosanct.
However, huge economic contents of Sino-American relations and grave consequences of a conflict might propel Trump to strike a deal with China. He wants the EU and South Korea to pay for the security they receive from the US. He has also told Japanese firms not to manufacture cars in Mexico and then ship them to the US.
If he implements his idea of shifting the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, he will be antagonising the entire Arab world.
Also, any move to cancel the nuclear deal with Iran and scrap the Paris 20 Agreement on climate change will have global disruptive impact.
The only country with which bilateral relations under Trump look sanguine is Russia, despite the raging controversy about Putin’s attempts to influence the result of the US presidential election. A thaw between the two can stabilise the situation in Syria and cripple the Islamic State (IS).
Prospects of relations with India look rather good, notwithstanding the aforementioned worries of Indian IT companies. Addressing a Thank You rally in Florida recently, Trump praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his economic reforms and his efforts to improve the ease of doing business, asserting that he “will be the best friend of India in the White House”.
Being a businessman, he should be able to do business with India. The strongest driver for this assurance is the bipartisan support in the Congress and the Senate for stronger ties with India. The Indian-American community, which constitutes roughly 1% of the US population, has now virtually 1% representation in the Congress. The four newly elected Congressmen and the one senator could be a strong bridge between the US and India.
Defence trade worth $15 billion in the last five years is tipped to grow further between the two countries following the signing of the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (Lemoa) and declaration of India as a major defence partner. India’s ‘Make in India’ initiative offers business opportunities for US firms, especially in the field of infrastructure, defence production, IT, smart cities, water management, energy and clean energy.
The ‘glue of economic complementarities and strategic challenges posed by China’ should encourage the US and India to be remain strategic partners. If Trump does dump the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the much-touted US rebalance in Asia remains in limbo, the only way to counter China’s increasing assertiveness will be a quadrilateral partnership between the US, India, Japan and Australia, with the possible addition of South Korea. India-US ties will be tested by the Trump administration’s approach to Pakistan and the situation in Afghanistan.
Conventional wisdom suggests that contrary to prevailing apprehensions, the Oval office, institutional checks and balances, and the professional advice of his cabinet colleagues should usher in a mature and responsible administration.

To Swear or Affirm

Today, this Friday the 20th, president-elect Donald Trump shall be taking oath to occupy the most powerful chair on the planet. The “oath” is so strictly spelt with its options that to go through it, even while repeating in steps what is spoken by the administrator (most certainly the Chief Justice) there still are serious moments that one may not over-step, or even trip.
The oath of the Office of the President, is derived in content and intent from three different Articles of the Constitution. One states the “words to be spoken”, with no options for the sequence but the one enshrined. It is further layered with a binding to the oath, and finally the need was felt that the person before occupying the chair should also commit at a personal level, “that he will, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
The true form therefore, which now is spoken in parts and repeated by the incumbent is, “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of the President of the United States, and to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States”.
The more recent fumble between President Obama, and Chief Roberts was that Justice Roberts went on to say, ”…that I will execute the office.” Knowing the script, president Obama stopped at “execute”, prompting the chief justice, who then followed Obama’s “execute faithfully”, which was unacceptable for the moment (though in some ways was prophetic in the after math). The oath was re-administered the next day.
Now, that President Obama is through with his farewell speech, and is being weaned off his executive powers, the faithful transfer of the same to a very exceptional personality as Mr trump is being watched with adventurous imagination. Will it again be the red tie, the black suit, and a variable slant of the over-roofed hair?
There are other variables one may like to know about the great presidential oath-taking. Although the word “swear” is often used, “affirm” may be used instead. The option came about after the Quaker belief, “..above all my brothers, my brethren swear not, not by the Heaven……”. Notable examples are Herbert Hoover, who used, “affirm” as he was a Quaker. Actually, recordings show, he used “solemnly affirm”. Richard Nixon, a Quaker too, used “affirm”. So was there a solemn difference!
Though there is little doubt that justice Roberts shall be the administrator, there have been alternate instances.
George Washington, the first president was sworn by the Chancellor of New York, Wilhan Crunch. Lyndon B Johnson was sworn by federal judge Sarah T Hughes aboard Air Force One, after JFK’s assassination. President Calvin Coolidge, was in fact sworn in by his father, John Calvin Coolidge Sr, a notary public (sounds more like a story back home, in the state of UP), though the words by no means were, “swear by the Father, Son…..”. It could well have been a post oath prayer, though!
Here comes in the space provided for personal faith. Though by probability, a Christian places his left hand on the bible, (he can choose his compilation, or any other book), he raises the right hand while taking oath. Surely, the heart is on the left, and the right represents your brain and working hand.
There were exceptions. John Quincy Adams and Franklin Pierce swore on a book of Law, with the intention that they were swearing by the Constitution. Here lies a subtle difference of interpretation. When you swear by a book of faith, you muster your collective beliefs, to help you conduct a worldly responsibility. When you do it by a book of law or even the Constitution, you snip-off the diversion, and go bang on. Will a new President like to show from day one, that he is different – vastly different!
Between “swearing” and “affirming”, only lies the restriction of faith. The US law considers them at par. Though, “swearing” is very much the norm, much swearing has already been done during the roller-coaster campaign. So would there be a change towards “affirm”?
The last words, “so help me God”, are personal, and are not a part of the constitutionally worded oath. Once these have been said or with-held, the crux of the formality is over. On a particular occasion, a channel surreptitiously caught a section of the crowd (obviously from the losing camp, yelling, “O my God”!) I suppose on a constitutional occasion, the constitutionally guaranteed First Amendment need not be ignored.
There are speculations on this event when an un-usual professional, who fought an un-usual campaign, even took the Pope head-on, along with an important neighbouring country, and yet came out a winner.
Be sure, the TRPs shall be high with this unique show of glamour and unpredictability. Expect a much bigger audience in Russia, whatever be the reason. China and India shall not be far behind, a part of the world that is now more keenly hooked on to US politics, and the benefits they can partake!
Appreciating a hugely wise oath-taking citation, allowing the few necessary options, and with a glance at history, may I make a hesitant suggestion?
Where the oath reads, “…and to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, defend….), one may make a minor change, “….and to the best of my ability, but not beyond, preserve, protect….”.
One of the biggest blunders any US President has made, is when he has overdone, beyond the wisdom – his or his advisors saw!
The world awaits inauguration of the 45th President of the United States of America. But what it awaits more is good news in the next four years!
“Never take a solemn oath. People think you mean it!” – Norman Dougl

Poland Follows US to Succumb to Populism

Jarosław Kaczyński, Poland’s de facto leader, has become, next to Donald Trump, an avatar of the populist threat to the Western democratic model. As we await Trump’s inauguration as US president on January 20, it is worth pondering the first year of populist rule in Poland. The results have run contrary to expectations.

The conventional view of what awaits the US (and possibly France and the Netherlands) in 2017 is an erratic ruler who enacts contradictory policies that primarily benefit the rich. The poor will lose, because populists have no hope of restoring manufacturing jobs, despite their promises. And massive inflows of migrants and refugees will continue, because populists have no plan to address the problem’s root causes. In the end, populist governments, incapable of effective rule, will crumble and their leaders will either face impeachment or fail to win re-election.

Kaczyński faced similar expectations. Liberal Poles thought that he would work for the benefit of the rich, create chaos, and quickly trip himself up – which is exactly what happened in 2005-2007, when Kaczyński’s Law and Justice Party (PiS) last governed Poland.

But the liberals were wrong. PiS has transformed itself from an ideological nullity into a party that has managed to introduce shocking changes with record speed and efficiency. Other countries currently anticipating populist rule should take note of its key hallmarks.

No to neoliberalism. In 2005-2007, PiS implemented neoliberal economic policies (for example, eliminating the highest income-tax bracket and the estate tax); this time, it has enacted the largest social transfers in Poland’s contemporary history. Parents receive a 500 złoty ($120) monthly benefit for every child after their first, or for all children in poorer families (the average net monthly income is about 2,900 złoty, though more than two-thirds of Poles earn less). As a result, the poverty rate has declined by 20-40%, and by 70-90% among children.

The list goes on: In 2016, the government introduced free medication for people over the age of 75. The minimum-wage now exceeds what trade unions had sought. The retirement age has been reduced from 67 for both men and women to 60 for women and 65 for men. The government also plans tax relief for low-income taxpayers.

The restoration of “order.” Independent institutions are the most important enemy of populism. Populist leaders are control freaks. For populists, it is liberal democracy that leads to chaos, which must be “put in order” by a “responsible government.” Media pluralism leads to informational chaos. An independent judiciary means legal chaos. Independent public administration creates institutional chaos. And a robust civil society is a recipe for chronic bickering and conflict.

But populists believe that such chaos does not emerge by itself. It is the work of perfidious foreign powers and their domestic puppets. To “make Poland great again,” the nation’s heroes must defeat its traitors, who are not equal contenders for power. Populist leaders are thus obliged to limit their opponents’ rights. Indeed, their political ideal is not order, but rather the subordination of all independent bases of power that could challenge them: courts, media, business, cultural institutions, NGOs, and so forth.

Electoral dictatorship. Populists know how to win elections, but their conception of democracy extends no further. On the contrary, populists view minority rights, separation of government powers, and independent media – all staples of liberalism – as an attack on majority rule, and therefore on democracy itself.

The political ideal that a populist government strives for is essentially an elected dictatorship. And recent US experience suggests that this can be a sustainable model. After all, everything depends on how those in power decide to organize elections, which can include redrawing voting districts or altering the rules governing campaign finance or political advertisements. Elections can be falsified imperceptibly.

Might makes right. Populists have benefited from disseminating fake news, slandering their opponents, and promising miracles that mainstream media treat as normal campaign claims. But it is a mistake to think that truth is an effective weapon against post-truth. In a post-truth world, it is power, not fact-checking, that is decisive. Whoever is most ruthless and has the fewest scruples wins.

Populists are both unseemly and ascendant. Trump’s supporters, for example, have come to view tawdriness as evidence of credibility, whereas comity, truth, and reason are evidence of elitism. If people are worse off under liberal democracy, so much the worse for liberal democracy.

Those who would resist populism must come to terms with the fact that truth is not enough. They must also display determination and ruthlessness, though without becoming the mirror image of their opponents.

The current situation in Poland can serve as a useful example. After a year of retreating, the two largest opposition parties have begun to occupy the Sejm (Poland’s parliament) to protest an illegal vote on the state budget. They are laying a trap for Kaczyński’s government: back down or resort to violence. Either way, he loses.

Nationalism is not dead. Unfortunately, what won’t lose, in Poland and elsewhere, is nationalism – the only ideology that has survived in the post-ideological era. By appealing to nationalist sentiment, populists have gained support everywhere, regardless of the economic system or situation, because it is being fueled externally, namely by the influx of migrants and refugees.

Mainstream politicians, especially on the left, currently have no effective message on the issue. Opposing migration contradicts their ideals, while supporting it means electoral defeat.

But the choice should be clear. Either populism’s opponents drastically change their rhetoric regarding migrants and refugees, or the populists will continue to rule. Migrants and refugees lose in either scenario, but in the second, so does liberal democracy. Such calculations are ugly – and, yes, corrosive of liberal values – but the populists, as we have seen, are capable of far nastier tradeoffs.

After a year of populism in Poland, Kaczyński has succeeded in establishing control over two issues near and dear to voters: social transfers and immigration. As long as he controls these two bastions of voter sentiment, he is safe. Those who seek to oppose Trump – or France’s Marine Le Pen in April’s presidential election – can draw their own conclusions from that fact.

Beijing’s Current Unilateralism Limits Xi’s Global Ambitions

Despite a leadership vacuum in the post-Trump world, Beijing’s current unilateralism is likely to limit China’s global possibilities.
Gathering in the snowy Alps this week, the “Davos men” will cheer the first ever presence of a top Chinese leader in their midst. Shocked by the anti-globalist Donald Trump and surprised by the backlash against regional integration in Europe, they are ready to hail Xi Jinping as the saviour of global capitalism. On his part, Xi is eager to appropriate the language of globalisation. But Beijing might be some distance away from replacing Washington as the conductor of the global economic orchestra. Although China has vast amounts of money, it is constrained by the lack of sufficient economic openness, the capacity to impose political order and the hegemony over global public discourse. However, that is not stopping the ambitious Xi, who seems unafraid of reaching way beyond his grasp.
As China steps into the vacuum, India will have to confront a different problem. India has long been ambivalent about US-led globalisation. It has supported Beijing’s efforts to construct non-Western institutions in the name of Asian solidarity and global multipolarity. Yet, in the last few years, Delhi has found itself at the receiving end of China’s new clout in the multilateral arena, including at the United Nations, the Asian Development Bank, and the Nuclear Suppliers Group, to name a few. Given that experience, might Delhi want to jump from the frying pan of Western economic primacy to the fire of China-led globalisation?
But first to Davos and its men. Some years ago, the Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington had pointed to the “denationalisation” of the American (and Western) elite that scoffed at the patriotism of common folk, their concern for the local and preached the virtues of international trade, unhindered migration and supra-national institutions that transcended territorial sovereignty.
Huntington also underlined the emergence of a super class of “Davos men” who have “little need for national loyalty, view national boundaries as obstacles that thankfully are vanishing, and see national governments as residues from the past whose only function is to facilitate the elite’s global operations.” These trends have clearly matured in 2016 as Trump made relentless attacks on the “false song of globalism” and emphasised the slogan of “America First”.
The British prime minister, Theresa May, who took charge of the nation after Brexit, warned last October that “too many people in positions of power behave as though they have more in common with international elites than with the people down the road. But if you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere, you don’t understand what the very word ‘citizenship’ means.”
As Britain renegotiates its economic relationship with the European Union, Trump threatens to tear up the free trade agreements that his predecessors had signed or negotiated and is putting pressure on US companies to stop outsourcing production and insourcing labour to ensure jobs remain in America. With Trump showing no signs of moderating his campaign rhetoric opposing globalisation, Xi has seen an opportunity for China in Davos.
In a preview of his speech, Chinese officials said Xi will talk of “inclusive globalisation” and present himself as the “new torch bearer of free trade” and “champion of global governance”. While many in Europe and America might raise a toast for Xi, not all Asians would be impressed with the Chinese rhetoric. Beijing’s Asian neighbours have watched in consternation China’s contemptuous rejection of an international tribunal’s award on the South China Sea dispute last year. China’s muscular nationalism stands in contrast to Xi’s cosmopolitan claims at Davos.
Xi’s promise in Davos, that China’s globalisation would be more equitable and inclusive is negated by popular opposition in many countries, including in Burma and Sri Lanka, to the terms of China’s investments. Two of China’s large Asian neighbours, India and Japan, are yet to endorse Xi Jinping’s massive One Belt One Road project. Although neither can stop the march of the OBOR, they have signalled the intent to contest China-led regional integration.
Making matters complicated for Xi is the new bonhomie between Putin’s Russia and Trump’s America at precisely the moment that the US president-elect promises to challenge China’s economic and regional policies. Although Russia can’t shape the global economic framework, it has the capacity to undermine the regional political order in Eurasia. Putin does not see himself in permanent wedlock with Beijing; if he has surprised the West by dividing Europe, he could trip up China in Asia.
A China that is yet to pacify its own neighbourhood will find it hard to shape global governance. China’s dramatic rise over the last three decades has been founded upon a cooperative relationship with America and avoiding conflict with its Asian neighbours. In abandoning the great Deng Xiaoping’s legacy of pragmatism, the current leadership in Beijing may have underestimated the potential push back from America and Asia. As one of the world’s oldest civilisations whose comprehensive national power has rapidly risen, China has the right to play a leading role in shaping the global order. Beijing’s current unilateralism, however, is likely to limit China’s global possibilities.

Xi Seeks to Steps In As Global Leader: A Fake Messiah

As Washington prepares to inaugurate Donald Trump China’s President Xi Jinping is stepping forward to take over the role that Trump has rejected – the leadership of the globalised world.
After a year in which the Brexit vote and Trump’s surprise election win posed the most serious threat to globalisation, China believes its time has come to be chief champion of globalisation. Having spent much of 2016 in aggressive expansion abroad, acquiring vast real estates as well as key technology companies in the West, Beijing is now making a bid to shape globalisation in its image.
In an ironic coincidence, about the time next week when Trump will be sworn in as president his Chinese counterpart Xi will make his first-ever trip to Davos, called the “spiritual capital of globalisation”, to address the global elite gathered at the World Economic Forum. Chinese state media is signalling that Xi will use his debut appearance to offer Western leaders a pep talk about the virtues of globalisation.
With the US president-elect Trump committed to a chauvinist reversal of America’s global role and Britain turning similarly inwards, the stage in Davos seems auspiciously set for Xi to play the role of cheerleader. As the world’s biggest beneficiary of free trade, sitting atop $3 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, its global investments rising by 50% to $175 billion, and some 130 million Chinese tourists spending over $200 billion last year China has reasons to be the top defender of globalisation.
During his address, Xi is expected to call on leaders to “steer economic globalisation towards greater inclusiveness” and promote development, cooperation and economic globalisation in order to build “a human community with a shared destiny”. India, which served as the poster child for globalisation at Davos in 2006, has been relegated to spectator status as it licks the self-inflicted wounds caused by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent demonetisation.
While China believes it has a compelling story to tell about the virtues of free trade, its actions vis-à-vis its neighbours do not jibe with its lofty rhetoric about humanity’s common destiny. Far from considering Chinese trade policy as inclusive Trump’s China adviser Peter Navarro calls China “the planet’s most efficient assassin” which “has boomed at the expense of much of the rest of the world”. Trump has already threatened high tariffs on Chinese imports. Meanwhile, his secretary of state-designate Rex Tillerson sent a message to Beijing during his confirmation hearing this week, denouncing illegal occupations in the South China Sea and virtually threatening military blockade: “Your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed,” he declared.
The day before Tillerson’s testimony, China sent its own signals by dispatching its aircraft carrier Liaoning and its contingent of combat jets to the Taiwan Straits. China denounced Trump’s phone conversation with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen as a violation of the One China principle. It also punished South Korea for its decision to purchase US-built missile defence systems for use against North Korea (the same system could also be used to track and destroy Chinese missiles). From blocking cultural exchanges to stopping South Korean exports, China went so far as to deploy a fleet of fighters and bombers to fly through South Korea’s air defense zone. Earlier, China flexed its muscles by flying bombers around the South China Sea, where it has set up airbases and missile batteries on artificial islands. Tillerson’s threat to deny China access to those islands could set the stage for a confrontation.
China appears unprepared to concede even an inch on any dispute. It has repeatedly blocked India’s efforts to get Pakistani terrorist Masood Azhar designated as such by the United Nations. It has called on India to cooperate in its One Belt One Road project after violating Indian sovereignty by building a road through Indian-claimed (but Pakistani-occupied) Kashmir. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s recent test of a sea-launched cruise missile, believed to have been developed with Chinese assistance, serves as an additional reminder of India’s vulnerability.
The West-led globalisation is, of course, facing stiff challenges, but the so-called “inclusive globalisation” that China is proposing will not be an easy sell. There is a clear disconnect between its words and its deeds. Its actions will be seen as self-serving moves to reinforce its dominant economic position while running roughshod over other Asian nations. Just as the world remains dubious about the competence of the American president-elect, Xi Jinping too faces a skeptical audience when he stakes his claim to lead today’s globalised world.

M-7 to Replace G-7 and M is for Migration

Migrations have always preceded the remarkable changes in human history. Aryan Migration to India gave birth to Vedic civilization, Muhammad’s migration to Media marked the beginning of Islam, migration of the Pilgrims to America was the beginning of a new world. We have entered the new age of migration. If all the people who live outside the country of their birth united to form their own – a republic of the rootless – it would be the fifth-largest country in the world, with a population of more than 240 million people.
Though much has been written about how a world on the move is changing national politics, there has been little consideration of its geopolitical effects. But the mass movement of people is already creating three types of migration superpowers: new colonialists, integrators, and go-betweens.
The new colonialists call to mind the settlers from Europe who spread across the world in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, benefiting not just themselves, but also their homelands. Similarly, the most mobile populations of the twenty-first century are helping their countries of origin obtain access to markets, technology, and a political voice in the world.
The American journalist Howard W. French describes how Africa has become “China’s second continent,” as more than a million new Chinese settlers remake Sub-Saharan Africa. With more Chinese citizens living outside mainland China than there are French people living in France, a similar story is playing out on almost every continent. When those migrants return to China, their capabilities are expertly harvested. Known in China as “sea turtles,” they dominate their country’s technology industry.
India, too, has a large diaspora of an estimated 20 million citizens who are super-successful and hyper-connected. Indian-born entrepreneurs are responsible for setting up one in ten companies in Silicon Valley. Microsoft’s chief executive is of Indian origin, as is the inventor of the Intel Pentium processor, the former chief technology officer at Motorola, and the CEO of Google.
How does this benefit India? For starters, India receives more than $70 billion in remittances every year, the largest sum worldwide, amounting to nearly 4% of its GDP, which is more than it spends on education. And while it may not be possible to prove a causal connection, the influx of Indians into America has coincided with a shift in both countries’ geopolitical orientations, as evidenced by the historic 2008 nuclear deal by which the US abandoned its policy of equidistance between India and Pakistan.
With so many people on the move, it is even possible to become a settler superpower without being recognized as a state. The estimated 35 million Kurds – who regard themselves as a nation without a country – are becoming one of the most politically active migrant populations in Europe. It is likely no coincidence that the governments of Sweden and Germany, with their large populations of Kurdish origin, are providing militarily support to the Kurdish Peshmerga in their fight against the Islamic State (ISIS).
The second type of superpower is the integrator. Libraries could be filled with books about how the United States has benefited from its ability to transform people from around the world into American citizens. Similarly, Angola and Brazil have reversed the brain drain and are receiving large flows of immigrants from their former colonial ruler, Portugal. But the two most eye-catching experiments in integration today are Israel and ISIS.
Immigration from the diaspora is essential to Israel, which is reflected in the Hebrew word for it:aliyah, derived from the verb “to ascend.” Indeed, the government provides “aliyah consultants,” as well as free one-way flights, language classes, and practical support. As a result, Israel’s population has risen ninefold since the country’s founding in 1948.
In Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle, co-authored with Saul Singer, the American writer and political adviser Dan Senor poses a fundamental question. “How is it,” he asks, “that Israel – a country of 7.1 million people, only sixty years old, surrounded by enemies, in a constant state of war since its founding, with no natural resources – produces more start-up companies than large, peaceful, and stable nations like Japan, China, India, Korea, Canada, and the United Kingdom?” The answer, of course, is immigration.
ISIS’s leaders would not be happy with the comparison, but their group’s rapid emergence on the map has drawn some lessons from Israel. The so-called Islamic State may not be officially recognized by anyone, but it is being built on the basis of immigration. According to the Soufan Group, roughly 30,000 people from 86 countries have traveled to ISIS-held territory in Syria and Iraq.
The third type of immigration superpowers are go-betweens, which use their geography to extract concessions from migration-phobic neighbors. The most notable example is Turkey; once forced to beg to be considered for European Union membership, it now dictates the terms of its relationship with Brussels. A leaked transcript of a recent summit with European leaders revealed how President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan threatened to bus refugees to Greece and Bulgaria if his demands were not met.
Niger is another go-between. As a major transit hub through which 90% of all West African migrants pass on their way to Italy, Niger succeeded in securing €600 million ($680 million) in the last EU aid budget. In doing so, it followed the example of Libya’s Muammar el-Qaddafi, who famously warned that Europe would “turn black” if it did not pay him to hold back migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean.
If the established powers that first benefited from the globalization of trade are known as the G-7, the countries, regions, and organizations that are benefiting from migration – China, India, Kurdistan, Israel, ISIS, Turkey, and Niger – could be called the M-7. As control over population flows become a currency of power, states that follow the M-7’s lead will have the opportunity to boost their geopolitical heft.
For the West, the biggest challenge will be to reconcile domestic pressure for closed borders with the geopolitical advantages of embracing migration. For now, at least, it seems that the G-7 – for which an easily affordable influx of refugees has somehow become a “crisis” – will continue to aid the M-7’s rise.

Obama Chose the Easy Enemy in Russia. Trump may Take on a Harder One

One day, the apocryphal story goes, Emperor Akbar asked Birbal to find him the biggest fool in the city. That evening Birbal set out for a walk. In a public garden, he found a man looking for something in the moonlight. On enquiring, he realised the man had lost his ring. “Did you lose it here?” Birbal asked, posing what appeared to be an obvious question. “No Sir, I lost it there,” said the man, pointing to a distant, secluded corner, “but the light is better in this area and so I’m looking here.” Birbal had found his fool.
How does one relate this story to American foreign policy and strategic choices? Over the past few years, and largely in the Obama presidency, America has identified Russia as its principal adversary. Public debate in that country, as well as policy discourse in Washington, DC, has tended to discount other challenges and paint Vladimir Putin as the United States’ uber-opponent. This has continued into the Trump transition.
The incoming American president has his personal angularities and penchant for outrageous statements. However, the serious opposition to his imminent administration has less to do with mannerisms and behaviour history but relates to a fundamental fork to which he threatens to bring US diplomacy: is Russia an enemy – or can it be considered an enemy’s enemy?
In a sense, even Donald Trump’s media conference earlier this week was shaped by that underlying dilemma and attendant tension. The cultural war between Hollywood and media mavens and the Trump theatre was only ambient noise.
To be fair, Putin is scarcely likeable. More a strongman than a statesman, he represents the face of an oligarchic cartel with old KGB associations. His country’s economic future is bleak, especially if energy prices remain soft. He is a ruthless practitioner of Big Politics, which many in the West, particularly in the Democrat/centre-left camp and the Obama administration, have little stomach for.
Yet, this is his moment, in a time and a year when Big Politics has overtaken Big Economics and the very grammar of statecraft and international diplomacy has undergone its most fundamental transformation since the end of the Cold War. Temporarily perhaps – since Russia’s long-term prospects are questionable – but this allows Putin to punch above his country’s weight.
Trump is offering an ideological presidency. His team comprises those who in the 1980s would have been called Republican Cold Warriors. Opponents of Moscow then, they see it as a tactical ally now in a war against Islamism in West Asia and a containment of Beijing. This move may or may not work, but Trump believes it’s worth the effort. The US has undertaken such dramatic shifts earlier, notably in the Nixon-Kissinger era, when it reached out to China to deprive Russia of an Asian auxiliary.
Like other ideologically-motivated governments – the CPM-led regime that came to office in Bengal in 1977, to pick a random example – Team Trump is likely to frontload its agenda rather than space it out. In attempting this quick reset, Trump has run into multiple constituencies. First, there is the Obama legacy. It was confused in West Asia, practically sponsored Islamic State (IS) through proxies in Qatar and then found the monster uncontrollable. It made peace with Iran but rejected Russia’s war on terrorism and effort to shore up alternatives to IS.
Trump would rather have Russia on his side than Iran. He would rather let Russia have some territory in the Crimea than allow Iran to make creeping progress to a nuclear weapon and regional paramountcy. Neither option is more or less moral.
Second, in popular perception and culture in the US, Russia is still the bad guy. A generation (or several generations) that came of age during the Cold War are still in thrall of nostalgia. There are concerns about Russian cyber-espionage but hardly any questions about Chinese hacking and threats to the internet. It is tempting to make retro Cold War movies (Bridge of Spies, The Man from UNCLE), while exploring the China challenge is limited to dense, hardcover non-fiction. Films about Islamism and the mess in West Asia are, of course, either politically incorrect or simply too hot to handle.
Russia is a convenient, easy enemy, much like the moonlit spot was for the man searching for the ring. America, to Trump’s mind, has ducked the hard issues. It hasn’t helped that Chinese economic interests are embedded in the American system, with influence in politics, business and thinktanks. China is a far greater economic force than Russia was in the 1970s (when Nixon shrugged it off) or the 1980s (when Reagan took it on). That makes Trump’s gamble tougher.
It is telling to compare Obama’s overtures to China in his first year to Trump’s relationship with Russia. In November 2009, Obama travelled to Beijing and became the first US president to offer China a “strategic partnership”. His spin doctors spoke of a “G2” world order. The idea went nowhere but it needs to be said that the liberal media did not denounce Obama or accuse him of furthering Chinese interests. In the end, Trump’s attempt to build a Russia house may fail as well. Nevertheless he has the mandate and should be allowed his chance.

The Two Foreign Ministers : How the Twain Shall Meet

This month last year, Chrystia Freeland was with her boss in Davos. The Swiss resort and site of the World Economic Forum, Ms. Freeland once wrote, is where the globe’s plutocrats go to “figure out their party line.” The one time chronicler of the super rich had always seemed unusually at ease among the 0.1 % she claimed to criticize. By last year, as a key player in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s new cabinet, she seemed utterly in her element among them.
After the event, Ms. Freeland posted photos on her website of her with George Soros and Richard Branson. Mr. Soros, the billionaire hedge-fund magnate best known for his massive donations to Democratic causes, has called Donald Trump “a con-artist and would-be dictator.” Mr. Branson, the billionaire founder of Virgin Group, worried last fall that Mr. Trump’s “vindictive streak … could be so dangerous if he got into the White House.”
Progressive plutocrats, with whom Ms. Freeland seems to feel some kinship, are now catatonic in the face of a Trump presidency. Davos will never be the same. There was always something surreal about the Davos plutocrats and their hangers-on gathering in splendid isolation to decry rising income inequality. In the Trump era, they will seem even more hopelessly extraterrestrial.
While the Davos crowd was making its usual calls for “inclusive growth” and climate accords, the masses had other things on their mind, such as the utter repudiation of the experts in business and politics who kept on telling them that globalization was good for them if only they’d listen.
Ms. Freeland, whose meteoric rise in the Trudeau government was confirmed with her Tuesday appointment as Foreign Affairs Minister, is a strong advocate of the Davos consensus. It holds that open borders, combined with activist government policies to redistribute income and promote social mobility, are the keys to ensuring global growth and stability. It is an upbeat vision that sees ethnic and religious diversity as linchpins of modernity, not threats to social cohesion.
It is also a vision inimical to the Trump administration and senior Trump adviser Stephen Bannon, who is tasked with keeping white working-class voters on board the Trump train. In the Bannon world view, globalism, diversity and the nanny state have eroded everything that once made America great. He admires Russian President Vladimir Putin’s skillful cultivation of ethnic and religious nationalism and wants to revive their domestic counterparts in America.
This makes Ms. Freeland a risky choice as the Trudeau government’s point person on the Canada-U.S. file. She may be less prickly than her predecessor, Stéphane Dion. But she is no less preachy. And her relentless antagonism toward Mr. Putin, to the point of being banned from Russia, will not ingratiate her with Mr. Bannon or his boss as they warm up to Moscow.
Much will hinge on the relationship Ms. Freeland develops with Rex Tillerson, provided the former ExxonMobil chief executive is confirmed as Mr. Trump’s secretary of state. Mr. Tillerson is no stranger to Davos. But he also showed up last year at Mr. Putin’s St. Petersburg Economic Forum, in defiance of the Obama Administration and U.S. sanctions on Russia. At Exxon, he pursued close ties with Mr. Putin and the head of Russia’s state-controlled oil giant, Rosneft.
As the ex-CEO of an oil multinational with operations in more than 50 countries, Mr. Tillerson has far more geopolitical experience than any incoming Canadian foreign affairs minister. He is a skilled negotiator, whether doing deals with African dictators or Western democracts. (He got burned by former Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, but he learned from it.)
He has been criticized for putting Texas-based Exxon’s bottom line ahead of U.S. national security interests. But as CEO, that was his job. If he applies himself as effectively on behalf of his country, U.S. foreign policy is likely to be ruthlessly focused. Realpolitik, not values, will dictate policy. Canada may be an afterthought.
Ms. Freeland will need to direct all of her abundant energy to earn the trust of both Mr. Bannon and Mr. Tillerson. The Trump people have no particular animus toward Canada – but they will not do us any favours either on softwood lumber exports or renegotiating the North American free-trade agreement. The biggest threat of all remains the collateral damage Mr. Trump’s America First agenda will inflict on Canada as he targets Mexico and China.
Davos is fun. But Ms. Freeland’s real work lies elsewhere.

Unresolved Water Might Endanger Indian Union

Water planning in India has been on an unsustainable path for centuries. In the 16th century, Mughal Emperor Akbar decided to build a new capital in Fatehpur Sikri (City of Victory). In 1589, Robert Fitch, one of the earliest English travellers to India, noted that Agra and Fatehpur Sikri were “two great cities, either of them much greater than London and more populous”.
The history of the new capital was not so auspicious. Akbar used it only for 13 years and then abandoned it to return to his old capital permanently. The main reason was very severe water scarcity.
Fatehpur Sikri is a magnificent monument to India’s poor water planning. Over the centuries India’s water planning has improved incrementally whereas its drivers of water use have increased exponentially, making its water situation worsen steadily with time.
Take population, only one driver of increasing water use. In 1947, the total population of undivided India was 390 million. By, 2050, total population of the three countries of undivided India will be 2,206 billion, a 5.66-fold increase in little over a century. India is expected to overtake China around 2022 as the most populous country in the world.
Population growth, rapid urbanisation and industrialisation and exponential growth in human activities over the past century, have resulted in higher water requirements for all types of water uses: human, thermo-industrial and agricultural.
Furthermore, for centuries domestic and industrial wastewaters have been indiscriminately discharged to water bodies without any, or partial treatment. Consequently, all water bodies within and near population centres have already been contaminated seriously with domestic and industrial pollutants. This has posed serious health and environmental problems.
In addition, with steady economic growth, higher literacy and increasing skill levels, the number of Indian middle class families has gone up exponentially. The median income of Indian households is expected to reach over $10,000, by 2030, in 2014 prices. Direct results of this affluence have been rapid changes in dietary patterns and energy consumption levels. As the country has prospered, people have moved to a higher protein-based diet like milk products, fish and meat, all of which need significantly more water to produce than cereal-based diets. Their energy consumption has gone up because of increasing use of refrigerators, washing machines and cars. All these need extra energy and no energy can be generated without significant amount of water.
In terms of water, the country now is facing a perfect storm. This means water management practices in India need to change dramatically in the coming years. However, we do not see any sustained political will which will be essential to take some hard decisions in the future.
The problem is further exacerbated by the fact that all important rivers in India are interstate, and water management is basically a state subject on which the Centre has very limited control.
Because of poor water management in all the Indian states and steadily increasing water demands, India is now witnessing increasing conflicts on water allocations in interstate rivers. This has become a serious challenge to the regional stability of the country.
Interstate water allocation conflicts have triggered numerous protests, violence and property destruction. If these conflicts continue and grow, they may prove to be one of the biggest political constraints to India’s future economic growth and social cohesion.
A major challenge now is the absence of permanent and efficient dispute resolution mechanisms for water allocation in interstate rivers. Under the Interstate Water Disputes Act of 1956, ad hoc tribunals can be established on a case by case basis whenever conflicts between two states cannot be resolved by mutual discussion. The objective of this Act was to allow the states to discuss and resolve the conflicts before engaging in adjudication.
Our research indicates that tribunals have often contributed to long-drawn negotiation processes which have led to hardening of the positions of the individual states, instead of promoting compromises.
There are several problems with the existing tribunal system. First, there are no uniform, logical and common processes. They have considerable discretions in terms of processes to arrive at settlements as also underlying concepts under which settlements are made. Fundamental assumptions have often varied from one tribunal to other significantly.
Second, tribunal results are non-binding to the states.
Third, the Centre has been reluctant to establish institutions for implementing the awards.
Fourth, there is no fixed stipulated timeframe for negotiations and adjudications. The Cauvery Tribunal took 17 years. Karnataka then promptly decided to file a Special Leave Petition to the Supreme Court to thwart the final award, further delaying the settlement.
An important factor linking water disputes to state politics is the power of state campaigns in distracting voters from real issues of poor governance and lack of administrative skills and actions. Water has now assumed the role of a political weapon.
With a number of states defying orders of tribunals and Supreme Court, water is becoming an important threat to Indian’s federalism and future social and economic development.
In the absence of functioning water institutions at central and state levels and lack of political will to take hard decisions of all political levels, interstate water allocation problems will become increasingly more difficult to resolve. It proves Mark Twain’s adage “Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting over.”

Honey Trap a Tool of Intelligence Agencies to Sexually Blackmail

All intelligence agencies follow the Biblical tale of Samson and Delilah and use honey trap to entrap the unwary for the good of the country. Using sex as a blackmail tool is a major tool that has been used since times immemorial. So why all this noise today on allegedy re[port of Russia possessing incriminating pictures of Trump?
Assange stands accused of “rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion” during encounters with two Swedish women. But some Assange defenders are suggesting that the 39-year-old Australian is the victim of government-sponsored seduction, known as a “honey trap.” Are honey traps real, or are they found only in James Bond movies?
Oh, they’re real. Honey traps, also called “honey pots,” have been a favorite spying tactic as long as sex and espionage have existed—in other words, forever. Perhaps the earliest honey trap on record was the betrayal of Samson by Delilah, who revealed Samson’s weakness (his hair) to the Philistines in exchange for 1,100 pieces of silver, as described in the book of Judges. The practice continued into the 20th century and became a staple of Cold War spycraft. Governments around the world set up honey traps to this day, but it’s an especially common practice in Russia and China. The Central Intelligence Agency doesn’t comment on whether its agents use their sexuality to obtain information, but current and former intelligence officials say it does happen occasionally.
The classic honey trap is seduction to extract secrets. Perhaps the best-known trap layer was the Dutch exotic dancer Mata Hari, who was executed by firing squad in France in 1917 for allegedly passing secrets along to the Germans. Other times, spies set honey traps to draw their victims into their enemy’s clutches. In 1978, undercover Sandinista operative Nora Astorga lured a Nicaraguan general into her bedroom, where assailants slit his throat. When Israeli technician Mordechai Vanunu went public with secrets about Israel’s nuclear capabilities in 1986, he fled to London, only to be seduced by a woman who led him to Mossad agents in Rome. (A rabbi later determined that the Mossad’s actions were, in fact, kosher.)
Honey trapping often leads to blackmail—though some of the more famous examples didn’t go according to plan. In one 1957 case, the Soviets recruited an attractive man to seduce legendary (and gay) American columnist Joseph Alsop. When KGB agents tried to blackmail Alsop with compromising photos, he went to the American authorities and told them everything. London Daily Telegraph correspondent Jeremy Wolfenden got similarly ensnared in the 1960s, when the KGB photographed him having sex with another man. Wolfenden told the British embassy, and they asked him to become a double agent. The stress drove him to drink. He died at age 31. When the KGB tried to blackmail Indonesian President Achmed Sukarno with videotapes of the president having sex with Russian women disguised as flight attendants, Sukarno wasn’t upset. He was pleased. He even asked for more copies of the video to show back in his country.
Women, too, have been honey-trap targets. During the Cold War, East German intelligence chief Markus Wolf sent Stasi “Romeo spies” into West Germany to seduce powerful women and extract their secrets.* In the early ’80s, a CIA agent stationed in Ghana fell in love with a man who turned out to be a Ghanaian intelligence officer.
No one has perfected the honey trap quite like the Russians. One former KGB agent has said that the Soviet intelligence agency didn’t ask Russian women to stand up for their country but “asked them to lay down.” One of the biggest Cold War spy cases was that of Clayton Lonetree, a Marine Corps security guard entrapped by a female Soviet officer, then blackmailed into sharing documents. In 1987, he became the first Marine convicted of espionage. Russian spycraft didn’t disappear with the Soviet Union. Russian political satirist Viktor Shenderovich was recently filmed cheating on his wife with a young woman named Katya, who had also seduced a half dozen other Kremlin critics. A similar trap appeared to catch an American diplomat in Moscow in 2009, but the State Department said the evidence was fabricated as part of a smear campaign.* China, too, seems to employ honey traps regularly. When former Deputy Mayor of London Ian Clement was seduced and drugged in his Beijing hotel room in 2009 only to find his BlackBerry stolen the next day, he admitted that he “fell for the oldest trick in the book.”
Russia knows how to use sex to get what it wants. Perhaps more accurately, Russia knows how to use sex to blackmail its enemies. There’s no verified proof to the allegations that the Kremlin has a tape of President-elect Donald Trump participating in odd sexual behavior in Moscow. But there’s nothing unusual about Russia collecting compromising material in order to sway or blackmail enemies despite its denials.
“The Kremlin does not collect compromising materials,” Dmitry Peskov, Putin spokesman, said Wednesday.
But Peskov’s claim was proven false before it was even uttered. The practice of collecting compromising materials is even a Russian word — “kompromat” — and Russian intelligence agencies have been digging it up and dishing it out for decades.
“[The] gathering of kompromat is one of the primary working methods of Russian intelligence agencies,” Ilya Yashin, Russian activist and politician, told the Washington Post. “This technique is systematically used in Russia, and I have no doubt that it’s already used and will be used to achieve the Kremlin’s policy goals.”
In 1999, grainy footage of a top Kremlin official cavorting with two prostitutes appeared on national television, prompting the official to resign. And the man who is rumored to have delivered the tape to the state-owned TV station? Vladimir Putin, then head of the Russian Federal Security Service.
Then there was the case of Mikhail Kasyanov, former Russian prime minister and an opponent of Putin. Last year, he was recorded in a bed rolling around with a woman who, as it turns out, wasn’t his wife. That video also made it to primetime on the state-owned TV station.
If sexpionage was an Olympic sport, Russia would no doubt get the gold. But the U.S. may not be too far behind.
American Kompromat
In November 1964, Coretta Scott King, wife of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., received a strange package in the mail. Inside was an anonymous letter addressed to the civil rights leader, along with a tape recording. Coretta Scott King thought the recording might be of one of her husband’s speeches. Instead, the tape apparently revealed his sexual indiscretions.
The letter was simply addressed to “King.: “In lieu of your low grade, abnormal personal behavior I will not dignify your name with either a Mr. or a Reverend or a Dr.,” the letter began.spy-letter
The point was to blackmail King, and to embarrass him so ruthlessly so that he would take his own life.Peep Ehasalu, who helped set up the museum, said that 60 of the hotel’s 423 rooms were bugged and reserved for “interesting persons” like foreign businessmen. Guests who were judged vulnerable to blackmail were put in a handful of rooms with holes in the walls through which special cameras would film dalliances with prostitutes. All the prostitutes, Mr. Ehasalu said, worked for the K.G.B., which chased away freelance sex workers who had not been officially approved.
Most of the guests at the time were from Finland, which had unusually close and accommodating relations with Moscow but which Soviet leaders always worried might tilt toward the West. To discourage that, the K.G.B. targeted decision makers from Finland who made trips to Estonia.
kompromat was Joseph Alsop, an influential American newspaper columnist who, during a 1957 visit to Moscow, fell into a gay “honey trap” set by the K.G.B., which filmed his encounter with a young Russian man at his hotel.
Why blame only the Russians for a universal practice! Their only fault is that they have perfected the art of ensnaring and then use the victim for their purpose in the same way RAW, CIA, MOSSAD, MI6 or any other good agency shall do

Sunday Special: Patronage & Poetry

The year 1856 was a significant one in the history of the subcontinent, not for what had occurred during its days, weeks and months but for what had not yet occurred. As is well known, the War of Independence and its attendant expositions of hatreds, the resentments of the colonised and the subjugating intentions of the colonisers, had not yet occurred.
It was in this year that the poet Mirza Ghalib wrote a qasidah for Queen Victoria, the woman who would in a few more blinks of history be crowned empress of India. He sent the qasidah to the queen in London via Lord Ellenborough.
In exchange, Ghalib received a bureaucratic letter advising him to convey the letter via the “proper administrative procedures”. In Ghalib’s case this would be via the administrator in India. He complied with the instruction and resent the qasidah for the queen via the proper channels.
As Ghalib scholar Frances Pritchett has documented in her book on Urdu poetry, he also included a polite letter along with the poem. In the letter, the man who would be the age’s most renowned poet reminded the queen of the long-established and well-known duty of sovereigns to poets. The former royalty of the subcontinent had rewarded their poets and well-wishers by “filling their mouths with pearls, and granting them villages and recompense”. In keeping with tradition, he asked that the queen bestow upon him the title of ‘Mihr-Khwan’, present him with a robe of honour and “a few crumbs from her bounteous table”.
Ghalib eagerly awaited a response to his missive to the queen but history slaughtered hope; before he received one, the war of 1857 broke out.
According to Pritchett’s history of Urdu poetry, Ghalib’s request was neither unique nor novel. Ghalib’s famous forbear, Ameer Khusro, had written a similar letter, featuring a similar argument to his own patrons. History, perhaps, was kinder then, not so ruthlessly pitted against poetry.
Ghalib never did receive his title, nor was he able to escape poverty; his poetry persevered regardless, his couplets falling from tongues centuries into the future. He may never have received the pension he requested from the British but he did receive, in posterity, the sort of immortality reserved only for the truly exceptional.
The possibility or promise of future fame, however, does not feed famished families. At the time that Ghalib wrote his letter to Queen Victoria, the idea of patronage for poets and artists was one that was familiar and even integral to court society. Ghalib was a member of an aristocratic family but dwindling finances and the influence of the British had led him to be dependent largely on a pension inherited from an uncle who had passed away.
His entreaty to the queen, therefore, was not a mark of submission but rather born of an earnest belief that the British did not subsidise art and poetry in the subcontinent because they were either not aware of the tradition or unaware of the advantage of a court poet, of “having a slave like Ghalib whose song has all the power of fire”.
While post-colonial societies such as Pakistan and elsewhere have taken much interest in considering the reversibility of colonial interruptions, been eager to harken back to the era of imagined religious poetry, wincing at the language of the colonisers or the habits or customs they left behind, there has been no interest in resurrecting the tradition that Ghalib referred to in his missive.
If the British responded to Ghalib with bureaucratic blather, the destiny of post-colonial would-be Ghalibs is even bleaker. Not only are the arts, poetry and literature considered unworthy of investment by the state whose creation was supposed to be a step in the direction of regaining Muslim glory, they are, in fact, considered wasteful and even immoral pastimes.
But the fact remain that Ghalib was a soul healer.:
“An ocean of blood churns around me/ Alas! Were these all!
The future will show/ what more remains for me to see”
Once an orthodox Muslim, asked him why he accepted sweets from Hindus on their, Diwali. He replied asking, if sweets themselves have any specific faiths? Barfi is barfi and it is sweet in taste, likewise jalebi, leaving the old man speechless. To write about his poetry is a generation long process but his wit (hazir jawaabi), humour, normal conversations and the way he lead his life is itself poetic. He was poetry in motion himself.
The epitome of Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb, a symbol of pluralism – well that was Ghalib for me. Mirza may not be an ‘Auliya’ (a saint) or the reviver of faith, but his poetry and philosophies were nothing less than soul healers. “Main koshish karta hoon ke koi aisi baat likhoon, jo padhe khush ho jaaye;” Ghalib wrote in one of his famous letters.
I think creativity which cannot bring a smile to the faces of people is of no avail and Ghalib’s poetry was like service to the mankind and humanity. He was born on 27 December 1797 and buried near the Dargah of great Sufi Saint Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, but his legacy lives and inspires so many till date.
In the year 1862, a young Rajput poet prodded him to recite any Persian verse with a different theme. Mirza Naushey recited, “My station cannot be discerned by any eye but mine; for my star is so far up that it doesn’t shine bright.” The way he recited it with supreme confidence, even the air seemingly stopped flowing, trying to hear the couplet Mirza Sahib was mouthing, wrote the Rajput.
Not a very great deal of the night sky had been explored those days, the Big Bang theory had not even been heard. But the enigma and the vision of Ghalib was ahead of its time.
Zikr(mention) without fikr(worry) is ordinary but zikr with fikr is extra ordinary. Ghalib was the true exponent of this art. His poetry was full of concern for the society and his philosophies brought impeccable melange of zikr and fikr.
Mirza was the master of creating master pieces because he was astute in using right words at the right time, what is referred to as ‘khayalbandi’.
“The world of Shayari has been be divided into two parts – before and after Ghalib,” once stated famed lyricist Gulzar . The more I read Ghalib the more assured I become of his own words. “Hain aur bhi duniya mein sukhnwar bahut acchey kehtey hain ki Ghalib ka hai andazey bayan aur.
The British were uninterested in sustaining patronage because they favoured their own forms of cultural production, the sonnets and songs of their own land. It would make no sense to invest in the cultural production of a culture whose elimination or sidelining was crucial to the project of colonial dominance. All of this was painfully clear following the War of Independence, which in addition to being bloody and dispiriting also marked the end of Muslim cultural production.
So deadly was that defeat that even a century and a half later, there has been no recovery. States such as Pakistan that may look to the past of poetry still read and heard and sung, nevertheless fail to understand the crucial role played by cultural production — art, poetry and literature — in constructing the imaginative and lived realities of nations. The consequence is a wan and warped society, subsisting on scraps of cultural production past, a society whose penurious poets can only very feebly hold up the mirrors of provocation, whose artists must do everything and anything other than create art.
The consequence is grim: a scene of desolation where the truly talented can expect no support, must busy themselves with peddling electronics, designing websites, painting billboards, coining advertising slogans.
In this bereft world there is little hope for talent to be recognised or rewarded. Instead, the category of artist and writer is reserved for the insipid progeny of patrons of old. While the talented try to survive, the children of the wealthy pretend to be talented, are cheered on by their parents, by the other children of the similarly situated.
Those who constitute the system cannot truly criticise its inequity, let alone compose the sort of songs of fire that lay bare its perversions. With state patronage dead and buried, art is robbed of any revolutionary potential, culture is left stagnant, and poetry reduced to a single song of silent suffering.

Promoting Anti-Science via Textbooks

A biology textbook is normally expected to teach biology as science, meaning a scientifically based study of the structure, growth and origin of living things. But what if such a book instead says science must follow ideology and loudly denounces the core principles of biology, condemning these as wrong and irrational?
Published in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa last year, a biology textbook declares that “The theory of evolution, as proposed by Charles Darwin in the 19th century, is one of the most unbelievable and irrational claims in history”. Ridiculing the notion that complex life evolved from simpler forms, it claims this violates common sense and is just as “baseless” as assuming that when two rickshaws collide “a motor car was evolved”.
Colliding two rickshaws will, of course, never result in a motor car. That’s common sense. But what does this have to do with the prokaryote-eukaryote transition (which the authors are trying to refute)? More importantly, common sense isn’t good enough for science. Didn’t common sense once tell you that the sun moves across the sky, the earth is flat, and that being out in the cold produced colds? Common sense didn’t tell you that smoking was dangerous. Evidence did.
Ideological discomfort with science largely explains the near total absence from the world of creative science.
Evidence through years of patient observation — not common sense — led to Darwin’s theory of evolution and to Newton’s laws of motion. Take them away and biology, as well as physics, instantly collapses into a meaningless jumble of facts. Robbed of fundamentals, biology ceases to be biology and physics ceases to be physics. They cease to be branches of science.
If the quoted textbook was just one of a kind, I would not have written this article. But almost all books have this attitude. Another KP textbook says “A person in a stable and proper state of mind” cannot accept the wild theories of Western science. By corollary, only mad people can. A physics textbook of the Sindh Textbook Board categorically states that the universe sprang instantly into existence when a certain divine phrase was uttered.
Anti-science does not live in our textbooks only. Many Pakistani science and maths teachers are uncomfortable with their vocations. Whether in schools or universities, they obtained their jobs by possessing requisite certificates and degrees. But not all agree with what they are paid to teach, or even understand it. It should surprise no one that most biology teachers in Pakistan either do not — or perhaps dare not — touch upon human evolution.
Other teachers also feel torn between science and faith. Qari N. was a mathematics professor at Quaid-i-Azam University and my neighbour in the QAU housing colony. He was a soft-spoken and deeply pious man who wore his shalwar well above his ankles and would rebuff customary embraces after Eid prayers, declaring them to be bid’at (an innovation, hence disallowed).
His PhD in mathematics notwithstanding, the gentle qari would say to his M.Sc students that although it was his job to teach, yet mathematics was not to be trusted. He rejected not just mathematics but all Western cultural contaminations, including modern medicine. A chronic diabetic, he refused to see a regular doctor and instead put his trust in a hakeem who prescribed several spoonfuls daily of pure honey.
Ideological discomfort with science largely explains Pakistan’s total absence from the world of creative science or technology. But there are other competing reasons, foremost among which is corruption and extreme incompetence in the field of textbook publishing. I do not think there is another country in the world that miseducates its young so badly.
Over four decades, onecan find scores of school science textbooks, both Urdu and English. Most have been produced by the Punjab and Sindh textbook boards. You can guess how many copies need to be printed for a population of 200 million people, as well as imagine the profits from even a small markup. These are ideal conditions for corruption and incompetence to thrive in government education departments.
All efforts — including those of a US-based Pakistani academic — to set the matters right have always been sabotaged. There is clear lack of seriousness. When foxes are charged with protecting chickens, the outcome rarely surprises.
The education ministry is beyond reform. It cannot deliver good textbooks for Matric and FSc. Adapting, subsidising, and translating internationally produced ‘O’ and ‘A’ level science books — used presently by only a tiny sliver of upscale Pakistani schools — is the only reasonable way to go. Those who protest that this amounts to a Western cultural invasion should be asked to produce their own science. In the meantime they shouldn’t use electricity or mobile phones, and travel only on donkeys and camels. Instead of antibiotics or insulin they could opt to use honey.

Canada Marching Towards Deficit Decades

Federal numbers released quietly by the Trudeau government late last month are painting a bleak picture of Canada’s financial future — one filled with decades of deficits. The report, published on the Finance Department website two days before Christmas, predicts that, barring any policy changes, the federal government could be on track to run annual shortfalls until at least 2050-51.
If such a scenario plays out, the document says the federal debt could climb past $1.55 trillion by that same year — more than double its current level.
The projection comes as the federal Liberals proceed with plans to run double-digit annual deficits over at least the next six years as a way to help Ottawa fund an economy-boosting effort that includes infrastructure investments.
Over the long haul, the fiscal trajectory in this report looks dramatically different when compared to similar long-term federal predictions released in November 2014 by the previous Conservative government. Those 2014 projections were released as crashing oil prices were only beginning to wreak havoc on the economy.
In both cases, the government stressed that its projections were intended to represent a plausible baseline and were not forecasts because such long-term estimates contain considerable uncertainty. “They are intended to provide a broad analysis of the government’s fiscal position, to allow the government to respond more effectively to upcoming challenges and protect the long-term sustainability of public finances,” the December document said.
To help explain the prediction, the report points to the major economic challenge caused by the gradual retirement of baby boomers. The demographic shift is expected to shrink work-force participation, erode labour productivity and drive up expenditures for things like elderly benefits.
For the first time in the country’s history, it adds, there are more people aged 65 and older than there are children under 15. But citing the distant horizon of the outlook once again, it says the eventual outcomes could turn out considerably better or worse than today’s projections. For example, the document estimates policies that successfully boost labour-force participation and productivity over the coming decades have the potential to increase economic growth by as much as 22 per cent by 2055.
The report projects the federal government will produce deficits of $25 billion in 2025-26, $36.4 billion in 2030-31, $38.8 billion in 2035-26, $33.9 billion in 2040-41, $21.6 billion in 2045-46 and $2.2 billion in 2050-51.
Ottawa’s books, it predicted, would see a surplus of $26.5 billion in 2055-56. The 2014 long-term projections were far more optimistic. They predicted double-digit annual surpluses until 2050-51 — a year Ottawa’s balance sheet was projected to finish $220.4 billion in the black. The “federal debt” category that year was instead expected to show assets of $1.7 trillion.
Since the fall of 2014, the national economy has faced significant challenges, especially from the prolonged oil-price slump.
The Liberals won the 2015 election on a plan that would allow them to spend billions on infrastructure projects as a way to improve the lacklustre growth, financing it with annual deficits of no more than $10 billion over the first couple years of their mandate and promised to balance the books by 2019-20.
Once in office, the Liberals abandoned those so-called “fiscal anchors” as the economy continued to absorb a beating from collapsing oil prices. The Trudeau government has since promised to lower the country’s net debt-to-GDP ratio — a measure of the public debt burden — from today’s level in five years.
In November, Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s fall economic and fiscal statement predicted a deficit of $25.1 billion this year. The annual shortfalls are gradually expected to shrink over the coming years to $14.6 billion in 2021-22.

Weekend Special: Gobind Singh-A Rare Example of Diversity Promoter & Protector in Age of Religious Conflicts

This is my homage to a person, who is one of two heroes- a person who was much ahead of his times, who combined burning passion for humanity, human rights, diversity, and secularism. Three hundred and fifty years back, the South Asia was a boiling cauldron of sectarian passions. The Hindus were being killed, sawed in half, while still alive, boiled in boiling waters, placed on hot girdles- the tortures were unimaginable. The situation in Europe was no better. The Catholic-Protestant fights are a matter of history. Diversity was an abuse.Today, diversity is a buzz word that we hear a lot. But imagine at that juncture there emerged a soul so bright that it was like a meteor streaking along spreading acceptance and love.
So enlightened and compassionate was this poet, soldier and human rights protector that people like Rumi were overawed and looked on him as saviour of humanity. It was Guru Gobind Singh – the tenth Guru of the Sikhs who persistently advocated for promoting diversity. It was when the world was still enveloped in water-tight compartments that Guru gave a clarion call for protecting and protecting diversity. Just a few days back, the Sikh community celebrated the 350th birthday of their tenth Guru Gobind Singh- the person who picked up arms and dared the mighty Mughal empire. In the worst days of the Mogul empire, India was in great danger that its cultural and religious diversity would be eclipsed. King Aurangzeb (1618 – 1707) created havoc by trying to convert everyone living in the empire to his version of Islam. To fully appreciate the extent of the widespread bloodshed in today’s context, one may view the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as having a mission similar to the very worst excess of the Mogul Empire.).
In order to understand the mentality of ISIS and its tactics, look no further than the daily pictures of horrors and insanity throughout the Middle East and the Western world. Only since 2012 has the rise of ISIS become a revelation to the West. Commencing with the self-proclamation of a Caliph by its leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, and then with the surge in Iraq and Syria, each day brings bloodshed, beheading, and the burning alive of innocents. Once launched, it occurs without stopping.
To those who know Indian history, it is obvious that the theology and actions of that era of the Mogul Kingdom were no different from ISIS today. Back then, the hostility towards other religions was very evident through the Mullahs’ orations and fatwas, such as: “It is incumbent upon Muslims to take as enemies the infidel Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Sufi Muslims, and other polytheists, and to avoid their amicability,” and “Shi’ites are the most polytheist, and none of the people of passion are more lying than them, and more remote from monotheism, and their danger to Islam is very great indeed.”
This was the common rhetoric used during the kingdom of Aurangzeb. He wanted militant imposition of his religion on all others. Any sign of diversity was met by force from the Empire.
Diversity- hallmark of Enlighened Polity
It is now universally accepted that the next generation of humanity will improve the global village so that diverse societies can live together in peace and prosperity (both worldly and spiritual).
Guru Gobind Singh played a major role in South Asiua in creating and spreading these values as is evident from many anecdotes and stories. Some of his statements and actions impact civil societies globally, even though they are illustrated through examples of Sikh, Buddhist, Muslim and Hindu communities in the Indian sub-continent.
Contrary to the practice of proving that one religion is superior to another, and imposing those beliefs, Guru Gobind Singh called upon all religions to engage in the service of humanity in their own ways. Let me illustrate this with a few examples.
The First Sermon
From childhood, young Gobind engaged in inter-religious dialogue. According to our history books, the recognition of the Guru’s divinity was first acknowledged publicly at an important inter-religious event. It all began with the installation of infant Gobind to his prophetic rank. Contrary to the established practice of initiating a child prophet by the clergy of his forefathers faith, a renowned Muslim saint, Syed Bhikhan Shah, was instead given this honor. Mind you that the Guru was not born to Muslim parents.
The story goes as: One day, followers of Muslim Pir Bhikhan Shah observed their leader bow towards the East during his morning prayers. Certainly it was contrary to the established Islamic practice of bowing in the direction of Kiblah.
When his followers looked astonished, the Pir responded and explained his unusual act. He said that a special child, the savior chosen by Allah, was taking birth in Patna, which is located in Eastern India. He further disclosed that he was inspired by Allah to make his way to the child’s birth place, in order to bless the newly born Gobind, and to pronounce him a prophet.
The Pir gathered his followers and led them on a pilgrimage to Patna in order to view the newborn. In Patna, although unusual for mothers of a newborn to do so, the Guru’s mother accepted the Pir’s request and brought the child out for public viewing.
The Pir presented a riddle. He placed two bowls of candy before the child; one bowl was purchased from a Hindu’s shop, and the other from a Muslim’s shop, thus signifying the two major religions of India. The riddle sought answers to an unspoken question of seeking guidance as to which religion this divine prophet would belong to. The proper response would permit the Pir to pronounce the Guru’s divinity and his prophetic authority to lead the people.
To everyone’s admiration and deep gratification, the infant Gobind Rai placed his hands in both bowls, thus indicating that he would not profile people based on religious divides. Further, it signified that all religions would be dear to him. He would also pick a holy man of a different religion to communicate his new message. The Muslim Pir and his Muslim companions as well as Hindu neighbors who had gathered there were thrilled and fulfilled.
The point is that in his very first public message Guru Gobind Singh laid the path to inter-religious engagement that sanctioned inter-religious appreciation and accommodation. Further, he chose the symbolic language of a public demonstration to communicate his first public sermon.
Although minimizing the religious divide was Guru Gobind Singh’s first sermon, it was neither a one-time event nor the first time in the Sikh tradition that such a sermon was aired.
The Sikh Tradition
The divinity of Guru Nanak was first recognized by a Muslim holy man, Rai Bullar, and not his own parents. Similarly, when Guru Nanak made his first debut after receiving the divine ordination at the banks of River Vein in Northern India he gave the following sermon to those who gathered to welcome him as a prophet. Guru Arjan paraphrased this sermon in the following hymn.
ਨ ਹਮ ਹਿੰਦੂ ਨ ਮੁਸਲਮਾਨ । ਅਲਹ ਰਾਮ ਕੇ ਪਿੰਡੁ ਪਰਾਨ – Guru Arjan, SGGS, p. 1136. ( I am neither a Hindu, nor am I a Muslim (Christian, Budhhist, etc). My body and breath of life belong equally to Allah and to Raam – the God of both religions.)
In the most popular painting of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak is always shown with his two companions: a Hindu, Bhai Bala, and a Muslim, Bhai Marda.
Guru Gobind Singh reiterated the same doctrine of not profiling people into religious categories. The writers and historians amply documented Guru Gobind Singh’s teachings in this respect. He is said to teach as:
ਜਾ ਤੇ ਛੂਟਿ ਗਯੋ ਭ੍ਰਮ ਉਰ ਕਾ॥ ਤਿਹ ਆਗੈ ਹਿੰਦੂ ਕਿਆ ਤੁਰਕਾ॥ ( When one gets rid of the false beliefs one ceases to profile people into Hindu or Muslim (Christian, Jew or Sikh).
Universal Perspective
Guru Gobind Singh further believed that even when an enlightened person looked far and wide, he would find the same divine spirit in all. A poet described this as:
ਸਾਰੇ ਹੀ ਦੇਸ ਕੋ ਦੇਖਿ ਰਹਿਓ ਮਤ ਕੋਊ ਨ ਦੇਖੀਅਤ ਪ੍ਰਾਨਪਤੀ ਕੇ॥ (Tav-Prasad Savayeaa)
So that no one may have any doubt, Guru Gobind Singh is said to refer, by name, various geographical regions, many linguistic and cultural groups that spread all over the continents to make one humanity. For example, the Guru described various sects, denominations or ethnicities as all adoring the same Creator.
ਪੂਰਬੀ ਨ ਪਾਰ ਪਾਵੈਂ ਹਿੰਗੁਲਾ ਹਿਮਾਲੈ ਧਿਆਵੈਂ ਗੋਰ ਗੁਰਦੇਜੀ ਗੁਨ ਗਾਵੈਂ ਤੇਰੇ ਨਾਮ ਹੈਂ ॥
ਜੋਗੀ ਜੋਗ ਸਾਧੈ ਪਉਨ ਸਾਧਨਾ ਕਿਤੇਕ ਬਾਧੈ ਆਰਬ ਕੇ ਆਰਬੀ ਅਰਾਧੈਂ ਤੇਰੇ ਨਾਮ ਹੈਂ ॥
ਫਰਾ ਕੇ ਫਿਰੰਗੀ ਮਾਨੈਂ ਕੰਧਾਰੀ ਕੁਰੇਸੀ ਜਾਨੈਂ ਪਛਮ ਕੇ ਪੱਛਮੀ ਪਛਾਨੈਂ ਨਿਜ ਕਾਮ ਹੈਂ ॥
ਮਰਹਟਾ ਮਘੇਲੇ ਤੇਰੀ ਮਨ ਸੋਂ ਤਪਸਿਆ ਕਰੈ ਦ੍ਰਿੜਵੈ ਤਿਲੰਗੀ ਪਹਚਾਨੈ ਧਰਮ ਧਾਮ ਹੈਂ ॥
ਬੰਗ ਕੇ ਬੰਗਾਲੀ ਫਿਰਹੰਗ ਕੇ ਫਿਰੰਗਾਵਾਲੀ ਦਿਲੀ ਕੇ ਦਿਲਵਾਲੀ ਤੇਰੀ ਆਗਿਆ ਮੈ ਚਲਤ ਹੈਂ ॥
ਰੋਹ ਕੇ ਰੁਹੇਲੇ ਮਾਘ ਦੇਸ ਕੇ ਮਘੇਲੇ ਬੀਰ ਬੰਗ ਸੀ ਬੁੰਦੇਲੇ ਪਾਪ ਪੁੰਜ ਕੋ ਮਲਤ ਹੈਂ ॥
ਗੋਖਾ ਗੁਨ ਗਾਵੈ ਚੀਨ ਮਚੀਨ ਕੇ ਸੀਸ ਨਯਾਵੈ ਤਿੱਬਤੀ ਧਿਆਇ ਦੇਖ ਦੇਹ ਕੋ ਦਲਤ ਹੈਂ ॥
ਜਿਨੈ ਤੋਹਿ ਧਿਆਇਓ ਤਿਨੈ ਪੂਰਨ ਪ੍ਰਤਾਪ ਪਾਇਓ ਸਰਬ ਧਨ ਧਾਮ ਫਲ ਫੂਲ ਮੋਂ ਫਲਤ ਹੈਂ ॥ (
Akal Ustat, 254-255, Dasam Granth, p. 13-14.)
Translated, it reads as :
The inhabitants of the East could not know Thy limit, the people of Hingala and Himalaya Mountains remember Thee, residents of Gor and Gardez sing the Praises of Thy Name.
The Yogis perform Yoga, many are absorbed in doing Pranayama and people of Arabia bound by Holy Quran remember Thy Name.
The people of France and England revere Thee, the inhabitants of Kandahar and Quraishis identify Thee; the people of the West recognize their duty towards Thee.
The inhabitants of Maharashtra and Magadha perform austerities with profound affection; the residents of Drawar and Tilang countries recognize Thee as the Abode of Dharma.
The Bengalis of Bengal, the Phirangis of Phirangistan and Dilwalis of Delhi are the followers of Thy Command.
The Rohelas of Rohu Mountain, the Maghelas of Magadha, the heroic Bangasis of Bangas and the Bundhelas of Bundhelkhand abolish their sins in Thy devotion.
Gorkhas sing Thy Praises, the residents of China and Manchuria bow their heads before Thee and the Tibetans end the sufferings of their bodies by remembering Thee.
Whosoever meditated upon Thee, they obtained perfect Grandeur; they prosper greatly with spiritual wealth, blooming flowers and ripening fruits, and praiseworthy place of ultimate abode.
The hymn above speaks to the Guru’s recognition that faith is beyond man made boundaries.
Many Scenerios Having One Aim
Guru Gobind Singh’s ecumenical teachings continued to solidify and extend what he communicated as an infant and what his predecessors had been saying for centuries. He worked tirelessly to restore society’s confidence in the human values of diversity, freedom of faith practices, justice and compassion. He challenged wide-spread religious bigotry among all world religions. His teachings, as defined below, emphasizing that in the eyes of Creator there was no difference among various people.
ਕੋਊ ਭਿੲੳ ਮੁੰਡੀਆ ਸੰਨਿਆਸੀ ਕੋਊ ਜੋਗੀ ਭਇੳ ਕੋਊ ਬ੍ਰਹਮਚਾਰੀ ਕੋਊ ਜਤੀ ਅਨੁਮਾਨਬੋ ॥ ਹਿੰਦੂ ਤੁਰਕ ਕੋਊ ਰਾਫਸੀ ਇਮਾਮ ਸਾਫੀ ਮਾਨਸ ਕੀ ਜਾਤ ਸਬੈ ਏਕੈ ਪਹਿਚਾਨਬੋ ॥ ਕਰਤਾ ਕਰੀਮ ਸੋਈ ਰਾਜਕ ਰਹੀਮ ੳਈ ਦੂਸਰੋ ਨ ਭੇਦ ਕੋਈ ਭੁਮ ਭ੍ਰਮ ਮਾਨਬੋ ॥ ਏਕ ਹੀ ਕੀ ਸੇਵ ਸਭ ਹੀ ਕੋ ਗੁਰਦੇਵ ਏਕ ਏਕ ਹੀ ਸਰੂਪ ਸਬੈ ਏਕੈ ਜੋਤ ਜਾਨਬੋ ॥ (Akal Ustat, In: Chaunnvee Banee Dasam Granth)
Translated, it means:
Many believed that they became superior by accepting celibacy or undertaking many modes of meditation, by giving up material comforts, by making themselves look different, or by wearing long and matted hair or no hair. Others feel higher by joining a particular sect of Islam as, Shea, Sunni, etc. But no one should overlook the basic fact that followers of all religions are the same human beings. The Creator of all provides for the needs of all humans. There is one God of all and that God alone should be worshipped. Do not remain an ignorant and believe in anyone else except the One. All humanity is equal, each one of us carries the reflection of the Creator in us, and we are all manifestations of one Creator.
To spread his message of a perfect egalitarian society based on the one-ness of God that celebrated diversity in all of its myriad forms, Guru Gobind Singh is said to relate the origin of all diversity to the One Being.
ਜੈਸੇ ਏਕ ਆਗ ਤੇ ਕਨੂਕਾ ਕੋਟਿ ਆਗ ਉਠਹਿਂ, ਆਗ ਕੇ ਕਨੂਕਾ ਫਿਰ ਆਗ ਮੈਂ ਮਿਲਾਹਿਗੇ। ਜੈਸੇ ਏਕ ਧੂਿਰ ਤੇ ਅਨੇਕ ਧੂਰਿ ਪੂਰਿਅਤ, ਧੂਰਿ ਕੇ ਕਨੂਕਾ ਫਿਰ ਧੂਿਰ ਹੀ ਸਮਾਹਿਂਗੇ ॥ ਜੈਸੇ ਏਕ ਨਦਿ ਤੇ ਤਰੰਗ ਕੋਟਿ ਉਪਜਤ, ਪਾਨ ਕੇ ਤਰੰਗ ਸਭ ਪਾਨ ਹੀ ਕਹਾਹਿਂਗੇ॥ ਤੈਸੇ ਬਿਸਵ ਰੂਪ ਤੇ ਅਭੂਤ ਭੂਤ ਪ੍ਰਗਟ ਹੋਇ, ਤਾਹੀਂ ਤੇ ਉਪਜਿ ਸਬੈ ਤਾਂ ਹੀ ਮੈ ਸਮਾਹਿਂਗੈ ( Akal Ustat, Chhand 87.)
Tranlation:
As out of a single fire arise millions of spark; but all merge back into the same fire. As out of same dust arise millions of dust particles; but all merge back into the same dust. As out of a single ocean arise millions of waves; but all merge into the water. So from God’s , form emerge all crea­tion, animate and inanimate; and all of them are in equilibrium with the Creator.
The Deceptive Differences
Guru Gobind Singh believed that the differences among humans in terms of color, appearance and ethnicity were due to God’s creative process; all human beings had a moral responsibility to cherish and preserve the sacred creativity. He underscored the unity of the human spirit despite outward differences. He is said to state:
ਮਾਨਸ ਸਬੈ ਏਕ ਪੈ ਅਨੇਕ ਕੋ ਭਰਮਾਉ ਹੈ — Difference is a deception, All human being are one and the same,
Guru Gobind Singh was a champion of the human right to be diverse. He advocated freedom of culture, religion and thought for every individual. He was known to explain that the differences in our outward appearance, clothes, customs and practices are attributed to the choices that only we make:
ਦੇਵਤਾ ਅਦੇਵ ਜੱਛ ਗੰਧ੍ਰਬ ਤੁਰਕ ਹਿੰਦੂ ਨਿਆਰੇ ਨਿਆਰੈ ਦੇਸਨ ਕੇ ਭੇਸ ਕੋ ਪ੍ਰਭਾਉ ਹੈ
ਏਕੈ ਨੈਨ ਏਕੈ ਕਾਨ ਏਕੈ ਦੇਹ ਏਕੈ ਬਾਨ ਖਾਕ ਬਾਦ ਆਤਸ਼ ਔ ਆਬ ਕੋ ਰਲਾਉ ਹੈ ( Akal Ustat, Chhand 86. l. 3.) ( Many are gods or demon, or celestial musicians. There are heavenly tribes and the learned people or the artists.) They may be seen as people of different religions as Muslims (citizens of Islamic nations) or Hindus (natives of Indian subcontinent). They may all look and act differently, but their apparent differences are due to the influences from their countries and cultures, or in the clothes they wear.
Thus, the worldview of Guru Gobind Singh was all-inclusive. Indeed, Guru Gobind Singh’s ideal of appreciation for diversity as a pivotal feature of all human activity was new. We must never forget to defend it. As torch bearers of his teachings we must harp on all the imperative slogans he gave us.
Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708) lived at a time when religious fanaticism in South Asia was at its height. It posed a grave threat to freedom and liberty, and individual expression and diversity of belief was severely curtailed. Those with different practices from the rulers were persecuted and their religious places were often replaced.
The Guru’s great grandfather, father, his four sons, and countless followers were put to death. It was a dark, grim and ominous period in human history.
However, Guru Gobind Singh worked tirelessly to restore society’s confidence in the time-tested values of diversity, freedom of faith, justice and compassion. He challenged religious bigotry and faced the ruling powers of the day with grit and determination. Indeed, his appreciation for diversity is also an American ideal. We must never forget to defend it.
The Guru established institutions with multiple ramifications. The self-righteousness which comes from dividing the world into us and them had no place in his vision. His sacrifices preserved diversity.
The Sikh scholar Bhai Santokh Singh, a great historian of India, rightly observed as he wrote in Suraj Granth: ਛਾਇ ਜਾਤੀ ੲਕੇਤਾ ਅਨੇਕਤਾ ਬਿਲਾਏ ਜਾਤੀ, ਹੋਵਤੀ ਕੁਚੁੀਲਤਾ ਕਤਬੇਨ ਕੁਰਾਨ ਕੀ./ ਪਾਪ ਪਰਪਕ ਜਾਤੇ, ਧਰਮ ਧਸਕ ਜਾਤੇ, ਬਰਨ ਗਰਕ ਜਾਤੇ ਸਾਹਿਤ ਬਿਧਾਨ ਕੀ. / ਦੇਵੀ ਦੇਵ ਦਿਹੁਰੇ ਸੰਤੋਖ ਸਿੰਘ ਦੂਰ ਹੋਤੇ, ਰੀਤ ਮਿਟ ਜਾਤੀ ਸਭ ਬੇਦਨ ਪੁਰਾਨ ਕੀ./ ਸ੍ਰੀ ਗੁਰੂ ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਸਿੰਘ ਪਾਵਨ ਪਰਮ ਸੂਰ, ਮੂਰਤ ਨ ਹੋਤੀ ਜੋ ਪਹਿ, ਕਰੁਣਾ ਨਿਧਾਨ ਕੀ.
Translated , it reads:
Were Guru Gobind Singh not there at the critical junction of Indian history, there would have been only uniformity; diversity in religious spheres, diverse scriptures and diverse modes of worship would not have survived. In favor of one religion, the others would have been destroyed and their holy places smashed. Sin would have replaced virtue.

The Real Legacy of Nobel Peace Laureate Obama: Cold War-like Tensions with Russia & China & Raging Wars in Middle East

We hear of Obama’s legacy, as if it his rule has been an era worthy of being called an era of peace( worthy of a Nobel Peace Laureate), economic progress, exemplary law and order and respect of other counries. As a matter of fact, we noticed heightened racial dicord, increased aggression, and tension that were acme of both real war and also increased temp of cold war. Cold war-like tensions with Russia is hardly a worthy legacy for Nobel peace laureate Obama
Trump’s openly declared willingness to improve ties with Russia and work together with it to combat the Islamic State (IS) and so on had become a prominent issue even during the election campaign. Trump had drawn enormous flak for his position but he did not flinch from it. Clearly, the Russia issue, despite its hype by the Democrats, the think tanks and the mainstream press, was not material for large parts of the electorate for whom the total political and economic message of Trump was decisive. The fact that Trump won the election could be legitimately construed by him as a mandate by the public to pursue a more conciliatory course towards Russia to advance common interests.
The depth of US antagonism towards Russia under Obama is difficult to appreciate. Obama has gratuitously denigrated Russia as a power. His personal antipathy towards Putin has got reflected in policy. To the last he has been vindictive towards Russia, imposing a fresh round of sanctions on it and expelling Russian diplomats wholesale in the dying days of his presidency. The revival of Cold War-like tensions with Russia is hardly a worthy legacy for Obama to leave behind considering that the end of the Cold War was a grand legacy that a Nobel peace laureate like him should have built upon.
The alleged hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails by Russia had arisen as a campaign issue but did not gain much traction as a Clinton victory was assumed. It is only after Trump’s triumph that this issue has acquired exaggerated proportions, with all those unreconciled to this victory using the argument of foreign interference in the election process to delegitimise his election. The outgoing Obama administration has used the US intelligence agencies to pronounce on the subject, but their joint report has not clinched the issue. Reports that Russia possesses compromising material on Trump’s sexual escapades in Moscow years ago have now surfaced. All this does little credit to the functioning of US democracy.
Trump has shown his grit by lambasting the shenanigans of the intelligence community and the partisan conduct of media in his first press conference on January 11. While accepting that Russia was behind the hacking he made the broader point that the DNC was ready for hacking unlike the Republican National Committee which had taken the necessary precautions against it, that the US was under hacking attacks from various sources, and, more pertinently, he underlined the political bias of his opponents by asking why the Chinese hacking of personnel files of federal employees numbering 21.5 m had been ignored by them. In his view if Putin thought well of him it was an asset not a liability. He astutely remarked it was possible that he may not eventually get along with Putin, and if he did not he would not be any the less tough with him than Hillary Clinton supposedly would have been.
The choice of Exxon Mobil chief as Secretary of State is a pointer in the Moscow direction, but the challenge before Trump cannot be underestimated. With the paranoia whipped up against Russia and Putin personally in the US establishment every step by Trump will raise controversy. The ruling political and media circles in major European countries too have been liberal with Putin-baiting. They would oppose Trump’s “dealmaking” without adequate consultation with them. The NATO alliance itself can get strained if Trump takes a line with Russia that does not have full European endorsement. The Ukraine issue and the annexation of Crimea, the supposed Russian threat to the Baltic states, the so-called threatening manoeuvres of the Russian air force in northern Europe, the plans for further NATO expansion as such, are issues that need to be addressed. This will be a huge political and security task, with major geopolitical repercussions. What will Trump demand from Putin as part of the “deal” for re-engaging Russia? Will Putin be willing to pay the price demanded to get the sanctions lifted? Perhaps the easier part will be to explore cooperation in Syria/Iraq against the IS, build confidence that will help tackle the core security issues in Europe.

Impact of Buddhist Thought on Muslim Poets

From Turkey to Iran, the Buddhist thought had been woven into poetry. Take Rumi or Adam Sanai in the 12th century, Buddha’s presence is inescapable. “Someone who keeps aloof from suffering is not a lover,” says Sanai in a translation by Coleman Barks. Buddha would be smiling with joy, not the half smile of Firaq. Firaq Gorakhpuri was the senior poet on the stage at a Lucknow mushaira. A rookie versifier was on the mike. Firaq appeared to have dozed off, as his turn, the last usually, was still a few more senior poets away. He wasn’t really asleep though.

“That sounds like my verse you are reciting, sir,” he suddenly interrupted the young poet who was in full cry. The unhesitant accusation was padded with a grudging half smile. “Thank you indeed Firaq sahib, but this is obviously an accident,” the frazzled poet pleaded, waiting for the nod to continue. The reply, however, provoked a sharper reaction than was bargained for. “Young friend, we have seen bullock carts crashing into pedestrians. Accidents are known to occur between cars and trains,” Firaq wouldn’t stop. “But an accident between an aeroplane and a bicycle?” The auditorium was in splits and it was a while before the soirée could resume.

Imagine Gautam Buddha as the senior poet and the world of intellect that followed as his protégés. I must confess, I too felt like the rookie man the other day when I thought I had figured out how Buddhism may have impacted global religions and some great literature too in no small way. Existentialism, theatre of the absurd, pacifism, T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland, they all flitted by. ‘Damyata’ (control), ‘datta’ (give), ‘dayadhvam’ (compassion) from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad are Eliot’s last words in the long poem. The words are thought to have come from the Buddhist reflection of the Upanishads. Any number of lines by Ghalib are infused with Buddhist meditation that may pass for Sufi influence.

The religious injunction came to mind in the reverie: travel to far away China to seek knowledge. Why be partial to China, why not Greece, for example, which produced great philosophers? Some more cogitation and a faint answer appeared. Could it have to do with Buddhism, which had travelled circuitously to China while it was being exiled out of India? Was that the wisdom Muslims were being counselled to partake of? Surely there was more than an outside chance that Buddha’s teachings had imbued Confucianism with greater moral and temporal sinews. The idea of the unstitched cloth worn by Haj pilgrims and Buddhist monks crossed the mind, and their shaven heads.

I noted that the focus on the inward gaze suggested by Buddhist contemplation was coursing through Allama Iqbal, possibly the greatest Muslim philosopher from Asia. “Apne mann mein doob kar pa ja suragh-i-zindagi/ Tu agar mera nahi banta na ban, apna to ban.” (Delve into your soul to seek life’s buried tracks; Will you not be mine? then be not mine, be your own at least!) Iqbal regurgitates Buddha again: “Mann ki duniya mein na paya mein ne Afrangi ka raaj/ Man ki duniya mein na dekhe, meiney Sheikh-o-Barhaman.” (In the depth of my soul I have not allowed the white man’s rule/ In that world I have not seen Hindu and Muslim fight.)

Kabir was a popular pre-Mughal poet. Bulleh Shah came along from Bukhara with the Mughal arrival in India. Both learned poets divided by 1,000 miles between them and a couple of centuries apart spoke Buddha’s language. “Bulleya ki jaana main kaun’(Bulleya to me, I am not known). ‘Verhe aa varh mere” (Do come to me). “Main jaana jogi de naal” (I’m going together with Jogi). The last is so akin to the essential invocation: “Buddham sharanam gachhami.” (I’m off to surrender to Buddha’s care).

Kabir says: “Man na rangaae, rangaae jogi kapda.” It was a direct indictment of the priestly class. The mystics colour their clothes when they were required to fix their thought. Buddha’s use of the human body as an implement to train the mind to deal with worldly traps is reflected in Kabir faithfully in his poem Jheeni jeeni beeni chadariya. In this, Kabir likens the body to a woven shawl. “Jo chaadar sur nar muni orhey, orh ke maeli kini chadariya/ Das Kabir jatan se orhi, jyon ki tyon dhar dini chadariya.” (The noble and the learned soiled the sheet. Kabir used it with care and left it spotless clean.)

Kabir’s simile for creation as a delicate work of threading shows up in Mir Taqi Mir a couple of centuries later with another Buddhist quest for treading gently. “Le saans bhi aahista ke nazuk hai bahot kaam/ Aafaq ki is kargah-i-sheeshagari ka.” (Breathe but gently. Do not disturb the arrangement of resplendent particles that make up the delicate thread of life). “Hasti apni habaab ki si hai/ Ye numaish saraab ki si hai.” Mir may be using the Buddhist concept of anichchya or impermanence here. (My life is like a bubble now/ Mirage-like it appears and how).

Any number of lines by Ghalib are infused with Buddhist meditation that may pass for Sufi influence. But was Sufism devoid of Buddha’s core beliefs? Khwaja Mir Dard the Sufi poet of the 18th-century Delhi offered an insight into his grasp of classical music and mysticism that came close to the voice of the Great Teacher of 600 BC. “Khalq mein hain par juda sab khalq say rahtay hain hum/ Taal ki gintee say baahar jis tarah roopak mein sum.” (We belong to the world we live in, but we always stand apart/ Like the climax of the roopak taal uniquely aloof from the cyclical beat of the drum.)

The Great Geo-Political Watershed

All American Presidents leave trademark quotes, to be commemorated for decades, sometimes even to be remembered differently and more reverently than that post ever allows. Each one comes to reinforce the great American dream some-way or the other which somehow starts with the second amendment (the “gun law” in lay terms) protection for gays, and ambivalence on abortion.
Of late it is a vote catching term, to block “out sourcing” that takes away American jobs, not realizing that close to half a million American soldiers manned across various sectors cost, on an average $1 million per annum and close to 50% who have returned, are badly injured or permanently disabled, and shall be on government payroll, pension, and medication (which they fully deserve, though do not deserve to live dependent lives. Remember Jon Voight’s “coming home”).
Yet it shall be impossible to define the theme and undulations of the most powerful and rigorous nation. On the other hand, one cannot take away meticulous planning, because between all the din and confusion, they hit their targets! Their operations in certain areas, also are perpetual, and truly are hotspots of world peace or violence.
Starting with the first of the many quotes of the President designate Mr Trump, “Nobody has more respect for women than I do”. Quite true, if you talk of certain women, and certain aspects.
The man who shot a phrase in every direction during the primaries, during the final rounds, and now on course to the chair, has already seized the matter on the ground. He seems to have traced the present crisis, which probably may be traced to senior Bush’s drawing the 32nd parallel, and 36th parallel, followed by the operation Desert Storm, and subsequently an allied war on basis of alleged “weapons of mass destruction”. Saddam’s Ba’athist regime was over, and as per British internal politics, PM Tony Blair had to step down. Since then there have been multiple changes in the names of militant outfits, revamping of groups, much human and material destruction, but basic stances of confrontation, in fact brutal confrontations have only escalated.
If you were to analyse the geo-politics of the region, even check it on a historical back scale, you would see that it lies under no super-power’s direct domain of influence. Like proven seismic zones. It lies on the uncertain crevices at the fringes of two huge tech-tile power plates. It sort of borders oo the penumbra of the glare of the two super powers, where if the glow of one recedes, the other one doubles its Watts, (or whats) Since there are many fronts on the same influence arena, the push and shift continues with the depletion and repletion of resources, and the twisting on account of indulging micro politics, as there hardly are democracies, and the local leadership is invariably anarchist or martial minded.
You therefore had in news a press publicized link between strongman Putin, and big man Don. There must be some truth in it, considering Syria comes immediately in news and that too with President Assad having taking over Aleppo the most populated city, ousting his rivals, though as in any confrontation, one’s heart goes for innocent citizens and families, who probably survive more on their faith, than any other man-made agency that is able to come to the fore for help.
President Obama’s immediate acknowledgement that Syria was one issue he failed on, either states that he could have tackled it better, or that it is a policy in continuity. I am not commenting on any country policy, but was analysing the “watershed” (“near abroad”, being the word used by the press) status of the region that has perpetually made it a war/ terror zone.
The word “Taliban” recently cropped up, as strategy to confront an ever-rampaging ISIS, or Daesh as is called in Arabic. The ISIS today has hold over 1/3rd of Iraq, its leader Al-Baghdadi, neither short of recruits or ammunition or money. Some could have come from oil wells in his control. Some from (as yet) un-demonetized banks of Mosul, but much more coming from external agencies. Ninety percent of his Iraqi recruits come from Iraq, and seventy percent of his Syrian soldiers from Syria. Clearly, two thousand fighters are from countries around the world, including at least a hundred from India.
The reasons could be many, and those who take such a course may have their alibis. That is for the law to decide. The recurrent theory is, why terrorist groups one after another, continue to sprout in this part of the world. Bin laden of 9/11 and his al-Qaida, in a way, replacing “Mujahedeen”, followed by “Taliban”, and now ISIS. The people are the same, the beliefs have not changed, though some basic tenets of the faith may have been tweaked by some to meet their ends.
Terrorism is baptized here, even embraced. The names are changed here like you do for top-sellers to save excise. The unrest may continue.
Amongst the “n” number of reasons that one may have. Add one more. These lands lie in the watershed areas of influence between the two super-powers.
A resetting of the core of the equations between the superpowers, keeping the interest of the players in mind may give some respite, or may not, if somehow political options and confrontations have reached an irreversible stage.
To that extent let me quote Don Trump again,
“I’ve never seen a thin person drinking Diet Coke”!
“Hamney soch tha key Hakim sey karengey fariyaad,
Par who bhi kambakht uska chahaney wala nikla”
(“I thought I would complain to the chief,
But the rascal too turned out to be her fan”)