Asylum Seekers- The Canadian Process and Benefits

Asylum seekers generally want to be discovered and picked up. If they’re not apprehended by police, they’ll phone 911 or ask a Canadian to make the call.
They’ll be taken to the Canada Border Services Agency office at the nearest port of entry for a health and security check. This process can take up to eight hours per person.
They’re usually given a blanket and some food while they wait. Anyone needing emergency medical care will receive it, covered by an interim federal health care program.
In Manitoba, the government and the Paramedic Association of Manitoba have an agreement to place primary care paramedics in Emerson, a major border crossing, on a temporary basis to supplement local first responders.
The next two weeks
Those who pass the screening are released into Canada. Then they have 72 hours to submit initial documents to open their refugee claims and a further 15 days to submit their basis of claim.
Asylum seekers who can’t prove their identity or who have criminal convictions for serious crimes will fail the initial screening. They’re detained until they can satisfy the government they’re not a risk, or they’re deported.
For those who pass, some non-governmental organizations may provide paralegal services and temporary accommodation. For example, Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council (Welcome Place) provides paralegal services and temporary accommodation.
Other non-profit organizations, such as the Salvation Army or Red Cross, have offered beds in their emergency shelters.
Some asylum seekers stay with family, friends or community members who have opened their homes for a few nights — and some of them are refugee claimants themselves.
Faith groups, individual donors
Much of this is paid for by individuals, faith groups and donors, although all three levels of government support shelters and low-income housing. The United Way and Welcome Place have also launched fundraising campaigns to help meet basic needs.
Most provinces, including Manitoba, will take applications for social assistance as soon as asylum seekers have opened their refugee claim. Rates vary slightly from province to province.
For example:
– In Manitoba, the basic budget for a single person is about $750 per month. Two parents with two children can get up to $1,500 a month, depending on the children’s ages. Between Jan. 1 and March 10, the province says there have been 47 applications, consisting of one two-parent family, two single-parent families and 44 individuals.
– A single person in Quebec receives about $600 a month.
– In British Columbia, a single person gets $610 while a family with two children receives $1,101 plus child benefits and credits. People with disabilities receive more.
– The Ontario Works rate for a single person who rents or owns housing is up to $706 monthly. Two parents with two children receive up to $1,205 monthly.
Ontario spends more than $100 million annually in newcomer supports, including community-based settlement supports, language training and interpretation, and employment services. These services are open to refugees and claimants.
Toronto Mayor John Tory has asked for Ottawa’s help in covering the costs of accommodating asylum seekers.
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has done the same and has also committed special funding for emergency housing, a refugee response co-ordinator and paralegal services and transportation from Emerson to Winnipeg.
Ali’s story
Ali Mohammed (not his real name for safety reasons) is a 27-year-old Somali who walked across the border at the end of February. He’s sharing a room with another man at the Salvation Army’s emergency shelter in downtown Winnipeg.
If his refugee claim is accepted in Canada, he hopes to get some education, find a job and get married. He’s interested in becoming an electrician.
After 15 days
Once the refugee claim has been filed, claimants are eligible for basic health and emergency dental services through the federal government. That continues until the claimant receives permanent resident status. At that time, they are covered under provincial health plans.
That was important for two Ghanaian men who nearly froze to death walking across the border on Christmas Eve. They were in hospital in Winnipeg for months and eventually had their fingers amputated. One man also had his thumbs amputated.
Once they’ve passed a medical exam, claimants can apply for a federal work permit, which can take three months to receive. The work permit is free unless the refugee claim is denied — then it costs the claimant $155. The person can work while they’re appealing the decision or waiting for deportation.
All refugee claimants are also eligible for a range of provincial benefits such as:
– Paralegal and legal services. Legal Aid is a provincial responsibility, although Ottawa does reimburse some of it. Six provinces — British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador — cover legal services for immigrants and refugee claimants.
– Dependents of claimants have free access to public education once they have a fixed address in the province.
– During this interim period, claimants in Ontario may be eligible to receive emergency assistance under Ontario Works.
Asha’s story
Asha Ahmed, 28, was a politician and human rights activist in Somalia. After facing threats to her life, she went to a conference in New York in 2014 and didn’t return home.
She was waiting for her asylum hearing in the U.S. but became worried about Donald Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric during the presidential campaign.
She walked into Canada last Thanksgiving. She’s living with three other female asylum seekers in Winnipeg while waiting for her refugee board hearing, which was rescheduled for June.
Up to 60 days
The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada hears most refugee claims within 60 days. If the claim is accepted, the person receives protected person status with the full spectrum of federally funded settlement services available to them. They can also apply to become a permanent resident.
Support services include:
– Needs assessment and referrals.
– Information and orientation to help make informed settlement decisions.
– Language assessment and training to help adults function in Canada and find jobs.
– Support to find and retain employment, including referrals to assess foreign credentials.
– Connections to help integrate into their communities.
Under the Citizenship Act, children born in Canada to parents who are temporarily in the country are automatically Canadian citizens, with the exception of children of diplomats from foreign countries. Babies born here have access to all the benefits of Canadian citizenship.
Failed applications
People whose refugee claim is rejected can appeal to the IRB appeal division and the Federal Court. Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and B.C. are among the provinces that will continue to support them during the appeal process.
If those appeals are rejected and the federal government issues a removal order, they may no longer be eligible for social assistance, depending which province they live in.
These are circumstances where an unsuccessful refugee claimant may continue to be eligible for social assistance:
– A pre-removal risk assessment is pending.
– A removal order has been stayed.
– He or she has been granted permission to stay in Canada for humanitarian, compassionate, or other reasons by the IRB.
– A removal order cannot be carried out for reasons entirely beyond the control of the individual.
Costs of a deportation vary depending on the country the person is being returned to and the mode of travel. The average cost of an unescorted removal is $1,500, while escorted removals are approximately $15,000.
CBSA says the majority of removals are unescorted. The border services agency pays these costs.

Sunday Special: The Secret Plan Should the Sovereign Die: Operation London Bridge

The death of sovereign can be a quite unsettling, but there is a complete, though secret plan, for the eventuality. Titled Operation London Bridge, it is an exhaustive litany of action spread over many days. In the plans that exist for the death of the Queen – and there are many versions, held by Buckingham Palace, the government and the BBC – most envisage that she will die after a short illness. Her family and doctors will be there. When the Queen Mother passed away on the afternoon of Easter Saturday, in 2002, at the Royal Lodge in Windsor, she had time to telephone friends to say goodbye, and to give away some of her horses. In these last hours, the Queen’s senior doctor, a gastroenterologist named Professor Huw Thomas, will be in charge. He will look after his patient, control access to her room and consider what information should be made public. The bond between sovereign and subjects is a strange and mostly unknowable thing. A nation’s life becomes a person’s, and then the string must break.
There will be bulletins from the palace – not many, but enough. “The Queen is suffering from great physical prostration, accompanied by symptoms which cause much anxiety,” announced Sir James Reid, Queen Victoria’s physician, two days before her death in 1901. “The King’s life is moving peacefully towards its close,” was the final notice issued by George V’s doctor,Lord Dawson, at 9.30pm on the night of 20 January 1936. Not long afterwards, Dawson injected the king with 750mg of morphine and a gram of cocaine – enough to kill him twice over – in order to ease the monarch’s suffering, and to have him expire in time for the printing presses of the Times, which rolled at midnight.
Her eyes will be closed and Charles will be king. His siblings will kiss his hands. The first official to deal with the news will be Sir Christopher Geidt, the Queen’s private secretary, a former diplomat who was given a second knighthood in 2014, in part for planning her succession.
Geidt will contact the prime minister. The last time a British monarch died, 65 years ago, the demise of George VI was conveyed in a code word, “Hyde Park Corner”, to Buckingham Palace, to prevent switchboard operators from finding out. For Elizabeth II, the plan for what happens next is known as “London Bridge.” The prime minister will be woken, if she is not already awake, and civil servants will say “London Bridge is down” on secure lines. From the Foreign Office’s Global Response Centre, at an undisclosed location in the capital, the news will go out to the 15 governments outside the UK where the Queen is also the head of state, and the 36 other nations of the Commonwealth for whom she has served as a symbolic figurehead – a face familiar in dreams and the untidy drawings of a billion schoolchildren – since the dawn of the atomic age.
For a time, she will be gone without our knowing it. The information will travel like the compressional wave ahead of an earthquake, detectable only by special equipment. Governors general, ambassadors and prime ministers will learn first. Cupboards will be opened in search of black armbands, three-and-a-quarter inches wide, to be worn on the left arm.
The rest of us will find out more quickly than before. On 6 February 1952, George VI was found by his valet at Sandringham at 7.30am. The BBC did not broadcast the news until 11.15am, almost four hours later. When Princess Diana died at 4am local time at the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in Paris on 31 August 1997, journalists accompanying the former foreign secretary, Robin Cook, on a visit to the Philippines knew within 15 minutes. For many years the BBC was told about royal deaths first, but its monopoly on broadcasting to the empire has gone now. When the Queen dies, the announcement will go out as a newsflash to the Press Association and the rest of the world’s media simultaneously. At the same instant, a footman in mourning clothes will emerge from a door at Buckingham Palace, cross the dull pink gravel and pin a black-edged notice to the gates. While he does this, the palace website will be transformed into a sombre, single page, showing the same text on a dark background.
Screens will glow. There will be tweets. At the BBC, the “radio alert transmission system” (Rats), will be activated – a cold war-era alarm designed to withstand an attack on the nation’s infrastructure. Rats, which is also sometimes referred to as “royal about to snuff it”, is a near mythical part of the intricate architecture of ritual and rehearsals for the death of major royal personalities that the BBC has maintained since the 1930s. Most staff have only ever seen it work in tests; many have never seen it work at all. “Whenever there is a strange noise in the newsroom, someone always asks, ‘Is that the Rats?’ Because we don’t know what it sounds like,” one regional reporter told me.
All news organisations will scramble to get films on air and obituaries online. At the Guardian, the deputy editor has a list of prepared stories pinned to his wall. The Times is said to have 11 days of coverage ready to go. At Sky News and ITN, which for years rehearsed the death of the Queen substituting the name “Mrs Robinson”, calls will go out to royal experts who have already signed contracts to speak exclusively on those channels. “I am going to be sitting outside the doors of the Abbey on a hugely enlarged trestle table commentating to 300 million Americans about this,” one told me.
For people stuck in traffic, or with Heart FM on in the background, there will only be the subtlest of indications, at first, that something is going on.Britain’s commercial radio stations have a network of blue “obit lights”, which is tested once a week and supposed to light up in the event of a national catastrophe. When the news breaks, these lights will start flashing, to alert DJs to switch to the news in the next few minutes and to play inoffensive music in the meantime. Every station, down to hospital radio, has prepared music lists made up of “Mood 2” (sad) or “Mood 1” (saddest) songs to reach for in times of sudden mourning. “If you ever hear Haunted Dancehall (Nursery Remix) by Sabres of Paradise on daytime Radio 1, turn the TV on,” wrote Chris Price, a BBC radio producer, for the Huffington Post in 2011. “Something terrible has just happened.”
Having plans in place for the death of leading royals is a practice that makes some journalists uncomfortable. “There is one story which is deemed to be so much more important than others,” one former Today programme producer complained to me. For 30 years, BBC news teams were hauled to work on quiet Sunday mornings to perform mock storylines about the Queen Mother choking on a fishbone. There was once a scenario about Princess Diana dying in a car crash on the M4.
These well-laid plans have not always helped. In 2002, when the Queen Mother died, the obit lights didn’t come on because someone failed to push the button down properly. On the BBC, Peter Sissons, the veteran anchor, was criticised for wearing a maroon tie. Sissons was the victim of a BBC policy change, issued after the September 11 attacks, to moderate its coverage and reduce the number of “category one” royals eligible for the full obituary procedure. The last words in Sissons’s ear before going on air were: “Don’t go overboard. She’s a very old woman who had to go some time.”
But there will be no extemporising with the Queen. The newsreaders will wear black suits and black ties. Category one was made for her. Programmes will stop. Networks will merge. BBC 1, 2 and 4 will be interrupted and revert silently to their respective idents – an exercise class in a village hall, a swan waiting on a pond – before coming together for the news. Listeners to Radio 4 and Radio 5 live will hear a specific formulation of words, “This is the BBC from London,” which, intentionally or not, will summon a spirit of national emergency.
The main reason for rehearsals is to have words that are roughly approximate to the moment. “It is with the greatest sorrow that we make the following announcement,” said John Snagge, the BBC presenter who informed the world of the death of George VI. (The news was repeated seven times, every 15 minutes, and then the BBC went silent for five hours). According to one former head of BBC news, a very similar set of words will be used for the Queen. The rehearsals for her are different to the other members of the family, he explained. People become upset, and contemplate the unthinkable oddness of her absence. “She is the only monarch that most of us have ever known,” he said. The royal standard will appear on the screen. The national anthem will play. You will remember where you were.
* * *
When people think of a contemporary royal death in Britain, they think, inescapably, of Diana. The passing of the Queen will be monumental by comparison. It may not be as nakedly emotional, but its reach will be wider, and its implications more dramatic. “It will be quite fundamental,” as one former courtier told me.
Part of the effect will come from the overwhelming weight of things happening. The routine for modern royal funerals is more or less familiar (Diana’s was based on “Tay Bridge”, the plan for the Queen Mother’s). But the death of a British monarch, and the accession of a new head of state, is a ritual that is passing out of living memory: three of the Queen’s last four prime ministers were born after she came to the throne. When she dies, both houses of parliament will be recalled, people will go home from work early, and aircraft pilots will announce the news to their passengers. In the nine days that follow (in London Bridge planning documents, these are known as “D-day”, “D+1” and so on) there will be ritual proclamations, a four-nation tour by the new king, bowdlerised television programming, and a diplomatic assembling in London not seen since the death of Winston Churchill in 1965.
More overwhelming than any of this, though, there will be an almighty psychological reckoning for the kingdom that she leaves behind. The Queen is Britain’s last living link with our former greatness – the nation’s id, its problematic self-regard – which is still defined by our victory in the second world war. One leading historian, who like most people I interviewed for this article declined to be named, stressed that the farewell for this country’s longest-serving monarch will be magnificent. “Oh, she will get everything,” he said. “We were all told that the funeral of Churchill was the requiem for Britain as a great power. But actually it will really be over when she goes.”
Unlike the US presidency, say, monarchies allow huge passages of time – a century, in some cases – to become entwined with an individual. The second Elizabethan age is likely to be remembered as a reign of uninterrupted national decline, and even, if she lives long enough and Scotland departs the union, as one of disintegration. Life and politics at the end of her rule will be unrecognisable from their grandeur and innocence at its beginning. “We don’t blame her for it,” Philip Ziegler, the historian and royal biographer, told me. “We have declined with her, so to speak.”
The obituary films will remind us what a different country she inherited. One piece of footage will be played again and again: from her 21st birthday, in 1947, when Princess Elizabeth was on holiday with her parents in Cape Town. She was 6,000 miles from home and comfortably within the pale of the British Empire. The princess sits at a table with a microphone. The shadow of a tree plays on her shoulder. The camera adjusts three or four times as she talks, and on each occasion, she twitches momentarily, betraying tiny flashes of aristocratic irritation. “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service, and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong,” she says, enunciating vowels and a conception of the world that have both vanished.
It is not unusual for a country to succumb to a state of denial as a long chapter in its history is about to end. When it became public that Queen Victoria was dying, at the age of 82, a widow for half her life, “astonished grief … swept the country”, wrote her biographer, Lytton Strachey. In the minds of her subjects, the queen’s mortality had become unimaginable; and with her demise, everything was suddenly at risk, placed in the hands of an elderly and untrusted heir, Edward VII. “The wild waters are upon us now,” wrote the American Henry James, who had moved to London 30 years before.
The parallels with the unease that we will feel at the death of Elizabeth II are obvious, but without the consolation of Britain’s status in 1901 as the world’s most successful country. “We have to have narratives for royal events,” the historian told me. “In the Victorian reign, everything got better and better, and bigger and bigger. We certainly can’t tell that story today.”
The result is an enormous objection to even thinking about – let alone talking or writing about – what will happen when the Queen dies. We avoid the subject as we avoid it in our own families. It seems like good manners, but it is also fear. The reporting for this article involved dozens of interviews with broadcasters, government officials, and departed palace staff, several of whom have worked on London Bridge directly. Almost all insisted on complete secrecy. “This meeting never happened,” I was told after one conversation in a gentleman’s club on Pall Mall. Buckingham Palace, meanwhile, has a policy of not commenting on funeral arrangements for members of the royal family.
And yet this taboo, like much to do with the monarchy, is not entirely rational, and masks a parallel reality. The next great rupture in Britain’s national life has, in fact, been planned to the minute. It involves matters of major public importance, will be paid for by us, and is definitely going to happen. According to the Office of National Statistics, a British woman who reaches the age of 91 – as the Queen will in April – has an average life expectancy of four years and three months. The Queen is approaching the end of her reign at a time of maximum disquiet about Britain’s place in the world, at a moment when internal political tensions are close to breaking her kingdom apart. Her death will also release its own destabilising forces: in the accession of Queen Camilla; in the optics of a new king who is already an old man; and in the future of the Commonwealth, an invention largely of her making. (The Queen’s title of “Head of the Commonwealth” is not hereditary.) Australia’s prime minister and leader of the opposition both want the country to become a republic.
Coping with the way these events fall is the next great challenge of the House of Windsor, the last European royal family to practise coronations and to persist – with the complicity of a willing public – in the magic of the whole enterprise. That is why the planning for the Queen’s death and its ceremonial aftermath is so extensive. Succession is part of the job. It is an opportunity for order to be affirmed. Queen Victoria had written down the contents of her coffin by 1875. The Queen Mother’s funeral was rehearsed for 22 years. Louis Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, prepared a winter and a summer menu for his funeral lunch. London Bridge is the Queen’s exit plan. “It’s history,” as one of her courtiers said. It will be 10 days of sorrow and spectacle in which, rather like the dazzling mirror of the monarchy itself, we will revel in who we were and avoid the question of what we have become.
* * *
The idea is for nothing to be unforeseen. If the Queen dies abroad, a BAe 146 jet from the RAF’s No 32 squadron, known as the Royal Flight, will take off from Northolt, at the western edge of London, with a coffin on board. The royal undertakers, Leverton & Sons, keep what they call a “first call coffin” ready in case of royal emergencies. Both George V and George VI were buried in oak grown on the Sandringham estate in Norfolk. If the Queen dies there, her body will come to London by car after a day or two.
The most elaborate plans are for what happens if she passes away at Balmoral, where she spends three months of the year. This will trigger an initial wave of Scottish ritual. First, the Queen’s body will lie at rest in her smallest palace, at Holyroodhouse, in Edinburgh, where she is traditionally guarded by the Royal Company of Archers, who wear eagle feathers in their bonnets. Then the coffin will be carried up the Royal Mile to St Giles’s cathedral, for a service of reception, before being put on board the Royal Train at Waverley station for a sad progress down the east coast mainline. Crowds are expected at level crossings and on station platforms the length of the country – from Musselburgh and Thirsk in the north, to Peterborough and Hatfield in the south – to throw flowers on the passing train. (Another locomotive will follow behind, to clear debris from the tracks.) “It’s actually very complicated,” one transport official told me.
In every scenario, the Queen’s body returns to the throne room in Buckingham Palace, which overlooks the north-west corner of the Quadrangle, its interior courtyard. There will be an altar, the pall, the royal standard, and four Grenadier Guards, their bearskin hats inclined, their rifles pointing to the floor, standing watch. In the corridors, staff employed by the Queen for more than 50 years will pass, following procedures they know by heart. “Your professionalism takes over because there is a job to be done,” said one veteran of royal funerals. There will be no time for sadness, or to worry about what happens next. Charles will bring in many of his own staff when he accedes. “Bear in mind,” the courtier said, “everybody who works in the palace is actually on borrowed time.”
Outside, news crews will assemble on pre-agreed sites next to Canada Gate, at the bottom of Green Park.(Special fibre-optic cable runs under the Mall, for broadcasting British state occasions.) “I have got in front of me an instruction book a couple of inches thick,” said one TV director, who will cover the ceremonies, when we spoke on the phone. “Everything in there is planned. Everyone knows what to do.” Across the country, flags will come down and bells will toll. In 1952, Great Tom was rung at St Paul’s every minute for two hours when the news was announced. The bells at Westminster Abbey sounded and the Sebastopol bell, taken from the Black Sea city during the Crimean war and rung only on the occasion of a sovereign’s death, was tolled 56 times at Windsor – once for each year of George VI’s life – from 1.27pm until 2.22pm.
The 18th Duke of Norfolk, the Earl Marshal, will be in charge. Norfolks have overseen royal funerals since 1672. During the 20th century, a set of offices in St James’s Palace was always earmarked for their use. On the morning of George VI’s death, in 1952, these were being renovated. By five o’clock in the afternoon, the scaffolding was down and the rooms were re-carpeted, furnished and equipped with phones, lights and heating. During London Bridge, the Lord Chamberlain’s office in the palace will be the centre of operations. The current version of the plan is largely the work of Lieutenant-Colonel Anthony Mather, a former equerry who retired from the palace in 2014. As a 23-year-old guardsman in 1965, Mather led the pallbearers at Churchill’s funeral. (He declined to speak with me.) The government’s team – coordinating the police, security, transport and armed forces – will assemble at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. Someone will have the job of printing around 10,000 tickets for invited guests, the first of which will be required for the proclamation of King Charles in about 24 hours time.
* * *
Everyoneon the conference calls and around the table will know each other. For a narrow stratum of the British aristocracy and civil service, the art of planning major funerals – the solemnity, the excessive detail – is an expression of a certain national competence. Thirty-one people gathered for the first meeting to plan Churchill’s funeral, “Operation Hope Not”, in June 1959, six years before his death. Those working on London Bridge (and Tay Bridgeand Forth Bridge, the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral) will have corresponded for years in a language of bureaucratic euphemism, about “a possible future ceremony”; “a future problem”; “some inevitable occasion, the timing of which, however, is quite uncertain”.
The first plans for London Bridge date back to the 1960s, before being refined in detail at the turn of the century. Since then, there have been meetings two or three times a year for the various actors involved (around a dozen government departments, the police, army, broadcasters and the Royal Parks) in Church House, Westminster, the Palace, or elsewhere in Whitehall. Participants described them to me as deeply civil and methodical. “Everyone around the world is looking to us to do this again perfectly,” said one, “and we will.” Plans are updated and old versions are destroyed. Arcane and highly specific knowledge is shared. It takes 28 minutes at a slow march from the doors of St James’s to the entrance of Westminster Hall. The coffin must have a false lid,to hold the crown jewels,with a rim at least three inches high.
In theory, everything is settled. But in the hours after the Queen has gone, there will be details that only Charles can decide. “Everything has to be signed off by the Duke of Norfolk and the King,” one official told me. The Prince of Wales has waited longer to assume the British throne than any heir, and the world will now swirl around him at a new and uncrossable distance. “For a little while,” wrote Edward VIII, of the days between his father’s death and funeral, “I had the uneasy sensation of being left alone on a vast stage.” In recent years, much of the work on London Bridge has focused on the precise choreography of Charles’s accession. “There are really two things happening,” as one of his advisers told me. “There is the demise of a sovereign and then there is the making of a king.” Charles is scheduled to make his first address as head of state on the evening of his mother’s death.
Switchboards – the Palace, Downing Street, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport – will be swamped with calls during the first 48 hours. It is such a long time since the death of a monarch that many national organisations won’t know what to do. The official advice, as it was last time, will be that business should continue as usual. This won’t necessarily happen. If the Queen dies during Royal Ascot, the meet will be scrapped. The Marylebone Cricket Club is said to hold insurance for a similar outcome if she passes away during a home test match at Lord’s. After the death of George VI in 1952, rugby and hockey fixtures were called off, while football matches went ahead. Fans sang Abide With Me and the national anthem before kick off. The National Theatre will close if the news breaks before 4pm, and stay open if not. All games, including golf, will be banned in the Royal Parks.
In 2014, the National Association of Civic Officers circulated protocols for local authorities to follow in case of “the death of a senior national figure”. It advised stockpiling books of condolence – loose leaf, so inappropriate messages can be removed – to be placed in town halls, libraries and museums the day after the Queen dies. Mayors will mask their decorations (maces will be shrouded with black bags). In provincial cities, big screens will be erected so crowds can follow events taking place in London, and flags of all possible descriptions, including beach flags (but not red danger flags), will be flown at half mast. The country must be seen to know what it is doing. The most recent set of instructions to embassies in London went out just before Christmas. One of the biggest headaches will be for the Foreign Office, dealing with all the dignitaries who descend from all corners of the earth. In Papua New Guinea, where the Queen is the head of state, she is known as “Mama belong big family”. European royal families will be put up at the palace; the rest will stay at Claridge’s hotel.
Parliament will gather. If possible, both houses will sit within hours of the monarch’s death. In 1952, the Commons convened for two minutes before noon. “We cannot at this moment do more than record a spontaneous expression of our grief,” said Churchill, who was prime minister. The house met again in the evening, when MPs began swearing the oath of allegiance to the new sovereign. Messages rained in from parliaments and presidents. The US House of Representatives adjourned. Ethiopia announced two weeks of mourning. In the House of Lords, the two thrones will be replaced by a single chair and a cushion bearing the golden outline of a crown.
On D+1, the day after the Queen’s death, the flags will go back up, and at 11am, Charles will be proclaimed king. The Accession Council, which convenes in the red-carpeted Entrée Room of St James’s Palace, long predates parliament. The meeting, of the “Lords Spiritual and Temporal of this Realm”, derives from the Witan, the Anglo-Saxon feudal assembly of more than a thousand years ago. In theory, all 670 current members of the Privy Council, from Jeremy Corbyn to Ezekiel Alebua, the former prime minister of the Solomon Islands, are invited – but there is space for only 150 or so. In 1952, the Queen was one of two women present at her proclamation.
The clerk, a senior civil servant named Richard Tilbrook, will read out the formal wording, “Whereas it has pleased Almighty God to call to His Mercy our late Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth the Second of Blessed and Glorious memory…” and Charles will carry out the first official duties of his reign, swearing to protect the Church in Scotland, and speaking of the heavy burden that is now his.
At dawn, the central window overlooking Friary Court, on the palace’s eastern front, will have been removed and the roof outside covered in red felt. After Charles has spoken, trumpeters from the Life Guards, wearing red plumes on their helmets, will step outside, give three blasts and the Garter King of Arms, a genealogist named Thomas Woodcock, will stand on the balcony and begin the ritual proclamations of King Charles III. “I will make the first one,” said Woodcock, whose official salary of £49.07 has not been raised since the 1830s. In 1952, four newsreel cameras recorded the moment. This time there will be an audience of billions. People will look for auguries – in the weather, in birds flying overhead – for Charles’s reign. At Elizabeth’s accession, everyone was convinced that the new queen was too calm. The band of the Coldstream Guards will play the national anthem on drums that are wrapped in black cloth.
The proclamations will only just be getting started. From St James’s, the Garter King of Armsand half a dozen other heralds, looking like extras from an expensive Shakespeare production, will go by carriage to the statue of Charles I, at the base of Trafalgar Square, which marks London’s official midpoint, and read out the news again. A 41-gun salute – almost seven minutes of artillery – will be fired from Hyde Park. “There is no concession to modernity in this,” one former palace official told me. There will be cocked hats and horses everywhere. One of the concerns of the broadcasters is what the crowds will look like as they seek to record these moments of history. “The whole world is going to be bloody doing this,” said one news executive, holding up his phone in front of his face.
On the old boundary of the City of London, outside the Royal Courts of Justice, a red cord will hang across the road. The City Marshal, a former police detective chief superintendent named Philip Jordan, will be waiting on a horse. The heralds will be formally admitted to the City, and there will be more trumpets and more announcements: at the Royal Exchange, and then in a chain reaction across the country. Sixty-five years ago, there were crowds of 10,000 in Birmingham; 5,000 in Manchester; 15,000 in Edinburgh. High Sheriffs stood on the steps of town halls, and announced the new sovereign according to local custom. In York, the Mayor raised a toast to the Queen from a cup made of solid gold.
The same rituals will take place,but this time around the new king will also go out to meet his people. From his proclamation at St James’s, Charles will immediately tour the country, visiting Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff to attend services of remembrance for his mother and to meet the leaders of the devolved governments. There will also be civic receptions, for teachers, doctors and other ordinary folk, which are intended to reflect the altered spirit of his reign. “From day one, it is about the people rather than just the leaders being part of this new monarchy,” said one of his advisers, who described the plans for Charles’s progress as: “Lots of not being in a car, but actually walking around.” In the capital, the pageantry of royal death and accession will be archaic and bewildering. But from another city each day, there will be images of the new king mourning alongside his subjects, assuming his almighty, lonely role in the public imagination. “It is see and be seen,” the adviser said.
* * *
For a long time, the art of royal spectacle was for other, weaker peoples: Italians, Russians, and Habsburgs. British ritual occasions were a mess. At the funeral of Princess Charlotte, in 1817, the undertakers were drunk. Ten years later, St George’s Chapel was so cold during the burial of the Duke of York that George Canning, the foreign secretary, contracted rheumatic fever and the bishop of London died. “We never saw so motley, so rude, so ill-managed a body of persons,” reported the Times on the funeral of George IV, in 1830. Victoria’s coronation a few years later was nothing to write home about. The clergy got lost in the words; the singing was awful; and the royal jewellers made the coronation ring for the wrong finger. “Some nations have a gift for ceremonial,” the Marquess of Salisbury wrote in 1860. “In England the case is exactly the reverse.”
What we think of as the ancient rituals of the monarchy were mainly crafted in the late 19th century, towards the end of Victoria’s reign. Courtiers, politicians and constitutional theorists such as Walter Bagehot worried about the dismal sight of the Empress of India trooping around Windsor in her donkey cart. If the crown was going to give up its executive authority, it would have to inspire loyalty and awe by other means – and theatre was part of the answer. “The more democratic we get,” wrote Bagehot in 1867, “the more we shall get to like state and show.”
Obsessed by death, Victoria planned her own funeral with some style. But it was her son, Edward VII, who is largely responsible for reviving royal display. One courtier praised his “curious power of visualising a pageant”. He turned the state opening of parliament and military drills, like the Trooping of the Colour, into full fancy-dress occasions, and at his own passing, resurrected the medieval ritual of lying in state. Hundreds of thousands of subjects filed past his coffin in Westminster Hall in 1910, granting a new sense of intimacy to the body of the sovereign. By 1932, George V was a national father figure, giving the first royal Christmas speech to the nation – a tradition that persists today – in a radio address written for him by Rudyard Kipling.
The shambles and the remoteness of the 19th-century monarchy were replaced by an idealised family and historic pageantry invented in the 20th. In 1909, Kaiser Wilhelm II boasted about the quality of German martial processions: “The English cannot come up to us in this sort of thing.” Now we all know that no one else quite does it like the British.
The Queen, by all accounts a practical and unsentimental person, understands the theatrical power of the crown. “I have to be seen to be believed,” is said to be one of her catchphrases. And there is no reason to doubt that her funeral rites will evoke a rush of collective feeling. “I think there will be a huge and very genuine outpouring of deep emotion,” said Andrew Roberts, the historian. It will be all about her, and it will really be about us. There will be an urge to stand in the street, to see it with your own eyes, to be part of a multitude. The cumulative effect will be conservative. “I suspect the Queen’s death will intensify patriotic feelings,” one constitutional thinker told me, “and therefore fit the Brexit mood, if you like, and intensify the feeling that there is nothing to learn from foreigners.”
The wave of feeling will help to swamp the awkward facts of the succession.The rehabilitation of Camilla as the Duchess of Cornwall has been a quiet success for the monarchy, but her accession as queen will test how far that has come. Since she married Charles in 2005, Camilla has been officially known as Princess Consort, a formulation that has no historical or legal meaning. (“It’s bullsh-t,” one former courtier told me, describing it as “a sop to Diana”.) The fiction will end when Elizabeth II dies. Under common law, Camilla will become queen — the title always given to the wives of kings. There is no alternative. “She is queen whatever she is called,” as one scholar put it. “If she is called Princess Consort there is an implication that she is not quite up to it. It’s a problem.” There are plans to clarify this situation before the Queen dies, but King Charles is currently expected to introduce Queen Camilla at his Accession Council on D+1. (Camilla was invited to join the Privy Council last June, so she will be present.) Confirmation of her title will form part of the first tumultuous 24 hours.
The Commonwealth is the other knot. In 1952, at the last accession, there were only eight members of the new entity taking shape in the outline of the British Empire. The Queen was the head of state in seven of them, and she was proclaimed Head of the Commonwealth to accommodate India’s lone status as a republic. Sixty-five years later, there are 36 republics in the organisation, which the Queen has attended assiduously throughout her reign, and now comprises a third of the world’s population. The problem is that the role is not hereditary, and there is no procedure for choosing the next one. “It’s a complete grey area,” said Philip Murphy, director of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London.
For several years, the palace has been discreetly trying to ensure Charles’s succession as head of the bloc, in the absence of any other obvious option. Last October, Julia Gillard, the former prime minister of Australia, revealed that Christopher Geidt, the Queen’s private secretary, had visited her in February 2013 to ask her to support the idea. Canada and New Zealand have since fallen into line, but the title is unlikely to be included in King Charles’s proclamation. Instead it will be part of the discreet international lobbying that takes place as London fills up with diplomats and presidents in the days after the Queen’s death. There will be serious, busy receptions at the palace. “We are not talking about entertaining. But you have to show some form of respect for the fact that they have come,” said one courtier. “Such feasting and commingling, with my father still unburied, seemed to me unfitting and heartless,” wrote Edward VIII in his memoirs. The show must go on. Business will mix with grief.
* * *
There will be a thousand final preparations in the nine days before the funeral. Soldiers will walk the processional routes. Prayers will be rehearsed. On D+1, Westminster Hall will be locked, cleaned and its stone floor covered with 1,500 metres of carpet. Candles, their wicks already burnt in, will be brought over from the Abbey. The streets around will be converted into ceremonial spaces. The bollards on the Mall will be removed, and rails put up to protect the hedges. There is space for 7,000 seats on Horse Guards Parade and 1,345 on Carlton House Terrace. In 1952, all the rhododendrons in Parliament Square were pulled up and women were barred from the roof of Admiralty Arch. “Nothing can be done to protect the bulbs,” noted the Ministry of Works. The Queen’s 10 pallbearers will be chosen, and practise carrying their burden out of sight in a barracks somewhere. British royals are buried in lead-lined coffins. Diana’s weighed a quarter of a ton.
The population will slide between sadness and irritability. In 2002, 130 people complained to the BBC about its insensitive coverage of the Queen Mother’s death; another 1,500 complained that Casualty was moved to BBC2. The TV schedules in the days after the Queen’s death will change again. Comedy won’t be taken off the BBCcompletely, but most satire will. There will be Dad’s Armyreruns, but no Have I Got News For You.
People will be touchy either way. After the death of George VI, in a society much more Christian and deferential than this one, a Mass Observation survey showed that people objected to the endless maudlin music, the forelock-tugging coverage. “Don’t they think of old folk, sick people, invalids?” one 60-year old woman asked. “It’s been terrible for them, all this gloom.” In a bar in Notting Hill, one drinker said, “He’s only sh-t and soil now like anyone else,” which started a fight. Social media will be a tinderbox. In 1972, the writer Brian Masters estimated that around a third of us have dreamed about the Queen – she stands for authority and our mothers. People who are not expecting to cry will cry.
On D+4, the coffin will move to Westminster Hall, to lie in state for four full days. The procession from Buckingham Palace will be the first great military parade of London Bridge: down the Mall, through Horse Guards, and past the Cenotaph. More or less the same slow march, from St James’s Palace for the Queen Mother in 2002, involved 1,600 personnel and stretched for half a mile. The bands played Beethoven and a gun was fired every minute from Hyde Park. The route is thought to hold around a million people. The plan to get them there is based on the logistics for the London 2012 Olympics.
There may be corgis. In 1910, the mourners for Edward VII were led by his fox terrier, Caesar. His son’s coffin was followed to Wolferton station, at Sandringham, by Jock, a white shooting pony. The procession will reach Westminster Hall on the hour. The timing will be just so. “Big Ben beginning to chime as the wheels come to a stop,” as one broadcaster put it.
Inside the hall, there will be psalms as the coffin is placed on a catafalque draped in purple. King Charleswill be back from his tour of the home nations, to lead the mourners. The orb, the sceptre and the Imperial Crown will be fixed in place, soldiers will stand guard and then the doors opened to the multitude that will have formed outside and will now stream past the Queen for 23 hours a day. For George VI, 305,000 subjects came. The line was four miles long. The palace is expecting half a million for the Queen. There will be a wondrous queue – the ultimate British ritual undertaking, with canteens, police, portable toilets and strangers talking cautiously to one another – stretching down to Vauxhall Bridge and then over the river and back along the Albert Embankment. MPs will skip to the front.
Under the chestnut roof of the hall, everything will feel fantastically well-ordered and consoling and designed to within a quarter of an inch, because it is. A 47-page internal report compiled after George VI’s funeral suggested attaching metal rollers to the catafalque, to smooth the landing of the coffin when it arrives. Four soldiers will stand silent vigil for 20 minutes at a time, with two ready in reserve. The RAF, the Army, the Royal Navy, the Beefeaters, the Gurkhas – everyone will take part. The most senior officer of the four will stand at the foot of the coffin, the most junior at the head. The wreaths on the coffin will be renewed every day. For Churchill’s lying in state in 1965, a replica of the hall was set up in the ballroom of the St Ermin’s hotel nearby, so soldiers could practise their movements before they went on duty. In 1936, the four sons of George V revived The Prince’s Vigil, in which members of the royal family arrive unannounced and stand watch. The Queen’s children and grandchildren – including women for the first time – will do the same.
Before dawn on D+9, the day of the funeral, in the silent hall, the jewels will be taken off the coffin and cleaned. In 1952, it took three jewellers almost two hours to remove all the dust. (The Star of Africa, on the royal sceptre, is the largest diamond in the world.) Most of the country will be waking to a day off. Shops will close, or go to bank holiday hours. Some will display pictures of the Queen in their windows. The stock market will not open. The night before, there will have been church services in towns across the UK. There are plans to open football stadiums for memorial services if necessary.
At 9am, Big Ben will strike. The bell’s hammer will then be covered with a leather pad seven-sixteenths of an inch thick, and it will ring out in muffled tones. The distance from Westminster Hall to the Abbey is only a few hundred metres. The occasion will feel familiar, even though it is new: the Queen will be the first British monarch to have her funeral in the Abbey since 1760. The 2,000 guests will be sitting inside. Television cameras, in hides made of painted bricks, will search for the images that we will remember. In 1965, the dockers dipped their cranes for Churchill. In 1997, it was the word “Mummy” on the flowers for Diana from her sons.
When the coffin reaches the abbey doors, at 11 o’clock, the country will fall silent. The clatter will still. Train stations will cease announcements. Buses will stop and drivers will get out at the side of the road. In 1952, at the same moment, all of the passengers on a flight from London to New York rose from their seats and stood, 18,000 feet above Canada, and bowed their heads.
Back then, the stakes were clearer, or at least they seemed that way. A stammering king had been part of the embattled British way of life that had survived an existential war. The wreath that Churchill laid said: “For Gallantry.” The BBC commentator in 1952, the man who deciphered the rubies and the rituals for the nation, was Richard Dimbleby, the first British reporter to enter Bergen-Belsen and convey its horrors, seven years before. “How true tonight that statement spoken by an unknown man of his beloved father,” murmured Dimbleby, describing the lying in state to millions. “The sunset of his death tinged the whole world’s sky.”
The trumpets and the ancientness were proof of our survival; and the king’s young daughter would rule the peace. “These royal ceremonies represented decency, tradition, and public duty, in contradiction to the ghastliness of Nazism,” as one historian told me. The monarchy had traded power for theatre, and in the aftermath of war, the illusion became more powerful than anyone could have imagined. “It was restorative,” Jonathan Dimbleby, Richard’s son and biographer, told me.
His brother, David, is likely to be behind the BBC microphone this time. The question will be what the bells and the emblems and the heralds represent now. At what point does the pomp of an imperial monarchy become ridiculous amid the circumstances of a diminished nation? “The worry,” a historian said, “is that it is just circus animals.”
If the monarchy exists as theatre, then this doubt is the part of the drama. Can they still pull it off? Knowing everything that we know in 2017, how can it possibly hold that a single person might contain the soul of a nation? The point of the monarchy is not to answer such questions. It is to continue. “What a lot of our life we spend in acting,” the Queen Mother used to say.
Inside the Abbey, the archbishop will speak. During prayers, the broadcasters will refrain from showing royal faces. When the coffin emerges again, the pallbearers will place it on the green gun carriage that was used for the Queen’s father, and his father and his father’s father, and 138 junior sailors will drop their heads to their chests and pull. The tradition of being hauled by the Royal Navy began in 1901 when Victoria’s funeral horses, all white, threatened to bolt at Windsor Station and a waiting contingent of ratings stepped in to pull the coffin instead.
The procession will swing on to the Mall. In 1952, the RAF was grounded out of respect for King George VI. In 2002, at 12.45pm, a Lancaster bomber and two Spitfires flew over the cortege for his wife and dipped their wings. The crowds will be deep for the Queen. She will get everything. From Hyde Park Corner, the hearse will go 23 miles by road to Windsor Castle, which claims the bodies of British sovereigns. The royal household will be waiting for her, standing on the grass. Then the cloister gates will be closed and cameras will stop broadcasting. Inside the chapel, the lift to the royal vault will descend, and King Charles will drop a handful of red earth from a silver bowl

March in India

The month of March has more politico-socio-religious book marks than any other. Holi, the harvest festival in India, related to an annihilation of a demon, the “ides”, that brought down the great Caesar, Lent, that forty days later leads to Easter, the official beginning of “spring”, on the 21st- the spring equinox, St Patrick’s Day, and Passover, an extremely religious occasion (beginning of Exodus) amongst Jews and some sects of Christianity.

There are also a few weird phenomena in the parallel running animal kingdom. That’s a funny behaviour seen in the European hare, that reaches an uninhibited state of stupidity, either because the delights of spring or other hormonal changes that warmer spring weather brings about.

They become frivolous, stoic, even argumentative within their own groups (read Alice in Wonderland, where the March Hare sits for a perennial tea party, because time has frozen, it is 6pm, and always tea-time). March Hare personifications in the human race are pretty common. You may have seen or missed a lot in this March election in UP.

In India, aptly termed “argumentative”, the revelries of Holi are impatiently awaited, practiced and repeated by the younger section, with a deliberate intention to knock oneself out of one’s senses, and whatever be the psychedelic effects of a local herb “Bhang”, it is some sort of a ritual for many to imbibe. The police and the politician, exploitative by instinct, somehow are more sympathetic on that day having passed through many such states during their careers.

To have juxtaposed Holi, with the results of an election involving close to 20% of the population, in a land where mini-elections come every two months, where there are as many candidates for the top job as there are voters, it was a natural delay for the confirmation of the CM of UP, after the hangovers were to settle.

It must be in honest wisdom, and precarious balancing of Constitutional bindings that they settled for a centre forward, and the two flank strikers, (A CM two Dy. CMs) an essential formation in most soccer games. The whistle was blown yesterday, with the dais full of all senior leaders of the ruling party and its allies. The cabinet size is 22. As things are, in restless, wild UP, it may swell to 40 by the end of the month.

The real changes, irrespective of people’s loyalties, while holding one’s breath that changes are for the better, is that UP, the most populist state in India comes under a single large national party, that also controls the Central government after decades. With the economic global strife on, it is a huge responsibility of governance and development for those who have occupied seats of power.

Tomorrow shall be another day, when farmers shall knock the doors for their dues, young men shall be filling their forms for jobs promised, the poor and sick would be at the government dispensaries for their weekly pack of pills, and students would be preparing for free and fair examinations.

Law and order will undergo its test as an injured man is brought, and how seriously the police book a complaint and orders an enquiry. Investment in infrastructure, health, power generation, irrigation would be plans one would like to hear about soon.

Closely associated phenomenon that infested the state, due to lack of control by a national party, were blatantly publicized issues of caste and communalism. In a vacuum zone of political wisdom, where survival was by throwing blame on each other, these destructive instincts were further sharpened.

Even the people preferred the smaller parties, where work could be done by a single ride to the friendly minister’s home, or a trial delayed or bail granted by a call to the home or law minister. “Gratuity charges” as one reads on the inter-porter vans between New Jersey to JFK, were all that needed to be decided.

In many a case, political loyalties may have been hurt, as my friend, a Man U fan has been wailing for the last two years about his club’s performance. But one expects good work for the people, and erasure of the abhorrible thinking, even acts by showing “good and goods” to the people. Development of this northern state, shall add to the national GDP, with half the effort. No compromise on integrity though

The election did not pass without some objectionable remarks on caste and communal lines. In a tight match one does foul, is shown the “cards”, even biting the opponent’s shoulder goes on, to win a match. At the end, if the teams gladly exchange their shirts, it is a sign of maturity. For, though a match is over, the league is on.

It is quite likely, to see an inquisitive and incisive press in the coming few weeks. Unheard stories of the past of trespasses during childhood, cheating, failed affairs, or divine gifts granted will certainly crop up. The losers perhaps deserve a larger coverage, because now they have the time to talk the walk. It was pleasing to see the marathon Netaji (Mulayam Singh), and Akhilesh, a brilliant probable turn come to the installation ceremony.

It appeared as all players of a musical turn up at the end of a show, for the audience to clap. The applause is for how hard everyone exerted for his role, winning and losing finally is in the hands of the people, preferences, and who risked playing the strategic card. In the end, they all stood for the nation and their state.

I often used to visit a campus branch of State Bank to draw my salary. I could never miss the writing on the board behind the manager’s back. It was, “The reward of good work is more work”.

Victory brings in a burden of responsibilities. One should think twice before wishing for one because from here begins the make or break journey.

An unparalleled victory puts an unparalleled responsibility to make the difference this nation needs.

“Bhaarey hasti utha sakaa na koi, yeh gham-e-dono jahan sey bhari hai”

(The substance of his existence, is too heavy for anyone to lift,/It is heavier than the burden of grief of both the worlds)

Modi’s Indian Revolution

All these clever journalists got it wrong: true UP voted for Narendra Modi – but more than anything, they voted for a man who works 17 hours a day, who puts the country before himself, who is bold enough to take a huge gamble- demonetisation- because he believes it is necessary for India. A man who fights against corruption without fear and is the Prime Minister of all Indians, though once more, it is the Hindu vote which elected his party the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
This election may also have signalled the beginning of the end of caste politics, another cancer that gnaws at India’s entrails – and Mrs Mayawati had become a champion at it, taking a leaf from the Indian National Congress, who for 70 years, mostly got elected on the Dalit & Muslim vote.
Many newspapers and television channels blazed across the headline: “Saffron wave in Uttar Pradesh”. This is another ill-advised coin word, that wants to sensationalize and demean, but which falls flat. What does ‘saffron’ mean? First saffron is mainly cultivated in Kashmir – and that by Muslims – so it’s a wrong comparison. Secondly, in Hinduism, saffron is the color of renunciation, a beautiful and noble tradition, that has been followed all over the world, by Buddhists, Jews, or Sufi saints. Mr. Modi and many of his ministers, such as Manohar Parrikar, have renounced many of the worldly pleasures to work for their party and their country. When will Indian journalism stop being small, petty, untruthful, without any depth or vision? The mastery of English does not make an Indian better than a simple country folk of UP or Tamil Nadu, who lives more in his or her heart than these arrogant journalist and intellectuals. I was most of the day, when the election results came, on the WION TV studio, with different panels of journalists. Most of them were of the old Nehruvian-Marxist mold, dinosaurs, who do not realize that they are out of sync with reality and are clinging to an obscure and anti-evolutionary path. One of them, from the Hindu newspaper, even said that demonetization was ‘communal’! Can you imagine how biased the guy can be?
All right, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) got four out of five states. Nothing wrong with that: Chanakya would have approved and the Indian National Congress, who cries foul about Goa and Manipur, did much worse than that. One doesn’t need a deep political insight to predict that the BJP is soon going to rule the whole of India – both at the Centre and in the states – exactly the way Congress had done during the Nehru-Indira Gandhi era. And that the writing for Congress has been on the wall ever since. Will the sycophancy of the Indian National Congress ever stop? It’s a remnant of colonialism, a legacy of Macaulay, who wanted to have brown sahibs as tools. On top of that, Rahul Gandhi has no dignity: he should immediately have taken responsibility for his party’s thrashing and resigned. There are plenty of talented people in the Congress ranks who can take his place.
One of the big tasks of Mr Modi, now that he has secured more of a majority in the Rajya Sabha, is to reform education. Many have said that his choice of Yogi Adityanath as the UP Chief Minister, shows that he is moving towards a Hindu India, away from secularism. However, as I have explained in a series of articles in this blog, Hindu power will always be compassionate: Hindu men and women are still today the only people in the world who recognise that God may manifest Himself or Herself at different times, using different names, and different scriptures. This is why a Hindu is still capable of worshipping not only in his own temple, but also to enter in a Christian church or a Muslim mosque, and that with respect and devotion. The reverse is not true.
But for that it is important that Hindu children, know their own history, their poets, such as the great Kalidasa, who is on par with Shakespeare or Homer; their warriors, such as Maharana Pratap, Shivaji Maharaj and many others, who are as good, if not more visionary and more spiritual than Napoleon; their heroines, like the Rani of Jhansi, or Ahilyabai of Indore, or Chennama, who easily compare with Joan of Arc; their philosophers, such as Sri Aurobindo, whose depth, height and knowledge is as wide and much greater than Nietzsche or Kant; their artists, whose sculptures, such as the dancing Nataraj, or architects, who built the Meenakshi temple or the Rajasthan palaces, are so beautiful that they even survived the holocaust of repeated savage and bloody Muslim invasions – see the Hampi/Vijaynagar statues, every one of which the noses and ears have been chopped, but which still retain their ethereal beauty…?In this way, they will grow up proud to be Hindus, wile retaining Hinduism’s broad outlook and tolerance, which actually is the knowledge that God is One but manifests Himself or Herself in multiple avatars, men and women.
Instead, what happens? Most of Hindu kids are brought up in schools and universities that mostly teach them western subjects and concepts and even Indian history is viewed through the negative western prism. As a result, not only do not they grow-up as Hindus, which would be a boon both to India and the world, but they become clones, good only for export – indeed Hindus are the biggest brain drain of the world, from India to the West.
Mr Narendra Modi can succeed in his task only if a new generation of Hindu youth grows up with that knowledge and help him and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to introduce the essential reforms – not only educational, but also, economic, constitutional, judicial, cultural, sports wise, that are needed for India to become a real superpower and spread this great Knowledge that will save the world.

A World Without Written Words

There are several such idiosyncratic Sufi shrines around Punjab that draw their religious inspiration from pre-Islamic religious traditions of this land. This ended up being a rather unique collection of shrines — there was the shrine of phallic offerings, one of sacred rays and another of sacred cows, to name a few.
The there is Tibba Haji Deen, a small village next to the colonial city of Bahawalnagar. On the outskirts of the village, on a vacant plot, was a huge shrine, thought to have the power to cure mental illnesses.
Those suffering from psychological disorders would be left at the shrine for a few days and would recover miraculously, or so it was believed. Beyond these myths about the shrine, they were also several stories of oppression and abuse, which could perhaps be discussed in another column.
While roaming the village in search for this shrine, I chanced upon another Sufi shrine with several graves in a row, all covered with colourful shawls and containing Quranic inscriptions.
An old man came up to me and told me that these graves belonged to seven generations of 12th-century Sufi poet Baba Farid’s male ancestors — his father, grandfather, great-grandfather and so on.
Baba Farid is buried in the city of Pakpattan 70-odd kilometres from here. His Punjabi verses are still sung by folk singers and qawwals in Punjab on both sides of the border. He also had a huge impact on Guru Nanak, the first Sikh guru, who collected Farid’s poetry from his ancestor and that is how it found its way into the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib.Before that, the great Punjabi poet’s work only existed in the oral tradition, remembered and passed on to the next generation through songs.
In one corner of this open courtyard was a small, humbly decorated grave. “Whose grave is that?” I asked the old man. “That belongs to one of my ancestors,” he replied. “Our family has been serving this shrine for the past several generations.”
Stories of the saint’s miraculous and spiritual prowess must have passed from one generation to another. His poetry recited, analysed and remembered through this channel. This was perhaps one of the few remnants of oral culture, once the backbone of our heritage.
Musical memories
Just as I was thinking about this, a rendition of Amir Khusro’s Aaj Rang Hai by Hadiqa Kiani on Coke Studio started playing in the car. The iconic Sufi poet’s 13th-century song is a tribute to Nizamuddin Auliya, Khusro’s spiritual master.
In the typical qawwali style, the song builds up slowly and gradually and after much repetition, bursts into its culmination, a divine ecstasy. Nizamuddin Auliya was the head of the Chishti Sufi order, still one of the most prominent Sufi schools in India as well as Pakistan.
Qawwali remains one of the central tenets of this Sufi order, a way for them to express their devotion. It is this unique relationship between music and devotion that allowed the Chishti order to become so popular in India, drawing devotees from Hinduism and Islam.
Almost midway into the qawwali, Kiani goes into a trance-like state, repeating a particular composition. This is an important stage before the song’s culmination.
In this repetition, she recited the name of the heads of Chishti order — Nizamuddin Auliya, Alauddin, Faridudin, Shah Qutubudin, Moinudin. The names melted into the melody of the song, slowly entering the collective memories of the listeners. These few lines contain 100 years of the Chishti order’s history in India.
Over generations, from the 13th century when this qawwali was first sung to the present, these names have been repeated and memorised by those who have heard the song. This is how oral history was preserved. While the written word was the preserve of the elite, the ordinary folk preserved their history by committing it to memory in other ways, of which songs are just an example.
Stories in names
Another beautiful example is that of names. Much before the Saffronisation of India and the Islamisation of Pakistan, names sometimes preserved within them a memory of an entire generation to be passed on to the next one. A few years ago, I heard about one Baba Raiyyah, an old man who lived in Lahore and whose family migrated to Pakistan from India’s Punjab at the time of Partition.
The word Raiyyah comes from ra, which means ‘way’ in Punjab. Raiyyah was born on the way to the new country in 1947 when his family, uprooted from their ancestral village, headed west to the safety of Pakistan. Three or four generations after him heard the story of how Baba Raiyyah got his name, tales of their family’s lost homes and the long journey to Pakistan.
There was also a story in the name of Baba Laskhar from Ferozepur — now a border town — before Partition. In the year he was born, their village was attacked by an armed group called Lashkar. Through his name, several generations of Baba Lashkar’s family kept alive the memory of that attack.
Sometimes, history is also preserved in a ritual. Maraka was a small, insignificant village when the forces of Afghan king Ahmad Shah Abdali, bored with a prolonged siege of the walled city of Lahore, burnt it down in the 18th century.
Decades later, as some surviving members of the village repopulated it, they constructed a small shrine and named it Shaheedan da mazaar, or the shrine of the martyred. Every year they organised a fair at the shrine to commemorate the barbaric attack on their village. The festival continued well into the history of Pakistan before it slowly faded away.

Democracy Imperilled by The Digital Revolution

Amid the waves of populism currently engulfing many Western democracies, it’s all too easy to forget the core purpose of governments; what the men and women who roam the corridors of power, and the civil service who support them, are actually supposed to do.
In my view, governments have four overriding (and somewhat overlapping) duties.
The first is to regulate: to pass laws, preserve and protect democracy, limit corruption, and strike the right balance between ensuring stability and allowing citizens to run their own lives. When (widely) unforeseen events, such as the 2008 financial crisis, take place, their task is to steer the oil tanker of government through the ensuing storm and reduce the impact on households and businesses. Failure to do so invariably brings administrations down – a sign that democracy, for all its flaws, is functioning and, if the need arises, the electorate can still kick incumbents in the teeth.
A democratic government’s second role might loosely be termed “redistribution”: to uphold a social contract with its citizens, whereby the poorest and most vulnerable are protected. This strand of governance encompasses everything from resourcing and maintaining a viable health service to providing support for the unemployed.
The third is investment in critical infrastructure (roads, bridges, airports) and education (from nurseries to universities), as well as those areas that cannot be left to the mercy of the markets alone – scientific research, the arts, sports, historical monuments and national parks, for example.
The fourth, and some might argue the most important responsibility of government, is to protect its citizens and uphold the rule of law. Without police, a functioning court and legal system, a military and agencies to safeguard people against everything from global pandemics to natural disasters and from homegrown terrorism to external aggression, society in any meaningful sense cannot exist. That Western societies do not descend into riots and mass lawlessness is testament to the fact that representative democracy by and large works.
Of course the degree to which democracies prioritize these four areas varies profoundly. The United States under Donald Trump, for example, is set to spend heavily on infrastructure and defense, while slashing the government workforce (indeed, at the time of writing, he had already ordered a federal hiring freeze). Meanwhile, nations such as France, Finland, Belgium and Denmark devote far more than the OECD average to social services.
Yet, however they spend their budgets, broadly speaking, Western societies, led by the US, were built on the same premise. Namely that governments and major corporations must work together to build long-term stability. Across the past century, as the Stratechery’s Ben Thompson describes, this unwritten contract meant that – via trade treaties, military and police protection, investments in infrastructure and research – governments ensured the development and acquisition of markets for businesses. In return, the private sector provided stable full-time jobs, financing health insurance and pensions for their employees.
At least that was the way it used to work.
Digital changes everything
For all its upsides, the digital revolution – which has done so much to transform our daily lives – has not so much disrupted this decades-old model as upended it. The implicit understanding and partnership between governments and businesses has become unworkable, threatening the very fabric of democracy.
To understand why, it’s first necessary to consider the particular characteristics of lean digital businesses that set them apart from the traditional corporate world, which is itself scrambling to adjust. There are five of them; together, they are game-changing.
First is what we might term “non-localization”. Whether it’s the companies themselves, their headquarters for tax purposes or the teams who build and run them, locations no longer matter and borders are irrelevant. Digital businesses, like talent and money, are fluid and can now base themselves anywhere. Not so long ago, if you wanted to market your product or service in India, you needed a distribution network, an office and employees there. Today, you can build a thriving SaaS product in India, from London, Amsterdam or Palo Alto. Or as a startup in Paris or Stockholm, you can outsource your entire back-office or sales team to India, without even getting on a plane.
Next, many internet businesses are simply platforms or marketplaces (think eBay, Uber, Airbnb, and Etsy), which connect demand and supply, or buyers and sellers. While the battle still rages as to whether Uber is an employer or merely a facilitator for self-employed “entrepreneur” drivers, there’s little doubt on which side the firm itself comes down. Similarly, even those celebrated billion-dollar tech unicorns that do employ staff require far fewer than “traditional” tech corporations. Founded over a century ago, IBM, for example, had over 377,000 employees in 2015; Google, less than two decades old, has a rather more modest workforce of fewer than 16,000. Meanwhile, WhatsApp had around 35 employees when it was acquired by Facebook for $19 billion in 2014. What a fully-automated digital business 20 years from now might look like, we can only imagine.
The network effect digital businesses enjoy creates a winner-takes-all environment, while the consequent and ever-expanding data deluge enables such companies to drive efficiencies and do far more with less. The net result of fewer successful companies employing ever-fewer people is of course a hugely reduced tax base – with the burden of healthcare and pensions falling on individuals, and ultimately, increasingly, government. Furthermore, the fact that these companies are not tied to any particular geography and can base themselves wherever is most tax-efficient (in fact, governments are scrambling to offer incentives to attract these corporations) explains why corporate taxation rates across 28 G20 and OECD countries have plunged from an average of 45% in 1983 towards 25% today.
As a result, the aforementioned contract between corporations and government is slowly splintering; few would doubt who holds the whip hand today.
The list of obligations it is increasingly difficult for governments to fulfill looks set to grow. The squeeze on corporate tax revenues and the coming impact of AI/automation on jobs makes it harder for government to tax and regulate businesses and, as a consequence, hamstrings its role as redistributor. Meanwhile, rising numbers of participants in the gig economy – and according to the McKinsey Global Institute, 20-30% of the labour force in the US & EU-15 are now classified as independent workers – make protecting workers’ rights evermore fraught and complex.
Nor can governments continue to effectively protect their citizens’ privacy. The explosion in the number of data-brokers (there are at least 4,000 data broker companies worldwide and the industry is estimated to be worth some $200 billion), who gather, repackage and resell data derived from publicly available records and online activity, means that private corporations are increasingly straying onto what was traditionally government turf. Areas such as security, censuses and healthcare are just another market opportunity for digital companies who, by definition, prioritize profit over the public good.
And the fact that many hundreds of millions of people have freely handed over their private data to the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Google, Amazon, Apple and countless others – who have a great deal of freedom to use this data as they see fit – merely emphasizes how governments, who are hardwired to regulate existing behaviours rather than future ones, are reduced to playing catch up with businesses who can – and do – outmaneuver them at every turn.
Slipping into irrelevance
All of the above factors are steadily converging to create a perfect storm for the very notion of Western liberal democracy. As the power of tech companies continues to grow, the corresponding legitimacy of governments starts to leach away. After all, how can a government enjoy the trust of its people if it can no longer fulfill its fundamental obligations? Put even more starkly, if it cannot serve its citizens, or adjust to the hyper speed of the digital economy, then government itself is in danger of slipping into irrelevance.
Indeed, if things do not change, then I believe two extreme yet entirely plausible scenarios may soon see the light of day. In the first – and arguably we are already starting to see this – governments, hemorrhaging power, will start to assert their authority in a very aggressive way. With their backs to the wall, they will become increasingly authoritarian, pandering to tides of popular anger by blocking immigration, stigmatizing minorities, vilifying opponents (and I include the free press here), nationalizing businesses, and beefing up security laws, including, in all likelihood, forcing tech companies to create backdoors with which to collect information on all citizens “in the public interest”.
In the other scenario, governments will become mere gatekeepers, as they grow increasingly algorithmic, with policy shaped by data and public services outsourced to private businesses and the slipstream of the marketplace. Under such circumstances, it is all but certain that regulatory oversight of corporations will be dramatically scaled back, in effect ripping up a government’s contract with its people.
4 main areas to be addressed
Yet, while we may be edging closer to such doomsday scenarios, there is still time for reform. Going into any depth on the necessary steps would require several thousand more words. So, at a high level, I’d argue there are four main areas which urgently need to be addressed.
As money equals power, the first is “solving” corporate taxation. This is an issue which politicians are fond of talking about, but rather less inclined to confront. Why? Because they run headlong into difficulties with the very employers they rely upon to create and maintain jobs for their populations.
In an era where corporation tax rates are in free-fall, certain tech giants have deeper coffers than many exchequers and digital multinationals have become ever more adept at tax avoidance (as opposed to evasion), governments of all stripes need to work together to forge a global response and secure this income stream for the long term. This is likely to involve moving to a destination-based cash flow taxation model, where the location of sales supersedes that of operations. Some tentative steps have been taken in this direction, but meaningful implantation is still a pipedream.
Next, labour laws need an urgent reboot so that they take into account that the on-demand economy is no passing fad, but a sea change in the way people transact. Anyone who doubts the staying-power of the gig economy should consider the way urban lives have changed over the past few years. Millions have grown used to summoning a car, a restaurant-cooked meal or a flat-pack furniture assembler to their door with a couple of taps of their phone. Regulating this growing industry out of existence may be popular with a few incumbents (such as taxi drivers and hotel chains), but would be a major blow to innovation and unlikely be supported by the population at large. That’s why governments should work together to rebuild social protections with on-demand platforms, rather than despite them.
I’d suggest a couple of options for better supporting on-demand workers. One is to create a new category of worker, which would fall somewhere between full employee and freelancer, with associated protections. Another is to revisit each labour law, in turn, to adapt them to the new reality, focusing on the law’s original intention rather than fixating on whether a worker is an employee or not (we need to get over that distinction, and fast). In the meantime, as the ITIF suggests, lawmakers could introduce temporary exemptions for the gig economy, while these laws are debated and revamped.

Aurangzeb vs Dara Shukoh: A never-ending war of wrong perceptions

May 1633, Agra. A grand spectacle organised by the Mughal emperor on the banks of the Yamuna turned into a near disaster when a war elephant charged at a 14-year-old Mughal prince. The boy held firm, reined in his agitated steed, and thrust the spear in its head, showing that he was made of rare mettle.
Twenty-five years later, the prince, now a 39-year-old veteran of many battles, took the field east of Agra at the head of a 40,000-strong army. Facing him was a larger host, commanded by his eldest brother. As the day drew to a close, the brother fled the battlefield, leaving behind the better man standing. Aurangzeb had trumped Dara Shukoh in the contest for the throne of Hindustan.
But 350 years later, those two brothers are still fighting in the Indian imagination, reduced to a new good Muslim-bad Muslim narrative. The government clearly believes this too, as evident in the erasing of Aurangzeb’s name from a Delhi road, and the recent naming of another road after Dara. In this post-truth age, has Dara won the war, aided by the government? Not if history has a say.
Dara’s image is that of a secular, liberal prince who loved Hinduism and Hindus, who might have avoided the beginnings of communal divide that eventually led to the partitioning of the Indian subcontinent. Aurangzeb, by contrast, is presented as a bigoted, puritanical Islamist who hated Hindus and therefore took the Mughal Empire to its doom, paving the way for the British conquest of India. Both these images are far from the truth.
“Dara Shukoh was never secular, but he was engaged in a series of intellectual projects that we might well describe in modern terms as liberal. For example, he translated Sanskrit texts into Persian, including some of the Upanishads, and he wrote a treatise about the unity of Hindu and Muslim thought. Other scholars have written about the limits of Dara’s vision, such as how he preferred one Sufi lineage and thereby alienated other Sufi orders,” says historian Audrey Truschke.
Her latest book, Aurangzeb: The Man and the Myth, was released in India recently. “In my view, Dara would likely have been a disappointing emperor. His military skills were slim to non-existent, for example,” says Truschke.
Historian Ali Nadeem Rezavi agrees. “Dara had no practical experience. As a governor, administered his provinces through deputies. In case of any issues, Shah Jahan would solve them. When action was needed, Dara was translating the Upanishads! He was a theoretician who was not taken seriously by anyone,” he says.
Dara’s intellectual projects, namely the Majma ul-Bahrain and Sirr-i-Akbar (a translation of the Upanishads), reveal his fertile mind—some would say fertile imagination. Historian Munis Faruqui believes that Dara’s commentary on the Sirr-i-Akbar shows that he treated the Upanishads as an Islamic scripture, denying their independent existence outside an Islamic theological framework. He also deduces that in Dara’s view, “conversion to Islam seems to be the only logical and rational choice for certain communities of Hindus”. As Faruqui sums up in a lecture, “these are hardly the hallmarks of an apostle of Hindu-Muslim understanding”.
In fact, they were actively problematic views. Many Hindus of that time were quite skeptical of the work and were “terrified by the implied suggestion that Hindus were originally Muslims”— the mirror image of today’s Hindu nationalists claiming that all Indian Muslims were originally Hindus. Mirza Raja Jai Singh, the premier noble of Shah Jahan, thought Dara was “dabbling with subjects he didn’t quite understand”.
Islamic scholars, too, questioned Dara’s understanding of the Quran. “But Dara was rude and haughty. He antagonised senior nobles like Mirza Raja Jai Singh whom he called a ‘Dakhani bandar’ (Deccani monkey),” says Rezavi. He also antagonised the ulema by calling them ignorant fools, even heretics, Faruqui says. And ironically enough, Dara was ultimately executed on the charge of heresy.
Aurangzeb, meanwhile, was the polar opposite of Dara. He had his first brush with war when he was 16, and spent his entire princely career leading military campaigns and governing difficult provinces. This experience helped him nurture relationships, even with those who didn’t agree with him. Those whom Dara antagonised had no trouble supporting Aurangzeb during the War of Succession. “Aurangzeb won due to the support of the Hindus and Rajputs. Mirza Raja Jai Singh, Jaswant Singh, Raghu Ram, Rana Raj Singh, Rao Dalpat Bundela—all helped him,” Rezavi says.
Aurangzeb proved to be a good king, too, says Truschke. “In many ways, Aurangzeb conformed to the general expectations of Mughal sovereignty. He kept the empire united, put down rebellions without mercy, expanded borders, and supported state patronage of various sorts,” she says.
Much of the historical opinion about Aurangzeb hangs on how far he was responsible for the splintering and decline of the Mughal empire. In Truschke’s view, there isn’t enough research to make that judgement yet.
But is it possible ever to reach a middle ground where Aurangzeb isn’t reviled and Dara not overrated? “I certainly hope so. I also hope that the middle ground is not merely lukewarm feelings about both Dara Shukoh and Aurangzeb but rather substantive historical information about each one,” says Truschke

Global Thought with Local Action Reduces the Risk of Financial Instability

The globalization is at cross-roads, and there is visible rise of national and local sentiment. At the same time, the benefits of open capital markets are clear. They allow savers and investors to diversify portfolios beyond national borders, and provide a greater range of funding sources to fast-growing economies and businesses. In turn, this allows interest rates to be determined by global factors, generally raising the rates of return available to surplus countries, and lowering the cost of borrowing for economies where the greatest opportunities lie. Although cross-border bank flows have declined in recent years, this has been offset by the rise of international market-based finance, meaning capital markets are as open and interconnected now as they have ever been
However, open capital markets also come with risks. Evidence of a ‘global financial cycle’, which drives co-movements in asset prices, and pro-cyclical gross capital flows, has been well documented (Rey 2013, Forbes 2016). Global financial markets have become more correlated and common shocks play an important role. And the correlation of credit growth across countries has increased in recent decades
Consistent with this literature, research underway at the Bank of England finds that even when domestic credit growth is moderate, elevated credit growth abroad could result in financial instability at home, for example by boosting cross-border lending, through spillovers into domestic asset prices, or by creating the potential for contagion in the event of a banking crisis abroad (Cesa-Bianchi et al. forthcoming).1 This research suggests that a one standard deviation in foreign credit growth could have an impact on the probability of a crisis that is of the same order of magnitude as a similar shock to domestic credit growth. And that the effect of foreign credit growth on domestic financial stability is stronger for countries that are more financially open.
Were crises to spread from one country to another, it could lead to renewed pressure to reduce the openness of capital accounts, shrinking the opportunities available to global savers and borrowers alike. In turn, that would put further downward pressure on interest rates in advanced economies, and upward pressure on borrowing costs in faster growing economies with the most potential.
Taking all of this together underlines the need to think globally when setting macroprudential policy. At first blush, this may appear to sit awkwardly with the largely domestic nature of macroprudential tools that have been developed thus far. But there are number of ways in which international considerations could form part of the calibration of those tools.
Acting locally to address risks from cross-border banking flows
The most obvious way to take international considerations into account is by treating risks emanating from abroad as an important input when setting domestic macroprudential policy. At the Bank of England, for example, spillovers from the crystallisation of global risks play a key part of the design of the Bank’s annual stress tests, which are used to inform the Financial Policy Committee’s (FPC) decision on the countercyclical capital buffer applied to UK domestic banks.
But the effectiveness of macroprudential policies can be reduced by ‘leakages’ if lending by domestic banks is simply replaced by lending from overseas, thus reducing the resilience benefit of any given level of capital buffers. The existence of reciprocity – by which an increase in the countercyclical buffer in one country is applied to lending into that economy by banks in another country – is an effective way of mitigating the impact of leakages.
Because the build-up of credit in one economy can affect the probability of a crisis in another, policymakers applying the principle of reciprocity to cross-border lending will also have a positive impact on financial stability at home. Indeed, under a reasonable set of assumptions, reciprocity can be shown to improve the trade-off between output and stability available to macroprudential policymakers (Shafik 2016, Aikman et al. forthcoming). To borrow a phrase from the recent IMF-FSB-BIS report on elements of effective macroprudential policies, this feature of reciprocity can be thought of as a good example of “enlightened self-interest” (IMF-FSB-BIS 2016).
Reciprocity also helps address the old problem of asymmetric adjustment of global imbalances. Suppose a deficit country wishes to contain the supply of credit and build resilience in its financial system by raising the buffer. If a surplus country whose banks are lending to the deficit country reciprocates, its banks should be incentivised to lend less to the deficit economy, and more to their domestic economy. That should increase domestic demand in the surplus country, and hence demand for deficit country exports, reducing the overall level of imbalances.
Acting locally to address risks from market-based finance
What of market-based finance? Its growth adds welcome diversity to the financial system, particularly for emerging markets. In many ways these flows are less risky than bank flows – for example, the average maturity of international securities issued by emerging markets is ten years, reducing rollover risk and exposure to a sudden flight of capital.
But market-based flows have risks nonetheless. Portfolio flows to emerging markets have been just as volatile as bank flows once their relative sizes have been taken into account (Hoggarth et al. 2016). And portfolio debt flows to emerging markets are pro-cyclical, especially when denominated in foreign currencies. So as these gain in importance relative to bank flows, emerging markets could have greater volatility inflicted on them by global factors.
Of course, raising the countercyclical capital buffer for banks does little to reduce risks from, or build resilience in, the provision of market-based finance. And that is true of the majority of macroprudential tools developed to date, most of which are focused on banks or banking flows.
But there are steps that can be taken in the local interest of both sources and recipients of global capital flows that strengthen the resilience of market based finance. By building strong domestic institutional frameworks and deepening domestic capital markets, recipients of global flows can reduce their susceptibility to volatility in those flows. Central bank credibility, a robust macroprudential framework, and fiscal stability can all reduce the risk of a sudden stop, and liquid domestic capital markets make it easier to absorb larger inflows.
And by encouraging the use of responsible liquidity management, source countries can reduce the probability of a sudden rush for the exit. The FSB’s recent proposals to reduce structural vulnerabilities from asset managers are an excellent example of this. They include recommendations to enhance reporting to authorities, undertake more stress testing of funds and to extend the suite of liquidity management tools (such as gating and swing pricing) available to fund managers. Implementation of these recommendations will help better align investors’ expectations of liquidity with reality, and hence ensure their flows to the rest of the world are less flighty and more sustainable.
The global benefits of local action
All of this leads me to conclude that, by acting in their local interest, domestic policymakers can reduce the risk of financial instability spilling across borders. By building domestic resilience, the countercyclical capital buffer can ensure that spillovers from bank lending are not amplified across borders, and reciprocity can improve the available set of outcomes. By reducing the likelihood of procyclical flows, recipients and sources of those flows can improve the resilience of market-based finance. Moreover, given the tendency for global credit growth to affect the probability of domestic crises, macroprudential policy taken in the interest of taming the local financial cycle can have positive externalities for the world.

What Leaders Can Learn from History?

“If I have one piece of advice for would-be leaders, it is read some history.”
Napoleon, Empress Wu, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Oliver Cromwell, Akbar, Stalin. History provides many examples of strong leaders who left their marks, for better or for worse.
But what the past will not do is provide the magic formula for how to become an effective leader. Looking for clear lessons in history is a futile quest: there are too many and their meaning is always in dispute. History can be useful, however, in suggesting patterns and parallels, raising questions, and – equally important – giving warnings about why things go wrong.
So here, from one historian, are first some tips about what goes into the making of a successful leader and, second, warnings about what can bring failure.
You have to want to lead
Leading can be gratifying, often exhilarating, but it is also lonely. Ambition and the determination to succeed may mean sacrificing friends and family. Think of how many children of great men have had unhappy lives. That loneliness is why statesmen like summits: they meet those rare others who face the same pressures and responsibilities.
At the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, David Lloyd George of Britain, Georges Clemenceau of France and Woodrow Wilson of the United States talked about their dreams and shared their fear of failure. What they also had in common was an ability to pick themselves up after setbacks and keep on going.
Work out the key people to keep on side
The people to keep on side can vary: in a democracy, leaders need to worry about numbers and getting re-elected; in an authoritarian state, leaders can probably just focus on keeping certain institutions – the military or the secret services, for example – on side.
When Bismarck created Germany he needed one man above all others: the Prussian King Wilhelm. It was not an easy relationship – Wilhelm complained that it was hard to be king under Bismarck – but in the end he supported his brilliant minister, who in turn made him Emperor of Germany. In democracies, political leaders have to build stable coalitions. After the Great Depression in the United States, the Democrats brought together Southern Whites, Northern Blacks, the working classes and liberals, and that served them well for decades.
It helps to be a good communicator
That means above all understanding your audience.
Lloyd George, who was one of the greatest British orators, once said: “I reach out my hand to the people and draw them to me. Like children, they seem then.” Winston Churchill’s rhetoric in the Second World War can sound overblown today, but it was what the British people needed at the time.
Oh, and it does make a difference to have something to say. In his radio Fireside Chat of the 1930s and 1940s, President Roosevelt was reassuring the American people about the state of the nation and getting them used to the idea that the United States might have to fight the dark forces gathering in Europe and the Far East.
It also helps to listen
In the Cuban Missile Crisis, perhaps the single most terrifying moment of the Cold War, President John F. Kennedy insisted on hearing his advisers’ different points of view before deciding how to deal with the Soviet challenge in Cuba. (Interestingly he had also just read Barbara Tuchman’s classic book on the outbreak of the First World War, which showed how easily leaders can make mistakes and stumble into a conflict they didn’t really want.) As Kennedy also demonstrates, choosing good and independent subordinates is a safeguard against making bad decisions.
If you can intuit the way the currents of history are flowing, you may be able to ride them
Bismarck famously said that a statesman “must wait until he hears the steps of God sounding through events, then leap up and grasp the hem of his garment”. And he did that when he manoeuvred across the chess board of Europe to create the new state of Germany.
Effective leaders are able to manage both the day-to-day issues that press in on them and the bigger picture. That is where a knowledge of history helps, as it shows patterns amidst all the noise of current events and reminds of possibilities other than those we are used to.
And now for some warnings.
Beware of the traps that power lays
The French talk about “déformation professionnelle”, which means the way your profession or your post can subtly warp your judgement so that you only see things from one perspective.
Before the First World War, the German General Staff were told to develop plans to ensure Germany’s victory, if necessary against France and Russia at the same time. They came up with a brilliant and detailed plan to fight a holding action against Russia in the East and, by throwing the bulk of their forces against France in the West, bring its surrender rapidly. Because it made military sense, German troops would invade neutral Belgium on their way to Paris. Politically, though, it was a disastrous decision. Germany’s violation of Belgian neutrality brought Britain into the war, virtually ensuring its defeat.
Power is also dangerous, because those who hold it start to think they can do whatever they choose. Think of Richard Nixon trying to use the institutions of the American government to shut down the Watergate scandal. Or the American war in Vietnam. In the 1960s the United States was the most powerful economic and military power in the world. Its leaders assumed they could easily overwhelm North Vietnam and bring its leaders to the bargaining table. They did not bother to wonder whether their enemies (and their Vietnamese allies) might have different ideas. Robert McNamara, who was Secretary of Defence at the time, later said, “Our misjudgements of friend and foe alike reflected our profound ignorance of the history, culture and politics of the people in the area and the personalities and habits of their leaders.”
Don’t start to believe your own propaganda
In ancient Rome, when a successful leader enjoyed a triumphal march, a slave stood behind him and whispered in his ear: “Remember you are human.” Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey, was the rare leader possessing great power who knew his own limitations. It is said that he issued a standing order that any instruction he gave in the evenings – when he liked to carouse with his friends – should be ignored.
History has far more examples of leaders whose conviction of infallibility grow in proportion to their power. With most of Europe lying at his feet, Napoleon came to think he was invincible. He found himself enmeshed in a pointless and costly war in Spain. Then to bring the young Tsar Alexander to heel he invaded Russia, the mistake that led to his eventual downfall.
Adolf Hitler had a string of successes – the seizing of Austria and Czechoslovakia, the defeat of France, the partition of the centre of Europe with the Soviet Union – which convinced him that he was infallible. Against his generals’ advice he followed Napoleon into Russia. When German troops encountered resistance, Hitler refused to let them retreat. It was the beginning of the end.
Know when to step down
Relinquishing power is one of the hardest things to do. Yet, as the old joke has it, graveyards are full of people whose tombstones read: “They thought they were indispensable.” The 16th century Emperor Charles V who voluntarily abdicated as Holy Roman Emperor and retired to a monastery is highly unusual.
Far more often, leaders have chosen to stay on when they should have bowed out. Without intending to, they often undo much of their own work and cause problems for their successors. An old and increasingly frail Winston Churchill should not have tried to be prime minister again in 1951. His government drifted, while his chosen successor Anthony Eden grew increasingly embittered.
A final word: You can have all the qualities that make a great leader – from determination to vision to sheer ability – but if you don’t have luck and good timing, you will never get a chance to show what you can do.
Without the French Revolution, which swept aside the old order and opened up rapid advancement for men of talent, Napoleon would have remained in obscurity. If the Tsarist regime in Russia had not collapsed during the First World War, an impoverished exile called Vladimir Lenin would never have had a chance to carry out the coup d’état in St Petersburg which gave his tiny Bolshevik Party power for the next 70 years. So if I have one piece of advice for would-be leaders, it is read some history.

Slippery Laocoöns

During the presidency of George H.W. Bush, his Secret Service detail was reputedly under orders that if anything happened to him, they should immediately shoot his vice president Dan Quayle — to prevent him becoming president. In the present US administration, the orders are: if anything happens to Vice President Mike Pence, first shoot President Donald Trump.
The selection of a US vice president is always a tricky business. Every president hopes to find a person who can complement, not supplant him. Invariably, the choice falls on someone with more experience than ambition, on a man who can be trusted to remain a patient Prince of Wales than a restless heir apparent in waiting.
Some US presidents suffered the same disease that the Guelph Georges did: they hated their potential successors. President Dwight Eisenhower disliked his vice president Richard Nixon, refusing on one occasion to defend him during a corruption investigation. Then Nixon endured being spat upon by angry Venezuelans during a tour to their country in 1958. John F. Kennedy saw his VP Lyndon B. Johnson as a useful Mr Fix-it Southerner rather than his anointed torch-bearer. Nixon, when finally president, in the few hours that he did sleep never dreamed that his VP Gerald Ford would succeed him.
Dan Quayle reached the highest level of his incompetence when he became Bush senior’s VP. The White House must have quaked when Quayle pronounced: “I have made good judgements in the past. I have made good judgements in the future,” or misspelt before an elementary class the vegetable as ‘potatoe’.
The selection of a US vice president is always a tricky business. Trump’s White House must be watching with apprehension whenever his Vice President Mike Pence opens his mouth. Pence, like Quayle, is also from Indiana, but there the similarity ends. Anyone, though, who saw VP Mike Pence at his press conference with Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels this week realised that while Trump may well be a Svengali, Pence was certainly not his Trilby.
Pence articulated US foreign policy regarding shared financing of Nato with consummate diplomacy and precision. Within a few sentences, he restored the confidence of the Europeans in US’s leadership of the English-speaking world. And with a snake-oil salesman’s sleight of tongue, he explained away the inconsistencies between his president’s indefensible pronouncements and US’s more enduring global commitments and interests. At a stroke, he demonstrated why a good vice president can be more precious than a bad president. VP Mike Pence is not a mouthpiece VP: in time he may well reveal himself as the Svengali behind Svengali.

Russian Baby in Trump’s Bathtub

It is a strange anomaly. Whenever India or Pakistan, or both, go into the cobra pose, hissing invectives and threatening to decimate each other, including with nuclear weapons, the world cries foul.
When Nawaz Sharif visits Delhi or when Narendra Modi drops in uninvited at a Lahore wedding, Indian and Pakistani peaceniks applaud together with the worried world. Yet, when Donald Trump wants to improve his country’s troubled relations with Vladimir Putin he is pilloried for even making the suggestion.
Granted he is not gender sensitive, that he has wronged and abused women and his mindset is possibly racist, driven by acute Islamophobia. I would liken Russia in this equation to the baby in Trump’s dirty bathtub. The deep state that contrived lies to invade Iraq or exulted in the wrecking of Libya, in cahoots with the media, seems to be facing an existential crisis with Trump’s presidency over his plans to touch base with Putin.
One day Trump excelled himself in his collaring of the deep state, which includes all major parties and the media. He said something to the effect that his country’s image was not exactly squeaky clean when it came to shedding blood around the world. That was his response to a Fox TV question about Putin’s alleged bloodlust as seen in the military operations in Aleppo.
Is the current American president really worse than the marauders of Iraq and Libya? Trump’s blunt criticism of his country’s savage moments has been at par with Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the priest who baptised Barack Obama’s children. When in a fit of rage over an Israeli assault on Palestinian camps he yelled ‘goddamn America’ Obama cut off ties with the African American priest.
Then suddenly it began to rain scams on Trump. So and so met the Russian ambassador. So and so made eye contact with him. Trump’s attorney general is said to have a racist background. That was forgiven or grudgingly gulped down. Instead his alleged dalliances with Russian diplomats and/or businessmen were picked up for censure.
A wider conspiracy was unleashed to torpedo the new president’s still unwavering plans to improve relations with Putin. BBC dug out dirt on the Russians, which they are good at. Russia was a British quarry, which became America’s bête noire.
Cut to the day when Prime Minister Theresa May sauntered into Washington and Ankara recently and the media said she was fixing business deals. They omitted the fact that both her destinations involved allies who seemed to have lost interest in the old British fear-mongering called Russophobia. Trump’s fascination with Putin was by now legendary and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan too had shown signs of becoming disenchanted with the British-assigned role of playing an anti-Moscow Sancho Panza.
If we think freely and without the Cold War blinkers, May couldn’t have signed a groundbreaking with anybody bilaterally until the fate of Brexit was decided, which could be some years away. Trump looks destined not to last that long.
For Erdogan to become a member of the Russian-Iranian backed peace talks on Syria was a huge somersault by a country that was regarded as a lynchpin to Nato’s Middle East policy. Turkey is no longer insisting on the Syrian president’s head as condition to discuss a future setup in Damascus. Erdogan’s unease with the Americans became more pronounced with the botched coup attempt, which he blamed on Turkish dissidents seated in the US.
It is nearly impossible to believe that May did not discuss her worry about Russia and Putin with Trump and Erdogan. Russia has been a British bugbear for centuries even if Napoleon preceded it and other Europeans in turning an obsession with Russia into an exhausting and costly military expedition.
Russophobia as we know it is a British innovation. It was left to Winston Churchill to give the Cold War a newer variant of an old pursuit. The new seeds were planted in Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech. Then James Bond took over while Alfred Hitchcock also embraced the diabolical imagery of the Russians. Until then, Hollywood had been in hot pursuit of Germans as America’s horns and canines ogres.
Much earlier, before Western democracies were swamped with the Churchillian exhortations against Russia, British governors general and viceroys in India took it upon themselves to deepen and sustain the fear mongering. Delhi’s imposing colonial monument — India Gate — is a testimony to this perpetually induced fear with the rulers of Moscow. All sides of the landmark sandstone monument are lined with thousands of names of Sikh and Muslim soldiers who were sacrificed in the suicidal Afghan wars. May must have seen how Britain’s self-defeating obsession with Russia had dissipated into the brick-batting in Washington D.C. between the Democrats and the Republicans.
Going by usually trustworthy accounts Donald Trump is an unpredictable person, which makes him a dangerous leader of an already error-prone military power. Nevertheless, Noam Chomsky must have shocked the Democrats by suggesting that in his view John Kennedy was the most dangerous of presidents. Trump is lampooned daily, which is as it should be, as an unqualified gatecrasher in the White House. The suggestion, however, implies that the world was somehow better off under George W. Bush and, more worryingly, under his Dr Strangelove-like colleagues — Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. Is Trump really worse than the marauders of Iraq and Libya?
Shorn of any media support in the heart of the land of free speech, Vladimir Putin wrote a piece for the American audiences in The New York Times of Sept 11 2013.
“Relations between us have passed through different stages. We stood against each other during the Cold War. But we were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together.” Trump believes the two countries should jointly fight a new menace, the militant Islamic State group. His detractors within the deep state somehow seem not to like the idea.

New Brain Drain in Science

Academics are well acquainted with the notion of “publish or perish.” They must publish their work in peer-reviewed journals increasingly often to climb the career ladder, protect their jobs, and secure funding for their institutions. But what happens to scientists and other scholars, such as those in the Middle East, who have different research concerns from – and scant connections to – the professional journals that can make or break an academic/scientific career?
In December 2013, the Nobel laureate physicist Peter Higgs told The Guardian that if he were seeking a job in academia today, “I don’t think I would be regarded as productive enough.” Having published fewer than ten papers since his groundbreaking work in 1964, Higgs believes that no university would employ him nowadays.
Scholars and institutions with high publishing rates in the established journals receive better productivity scores, which translate into bigger rewards, in terms of enhanced careers and greater research funding. Whether the work they are publishing has a measurable impact on their field of study is, sadly, too often a secondary concern. The incentives they face mean that quantity often comes before quality.
Academic journals determine the various disciplinary rankings that academic institutions are compelled to climb, which leads institutions to hire and retain only those scholars who can produce at high rates. This has given rise to a deeper, twofold problem: academic journals have become disproportionately influential, and they have placed a premium on empirical research.
With respect to the first problem, journals are gradually replacing institutions as the arbiters of quality within academic communities. Scholars in almost any discipline seeking jobs at “A-level” institutions must publish in a select few A-level journals that are seen as gateways.
These journals’ editorial boards increasingly privilege positivist theoretical work – meaning research that is based on empirical data analysis. Qualitative research – such as ethnographies, participatory surveys, and case studies – is often designated as suitable only for B- and C-level journals.
Academics conducting empirical research have a big advantage over those carrying out qualitative work, because they can use efficient software and powerful computers to test their hypotheses quickly and account for different variables in data sets. This kind of work can be cheaper, too, because a single data set can generate multiple journal articles.
To be sure, there is nothing wrong with scientific practices evolving along with technology, or with academics using richer data sets and better software. But adoption of this quantitative approach should not be the single most important criterion for assessing scientific excellence and deciding career trajectories. After all, knowledge is acquired in different ways, and empirical positivism is only one method in a larger epistemological inventory.
The positivist trend in science today is particularly problematic for developing countries, where data sets are scarce and often of poor quality. Thus, scientists working in developing countries face a dilemma: either work on rich-world problems for which there is abundant data, or risk career advancement by conducting qualitative work that will not make it into A-level journals.
Academics who move from data-rich countries in Europe and North America to data-poor countries in the Middle East and elsewhere often face this problem. As researchers at my institution in Abu Dhabi know, conducting surveys for qualitative research is feasible; but generating rich data from scratch for theory-building research is extremely difficult.
At the International Conference on Science and Technology Indicators this year, a French academic researching soil in Africa reported that only 5% of the published work in his field has originated from African researchers. When he dug deeper into his own research, he found that 50% of what he had learned about African soil came from African researchers, who have not or could not publish their work in international academic journals.
Countries where English is not the lingua franca are particularly disadvantaged in science, not because they lack academic excellence, but because English-language journals call the shots. Non-English academic journals simply do not command the same attention in the science community.
As a result, the scope of research topics that many countries can undertake is limited, and they must struggle to retain scientific talent. This is particularly true in the Middle East, where governments are struggling to diversify their economies, in order to make them more resilient. As English-language empirical-research journals consolidate their hold on the channels that determine whether or not a scientist will have a successful career, developing countries will have to invest heavily in their own data infrastructure to place domestic researchers on a more competitive footing.
But even – or especially – if developing countries do make such investments, much will be lost to science. With (mostly) United States-based academic journals reigning over global science, no one has to move to become part of a new brain drain, whereby scientists’ research priorities, problems, and methods gravitate to the dominant positivist epistemology, at the expense of all alternatives.

Minimal Invasive Diplomacy

An essential ingredient of what is called “improvement” in all processes and interactions is to make them, even if seemingly so, simpler, shorter, targeted, and what is generally termed as “less painful”
Though, the phenomenon is well understood, and must be part of upgrading any system over the years, the truest terminology that may now apply to diplomacy, politics, and corporate systems may come from some evolving and emergent practices in medicine, “Minimally invasive procedures”
To be precise, medicine has always acknowledged, as procedures and processes in other spheres may accept, that the more you swerve beyond the targeted tissue, the more the exercise of excising of “what comes in the way”. In general, it takes away some important preservatives from what one yearns as optimum outcomes. Presently that may be bound by biological limitations. “Minimally Invasive”, for the while is the most promising expressway in clinical research and therapy.
To give a literary flashback, while withholding the brilliant legalities which give a final spin to the great plot of Shakespeare’s, Merchant of Venice, if only a pound of flesh could be retrieved without a drop of blood more or a drop less, it would have been a perfect procedure. Perfect in the medical sense that would apply to any pound, pound and a half, or quarter, flawed, malicious, malignant, no matter where it was placed, if that could save a human life.
We complete a week and a month of expected tribulations after inauguration of President Trump. Mostly fuelled by an unconventional campaign, turbo charged in the winning lap, that was unexpectedly yet so precisely timed to the “finish”, the understandable sudden sullenness of the Democrats (they had power the previous eight years), broadcasting of mega operations on immigration bans, working visas, a wall with Mexico, and finally a straight onslaught on “Obamacare”, igniting internal combustion within the US. These are early extrapolations, but matters seem to be settling down.
To be in Houston, the George Bush and Republican stronghold, during the President Day week (20th Feb this year), though the great consumer market concentrates on the “weekend”, and two consecutive days of NBC watching, (American media may not always be transparent, but at the least is still translucent), gives a great data base on the co-ordinates on the direction in which the “political missile”, may be heading. Let me confess, it’s a mind exercise, that is an application of deductive clinical diagnosis making!
The first message that comes out is that war bugles were sounded more as a strategy by a President, also a real estate Moghul, to get more parity in bargaining, which was actually the filtrate of the campaign slogan “America First”.
The immigration agenda has been shifted to the legal department. The White House shall fight, but he President is less likely to make it a personal issue. Period.
Mid-time last week, John Kelly. Chief DHS (department home security), visited Mexico, and has come out with an amicable statement that “there shall be no mass undocumented immigrant round-ups”, also excluding any “military missions”, a word probably yet to be explained, but possibly to give life to the initial toughness, to be allowed to peter out with time.
Obamacare, was in a way retrieved form the Democrats, as the Republicans believed it was Guv Romney’s idea. Ambivalent voices are emanating from the GOP, that it may not be replaced, but the “flaws may be rectified”. That’s what I call “minimal invasive diplomacy”
A political dialogue, like some others on the centre-stage of world politics, where the best strategists and facilitators are on the job, is not for me to comment. Yet it was “minimal”, when President Trump discussed with PM Netanyahu, and said that the US is open to what-ever can be agreed upon, one state, or two states! Hopefully amicable results may emerge. Yet to hear anything on this from Nostradamus.
There was some ruffling when President Trump, within a week of taking over, argued Taiwan as its training partner. There was a withdrawal as China reacted. Objection sustained, nothing lost!
Then comes a statement that America would like to be at the “top of the pack”, if the nuclear race is to go on. Is it an answer to any of the issues likely to come up, or are already hovering? Is it a general appropriation of America’s armed superiority, or does it have specific implications? Probably a combination of conditions mentioned.
President Trump, with a corporate mind, amongst all else, has shown that one has to push people to take decisions, or fall in line. He is pretty used to seeing the balance sheet. That’s perhaps why he talked of giving the “self-ignition” to the American manufacturing industry. That‘s what he meant when he talked about dilapidated factory houses, and reclining, smokeless chimneys!
There is news, that the American-backed Iraqi forces have taken over the Mosul airport, pushing out the IS. This, however, has been going on for quite a while. Seems to be a “timer” for further aggression, or surrender and peace!
Lessons for India are, that as the other big Democracy, with economic ties, we have much to offer in Indian pharma generics, even branded generics, that would be profitable for us, and affordable for US health policy makers. Profits shall be revenues to structure our own healthcare systems.
Collaborations in IT should strengthen, and Indian automotive industry has shown promise, in turning Jaguar, and Land Rover around. Ford in India has been the largest exporter of SUVs the previous year.
Most Indian corporate hospitals are certified for insurance cover by the US. There could be a treaty where they set campuses at places in the US, and charge what is profitable to both countries. There can be prior certification, and the H1B may see a revival with reasonable clauses.
The Indian foreign ministry, to say the least, knows “minimally invasive”, imbibed through the mixture of cultures and religions, and the philosophy of the Mahatma.
“Isko mein shohrat kahoon, ya apni ruswai, /Koi mujh sey pehly, us gali mein merey afsaaney gaye”
(Should I take it as fame, or notoriety, /That my gossip preceded my entry to the street)

Terrorism: A Technique of War

After the cataclysmic events of September 2001, a war was declared on ‘terrorism’. Some feeble attempts were made to explain the nature of this beast but the frenzy was not conducive to a meaningful dialogue. Now that Aasim Sajjad Akhtar, in his op-ed in this paper on Feb 24, has reopened the discourse, it is time to resume the effort.
Even though the term terrorism was first used during the ‘reign of terror’ unleashed by the French Revolution of 1795, the phenomenon has existed through the ages. One of its earliest practitioners is believed to be Hassan bin Sabah, who in 11th-century Iran used to get his followers high on hashish to go on a killing spree. Many of us were thus familiar with the ‘T’ word, but ask anyone to explain it and chances were that you would draw a blank. We claim to know what it is but still struggle to define it. It reminds me of an American judge, who when asked to describe ‘pornography’ admitted that he could not, but “would recognise it when he saw it”.
Nevertheless, there were times that decrypting this mystery was seriously pursued to reach a generally acceptable definition. I vaguely recall it was the US State Department that once floated a text: “deliberately targeting non-combatants to achieve a political objective”. Mr Akhtar neatly captured the spirit of the exercise and correctly understood why it was abandoned. Since the state too had been targeting non-combatants, in fact more than the non-state actors, it would have made America the leading terrorist entity — for nuking Hiroshima and Nagasaki, bombing civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, and for endless other acts. Britain’s bombardment of Dresden in the Second World War was a quintessential act of terrorism.
America has not only been the leading perpetrator of terror, but also its main beneficiary. Unlike the search for a consensus definition, the discussion on state terrorism was, however, not abandoned till after 9/11. The US then took charge and got the state immunity from the T tag. Subsequently, only the non-state actors could vie for this privilege. In fact, a state may now declare any dissident group — even if fighting an oppressive regime or resisting occupation — terrorist, and all its actions against this nuisance would become kosher. There were times one could try to distinguish acts of terror from wars of liberation. Not anymore. All of them — Chechens, Uighur, Hamas, Hezbollah, Kashmiris, et al — once branded ‘terrorist’ were fair game. Terrorism as a label is now an invaluable instrument of state policy.
The late Sir Hilary Synnott was once the British high commissioner in Pakistan. In 2004, speaking at a seminar in the UK, he called terrorism a technique. As a soldier I was gratified that a civilian too understood this aspect of war. Years later, I learnt that a military man, the American general William Odom too had stated on C-Span that terrorism was a tactic. In 1997, during a conference on new forms of terrorism, an Israeli major general said something quite interesting: “The Shia hara-kiri bombers were so effective that the Jewish state was seeking a fatwa from the Sunni religious scholars against suicide”. That should have alerted me to the use of this tactic in combat.
Even in wars between conventional armies, as in the quoted examples of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Dresden, non-combatants (NSAs) have been wilfully targeted. But in asymmetric wars, waged between the state and the non-state actors, this technique is unavoidable. The latter, lacking the ability to seriously hurt state security forces, have no option but to go for soft targets.
Over time, these NSAs have learnt the use of the ‘ultimate weapon’. The human being possesses most of the attributes desired in a perfect weapon system. He can carry a warhead and manoeuvre around obstacles; is hard to detect and intercept; can identify the target; choose the time to release his lethal cargo; and if needed abort the mission at the last moment. There still remains though, the matter of motivating him to make the ‘ultimate sacrifice’. Depending upon the individual, money, a cause worth its while and indoctrination, are some of the means. In military terms too, it is cost effective: many of us for one of theirs, with terror as the collateral, in fact the real, benefit.
America has not only been the leading perpetrator of terror, but also its main beneficiary. The rest of us, however, have been rather forgiving. While conceding that the US’s policies and actions created Al Qaeda and the militant Islamic State (IS) group, the country was generally spared the charge of wilfulness. Considering how the US — and not only its infamous ‘military-industrial complex’ — have profited by initiating wars and their perpetuation, there was no more space for any benefit of doubt. To secure a foothold in strategically important regions, the Middle East and Central Asia, the ‘war on terror’ was the raison d’être to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. This inevitably led to armed resistance, disingenuously dubbed terrorism, and thus not only rationalised the invasion but also provided the perfect pretext to continue occupation — to fight ever more terrorists.
At a high-profile conference in the UK in late 2014, the resurgence of IS was welcomed by Ashraf Ghani’s delegates and his American patrons: “Mercifully, the US military would now give up any plans to leave Afghanistan” (not that it had any). The Kabul regime got a new lease of life, and prayed for some other IS clone to come to its rescue when next needed.
Postscript: Since terrorism has survived through the ages, is it possible that it is part of human nature? As children we were afraid of the ‘bully on the block’. When the local badmash terrified the neighbourhood, we wanted someone to do the same to him. We relished the thought that others would live in fear of us. Maybe terrorism is merely a more radical version of scaring, intimidating, petrifying or frightening others. But then that is a subject for social scientists and psychologists.

Rule of Law at Risk by US Courts

When Neil Gorsuch was nominated to fill a vacancy on the United States Supreme Court, conservatives were ecstatic. Rightly so, I would add, since Judge Gorsuch has represented the crucial quality of choosing to put the authority of the Constitution above his own moral preferences. Will Justice Neil Gorsuch Make a Difference?
The late Justice Antonin Scalia fought a losing battle against judicial activism—which is choosing to put the results of laws above their constitutional process. Judge Gorsuch won’t be able to stop the intellectual flow in that direction. And the Fourth Circuit’s latest ruling on the Second Amendment proves that judicial activists don’t even need a monopoly on the Supreme Court to continue their work.
The Supreme Court has recently avoided hearing cases on the Second Amendment’s “right to bear arms,” so the Fourth Circuit’s verdict will likely stand. In its 10-4 decision made on February 21, the court decided to uphold a ban on “assault weapons” and “high-capacity magazines” in the state of Maryland. In doing so, the court not only managed to rewrite the Supreme Court’s previous District of Columbia v. Heller decision and weaken the Second Amendment, but it also spread some fake news about rifles like AR-15.
Though the Second Amendment protects the rights of citizens to bear arms, the courts have traditionally placed some limit on the types of weapons available. In the landmark District of Columbia v. Heller case, Justice Scalia gave the guidelines that the Second Amendment would protect all weapons that were “in common use at the time.” The exception to the rule would be those weapons that were “dangerous and unusual.”
David French, an attorney who writes for National Review, explained the reasoning:
Why the addition of “and unusual”? Because every single working gun ever made is dangerous. To illustrate his point, Scalia then provides examples of specific types of “dangerous and unusual” guns—”M-16 rifles and the like.” Here’s a news flash: The M-16 isn’t the same as a civilian “assault weapon” like the AR-15. The M-16 variants in use in the United States military are capable of being fired in both semiautomatic and fully automatic (three-round burst) modes. If you think that the M-16 and AR-15 are alike, then walk to your local gun store and try to buy an M-16.Go ahead.
I’ll wait.
In order to uphold Maryland’s semiautomatic weapon ban, the Fourth Circuit tried to equate the fully automatic M-16 with the civilian semiautomatic AR-15. In what French calls a “spit-out-your-coffee sentence,” the majority opinion published that “Semiautomatic weapons can be fired at rates of 300 to 500 rounds per minute, making them virtually indistinguishable in practical effect from machine guns.” A semiautomatic weapon will only load the next round—the trigger must be pulled again in order to fire. The Fourth Circuit would have you believe that the millions of citizens of citizens who own these weapons can pull their triggers six times a second for a minute. That’s impossible.
But forget Heller’s “dangerous and unusual” criteria, because the Fourth Circuit created a new one. Judge William Byrd Traxler Jr., who wrote the dissent, said in order to circumvent this precedent, the majority opinion simply created “a heretofore unknown ‘test,’ which is whether the firearm in question is ‘most useful in military service.’” Judge Traxler continued in his dissent, showing how the ruling would have affected a citizen at the time of the Second Amendment’s ratification:
Under the majority’s analysis, a settler’s musket, the only weapon he would likely own and bring to militia service, would be most useful in military service—undoubtedly a weapon of war—and therefore not protected by the Second Amendment. This analysis turns Heller on its head. Indeed, the court in Heller found it necessary to expressly reject the view that “only those weapons useful in warfare are protected.”
The “most useful in military service” test is ridiculous because you could use it to theoretically ban any weapon. Writing last year in a unanimous Caetano v. Massachusetts decision, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito ruled that although a “Supreme Judicial Court’s assumption that stun guns are unsuited for militia or military use is untenable,” it didn’t mean that they could be banned.
Pulling out new criteria from thin air to support a decision that already goes against a Supreme Court ruling is practically the definition of judicial activism. But that won’t stop gun-control activists from hailing it as a constitutional victory. Indeed, the executive director of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, Elizabeth Banach, cheered that the Fourth Circuit’s ruling was “overwhelming proof that reasonable measures to prevent gun violence are constitutional.”
Sorry, but having a court rule that something is constitutional doesn’t make it constitutional. Judges, as the currently eminent Judge Richard Posner would tell you, “dress up their theories in an elaborate way” to fit their feelings—political, moral, emotional—on the case at hand.
We could discuss more reasons why the majority’s decision is merely their moral preference rather than a ruling on the law, but you can read that in Judge Traxler’s official dissent. It’s clear enough from the start of the majority’s opinion, where the brutal details of the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre and other shootings are laid out to set the moral scene. It reads as if they took notes from former President Barack Obama’s speeches on gun control, making sure emotion takes center stage.
Gun violence is sick, horrifying and far too prevalent. Preventing another Sandy Hook is imperative. But the consequences of eroding the rule of law are worse. Right now, to those who support gun control, an activist judge seems like a blessing. But what happens when activist judges are on the other side? What happens when the rule of law becomes the rule of the judge’s opinion?
After being infamously and disgracefully blocked from a position on the U.S. Supreme Court for thinking the Constitution mattered more than his own opinion, Robert Bork wrote the following: “[T]he principles of the actual Constitution make the judge’s major moral choices for him. When he goes beyond such principles, he is at once adrift on an uncertain sea of moral argument.” The judge who looks outside the Constitution for guidelines, he wrote, can only look “inside himself and nowhere else.”
If we as a people don’t obey the rule of law, then we fall victim to the rule of man. This leads to the horrifying rule of brute force. President Donald Trump says the U.S. will begin to “restore the rule of law.” The liberal left says he is threatening it. In the meantime, while the Supreme Court sits in limbo with eight judges, the U.S. Court of Appeals has meted out judicial activism on immigration and gun control. The result, no matter the executive branch, is a chipping away at the rule of law—and, eventually, freedom.

Modi & Trump Demystify High office

When politics changes, so must political punditry. This seems obvious. But it’s not, for many pundits in many countries. Thus the continuing flood of ‘oh-my-god’ variety of commentaries and analyses on leaders like Narendra Modi and Donald Trump. Modi and Trump are mould breaking leaders, and not just because of their spectacular electoral performances, in Modi’s case, more than once.
In different ways, India’s Prime Minister and the US’ President are not tied up by often-stultifying conventions of high office. Modi is disciplined, extraordinarily so, and Trump’s working style often seems chaotic. Look, though, at Modi’s radical, unconventional and successful messaging on demonetisation and Trump’s so-called ‘un-presidential’ interventions.
Modi, unlike any Indian PM, identified himself squarely with a un-populist policy and directly asked voters to trust him — and they did. Trump, while being ‘un-presidential’, has retained all the support of his base and made his priorities clear. They are leaders who can create a persona and build credibility independent of their office.
Pundits need to understand this while analysing such mould-breakers.
American pundits in particular seem to have a hard time comprehending that Trump is a president like no other. Low-income Americans, many of whom voted for and support Trump, on the other hand, have no problem grasping that the president can function as if he doesn’t need the office of presidency. And some of America’s richest people, people who have no need for political patronage or presidential favours, have also seen in Trump a president whose biggest asset is his ability and willingness to step outside the binaries of White House. Perhaps middles-class mores — the cultural/intellectual background of most pundits — are too wound up in the status quo and the poor and the rich are more receptive, for different reasons, to mould-breaking politics.
The larger point is about demystifying institutions. Modi has brought the office of prime ministership closer to voters, thanks to direct, unfiltered modes of communications. Trump, by casting aside many behavioural traditions of presidency and through his unfiltered personal tweets, is doing something similar. Modi is undoubtedly the more politically sophisticated of the two. But both are changing politics even as they practice it.

The World’s Major Risks Identified

The past year will be remembered for dramatic political results that broke with consensus expectations: Brexit, the surprise election victory of Donald Trump, the ongoing refugee crisis, increasing geopolitical tensions and the continued threat of terrorism all left their stamp on 2016.

As the World Economic Forum looks at perceived risks in its 2017 Global Risk Report, some of these trends come out very clearly as pressing concerns for our future.

In this year’s annual survey, some 750 experts assessed 30 global risks, as well as 13 underlying trends that could amplify them or alter the interconnections between them

Extreme weather most likely threat

The most pressing risks in terms of their likelihood to occur are dominated by respondents’ environmental and geopolitical concerns.

Extreme weather events top the list this year, with natural disasters ranking third and man-made environmental disasters further down the order. A cluster of interconnected environment-related risks – including extreme weather events, climate change and water crises – has consistently featured among the top-ranked global risks for the past seven editions of the Global Risks Report.

⦁ The second most likely risk is the impact of large-scale involuntary migration, which has featured strongly over recent years, not least because of the war in Syria.

Terrorist attacks follow in fourth place, with other geopolitical tensions such as interstate conflicts (wars) and failure of national governance also making the top ten.

Technology threats rank in the mid-field, with data fraud and theft in fifth place and cyber attacks in sixth.

Weapons of mass destruction pose a renewed risk

When asked to rate the risks with the biggest impact, geopolitical concerns around weapons of mass destruction top the bill.

This is not surprising as 2016 saw many states stepping back from mechanisms set up to underpin international security. For instance, four nations left the International Criminal Court. The past year also saw major powers accusing each other of undermining the global security balance and interfering in domestic politics. This instability led regional powers and smaller nations alike to consider new conventional, cyber or even nuclear weapons.

Extreme weather events are rated second in line for impact, with water crises, natural disasters and climate change making up the rest of top five concerns.

Involuntary migration and food crises add to the societal risk factors considered to have high potential impact, with geopolitical threats such as terrorist attacks and interstate conflict also featuring in the top ten.

Economic risk factors

The impact of unemployment is the only economic risk within the top ten. It reflects the increasing polarisation and inequalities resulting from weak economic recovery and fast technological change. While a trend which previous reports had also highlighted, it has become exacerbated over the last year, and is related to a number of other trends such as social instability and the rise of populism.

Unemployment ranked as top business risk

The impact of unemployment or underemployment has been drawing ever wider circles, making it the number one risk to business identified by the Global Risk Report.

Significant energy price increases or decreases, threatening to place further economic pressures on highly energy-dependent industries and consumers, were ranked as the second most important risk to business.

Concerns over possible fiscal crises came third, reflecting concerns over excessive debt burdens that may generate debt or liquidity crises.

Failure of national governance was rated the fourth biggest risk to business globally. This could be anything from a failure of the rule of law, corruption or political deadlock rendering a country of geopolitical importance unable to govern itself. Respondents from Latin America picked this as the biggest risk for business in their region. However, we need to look no further than Spain, where a caretaker government had to hold the fort when elections did not deliver a majority for any party to rule.

The top five business risks is completed by concerns over profound social instability, which paired with unemployment, was the strongest connection of global risks the survey found.

Finding a new global balance

To tackle these socioeconomic challenges the most pressing need is to get the global economy back on a strong growth path. However, the report surmises that boosting growth in itself would not heal the deep social rift between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’, calling for wider reforms of market capitalism. At the same time, the World Economic Forum highlights the need to rebuild national communities which have drifted apart, not just because of economic disparities but also due to sociodemographic and cultural changes.

In terms of the wider global risk landscape, the report concludes that many of the top concerns highlighted – geopolitical tensions, environmental threats and societal risks – cannot be addressed on a country by country basis. They require strong international cooperation and responses. However, rather than stronger cooperation, the last year has seen countries around the globe shift from an outward-looking to a much more inward looking stance. Therefore, protecting and strengthening the mechanism of global cooperation will be a key challenge for 2017.

Four key areas for global risks in 2017

The 2017 Global Risks Report comes at a critical moment for the world as we know it. Unprecedented forces are reshaping society, economics, politics and our planet itself in ways some might not have predicted when the first risks report was launched a decade ago.

These tumultuous times can present us with ground-breaking opportunities for changing how we see the world, and how we operate within it. Such change, however, brings with it significant globally interconnected risks, risks which must be factored into modern life.

1. Environmental

The most pressing of these risks relates to our environment. Even though the risk will play out over the long term, actions have to be immediate and long-lasting to have any hope of reversing the trajectory of climate change.

The environment dominates the 2017 global risk landscape in terms of impact and likelihood, with extreme weather events, large natural disasters as well as failure of mitigation and adaptation to climate change as the most prominent global risks. Climate change ranks as one of the top three trends to shape global developments over the next 10 years, and remains one of the truly existential risks to our world. Unlike the threat of nuclear weapons or pandemic disease, however, climate change ranks among the highest in terms of likelihood as well as impact.

Here, cooperation is fundamental to any response to the challenges faced from climate change, from managing “global commons” such as oceans and our atmosphere to enacting international accords like The Paris Agreement and statements that emerged from COP 22. Further progress was made during 2016 in addressing climate and other environmental risks. The pace of change, however, is not fast enough.

2. Socio-economic

Beyond the state of the planet we inhabit, socio-economic considerations have also been high on the collective agenda over the past 12 months, and will continue in importance throughout 2017. These include rising income inequality and the polarization of our society along ethnic, religious and cultural lines. This coming-together of circumstance contributed to profound political change in 2016, and has the potential to exacerbate global risks in 2017.

Beyond geopolitics, social protection systems have suffered from a “perfect storm” of threats since the 2008 financial crisis – and we expect this trend to continue through 2017. Underfunded state social systems, the rise in “non-traditional” employment models from gig economies to zero-hour contracts, prolonged periods of low interest rates that increases the burden of saving for retirement, and demographic pressures like ageing populations and mass migration all place great strain on social protection systems. This means a larger share of the cost and risks for the individual, which can inhibit business growth and harm economies.

We need social protection options that are flexible enough to adapt to new realities in 2017 and beyond. The best social protection solutions will be highly interconnected. Collaboration among state, business and the individual will be crucial. Fail to act and we risk threatening government finances and increasing social unrest.

3. Technological

Technology, in particular, may be where we can turn for innovative solutions to today’s risks and challenges. It may also produce additional risks which must be assessed and factored in to thinking at business, government, and international levels. New and sometimes revolutionary structures such as Artificial Intelligence systems represent such opportunities for streamlining our everyday lives, but also bring with them many potential dangers. These include mismanagement, design vulnerabilities, accidents, unforeseen occurrences and malicious use that post risks to security and safety of individuals.

Furthermore, disruption to labour markets will intensify as jobs seen traditionally as falling under the “skilled labour” category are replaced by machines. The subsequent unemployment or underemployment exacerbates social instability.

Cyber-attacks, software glitches – and even heavy cloud and solar storms – can all have damaging impacts on our new infrastructure, which in 2017 can cover fields as diverse as transport, energy, communications, and water.

4. Cooperative

Finally, we must consider how best to respond to these challenges. Across all five sectors that the Global Risks Report covers this year, we must work together and stand as one as we face up to the global risks of the coming year. Individual responses on topics like climate change, globalization and regulation of the “4th Industrial Revolution” can only achieve so much. In an increasingly interconnected world, it’s clear that collaboration between different countries, sectors and societies will be more important for managing risk than ever before. For companies, responding to global risks will require a truly holistic risk management approach taking inter-dependencies between risks into account.

Lessons from Dutch Elections

All eyes were on the Netherlands on March 15th, a country that blossoms with colourful fields of tulips in the months of April and May. India has the largest tulip garden in Asia, and the Dutch have the largest fields of tulips, which are harvested and sold across Europe. The Dutch imported a flower from Asia, started producing it on a large scale and now profit from it. Being open-minded is also rewarding, as the Dutch have proved.
In many countries, including India, our school textbooks have included the story of a Dutch boy, who discovered a leak in the dike and wondered how he could save the lives of his countrymen. The whole country could be flooded in no time, and therefore he had to act immediately. There was one thing he could do, stick his finger into the hole and stop the leak. He did it. So, the story goes, this little boy did his duty to save his country. Since then the Netherlands, a country of 17 million people, has built modern dams and canal systems to reclaim a bit of land from the sea to house a relatively large population. The Netherlands is smaller in area than Denmark, but has three times its population.
The Europeans were nervously watching the deciding quarterfinal match of the elections in Europe with the expectation that once again, metaphorically speaking, a little boy in Holland would put his finger in the dike and stop the negative spiral of the anti-EU populist wave from leaking into the European population and drowning the European Union project. The Dutch delivered it. The European leaders have now heaved a sigh of relief after Brexit. The Dutch verdict clearly states that they want to remain in the EU. After the Dutch quarter finals, the next French elections will be the semi-finals and the German election will be the finals, deciding the fate of the European Union.
Immigration, Integration and Islam, the three “I”s, have long decided the election results in many western countries. Every fifth person in Germany has an immigrant background. The Netherlands similarly, too, is a multicultural hub of many nationalities. Everyone was expecting that the recently held elections in the Netherlands would be a repetition of Brexit, until the results were declared the day after the elections.
It became increasingly clear to a world focused on the issue of populism that a new feather was added to the narrative of juxtapositioning the elites against the common man. The common man in the Netherlands was not just worried about Immigration, Integration of immigrants and Islam. If that was the case, Geert Wilders, the leader of the anti-immigration and anti-EU party, the freedom party, PVV, would have won decisively with 40 seats as the opinion polls showed a few months ago, but he won a meager 20, adding just five seats to the previous tally of 15.
The international media had their eyes focused on whether the Dutch were going to follow the anti-globalization trend of populist leaders wanting to dismantle the EU. The Dutch eventually put a brake on the derailment of the EU project, and many parties in favor of the EU won a considerable number of seats, thereby making it clear to the world audience that the people of the Netherlands want to remain in the European Union and do not want to repeat the mistakes of the UK.
What is also interesting, of course, is that the Labor Party, PvdA, a party formed after the end of the Second World War and responsible for the creation of the welfare state, was decimated. From 38 seats in the last election, they were down to 9, which is an unprecedented loss of 29 seats. If my mathematics is right, then it is a tremendous loss. Why did the Labor Party, PvdA, lose so disastrously?
This is the issue that concerns the Europeans as well, but is of less concern to the international media. If we want to understand the reality on the ground, it is important to understand that the Dutch sister party to the Social Democrats across Europe, PvdA, the Labour Party, were coalition partners with Mark Rutte’s party, VVD, The People´s Party of Freedom and Democracy. Both these parties were responsible for carrying out the so-called economic reforms that downsized the welfare benefits of the common man in the Netherlands. The Dutch had a health care system, which resembled the Danish, with free, tax-financed medical assistance, but now because of the fundamental reforms, the universal health care is being replaced with a system according to which one has to pay in the initial stages based on a Dutch concept characterized as “participatiesamenleving”. The other change is the raising of the age of retirement and similar economic reforms that have affected the working class.
TheTurkish-Dutch diplomatic crisis, which occurred just days before the election day, saved the ruling party leader Mark Rutte from a further electoral loss like that of the Labor Party. Some scholars on Dutch history here had predicted an even greater loss for Rutte´s ruling Liberal Party than just the 8 seats` reduction from 41 to the present 33 seats, making it still the largest party. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey, reacted angrily at Mark Rutte for rejecting the entry of the Turkish delegation which wanted to address a political rally comprising the Turkish minority. 400,000 Turks live in the Netherlands alone and 5 million Turks domicile in Germany.
President Erdogan had planned to persuade these Turkish voters to vote in favor of his extension of presidential powers. Escalating the diplomatic row increases his chances to attain sweeping powers, bringing Turkey close to a dictatorship. The diplomatic conflict has further escalated today as the President of Turkey, having previously named the Dutch “Nazis” and “Fascists”, now threatens to tear apart the migrant deal with the European Union.
The reaction of the Turkish government is finally hammering the point home in the European Union that they have to stand together to solve international issues and there are no simple nationalistic solutions to a global crisis. United they stand and divided they will face even more trouble.
The Dutch have voted, and voted emphatically, to retain the EU institutions, and to maintain the all-encompassing welfare state that takes care of the poor and marginalized as well. If there was a populist sentiment in the Netherlands, it was about caring for those who are downtrodden and left out.
These are the lessons to be drawn from the recent election, and the Dutch people have given the crystal clear message that one can be Dutch and European at the same time, and they are not seeking isolationism.

Wake-up Call for Canada: Russia getting ready for war in the Arctic?

A significant international actor such as Canada — a member of the G7, NATO and NORAD, and the second largest territorial state in the world — naturally faces multiple and complex issues and even potential threats in an increasingly volatile world.
A forward-looking Canada must be concerned about possible swings in American foreign, defence and economic priorities, the continuing conflict in the Middle East, Russian aggression in Ukraine, global extremism, issues of trade and economic growth, and global environmental problems. The collective weight of all of these concerns might explain why the Arctic — a vital strategic region that only periodically garners attention in Ottawa and abroad — does not have the sustained policy focus that this vital strategic region deserves.
Yet climate change, economic imperatives, the military strategies of regional states and possible shifts in domestic political priorities in some of these countries all require that Canada have clear and involved policies for the Arctic. It is vital that Canadians understand the geopolitical context and set the right policy priorities.
To be sure, Canada has not ignored the Arctic and its thousands of kilometres of shoreline. Historically, Ottawa has shown a keen interest in the area, and back in the 1920s even made a claim to extend its maritime boundaries to the North Pole (as the Soviet Union did shortly afterwards). Canadian concern for sovereignty protection strengthened during the Cold War when Ottawa not only claimed Arctic territories and the waters within the Canadian Arctic Archipelago as Canadian internal waters, but also took symbolic and substantive steps to enforce and signal its claims, from relocating Inuit families into the far North to hosting visits by Queen Elizabeth II and members of her family in 1970.
In the post-Cold War era, the Soviet threat seemed to disappear, but even then there remained political, economic and legal disputes with a number of Arctic littoral states including Denmark (via its possession of autonomous Greenland) and the United States. Several factors have now magnified the importance of the Arctic and transformed the geopolitical picture. Global warming means that the Northwest Passage and the Northern Sea Route (NSR) may have dramatically new navigational possibilities that could fundamentally change trade routes in an increasingly globalized world. The discovery of vast potential resources in the Arctic also creates opportunities and temptations for countries bordering this area. Additionally, there are new strategic considerations, particularly as Russia assertively pursues ambitious foreign policy goals.
Further, the potential opening of new Northern sea routes, and particularly the NSR, is bringing other powerful players to the Arctic region. China, especially, as the world’s largest exporter and a new observer on the Arctic Council, has shown great interest, which demonstrates that the region is now of concern to more than just the Arctic Council members (five littoral and three northern countries).
Global warming means that the Northwest Passage and the NSR may have dramatically new navigational possibilities. Additionally, the existence of vast energy and mineral resources in the Arctic considerably increases international interest. The Arctic region may possess as much as 22 per cent of the world’s undiscovered conventional energy sources, including upwards of 13 per cent of undiscovered global oil, 30 per cent of natural gas, various gas hydrates and enormous reserves of minerals. While energy prices have stagnated in the past few years, they are still substantial. As the ice starts melting in the Arctic and with technological advances in drilling, there may be new possibilities and incentives for exploration, especially if global demand rises as predicted.
It is not surprising, then, that various countries, including Canada, Denmark and the United States, have made vigorous claims to large parts of the Arctic. Specifically, a number of countries that have extensive continental shelves, such as Canada, Denmark (via Greenland) and Russia, have made claims to huge portions of the Arctic Ocean using various mechanisms, but particularly via the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III). These claims have, in some cases, included the North Pole.
There is no reason to believe that negotiations with NATO partners would devolve into violent military escalation. The relationship and situation with Russia is very different, and Canada should be alert to possible Arctic risks.
As such, Canada is competing with a number of states in claiming potential resources in the Arctic, in assuring control of or access to navigation routes and, within these multiple quests of littoral states, protecting what it sees as sovereign territory and its Exclusive Economic Zones. It is worth noting, though, that while Canada faces multiple claims from other littoral states, all except Russia are NATO members, and as such, allies pose only routine concerns.
Canadian negotiations with the United States, Denmark or Norway over the Arctic may at times be difficult, but as all are NATO members, there is little doubt that peaceful resolution, including arbitration, is the expected route; there is no reason to believe that these negotiations would devolve into violent military escalation. The relationship and situation with Russia is very different, and Canada should be alert to possible Arctic risks.
As Canada’s then Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion once noted, Russia and Canada control about three-quarters of the Arctic shoreline and the two countries have reasons to cooperate and avoid military confrontation. There are indeed many areas of mutual interest that can sustain good relations between the two nations, involving, for instance, shared cultures, cooperation on search and rescue, and relations with aboriginal peoples. One can therefore appreciate the temptations and possible advantages of dialogue with Russia.
But negotiations should be based on a clear understanding of each nation’s grand strategic political, economic, social and military interests. And poorly thought-out dialogue can have a profoundly deleterious effect on bilateral relations. There are at least four areas in dealing with Russia in the coming years that Canada needs to approach with conceptual clarity as part of a well-formulated grand strategy. These include geography, demographics, economics and geo-strategy.
First, geography: Russia has the longest Arctic coastline in the world, with almost 50 per cent of the adjoining land area, and long continental shelves that include the Lomonosov and Mendeleev Ridges. Although other countries bordering the Arctic also claim this continental shelf, the Kremlin assertively contends that these ridges belong to them, which means that it claims as a Russian possession vast tracts of the Arctic representing more than a million square kilometres. Moscow, moreover, posits its legal claims with Soviet-style legal tactics and single-mindedness.
Second, in terms of demography, no other country has as significant a population in the North as Russia. Roughly nine million Russians live in scores of cities and hundreds of large settlements in the Russian north. Thus, a large number of Russians have had the historical experience of living in the far north and have an attachment to the region — a number that is not matched by any other Arctic neighbour.
Russia has an unmatched and growing military presence in the Arctic. It is where it bases its powerful Northern Fleet.
Third, economically, Russia has invested far more in the Arctic than any other bordering country. About 20 per cent of Russia’s GDP and about one fifth of its exports are generated in this region. And as noted, the Arctic’s vast energy potential only magnifies its economic significance to Moscow. With a uni-dimensional and non-competitive economy, the bulk of Russian exports consist of energy. Consequently, even with low energy prices, Russia continues to search for new sources.
Should energy prices rise and should the West lift the sanctions that have kept some of the most advanced exploration technology away from Russia, Moscow would very likely sharply increase its already considerable efforts at hydrocarbon extraction in the Arctic. Given that Russia has proven to be extremely careless in protecting the environment — witness the sad case of the massive pollution of Lake Baikal, the world’s largest single body of fresh water — such exploration in the ecologically fragile Arctic could have catastrophic environmental results for the entire region and should be of great regional, national and global concern.
Fourth, Russia has an unmatched and growing military presence in the Arctic. It is where it bases its powerful Northern Fleet and significant numbers of its nuclear submarines with ballistic missiles. Moscow also has the world’s most powerful fleet of heavy icebreakers, including several nuclear powered vessels. It launched the world’s largest and most powerful twin-reactor nuclear-powered icebreaker, the Arktika, in June 2016 (which should be operational by the end of 2017). Russia’s use of the nuclear Northern Fleet also demonstrates the seamlessness of the country’s global military strategy. This was clearly displayed in October 2016 when a group of powerful ships from this fleet sailed through the English Channel to the Eastern Mediterranean to boost Russian operations in Syria.
Apart from this enormous military capacity, Russia has placed great priority on the Arctic. Going back to President Dmitry Medvedev in 2008, Russia stressed the Arctic’s strategic importance as part of the “Strategy for National Security of the Russian Federation to 2020.” Later, in December 2014, the Kremlin established the Arctic strategic command with the same legal status as the four other long-standing military districts. And in 2015 President Vladimir Putin not only created a coordinated mission for the development of the Arctic vested with power in all areas and activities, but appointed as commission chair the notoriously anti-Western and aggressive Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin — who infamously quipped that “tanks don’t need visas.” Further, Russia has deployed an Arctic brigade about 50 km from its border with Finland and has conducted vast Arctic military exercises as it refurbished old bases and opened new ones.
Moscow’s large military build-up is ostensibly justified by a bizarre threat assessment — that the West covets Russia’s natural resources and will use force to get them.
In sharp contrast, Canada has degraded its military capabilities in the Arctic by closing military bases, failing to adequately invest in Arctic mobility vehicles, and being slow to build heavy icebreakers. Russia’s policy of prodding and probing Western and NATO military defences in North America and Europe, with its consequent risk of escalation, has been particularly stark in light of the weakness of Canadian military capacity in the North. Moscow’s large military build-up is ostensibly justified by a bizarre threat assessment — that the West covets Russia’s natural resources and will use force to get them. Yet no Western state has shown any real interest in emulating Moscow’s military expansion in the Arctic. In other words, Russia has created a self-reinforcing threat assessment and build-up that now forces other Arctic states, including Canada, to follow suit.
Russian military assertiveness is also motivated by certain disturbing domestic factors. Whereas the Putin government may seem popular (particularly in the absence of a viable opposition), it suffers from a legitimacy crisis. It had built its legitimacy on the basis of a tacit understanding: It would deliver continued improvements to the standard of living of its citizens in exchange for their political complacency, while the population would not challenge the government politically.
As the Russian economy has stagnated and remains unreformed and uncompetitive, the Putin government has had to look for other sources of legitimization. Foreign military adventures and “glory” created by confrontations with real or imagined external threats has filled the gap.
Playing this card is risky, however, and requires ever new adventures and new successes to feed the ultra-nationalistic fervor that the regime has purposely generated. Evidence suggests that the Arctic is an issue that Moscow has prioritized to help it invoke Russian glory and great power status. These trends undoubtedly make the nation a more reckless and unpredictable player.
Consequently, Russian attempts to create an impression of normalcy in the Arctic while it is assertive or aggressive elsewhere, and to somehow persuade other Arctic states to delink policy in the Arctic from global concerns, is neither viable nor prudent. Indeed, falling prey to that policy is actively dangerous. It may create a false sense of regional security and may well further embolden Russia. Ultimately, then, focusing exclusively on functional issues such as search and navigation safety, and dialogue in the Arctic, is likely to prove illusory and dangerous.
Neither is it sensible to insist that hitherto all has been well on the Arctic Council itself — which admittedly may be true — even while Moscow simultaneously tries to intimidate states far and wide with its military buildup and assertive positions.
It would be wise for Canada to follow a balanced policy: to build capacity in the Arctic that would allow it to employ the right combination of soft and hard power, and to recognize that weakness only creates temptations for a Russia that is far more unstable and opportunistic than Moscow’s proclamations in favor of a zone of peace and cooperation suggest.

Anti-Islamophobia Motion: A Politically Sinister, but Brilliant Piece of Work

Canadians tend to think we enjoy a right to free speech, but we don’t. It’s one of our national myths, probably attributable to our wholesale gorging on literature, media and films from America, where speech enjoys near-total constitutional protection from suppression by government. To anyone who believes in the unchained expression of ideas, Motion 103 is a sinister piece of work. Pollyanna-sunny, very Canadian, and no doubt brilliant politics, but sinister. The motion, nominally authored by Liberal backbencher Iqra Khalid, calls on the federal government to condemn “Islamophobia” and all other forms of mean and nasty and racist speech, and, further, to immediately study how to quell hate and fear and generally figure out a way to make Canadians be nicer to each other.
All of which sounds lovely. Captain Kirk ran around the galaxy delivering a similar message to bigoted aliens for years.
But the ability of earthly governments to impose such goals is beyond dubious. Suasion seldom works; society is a stew of prejudice and tribalism, and nobody I know pays the slightest attention to government moralizing.
Even politicians understand that. So, ultimately, there are some, probably including ministers in Justin Trudeau’s cabinet, who will be tempted to accomplish M-103’s stated goals by once again lowering the dead hand of the state on speech
In Canada there is already a remarkable plantation of federal and provincial laws defining and prohibiting offensive speech, and it’s a safe bet the proponents of M-103 are eager to plant even more, even if M-103 is just a parliamentary statement.
Further, Canadians tend to support such measures; they either don’t realize or don’t care that these laws attack free speech; inoffensive speech, after all, doesn’t need protecting.
To review: the Criminal Code bans “hate propaganda,” which has been defined by the Supreme Court as speech “intended or likely to circulate extreme feelings of opprobrium and enmity against a racial or religious group.”
This law is serious: a spokesperson for Stephen Harper’s public safety minister suggested in 2015 it could be used against groups advocating boycott, divestment and sanction of Israel for its occupation of the West Bank.
Ezra Levant,was brought before the Alberta Human Rights Commission for reprinting controversial Danish cartoons that depicted the prophet Mohammed unflatteringly. Then there are the provincial Human Rights commissions, quasi-judicial boards, each with their own set of regulations, out to protect fragile Canadians from speech that injures their “dignity, feelings or self-respect.” These tribunals have teeth, and the ability to force speech offenders to pay damages to the offended.
Ezra Levant, a conservative provocateur, spent years fighting efforts by Muslim groups that dragged him before the Alberta Human Rights Commission for reprinting controversial Danish cartoons that depicted the prophet Mohammed unflatteringly. These cartoons, not really any worse than Monty Python’s lampooning of Jesus Christ in the film Life of Brian, had provoked death and rioting overseas, and were available on the internet. Levant, editor of the Western Standard at the time, was making a reasonable news judgment, showing people what the uproar was about. Ultimately, the Alberta commission dismissed the complaint, but not before forcing Levant to spend a fortune defending himself.
Defining Islamophobia
At a guess, Khalid and her fellow activists in the Liberal and NDP caucuses would regard those Danish cartoons as Islamophobia, as well as the cartoons that provoked the mass murders at Charlie Hebdo magazine by Muslim fundamentalists in Paris. In fact, Khalid would almost certainly characterize as Islamophobic any account that dared to describe the Charlie Hebdo murderers as Muslim fundamentalists.
In the Commons, she repeatedly refers to a petition, signed by thousands of Canadians, that demands recognition “that extremist individuals do not represent the religion of Islam, and in condemning all forms of Islamophobia.”
So: would any such recognition foreclose a discussion of the imam at a Toronto mosque who recently treated his congregation to remarks about “the filth of the Jews?” Would it be Islamophobic to ask whether a religious leader, sermonizing in a mosque, in any way represents Islam?
So morally certain are Khalid and her backers (certainly including the Prime Minister’s Office) that they are refusing any changes or amendments to the wording of M-103, including the rather sensible suggestion that “Islamophobia” be at least defined, say, as discrimination against Muslims, which is already illegal.
That is worrying. Would Khalid’s notion of Islamophobia, for example, prohibit discussion of a question often posed by Israelis and conservatives: Why, if most Muslims are not terrorists, most terrorists appear to be Muslims? Would Khalid want to suppress any depiction of the prophet Mohammed, which many Sunni Muslims deem offensive?
Would she seek to quell discussion of why Saudi Arabia, a Muslim theocracy and close ally of Canada, recently went much further than Donald Trump, deporting tens of thousands of Pakistanis on the grounds that some might be terrorists?
All those subjects are debatable. But it is reasonable to ask whether targeting “Islamophobia,” rather than discrimination against Muslims, would eventually forbid debate itself. In case the political purpose of M-103, though, is plain: to sucker nativist chumps, none of whom intend to ever vote Liberal or NDP, into racist public tirades. In that, Khalid has succeeded admirably. Comment sections of news websites have exploded with warnings of Sharia law and Islamofascism and the terrible threat of immigrants and the dilution of our “Judeo-Christian” culture (Vancouver is a city whose population is about 40 per cent Asian, but never mind).
M-103 has also injected a note of hysteria, exactly as the Liberals no doubt intended, into the Tory leadership race, making it difficult for the Conservative party to leave behind its foolish and repudiated election proposals to ban niqabs and establish a tip line for “barbaric cultural practices.”
The Liberals also bet, successfully, that Conservatives taking issue with the term “Islamophobia” would be portrayed in media coverage as mouth-breathing reactionaries, or at least hypocrites, given their forceful push in the past for a parliamentary denunciation of what their members called “the new anti-Semitism.”

A Millennium Needed for Gender Equality in South Asia

The way things are going on, and considering the past fifty centuries, the economic and social servitude accepted by women, and witnessing the current rate of progress, it will take South Asia an entire millennium to reach a modicum of gender equality in the workplace. And the fact is that the situation in West is no better.
Recent years have seen a dramatic slowdown in progress towards workplace gender equality worldwide. At the current rate of progress, economic parity between the sexes could take another 170 years to reach. In 2015, that figure was 118 years.
There are dramatic differences between the regions, with the current length of time it will take to close the economic gender gap ranging from 47 to more than 1,000 years.
Regional gaps
In South Asia, progress on closing the economic gap has been negligible.
The region has the second-lowest score on this year’s Global Gender Gap Index, with 67% of its overall gender gap closed.
The Middle East and North Africa won’t see the economic gender gap close for another 356 years at current levels of progress. Overall, it is the lowest placed region, having closed 60% of its overall gender gap.
East Asia and the Pacific will take 111 years to reach economic gender parity, and has so far closed 68% of its overall gender gap.
The gap in Eastern Europe and Central Asia is predicted to close in 93 years. This region has the fourth-smallest gender gap of 70%.
Sub-Saharan Africa will take 60 years to reach economic gender parity, but has closed nearly 68% of its gender gap.
Latin America and the Caribbean, facing an approximate 60-year wait for economic gender parity, have closed nearly 70% of their gender gap.
Western Europe is expected to be the first to close its gender gap, by 2063, or in 47 years’ time. It has now closed 75% of its gender gap, more than any other region.
Country performance
On a national level, 11 countries have closed their economic gender gap by more than 80%. Four are from sub-Saharan Africa (Burundi, Botswana, Rwanda and Ghana) and three Nordic countries (Norway, Iceland and Sweden).
However, 19 countries – 15 of which are from the Middle East and North Africa region – have closed less than 50% of the gap. Pakistan and Syria hold the last two spots.
Why does economic gender equality matter?
The economic gender gap measures things such as how many women are in the workforce and how much women earn compared with men.
For instance, women around the world earn, on average, just over half of what men earn – despite working longer hours, on average, when taking paid and unpaid work into account.
In addition, only 54% of women are present in the global workforce, compared with 81% for men. That’s despite the fact that, in 95 countries, women attend university in equal or higher numbers than men.
The number of women in senior positions also remains stubbornly low, with only four countries in the world having equal numbers of male and female legislators, senior officials and managers.
Women on average are benefiting from only two-thirds of the access to health, education, economic participation and political representation that men have.
“Women and men must be equal partners in managing the challenges our world faces – and in reaping the opportunities. Both voices are critical in ensuring the Fourth Industrial Revolution delivers its promise for society,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.
Overall gender equality – who does best?
The top four performing nations are all in the Nordic region: Iceland (1), Finland (2), Norway (3) and Sweden (4). Rwanda beats Ireland into 5th place, while the Philippines, Slovenia, New Zealand and Nicaragua make up the rest of the top 10.
Earlier this year, the Economist named Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland as the world’s best places for working women in its “glass-ceiling index”, and the Guardian recently ran a piece explaining why Iceland is the best place in the world to be a woman.
This year’s Gender Gap Report finds that progress towards global parity in the key economic pillar has slowed dramatically. The gap – which stands at 59% – is now larger than at any point since 2008.
However: “These forecasts are not foregone conclusions. Instead, they reflect the current state of progress and serve as a call to action to policy-makers and other stakeholders to double down on efforts to accelerate gender equality,” said Saadia Zahidi, Head of Education, Gender and Work, and Member of the Executive Committee at the World Economic Forum.
And this is because of myths surrounding investing in Women. We need to bust those myths.
“Women are better suited for baby-making than money-making.” It sounds ridiculous today, but myths like this – based on no scientific evidence – drove the decisions of our forefathers (and foremothers) for generations. Even today, around the world girls and women battle commonly held views and beliefs that limit their opportunities and potential. Myths, like the seven listed below, rob women of their power to advance themselves, their families, their communities, and ultimately, their nations.
The truth is, women around the world are resourceful economic agents, overcoming persistent, gender-based barriers every day. Women have demonstrated they can build informal and formal businesses out of very little capital, create networks to maximize limited resources, all while shouldering the traditional responsibilities placed upon them, duties like child- and home-care. Women succeed in spite of laws, policies and institutions that hold them back, but it is a constant struggle. It is time to create supportive environments for women to thrive economically, and bust these myths once and for all.
1. The myth: investing in women doesn’t pay off
The truth: closing gender gaps will actually lead to an increase in global GDP
A recent McKinsey Global Institute report found that if women play an identical role in labour markets to that of men, as much $28 trillion or 26% could be added to global annual GDP by 2025. Now that’s a payoff we can all get behind.
2. The myth: gender inequality is not an issue in developed countries
The truth: gender inequality remains high around the world
Although many countries have made progress on some aspects of gender equality, inequality remains high. In the US, there are just 66 women for every 100 men in leadership and managerial positions, and women do almost double the unpaid care work that men do. Meanwhile, in Europe the situation for women is even less promising. Men hold 89% of executive committee jobs at the top 100 companies. There’s work to be done.
3. The myth: women’s income is not used any differently than men’s income
The truth: a greater percentage of women’s income is reinvested in their families and communities
This spending drives improved access to education, nutrition and healthcare – win, win, win. Evidence also shows that it is not merely a woman’s increased income, but rather her control over that income that helps her achieve economic empowerment. A study in Brazil showed that the likelihood of a child’s survival increased by 20% when the mother made financial choices. These key economic decisions, however, are intricately wrapped into cultural norms around gender, age, ethnic background, health or physical status, and overall social hierarchy.
4. The myth: women choose to work less than men
The truth: women shoulder a greater burden of unpaid work, and have fewer paid work opportunities
Women don’t work less than men; in fact, they often work more. The issue is that their work is unpaid and often unregistered – rearing children and caring for the elderly rarely produces a paycheck. In some regions like South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, women shoulder up to 90% of unpaid care work. It’s time to balance the scales.
5. The myth: inequality ends as women’s income increases
The truth: it’s giving women control over income that ends inequality
Evidence shows that it is not merely a woman’s increased income, but rather her control over that income that helps her achieve economic empowerment. When a woman holds the strings to the family purse, that family is more likely to thrive. Brazil’s Bolsa Familia Program, which provides cash transfers directly to the female head of households, accounted for up to 25% of Brazil’s reduction in inequality and 16% of its drop in extreme poverty.
6. The myth: women’s groups are not necessary for economic development
The truth: women’s groups – including cooperatives, collectives, farmer groups, business associations and trade unions – are often the only path to sustainable economic development for many women around the world.
Women’s groups can offer a safe haven in which women of limited means can pool and maximize resources, manage risk, innovate and experiment, build skills and capacity, mentor and learn from one another, organize and advocate for rights, share care responsibilities, build confidence, and receive key information on everything from market information to nutritional guidance, family planning and reproductive health.
7. The myth: family-friendly, gender-responsive policies are not worth the investment
The truth: In the US, every $1 invested in family planning results in $7 of savings; in developing countries like Jordan, $1 can result in as much as $16 in savings. The Copenhagen Consensus showed that every dollar spent on modern contraceptive methods will yield $120 in overall benefits.
Companies that invest in family-friendly, gender-responsive policies have found high returns on their investments, including reduced absenteeism and increased productivity. By providing healthcare for women and their children at the workplace, studies in Bangladesh and Egypt point to a $3:17 and $4:17 return on investment.
Harmful myths like these continue to limit women as they seek careers, advance in the workplace, and seek access to capital – especially in the most economically disadvantaged parts of the world. These myths do not just impede women on a personal level, they also hinder our collective progress. The data and research above tell a different story about the exponential power of women. Growth is possible. Prosperity is possible. And it becomes a reality with women in the driver’s seat.

 

The Organization -Killing CEO Personality Identified

The leaders can either make or mar an organization or a country. There are some recognizable types that are deadly for any organization. In the face of disruptive developments in their industries and the world at large, CEOs need to act with speed and agility to pivot an organization’s focus. Continual change can be brutal for their people, so leaders need to focus more than ever on invigorating their organizations to overcome “change fatigue”.

Business leaders who exude positive energy demonstrate authenticity, a clear purpose, discipline and passion about possibility and opportunity. Their energy crosses internal company boundaries and goes viral; it can create social movements, infusing customers, opinion leaders and other stakeholders with excitement. These are leaders that we want to follow.

By contrast, “energy vampires” suck the energy out of a room and leave colleagues feeling dispirited, confused and tired.

For CEOs, having more people who can create energy within the senior team is not just good for morale, it’s good for the company’s top line. Indeed, as part of an ongoing research project that has so far examined the practices of more than 20,000 global leaders and 3,000 teams, we have found that leaders who can sustain energy and optimism are much more evident in “accelerating” companies than in “derailing companies”. Accelerating companies build momentum more quickly — and pivot more adroitly — than their rivals. They outperform derailing companies in terms of revenues, productivity, and other measures of economic impact.

How can CEOs increase the odds of their functional teams being led by purpose-driven, high-energy leaders and not by energy vampires? They can start by recognizing and ridding the organization of seven energy-draining personality types that are more likely to be found in companies or teams that are derailing. Most importantly, they should avoid becoming energy vampires themselves.

⦁ The Over-promiser/Under-deliverer: People with an inflated self-image can make boastful promises, which is completely fine if they deliver. But when their egos consistently write cheques their capabilities can’t cash, that’s a problem.

⦁ The “Customer Schmustomer”: Customers are hard to gain and easy to lose. The one thing an organization doesn’t need is a leader who doesn’t understand that business is all about winning and keeping customers.

 The Troublemaker: These are not nonconformists who push boundaries, question assumptions, and help the organization think outside the box. Such devil’s advocates are valuable and should be encouraged, but some individuals simply like to create chaos around them. Those who consistently push boundaries in destructive ways need to change or leave.

 The Incapable: We pay people to do a job. The leader’s job is to be clear about what that entails and to give people the tools and training to get the job done. If they either can’t or won’t do that after a few chances, then they’ve probably been given one chance too many.

⦁ The Flake: Some people look the part but, when push comes to shove, can’t be counted on to get the job done or even show up on a regular basis. You simply can’t trust them and life is too short to have employees you can’t trust.

 The Entitled: Some people are more thin-skinned and entitled than they have any right to be. Half their mind is on the job and the other half is waiting for someone to slip up so they can whine and complain or even threaten litigation. Don’t give in to that kind of behavior – cut them loose.

⦁ The Insubordinate Subordinate: Whatever your rules of conduct are, you must uphold them fairly and consistently. Whether an employee is insubordinate to their boss or a top executive lies about something material on their resume, if it breaks the rules, you should show the person the door.

Creating energy in a company involves much more than ridding it of troublemakers. Leaders who create sustained energy do so intentionally by preparing for every moment, meeting and important conversation. CEOs should start by examining the example they set and focus on these three key recommendations identified in our research:

Set three to five strategic priorities that will move the company forward

Get these right and you create the natural energy to execute them; get them wrong and you get confusion. So how do you determine the right priorities? Get inspiration from visits with customers and your marketing department, which should champion the voice of the customer. Mix external input with the views of internal people who really understand what’s going on. Identify strategic priorities based on data and then create a vision of what they will look like when achieved. Link those priorities to the purpose of your organization and to what your people care about. Communicate these priorities again and again.

⦁ Finally, when it is time to retire a strategy, move on quickly. Our research shows that as much as 40% of value destruction occurs not as a result of entering doomed opportunities, but by staying in businesses, geographies or products long after competitive advantage has waned.

Lean in

Use stress not as a source of anxiety and retrenchment, but as an opportunity to galvanize the organisation and generate energy to keep going. We need to establish coping rituals that will allow people to accept setbacks without the loss of momentum that a bad moment can bring. But we also have to learn from setbacks — and quickly — avoiding the corporate amnesia that afflicts so many. We found that teams in accelerating companies are almost twice as likely as others to be willing to fail fast and learn at speed.

Use purpose as your fuel

We all want to be connected to something meaningful. Creating a strong sense of purpose, tied to contributing to a greater good, gets people off the fence and encourages them to act urgently. This means going well beyond traditional mission statements and slogans. People at truly accelerating companies can tell you in just a few words what they do and why they do it, and get you excited about the company’s true North.

As we move forward in an increasingly unpredictable world, instilling energy, resilience and purpose into our companies, teams and even ourselves as leaders, will be of utmost importance. Setbacks and challenges are to be expected, but leaders who instill energy in their people, while reacting quickly and effectively to disruption, will guide their organizations ahead of their competition.

Informed Financial Decision-making is Imperative

Financial decision making is of imperative importance for every individual, every household and every country. The major parameters governing this often ignored decision is to decide between spending, saving or investing. Household finance is a relatively new field of study that aims to develop a better understanding of how people make financial decisions. Its relevance and distinction from other fields of economics were highlighted by Harvard economics professor John Campbell in his 2006 presidential address to the American Finance Association: ‘The study of household finance is challenging because household behaviour is difficult to measure, and households face constraints not captured by textbook models’.
It is questionable whether the lessons from this new field have been reflected to any great extent in the way that the banking and financial services industry works. Yet they should be: a better understanding of how and for what purposes people spend, save, invest and hold assets can act as a springboard for action by the industry to help consumers.
Working with the Household Finance Network of the Centre for Economic Policy research (CEPR), the Think Forward Initiative (TFI) is seeking to build a bridge between research and action. The TFI approach is to develop a deeper understanding of what drives people’s financial decision-making and to harness those insights to help them make better decisions – “economics in the service of society”.
To signal the burgeoning relationship between researchers and practitioners, summaries of key research papers in household finance were presented at a conference in London in September 2016. Five prominent European economists outlined the implications of their research for understanding households’ financial decisions. Topics included:
– The differences in how households in different countries hold total wealth
– The effect of differing levels of financial education on decision-making
– Variations in the marginal propensity to consume
– Differing risk appetites by income level
– Income inequality and exposure to investment risk
What prevents people from accessing financial products?
One key issue for financial institutions to understand is the wide range of impediments that prevent households from taking up opportunities to invest, save and borrow in ways that fit their needs. Professor Michael Haliassos of Goethe University Frankfurt, the director of CEPR’s Network on Household Finance, has explored the impact of people’s individual characteristics, the economic environment in which they find themselves, their cultural predispositions and the influence of neighbours and peers.
One of his studies documents international differences in ownership and holdings of stocks, private businesses, homes and mortgages among older households in 13 countries (Christelis et al. 2013). As might be expected, households’ financial behaviour is influenced by such personal factors as their gender, educational attainment, occupational status and position in the country’s income and wealth distributions.
But controlling for these characteristics, there is also considerable variation in financial behaviour across countries, which can be attributed to differences in national institutions, markets and policies. For example, before the Global Crisis, US households tended to invest more in stocks and less in homes and to have larger mortgages than Europeans with similar characteristics. At the same time, differences in economic environments and household financial behaviour are more pronounced among European countries than among US regions.
Cultural predispositions seem to play an important role here. Another study, which compares the financial behaviour of Swedish natives and immigrants from a number of different European countries, uncovers differences across cultural groups in how financial behaviour relates to household characteristics (Haliassos et al. 2016). But the evidence also suggests that such differences diminish with increasing exposure to host country institutions, even for immigrants from countries with significant cultural distance from Sweden.
Households’ relative standing among their neighbours and peers also matters for financial behaviour. For example, a further study analyses Dutch data on people’s social interactions, in particular their perceptions of the incomes of households in their social circle (Georgarakos et al. 2014). It shows that those who consider themselves to be poorer than their peers are more likely to borrow ‘to keep up with the Joneses’ and, as a result, to find themselves facing financial distress.
Can improved financial literacy make a difference?
What can be done to boost households’ participation in suitable financial products? One potential response is to improve financial literacy, an area that has been the focus of a series of studies by Professor Tullio Jappelli (University of Naples Federico II and CEPR). He notes the extensive evidence that a large proportion of adults in most countries are unfamiliar with even the most basic economic concepts, such as inflation, risk, and mortgages. Such low levels of financial literacy can be blamed for people’s poor financial decisions, with knock-on effects for the wider economy.
But it is also clear that there is considerable variation in financial literacy across countries (Jappelli 2010). For example, people in countries with higher levels of educational achievement tend to be more financially literate; those in countries with more generous social security systems are generally less financially literate. What’s more, countries where there is higher financial literacy have higher saving rates and greater wealth (Jappelli and Padula 2011).
Financial institutions can clearly play a role alongside public policymakers in improving a country’s financial literacy. There is also the possibility of making use of the social interactions that influence financial behaviour. The study of natives and immigrants in Sweden by Professor Haliassos and colleagues reveals that having access to financially literate neighbours with some university education increases a household’s likelihood of saving for retirement and investing in stocks (Haliassos et al. 2016).
There is also evidence that households’ lack of familiarity with financial products from which they could benefit can be mitigated by a knowledgeable financial services industry with appropriate incentives. When East Germans who had been deprived of ‘capitalist’ financial products were provided with the same opportunity to use them as their West German counterparts following the reunification of Germany, they participated immediately, were as likely to invest in unfamiliar risky securities and more likely to use consumer debt (Fuchs-Schündeln and Haliassos 2015).
How households respond to income changes
If a household’s income changes, what happens to consumption and what happens to ‘precautionary saving’ (money put aside for a rainy day)? And does it make a difference if the change in income is expected or unexpected, temporary or permanent, a decline or an increase?
Answers to these questions about the marginal propensity to consume are potentially of value both for the financial services industry looking to understand household behaviour and for governments aiming to design effective fiscal policies.
This research reports considerable evidence that household consumption responds to anticipated income increases by more than what is implied by standard economic models of ‘consumption smoothing’ over people’s lifecycle. For example, households that are less likely to be able to access credit markets typically have a higher marginal propensity to consume. But consumption by all households is much less responsive to anticipated income declines, for example, after retirement.
A second finding is that the consumption reaction to permanent income changes is much higher than that to transitory changes. But at least in the US, households do not revise their consumption fully in response to permanent changes.
Taken together, these findings suggest that precautionary savings play an important role in consumption. They also indicate that tax changes might have a considerable impact on consumption expenditures, though the precise effect will depend on whether the policy is anticipated, whether taxes increase or decline and whether the change is perceived as temporary or permanent.
Household decisions about savings and investment
Households save for several different reasons, including retirement, rainy days, big planned purchases, such as property or children’s education, and wanting to bequest something to the next generation. As research by Professor Francisco Gomes (London Business School and CEPR) makes clear, the relative importance of these different savings motives changes with age, which makes it valuable to analyse what he calls people’s ‘lifecycle portfolio choice’ to determine the best assets in which to put their savings (Campanale et al. 2015).
The optimal portfolio allocation will vary across households since there are inevitable differences in their tolerance of risk, their other sources of income, notably from the labour market, other sources of risks, such as health and mortgage debt, and how all these risks correlate with the returns to different portfolio assets. The key insight is that these factors change with age, which means that the optimal portfolio allocation should not be remain constant over the lifecycle.
In a comparison of the changing financial product needs of households over time with ‘lifecycle funds’ and other retirement solutions that are actually available in the marketplace, the research finds big differences. For example, funds typically fail to take account of the higher risks that people face early in their working lives. This means that their exposure to stocks should not start high and decrease gradually into retirement: rather, it should be a hump-shaped function of age. Professor Gomes calls for funds and financial advice that are flexible enough to match the needs of different investors.
Wealth inequality and financial behaviour
A further influence on households’ financial behaviour is their position in the wealth distribution and whether there is a national trend in the direction of higher or lower wealth inequality. Professor Laurent Calvet (HEC Paris and CEPR) has examined whether wealthier households earn higher returns on their investments and, if so, why.
Analysis of data on all residents of Sweden shows that returns to the gross and net wealth of the top 1% of households are 4% higher per year than those for the median household (Bach et al. 2015). These higher returns are not driven by exceptional skill or private information, but by the wealthy being able to take on greater exposures to risk. Similarly, the Swedish middle classes earn high returns on their net wealth, primarily by taking leveraged positions in property. Both outcomes serve to amplify wealth inequality.
Professor Luigi Guiso (Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance and CEPR) has also explored variation in the returns to wealth depending on where households are in the wealth distribution (Fagereng et al. 2016). Using data on tax returns and wealth holdings for the whole Norwegian population, this study finds further evidence that wealthy investors can be more tolerant of risk. The higher returns that wealthier people enjoy also have an element of greater financial sophistication, either on the part of the wealthy themselves or in their ability to buy the services of experts.
Another study by Professor Calvet has considered the characteristics of financially sophisticated and unsophisticated households (Calvet et al. 2009). Again looking at the comprehensive data on Swedish households, the research focuses on three investment mistakes: portfolios of assets that are insufficiently diversified, resistance to risk-taking and the higher returns it offers over the longer term, and the tendency to sell winning stocks and hold losing stocks (the ‘disposition effect’).
Perhaps unsurprisingly, wealthier households have greater financial sophistication and tend to avoid these investment mistakes. Household size also plays a significant role – the more children, the more sophisticated the finances – while education and financial experience are less important.
Overall, this study indicates that people are much more careful in their financial decision-making when they understand that the outcomes will make a real difference to their lives – for example, when they have children, when they have some wealth, and when their education offers the prospects of future wealth. There are clear lessons for financial institutions seeking to help their customers make better financial decisions. Of course, consumers, governments, NGOs, and others can also build on these insights.

Getting down to work with Trump

The shooting of two Indian-origin Americans should not send a wave of protests and antipathy.  Let India be pragmatic. Like Russia and China, India should resist the temptation of ideological correctness and be realistic in engaging the American president.
At the World Economic Forum in Davos last month, the Chinese President Xi Jinping claimed leadership of the global economic order amidst the US President Donald Trump’s emphasis on “America First”.
The tendency to present narrow national interests as global good has long been part of great power diplomacy. Big nations can’t simply say their policies are meant to pursue crass political and economic gain. To win popular support at home and legitimacy abroad, they see the need to define interest-based diplomacy as value-based politics.
The most recent examples of presenting self interest in universal terms come from China and Russia. At the World Economic Forum in Davos last month, the Chinese President Xi Jinping claimed leadership of the global economic order amidst the US President Donald Trump’s emphasis on “America First”. Last week at the annual Munich Security Forum, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called for a “post-West world order”.
Behind this sweeping rhetoric is a different reality — Russia and China are eager to negotiate with Trump’s Washington and are assessing its strengths and weaknesses. Moscow and Beijing have never allowed ideology to come in the way of working with Washington. On its part, Delhi must resist the temptation to see the new round of great power politics in ideological terms. Instead, Delhi should prepare itself to secure India’s vital interests amidst the current international flux.
Amidst the widespread accusations that the Russian President Vladimir Putin is undermining the liberal international order and that Trump has become his willing accomplice, there was much interest in Munich on the future of the US-Russia relationship and its consequences for Eurasia. Denying that Russia has any reason to undermine the global order, Lavrov blamed the expansion of the Western military alliance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation for the current turbulence in Europe. He went to define the order for a new framework for global security: “If you want, you can call it a post-West world order when each country, based on its sovereignty within the rules of international law, will strive to find a balance between its own national interests and the national interests of partners.”
Forget Lavrov’s throw away phrase — the “post-West world” — and his rhetoric on sovereignty and international law. Lavrov’s real preoccupation was the construction of a new power-sharing arrangement between Moscow and Washington in Europe. Lavrov reminded the Munich audience that the agreements between Russia and the West at the end of the Cold War called on the two sides “to jointly provide security, based on respect for each other’s interests, to enhance mutual trust, prevent a split in the Euro-Atlantic area, and to erase the dividing lines”. Even as he called it a Cold War relic, Lavrov offered to resume the engagement with NATO. He also sought a pragmatic partnership with America on the basis of “mutual respect” and the shared “special responsibility for global stability,” Lavrov said. “We have immense potential that has yet to be tapped into, and we’re open to that inasmuch as the US is open to that as well,” the Russian foreign minister added.
Moscow’s signals on accommodation have not got through to the wider public amidst the current hostility to Russia in the Western establishments. But in Washington, Trump appears to be holding firm on his belief that improved relations with Russia are good for the United States. Despite the media insinuations that he is a “Russian poodle”, continuing allegations on his campaign’s Russian connections, the growing political demand for a formal investigation into Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 presidential elections, and the strong resistance in Washington to any rapprochement with Putin, Trump has not backed off.
As Trump’s Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis reaffirmed the new administration’s commitment to European allies and NATO, secretary of state, Rex Tillerson sat down with Lavrov for the first substantive round of consultations last week. While few details have emerged from this conversation, Lavrov described the talks as “pragmatic and businesslike” and said that “we noted the existence of common interests, primarily in terms of the fight against terrorism.” If the idea of a deal with Russia has survived Trump’s first month at the White House, the jury is out on how long it might endure.
Even if the political environment becomes permissive for a “grand bargain” between America and Russia, the devil will remain in the detail.
Trump and Putin will not find it easy to align their current national positions on issues ranging from Ukraine and Syria to nuclear arms control and cyber security. Whether they succeed or fail, Trump and Putin could alter the shape of great power politics that emerged over the last quarter of a century.
Delhi’s foreign policy discourse has always loved grandiose rhetoric — “collective security” in the 1950s, the “new international economic order” in the 1970s and the “multipolar world” since the 1990s. That rhetoric was of no use in coping with shifting power relations among America, Russia and China through the last seven decades. India’s global gains since the end of the Cold War, in contrast, underline the virtues of realism, sensitivity to changing global power distribution, and the capacity to separate ideological posturing from policy.

Saturday Special: Mind of Pak Generals- An Analysis

Does religion form the core of the Pakistani identity and is it reconcilable with democracy and its institutional forms? From Pakistan’s army, there is a range of responses
Writing in the Lahore-based The Nation on January 13, ex-army chief Mirza Aslam Beg vouchsafed the following wisdom: “Unfortunately democracy [in Pakistan] has been preferred over the principles of Quran and Sunnah. No government in the past or the present one, nor the conglomeration of over two dozen religious parties, ever made any serious attempt to fortify our ideological identity. We have failed to give our children their Muslim identity, because our education system is devoid of teachings of the principles of Quran and Sunnah.” General Zia, father of the new military mind, had laid down the law in 1979: “Our present political edifice is based on the secular democratic system of the West, which has no place in Islam. In Pakistan neither anarchy nor Westernism will work. This country was created in the name of Islam and in Islam there is no provision for Western-type elections.’’
General Hamid Gul was a star soldier who got to command two of Pakistan’s top strike formations besides heading the Military Intelligence (MI) and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). True to his faith rather than “a state not based on Islam”, he was unbothered by conscience when he reached out to the Haqqani Network and worked for a Taliban utopia in Pakistan. He bravely confessed having rigged the 1990 election as ISI chief to oust the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) from government. General Zaheerul Islam Abbasi tried to stage an Islamic coup in 1995 because Pakistan was “not based on Quran and Sunnah”. Gul found instant traction with the madrasa leaders, who in turn agreed with al Qaeda chief Aiman al-Zawahiri’s treatise proving how Pakistan was not an Islamic state despite the constitution and a supra-constitutional shariah court.
Another general favouring a Quran-and-Sunnah state was General Shahid Aziz who wrote a “confessional” book, Yeh Khamoshi Kahan Tak: Ek Sipahi ki Dastan-e-Ishq-o-Junoon (2013), a soldier’s story of “passion” and “madness”, which he thought suited his religious persuasion. He was no mean soldier; he saw action in Kashmir and was trained at the National Defence University before being appointed director, military operations. As major general, he headed the analysis wing of the ISI. He was director-general, military operations (DGMO) and in 1999 planned the overthrow of Nawaz Sharif’s elected government. In 2001, after 9/11, he was chief of the general staff, a post from where most officers ascend to the top job of army chief.
The most interesting nugget in the book is Aziz’s reference to the “eye of Dajjal” (Antichrist) on the dollar bill, symbolising the grand conspiracy set in motion by the Freemasons and many powerful families in league with the American Neocons. He thought whatever was happening in the world was in line with the Jewish conspiracy outlined in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a document that surfaced in Europe in the early 20th century to rouse people into a fit of anti-Semitism and resultant Holocaust. By a strange leap of logic, he thinks that the American imperium was following the programme of world domination through a shameless pursuit of sensual pleasure. “Only the Quran stands in the way of this Satanic way of life,” he writes.
General Aziz on world order: “The world order is not running by itself, it is being run according to a secret plan by a powerful secret organisation that has first conquered global banking, followed by the media and entertainment. This plan is being worked out with the help of the United Kingdom, the IMF and the World Bank, the funded think tanks and their intellectuals, big corporations and reputable universities”. And this beauty: “The bombs that kill innocent Pakistanis in bazaars and mosques are planted by friends of America, and this terrorism is done to persuade Pakistan to embrace America more closely, allow the government to pursue pro-America policies and to alienate Pakistan from the mujahideen. But this trend of support to the killers of Muslims is open rebellion against Allah.”
A 2011 book by Robert Bonney, Pakistani journalist Tahir Malik and Tridivesh Singh Maini, Warriors after War, presented thoughts of Pakistani generals. Major-General Syed Wajahat Husain said: “Jinnah emphasised a liberal, tolerant and outward-looking progressive Pakistan. Hamid Gul is wrong on the 1948 war. Jinnah never wanted it and it was abandoned after Pakistan Army Chief General Gracey and Liaquat agreed with Jinnah to call it off. The 1965 war was our mistake. Extremism and the concept of jihad were never part of the Pakistani Army”. And a bold Brigadier Shaukat Qadir, whose advice to his children was “read Bertrand Russell”, challenged the military’s fundamental tenet of war: “The military is responsible for converting a genuine movement for an independent Kashmir into a jihad — the greatest damage that we could do and did. Both 1965 and 1971 wars were acts of stupidity”.
PS: You don’t become a general talking like that.

Western Journalists Biased Against India?

When India’s space agency ISRO launched a successful mission to Mars, prior to the 104 satellites sent in the first week of February, the New York Times ran a demeaning cartoon, showing an Indian farmer with his cow, knocking at the doors of the Elite Space Club.
And this triggers an important question: 70 years after Independence, are western journalists and correspondents still biased against India, a country they are supposed to report honestly about, so that their readers, who are mostly ignorant, get enlightened? The answer is…YES.
There are four reasons for that sad fact:
1) India is never in the news in the West unless there is some major catastrophe or huge elections. Thus, if you want to write and be published, you have to find alternate stories, that often border on the sensational, the marginal, or even the untruthful.
2) Your editor in New York, Paris or London, has often set ideas on India, even though most of the time he or she has never set foot here. You need to toe the line otherwise you may not be published, which is tough if you are a freelance, that is paid per piece. Most western correspondents thus rein in. I had one guy like that in Paris, Charles Lambroschini, in Le Figaro, who believed that the RSS was the most dangerous outfit in India.
3) Three, or even five years, which is the usual period that foreign correspondents are posted (as well as diplomats) is not enough for understanding a country that is so vast, so diverse, so contradictory sometimes. In fact, one needs to go beyond the appearances in India. Indeed, the western sense of the hygienic and the esthetical is very different from India’s and the first contact of dirtiness, slums, or poverty, often scars the perception of many western correspondents who then refused to go beyond that barrier.
4) Delhi, where everybody is posted, is physically so far from the rest of India, and so disconnected. The same ideas and clichés are heard in parties and embassies’ cocktails and repeated ad infinitum, till every foreign correspondent thinks they are the gospel truth: ‘secularism, minorities, Hindu fundamentalism, human rights in Kashmir, right wing saffron’ etc.
Is this why CNN or New York Times, or the Independent, haves been particularly nasty in the last few years against the BJP and Narendra Modi, even after he was democratically elected by 100 million Indians? It felt more like a biased witch-hunt than actual reporting. For instance very few western journalists cared to mention that the 2002 Gujarat riots were triggered by the attack by a Muslim crowd of the Sabarmati train, where 56 Hindus, 32 of them women and children, were burnt like animals.
But the pioneer of them all has got to be the BBC, which has been the inspiration of much of the slant of the foreign journalists on India, which seems to stem from an unconscious sense of superiority (same is true of western Indologists). I remember when I used to cover Kashmir in the late 90’s how Mark Tully, then a beacon to all foreign correspondents & Indian journalists, used to say all the time that it was ‘untrue that Pakistan was sponsoring arming and sheltering Kashmiri militants’. Which everybody repeated (bar this writer). He even had a Kashmiri stringer, who was named Yussuf, I think, that informed the militants. When the army arrested him Yussuf, Tully kicked such a ruckus that he had to be eventually released.
Speaking of stringers, the sad fact is that most of the Indian stringers of major western media outlets, such as BBC, or AP, or CNN, toe the line, that is report what their masters want them to say. In fact they go sometimes even overboard, to paint a negative and clichéd image of their own country. No doubt the Nirbhaya rape was a horrible happening and the guilty should have been punished in a harsher manner (and not released, like the so-called juvenile). But this was so much reported on, so much hyped, particularly by the BBC, that every westerner thinks now that India is the land of rape. In fact, when any western girl wants to travel to India now, she is warned, “careful – you might be raped”. Yet proportionately there are less rapes in India than in Sweden, which has the maximum number of rapes in the world, for instance and it is safer to walk at night in Delhi than in certain suburbs of Washington or Paris.
India should have a look at China, which gets a lot more respect from western journalists. Why? Because China does not take insults lying down. Paradoxically, western journalists have so much more liberty in India, where they can move freely. Whereas in China, they still need permission before going anywhere and need to submit the subject of their reporting. They can be censored too, or their websites even blocked.
Sure, there is no conspiracy that I can see, and most western correspondents come to India with a sincere aspiration to report fairly and faithfully. But again, the first task of a foreign journalist, without being blind to India’s faults – and there are many, but not more than any other country in the world – should be to report truthfully and create some empathy amongst its readers or viewers for a country that is unique and endearing and whose ancient civilization, that viewed the world as One family, has survived centuries of savage onslaught, including by the British, who are still trying to lecture India.

Saturday Special: The “vote-loquists”

“Hum har ek shokh ka andaazey nazar jaantey hain, /Humney ek umr guzaari hai sanam-khaney mein” – Faiz
(I have studied the nuances of all vanities, / For I have spent a lifetime in a vanity fair)
It’s a common story, with a specific insight. On the wayside, a show was on. A rustic man, in similar clothes, singing a tribal song, his hands folded behind his back. The voice so earthy, so husky, that it matched with the scene. Supporting him is a monkey, huffing and puffing on a bongo. In the end, there are claps for the singer for his raw voice, and of course for the monkey.
Appreciations are due, but there is a fact no-one knew. The bongo is being played by the singer, behind his back. The monkey is a ventriloquist!
In elections, as the one going on in UP, each party has its own orchestra. It does not matter if the monkey sings, and the man plays the beats, or the other way around. Finally, there are marks for the overall show. It should be music to the ears.
Pragmatically speaking, seek an understanding in a misunderstanding, and “verse-visa”. It is a great art to leave a bit of confusion behind, to be revised in the next speech. If you go with the belief that the crowd has come to listen to you, you may be partly correct. If you think they understand your niche thoughts, you are wasting time and energy. Keep in the back of your mind that you are addressing a crowd where self and national pride could be in recovering the Kohinoor, the sword of Tipu Sultan, or renovating a vast temple or a mosque, to win a million hearts!
Unfortunately, as it turns out, the less significant an issue, the more may be the vote pulling power. But this is the way the world of politics runs. Nuisance value has a tag to it. Bootleggers and outlaws shall continue to have a say, due to their ability to put their “types” in the voting queues. The crooked minds often have the capability of rendering the noblest speeches. The devil is often quicker to recite the scripture, than the Cardinal!
Elections, therefore, are festive times in large states as Uttar Pradesh. Regional divides, clanship, orchestrated family feuds, even outright communal utterances give enough joy to a segment of listeners. If you don’t divide enough, you don’t have enough to rule.
The press in no way would give up such mega events. Get down to some Sanskritized vocabulary. It shall also help if you are preparing for the services in chaste Hindi. “poorvanchal”, “mithyanchal”, “paschimi”, and concepts as “jaat belt”, “cow belt”, “minority predominance”, “Dalit stronghold”, shall play truant in your mind.
Constitutionally, all should have been in place by now, with doors open for regular conciliation. But that sort of order, if stated, takes the kick out of the game.
Begin with all is not well. Historic blame goes to those who wrote history in their times. Those not in power have enough reasons to highlight “half-dressings” that instead of healing have led the state to exaggerated infection, and the life threatening condition of an impending sepsis. Those who ruled, find legitimate claims, that the family itself has held back further development, and put the people on their knees as far as law and order goes, and no part of the blame can be shared. Since the own family went against people’s wishes, and a father is a father, and an uncle an uncle, these are unsurmountable, even with the constitutional powers vested in the chair.
Therefore, a second chance needs to be given. I don’t disagree, but would concomitantly point out that such an idea is afloat, and has many buyers! Where reason ends, politics begins.
Democracies with Pre-ambles and Guiding principles written with great flourish and sincerity, are now finding it difficult to surge with the global agenda and economic commitments on one hand, and the many drummers and ventriloquists inland. Communist regimes and totalitarian set-ups that have resources are doing better.
Democratic machinery is still laudable, but gives a pitiful average per gallon of resolution! What is just evident in the US, is that more executive orders are passed, though thankfully, the judiciary is there for the final checks.
The two major recent elections also show that the fight could be neck to neck. Brexit was a surprise with a 49% vs 51% margin. Maybe, for a while, the country lost a feel of itself, but can’t call this unusual, for the English know what the English know!
The US election was a cliff-hanger till the last day. President Trump is not a conventional US President, but seems to be settling down in the garb the world wants to see him in. With so much of international mess that the US is involved in and the economic downside (though much better than what Mr Obama inherited), he has to crack the whip, even if that be in mid-air.
The electoral process – the way it is practiced in India – is often fought on subjective emotions, miniscule insults, family equations (absolutely legitimate),that often shift the larger and looming agendas as building a world competitive economy, adequate defence in order to interact with the neighbourhood with equanimity.
The country is in dire need for investments, upgraded infrastructure, educational reforms, healthcare policies that need to be enforced right-away, but unfortunately, none of these are electoral winners.
On the other hand, consider the fact that only by upgrading the status and quality of life, adequate jobs and social security, shall the petty caste, class, communal differences fade away. The earlier the common man gets exposed to what is his good, than what is other’s “bad”, shall we be fighting for our rights on a more remunerative platform.
Unfortunately, Indians are unable to see themselves as a progressive, tolerant nation (though more needs to be done), with global edge, the way some foreign analysts can. It requires a certain wisdom to be able to approve one’s self- worth. Hope the remaining stages of the elections go well, to the content of the people, and progress of the nation!

Immigration Divides The US

America’s immigration policy has got the country to where it is today, for better or worse. It created a diverse and innovative nation that has pushed human civilization forward. It also brought us President Trump, and with him, a more heated debate about immigration. But rather than continuing to shout over one another and refusing to listen to the opposing side, it is time for us to think about pragmatic compromise policy options, given the importance of immigration to American history, innovative capacity, and its future growth.
Systematic reviews of rigorous empirical research indicate that migrants are net positive contributors to the US economy, generating economic growth, starting businesses, producing innovations, creating jobs and imposing minimal pressure on natives’ wages.
In spite of the net benefits, there are rising populist concerns about new immigrants, in part because in North America and most of Europe, legal international migration is largely understood as inherently coupled with a path to citizenship. This construct naturally leads to polarizing political positions, weighing the rights of current citizens against migrants, who are, by design, potential future citizens. This leads to pressures to place restrictions upfront to limit the inflow of migrants.
Identifying opportunities for compromise require us to move away from the binary view of either erecting walls to prevent entry or integrating every immigrant by creating a path to full citizenship rights. We instead need to think more creatively about the full spectrum of options, including partial integration. Those countries that welcome the largest numbers of migrant workers per capita have generally opted for such middle-of-the-road policy options. Many countries, including the UAE, Kuwait, Malaysia and Singapore, allow significant inflows of temporary labour migration to fill their labour gaps. In this model, legal migration is time-limited, and workers are required to return to their home countries at the end of the authorized spell. Policies like these may allow a deal-making president like Trump to reach a compromise with advocates focused on the economic returns of migration.
Temporary migration policies would allow the US to draw on migrants to meet labour shortages in jobs Americans do not want, while avoiding contested questions regarding illegal immigration and integration. Liberals may claim that inviting people to work but not stay is not consistent with American values, and undermines the welfare of people who were not lucky enough to be born in the United States. And they are right that, for the few that are let into the United States under the current system, a path to citizenship improves their welfare dramatically. But a partial-integration policy may open the doors to a much larger number of people, thereby raising welfare to an even greater extent in the aggregate.
This compromise, of course, does not address the needs of the existing pool of migrants, asylum-seekers, or refugees, nor does it help those in the limbo of DACA. However, rich Asian countries have used these types of policies to provide employment opportunities to many, many more poor economic migrants per capita than the US, Canada or Europe have. For example, 45% of the residents of Singapore and 88% of the residents in UAE at any given moment are foreign-born, compared to 14% of US residents. Indians, Britons and Ukrainians earn a lot more in Dubai than they would at home. These richer Asian hosts, not the US, Canada or Germany, generate the lion’s share of the global economic value from cross-border mobility.
We would certainly not want American policy to replicate the reported abuse of poor workers in Dubai. But that’s the beauty of thinking about immigration policy as a spectrum: we don’t need to choose the exact point on the spectrum that the UAE has chosen; and the U.S. can choose a different point that is more consistent with American values own values, monitoring working conditions and imposing sanctions on employers who violate human rights.
Researchers have shown that if 1,000 Haitians worked in the United States temporarily under the H2 programme (a small programme that President Trump has himself taken advantage of), they would earn over $200 million dollars in income in the US over 10 years. Of those earnings, 60-70% would be ploughed back into the American economy, while one-third would flow back to Haiti, improving lives and reducing pressures on future illegal migration. In the spectrum of policies, one might even think about supporting internal migration in developing countries, which has been shown to alleviate poverty locally.
Any immigration policy that pits the rights of citizens against those of immigrants will always be prone to controversy. Given the economic costs and benefits, and the current political reality, it may be useful for us to all start thinking about compromise options available in the full spectrum of possible immigration policies.

Economic Growth Needs Starting Early

In politics, normally first 100 days are deemed to a period when criticism is levied. Of course, there are some exceptions, but, ny and large, that is the tradition. In life, first The first 1000 days of life – the period from conception to the age of two – are pivotal for any human being’s development. This has been shown repeatedly by every science that studies early childhood development: anatomy, epidemiology, genetics, immunology, physiology, psychology and public health.
And it is confirmed in several papers and commentaries in a Lancet series I led in my capacity as a distinguished professor at the University of the Witwatersrand and Director of the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Human Development. Our newest work powerfully demonstrates that low-cost interventions which facilitate and support nurturing care for infants in their first years of life contribute to lifelong health, wellbeing and productivity. The economic benefits of these interventions far outweigh the investment costs.
Simply put, we need to intervene earlier than we currently do. In South Africa for instance, a great deal of emphasis in early childhood development (ECD) is placed on subsidising three and four-year-olds to attend creches and play centres. Early learning in preschool is important. But it is less effective than it could be because children’s foundational skills and capacities are laid down at a younger age – in the first 1000 days.
A cycle of poverty
Poor childhood conditions, such as exposure to poverty and stunting, are associated with long-term disadvantages to health, education, social adjustment and earnings.
In South Africa, 63% of children younger than 18 live in poverty: that is, on less than R923 a month or R31 a day. And 27% of 0-3 year olds are stunted, a condition which results from long-term undernutrition, mainly of essential vitamins and minerals. This hampers the development of lean mass – skeleton, brain, internal organ size and function.
Children living in poverty and who are stunted tend to go to school later. They also tend to learn less, pass fewer grades, leave school earlier and earn less as adults. In turn, their children are more likely to grow up in poverty, lacking essential nutrients and learning experiences, trapping families and children in poverty for generations.
It is this negative cycle that most concerns politicians and economists. Countries can’t grow at the pace of their most able people because too many children and adults are left behind. The Lancet series estimates, globally, that individuals who experienced poor early development suffer a loss of about a quarter of adult average income a year. This makes their families poor too.
Importantly, these negative individual effects add up. Studies in several African countries estimate that the cost of hunger – the knock on effects of stunting on learning and earning – is 10.3% of GDP in Malawi, 11.5% in Rwanda and 16.5% in Ethiopia. In South Africa we estimate that stunting results in a loss of future earnings of 1.3% of GDP, or R62 billion per year.
The series also estimates what poor early development costs countries, by comparing the future costs to current expenditure on health and education. For example, Pakistan is estimated to lose 8.2% of future GDP to poor child growth. This is three times what it currently spends on health as a percentage of GDP (2.8%). Countries that do not improve early childhood development are fighting a losing battle.
Nurturing care
Babies need love, care, protection and stimulation by stable parents and caregivers. In The Lancet series, this is referred to as “nurturing care”. Breastfeeding is a good example of nurturing care. Nurturing care can break down under conditions of severe stress and struggle.
Extremely poor families find it hard to provide nurturing care for young children. They sometimes don’t have the means for health care or nutritious food. They may be so emotionally drained by daily struggles that they feel unable to show interest in or encourage a young child. There are several ways in which governments and social services could support such families.
For instance, national policies can support families financially, give them time to spend with their young children and improve access to health and other services. Minimum wages and social grants protect families against the worst effects of poverty. Maternity leave, breastfeeding breaks at work and time for working mothers to take their children to clinics and doctors are also crucial.
Other meaningful interventions include free or subsidised health care, quality and affordable child care and preschool education.
Many politicians and policymakers may fear that dedicated early child development are beyond their budgets. As I’ve already pointed out, the return on investment of such programmes is substantially more than the cost of implementing them. But The Lancet series went further: we modelled the cost of adding two early child development programmes to existing packages of maternal and child health services.
A worthwhile investment
The first programme is community-based group treatment for maternal depression. Addressing maternal depression is important because it adversely affects a mother’s ability to provide nurturing care. The second programme is a child development stimulation programme, Care for Child Development, which can be implemented in health care facilities or in community programmes.
Our research modelled the cost of expanding these programmes to universal levels in 73 countries that experience a high burden of child mortality, growth and development. The cost of bringing both programmes to 98% coverage over the next 15 years is US$34 billion.
The additional cost for the supply-side of the programmes in the year 2030 is on average, 50 US cents per capita. This varies from 20c in low income countries where costs are lower, to 70c per capital in middle income countries.
The evidence consolidated in this series points to effective interventions and delivery approaches at a scale that was not envisaged before. During the next 15 years, world leaders have a unique opportunity to invest in the early years for long-term individual and societal gains and for the achievement of the sustainable development goals.

Artificial Intelligence- China Leads

In the past 15 years, the advance of technology has affected all of our lives. The adoption of technology has been so vast and deep that our grandparents and children are all using some type of “smart” product every day.
In many ways, what we previously saw only in sci-fi movies is becoming our reality. Software and programmes can learn and become smarter. Hardware and machines can interact with each other and improve. Artificial intelligence (AI) technology, which I researched academically in the 1980s, is penetrating the real world and permeating business operations and individuals’ lifestyles without us even noticing.
Think about the last time you: received a recommendation about a cool new product on an e-commerce website; had a photo taken of you at an immigration office; or received a customer service chat or email reply after raising a complaint.
Buzz around AlphaGo was a wake-up call to the world. With decades of lab research, AI technology is finally coming to its anticipated fruition. I estimate the AI market potential will be 10 times greater than that of the mobile internet revolution we have witnessed thus far.
The time is right to open Pandora’s box for laboratory AI, introducing it to solve real business needs and address real-world problems. It is also the time for some scientists in the field to consider starting their entrepreneurial journey.
In the next decade, more than 50% of jobs in the world will be replaced by AI, ranging from translators, editors, assistants, stock traders, securities, drivers, salespeople, customer service reps, accountants, nannies and so on.
The five building blocks of AI development
AI development requires five building blocks: massive data, automatic data tagging systems, top scientists, defined industry requirements and highly efficient computing power. All of these are now tangible and available, because of the rise of the internet, mobile, big data and computing processing capabilities in the past 10 years.
So what are the action steps ahead? To start, we need to identify industries with an enormous amount of data. Better yet, the data itself should be as closed-loop and as massive as possible.
Then we need lots of computers, especially those with a combination of a high performance central processing unit (CPU) and high graphics processing unit (GPU).
Most importantly, we need great scientists specialized in deep learning, coupled with a group of young engineers eager to learn, experiment and solve problems. I am confident that graduates from the top universities for computer sciences, mathematics, applied mathematics, statistics, electronics or automation, are trained with the essentials to further develop AI skill sets. With guided training, they would be able to perform within six to nine months.
I would suggest a few guiding principles for the fast-growing commercial adoption of AI. Firstly, we should see AI as a tool to assist humans, not to replace them. I also believe AI will benefit business, rather than homes or more personal scenarios, in real commercial terms.
We should also design a user or customer interface that can display a lot of results, as we use AI to help us learn faster and make better decisions, but not expect a single answer. Furthermore, the requirement of data, both quantitative and qualitative, is indefinite. We need to encourage users and customers to provide data and feedback on an ongoing basis. We also need to design mechanisms to continuously capture, update and learn from new data as a living organism.
⦁ Lastly, a well-defined area of focus should be set, usually a narrow one, for the problem you are trying to solve. Do not dream of inventing a superpower technology on day one.
I foresee China as a critical hub in the global development of AI. It offers a number of conditions that are suitable for creating world-class companies in the AI field:
⦁ Talent pool. Chinese researchers are already savvy in AI. In 2015, 43% of the top academic papers relating to AI were published with one or more Chinese researchers, regardless of where in the world the work was primarily conducted. Chinese people are proud of their mathematics, engineering and science training. An influx of high calibre young talent has and will become the quintessential foundation of any new industry.
⦁ Traditional industries. Today, we meet many traditional Chinese companies lagging behind US enterprises in terms of the level of technological adoption. But these companies have data and money, and are eager to invest once AI experts present them with the opportunities to grow their business or make bigger savings.
⦁ Internet market. China has one of the world’s largest internet markets with around 800 million connected users and many internet companies. Often when non-AI technology companies grow to a certain size, they need to explore AI in order to upgrade and scale.
⦁ Closed yet open. Despite the fact that US companies are now leading AI development around the globe, there are visible barriers to entering the Chinese market. The Chinese market will need local solutions and providers. In contrast, policy around AI in China is relatively more open for experimentation and solutions.
With the advent of AI, humans can finally be liberated from mechanical tasks and devote their time to more intellectual, creative and productive explorations. AI technology presents the greatest opportunity in human history and I encourage you to pay attention to what is happening in China.

Colin Wilson’s Outsider & Modi & Trump

Would Narendra Modi and Donald Trump have figured in the theories of Colin Wilson, the British pop philosopher who attained cult status in the 1960s with his debut book ‘The Outsider’, which was published when he was 25?
Drawing on sources as diverse as Sartre, Herman Hesse, Nietzche and Ramakrishna, Wilson advanced his thesis that the ‘Outside’ – the social misfit, the maverick thinker, the heretic – were mutants who presaged the birth of a new consciousness which would transform humanity.
Using the name of one of Hesse’s novel, ‘Steppenwolf’, in which the protagonist sees himself as half animal, half human, Wilson argued that we were the first species ever to have reached the stage where we could consciously take charge of the evolutionary process as propounded by Darwin. The Outsider was a Steppenwolf within which was a potential Nietzchean superman struggling to emerge.
In the context of today’s politics, both Donald Trump and Narendra Modi are being referred to by commentators as ‘outsiders’.
Modi, the most famous chaiwala in history, has projected his humble origins to place himself outside the charmed circle of the Delhi Durbar coterie, particularly as represented by the patrician Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.
Similarly, the billionaire property tycoon the previleged class of the Washington Beltway, a market positioning which largely helped him win over resentful voters who mistrust the political elite, as exemplified by the Clinton clan.
Both Modi and Trump operate outside the norms and conventions of diplomacy and protocol, and appear to take delight in doing so.
Modi’s thunderbolt demonetisation gleefully thumbed its nose at not only the authority and autonomy of the Reserve Bank of India but also at basic economic common sense.
The logic – or, rather, illogic – behind the move changed its tune more often than would a disc jockey on Radio Mirchi.
Demonetisation was about getting rid of black money. No, it was an antidote to counterfeit currency being pumped into our economy by Pakistan. No, it was about helping stressed banks become flush with funds which would make them lower interest rates which in turn would stimulate growth. No, no, it was actually pro-poor and a means to ensure rural uplift. Whew.
Trump’s plan to wall-off Mexico, his off-the-cuff telephonic conversations with various heads of government, his accusations against the media and his own intelligence services – all display the same ad horizon and act-first-think-later as does Modi’s demonetisation.
Both Modi and Trump are given to making messianic – end often totally off the mark – pronouncements on a wide range of subjects, be it on the technological marvels of ancient India or how to make America great again by throwing out as many immigrants as possible.
Thanks to the larger-than-life images they’ve created of themselves, both Trump and Modi enjoy a following of fanatical devotees who are totally impervious to any form of rhyme or reason which questions the infallibility of their respective idols, dark horse outsiders who against the odds have become champion winners.
So, if Colin Wilson were to do a reprise of his Outside theme today, would he accommodate Modi and Trump in his assessment and view them as harbingers of a new evolutionary stage for humankind?
Perhaps. Or perhaps, he might review his theory by allowing evolution to be a two-way process, one ascending and evolving from lower to higher, and the other devolving from higher to lower.
In which case, NaMo and Don might be interpreted as prefigurement of Homo Sapiens becoming plain and simple Homo Saps.

Structural Reforms in Difficult Times

These are really difficult times- difficult not only from economic point of view, bu also difficult from political and social perspective. The state of flux and preponderance of terror has made life uncertain. Despite the consensus that structural reforms boost employment and productivity in the medium to long run, relatively little is known about the adjustment path to the new equilibrium as supply and demand respond to reforms. A natural concern is that some reforms have adverse short-run impacts on GDP, especially if conducted under weak macroeconomic conditions. Such concern is reinforced if the availability and effectiveness of monetary and fiscal policies to alleviate the adverse impacts of reforms are limited (e.g. Eggertsson et al. 2014). Our recent paper surveys the literature assessing the impacts of structural reforms, and discusses several conflicting channels through which reforms affect the real economy in the near term (Caldera Sلnchez et al. 2016). We argue that even during unfavourable cyclical conditions with limited support from monetary or fiscal policies, smart packaging and prioritisation of structural reforms can lift growth in the short run.
How the impact of structural reform changes under different macro conditions
Some of the most important channels through which reforms affect demand include changes in wealth or permanent income that bring forward future reform-driven income gains in current consumption and investment; changes in disposable income and cash-flow that affect spending decisions of households and firms that are liquidity or cash-flow constrained; changes in households’ and firms’ perception of income and profit uncertainty that influence precautionary savings; and changes in the real interest rate that affect household consumption through inter-temporal substitution effects. Given that the relative strength of these channels is likely to vary according to macroeconomic conditions, similar reforms can have different short-run implications on the economy.
When the economy is near its potential, and confidence among consumers and investors is high, gains from growth-enhancing reforms are likely to exceed potential transitional costs even in the short run, as demand increases in the anticipation of the future benefits. For instance, the macroeconomic model simulation by Cacciatore et al. (2012) predicts that labour market reforms that lower firing costs lead to an increase in unemployment in the initial year after the reform, but this effect is quickly reversed in subsequent years. Other reforms encouraging labour market participation, such as reducing the labour tax wedge or tightening eligibility of unemployment benefits, are also found to quickly lead to increased output and employment (Bouis et al. 2012).
When the economy is in a downturn, the short-term impact of reforms may be less favourable or even entail short-term reductions in demand. For example, consider reforms that aim to improve work incentives by strengthening the conditionality of income support in the case of a lay-offs. Such reforms would raise employment by facilitating the return to work, and thereby increase household income and thus consumption. However, they also increase uncertainty regarding disposable income, discouraging consumption. During an economic upturn, employment gains can be quick, so that output increases within 2-3 years after reforms. But during a downturn when the unemployed are less likely to find jobs, the gains in output and employment can turn negative (see Figure 1). Other reforms that seek to restore competitiveness through lower relative costs and prices can also depress demand if conducted during downturns. This is because during recessions, labour and goods demand respond little to the lower wages and product prices resulting from reforms, while workers or firms see their income and profit eroded in the short term.
Ideally, governments can deploy expansionary fiscal policies or monetary policies to support demand while implementing such reforms. Looser monetary policy can boost external demand through a currency depreciation, bringing forward the benefits of reforms. For instance, our review of specific reform episodes shows that Canada’s labour market reforms around the mid-1990s benefitted from strong demand from the US, which supported the gains in employment following the reforms. But, in some cases, macro policies may also be constrained, as has been the case for several countries in the past few years.
Even with limited support from fiscal and monetary policies or external demand, the negative short-run impacts on demand can be alleviated with a smart packaging or sequencing of reforms. First, reforms of labour and product markets can be conducted in tandem, so that the lower prices from stronger competition limit the impact of labour market reforms on real wages. Second, addressing dysfunctions in the financial sector as early as possible can improve access to credit and allow households and firms to capitalise on the future benefits of reforms and expand consumption and investment today. Third, reducing policy uncertainty through well-communicated, credible reform strategies can prevent the deterioration of confidence among business and consumers.
Furthermore, many supply-side reforms can directly boost demand, even during difficult macroeconomic conditions. For instance, public infrastructure investment that effectively increases the growth potential in the medium term can stimulate private investment by increasing the expected return. Tax reforms that lower the tax burden on labour income can lead to a relatively quick increase in consumption, especially by credit-constrained households. Also, reducing regulatory barriers to entry in service sectors with large pent-up demand and relatively low entry costs (like professional services or taxis) can boost business expansion and employment quite quickly.1 Similarly, reducing barriers to geographic or job mobility can increase the speed of employment gains in difficult times. Strengthening active labour market policies and alleviating skill shortages and mismatches can unleash business activities that were previously constrained by skills bottlenecks. Finally, reforms that contribute to the long-term sustainability of public finance and to the cost-effectiveness of healthcare or pension systems can reduce uncertainties on households’ future income, thereby boosting consumption today.2
Conclusion
There is a shared recognition among policymakers that expansionary monetary policies alone cannot restore world economic growth. Decisive policy actions to strengthen fundamentals and revive productivity growth are needed.3 However, the pace of structural reforms seems to be slowing lately, albeit with considerable heterogeneity across countries (OECD 2016). It is possible that, as strong pressure from financial markets in the wake of the Global Crisis fades, policymakers will become more concerned about the short-run costs of structural reforms. Yet, our research indicates that prioritising reform measures that bring short-term benefits even in a bad conjuncture, and packaging them to benefit from reform complementarities across product and labour markets, remains the most promising growth strategy, especially in the current macroeconomic context.

My Enemy’s Enemy is not Necessarily a Friend

The distance between Pakistan’s three principal allies can be better measured by the gulfs between their ideologies than by miles alone. Indeed, one wouldn’t be able to find three such disparate states as the United States, China and Saudi Arabia if one looked. The one common element in their policies seems to be a shared desire to somehow keep Pakis­tan afloat, despite its best efforts to go under.
From Islamabad’s perspective, each of these crucial relationships is transactional as there are no cultural, historical or ethnic ties that bind them. While Pakistan shares a religion with Saudi Arabia, there are no other common elements to underpin the so-called brotherly bonds.
What binds Pakistan and China is an old adage. Alliances, while based on national interest, are seldom permanent unless layered in shared values. Thus, the US, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zea­land are referred to as the ‘five eyes’ in security circles. Sensitive intelligence that is not shared with other allies is exchanged among themselves because host­i­lities between them are inconceivable.
Although the US has given and lent more money to Pakistan than China and Saudi Arabia combined, and transferred billions of dollars worth of arms, it currently has less influence in Islamabad than the other two allies. The reason is that its military, despite being dependent on Washington for much of its modern weaponry, is suspicious of it for a number of reasons.
For one, Washington has always tried to curtail and limit the nuclear program, imposing sanctions from time to time. Then, it has objected to our frequent bouts of martial law, as well as voicing concerns over our poor human rights record. Finally, its constant refrain that Pakistan should ‘do more’ against the snake pit of jihadis jangles in the ears of the very people who unleashed these monsters to start with.
China and Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, are no shining examples of democracy, and treat their citizens appallingly. So, neither objects to our violation of democratic norms. The strings to their assistance are not as embarrassingly public as are American conditions.
Pakistan harps constantly about its friendship with China being ‘stronger than steel and higher than the Himalayas’, or some such cringe-making rubbish. And yet China is an atheist state, and has cracked down on its own fractious Muslims. The Uighurs of Western China are forbidden from many outward displays of faith.
What binds the two is the old adage ‘my enemy’s enemy is my best friend’. Thus, China finds a militarily strong Pakistan to its strategic advantage as it forces India to guard two borders, and Pakistan’s location allows it to access the Indian Ocean through Gwadar, a port it has largely financed.
Saudi Arabia’s interest in Pakistan is based largely on its military needs: lacking a fighting force that is fit for purpose despite the hundreds of billions it spends on brand new weapons, it looks on Pakistanis to train their soldiers. And it also counts on Pak army as a defence force of last resort for the time the Americans withdraw their protective umbrella. The Saudis also view our nuclear arsenal as a big plus.
Its geostrategic position has motivated the large economic and military program Washington has financed with billions of dollars over the years. Unsurprisingly, Pakistani leaders have milked the geographic location for all it’s worth.
Many blame Pakistan’s early leadership for dragging us into America’s network of anti-communist alliances. They overlook the fact that, back then, we were hopelessly outgunned by the Indian military’s firepower. The Soviet Union was too weak in the aftermath of WWII to be a significant supplier of arms.
After the Korean War ended, it received many surplus arms from the US and, soon thereafter, it joined the Baghdad Pact (later renamed the Central Treaty Organisation, or Cento), and Seato, the Southeast Asian alliance. It continued receiving American arms until the 1965 war, when we used weapons against India that had been supplied specifically for deployment against communist aggression.
Since then, its relationship with the US has veered from bad to worse. It took the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan for a resumption of aid that ended after the Red Army’s retreat, and we were back in the doghouse because of our nuclear programme. 9/11 provided the next chapter in Pak-US relations.
Now, with Trump in charge, how this touchy alliance will evolve is anybody’s guess. But with his stated intent of improving ties with India, and taking a tough stance against China, it is clear that a realignment of forces can be expected.
China’s deepening economic ties with Pakistan via CPEC increases its stakes. Hopefully, Beijing will use its growing clout to force our generals to rein in the extremists they supported for years. If it does, it will have been more successful than Washington has been

Welcome to An Era of Caesars

The rise of national-populists across the world points to new challenges for democracy. Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan etc — embodied the triumph of national-populism, and, to some extent, authoritarianism. But are they new Ceasers? Last month, one of The Economist’s cover stories highlighted the advent of “The new nationalism” in the world. In fact, this description needs to be qualified because the key figures at stake, if we go by the magazine’s list — Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan etc — embodied the triumph of national-populism, and, to some extent, authoritarianism.
While each national situation is specific, these new Caesars share common features illustrating different facets of these “isms”. To begin with, they have all conquered power by contesting elections. While de-democratisation is the order of the day globally, coups d’etat are not staging any comeback, elections remaining essential to political legitimacy. The question for these personalities is how to win them. Here they have capitalised on a whole set of common factors.
First, they have projected themselves as new men against old political establishments, whereas they were often already in politics for some time (but not centrestage) and part of the establishment (but not necessarily of the political establishment — of the business elite, for instance).
These new figures have exploited the resentment of the voters vis-à-vis the existing “system” in the context of rising inequalities and a socio-economic situation marked not by an open crisis but by frustrations, usually due to rampant joblessness. Sometimes the growth rate was still robust, but did not result in job creation meeting the expectations of the voters — because of de-industrialisation or mechanisation.
The national-populists played on these anxieties by making the most formidable promises and playing fast and loose with the truth — hence the notion of “post truth democracy” — in a way that is designed to make it hard for the citizenry to distinguish fact from fantasy. They call to mind the populists of the 1970s who, in Latin America and South Asia, from Juan Peron to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, mobilised the masses by committing themselves to structural reforms which never happened. But today’s populists do not indulge in socialistic references. They did not even present programmes, but bullet points encapsulated in slogans which are “empty signifiers”, to paraphrase Ernesto Laclau, such as “Making America Great Again”.
But the new leaders are populist in another way: In their capacity to relate directly to the people, situating themselves above parties and institutions. To establish this direct link with the people, they need both effective messages and channels of mass communication. Targeting the Other is the most effective message. All these leaders cultivate a nationalistic style with a xenophobic overtone which may have an ethnic or religious flavour. This register is effective because of the competition between “us” and “them” on the job market, but also because of the popular fear of the Other due to terrorist attacks and other conflicts. Hence the instrumentalisation of the threat posed by migrants, separatists or Islamists. The new national-populists keep promoting themselves as the protectors of besieged nations and even, sometimes, foster tensions for making their discourse more relevant.
The other repertoire they systematically resort to is managerial: They claim that they can run their country as a company, and sometimes emphasise that they’ve been successful businessmen themselves. To look like a CEO helps them to distinguish themselves from the old political establishment and to endow their promises on the economic front with some credibility. It also helps them to get support from the corporate sector.
Indeed, most of these leaders have risen to power with the help of sections of the business community, “crony capitalists” expecting benefits from this investment. Hence one of the contradictions of this new dispensation: While demagogues promise to fight the old state, they are themselves more business-friendly than market-friendly.
Businessmen fund the costly electoral campaigns of national-populists. They all resort to expensive international PR companies and invent new channels of communication, including holograms, in order to saturate the public sphere.
After reaching power, these new leaders continue to relate directly and constantly to the people, establishing a cult of the personality. His face and his body language inundate the public scene. More importantly, he maintains a semi-permanent state of popular mobilisation and piles on “decisive” moves. The opposition’s space mechanically declines, also because the centre of gravity of power shifts from parliaments to the seat of personal authority, not to say anything about the intimidation of dissenters who can be easily dismissed as traitors. Since the national-populist embodies his nation, those who fight him are considered anti-national.
National-populists undermine institutions by definition because they capitalise on the legitimacy coming from the people’s mandate for fighting alternative power centres enshrined in the constitution. Hence, attempts at reforming the legal framework, like in Turkey and in Sri Lanka, where Mahinda Rajapaksa drastically changed the procedure for appointing the judges.
National-populism is a phenomenon that is too new for conclusions to be drawn so far as its final outcome is concerned. Lessons can only be learnt from the trajectory of some of the oldest representatives of this league, Putin and Erdogan, who have taken over power democratically in countries which had benefited from the democratisation process of the 1990s with some of the most authoritarian historical backgrounds. While these cases may be somewhat extreme, they suggest that national-populists tend to accumulate power in their hands to such an extent that no checks and balances can survive. Constitutions have eventually to be reformed or twisted. Freedom of expression is gradually contained in the name of national interest and state security. Intellectuals and the judiciary are the first casualties — and then political opponents are at the receiving end.
Last but not least, these new demagogues have had little hesitation in resorting to force (including private armies, militias). Their wars have been internal to their countries first — to repress separatists and terrorists — but external too, subsequently, either because of their aggressive nationalism or because their instrumentalisation of popular sentiments degenerated in forms of violence one can control only up to a point.
Less extreme cases — like Thaksin Shinawatra in Thailand or Rajapaksa in Sri Lanka — suggest that national-populists have sometimes had to leave power because of the resilience of opponents and their own mistakes. Often, authoritarian leaders make mistakes because of their very modus operandi: Gradually insulated from the real world, they do not listen to advice, and nobody dares to tell them the truth anyway. As a result, naked kings may initiate moves which can boomerang. When such developments occur before the complete devastation of the democratic legacy, democracy can be revived, like in Sri Lanka today.