Imperative Need of Destination Stewards

Globally, more people are travelling to more places than ever before. Our ability to connect with new people, explore new destinations and work across more borders is unprecedented.

The stats are clear: travel and tourism (T&T) contribute more than 10% to global GDP and generate one in every 10 jobs on the planet. In 2018, 1.4 billion international arrivals were recorded, two years ahead of forecast and reflecting 6% annual growth. These figures are expected to continue to increase at a robust pace in the coming years. 

Yet this growth in travel and mobility is seriously testing, and in some cases compromising the planet’s finite resources. Current tourism growth rates are unsustainable environmentally, and possibly economically and socially too. While Thailand has indefinitely closed the famous Maya Bay due to overtourism, many other places, from Amsterdam to Santorini, Mount Everest and Patagonia, struggle to develop and implement caps, protect local residents’ quality of life, and preserve nature.

Travelling contributes to a greater understanding of the world, as well as to business growth, trade, and innovation. This is all fine and well so long as we have the natural resources to support it. But what happens when those resources are depleted for good and cannot be restored? Sustainability in T&T is broken, and it urgently needs to be fixed.

Consumers and the catch-22 of technology 

One of the primary culprits of today’s sustainability crisis is consumerism. Little by little, around the world, we have become consumer-travelers, trapped in a consumer mindset, constantly barraged with consumer messages, in societies that often define our “personal contribution” in terms of GDP rather than civic participation or community. Indeed, the pervasiveness of consumerism is so comprehensive that we may not even realize it. We have come to assume “this is the way the world is”, or we’ve even been numbed by its vacuous appeal. 

As consumer-travelers, we are making choices (“voting,” if you will) with our purchases. When travel was more difficult, there were typically fewer choices and customers had relatively less power. Today, the ease of travel provides numerous opportunities for travelers to vote: from which destinations to visit, how to travel, and what to purchase for and during their trip.

Unfortunately, digital technologies affect this power play, and in some cases are perpetuating the sustainability challenges faced. The Fourth Industrial Revolution has ushered in an era in which digital connectivity is an essential component of destination management. Yet futuristic technology has very real, even if unintended, human implications for T&T: from Instagramania for “been there, done that” locations to travel operators’ social media that (directly or indirectly) increases the degradation of places. This gets worse, not better, unless and until the full spectrum of T&T stakeholders take action. What might that look like?

From consumers to citizen-travelers and stewards 

According to the dictionary, “to consume” means to do away with completely; to destroy; to spend wastefully; to squander; to eat or drink in great quantity, and to devour. When we think of ourselves as consumers, the implicit expectation is that destruction or squandering will ensue. This is unsustainable.

What if, instead, we thought of ourselves as citizens and stewards? As an “inhabitant of a city or town, with rights and responsibilities” (citizen) or as “one employed to a place to responsibly manage affairs” (steward)?

So long as travellers see themselves as separate from – and often, with no direct responsibility to – the places they visit, there is tension between their presence and the protection of natural resources. But T&T is inherently interdependent, and the sooner we integrate this concept into both thought and operations, the sooner we have a chance to course-correct.

From destination marketing to management to stewardship 

In recent years, there has been a gradual but marked shift away from simply marketing destinations towards actively managing them. The primary goal in doing so is to enhance the traveller experience. But if we look closely, too often this focuses on the consumer-traveller mindset. It’s time to upgrade our systemic thinking too, and to think in terms of digitally powered destination stewardship.

Interestingly, among the original definitions of stewardship are close links to T&T and sustainability: “the conducting, supervising, or managing of something, especially the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care (e.g. stewardship of natural resources)”. We could not ask for a more appropriate baseline. But what would destination stewardship look like in practice?

For active travellers, destination stewardship can take many forms, some more drastic than others. The most enlightened stewards may choose simply not to visit over-touristed places, and to travel less.

Stewardship also means proactively taking responsibility for the environmental footprint of your travels. The Good Traveler initiative encourages travellers to carbon offset their flights. (Carbon footprint calculators are widely available.) Imagine if, in the not-too-distant future, traveller choices could redirect these offsetting investments into things such as research and production of sustainable aviation fuels?

Above all, it means that when you travel, you put yourself in the shoes of a local resident. You become a travel-citizen, with a civic responsibility to the places you visit. This can take many forms. Stay in less touristed locations and less touristed neighbourhoods within cities, and support wholly local businesses, helping to spread the economic benefits of travel and mitigate local pressures. Research local policies for short-term rentals and ensure you’re not unknowingly violating them. And of course, travelling in the off-season is helpful for both congestion and budgets.

Trends in the future of work offer additional stewardship opportunities, especially for digital nomads, remote workers and companies themselves. More and more people are seeking to live and work abroad for a period of time, and working locally – staying longer, living and contributing beyond tourism – is an astute way to steward.

Platforms such as Jobbatical facilitate such arrangements, typically for one year with flexibility, while Unsettled (which won the UNWTO’s 2018 Tourism Start-up award) offers place-based retreats from two weeks to one month. These workplace shifts also open up a new universe of opportunities for travel suppliers to rethink their services and best practices, and for destination managers to refresh their long-term vision, branding and strategy.

Today’s sustainability crisis in T&T is not new. But given the power of technology and ease of travel, it is potentially unprecedented in scope. Shifting our mindsets from being traveller-consumers to traveller-stewards, and our placemaking strategy from active destination management to proactive destination stewardship, are two ways to mitigate the problems faced.

Over time, effective destination stewardship will become a long-term competitive advantage. It will create thriving places people want to visit, and the natural resources in those places will be responsibly treated and protected as the precious, irreplaceable assets that they are.

Bring In Systems Leadership To Change the World

As world leaders and activists gathered in New York last week to address the climate crisis and the faltering rate of progress toward the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the calls for systemic change are getting ever louder. Systems change is an inspiring goal – but how can we achieve it?

Transforming a complex system – such as the energy, health or food system – is a monumental task requiring coordinated action by people with very different viewpoints. Systems-change initiatives often engage hundreds of organizations – governments, companies, civil society organizations, worker associations, research institutions and others – combining their capacities to achieve a shared goal.

These large-scale initiatives are often driven and supported by people who fit a certain profile – those who are able to catalyze and empower collective action among others, rather than controlling or directing the action themselves. These people are increasingly described as systems leaders.

We studied examples of systems leaders working on diverse issues around the world, and found some striking similarities. Systems leaders – whether they are global leaders or community activists, working in Europe, Asia, Africa or the Americas – often apply a similar set of tactics and have similar experiences leading large, complex initiatives. We summarized some of the key elements and success factors of systems leadership in a new report in the interest of encouraging others in the global community to apply and refine this approach.

Systems leadership: a tool for our times

Systems leadership is a set of skills and capacities that any individual or organization can use to catalyze, enable and support the process of systems-level change. It combines collaborative leadership, coalition-building and systems insight to mobilize innovation and action across a large, decentralized network.

Two very different examples illustrate what it can look like in practice. The 2015 Paris Agreement, signed by 195 countries with support from thousands of organizations, was spearheaded by Christiana Figueres, a global diplomat who emphasized practicality, flexibility and collaboration to bring stakeholders onboard, securing an historic agreement. At a more local level in Richmond, California, a community organizer named Najari Smith founded a new venture called Rich City Rides, galvanizing community members, local businesses and city government to address the interconnected challenges of employment, health and environmental sustainability among low-income communities of color in the city.

These two leaders operated in very different spheres, but they used some similar tactics: combining a deep understanding of the systemic issues they wanted to address; an ability to engage and align diverse stakeholders around shared goals; and an emphasis on empowering action and collaboration by a broad network of organizations.

Systems leaders apply an unusual combination of skills and attributes to mobilize large-scale action for systems change. Like many leaders, they tend to be smart, ambitious visionaries with strong skills in management and execution. Unlike traditional leaders, they are often humble, good listeners, and skilled facilitators who can successfully engage stakeholders with highly divergent priorities and perspectives. Systems leaders see their role as catalyzing, enabling and supporting widespread action – rather than occupying the spotlight themselves.

Systems leadership in action

The systems leadership approach is well-suited to complex challenges that require collective action, where no single entity is in control. However, the approach is challenging – involving high transaction costs, ambiguous outcomes and long timeframes. It is best applied to complex issues that cannot be solved through more direct means.

We distilled five key elements of the systems change process into the ‘CLEAR’ framework for leading systems change. These five elements are not necessarily sequential – they may overlap or repeat in cycles throughout the course of an initiative.

1. Convene and commit

Key stakeholders engage in moderated dialogue to address a complex issue of mutual concern. They define shared interests and goals, and commit to working together in new ways to create systemic change. For example, the We Mean Business Coalition engaged nearly 1,000 leading companies to advocate for ambitious, science-based climate policy, and has made over 1,500 action commitments.

2. Look and learn

Through system mapping, stakeholders jointly build a shared understanding of the components, actors, dynamics, and influences that create the system and its current outcomes, generating new insights and ideas. For example, The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition targets specific gaps in the nutrition system, working to catalyze and scale market-based solutions, and targeting vulnerable populations who are most in need.

3. Engage and energize

Strong stakeholder engagement is built through continuous communication to build trust, commitment, innovation and collaboration. Inspiration, incentives and milestones help drive progress and maintain momentum. For example, the New Vision for Agriculture initiative engaged over 650 organizations and 1,500 individual leaders around the world, catalyzing action in 21 countries including over 90 value-chain projects.

4. Act with accountability

Shared goals and principles set the direction of the initiative, while measurement frameworks help track progress. Coordination and governance structures can be developed as initiatives mature. For example, the Every Woman Every Child movement mobilized hundreds of action commitments towards its global strategy, monitoring progress through a unified accountability framework, with oversight from a high-level steering group and coordination by a global secretariat.

5. Review and revise

Stakeholders review progress regularly and adapt their strategy accordingly. Adopting an agile, flexible, innovative and learning-centered approach allows for evolution and experimentation. For example, the 2030 Water Resources Group evolved its organizational structure through several stages, commissioning external evaluations to both review its progress and recommend opportunities to increase its impact.

While the CLEAR Framework appears quite structured, the reality of the systems change process is often messy and ambiguous. Many stakeholders describe the experience of systems leadership as a journey of discovery that evolves over time, leading to moments of discovery or insight – what we describe as ‘Aha! moments’ – that crystallize each step of the journey.

Mainstreaming the systems leadership approach

While the concept of systems leadership makes intuitive sense to many stakeholders, it is not yet widely embraced and practiced. Mainstreaming its application will require a broader and more coordinated effort to develop research, share knowledge and build capacity. A number of philanthropists, consultancies and academics are active on these fronts, but they are not always well-connected. New platforms are needed to connect practitioners and experts, share insights and accelerate learning to support a wider array of organizations in applying Systems Leadership to advance progress toward the SDGs.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Brazil’s Fires and Nuclear Destruction

According to most celebrities, media pundits and politicians, the greatest threat to world peace right now is perceived to be climate change. Take, for example, Leonardo DiCaprio, Madonna, Cristiano Ronaldo and French President Emmanuel Macron—all of whom recently shared dramatic pictures of Brazil’s raging fires. These photos, we are led to believe, provide irrefutable evidence of an imminent planetary apocalypse. Well, as it turns out, all four shared photos that were taken either years ago or of a different location entirely.

As amusing as this apoplectic fascination with the faux dangers of climate change and Donald Trump is, it is, in fact, dangerous. How? One reason is that it takes the eye off the true threats to human survival. Threats like the breakdown of key international nuclear treaties and the new global nuclear arms race.

In the West, many consider nuclear weapons a bit passé, an outdated threat from a bygone age. How often do you see the threat of nuclear war being seriously discussed on CNN or Fox News, or in the pages of the New York Times? Compare the level of concern about nuclear conflict with the level of alarm about climate change or Donald Trump or Brexit or America’s problem with racism. There is no comparison.

Yet nuclear war, or some sort of nuclear crisis, is much more of a threat to human survival than these other issues.

When it comes to the topic of nuclear weapons, there is a tendency to assume that the global nuclear equation hasn’t changed much since the end of the Cold War. In this equation, America and Russia control 90 percent of the nuclear warheads, while the rest are split between Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan and Israel. Many think because all these countries are pointing their nuclear warheads at one another, creating a stalemate of sorts, that nuclear war is unlikely.

The truth is, the nuclear equation is changing quickly and dramatically. A new global nuclear arms race is underway. Here are some notable developments from just this year:

  • In February, the U.S. announced that it was withdrawing from the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, following repeated breaches by Russia. This crucial treaty was responsible for eliminating thousands of nuclear warheads and preventing both nations from developing and using medium-range nuclear missiles.
  • The expiration of the treaty has initiated conversations in Europe, and especially Germany, about the need to develop Europe’s nuclear capabilities. Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s former vice-chancellor and foreign minister, wrote in an article titled “Europe and the New Nuclear-Arms Race”: “Europe is now entering a potentially dangerous period and must play a much more active role in the nuclear-arms debate.”
  • The New Start Treaty, the last remaining nuclear treaty between Russia and America, expires in February 2021. As it currently stands, it is unlikely that Russia and America will renew the treaty, leaving both to engage in a full-fledged nuclear arms race.
  • Tensions are high between India and Pakistan, historic enemies and nuclear powers. Conventional war is a real possibility; some believe as early as October or November. Speaking to his nation recently, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan noted the high-stakes nature of any conflict. “If this issue worsens to a war situation,” he said, “then one must remember that both the countries are nuclear states. And no one wins a nuclear war. It is not like destruction will take place here; the repercussions will be felt across the world.”
  • Earlier this month, a nuclear explosion at a military base in northern Russia killed five scientists and created a cloud of radioactive gases. Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear agency, admitted that it had been testing new weapons, but provided no further details. Evidence confirms the explosion of some sort of small nuclear reactor. The consensus among Western experts and intelligence officials is that the failed test was part of Russia’s attempt to develop a nuclear cruise missile (a superweapon that NATO calls the SSC-X-9 Skyfall).
  • In May, there were rumors that Russia had secretly installed nuclear missiles in Venezuela. Russia has publicly admitted to sending military personnel and nuclear-capable strategic bombers to Venezuela.
  • In March, a senior official said the Russian government had deployed “squadrons” of nuclear-capable bomber aircraft to the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
  • One of the key themes in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s State of the Union speech this year and last year was the powerful new weapons Russia has added to both its conventional and nuclear artilleries. The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, a report produced by the U.S. Department of Defense, confirmed Putin’s boasts: “In addition to modernizing ‘legacy’ Soviet nuclear systems, Russia is developing and deploying new nuclear warheads and launchers. These efforts include multiple upgrades for every leg of the Russian nuclear triad of strategic bombers, sea-based missiles and land-based missiles. Russia is also developing at least two new intercontinental range systems, a hypersonic glide vehicle, and a new intercontinental, nuclear-armed, nuclear-powered, undersea autonomous torpedo.”
  • Just yesterday, an article in the South China Morning Post reported that China will feature its strategic nuclear missiles and advanced fighter jets during its National Day military parade on October 1. “Military analysts said the show of nuclear strength was intended to demonstrate China’s enhanced deterrence and second-strike capability, especially to the United States,” reported the Post.
  • Meanwhile, Iran is known to be in breach of the 2015 nuclear deal and is actively working on various components of its nuclear program. Over the summer, Tehran admitted that it had exceeded both the agreed upon limits to its uranium stockpiles, as well as the level of purity. Meanwhile, in July, Iran conducted ballistic missile tests aimed to improve its capacity to deliver a nuclear payload.
  • To the east, North Korea continues to aggressively develop its nuclear program. An upcoming report to be released by Japan’s government will reportedly identify North Korea’s ballistic and nuclear programs as a “serious and imminent threat.” U.S. intelligence officials estimate that Pyongyang now has as many as 60 nuclear warheads and that it has successfully developed miniaturized nuclear warheads capable of fitting inside ballistic missiles.

Each one of these points marks a major development in the global nuclear equation. When you look at them all together, it is clear that the post-Cold War nuclear equation is radically different and much more alarming than most people recognize. Today, Russia, China and North Korea have moved beyond simply seeking nuclear weapons; they are aggressively seeking far more sophisticated and powerful nuclear capabilities. Meanwhile Iran is on the precipice of developing nuclear warheads that it can use to create chaos and usher in the return of the 12th imam.

How is it that in spite of this alarming picture, all most people can talk about is eliminating plastic straws?

The Proximity Between Urdu & Hindi

The binaries of Hindi-Hindu and Urdu-Muslim have been a contested term in the twenties of the last century and are so today. Many people thought (and think) they know exactly what it refers to, but once you scratch the surface it quickly becomes clear that the beauty — or ugliness — of Hindustani is very much in the eye of the beholder.

In 1927, at the initiative of several Indian writers, politicians and academics and with the cooperation of the government of the then United Provinces, an institution called the Hindustani Academy was established in Allahabad.

The goal of the institution was never absolutely clear, but as the British governor of the provinces Sir William Marris remarked in typically paternalistic tones: “The Government resolution which created the Academy recognises Urdu and Hindi as twin vernaculars of the province, and embraces them both in the possibly unscientific but admirably innocuous title of “Hindustani”. Now if I believed that one untoward consequence of the Academy’s creation would be to blow up the embers of linguistic controversy I might have left my hon’ble colleague’s scheme severely alone. I do not believe that any such consequence ought to ensue.”

The problem with Marris’ formulation was that the linguistic controversy was far beyond the stage of “embers”.

Since the 19th century, and at least in part as a consequence of British policy, Hindi had increasingly come to be exclusively identified with Hindus, and Urdu exclusively with Muslims.

Indeed, as the Hindi scholar Alok Rai has observed, “the prime candidates for initiating the modern process of linguistic division are, by popular consent, the pedants of Fort William College”, the colonial training ground for officers of the East India Company.

This process of absolute differentiation is a trajectory that links the Hindi and Hindu nationalising politics of Bharatendu Harishchandra in the 1860s with Abdul Haq’s famous comment in 1961: “Pakistan was not created by Jinnah, nor was it created by Iqbal; it was Urdu that created Pakistan”.

But in the 1920s a groups came together around the idea that if an institution existed to promote both Urdu and Hindi together, then perhaps a way could be found to stop the ongoing division between the languages and their associated religious communities.

Plenty of those involved demonstrated and argued that Hindi and Urdu were not separate languages at all, and perhaps most importantly that the registers and creations of each were part of a shared culture — a Ganga-Yamuna tahzeeb — that belonged to Hindus and Muslims alike.

In the words of the Progressive writer Sajjad Zaheer, the Academy existed “to bring Urdu and Hindi closer to one another”.

Too high an idea

But this idea — “Hindustani” — still needed some clarification. What was it? What is it? And what was it to do? The colonial use and misuse of the term dates back to the 18th century, as a host of excellent studies by the likes of Shamsur Rahman Faruqi have demonstrated.

By the 1920s the question remained: was Hindustani a point on a spectrum between a “pure” Hindi stuffed full of Sanskrit and a “pure” Urdu overflowing with Persian and Arabic?

If so, who was to define this middle point? Was it to be — as it seemed in Gandhi’s understanding — something “simple”, and therefore authentic? If it was some kind of everyday speech, would it not be devoid of all art, beauty and life?

Or was Hindustani an expansive, inclusive umbrella that drew the whole range of Urdu and Hindi language, literary styles and tastes into its happy, welcoming embrace? If so, who could hope to be well-read and educated enough to understand even half of it?

These questions were never conclusively answered by the Academy, though many of its members tried to come up with a solution — including the historian Tara Chand (its general secretary), the politician Tej Bahadur Sapru (its president), and writers, editors and other members such as Premchand, Daya Narayan Nigam, Maulvi Said Ansari, Hafiz Hidayat Husain, Ramnaresh Tripathi and Upendranath Ashk. And we know that, in a formal sense, the project of the Hindustani Academy failed.

It’s not possible to point to a single codified language of Hindustani today — it has not been adequately institutionalised — and the overwhelming tendency of the language politics of the colonial period have resulted in a situation where Hindi is considered the national language of India (though it has status as an official language only, and of course many non-Hindi speakers, especially in the south, rightly resist its imposition), while Urdu is seen as the national language of Pakistan (though again, speakers of other languages on occasion view it as a muhajir importation).

Confining boundaries

There is an unfortunate — and historically illiterate — tendency, especially in the West, to think of the link between the nation-state and a single language as somehow natural, right and inevitable.

We tend to imagine European countries as defined at least in part by a monolingual identity, with the borders of the map corresponding to the borders of a language area, and that within as being unified, and given form and reason, through a single language as part of a package of symbols of nationhood.

Of course, this couldn’t be further from the truth — think of Catalan or Basque in Spain as only the most obvious example — but we do know that the modern state has a vested interest in promoting linguistic homogeneity, and has often acted to impose this on its people.

In some ways, the partisans of both Hindi and Urdu in the 19th and 20th centuries bought in to this Eurocentric misunderstanding, and pushed mightily to define communities, and eventually nations, on the basis of language.

As I have said, my own upbringing pushed me towards an almost natural interest in this question of Hindustani. I was aware as a child of how even the simplest, most banal aspects of language could be used to divide people.

But there are many who reject the politics of division, hatred and purity even today. Recently, the hashtag #MyNameInUrdu began trending on Twitter in India. It saw a host of people writing their profile names in Urdu script as a show of solidarity and a direct refutation of the kind of language politics that insisted that Urdu was “foreign” or exclusively Muslim.

And perhaps the most intriguing response was the rise of #MyNameInHindi on Twitter in Pakistan, as people reciprocated and began to write their names in Devanagari or Hindi script. In the words of Prabha Raj, “a symbolic gesture against hate and bigotry”.

These moments on Twitter or social media more broadly are just that — moments, and often ephemeral and quickly over. But they are indicative of something more. Anyway, it gave me the opportunity to quote one of my favourite, satirical rubais:

Ham Urdu ko Arabi kyon na karen Hindi ko voh Bhasha kyon na karen 

Jhagre ke lie akhbaron men mazmun tarasha kyon na karen 

Aapas men adavat kuch bhi nahin lekin ik akhara qaim hai 

Jab is se falak ka dil behle ham log tamasha kyon na karen 

Why shouldn’t we turn Urdu into Arabic and Hindi into Bhasha [Sanskrit]? 

Why shouldn’t we write divisive articles in newspapers to fuel the fight? 

There is no mutual animosity but an arena is prepared: 

Why shouldn’t we make a scene, when this cheers the heart of the heavens? 

That was written by the then well-known poet and satirist Akbar Allahabadi, around 100 years ago. As they say, plus ça change.

If the politics of Hindi–Urdu division stretch back to at least the 19th century, the politics of Hindi–Urdu unity have roots going back as far.

For me, the thread that connects Akbar Allahabadi’s satirical verse to the laudable efforts of the Hindustani Academy to the social media moments of #MyNameInUrdu/#MyNameInHindi is a spirit of refusal and rejection.

Allahabadi, as Tara Chand and his fellows, and as those on Twitter, refused to permit a narrow understanding of language and culture, or an exclusive link between language and religious community, to define or limit their tastes and practices. Theirs was and can be again a world of inclusivity, of generosity and of sharing.

That’s not to say the optimists always get their way. Another of my favourite treatments of the Hindi–Urdu controversy was Saadat Hasan Manto’s short story from the 1940s Hindi aur Urdu, beautifully translated by the late Muhammad Umar Memon.

In it, the characters Munshi Narayan Prasad and Mirza Muhammad Iqbal argue about whether lemon or soda is the better drink. They can’t agree — which is better for your health? Which did their parents recommend? Well, maybe they could mix them together? No — one wants lemon-soda, and the other wants soda-lemon.

But Alok Rai gives an appropriately optimistic take on the situation. As he laments the demise of Hindustani as emblematic of the shared culture of Urdu and Hindi, and the rise of “unbending, inhumane politics” in its place, he reflects that “Hindustani presents itself — on the ramparts, at the hour of the wolf — as a utopian symbol, a point of desire, something light, bright and distant from our sphere of sorrow.”

One can only hope.

The Gita & philosopher Seneca provide a roadmap to tranquility

Right thinking results in right action, essential for peace of mind and happiness: Right or moral actions lead to virtue. And that is the teaching of the Gita and philosopher Seneca.

The pursuit of wisdom, virtue and happiness are lifelong goals, and the process of attaining these goals itself is a worthwhile experience. Such themes from ancient texts continue into contemporary conversation, while the quest for happiness is pursued anew with each generation.

The wise person of the Gita, Sthitaprajna, is concerned with what is right action and how to exercise right judgement. In doing so, the sage becomes a jnana yogi, and by performing the right actions, the Sthitaprajna also becomes a karma yogi. The Sthitaprajna must possess, according to the Gita, a number of characteristics. First, she/he engages and excels in one’s own duties (swadharma). Second, the Sthitaprajna is a believer in the teachings of the Gita (shraddha). Third, she displays equanimity to pleasure and pain (samatvam). And finally, there is the development of non-attachment (anasakti) and tranquility (shanti).

Wise people abandon all desires. They have no sense of possessiveness, sense of “mine”. They discard their ego (ahamkara). Their concern for the self is absorbed into a concern for the divine. They are tranquil and happy. This state is known as the state of wisdom (sthita prajna) or the state of Brahman establishment (brahmi sthiti). This state is no doubt difficult to attain but once attained, it stays with the Sthitaprajna until the end.

The wise person of the Stoic, Seneca — Sapiens — embodies the ethical tenets of Stoicism, which bring them permanent happiness. Seneca describes how to be wise by incorporating the Stoic ethical concepts such as appropriate actions (kathekonta), what belongs to oneself (oikeiosis), virtue (arete), detachment (apatheia), telos (goal) of living in accordance with nature, knowledge of the laws of nature, which together lead to happiness (eudaimonia). For Seneca, happiness essentially means peace of mind, which results from a constant practice of virtue, and intellectual exercise, which is required to perform moral actions. Seneca’s critique of emotions such as anger and grief highlights both the utility and futility of emotions.

In both systems, a wise person is one who has the capacity for making correct judgements when undertaking action, and for these she then assumes complete responsibility. Right thinking results in right action, essential for peace of mind and happiness: Right or moral actions lead to virtue. Happiness results from knowing one has done the right thing at the right time.

There are, however, also significant differences between Seneca’s vision and that of the Gita. The Gita’s metaphysical concept of moksha has no parallel in Stoicism. The Sthitaprajna becomes a virtuous person, achieves moksha and becomes a part of the divine Brahman. The Sapiens becomes virtuous in preparation for death. The conceptual differences illustrate that while the definition of a Sthitaprajna or one with steady wisdom would be applicable to the Sapiens, the terms Yogastha (established in Yoga) or Samadhistha (wrapped in meditation) would not.

Seneca’s treatment of various emotions is one of the most unique features of his philosophical writings. Seneca treats different emotions with the skill of a psychological therapist and shows the futility of those emotions in a logical and sensitive way, without making it sound like a Stoic mandate of denying passions to any individual. Seneca’s great contribution is to make this concept available to everyone by giving people directions instead of merely asking them to rise to a high standard of the ethical expectations of Stoicism.

UK apex court order upholds democratic accountability of parliament

The United Kingdom Supreme Court, in a slender but significant judgment, decided that the prorogation of parliament by the Queen of England, acting on the advice of the Privy Council, was unlawful on the grounds of parliamentary sovereignty and democratic accountability.

It historically held the action was so patently unlawful that “when the Royal Commissioners walked into the House of Lords it was as if they walked in with a blank sheet of paper”. This unanimous judgment of all 11 justices (the twelfth was not empanelled to avoid the casting vote of the chief justice for which apparently the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, makes no provision).

The situation before the Court was pregnant with the politics of power but it, like the Indian counterpart, focussed merely on constitutionality of the prime minister’s action of prorogation of parliament in mid-session. This was truly a Kesavananda Bharati moment for the British court. But unlike the full Indian court, there was no riot of concurring and dissenting opinions.

Written in elegant and firm language, and accessible to all, the judgment is very brief (71 paragraphs and 24 pages and heard only for three days). The judicial courage, craft, and contention have a common core in India and UK — judicial review has its basis primarily in safeguarding people’s basic rights but in the Indian context, the end is achieved by a prolixity of judicial opinions addressed to multiple constituencies and the high art of speaking to the future.

May be, judicial verbosity emanates in India from the verbosity of the written Constitution itself? Or, each justice values the freedom to write, to concur as well dissent? Or still some are anxious to attain judicial immortality and be remembered by posterity with pride? Perhaps, the ancient Hindu law tradition of nibandkaras (essayists) reincarnates law-giving in the form of an erudite discourse. Different judicial styles reveal both the language of power and the power of language — a subject worthy of study by law and sociolinguistics.

The UK Supreme Court has available to it two diametrically opposed readings. The first was the model of judicial self-restraint or accommodation with other institutions of co-governance; in effect, to treat the questions raised as the pursuit of politics by other means. The second was to check the political executive by insisting on the basic principles of the common law, which protect parliamentary sovereignty. It adopted the latter course saying that although the

“United Kingdom does not have a single document entitled ‘The Constitution’, it nevertheless possesses a Constitution, established over the course of our history by common law, statutes, conventions and practice”. Though not codified, “it has developed pragmatically, and remains sufficiently flexible to be capable of further development” and it “includes numerous principles of law, which are enforceable by the courts in the same way as other legal principles”.

The principle of judicial duty stands reiterated: “… the courts have the responsibility of upholding the values and principles of our constitution and making them effective: And it is their particular responsibility to determine the legal limits of the powers conferred on each branch of government, and to decide whether any exercise of power has transgressed those limits.” 

The courts “cannot shirk that responsibility merely on the ground that the question raised is political in tone or context”. The judicial duty then lies in the discovery of the first principles of constitutional law, which regulate the application of constitutional discipline over the uses of political power. I do not think that the Indian Supreme Court’s jurisprudence, and its demosprudential co-governance of the nation, is substantially different in result, though the contexts vary enormously.

However, the British Supreme Court does not confine the sway of such principles merely to the “protection of individual rights”, but includes “principles concerning the conduct of public bodies and the relationships between them”. These principles are “a concomitant of parliamentary sovereignty”. Accordingly, the “power to prorogue cannot be unlimited”. Indeed, no power is, at least in a constitutional democracy.

The Court boldly faces the question: “How, then, is the limit upon the power to prorogue to be defined, so as to make it compatible with the principle of parliamentary sovereignty?” It dexterously links the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty with democratic accountability to people at large: “Ministers are accountable to parliament through such mechanisms as their duty to answer parliamentary questions and to appear before parliamentary committees, and through parliamentary scrutiny of the delegated legislation which ministers make.

By these means, the policies of the executive are subjected to consideration by the representatives of the electorate, the executive is required to report, explain and defend its actions, and citizens are protected from the arbitrary exercise of executive power”. 

And in the present case, judicial duty consists in applying some “legal limits” because a mere executive fiat proroguing parliament runs “the greater …risk that responsible government may be replaced by unaccountable government …the antithesis of the democratic model”. It was precisely this fear of limitless executive power that led the apex court in India to prescribe and develop the principle of the basic structure and essential features of the Constitution.

Neither the monarch, nor the prime minister, may insulate themselves from parliamentary sovereignty and democratic accountability. Considerable judicial regard for “the responsibilities and experience of the prime minister” does not overcome the “court’s responsibility to determine whether the prime minister has remained within the legal limits of the power”. The Court will intervene if “the consequences are sufficiently serious”; far from being a mere judicial say-so, it has to rest on the discovery and affirmation of sound basic principles of constitutional good governance.

Of course, no judicial decision is beyond socially responsible critique. But in asking parliament to finally decide the terms and conditions of Brexit, the British court has valuably upheld the principles of democratic accountability of a sovereign parliament.

Sunday Special: Science Experiments That Show An Intelligent Consciousness Permeates Our Universe

Since the dawn of self-awareness, both spiritual and scientific minds have pondered similar questions to our existence: Who are we? Where did we come from? How did we get here and where are we going?

Since the dawn of self-awareness, both spiritual and scientific minds have pondered similar questions to our existence: Who are we? Where did we come from? How did we get here and where are we going?

While most teachers within the world’s religions would disagree to the specific answers to these questions, there is a recurring theme that presents itself—our universe is not simply a colliding ground of ‘dead’ matter and scientific chance, but rather it is a vast, interconnected ocean of intelligence. We often hear this theory mentioned as the great ‘oneness’, source, god, and the list goes on.

Within the field of quantum mechanics, physicists, too, have opened their eyes to the possibilities of a conscious, vibratory field that permeates the Universe. In his best-selling book, The Source Field Investigations, author David Wilcock proposes the question, “could all space, time, energy, matter, biological life, and consciousness in the Universe be the product of a source field?” He references a number of curious experiments conducted by scientists over the last century which add credence to his theory, and by the end of the book it is difficult to refute the existence of what he names the ‘Source Field’.

Below are five experiments explored in The Source Field Investigations that aim to prove the existence of an interconnected consciousness that pervades the Universe.  

1) Dr. Cleve Backster discovers plants perceive threats and have extra-sensory perception.

Cleveland Backster was a researcher and interrogation specialist for the CIA who served as director of the Keeler Polygraph Institute in Chicago. Backster developed the first numerical standardized evaluation of the polygraph chart and went on to study and promote the technology extensively.

Dr. Cleveland Backster: Henry Groskinsky/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images Backster performing one of his experiments.

On February 2, 1966, Backster’s secretary purchased him both a rubber plant and a dracaena plant from a store going out of business down the street. Backster ended up working through the night, and in the wee hours of the morning had an idea to attach his dracaena plant to the polygraph to see if anything happened.

He was surprised to see the plant exhibit a jagged and ‘alive’ pattern of electrical activity. Then in a brief, passing moment, the plant showed a similar pattern which would normally appear when a human lies. He took this a step further and decided to threaten the plant’s well-being to see if another reaction took place.

First, he dipped the leaf in coffee to no reaction on the polygraph, then he thought of putting a flame to the leaf. In the same instant the polygraph went wild. Backster stated that no words were spoken, yet by merely thinking about what he was going to do the plant reacted. “It was as though the plant read my mind,” Backster wrote in his book, Primary Perception.

Cleve Backster discovered that plants can perceive threats even if they are only a thought in our mind.

Next, Backster grabbed a box of matches and watched the wild reaction continue, and only when he put the matches away and let go of his idea to harm the plant did the polygraph return to normal levels.

Thus began Backster’s intensive study of plants and polygraphs. He discovered that by simply taking care of a plant, the plant appeared to begin to monitor his thoughts and feelings. “When I left the lab to run an errand, I found that the moment I decided to return to where that plant was, the plant often showed a significant reaction.”

In his book, Backster described how he carried a plant with him all the way from New York to Clifton, New Jersey, to attend a surprise party. When he arrived, right at the moment he and the plant entered the house and everyone yelled, “SURPRISE!” there was a big reaction from the plant at the exact time.”

Backster began leaving plants hooked up to polygraphs without trying to do anything—just observing their reactions and then trying to figure out what might have caused them. One day he found a strong reaction after pouring boiling hot water down his sink. Later testing revealed the sink was loaded with bacteria, and when the bacteria suddenly died from the scalding hot water, the plant received a threat to its own well-being and ‘screamed.’

In a later experiment, Backster designed a machine that would drop brine shrimp into boiling water at random. He noticed the plants would react strongly, but only at night when no one was around.

During a visit to Yale University Linguistics School, Backster got a student to trap an arachnid between his hands while an ivy leaf was plucked and hooked up to the polygraph. They noticed a reaction only when the spider became conscious that it was able to run away.

Backster evolved his studies, hooking up things like chicken eggs and yogurt cultures, and continued to get stunning results. Consistently, what he found was that every living thing is intimately attuned to its environment. When any stress, suffering or death occurs, all the life-forms in the surrounding area have an immediate electrical response.

One time, Backster hooked an egg up to the electrodes and watched as the egg ‘screamed’ as each of its neighbours were dropped into boiling water, one by one. Backster also noted that he had kept the electroded egg in a lead-lined box that screened out all electromagnetic fields, which eliminated the chance that any radio waves, microwaves, or other electromagnetic frequencies were to blame for the reading.

He repeated this effect by encaging plants in a copper screen, called a Faraday cage, and not surprisingly the plants behaved as if the screen did not exist.

“I felt certain [the information passing between plants, bacteria, insects, animals and humans] was not within the known electromagnetic frequencies…distance seemed to impose no limitation,” he wrote in Primary Perception. 

2) Dr. Jacobo Grinberg discovers couple’s brains are connected by an undetectable field.

Jacobo Grinberg was a Mexican scientist who studied extensively in the fields of shamanism, meditation, and telepathy. After witnessing a phenomenon known as “psychic surgery,” he theorized that a “neuronal field” created within the brain interacts with a “pre-space structure”—a holographic non-local lattice that has the properties of consciousness—activating a partial interpretation of it and creating the brain’s perceived reality.

Dr. Grinsberg found that couples who meditated together synced brain waves, and that when they were separated into rooms shielded from any electromagnetic energy their brains remained in sync. When Grinsberg would flash a light in one of their eyes, the partner in the adjacent room would also experience a reaction on the polygraph chart.

To prove his theory, he began his experiments using a couple who would first meditate together for twenty-minutes and then be separated into different rooms shielded from any electromagnetic fields. He noticed both participant’s brainwaves would begin to noticeably synchronize and that both hemispheres within each of their brains showed the same patterns.

Furthermore, the person with the most coherent, organized brain waves would always exert a greater influence over the other. He repeated this experiment later and added an effect of flashing a light in one person’s eyes at random. Twenty-five percent of the time the other person would show a reaction similar as they would if they were the ones being blinded by a bright light..

Interestingly, Grinberg’s control subjects did not show any such connections. It was a stunning discovery, one that would add support to Backster’s experiments of a conscious source field. However, in 1994, right before Grinberg’s work went mainstream, Jacobo Grinberg disappeared. To this day he was never found, and many speculate his disappearance was related to lethal threats over his groundbreaking work.

3) Dr. William Braud demonstrates the ‘someone is watching you’ effect.

Dr. William Braud was an American psychologist and parapsychologist who was best known for conducting experiments to test for psychokinetic influences upon living systems.

According to Lynne McTaggart in her book, The Field, Dr. Braun began his experiments by attempting to transfer his thoughts to one of his students under hypnosis. When Braun pricked his hand, the student felt pain. When he put his hand over a candle flame, the student felt heat. When he stared at a picture of a boat, the student made comments about a boat.

Braun eventually published more than 250 articles in notable psychology journals on the phenomena previously mentioned. One of his first rigorous experiments involved knife fish, which emit electrical signals whenever they move from one position to the next. He hooked them up to electrodes and then had his study participants change the position of the fish by their conscious intent alone.

Similarly, Braud found that participants could increase the speed that Mongolian gerbils ran on their activity wheels, with all other factors being rules out.

Next, Braud wanted to study the effect of being aware of someone watching you. He put one person in a private room with a small video camera, wired him up to the polygraph and told him to relax. In the next room, Braun could see the participant’s face on his TV screen. A second participant was then told to stare intently at this person on the monitor and try to get his attention, but only when a random number generator told him to do so.

Sure enough, when the first person was being stared at, his skin revealed significant electrical spikes. This occurred an average of 59 percent of the time he was being stared at.

Braun’s work provided solid proof that people can transmit their thoughts to others and create a physical reaction without being consciously aware of what’s happening.

4) ‘Remote viewing’ suggests that everything in the Universe is ultimately one mind.

Remote viewing is the practice of seeking impressions about a distant or unseen target using extrasensory perception. The phenomenon has been extensively studied and written about over the last century.

Brenda Dunne and Robert Jahn out of Princeton University lead a study titled, Consciousness and Anomalous Physical Phenomena, in which they trained forty-eight ordinary people to study remote viewing.

In the study, one person would visit a randomly chosen location from five to six thousand miles away and the viewer would attempt to gain information about what that person was seeing. In 336 trials, almost two-thirds of the viewers’ observations appeared to be significantly accurate—at odds of a billion to one against chance.

On page 160 her book, The Field, author Lynne McTaggart stated that even a distinguished government panel of skeptical scientists and two Nobel laureates studied data in remote viewing—and concluded the research was flawless.

Another team, headed by noted skeptic Dr. Ray Hyman, concluded the results were much too strong to be written off as random chance or coincidence. They used screened rooms to prove electromagnetic waves could not be responsible for transferring information to the viewer’s conscious mind.

Interestingly, as David Wilcock writes in The Source Field Investigations, “the remote viewers were able to see events that had not yet happened in linear time, even when those events were chosen at random—after they had already been correctly viewed in a secure location,” suggesting the mind is not confined to linear time at all.

In 1980, Drs. Karlis Osis and Donna McCormick performed a remarkable experiment to see if our mind could create energetic traces in the locations being remotely viewed. A gifted psychic named Alex Tanous was asked to remote-view a target, which was a series of scattered objects that only formed a single image from a specific location.

In the exact location, they hung two metallic plates side by side on strain gauges which would pick up subtle movements. When Tanous described the target accurately, the plates jiggled around much more than usual. Their greatest movement occurred immediately after Tanous began viewing the image. There was no obvious visible light in the area as Tanous did the viewing—only the slight but measurable movement of the plates

5) Collective conscious intent changes the world.

If our minds are intrinsically connected to a grand consciousness, then can we affect global change by simply coming together with a focused intent?

Over a two-year period, groups of about seven thousand people gathered three different times in meditation—and during these meetings, they were able to reduce all acts of terrorism, world-wide, by a phenomenal 72 percent.

The study was accepted in the Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, which ruled out cycles, trends, weather, weekends, holidays and all other variables.

During the summer of 1993 in Washington D.C., violent crime was reduced by up to 23.6 percent over a two-month period as the number of meditating participants increased from eight hundred to four thousand—despite the fact that violent crime had been increasing before they met. Interestingly, crime levels went back up after their meeting ended.

Since 1993, fifty different scientific studies had rigorously proven that this effect really works over the preceding thirty years.

Wilcock proposes that this effect works because we’re all sharing the same mind, to some degree. In The Source Field Investigations, he mentions experiments conducted by the HeartMath Institute, in which people with the greatest coherence affected the brain wave patterns and biorhythms of others who were close to them:

“If seven thousand people can reduce worldwide terrorism by 72 percent, this suggests the Source Field is significantly biased in favor of positive emotions rather than negative ones.”

“These discoveries are undeniable facts,” Wilcock writes. “Our mind-to-mind connection, sharing thoughts and experiences, have been proven over and over.”

Does the Source Field exist?

As the science shows, there seems to be a field of consciousness that connects all things in the Universe, a concept which has only just been scratched by science. If this unifying field very well exists, numerous questions follow—is reality as we know it a holographic projection of this higher consciousness? Where does this consciousness come from? And why are we here if this is merely an illusory projection of something more profound?

These deeper mysteries of space, time, energy, matter, biology, and consciousness are the fundamental questions of our existence. And it seems we are now at the precipice of this sacred knowledge—knowledge which for millennia has been waiting for us to re-access. Imagine the potential for life as we know it if we could begin to better tap into this intelligence?

Soon, every science fiction and fantasy movie might be closer to reality than we would have ever thought possible.

In Memoriam Of My Ancestor-General Gurmukh Singh Lamba-the Trusted General of Maharaja Ranjit Singh

This is a recollection of my great-great-grandfather who was a reputed General at a time when military honours were reserved for Europeans and then became a king- invested with this title by Khalsa Durbar. It was Gen Gurmukh Singh Lamba, He was with earlier the recipient of the honor of being called with the title of Sardar (Izzat-I-Sardari)., the others being so honored were Hari Singh Nalwa, Gurmukh Singh Lamba and Dal Singh Naberna

General Sardar Gurmukh Singh Lamba was most eminent general of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who was wounded fifteen times and was the only one who not only got highest military award Izzazi-I-Sardari, but was also honored with the civil award of Nirmal Bud Ujjal Didar. He was with Maharaja at the capture of Lahore in 1799. When Nar Singh Chamiark wala died in 1807, his troops were placed under the command of Sardar.

In 1807, he captured the famous fort of Moranda (Kasur) from the grandson of Ahmad Sha Abdali where he was wounded with spear and was awarded Jagirs of Kasur areas of thirty-five thousand per annum and the title of Raja. He commanded a division, in the capture of Fort of Attock in 1813 dominating the crossing places over the River Indus, built by Akbar the great-grandson of Baber.

He was a commander of Fauj-e-Khas, the most prestigious troops of the Maharaja. Sardar captured the famous Fort of Rohtas, now the UNESCO Heritage Fort from the Ghakhar Chief Nur Khan, father of Fazil Dad Khan in 1825. When Sikh army under general Tara Chand was defeated on way to Bannur by Dilasha Khan, the cowardly general fled leaving the prestigious guns in the hand of the enemy, Gen. Lamba on his own charged at the head of his horsemen and recaptured the guns when the enemy celebrating the victory.

Sardar General Gurmukh Singh Lamba was nominated by Khalsa Sarkar Wazir Jawahar Singh as military and civil Commander to consolidate the gains of Sikh Army & the Fort of Jamrud, area leading to Khyber Pass, where Sardar Hari Singh Nalwa died while defending the fort. Later Sardar along with Sardar Bur Singh of Mukharian confined the Maharani Jindan till the outbreak of Multan disturbances& discharged the difficult task with great care.

Sardar General Gurmukh Singh Lamba sketch portrait painting is displayed at Central Museum of Lahore at serial D-40 with the caption which read as under

“……His popularity, however, made him incur the enmity of the Main brothers, Raja Gulab and Dhain Singh, who by their influence over Ranjit Singh reduced the Sardar power and wealth. Sardar defeated their father Main Kishora Singh. On death bed, the Maharaja realised the wrong done to his faithful commander and , regretted and commissioned his son Raja Kharak Singh to restore to Sardar power and wealth.”…….It one sole example in history when the Maharaja on death bed was so concerned about his fellow general who was always sincere to Sarkar Khalsa. Unfortunately, our historian has not laid hands on the caption.

Sir Lepel Griffen, the great historian of Sikh history writes in his book “Chiefs Of Punjab”…….”The detailed account of the military services of the Sardar,( shall) be the history of all the wars of the Sikh Empire”

The detailed account of the military services of Sardar would be the history of all wars of the Sikh empire. He was with Maharaj Ranjit Singh in the capture of Lahore in 1779. Sardar was wounded fifteen times, eight times by musket balls, thrice by sword cuts, thrice by a spear thrust and once by an arrow. 

He fought at Kasur, Jhang, and Sialkot and against the Gurkhas in 1809. In 1813 Sardar General Gurmukh Singh Lamba commanded a division and assisted Maharaja in the capture of famous fort of Attock. He was present in the siege of Multan when the Afghans and the Kabul wazir were driven from Punjab, and he fought in Kashmir and all along the Northern and North Western boundaries of the province.

 These are the observations of Sir Lepel Henry Griffen: “In 1825 Sardar captured the famous fort of Rothas from Ghagar Chief Nur Khan , father of Fazil Dad Khan. Now it is a UNESCO Heritage Fort, the pride of Pakistan… At one time his annual Jagir was more than 3.5 lacs of rupees

When General Sardar Hari Singh Nalwa died while defending the famous fort of Jamrud (Kyber Pass)) in April 1837. The timely help from Lahore was delayed by the Dogra Raja’s being in league with the Afghans wazir. But Afghans could not dislodge the Sikh troops from the fort. Sardar Genera Gurmukh Singh was nominated as chief administrator and military commander by Khalsa Sarkar Wazir to restore the situation and consolidate gains o Khalsa Sarkar

General Sardar Gurmukh Singh Lamba built a fort on the name of his son at his Jagirs area’s near Mandi Bahaudin, known as ‘Qila’. Due to lack of proper care and maintenance, the walls of the fort started falling down. In July 1951 Royal Treasure of Sardar was discovered which was confiscated by the’ Government of Pakistan.

 According to French General Jean Francois Allard, it was he who re-organized Maharaja Ranjit Singh Khalsa army on European lines and trained the cavalry.

Sardar had the honour to command the Maharaja’s most prestigious troops known as a ‘Fauj-e-Khas’ trained by the French Generals Allard & General Jean Baptiste Ventura. This short tale of my brave and capable ancestor is a guiding principle for our family and we try to live upto the motto “Izzat-aur-Iqbal” 

Vietnam Crucial to Understand Dynamics in Asia

I happen to recall the words of the father of modern Vietnam Ho Chi Minh – “There’s nothing more precious than our independence and freedom”. Both India and Vietnam had to struggle to emerge out of colonialism. And both India and Vietnam today stand at the cusp of an Asian renaissance. For, as the global axis of power shifts from the West to the East, and East Asia slowly emerges as the epicentre of a new Asian order, India and Vietnam today have multiple reasons to enhance their partnership.

Of course, current geopolitical exigencies are serving as a catalyst for India-Vietnam ties. Two-way trade has been steadily growing and currently stands at $12.6 billion. It is poised to hit the $15 billion mark by 2020. India-Vietnam defence cooperation too is growing with regular exchanges and training cooperation. These are all welcome. However, for India-Vietnam ties to be durable and irreversible they can’t be based on geopolitical exigencies alone. This is because geopolitical realities are dynamic and keep changing. I would argue that Vietnam has much going on for itself to be deserving of attention anyway.

Consider that in 1986 the poverty level in Vietnam was 60%. Today it is less than 5%. In fact, the country launched free market economic reforms called ‘Doi Moi’ in 1986-87 to rescue itself from its aid-dependent status. As part of the reforms agriculture collectives were abolished, private businesses were encouraged and restrictions on foreign investments were eased. The reforms dramatically turned around Vietnam’s economy, leading to economic growth being raised to 8-9% between 1991 and 1996.

The momentum in economic reforms continued thereafter leading Vietnam to emerge as the country that grew rich the fastest in the decade between 2007 and 2017. Even this year the Vietnamese economy is set to grow at more than 7%. Particular sectors such as telecom have seen impressive growth in Vietnam. At present, Vietnam has one of the highest mobile phone subscriber density rates worldwide. Additionally, mobile broadband internet subscription rate stands at an impressive 52.8 subscribers per 100 people while the overall rate of internet use stands at 54.19% of the population. Meanwhile, Vietnam’s tourism sector continues to go from strength to strength. In 2018, Vietnam welcomed 15.5 million foreign visitors, marking an increase of 19.9% over 2017 figures. In fact, Vietnam’s tourism industry has been ranked sixth in the top 10 fastest growing tourist destinations globally since 2017.

That the government of Vietnam is not resting on its laurels and is striving to create an even better future can be gauged from the fact that it is evolving and implementing strategies for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. A national strategy on Industry 4.0 is being formulated to achieve the aims of Vietnam 2035 – a visionary goal that sees technologies like the Internet Of Things, Artificial Intelligence and big data being applied to all industries and governance in Vietnam. In fact, Vietnam is looking to put in place a legal framework to support this new technological revolution.

On the cultural front, spiritual and religious freedoms have flourished in spite of the country’s political system and 95% of Vietnamese people practise a religion. Vietnam recognises 14 religions and 41 religious organisations, and it has been the consistent policy of the government of Vietnam to respect and ensure the right of freedom of religion and beliefs. Buddhism is a strong force in Vietnam and provides a natural link to India. As does Hinduism through the former kingdom of Champa that defined central and southern Vietnam from the 2nd century AD to 1832. In fact, remnants of this once Hindu kingdom can be seen in the Cham Hindu temples of My Son – a Unesco World Heritage site. Actually, in the vast cultural landscape of Asia, Vietnam is where the two great cultures of India and China came together and produced a syncretic cultural mix that blended well into Vietnamese traditions.

These and many more other features make Vietnam a unique land. It is a melting pot of Asian traditions that is also a South-east Asian economic dynamo. Plus, as a key Asean member, it invites all countries to invest positively in the region. Therefore, as Asia looks to evolve a new geopolitical order, understanding Vietnam will be key to understanding the dynamics underway in East Asia. Vietnam deserves the attention.

A Short History of German Military Surprises

For thousands of years, warrior people have shocked the world. The pattern is clear. The future is certain. Right now, somewhere in Germany, thousands of Leopard 2 heavy tanks sit quietly, forgotten in dusty sheds. Named after a large predator in the cat family, these tanks are an overt celebration of the fearsome German Tiger and Panther tanks of World War II.

But these mothballed Leopards don’t exist—at least, according to media and government sources. They used to, but officially, since the 1990s, Germany’s tank force has been gradually “reduced.” About 95 percent were downsized out of the Bundeswehr. But what exactly does “reduced” mean? Were they converted to scrap metal? Auctioned to West African nations fighting Boko Haram? Sold to Germany’s Arab clients?

Actually, as reported in the Local, the vast majority were put in storage. Operationally, this means a 20-minute battery charge and they’re essentially serviceable, according to one former M1 Abrams tank mechanic. For German officials, implying the Leopards have been discarded is beneficial, admitting they’re only mothballed is grudgingly acceptable, but acknowledging they’re all but immediately serviceable—well, that’s right out.

This shrouding of massed, game-changing military hardware by the Germans chillingly echoes an episode that preceded World War II.

To be fair, few governments have an interest in advertising to the world, or to their enemies—even to their allies—their full military capabilities. But Germany in particular has a remarkably consistent historical penchant for hiding its capabilities, often while presenting a peaceful facade—then springing on the world a shocking, devastating military surprise.

One may even scoff, perhaps lulled by media silence on rising German militarism. The Germans don’t have the arms, the budget, the manpower or the transport capabilities, you say—not yet, and won’t for years.

Then the Germans have a surprise for you. The reality is the German military—right now—is ready to stun the world. Its history is filled with hidden might suddenly unleashed. All this makes time a factor—an urgent factor in your life.

The Historical Pattern

From their ancient warrior culture and macabre barbarism stirring in the dark, trackless forests beyond the Rhine, lurking between the pages of Tacitus’s accounts that so fascinated and horrified the Romans, through the machine age and the two world wars where German technology consistently caught its enemies off guard, up to the present-day gamesmanship with Leopard tanks—the Germans have repeatedly resorted to the “surprise” page of their military playbook.

In AD 9, German tribes managed to shock the most dominant military power the world had yet seen, the Roman Empire. (The Romans dubbed them “Germans,” meaning “war men.”) The German chieftain Arminius, a nominal Roman ally, had invited the Romans to join him fighting another German tribe equally troublesome to Rome. Secretly, however, Arminius had been negotiating to unite all the German tribes in the area against the Romans. If Arminius could get the other German tribes to trust him and amass in secrecy, then three Roman legions—strung out on the march and hopelessly exposed—would be taken by surprise and completely destroyed. He did and they were. Today a towering statue of Arminius looms over the Tuetoburg Forest, commemorating the exploit.

After Rome fell in 476 AD, warfare settled into predictable patterns, with static technology and methodical sieges. The Middle Ages left scant examples of military shock and surprise. But in the 13th century, thousands of Germans, led by the Teutonic Knights, colonized Prussia. After a decade of violent fighting crushing an insurrection, they laid the foundation for an especially potent, military-dominant society akin to ancient Sparta.

Their cultural adherence to militarism persisted over centuries, even amid the burgeoning liberalism and artistic flowering of the Renaissance and the Age of Reason.  Encyclopedia Britannica describes 18th-century Prussia: “Frederick William I … geared the whole organization of the state to the military machine.” Economic policy was in fact designed to satisfy the Army’s constantly expanding requirements.

But if militarism was now fixed national character, surprise became Prussia’s military character. In 1740, Prussia stunned Europe by invading part of Habsburg Austria. As Winston Churchill said, it pounced on its superpower neighbor with “extraordinary rapidity and suddenness.”

19th Century

In the ashes of crushing defeat in 1806 at the hand of Napoleon, Prussia instituted the General Staff. It would become infamous. Created to reorganize the Prussian military, it succeeded, performing admirably during the Waterloo campaign. But the staff soon began planning wars in advance. They invented wargaming for that purpose—Kriegsspiel. Such planning became an institutional habit, which would profoundly impact the 20th century and beyond.

Between 1870 and 1871, the German peoples reunified—thanks to war and the systematized military prowess of Prussia. Meanwhile the Industrial Revolution had hit full stride and, like a Frankenstein monster, multiplied the killing power of weaponry. Germany began to harness science and technology as a terrifying force-multiplier. It sought to use these tools to win a two-front war against multiple powers and to establish a world empire—using its old surprise tactics.

Germany has a consistent historical penchant for hiding its capabilities, often while presenting a peaceful facade—then springing a shocking, devastating military surprise.

In 1870, trains were by no means a secret weapon. However, the Franco-German War established a precedent where German strategists stunned a powerful enemy with new technology. Otto von Bismarck, before unifying all the German states, had goaded Napoleon iii of France into war. Newspapers from Paris to London predicted an overwhelming French victory. Both sides had trains. France, free and pluralistic, floundered in a complex bog of rail-use permissions and conflicts of interests; troops arrived on the frontier piecemeal, with units broken up and often without officers. Prussian-dominated Germany, authoritarian and Sparta-like, enacted a prewar plan to transfer centralized rail control directly to the military. Strikingly intricate details were prearranged; vastly superior forces were brought forward, with units fully intact. This speed of concentration created surprise and psychological shock, a German hallmark.

The gallant French army was utterly embarrassed. It took just six weeks.

World War I

At the war’s outset, the noble-minded country gentlemen who had led Great Britain into the 20th century blithely acted as if all wars would be governed by the Marquess of Queensberry rules. Seeing only the Germans’ truly wonderful cultural accomplishments, most British overlooked German history—their national character in war and empire. The reality would be tragically difficult to bear.

Germany launched war against France and Russia first. Straightaway the German General Staff unleashed something they had prepared for since 1905 called the Schlieffen Plan. The principal aim of this plan was to sweep through the neutral and all but defenseless Belgium, stunning the world and shocking Britain—traditional protector and “guarantor” of the Belgians—into declaring war. Within weeks, the Germans were shelling Paris and on the verge of victory.

The Allies held, but thereafter followed years of charnel-house slaughter—and military shocks from the Germans.

In the early hours of April 22, 1915, British soldiers and French-led Algerian troops awoke to yet another day in the trenches fighting the Germans. As usual, shells warbled overhead, but sounded oddly different, and stranger still, the explosions were blush-colored; they crept ominously toward them like surreal puffs of cotton candy. The normally hard-fighting French colonials sensed the supernatural, and broke and fled.

What they were seeing was about 150 tons of lethal chlorine gas being released for the first time in history. The Germans sought to punch a hole through the Allied front and take Paris, possibly winning the war in a single, stunning stroke. Allied soldiers choked to death in fits and agony. But while chaos reigned in the Allies’ lines, the Germans—perhaps wary of the gas—failed to hit the yawning gap with the speed and force they had planned, and their chance passed.

A brightening of prospects arrived with the Americans in the spring of 1918. Then came the next stunner. Earlier, Germany had sponsored the Communist Vladimir Lenin to enter Russia and foment revolution. It worked: Lenin managed to get control and, repaying his debt, took Russia out of the war. Estimates vary, but soon at least 30 German divisions came west.

The British saw the buildup. What they couldn’t see were the new infiltration tactics the Germans were developing out of sight. The tactics involved highly trained, heavily armed “stormtroopers” bypassing strong points and finding blind spots in the Allies’ fields of fire. In a war where big gains registered mere yards, a 40-mile-deep hole was blown, and the front nearly collapsed. American troops finally stabilized it, but the Germans nearly stole the war.

By November German leaders were forced to sue for peace. The Allies, noting several Prussian wars of aggression, used the Treaty of Versailles to greatly limit the strength of the German Army and Air Force, knowing the devastating effect German air power would have on the Royal Navy’s ability to defend Britain.

Undaunted, the German General Staff, still somewhat dominant culturally and politically in Germany’s Weimar Republic, established a hidden air base as early as 1922, unknown to the West. Where? In Soviet Russia, Germany’s past and future enemy—far from Western eyes. Following the doctrine of secretly developing plans and capabilities, the German military sought to overturn the verdict of the last war.

Churchill’s Warnings

Over the next decade, German military figures aided the rise of the Nazis during the brownshirt years. They helped bring Hitler to power in 1933, knowing he would ignore Versailles’ military restraints.

Meanwhile Winston Churchill continued to study German history. Based on what he learned, he watched. He sought out intelligence reports. And he was alarmed. In 1936 he commented on the discovery of massive numbers of trained German pilots: “When we remember the fondness evinced by Germany in history for … surprise and note the large number of machines and pilots which seem to have vanished into thin air and the hundred-odd aerodromes which have been constructed, this possibility cannot be excluded” (emphasis added throughout). “Churchill,” wrote Martin Gilbert, “was convinced about the possibilities of surprise in the German organizational framework.” He knew surprise was their heritage, sewn into the fabric of their military thinking.

Clearly a parallel exists with the Leopard tanks of today. The world didn’t know the Leopards still existed by the thousands in the Bundeswehr until disclosed in a public relations gaffe.

World War II

Churchill, virtually alone, bravely warned throughout the 1930s. Parliament did not heed, nor did the public. The Second World War commenced in September 1939 with Germany way ahead in war preparations. In Poland, the German High Command unleashed a tactical and operational system for mechanized warfare it had quietly war-gamed, theorized and refined. Soon journalists began calling it “blitzkrieg”—lightning war. Britannica describes the three basic features of Blitzkrieg warfare as “surprise, speed and superiority in matériel or firepower.” Surprise, as achieved by the Germans in 1940, was “calculated to create a condition of psychological shock and resultant disorganization in enemy forces.”

The degree of coordination between the German air and ground forces was never before seen in war. They also concentrated their tanks and, as if layering on shocks, chose the most counterintuitive point of attack. There they ruptured the enemy front, then raced out into open country dozens, even hundreds of miles, encircling reserves, cutting supplies, and threatening strategic objectives—destroying their enemies’ confidence and will. The Western Allies in early May 1940 thought the fighting would be static, along the lines of World War I. Incredibly, only five weeks later, the Low Countries were overrun, France was suing for peace, and the British Army was fleeing the Continent for its life.

The British, after celebrating the truly miraculous evacuation of its army from Dunkirk in June 1940, woke up to face an alarming shortfall in military aircraft and trained pilots, as compared with the Germans, essential to stopping a seaborne invasion. Within days, Britain’s survival would come down to a mere 600 Hurricane and Spitfire fighters, paying the price in the currency of heroism for the nation’s failure to heed their watchman, Churchill. Civilians, meanwhile, faced months of aerial bombing.

The German High Command unleashed more surprises. A year later it was the Soviet Union’s turn to be the target. This time, as with Arminius, it sprang from diplomacy and deceit. Hitler had signed a nonaggression pact with Stalin; they had divvied up Eastern Europe between them. Nevertheless, in the morning light of June 22, 1941, German infantry stormed across the border to begin Operation Barbarossa. In just four months German forward units could see the spires of Moscow. It has been reported that, despite warnings from a variety of sources, Stalin was so taken by surprise, so psychologically shaken, that as the tanks rolled he remained in a state of catatonic shock, unable to act or speak for days.

The war turned against Germany, but the Germans continued dipping into the bag of the unexpected. One quiet day in June 1944, London residents heard the sound of a single, low-flying plane. It was the V1—a pilotless plane. The second blitz was on. Worse, the Germans had virtually invented modern rocketry in hidden labs and air bases; soon the far deadlier V2s were raining down. To Londoners, it was a terrifying jolt.

Meanwhile, over the skies of Germany in late 1944, German pilots manned the world’s first jets—Messerschmitt me 262s—flabbergasting Allied pilots. Analysts have argued that these superior jets, had they arrived several months earlier in numbers, could have changed the outcome of the war.

With the Allies poised to end the war, one more stunner loomed in the snowy forests of Belgium. In December 1944, the Germans secretly massed several mechanized divisions no one realized they had, and under cover of snowstorms abruptly sliced through the lightly defended Ardennes (once again) toward the Allies’ supply hub at Antwerp, threatening a second Dunkirk. So overwhelming was the shock that one eyewitness saw a senior American officer, while evacuating a headquarters, attempting to crank-start a jeep. A crank-starting vehicle hadn’t been manufactured in decades.

As the war progressed conventionally, Germany was secretly pursuing nuclear weapons. Albert Einstein’s famous letter to U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt conveyed this, touching off U.S. efforts to develop the bomb. The Germans had the talent and the means, but, miraculously, were poorly organized. The U.S. won the race, along with the war.

Churchill and Roosevelt at the Yalta Conference officially blamed the world wars on the German General Staff, and vowed to dismantle it for all time. However, there is plenty of evidence that they were not thorough enough.

Nuclear Ambitions

In 1996, the U.S. government released an intelligence document officially confirming a powerful truth: Nazi industrialists and military heads, fleeing the Allies and Nuremberg prosecutors, went underground, mainly in South America, and worked to create “a strong German empire.”

One of their goals was to secretly develop new weapons systems. Most of us have assumed German efforts at acquiring nuclear weapons ended in 1945. However, in their exposé Unholy Trinity, which documents the Vatican ratlines that helped Nazis escape Europe, Mark Aarons and John Loftus describe a secret concordat made in 1968 between West Germany and Argentina, led by strongman Juan Perón, famously sympathetic to the Nazis. The agreement allowed West Germany to secretly develop nuclear weapons on Argentinian soil. Writes Loftus: “The American author, Paul Manning, has obtained startlingly direct confirmation of this from a German nuclear physicist who worked on the program ….”

Currently, German air bases have hundreds of NATO nuclear bombs fitted to German aircraft, nominally under U.S. stewardship. To assume this won’t quickly change—amid a fracturing NATO, U.S. isolationism, a menacing Russia, a looming EU-U.S. trade war, Iran having missiles that can strike Europe and technology to build nuclear warheads, and the myriad of deepening crises within the EU—would be foolish at best.

Nobody officially deems Germany to possess nuclear weapons. Yet Bible prophecy indicates that the possession will be proved by the use. It will be a devastating shock to many—just one more German military shock in a long line of them.

In the past the shocks looked like slain legionnaires, roads choked with refugees, soldiers choking on chemicals, destroyed cities, concentration camps, and nations enslaved. This time it will be that bad and much, much worse.

Just consider Germany’s conventional (nonnuclear) military capabilities. In Churchill’s time it was next to impossible to distinguish between German civilian and militaryuse transport aircraft. Are we today better able to assess German troop transport capabilities, both by air and by sea, that could be a game changer in the Middle East and the world? The fact is, such transport hardware can be dual-use or is quietly convertible.

Consider again the thousands of German Leopard tanks named after Nazi-era tanks and “reduced,” yet not really. German leaders might say, “We honor our military and believe in preparedness in a dangerous world—we’ve nothing to hide.” Churchill would respond, “The further back in history you look, the further ahead you see. Beware! Germany is a country fertile in military surprises.”

On March 11 of this year, the Bundeswehr’s general inspector announced that weapons developments would be classified. The federal legislature and the public will be kept in the dark, as postwar transparency is cast aside.

What, then, do we know of German capabilities? As discussed, a change in administration clumsily exposed the existence of thousands of upgraded Leopard 2 tanks that previous administrations pretended didn’t exist. EU nations led by Germany possess nuclear stealth capability, and Germany leads the way in satellite and cyberattack capabilities are the Achilles’ heel of the U.S.

 For years, the German government has successfully encouraged German citizens and corporations to invest heavily in foreign shipping. Thus Germany could easily seize, repossess, buy up or arrange to make use of Greece’s vast shipping capabilities. Factor in the ease of converting its own nonmilitary ships to troop ships, load them with the thousands of modernized Leopard tanks—some of which they have sold to Iran’s neighborhood enemies—add their stealth and satellite prowess—and German conventional, “whirlwind” capabilities against Iran are phenomenal.

One can already see clear outlines of the planning of a whirlwind assault in Germany’s recent deployments that encompass Iran.

Right now, Iran is using armed Shiite proxies in Yemen to threaten Red Sea shipping lanes—Europe’s lifeline. The ayatollah is promoting Islamic terror in Europe and North Africa. The provocations against Germany and Europe are real.

Some experts think it is possible to win a nuclear war. Reports that Germany has researched or developed low-radiation nukes indicates that their leaders have long thought this—and should alarm everyone! But something holds us back from facing it.

 Churchill believed that Britain’s great empire, built over centuries, would be destroyed suddenly. He was in deep sorrow, fear and despair …. We first must experience some of Churchill’s sorrow and fear to be motivated to change. There is hope only if we face reality and have the vision of what is on the horizon. 

Saturday Special: Traceability Technologies Can Lead to a Safer, Sustainable World

We all know the world is rife with environmental, economic and social problems. What few of us realize is that many of these issues arise because today’s supply chains lack visibility and transparency at every stage of the journey, from raw materials to consumer products.

Counterfeit medications, faulty medical devices, contaminated foods and unsustainable sourcing practices threaten public safety, waste precious natural resources, erode consumer confidence, and destroy brand reputation.

An even lesser-known fact is that today’s technologies can help mitigate these issues and lead to a safer, more sustainable world for all. Specifically, digital traceability technologies give us the means to create more intelligent supply chains capable of tracking, tracing and authenticating everything from coffee beans to catheters.

What is traceability?

Traceability is the capacity to verify the history, location or status of an item by means of documented identification. Merging serialization – assigning unique identifiers to products ranging from consumer goods to complex medical devices – with smart manufacturing and traceability is the first step towards complete, end-to-end visibility over supply chains. As products are tracked, the resulting data gives products their pedigree, and provides a wealth of information that companies and consumers can use to inform better decisions.

Disruptive technologies, such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, blockchain and collaborative platforms, can take traceability systems to another level, offering detailed reports on any product’s status and movements and creating direct links between the various stakeholders along the supply chain, from producers to end users.

Traceability analyzes what goes well, or wrong, and assesses the efficiency of the entire supply chain process with data management and analytics, right up to the point of sale, the consumer, and beyond.

Using data-centric traceability systems, stakeholders can share collected data and make it more powerful, because information can be cross-referenced with connected systems anywhere in the supply chain.

Traceability would have allowed a thorough tracking and instant identification of all infected romaine lettuces during the 2017 E. coli outbreaks, as reported by the Public Health Agency of Canada. In this case, all lettuces had to be recalled instead of solely the tainted ones, which demonstrates the inadequacy of the tracking and tracing process in place at the time. A more complete, precise and accountable traceability system would have offered substantial visibility on the products and helped make the entire supply chain more secure

A safer, more sustainable world

Traceability can be adapted to any industry. In fact, some sectors, such as the pharmaceutical industry, are subject to legislation that requires it, such as the European Union’s Falsified Medicines Directive (EU FMD) and the United States Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA). Here are five ways traceability systems are applied to create a safer, more sustainable world:

1. Pharmaceutical industry

The World Health Organization estimates that around 11% of medicines in developing countries are counterfeit, and Newsweek reported in 2015 that “anywhere from 100,000 to a million people die every year due to falsified drugs.”

Recalls are unavoidable when a product is counterfeited, contaminated, tampered with, damaged or deemed unsafe. Traceability optimizes the process. With serialized items and data reporting, we can identify the location of products and retrieve only faulty products, instead of the entire batch. This helps reduce monetary losses and makes recall management faster and more efficient.

Traceability provides potentially life-saving information on pharmaceutical products, such as instantaneous notification of any non-conformities, status confirmation and expiry date, counterfeiting alerts and more. It also ensures efficient waste management and optimizes workflow so that staff have more time to focus on serving patients.

When combined with other disruptive technologies, traceability can help pharma innovate by offering new ways to connect and communicate with the end user. For example, when a customer scans a product, pharma companies can use a chatbot to give instructions about the usage of the medicine or even verify whether the patient has taken the correct dosage. This helps establish a closer relationship with the end user and ensures they are using medication safely.

2. Medical device industry

The “Implant Files” investigation conducted by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) laid bare the human suffering caused by faulty medical devices.

Traceability makes it possible to know whether a medical device is defective or counterfeit and provides visibility over every single event throughout the supply chain. Traceability also helps healthcare institutions manage their inventory and allows surgeons and doctors to know the full pedigree of the medical devices they are implanting in their patients.

Should a device be recalled, a traceability solution will alert the user at any stage of the supply chain, eliminating a potentially dangerous or even lethal situation before it occurs. No medical practitioner wants to risk giving a patient a defective or expired product, which is why traceability is so critical.

3. Food and beverage industry

Transparency in public health, prevention, preparedness and corrective actions can become reality by using traceability in the event of a food safety issue. Take the infamous melamine scandal in China, for example, in which milk products and baby formula were mixed with nitrogen-containing plastic resin to fake a high amount of protein. This notorious case could have been solved by using traceability, avoiding the ordeal of 294,000 affected children, the 50,000+ treated in hospitals and the six children who died.

Since the food and beverage industry has a long and complex supply chain, a lack of visibility leads to more risks of food-borne illnesses, such as E. coli, listeria and salmonella. Manufacturers, retailers and consumers want and need to know everything about their food, such as the origin of ingredients and their attributes, where and how the products were processed, and so on. Traceability can provide the answers and mitigate potential risks and impact.

4. Natural resources industry

The natural resources industry is under increasing pressure to make the origin of products more transparent, to ensure the security of raw materials and to be more aware of the environmental impact of the agriculture, livestock, fishing, forestry and mining sectors. Resource scarcity has also created a need for better administration, to optimize time and resources, avoid losses and reduce risks.

Both consumers and manufacturers benefit when they know where the raw materials that go into their products come from. Tracking this information – along with how the products were produced and who produced them – is even more critical if counterfeiting occurs and enables ways to solve these issues.

5. Traceability for a more sustainable world

In addition to optimizing available resources, facilitating the reuse of materials, authenticating products, and ensuring fair and sustainable trade, traceability allows companies to take control of their products’ carbon footprints. End-to-end traceability is the key to product life-cycle analysis, which leads to understanding and controlling the environmental and social impact of any type of product.

For every industry, every product, at every level, traceability is the driver of a smarter, safer, more efficient, entirely connected global supply chain – an intelligent supply chain. It is the key to a more sustainable world.

Process of Impeachment of US President

Impeachment is a provision that allows Congress to remove the President of the United States. Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House would launch an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, over his alleged efforts efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, Trump’s potential rival in the 2020 elections. How does impeachment take place?

On Tuesday, US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House would launch an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, over his alleged efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, Trump’s potential rival in the 2020 elections. How does impeachment take place?

What it means

Impeachment is a provision that allows Congress to remove the President of the United States. Under the US Constitution, the House of Representatives (Lower House) has the “the sole power of impeachment” while the Senate (Upper House) has “the sole power to try all impeachments”. The Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court has the duty of presiding over impeachment trials in the Senate.

Grounds for impeachment

The President can be removed from office for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors”. What constitutes these “high crimes” and “misdemeanors” (misdemeanors), however, is not clearly spelt out. The New York Times explained that the expression “high crimes and misdemeanors” came out of the British common law tradition. “Essentially, it means an abuse of power by a high-level public official. This does not necessarily have to be a violation of an ordinary criminal statute,” The NYT said. Historically, in the US, it has encompassed corruption and other abuses, including trying to obstruct judicial proceedings.

Impeachment history

No US President has ever been removed as a direct result of impeachment. The House did impeach two Presidents — Andrew Johnson (1968) andBill Clinton (1998) — but the Senate did not convict them. In between, President Richard Nixon (1974) resigned before he could be removed.

The process

HOUSE VOTE: It begins with an investigation by a House committee. In the Nixon and Clinton cases, the House Judiciary Committee held that investigation and recommended articles of impeachment to the full House. In Trump’s case, six committees are investigating him on impeachable offences. If they find that there is enough evidence of wrongdoing, it will refer the matter to the full House (see flow chart).

HOUSE VOTE: When the full House votes, if one or more of the articles of impeachment gets a majority vote, the President is impeached. Next, the proceedings move to the Senate.

SENATE TRIAL & VOTE: The Senate holds a trial, overseen by the chief justice of the Supreme Court. A team of lawmakers from the House, known as managers, play the role of prosecutors, The NYT explained. The President has defence lawyers, and the Senate serves as the jury. If at least two-thirds of the Senators present find the President guilty, he is removed and the Vice President takes over as President.

Numbers in the Houses

The House has 235 Democrats, 199 Republicans, and one independent. The Democrats could, therefore, impeach Trump with no Republican support.

The Senate has 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two independents who usually vote with the Democrats. Conviction of the President would require 67 votes, which cannot happen unless some Republicans vote against him.

Seeing the Hope in Dysfunction: America, Britain and Israel

It has been another huge week for the United States, Britain and the State of Israel. U.S. President Donald Trump drew closer than ever to being impeached, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson received a crushing blow from Britain’s Supreme Court, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was given the first shot at forming a new government.

Each of these developments by themselves is a major story. But I want to take a panoramic view and consider all three together. It is remarkable that America, Britain and Israel are all experiencing extraordinary events simultaneously, and that all three are struggling with exactly the same crises. How do you explain this?

First, let’s try and capture the magnitude of what we are witnessing. It is an understatement to say that these countries are in extreme political crisis. The term “crisis” suggests a momentary or passing event; it implies an eventual return to normalcy. But normal has been irreparably broken. The problems plaguing these nations are now institutional. They are so deeply rooted that they are incurable, at least by man. They are terminal.

The crises these nations face essentially revolve around law and government. Some think the problems lay solely with the leaders of these nations. They believe that if Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and Benjamin Netanyahu were vanquished, the problems would go away. This is superficial thinking. The controversy that surrounds these men is a function of a much deeper problem.

America, Britain and Israel are experiencing an acute and highly destructive identity crisis. Think about some of the issues plaguing these nations. In America, immigration, gun control and the role of the government are some of the primary issues. In Britain, it is Brexit. In Israel, it is the Palestinian issue and the role of religion in society. With each issue, there is a fundamental conflict between the past and the present, between tradition and progressivism, and in many instances, between established law and morality and reformist ideologies and practices.

This assault on tradition is led by the radical left, which today brandishes unprecedented power and influence in all three nations. It dictates the news cycles, blaring its message via powerful media networks like CNN, BBC and Israel’s Channel 12, and in culture-shaping newspapers such as the New York Times, the Guardian and Haaretz. Culturally, radical-leftist views on marriage, family, sex, race and gender are now deeply interwoven into the muscles and sinews of society.

Politically, socialist politicians and ideologies dominate the political left, especially in America and Britain. The Democratic Party in America has been hijacked by radicals like Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. In Britain, Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Diane Abbot—top leaders in the Labour Party, the United Kingdom’s second-largest party—are hardcore socialists (many would even call them Communists).

In America and Britain, especially, the radical left controls key institutions, such as education and health care. In all three nations, the radical left has hijacked, to varying degrees, the justice and legislative systems. Donald Trump has had some success bringing these to heel.

This truth was made plain in Britain on Tuesday, when 11 unelected, activist judges determined that Prime Minister Johnson’s proroguing of Parliament was unlawful, overruling even the Queen. This historic decision by the court was a scandalous attack on Britain’s unwritten constitution. “This is a seismic constitutional shift in the United Kingdom, if not an unglorious revolution,” wrote Adrian Hilton. “What we have seen emerge via this judgment is a borderline tyrannical layer in British politics,” wrote Spiked editor Brendan O’Neil.

In Israel, a similar tension exists between the government and the judicial system, which has been accused of operating like a “deep state” to undermine government policy. Many in Israel, including Caroline Glick and Prof. Alan Dershowitz, have questioned the dubious nature of the indictments made by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit against Prime Minister Netanyahu.

All of these developments expose the fact that the radical left’s hatred is not confined to Mr. Trump, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Netanyahu; the radical left has a fanatic hatred of the core traditions, institutions and beliefs of these nations. It hates America and Britain’s Judeo-Christian heritage. In Israel, it despises its Zionist and Jewish roots. The radical left hates Trump, Johnson and Netanyahu because these men embody and embrace these traditions.

America’s radical left wants to dismantle the defining pillars of the nation, most especially the Constitution. It rejects the belief that the nation is exceptional and says America was founded on racism. It despises religion, religious freedom and traditional morality; it hates America’s forefathers and the nation’s traditions. It hates the rule of law. And it detests Donald Trump because he loves and defends, to varying degrees, many of the national characteristics and institutions they so passionately hate.

In Britain, the radical left hates the thought of leaving the European Union. Many of these “little Englanders,” as Winston Churchill would have called them, despise the British Empire and all that it did for humanity. They are repulsed by Britain’s colonial history and by British tradition and institutions, such as the monarchy, the Anglican Church and Parliament. The radical left hates Boris Johnson because he appears to want to execute the will of the majority of the British public and leave the EU. Mr. Johnson believes in Britain, and this drives the radical left mad.

In Israel, the radical left believes the modern State of Israel was created in sin and is abusing its power over Palestinians (and others). It seeks peace through negotiation and compromise, even though the Palestinians routinely declare that they have no interest in negotiation or compromise. The radical left hates Benjamin Netanyahu because he is a symbol of a strong, independent nation that is proud of both its ancient and modern history.

This is not to suggest Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and Benjamin Netanyahu, nor the political parties or ideologies they champion, are perfect. These men and their politics are not even close to ideal. But the radical left has a special hatred for tradition, for conservative morality and beliefs, and for the rule of law.

Do you have a favorable view of the Founding Fathers, the Constitution, separation of powers, rule of law, Manifest Destiny, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, free-market economy, and America’s role in World Wars I and II? If you do, then surely you are deeply alarmed by the state of America today. All of these pillars of American history and identity are being vilified and destroyed. The same is happening in Britain and Israel. America, Britain and Israel do, in fact, all have a powerful, violent radical-left deep state. These people are lawless. They have no respect for custom or convention, or justice and due process. They very often have no time for facts or evidence. Think again: What does it mean that America, Britain and Israel all have a deadly deep state?  Any hope?

Weekend Special: Make Your Lives Wholesome & Rewarding by Adopting Japanese Concepts of IKIGAI

A common notion is that sickness and disease are part of the larger “aging” package, and you can’t opt-out. It’s true that aging is fundamentally linked to deteriorating health, and longevity, the ability to live a long healthy life isn’t a given. If there’s one thing we have been searching for since time immemorial, it’s the elixir of life: immortality.

Japan, with one of the largest octogenarian populations of any race, are definitely in the know on this secret. In a small island town south of Japan, called Okinawa, which also goes by “the land of immortals”, the average life span is 90 years and 66 percent of residents live till they’re 100. What’s fascinating is that even the oldest Okinawans are healthy, with the necessary physical, cognitive and emotional fitness to live and function independently. In what can only be described as a luxury these days, they also have a negligible incidence of some of today’s biggest medical killers like diabetes, cancer and heart ailments.

“Asato ma sad-gamaya; tamaso ma jyotir-gamaya; mrtyor-ma amrutam gamaya” Lead me from unreal to real; lead me from darkness to light; lead me from death to immortality

What’s their secret?

In recent years, Japanese have received a lot of attention from researchers for healthier and longer lifespans, joyful spirit and social bonding. Héctor García, author of the internationally-acclaimed book ‘Ikigai – The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life’ explains some of these aspects in his book.

“It’s a natural thing—they have a strong sense of purpose. Dedication and perseverance is everywhere in Japan,” Hector Garcia explains of his 15 years of learning Japanese culture and concepts. A former software engineer, he has done extensive research on concept of Ikigai and shared his insights with me.

Ikigai is a Japanese word that describes the many pleasures and meanings of life. A combination of two words, ‘Iki’ meaning “to live” and ‘gai’ meaning “reason or purpose”, collectively mean “Purpose or Reason for life”. If we go a little deeper, we can interpret this as “making life worth living” – a raison d’etre. Ikigai means one’s reason to get up in the morning and the reason to enjoy one’s life and possibly this hypothesis of Ikigai is greatly evident among the residents of Okinawa.

In today’s times, our lives are controlled by the pervasiveness of money, our enjoyment, and happiness measured through the barometer of money, sense of security through big bank balances, happy life through lavish comfortable life for which we have to win large goals in our life. Our value as an individual and our own feelings of self-worth and self-respect is evaluated by our achievements.

On the other hand, Ikigai is about living with purpose and not money, happiness and not materialism, community and not individualism for a healthy and successful life. It can safely be said that Ikigai can lead to success, and one can achieve Ikigai without being professionally successful.

“Scientific studies suggest that only about 25 percent of how long we live is dictated by genes… The other 75 percent is determined by our lifestyles and the everyday choices we make. It follows that if we optimize our lifestyles, we can maximize our life expectancies within our biological limits,” Dan Buettner, an American researcher and author of the book “The Blue Zones” about Ikigai, says.

How do I find my Ikigai?

The good news is that you don’t have to go to Japan to do it. All of us have our Ikigai and it is hidden deep inside us. All we need is patience – patience to connect with our own selves. Ikigai dwells on small experiences that sometimes feel trivial or insignificant in the moment – enjoying fresh air in the early morning, the rising sun, a fresh cup of tea or coffee, listening to birds chirping, spending time with your pets and kids.

If you can see and experience the wealth of this living spectrum, you can achieve and enjoy Ikigai.

“Okinawans focus on Ikigai gives them a sense of purpose every day and plays an important role in their health longevity,” suggests Hector Garcia over the course of his book and research. There are 4 pillars, each in the form of answer, to find your “Ikigai”, in the view of Garcia and other Ikigai experts.

– What is your Passion?

– What is you Mission?

– What is your Vocation?

– What is your Profession?

When you can identify the following pillars, you enter your Ikigai.

– What are you doing that you LOVE?

– What does the world need from you?

– What do you get paid to do?

– What are you good at?

The key motivation in discovering one’s Ikigai is seeking activities that make your heartbeat and leave you happy. Then, to identify one thing the world needs from you, and knowing what can you be paid for (a certain training, skill or knowledge) and finally, knowing what you are really good at.

Finding a ‘flow’ in everything you do

Looking closely, Ikigai is “mindfulness”. I strongly believe that Ikigai and mindfulness (being in the moment) are closely associated in their approach and share a lot of principles. Both outline the need to find flow in everything you do.

“Do what you like more and more, and slow down when you do what you like —don’t do it in a hurry. Your Ikigai is in all those small things which you like to do everyday,” advises Yuta Toga, a Tokyo-based artist.

Garcia also talks about an interesting concept of “Microflow, enjoying mundane tasks.” We’ve heard of some of the most successful people in the world practicing microflow. Bill Gates has been said to wash dishes every night. He claims to enjoy it thoroughly since it helps him relax and clear his mind. He even tries to do it a little better each day – following an established order of his own making, like plates go first, forks come second, glasses last. These are his daily moments of ‘microflow’. This is similar to “being in the moment”, wherein even mundane tasks like washing dishes, laundry, cutting flower or desk work seem enjoyable.

Neuroscientists are delving into “what happens to brain when we are in that state of flow?”. So far, they’ve discovered that when we are mindful, we are highly observant, with single-minded focus and no distractions. As a result, creativity, productivity and happiness emerge. The opposite occurs when you find yourself losing focus while working on something you consider important.

Seven strategies to boost your chances of achieving flow

1. Knowing what to do

2. Knowing how to do it

3. Knowing how well you are doing

4. Knowing where to go

5. Perceiving significant challenges

6. Perceiving significant skills

7. Being free of distraction

Much like muscles and the brain, “the more you train, the more you get into flow” and the closer you get to your Ikigai.

Ikigai: The perfect balance between purpose and passion

Finding your own Ikigai is about “paying attention” to what makes your inner conscious self dance.

“An interesting factor to achieve this perfect balance is how to turn work and free time into spaces for growth,” Garcia says. If you want to live a long and happy life there has to be an Ikigai on your horizon, a purpose that guides you throughout your life, pushing you to create things of beauty and utility for the community and for yourself.

The ten rules of Ikigai, conceived through years of research by Hector Garcia:

1. Always Stay active: Purpose is extremely important for staying active in life. People who lose interest in things also lose purpose in life. So don’t give up on things you love to do both in personal or professional life.

2. Go slow: Last year in an interview with RadioCity Mumbai I spoke about a ‘hurried sickness’ that our world is facing. Most of us don’t have time, we eat fast, talk fast, need results fast, our attention span has become so little and we need information fast. This is the exact reason for our stress and early burnout. To achieve Ikigai – go slow.

3. Don’t Fill your stomach: When we eat food, stretch receptors in the stomach are activated. Vagus nerve connects our stomach and the brain sends these signs as our stomach fills. It takes about 10 to 20 minutes for brain to receive a sequence of communication from digestive hormones secreted by the gastrointestinal tract (our gut). When you realise that your stomach is 80 percent full while eating, it is roughly the acceptable limit of your stomach. Also when you eat slow you allow time for this communication.

4. Surround yourself with good friends: Connect with your old friends, find new friendships. Spend at least some part of your day with your good friends. Friends keep your energies alive and also support you during your downtime.

5. Get in shape: When you are in shape, your confidence improves. Although looks are certainly not everything, a good shape improves self-confidence and thus help you look and feel much better. From glow on your skin, shine in your hair to whole body shape, just about every aspect of your body can improve when you’re in shape

6. Smile: A genuine smile make you seem more attractive, likable and even trustworthy. Science has also proven that smiling makes you healthier and you tend to live longer. There are uncountable benefits like improves mood, lowers your blood pressure, releases stress, betters your immune system are some few to count on.

7. Reconnect with nature: Keep your phone in your pocket and enjoy the sights, sounds, fragrances, and experiences of your surroundings and especially nature around you.

8. Give thanks: Yes you read it right. Giving thanks improves your health and happiness. Gratitude is the real fountain of youth, health, liveliness, and longevity . Give thanks to your body, life, loved ones, family, friends and million other things to be thankful for.

9. Live in the moment, creating mindfulness: Living in the moment allow you to create awareness of the present experience rather than relating or identifying it with your past experiences, thoughts, feelings and hence you get more focused perform better in whatever work you have in hand.

10. Follow your Ikigai: Once you identify your Ikigai, learn to stay on course and keep following your IKIGAI.

People always ask to be given “the one key thing” they need to cultivate mindfulness. Like mindfulness, “Ikigai” also does not come from a single practice or value system. It comes from undergoing a spectrum of micro experiences, none of which serves an elaborate purpose in life by itself. In my journey towards knowing more about mindfulness and other similar sciences, I have realized that there is no out-and-out single recipe for happiness. Each distinctive condition of life can serve as the foundation for happiness and success in its own perfect way.

Transformation of Cities Through Opportunity Zones

The promise of being the base for Amazon’s second headquarters was great — so great, in fact, 238 cities jumped into the intense, year-long competition. Contenders had so much faith in the impact they promised robust urban transit systems, tax breaks, talent pipelines and infrastructure support.

I saw this first-hand when three counties in South Florida banded together to present a single proposal. They understood that, alone, none of them were a compelling contender. It worked, and they made the top 20 shortlist.

Ultimately, Amazon selected locations on the outskirts of well-established hubs, New York City and Washington, D.C. But the same questions for cities and states remain. How do we capitalize on the momentum generated by Amazon HQ2? What do we do with the long list of incentives? Can we generate the impact – or more – of the tech giant coming to town?

Cities across the United States face a host of challenges: job creation, building scalable enterprises, affordable housing, sustainability in the age of climate change, equity and inclusion. These priorities are as diverse as they are entangled.

No single individual – not the most brilliant inventor or revolutionary leader – can tackle any of these challenges alone. To make meaningful progress, we must collaborate on cross-institutional and cross-interest solutions.

Opportunity Zones as vehicles for equitable growth

Opportunity Zones (OZs) might just be the right vehicle. There are 8,700 such districts nationwide, which allow investors to defer their capital gains taxes if they invest in real estate, infrastructure and businesses in these designated low-income zones.

Used correctly, Opportunity Zones could deliver the promise of many Amazons. The problem is, cities are no longer fighting over media coverage for Jeff Bezos’ attention. As a result, they are not able to maximize the impact of such investments.

The time is ripe for OZs. Bruce Katz, Lab Director at Nowak Metro Financeand former Centennial Scholar at the Brookings Institution,points to a healthy real estate market, the rise of remote work and coworking spaces, and exponential technological progress as creating fertile ground for OZs.

Likewise, a recent New York Times article addressed how coworking spaces and OZs should intersect. If the numbers are any indication, secondary cities are on the rise. In St. Louis and Miami, for example, venture markets reached a record high in 2018 at $378 million and $1.3 billion, respectively.

Separately, impact investing – from sustainability to increased access – has started to outperform traditional investment, providing new outcome-driven investment strategies.

What’s more, research finds the benefit of locating in Silicon Valley has faded since 2001. Bloomberg columnist Noah Smith wrote: “Staking out virgin territory in the Midwest or the South might be exactly the thing many smaller [venture capitalists] need to strike gold.” To top things off, OZs are broad in scope, offer limited oversight, and are more flexible in terms of who and how assets are managed.

While all of this sounds promising, detractors point to the less-than-impressive results from the past three decades. In the 1980s, Republicans in more than 40 states created “enterprise zones” offering tax relief and job training. Democrats followed suit with “empowerment zones” during the Clinton era.

Unfortunately, most would agree that both were mostly real estate investment plays and benefits did not trickle down to small businesses, startups or residents. According to Timothy Weaver, professor of Urban Policy and Politics at the University at Albany, State University of New York, the “stubborn facts suggest that we need to break out of the Reagan-Bush-Clinton pro-market cage of tax-incentive-based urban policy”.

Poverty in Opportunity

Weaver has a point. If you don’t make a plan for Opportunity Zones, you create opportunities for chaos: gerrymandering, corruption, collusion, private interests, or at best, limited benefits.

Research – collision theory, change theory, social capital theory – has documented the need for strong, aligned bonds in order to drive communities forward. Four out of six of CIC’s US locations are inside designated OZs but for these zones to really yield their potential, stakeholders must find common ground, engage meaningfully and ultimately collaborate.

Where do we go from here?

To begin, such a universe should include a voluntary framework with shared principles, reporting guidelines and metrics for measuring impact. Regulatory frameworks and incentives can also help. For example, Texas introduced legislation to create a 25% tax credit for rural OZ investment, which would apply to the state insurance tax.

Qualified Opportunity Funds – which invest in real estate or businesses located in OZs – would be required to invest at least $100 million in non-public companies in OZs or rural cities and counties, with a $35 million annual cap.

Alabama, Kentucky and Rhode Island have taken similar approaches. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan forged partnerships going beyond tax credits and co-invested in workforce development grants and tech investments to support revitalization and affordable housing.

Perhaps most notably, there’s nearly $6 trillion of potential gains (realized and unrealized) that could be allocated to OZs. As such, Opportunity Funds have emerged as private-sector investment vehicles that invest 90% of their capital to drive impact within OZs. The 203 funds currently being tracked already represent more than $53 billion committed to community development investing – and the potential is huge.

Take Cleveland, a “best in class” example. The city developed legislative policy, created a fund to de-risk small business and leveraged a tech entrepreneur’s marketplace platform to submit and vet portfolios, ensuring transparency while defining social impact targets and support structures to provide technical assistance.

Rachel Reilly, Director of Impact Strategy at the Economic Innovation Group, said: “Opportunity zones offer a tax benefit to the investor, but you can create other benefits to the businesses in order to strengthen the investment.”

In addition, as The Knight Foundation notes, local philanthropies and foundations have a unique imperative to help cities coordinate efforts, map assets and, most importantly, help residents who live near the zones express how they want to see the quality of life improve in their neighbourhoods.

For communities to flourish, we must go beyond relocating businesses and creating jobs. Rather, we must look for holistic opportunities to create vibrancy across the board, from coding schools and talent retraining efforts, to funding the arts, to solving for large scale environmental risks, to supporting accessibility pipelines around existing inequality gaps.

OZs allow us to look at communities as systems to bring in thoughtful investments. By decreasing tax revenue, governments can partner with private capital and philanthropy to reduce systemic inequalities holding the entire city back.

Articulating an ecosystem with measurable opportunity at the centre is a bigger return on investment for cities – larger than any single corporate headquarters could ever deliver.

Germany Colonizes Cyprus

This critical Mediterranean island reveals Germany’s methods—and its ambitions!Set in the midst of the Mediterranean Sea, near the heart of the world, is strategic Cyprus. Look at a map, and you can see it is a stepping-stone between Europe and the Middle East. It is near Jerusalem, it is near Rome, and it is near Berlin. Understand its proximity to these important cities and to strategic areas, and you begin to understand why Cyprus has played such a crucial role in history.

 The European Union is creating structures that are increasingly imperial. It is romanticizing its Holy Roman Empire past. It is dominated by Germany. And a German-led EU dominates Cyprus.

How did this happen? Why is Germany gaining control? How is it building an empire? And why does it want to control this small Mediterranean island?

A Strategic Asset

Cyprus has played a critical role in this region for centuries. During the Crusades, when European warriors descended on the coasts of Israel and Lebanon, at times they relied on Cyprus for a base. In the 19th century, when Britain wanted a naval base to guard its vital trade with India, it used Cyprus as a base. Even in modern times, in 2006 when Germany joined a United Nations naval mission off the coast of Lebanon, it used Cyprus as a base.

Cyprus hosts one of the West’s most sophisticated listening posts and radar stations focused on the Middle East. It has been joked that ‘a mosquito can’t take off in Tehran without the radar watchers in Cyprus knowing. Cyprus is also a listening post from which to monitor electronic communication media, very helpful for signals intelligence. With the surveillance technology installed in Cyprus, for decades, Britain has been able to share intelligence data with the United States and now, no doubt, with the EU, as a member state.

The tiny island nation is also significant as a military base. Fighter jets based in Cyprus can cover much of the region without needing to refuel.

This military infrastructure was built mainly by Britain and America. But whoever gains control of Cyprus today can use its assets to better monitor North Africa and the Middle East, including Iran. Cyprus is a tremendous resource to any power seeking to project power into the Middle East.

And Germany has a supreme desire to do just that!

Gaining Control of Cyprus

Germany is not the only nation with its eye on Cyprus. Russia has an acute interest in Syria, which would make Cyprus a useful base. Britain’s bases in Cyprus have been invaluable to America as it has waged wars in the Middle East. Turkey invaded northern Cyprus in 1974; more recently, it has tried to leverage that presence to gain control of the oil and gas in sea surrounding the island.

But Germany has worked through the EU to ensure it dominates Cyprus.

Many European politicians wanted to exclude Cyprus from the European Union until the island was unified (Turkey maintains control over the northern 36 percent). They wanted to use the carrot of EU membership to draw the two sides together. But other leaders were more impatient. In 2004 Cyprus was allowed into the EU, and in 2008 it adopted the euro.

The trouble was, the euro was a trap. It was an unworkable mechanism deliberately designed to provoke a crisis that would enable European leaders to grab more power. Some astute analysts recognized this from the beginning. When the current European economic union was formalized, it became inevitable that countries like Greece and Cyprus would eventually face economic crises. By including Germany, the economic union could establish European-wide interest rates that were much lower in countries like Greece than would otherwise have been possible. Low interest rates encouraged massive borrowing and artificially stimulated a boom. But as with all bubbles, eventually it popped. Southern Europe is still dealing with the aftermath.

In 2013, largely due to fallout from the Greek financial crisis, Cyprus found itself in serious trouble. It needed a loan of €10 billion (us$11 billion at current exchange rates). For a rich nation like the U.S., that may not sound like much. But that was more than one third of the total annual output of Cyprus’s economy—a vast sum.

Cyprus needed help. Germany blocked Russia from getting involved, and stepped in to offer a bailout package—with tough conditions. Cyprus accepted.

Thus, the EU became the de facto ruler of Cyprus. It began telling Cypriots what they could and could not spend their money on. It dictated how to run their tax-collecting systems and demanded changes to Cypriot law. And since Germany is Europe’s largest economy and put up the largest share of the money, Germany became the real power in Cyprus.

To understand the scope of Germany’s power, consider one shocking condition it imposed: Anyone who deposited money in one of Cyprus’s biggest banks would lose any amount that exceeded €100,000.

That may sound like a lot of money. But for a pensioner nearing retirement, that’s a pretty small pension fund. For a business preparing to pay out salaries, having more than that in the bank would hardly be unusual.

The results were devastating. People lost their life’s savings. Families lost houses. Businesses collapsed. This single draconian maneuver sparked a financial crisis—and to this day, Cyprus’s economy is far smaller than it was before.

“If America lost access to the British bases in Cyprus and the radar and signal intelligence, it “would pose a threat to our national security interest in the eastern Mediterranean

Cyprus exited the bailout program in 2016, meaning it no longer needs loans from Germany to keep itself afloat. But it is still under German control. Like all the other bailed-out countries, it remains under “enhanced surveillance.” This means that every three months, it must submit a review of its spending plans and its economy to the European Central Bank and European Commission. If these EU entities don’t like Cyprus’s plans, they may impose new “measures”—forcing spending cuts or the sale of government-owned assets.

Under current law, Germany will maintain this authority until 75 percent of the money Cyprus borrowed is paid back. That is not forecast to happen until 2029.

Pushing Out Britain

Britain has two large bases on Cyprus, taking up about 3 percent of the country. Yet the nation really controlling this area has been the United States; those bases have been an invaluable asset in America’s Mideast military campaigns.

Now, however, Britain is leaving the European Union. Why? Because many British recognize that the power rising in Europe is not free and democratic. They know it is a dictatorial, German-led power. Though few see it in these exact terms, the reality is that the old Holy Roman Empire is rising once again.

Justified as it might be, Brexit puts the future of those bases on Cyprus in doubt. I forecast that Britain is going to lose control of those bases.

This means it is only a matter of time before the United States is pushed out as well.

Losing those bases will decrease U.S. intelligence and power in the Middle East enormously. In secret diplomatic cables, America’s embassy in Cyprus wrote that if America lost access to the British bases there and the radar and signal intelligence, it “would pose a threat to our national security interest in the eastern Mediterranean.” I believe this is inevitable.

In America’s and Britain’s absence, Germany and Italy will be able to greatly boost their power in the region.

Brexit gives Germany a chance to take over those British bases. The Brexit withdrawal agreement the EU tried to force on Britain (and which, to this point, Britain has rejected) would have gotten Germany’s foot in the door. Those bases are classified as British Overseas Territory and therefore have never been part of the EU. However, the euro was used as currency on the bases, and they partially participated in the EU Customs Union. The withdrawal agreement would have made these bases part of the Customs Union—keeping them in the union even after Britain left it.

Though the treaty hasn’t been signed, the direction is clear. And though much of Brexit is controversial, these bases are not. Few people in Britain even know about them, let alone care. It’s easy to imagine the nation giving them up to Europe as it leaves.

About a million EU citizens live on Cyprus. Cyprus is a tiny island surrounded by the EU and full of EU citizens. The rising powers in the area are not led by Washington and London, but by Rome and Berlin.

Today Germany has a very weak leader in Chancellor Angela Merkel—yet the Holy Roman Empire is rising even under her rulership! How rapidly will these terrifying events occur when a strong German leader comes to power?

The Germans have been militaristic throughout their history and have started two world wars. More recently, in 1991 Germany defied the rest of the world and recognized an independent Croatia when it broke away from Yugoslavia. At the time, Croatia’s leader was a man who admitted he believed in the Nazi cause from World War ii. This ought to have awakened the world to what was going on in Germany. That move brought its control closer to the Mediterranean and closer to Jerusalem. It also recognized another breakaway nation, Slovenia, which was a Nazi ally during the war. Germany’s recognition of Croatia and Slovenia sparked a civil war between them and Yugoslavia, which had been an enemy of Nazi Germany and an ally of the United States and Britain during World War ii.

The whole Western world—including the U.S., Britain and the rest of Europe—opposed Germany’s decision. Yet Germany made it anyway and threatened other nations with financial pressure and even with breaking up the European Union. So those nations, including the major powers, caved in. Then Germany—America’s World War ii enemy—persuaded the Americans to use their military power to conquer Yugoslavia, their own World War ii ally. In that war, Yugoslavia had been a major help to America in fighting Nazi Germany. But now, it was destroyed and divided up.

As a result, Germany now controls the Balkans. It can access their warm-water ports that lead to the Mediterranean and lead right to Cyprus. In the years since, close cooperation has developed between Cyprus and Germany in shipping; many German shipping companies and shipping-management businesses are based in Cyprus.

After about 70 million people died in World War ii, America and Britain promised they would never allow Germany to rise up like that again. Yet a German-led European empire is doing just that.

The history of the Holy Roman Empire and the recent history of the Balkans is repeating itself in Cyprus. And it is all leading that power closer to Jerusalem

Impeachment hearings could come back to bite the Democrats

By going after Trump, the Democrats will be shining an unflattering spotlight on a story that few American voters would be aware of. As if the world does not have enough disruptive eruptions from Donald Trump’s America. On top of a Trump-triggered global trade crisis, destabilized strategic alliances, serious risks of recession and soaring U.S. and international debt, we now move to a new plateau of global angst: the attempted overthrow of the elected leader of the world’s most powerful democracy.

The alleged objective of the Democrat-led effort to impeach Trump is to remove a president who, in the words of Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, is guilty of “betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security, and betrayal of the integrity of our elections.”

A move to turf the president one year away from an actual election seems in itself to be something of a betrayal of the core principles of America’s democracy. Why not let America’s voters make the decision on the appointed election date in November 2020 — unless, of course, the Democrats fear that their 20-candidate chorus of potential Democratic leaders might not be up to the challenge of defeating Trump.

Somewhat bizarrely, the dump Trump move may do more damage to the Democratic Party’s front-running leadership hopeful. Whatever “high crimes and misdemeanors” Trump may have committed in his conversations with the Ukrainian president, the subject of the conversations was the hitherto unpublicized activities of poll-leading Joe Biden.

By going after Trump, the Democrats will be shining an unflattering spotlight on a story that few American voters would be aware of, including allegations that Biden, then Barack Obama’s vice president, had threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. aid unless Ukraine fired a prosecutor who was then going after a company associated with Biden’s son.

As the Wall Street Journal observed in an editorial Tuesday, many on the Democratic left would be happy if the Ukraine scandal also brought down Joe Biden. “It would clear the nomination path for Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders.”

That risk of damage to the Democratic ticket and Biden did not deter House Democrats from charging ahead with an impeachment process that adds even more political and economic risk to a political environment that is already overloaded. What, to pick one example, will be the future path of the Trump-led U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade as it makes its way to the House for a vote?

Much will obviously hinge on the actual contents of the Trump transcripts and whether he actually did offer to provide funds to the Ukrainian government in return for completing a probe into the Biden & Son affair. Trump seems eager to defend his conversation with the president of Ukraine.

Meanwhile the impeachment spectacle begins. There are, after all, plenty of good reasons — on the liberal left and the conservative right — to want to remove Trump from office. Liberals are appalled at his climate plans, his regulatory record, his immigration policies. Market conservatives and Republicans on the right are appalled by Trump’s trade war strategies, his deficit spending and general abandonment of many free market principles.

Some of the anti-Trump rhetoric has been fiercest from the right and libertarian wings of the Republican Party. William Weld, former governor of Massachusetts — who is running against Trump for the leadership of the party — made the rounds on U.S. liberal talk shows on NBC Monday, saying the whistleblower reports of Trump’s attempt to use the Ukrainian president to meddle in U.S. politics is “treason, pure and simple … and the penalty for treason … is death.”

There’s nothing simple about the impeachment process, however. Bill Clinton was impeached for lying under oath by the House in 1998, but was later acquitted following a trial in the Senate.

An impeachment process — assuming any conclusion could be reached before an election — may not be the most desirable track for the future of American democracy, nor for the outlook of international and economic policy.

In the end, after we get through the meandering impeachment process, the 2020 winner could be … President Donald Trump

Losing Our Consciousness

What is consciousness? It is the ability of a person to distinguish himself/herself from the surroundings. When a person speaks to another person then the person knows that he/she is being addressed by the other person and responds. Each person is aware about his/her existence in this world as a separate entity from any other. Thus consciousness establishes identity of each person.

What happens when a person loses his/her consciousness? In such a situation, a person may not be aware that somebody is talking to him/her or any other person. Such a person may not be able to distinguish himself/herself from other people or the surroundings. Such a person may not be able to judge things correctly as the person may not be able to look at things objectively. Thus loosing consciousness is a bad thing for a person and in fact the entire human race.

Most people are acutely aware about their individual consciousness. They interact with other people and things and judge as to what is good or bad for them or the society in which they live. In fact; most of the activities and behaviors exhibited by a person is controlled by their consciousness. Personal choices and preferences are also controlled by consciousness of a person. Some people are shy and so they try to avoid meeting other people. In contrast; some people are not shy and they freely mingle with other people. Similarly some people like to get involved with other people and help them. In contrast; some people do not like to mix with other people and are aloof to affairs of other people.

What if most people lose their consciousness? In such a situation, they may be controlled and directed by some powerful force and they will simply obey the commands issued by this force without hesitation. They will consent to everything being demanded by such a force.

If human race may ever lose individual consciousness? It is quite possible.

Today people are hooked to social media. The owners of these social media platforms provide such compelling content and services that people spend a large portion of their time on chatting, viewing content, participating in events, availing free or heavily discounted services etc. People also are increasingly buying things which are advertized on such social media platforms.

These social media platforms are increasingly becoming more and more personalized. Using the user data collected by these social media platforms; these social media platforms provide content which are based on personal choices and preferences of a person. These social media platforms are also able to place advertisements of products and services as per a user’s preferences and personal tastes. These social media platforms now know a person better than the person himself/herself.

Today people are still able to exert their personal choices and preferences openly. These personal choices and preferences are distinct from those of any other person. But in future this scenario will change. Today people still have options to buy goods and services from any of the products and services offered by many competitors. Tomorrow people will have no such luxury. These social media platforms will ensure that people will be able to buy goods and services only from the vendors which are suggested by these platforms. These social media platforms will be able to completely control minds of people. These social media platforms will also ensure that people will think and act as per wishes of these platforms. Thus people will no longer have their own individual consciousness.

In such a situation, people will lose their consciousness. They will simply become tools in hands of owners of these platforms. These owners then can easily manipulate people to meet their own goals.

Britain Just Had a Revolution

Who rules the United Kingdom? The answer to that question changed today. A group of unelected judges, with no democratic oversight to their appointment, have appointed themselves the ultimate rulers of the UK.

The UK’s Supreme Court apparently discovered a new law that limits how long Parliament can be suspended.

That new law, in itself, may not be significant. But the fact that the Supreme Court has taken to itself the power to make such a law is. They have overruled the government and even the Queen. Britain’s constitution was rewritten today—just to stop Brexit.

There is no precedent for what the Supreme Court has done. The ability to suspend, or prorogue, Parliament has been a tool of the executive for centuries. Former Prime Minister John Major, for example, prorogued Parliament in 1997 to avoid awkward questions about a scandal. In 1948, then Prime Minister Clement Atlee prorogued Parliament to help force through a new bill that would allow the government to take over the steel industry. In Canada, with its same common law-based legal tradition, the government prorogued Parliament in 2008 to prevent opposition parties from forming a coalition.

The courts had no problem with any of this. But now, Britain’s membership within the European Union is on the line. The British people voted to leave the EU on June 23, 2016. In the aftermath of the referendum, Parliament reluctantly also voted to leave. But now enough time has passed that a majority in Parliament think they have a chance to stop Brexit. The government could prorogue, or suspend, Parliament to try and thwart this, and implement the will of the people. But the Supreme Court has now “discovered” new restrictions on prorogation.

The court’s ruling will make it easier for Parliament to stop Brexit. But the overturning of the British constitution is the bigger issue.

“No example of the court controlling prorogation of Parliament can be found in this country—or in any common-law country. Until today,” wrote Charles Day for the Spectator. Britain now has an American-style Supreme Court that involves itself with the biggest political issues of the day—but without America’s political oversight of the selection of judges.

It’s not only pro-Brexiters pointing to the scale of what has happened. Channel 4’s Fact Check stated, “[T]he experts we’ve spoken to are unanimous: Today’s ruling is massive.” Prof. Tom Poole of the London School of Economics told the UK-based news source, “I can’t think of a bigger UK constitutional law case.”

This isn’t the only constitutional “innovation” to come out of Brexit.

Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow has played fast and loose with the British constitution, dismissing rules of procedure as merely guidelines and saying that he will not be “guided by precedent.” All in the name of Brexit.

John Rentow, chief political commentator for the Independent, wrote: “One of the solid constitutional principles of the 20th and early 21st centuries is that the government controls the parliamentary timetable and therefore the right to initiate laws.” Mr. Bercow wrenched that control away from the government.

Prorogation was one of the only tools the government had to fight back and restore its constitutional powers. By striking that down, the pro-EU judges have sided with a pro-EU speaker of the House of Commons, a pro-EU civil services, and a pro-EU Parliament to try and stop Brexit—all the while cheered on by a pro-EU bbc.

Anti-Brexiters are so desperate to keep Britain in the EU that they risk making big changes to the constitution, with unpredictable outcomes.

The Queen is the one who prorogued Parliament based on the advice of her prime minister. With the court declaring this order “unlawful, void and of no effect,” can they now do the same to other acts of the crown? Adrian Hilton wrote on his Archbishop Cranmer blog, “Her Majesty’s constitutional powers to advise and warn her prime minister, or even in extremis to refuse his or her advice, are now subject to the judgments of the Supreme Court. If the Queen wills it, the Supreme Court can unwill it. If the Queen does not will it, the Supreme Court can oblige her to will it. The orders of the monarch are justiciable.”

“This is a seismic constitutional shift in the United Kingdom, if not an unglorious revolution,” he wrote. “We are now ruled by 11 justices of the Supreme Court—unelected, unaccountable and unimpeachable. In the twilight years of the happiest and longest reign in British history, the crown has become a constitutional bauble.”

“What we have seen emerge via this judgment is a borderline tyrannical layer in British politics,” wrote Spiked editor Brendan O’Neil. “A layer that stands above everyone and everything, including the government itself. A layer of unrepresentative, unaccountable individuals who have now presumed the authority to strike down actual government decisions.”

“This judgement is a disaster for law and for politics,” he wrote. “It’s bad for law because it will convince many more people that the law has become a political instrument, wielded by the wealthy to achieve openly political ends that they failed to achieve in the public, democratic sphere. And it is bad for politics because it points to the formation of a new politicized but untouchable elite which has power over the entire nation and everyone in it.”

This is the real consequence of today’s vote. Brexit can still move forward. Prime Minister Boris Johnson still has ways to get Britain out of the EU. But moving on from here, the risk of these judges stepping in will always be an issue.

Supporters of the judges have pointed out that the ruling was done carefully. Their judgment stresses that they don’t tread into this new territory lightly. But even if the first step toward a new constitution was tentative, we should still be worried about the destination.

Pro-EU elites are changing the way Britain is governed to get their way and overrule the 2016 referendum. With this kind of all-out war—where one side is willing to ignore the constitution, law and traditional restraints to override the will of the voter—Britain is walking down the same path as the United States.

There is a critical cause behind this trend, this attack on Britain, the U.S. and the power of the monarchy. Do you have a favorable view of the Founding Fathers, the Constitution, separation of powers, rule of law, Manifest Destiny, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, free-market economy, and America’s role in World Wars I and II? If you do, then surely you are deeply alarmed by the state of America today. All of these pillars of American history and identity are being vilified and destroyed.

It’s the same in the UK. During the Supreme Court ruling, Britain’s Labour Party was holding its party conference. A YouGov poll of 1,000 attendees found that 66 percent said they were ashamed of Britain’s history over the last 300 years, with only 23 percent saying they were proud. That history includes defeating the greatest threats of global tyranny, leading the way in abolishing slavery around the world, and eliminating barbaric customs, such as the forced suicide of widows when their husbands die. And yet two thirds are ashamed.

Again, it’s the same in the UK. It would be tempting to blame it all on the EU. But the cause is not Europe or the Brexit vote.

We are in uncharted territory in both countries. And if you care about your country, or the state of the world in general, you need to know why.

Making an example of Kashmir

On August 5, the Indian government declared that Jammu and Kashmir is no longer an exception. On August 5, the Indian government decided to make Kashmir an exception.
Why am I saying contradictory things about the same event? Because they are both facts. Bear with me.
Removing Article 370 was an article of faith for the Bharatiya Janata Party and its predecessor the Jana Sangh for decades. The BJP’s election manifestos vowed to rescind Kashmir’s special status. That promise was kept on August 5.
Why was Kashmir different? On October 17, 1949, when Article 306A (later renumbered as 370) was adopted, its architect N. Gopalaswami Ayyangar reminded the Constituent Assembly of the circumstances of Kashmir’s accession on October 26, 1947:
“Since then, the State has had a chequered history. Conditions are not yet normal in the State. The meaning of this accession is that at present that State is a unit of a federal State, namely, the Dominion of India. This Dominion is getting transformed into a Republic…on the 26th January, 1950. The Jammu and Kashmir State, therefore, has to become a unit of the new Republic of India.”
Chequered history, indeed. I urge you to read this educative debate. There was one doubter: Maulana Hasrat Mohani, founder of the Indian Communist Party and father of the Inquilab Zindabad slogan, who asked: “Why this discrimination, please?” because he felt the Maharaja of Baroda also ought to have been treated specially.
Ayyangar patiently explained: Pakistani irregulars had invaded and captured a chunk of J&K. The Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession on October 26, 1947. A war had been going on within the state. “Part of the State is still in the hands of rebels and enemies.”
The Constitution-makers were caught in a cleft stick. India had absorbed the princely state of Junagadh after a plebiscite in February 1948 when its Hindu majority population voted overwhelmingly for India (their Muslim ruler fled to Karachi after first acceding to Pakistan). Kashmir was the reverse of Junagadh: its Hindu ruler had acceded to India without consulting his mostly Muslim subjects.
Ayyangar said India had promised the people of Kashmir they would be given the opportunity “whether they will remain with the Republic or wish to go out of it. We are also committed to ascertaining this will of the people by means of a plebiscite provided that peaceful and normal conditions are restored and the impartiality of the plebiscite could be guaranteed.”
All this is history. “Peaceful and normal conditions” never came about. Parts of J&K continue to be occupied by two nuclear-armed neighbours inimical to India. The Line of Control in Kashmir and the Line of Actual Control in Aksai Chin are de facto borders and make a referendum unthinkable.
We were left with a Gordian knot. The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (whose Section 144 grants sweeping powers to district magisrates) is now applicable in the Valley. Until Aug.5, it carried the caveat “It extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir.” Now Parliament will have to amend a whole host of laws to delete that health warning.
Article 370 has been eroded by successive governments, as Kashmir interlocutor Radha Kumar notes. Praveen Swami narrates the story of how Jawaharlal Nehru used the Article 370 smokescreen to crack down on Sheikh Abdullah and ensure Kashmir stayed with India. Still, the manner of the abrogation was a “clever process of legal drafting” that violates the spirit of Article 370 but perhaps not its letter, says author and lawyer Abhinav Chandrachud.
One nation, one constitution, proclaimed the Prime Minister on August 8. But there is an immediate conundrum: Article 371 (A-J) also lists exceptional treatment for 11 states including six in the North-east. Home Minister Amit Shah has promised the government will not abrogate it. The BJP always saw Kashmir as an execrable exception, although both Articles 370 and 371 are in Part XXI of the Constitution which is clearly labelled ‘Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions’.
How has the government made an exception of Kashmir?
The building blocks were in place well before the BJP won a second term in May. On Aug.8, 2017, the Department of Telecommunications, using powers under the Telegraph Act of 1885, notified the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017. On Dec.20, 2018, the Home Ministry’s Cyber and Information Security Division issued a notice empowering intelligence and security agencies under rules framed in 2009 as per the Information Technology Act, to intercept, monitor and decrypt “any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource”.
The Kashmir crackdown is in its fourth week. Post-paid and pre-paid mobile phones were blocked for 133 and 202 days respectively in 2016 after Burhan Wani’s killing, but this time landlines too have been cut, scores of politicians detained, and curfews enforced by a huge security blanket. The Editors Guild has urged authorities to let journalists operate freely, and UN human rights experts have said “The blackout is a form of collective punishment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of a precipitating offence.”
The government is easing up in selective patches, but what will happen when the lid is taken off altogether? The Supreme Court, after holding off on a hearing on the clampdown for two weeks, on Wednesday said it would hear the pleas in early October. That coincides with Mahatma Gandhi’s 125th birth anniversary. The apostle of non-violence has become as much a talisman as Article 370.

6 Innovative Technologies to Transform Infrastructure

Stewing in a traffic jam, huffing over a late train or waiting out a delayed flight at an overburdened airport, one can be forgiven for feeling frustrated by creaking infrastructure.

When New Yorkers finally welcomed the opening of the Second Avenue Subway in 2017, they had been waiting nearly 100 years from the project’s conception to completion of its first phase. Beleaguered Berliners are still waiting on Brandenburg airport – scheduled to open in 2011 – to start accepting passengers. Over-budget and over-deadline projects too often seem the norm, all while innovation is flourishing in the rest of the economy.

However, appearances can be deceptive; innovation is actually thriving at all stages of infrastructure development. Exciting new ideas are being generated around the world and have the potential to change the field.

1. BIM: design that keeps tabs

Observing a construction site from afar, one can be forgiven for thinking not much has changed. Yet, a closer look will reveal advances that are changing the way infrastructure projects are designed. Building Information Modeling (BIM) software programs grant the ability to digitally design a construction project that moves beyond two-dimensional technical drawings and Computer Aided Design. BIM allows professionals at all stages, from the architects to the engineers to the building managers, to collaborate on a construction project.

It not only enables three-dimensional computer-generated design, but can also provide insights into functional considerations like time and cost, and even environmental impact. Will floor-to-ceiling windows increase the energy bill? The architect wants to add a new wall: How does this affect the engineering requirements? BIM can answer all these in real time and give access to all necessary parties on multiple platforms. This, among other things, optimises design, decreases errors and gives greater cost predictability, which help to deliver projects that are on time and on budget.

2. 3D printing: taking the strain of construction

While on-screen advancements like BIM are increasing collaboration to improve infrastructure design, on-site technological advances are changing the way infrastructure is physically constructed. 3D printing is poised to totally disrupt the construction site. MX3D, a Dutch 3D printing company, attempted to design and built the world’s first 3D printed steel bridge – all in mid-air. The project involved constructing a special six-axis robot that could create weight-bearing structures beneath it, which it could slide forward upon to continue the project as the building material set. The 12.5-metre span is due to be installed over a canal in central Amsterdam this year after safety testing and will include sensors to gather insights on how the bridge reacts over time. The technology holds the potential to increase the efficiency of infrastructure mega-projects, while reducing the cost and safety concerns of operating in sprawling, chaotic construction sites.

3. Mass Timber: the era of wooden skyscrapers

The brave new world of infrastructure development isn’t confined to new designing and building technologies – new materials are also leading the field. The centuries-long reign of concrete as a primary building material may be coming to an end, as the use of various Mass Timber alternatives continues to become more mainstream. Mass Timber is increasingly replacing other building materials like cement and steel, and new products like CLT (cross-laminated timber, formed by stacking and gluing perpendicular layers of wood) and Glulam (glue-laminated timber, formed by stacking and gluing layers of wood directly on top of each other) are allowing for even higher and stronger wood buildings.

Vienna’s HoHo tower is set to be 24 storeys and 84 metres tall, and Norway’s recently completed 85.4 metre, 18-storey Mjøsa Tower is now the tallest timber tower in the world. The Fort McMurray International Airport Terminal in Canada was the largest cross-laminated timber building in North America at the time it was built in 2012. Using CLT in the terminal’s construction to cut building time was ideal given Fort McMurray’s small labour force, its remote location in Canada’s northern Alberta province and its harsh seasonal weather conditions.

Using Mass Timber can reduce construction time up to 25% and use up to one-third the energy production of steel and one-fifth of concrete in addition to using significantly less carbon-intensive production methods. The airport terminals and train stations of tomorrow could be built faster and cleaner using Mass Timber, as builders tackle taller and larger projects with materials like CLT and Glulam.

4. Plastic roads: recycling under our wheels

This disruption of traditional building materials continues with efforts to replace asphalt as a primary material in road construction with plastic. Dutch engineering firm KWS has developed a lightweight, prefabricated, modular road made with recycled plastic waste. Advantages over asphalt include a quicker installation time, triple the service life and introducing an effective way to recycle the plastic that ends up in our oceans and landfills. The road is hollow to allow room for utility pipe placement and rainwater drainage. It is also covered in a special coating to prevent the release of microplastics, which often end up our food supply. Though the pilot project has been a 30-metre bike path made from the equivalent of 218,000 plastic cups in the Dutch city of Zwolle, sensors imbedded in the road are helping the team capture insights that can be used to develop plastic roads, plastic highways – perhaps even plastic airport runways. Plastic roads not only have the potential to take plastic waste out of the environment, but to introduce savings through faster installation and less disruptive maintenance.

5. Blockchain: streamlining contracts

Improved design technologies and new building materials are positive steps, but a transformation-ripe area of infrastructure development lies long before the first blueprints are drawn. Moribund contracting and procurement processes dramatically slow down projects before they even begin. Blockchain is one such technology that can eliminate the many layers of contracts and middlemen that sit between the conception and delivery of an infrastructure project. Blockchain’s potential to undergird smart contracts can be used to pay for important aspects of an infrastructure asset (for example, a subway car or important parts of an ventilation system) by releasing direct payments over time to the supplier, the shipping company or the installer without a web of separate contracts and intermediate parties.

Additionally, it provides full traceability. Its identity certification applications could reduce issues around finding workers or firms with the right construction certification or security clearances. Indeed, leveraging Blockchain’s use of digital IDs could lead to automation of contract and sub-contract administration making for more direct agreements and less confusion. Using blockchain throughout the project life cycle, particularly in conjunction with BIM, could significantly cut down on time, cost and fraud.

6. Replica: making passengers count

In addition to having a plan for procurement, designers need to understand the best way to plan for a new system. For mass transportation infrastructure projects, this means knowing where the people are and where they need to go. Misunderstanding passenger demand can lead to costly missteps like Montreal’s abandoned Mirabel airport, once projected to be among the busiest in the world, or the Jacksonville Skyway operating at 10% of projected daily ridership (though the city has interesting plans to revitalise the system).

When planning new rapid transit routes, urban planners often rely on inefficient household surveys, limiting trip counters or data quality-plagued modeling software. Sidewalk Labs endeavours to solve this problem with Replica, a software that can use real-time location data to plan mass transportation systems. The program de-identifies mobile location data from smartphones and apps, combines it with aggregate demographic information, and gives planning agencies information on how, when and why people travel in urban areas. Replica can help planners decide where to build a new subway line or widen a street, or when to plan repairs on utility lines when they are the least disruptive. It is a tool that could improve the speed and efficacy with which infrastructure is planned and maintained, avoiding the potential for bridges to nowhere.

Clearly, there are many exciting things going on in a field that can appear staid to the uninitiated. The technological transformation sweeping the rest of society is indeed primed to revolutionise infrastructure. However, decision-makers, for a variety of reasons, are still hesitant to create the kind of enabling environment necessary for widespread embrace of these emerging technologies.

Several organizations aim to address this by helping the public and private sectors better understand effective methods for technologically transforming infrastructure. This includes the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Infrastructure, currently designing a casebook of real-world best -practice examples to equip decision-makers with knowledge to develop a new generation of infrastructure. The technological advances rising for infrastructure have the potential to change the way we live, work and play in an increasingly interconnected world. If we can create the environment where the Fourth Industrial Revolution spurs the infrastructure technology revolution, the prosperous, dynamic and inclusive societies the world needs are only a short ride away.

Modi-Trump Chemistry Tactfully Resets India-US Relationship

If statecraft and stagecraft are becoming indistinguishable, there could have been no bigger illustration than the star-studded joint rally by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Donald Trump in Houston before a humungous crowd of Indian Americans.

But this unprecedented diplomatic mega show was more than symbolic razzmatazz. It revealed a hardnosed economic and political calculus underlying the soft glow of cultural and people-to-people links between the world’s two largest democracies. Right from the beginning of his prime ministership in 2014, Modi has made concerted efforts to reach out to the Indian community abroad. Those efforts paid rich dividends this Sunday when Modi’s address to the Indian-American community in Houston turned out to be a mega event with President Donald Trump and two dozen American lawmakers – cutting across party lines and therefore exemplifying bipartisan support for India – attending. It also comes at a time when Pakistan has been trying hard to drum up international support to counter India’s move to abrogate special status for Jammu & Kashmir.

A fundamental plank in Pakistan’s irredentist claims on Kashmir is eliciting Western diplomatic support, chiefly in the US and UK, since it knows it cannot achieve this by military or asymmetric means alone. But the Modi-Trump bonhomie in Houston showed that Washington is firmly in India’s corner, even if some signals eventually emanate about easing restrictions in Kashmir (which New Delhi should, in any case). This was reinforced when Trump asserted the need to protect civilians from radical Islamist terrorism and Modi called out Pakistan by alluding to the fact that the planners of both the 9/11 and 26/11 terror attacks were hosted in that country. According to media reports, Modi and Trump are apparently racing to wrap up the negotiations on trade that have been underway for some time. The speculation is about a “small deal” between the two countries. Yet, the two leaders also know that they need to look beyond the tactical and signal a change of direction in bilateral commercial engagement and set ambitious trade targets for the near and medium term.

In diplomacy, personal rapport and trust between the leaders is quite valuable. Although the leaders themselves might not negotiate the details of agreements, they need to communicate their respective interests to each other and signal the political will to overcome domestic obstacles.

Even more important is the recognition of your interlocutor’s priorities. When you address the other leader’s most important concern and give him or her room to claim victory, you will get a lot more in return. In the last two decades, the success of India’s engagement with the US has been rooted in Delhi’s sensible judgement about the immediate focus of the other leader.

It is easily forgotten that the then External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh offered quick unilateral support in May 2001 when US President George W Bush’s announced an initiative to build missile defences and move away from the doctrine of deterrence through nuclear terror. While Bush was being pilloried at home and abroad for overturning arms control orthodoxy, Delhi’s support was more than welcome in Washington. This was followed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s strong support for Bush’s war on terror immediately after 9/11 and set the stage for a political and strategic approach to the Indo-US relationship that was hobbled for decades by disputes over nuclear issues.

Delhi’s new political warmth to America saw Bush extend unprecedented support for India’s rise and nudge a reluctant US establishment to invest much political capital in changing the US domestic nonproliferation laws as well as international regulations to lift a long-standing nuclear blockade against India. While the UPA government wavered in taking the nuclear deal forward, Bush stayed the course thanks to his strong empathy for India.

The resolution of the nuclear issue created the basis for a productive partnership with the US that saw liberalisation of US technology transfers, the launch of counter-terror cooperation, the expansion of defence relationship and political cooperation on regional and global issues. If Jaswant Singh and Vajpayee recognised what mattered for Bush, Modi saw that addressing climate change was President Barack Obama’s highest priority. Modi, who had sensible climate convictions of his own, quickly reoriented India’s policy to make Delhi part of the solution in the stalled international negotiations on mitigating global warming. When he was a senator, Obama had expressed serious reservations about the nuclear deal. Once he saw Modi as a partner, Obama helped finalise the nuclear agreement and integrate India into the global nonproliferation regimes.

On the nuclear issue as well as climate change, there was strong resistance within the Indian system from two different quarters — those who picked nits and others who turned every engagement with America into a supreme test of India’s commitment to non-alignment. The nit pickers were mostly from the bureaucracy that refused to see the larger gains accruing to India. The political class revelled in denouncing any change in India’s long outmoded negotiating positions.

When Trump took charge of the White House in January 2017, Modi and his advisers did not take long to see the president would be very different from his predecessors and that he was going to alter many long-standing American policies. While Modi recognised the centrality Trump’s trade concerns, the PM’s initial responses did not seem adequate.

More consequentially, Modi did not devote enough political attention to the emerging challenges on the trade front. He seemed to let the nit pickers lead the trade negotiation. India’s prickly attitude to trade liberalisation that congealed in recent years put it at odds with its major trading partners. While most of them had given up on India, Trump made it a bone of contention. In his effusive speech on India-US relations, Trump did insist that that the people of India must have “access to products stamped with the beautiful phrase Made in the USA”. Put simply, market access has been the issue that has troubled the relationship in recent years. While referring to the difficulties in the bilateral trade negotiations and suggesting a deal might be at hand, Modi reassured Trump that he is learning from the President on the “art of the deal”.

The PM is aware that cutting a trade deal with Trump, will make it a lot easier to deal with his administration on a range of issues including terrorism, Kashmir and the unfolding crisis in Afghanistan. But a trade agreement with the US is not just about immediate give and take between Modi and Trump. A new trade agreement must be about preparing India for profound changes in the global economic order, buffeted by Trump’s politics as well as the unfolding technological disruption. Many of Trump’s trade concerns in relation to India resonate with the left wing of the Democratic Party that is gaining ground. Getting India’s most important trade relationship right in the near term and charting a bold course for a mutually beneficial commercial partnership with the US over the long term are urgent and worthy goals in themselves.

However, to take full advantage of strategic complementarities between India and the US things must improve on the trade front – it was not that long back when Trump had labelled India “tariff king”. The Trump administration’s obsession with trade deficits is a big roadblock in India-US ties. Therefore, it is hoped that the momentum from the ‘Howdy Modi’ event will translate into a meaningful trade deal. Reportedly, a mini-agreement is in the works that will see India lower tariffs on some American goods, in return for US concessions such as restoring India’s special trade status under the Generalized System of Preferences.

Overall, the two countries must come together to balance the rise of a techno-totalitarian state such as China, since neither has the resources to do so alone. China has more than four times the population of the US and is close to overtaking it in GDP as well as tech prowess, while it has nearly five times the size of the Indian economy. It also happens to be driven by a sense of manifest destiny and a zero sum view of international relations. Upholding a global liberal and rules-based order, therefore, necessarily requires strong strategic cooperation between the world’s richest and largest democracy

Trump’s rare acceptance of Modi’s request to share the dais with him and the bulk of the American president’s speech at the ‘Howdy Modi’ rally reconfirmed that he is focussed on a predominantly economic agenda. The list of investments by Indian companies in the US economy and sales of American energy supplies and weapons to India that Trump rattled off spoke of his core motivation to judge every country through the prism of jobs for American workers and profits for American companies.

Trump came into office in 2017 with a sceptical mindset that America’s allies and partners were bilking it and taking undue advantage of its liberal policies in trade and immigration. India was targeted as one of several offenders which had run up a trade surplus with the US and which was misusing the H-1B visas to flood the American job market.

The fact that India was a democracy whose rise could check authoritarian China’s giant strides did not matter to Trump, whose narrow populism discounted broad liberal values. In his worldview, the only ‘good’ countries were those which bought more ‘Made in USA’ products and services.

Modi came up with a twofold response to this altered reality. First, his government kept up engagement with liberal-minded ‘globalists’ among the US strategic elites, both within and outside the Trump administration, so that the distinction between free and responsible India and unfree and predatory China would remain a factor at the lower levels of the American state machinery. External affairs minister S Jaishankar’s quip that the China-US trade war “may not be such a bad thing” if it helps create fairer market access throughout the world was a nudge in this direction.

Second, Modi grasped the essence of Trump’s transactional attitude and reset the tenor and dynamic of bilateral ties in an intensely pragmatic way that addresses Trump’s pet peeves. India bought American oil, pared down the trade deficit by 7% in 2018, avoided publicly attacking Trump on his tariffs and immigration restrictions. Negotiations to settle the trade dispute and promises to buy more American weaponry were thrown in to pacify Trump’s hard line instincts.

Reading Trump as an out-and-out political animal who measures the worth of each country by how it may or may not be aiding his domestic popularity ahead of the 2020 US presidential elections, Modi also dangled the large Indian diaspora as a concrete carrot. The 4.4 million Indian-origin community in the US, the bulk of whom voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, could potentially aid Trump in hotly contested states next year.

If Trump’s confrontational foreign policy towarda Cuba, Venezuela and Iran have been driven by coldblooded plans to capture the Cuban American, Venezuelan American and Jewish American supporters, Modi is betting that he will mellow down vis-a-vis India by virtue of benefits accruing from Indian Americans as voters and donors for him. Modi’s reminder in Houston about how Ab Ki Baar Trump Sarkar resounded in the 2016 US election was not just a refrain on his own 2014 Indian election tagline, but a tantalising hint to Trump to tap the goldmine of the Indian diaspora.

In an earlier era, such crafty playing of the diaspora card would have been shunned as risky and avoided as unwarranted interference in internal affairs of the US. But it is a gamble worth taking in today’s shockingly unorthodox populist America, where Trump often welcomes foreign interventions of various forms, provided they aid his electoral chances.

Modi was, of course, cautious to ensure bipartisan presence of politicians from both the Democratic and Republican parties in Houston. But if the unintended effect of ‘Howdy Modi’ – where Trump sang praises of ‘legal immigrants’ from India but dissed ‘illegal immigrants’ pouring in via Mexico – is to give the US president’s political fortunes a lift, so be it and India would not mind that.

One keyword that Trump uttered in Houston was ‘reciprocal’. Prior to his meteoric rise, the ethos of American foreign policy was that the US would be a generous patron of developing countries in return for their willingness to second American geopolitical goals. Today’s Washington has abandoned that ‘strategic altruism’. Modi has read this shift and is making concessions here and there to Trump, without letting the latter cross India’s red lines on mediating over Kashmir or buying hi-tech weapon systems from Russia. India is not eating the proverbial cake and having it too, but rather preparing for sharing the cake.

Given Trump’s rank opportunism and utilitarianism, one cannot rule out the possibility that he may turn on a dime and revert to prickly positions that challenge India’s interests to suit his evolving domestic political needs. But so far, the damage to bilateral ties has been contained. Other countries reeling from the Trump effect could study the Indian model of handling him for a few lessons in tactful readjustment.

Welcome to the Weird and Not-So-Wonderful World of Negative Interest

Would you like to get paid to take out a mortgage? In Denmark, you can. Jyske Bank, the country’s third-largest bank, is offering a 10-year mortgage with an interest rate of -0.5 percent.

Normally, you borrow money from the bank and pay back your loan, plus a bit extra—the interest. But in Denmark, you can borrow money and the bank will pay you to borrow it. The concept is so weird that Jyske Bank has a frequently asked questions page for its mortgage deal. It reassures potential customers, “Yes, you read that right,” and answers the question, “How is that possible?”

Welcome to the weird world of negative interest. It sounds unusual to us, but in the financial world, it has become normal—and no one really knows how it will end.

Negative interest has become a regular part of the central bank’s tool kit. Interest rates are typically the way the government controls the economy. Raise interest rates, and borrowing becomes expensive. People stop spending and put their cash to work earning interest instead. But if governments believe the economy needs stimulating—needs more spending—they cut rates. Borrowing is cheap and easy, savers get few rewards, and spending goes up.

But what do you do if you want to stimulate your economy, and interest rates are at record lows? That’s the situation we are facing right now, and that’s why we have negative interest rates.

Central banks have been punishing other banks that save money. If you’re a European bank and have €10 million (us$11 million) on your hands, you need to find something to do with it. You could save it with the European Central Bank, but its negative interest rate means that will cost you money—you’ll get less out than you put in. So instead you’re going to be much more motivated to find someone, anyone, to lend that money to.

This has been going on for several years. The deposit rate at the European Central Bank went into the negative in 2014, when it was set to -0.1 percent. Last week, it dropped to -0.5 percent.

Now, negative interest rates are gradually more common in the wider world. The Swiss UBS will charge a 0.6 percent fee to anyone who deposits more than half a million in the bank. Last month, Germany sold 30-year bonds at a negative interest rate—the first time this has ever happened for long-term government bonds anywhere in the world. Investors were willing to pay for the privilege of lending money to Germany. Negative rates are more common for short-term bonds—in total, around $16 trillion worth of bonds are “charging” negative interest.

America could follow suit. Former chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan says that it is “only a matter of time.” A week ago, United States President Donald Trump tweeted, “The Federal Reserve should get our interest rates down to ZERO, or less.”

His call is understandable. By pushing its rates into negative territory, the European Central Bank is effectively waging a currency war. If you have to pay money to save euros, investors will sell euros, making them cheaper, and put their savings in dollars, making the dollar stronger. A cheaper euro means that all Europe’s exports are cheaper. A stronger, more expensive dollar makes all American exports more expensive. Europe is stimulating its own economy at the expense of America’s. To Mr. Trump, that’s not fair, so he wants to bring America’s interest rate down as well.

But it’s a dangerous policy.

We’re engaging in something never before tried in human history. When Warren Buffet was asked about negative interest rates in 2016, the sage of Omaha himself said, “We do not know how this movie plays out.”

Think about what our situation says about our economy right now. U.S. government debt is at its highest level since the aftermath of World War ii. Consumer debt, both per person and in total, is at its highest level in history. U.S. credit card debt is at its highest in history. Mortgage debt is at its highest level in history.

We’re addicted to debt. And yet it’s not enough. Even with all that debt, central bankers fear that we’re not spending enough and not borrowing enough to keep the economy afloat, and so they’re pushing for negative interest rates.

If this goes mainstream, the result could be an explosion of debt that makes our current records seem puny. With negative rates, you can borrow money, stick it under a mattress for a year, pay it back, and still make a profit. You’ll see people borrow masses of money and put it in the stock market. But then, if share prices tank, there’s a whole lot of people with loans they can never pay back.

Think about the effect this will have on government spending. The U.S. is borrowing $1 trillion each year and showing no signs of paying the money back. President Trump has called himself the “king of debt.” The Democrats are falling over themselves to promise more lavish spending.

Now, throw in negative interest rates. We can afford health care; we can afford anything! Bernie Sanders will say. People are literally paying us to borrow money. And that may be true, but borrowing money adds to the debt—a debt that will have to be paid back sometime.

Negative interest sets the economic system up for catastrophe. It’s a powerful incentive for over-indebted consumers and an over-indebted government to take on new debt. It’s also a powerful demonstration of how flawed our current financial system is.

The men pushing negative interest rates are not idiots. What they’re doing may be unwise, but there’s some logic behind it. The trouble is our financial system is based on debt. The very way governments try to control that system revolves around debt. For many, it looks like the only options are: Allow catastrophe right now, or try negative interest rates and risk a massive catastrophe later; who knows, this might just work.

This experiment may stave off disaster for a while longer. But it is setting us up for a massive financial collapse.

It’s a collapse we’ve been warning about for years. A banking collapse in the U.S. would have major consequences abroad, as well as at home. It could suddenly result in triggering European nations to unite as a new world power, larger than either the Soviet Union or the U.S.

Patriotism without borders

The late Senator John McCain’s plane, as a naval aviator, was shot down in the Vietnam war. He was widely admired for his bravery as he was captured and tortured as a prisoner of war, for over five years. He was a true patriot.

He was also celebrated for his egalitarian ideals because he refused an early release when his captors learned that he was a son and grandson of Navy admirals. He insisted that all the American POWs captured before him be released first.

Donald Trump also revealed his love for America and won the presidency on the platform of bringing jobs back to the country, keeping undocumented immigrants out and making the US safer by preventing Muslims from certain countries from entering the US, to reduce terrorism. He vowed to no longer let the foreign powers — including China— get away with unfair trade practices.

What is the difference between the two patriotisms?

Has the US lost its vigor? Or is it just naive? Or did it start extending the olive branch out of guilt, to Japan because it dropped atomic bombs on it, or to Mexico, where it did not take a harsher stand against undocumented Mexicans because originally it overtook ‘their land’? Or was it out of sheer benevolence?

The difference is a gradual but distinct cultural shift from WW2 to the millennial generation.

The western world had started searching for alternatives to avoid tragedies like WW2. Slowly but surely tolerance, persuasion, and soft touch started replacing coercion and intimidation — a norm of the old geopolitical landscape.

In the later period, the national boundaries started softening. Ethnic and gender boundaries are disappearing. Patriotism is taking a different meaning when one is committed to the goodness of humanity beyond borders and willing to make sacrifices for it — which is what the debate is about.

The power of a tolerant approach was demonstrated by Gandhi using non-violence movement to gain India’s independence from the British rule. In the US, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led nonviolent protests for racial inequality leading to the passing of Civil Rights Act — outlawing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The Dalai Lama is revered for his tolerance against China which occupies Tibet, his native country.

Cultures and national norms re-invent themselves just like companies do. In Silicon Valley, for example, HP started a new culture of management by walking around. Now we have open office spaces and dress-down culture — making leaders more approachable. As a result, information is not hoarded and ideas permeate easily throughout the company. The big change is from respect for authority to respect for workers. Workforce as a result rallies for the good of the customers.

The millennials are taking the social norms of their workplace into their political thought process — followed candidate Bernie Sanders like the pied piper, in the last elections.

Football player Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling during national anthem last year was also a generational clash of ideologies — symbolic lack-of-allegiance vs silent protest for a cause — just like Gandhi’s and King’s.

The old definition of patriotism lacks agility and ability to assimilate ideas of people of diverse backgrounds and cultures — be it within the country or across the boundaries. Coming hard and strong could pay off in the short run.

But the new philosophy is more effective and has a longer lasting impact — just like my becoming American at heart took longer but changed me for the better, forever.

A reminder of John McCain’s demonstrated compassion for others while making a serious personal sacrifice, has left the country inspired.

Drawing boundaries can limit our thinking and reach, and consequently, the progress is likely to be in fits and starts, while the borderless concept of nationalism provides a platform for conflict resolution through trust and cooperation which can touch hearts of the masses.

McCain in his farewell letter was hopefully alluding to the borderless patriotism when he connected America to “liberty, equal justice, respect for the dignity of all people.. .serving .. causes bigger than ourselves.”

The Reality of Canadian Conservatives

What governing vision does the Conservative Party of Canada offer Canadians this election? This is a fundamental question that the party has not yet answered. In a recent column, pundit Andrew Coyne wrote:

“Conservatism in Canada now amounts to, at best, opportunism. They are in favour of whatever is unassailably popular, opposed to whatever is indefensibly unpopular … just so long as no one asks them to take a risk, a stand, or a decision, to … explain how it differs from the left’s.”

The same cannot be said for the federal Liberals and NDP. The Liberals proudly wrap themselves around a heavily left-leaning economic and social agenda, while the NDP are trying to outflank the Liberals on the left.

Both parties unapologetically promote their fiscal vision for greater government economic intervention and their social vision for diversity, equity and overall social justice.

From running government deficits in normal times, legalizing marijuana and euthanasia, to, until recently, supporting policies that would further integrate China and Canada economically and socially, the Liberals seek to reshape our country.

What is the alternative to the left’s agenda for remaking Canada?

Emphasis on tradition

We can try to infer possible conservative policies by summarizing basic conservative values and then applying it to a few present-day government priorities.

Conservatism in general places importance on tradition and norms that provide stability for society over time. Their vision is not about going backwards, but rather to maintain conventions and practices that work.

It’s a view consistent with Aristotle’s beliefs that “… morality and politics —unlike natural science — lack special experts, and that in these areas, human experience over generations is the main source of knowledge,” according to academic Andy Hamilton, a philosophy professor at Durham University in the United Kingdom.

A conservative vision also adapts to changes reflecting societal needs — but it does not lead in those changes. In effect, a conservative approach does not use its people as test subjects in new social experiments.

A conservative will, however, look at the results elsewhere before making changes. Changes are made incrementally over time. Conservatives eschew activist-type policy. They acknowledge the positive contributions of historical leaders and do not judge historical events based on modern values.

On fiscal matters, conservatives take to heart conservative philosopher Edmund Burke’s thoughts on society’s social contract. Burke stated that society is a social contract among those living, dead and yet to be born. It is an inter-generational contract that places a responsibility on us, now, to provide the future generation an endowment for bettering themselves.

Burke also believed that free markets were the best way to provide for society. Interference, no matter how well-intended, would misallocate resources and create unintended consequences.

So how would a conservative governing framework — as in small-c conservative, not necessarily the Conservative Party of Canada — impact government policy?

Let’s look in brief at three examples: our foreign policy towards China, immigration policy and fiscal policy.


A true conservative policy would be meaningfully influenced by Australia’s experiences dealing with China. The two countries entered into a free-trade agreement in 2015.

As Australia’s trade dependency with China grew, its ability to make independent strategic decisions were undermined by growing Chinese economic and political influence.

Thus, a Canadian conservative government, while seeing the need economically to engage the world’s second-largest economy, would do so in limited ways and on terms that would minimize the potential pressure China could exert on Canada’s future economic and political goals.

This would mean a halt to exploring formal trade deals and restricting Chinese direct investment in nationally sensitive industries. Canadian universities would introduce best practices in their academic exchanges in order to minimize illicit technology transfers.


Conservative immigration policy would continue to encourage immigrants to Canada with skills that benefit our society.

But issues dealing with cultural differences and our ability to successfully integrate large numbers of culturally diverse migrants would be considered more circumspectly.

For instance, greater importance would be given to the impact of new immigrants settling disproportionately in Vancouver and Toronto, with the resultant growth in ethnic enclaves. More importance would also be placed on prohibiting foreign governments and foreign political groups operating within immigrant communities.

Language requirements would be tightened, along with additional programs implemented, to encourage community integration.

Fiscal policy

Regarding fiscal policy, a conservative government would ostensibly be mindful of society’s responsibility to future generations.

Therefore, government spending would be fiscally cautious and budgets would be balanced in all but special circumstances.

Government spending and tax policies would focus on encouraging community engagement, individual responsibility and volunteerism as a way of building a stronger civil society.

Note the emphasis on community and individualism, as opposed to direct government intervention. For example, introducing tax measures to help people save for retirement would be prioritized, while expenditures intended to correct social injustices would be reallocated.

Generally speaking, policies that impede free markets, such as aggressive minimum wage rates or other significant redistribution schemes, would not be pursued.

Conservative values

The policies outlined are not necessarily the policies of Andrew Scheer’s Conservative Party —they are simply expressions of conservative values.

We can see however, that conservatism is much more than calling for lower taxes and not being Liberals. Conservative vision rejects social experimentation on the hope of making something better.

To Scheer and conservative politicians: Embrace your political heritage and show Canadians you can lead with an agenda built on solid conservative principles. If you have a message to make Canada better, Canadians need to hear it now.

Boss doesn’t mean a leader

The difference, ultimately, boils down to what leaders seek to inspire — respect, trust, and hard work — as well as how they inspire it.

Are leaders born? Or are they created?

In the medieval ages, it was believed that leadership qualities were a product of birthright. In the 20th century, this view was eclipsed by the more evolved opinion that leadership was, in fact, a product of nurture.

Academic Warren Bennis — the so-called father of modern leadership studies — once stated:

“The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born — that there is a genetic factor to leadership. This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.”

Famed football coach Vince Lombardi, meanwhile, held a view underscored by his legendary work ethic: “Leaders aren’t born; they are made,” he said. “They are made just like anything else — through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.”

That’s the common belief now: leadership is not the result of your genetic makeup or a specific kind of personality, but a collection of skills that can be learned and need to be developed and improved.

Yet, understanding this, another truth comes to light:

Not all those who hold leadership positions are actually good leaders.

And the reason is because they don’t work to improve those tangible skills which make for effective leaders.

Poor leaders become and remain ineffective due to a variety of factors:

  • They’ve been put into a bad position — usually by being over-promoted into a job they don’t deserve or can’t handle.
  • They lack confidence in their own job security, and lash out in their reports at their colleagues as a result, never accepting responsibility or taking ownership, as good leaders do.
  • They’ve been managed by poor leaders themselves in the past, and learn over time to mirror those negative traits.
  • They lack either self-awareness, empathy, or a sincere desire to become better.
  • Great leaders, meanwhile, exhibit the opposite traits.
  • They manage positively, coaching employees rather than threatening them.
  • They prove open to and grateful for new ideas. They thank and acknowledge their team members for a job well done. They also take responsibility when things don’t go well and aren’t afraid to broach sticky or politically sensitive topics with leadership since it’s part of their job.
  • They cultivate a culture of ‘what if’? They encourage their teams to find new and better ways of doing things. They inspire people to be better.
  • Finally, they lead by example — and that includes embracing self-development.

I’ve worked for several leaders who’ve exhibited these skills are leaders, and not just a boss or manager.

The difference, ultimately, boils down to what leaders seek to inspire — respect, trust, and hard work — as well as how they inspire it.

The best inspire their employees through active investment in their development, ownership over the results their teams produce, and hard work of their own.

Leaders inspire trust through accountability and investment, in other words.

Bosses, meanwhile, are generally content to simply have people work for them, lending little credence to their need to grow and develop as contributors.

At the end of the day, identifying that difference is important, because it’s only once you understand what being a great leader requires and entails that you can take steps to truly become one yourself.

The question we should all be asking ourselves, then, is not, “Am I a leader?” Rather, it’s, “What kind of leader do I want to become?” Because leadership is learnt. Not by attending classes, but through deliberate dedication and practice.

The Century of Amrita Pritam-The Voice of Punjab, of Women, of Humanity

I was surprised one morning to see that Google-doodle page had an image of an Indian woman, sitting and writing and then I realised it was an homage to the women who was the cry of the women, in fact of the humanity against all injustice- the cry of inner soul that is lacerated and wounded, a sensitive soul that represents the wounded women, wounded humanity. 

She was a true pioneer of our age. She suffered the cultural and political ambiances, springs and autumns of this unfortunate century, meaning all its pleasures and pains, upon herself and deeming its ashes to be sindoor, dressed and preened the parting of her hair. Even after being burnt in the fire of our hellish society, this woman full of spring, youth and dignity did not get scorched or wither away; but emerged before us, clean and pure like the finest gold. As some poet said, ‘The eternal fragrance of our garden of beauty and love.

Full of spring, the writer adorned and refined our lives with her prose and poetry throughout the 20th century. She levelled our rocky paths and gave us a lesson and a knack for living life, gave us love.

‘There was a pain 

Which I consume silently 

Like a cigarette 

There are some poems 

Which I have shaken off like ashes 

From the cigarette’

Amrita Pritam, who was born 100 years ago in Gujranwala (now in modern-day Pakistan) was one of those brightest personalities of the Progressive Writers Movement, of whom we can justifiably be proud.

It is a reality that till the Independence of India and formation of Pakistan, she did not have the popularity and fame which she achieved after moving to India. In Pakistan, her self and poetry became famous after the appearance of her legendary poem Aj Aaakhan Waris Shah Nu (‘I say to Waris Shah today’).

This poem – rightly acclaimed as the dirge for Punjab – was written as a natural reaction to the division of Punjab and the riots and bloodshed which occurred here. This poem greatly affected the people and it became Pritam’s identity in the 20th century:

‘I say to Waris Shah today, speak out from your tomb 

And let a fresh page unfurl from the Book of Love’s womb. 

Just one daughter of Punjab’s woes caused your laments to flow 

Today a million daughters weep, and thee they do implore 

Arise you chronicler of pain and witness your Punjab 

Where corpses sprout in the fields and blood flows down the Chenab.’

While Amrita Pritam was alive, on a few occasions, a reflection of her poetry would indeed appear on the screen of other languages like Urdu and English. but poetry is nevertheless poetry. To transfer it into the words of another language is first of all, itself very difficult; but even were it possible to do so, the most we would say would be that the words of one language were transferred to the words of another language – the real is meaning; to transfer the meaning from one language to the other in a way which renders the entire sense perceptions of the poet is realistically impossible.

Very her aficionados know that Pritam was not just a poet, but an accepted author and short story writer of the Punjabi language. In the backgrounds of the facts above, if her poetry cannot be transferred into Urdu and English, so much the better, since translations of her short stories have endeavoured to compensate for this necessary compulsion.

The literature of every age is affected by the intellectual, moral, economic and political tendencies of its time. Time is an ocean, and moral and social values are the waves of this ocean. There are very few writers who can determine an independent direction for their boat. They surrender themselves to these waves; in reality this should not happen. Writers are not lowly straws flowing with the support of waves; they are brave sailors leading their caravan by shattering the waves to bits.

Alas, very few writers have estimated their power and responsibility; countless writers lose their track. They do not lead the people, but follow them. A true writer cannot become a follower of popular passions, indeed he will be a leader. The present time is a delicate one for authors and short story writers. The demands of the people are very low; moral values have fallen very greatly.

‘Progressive literature’ – which it is more suitably called ‘regressive literature’ now – has spoiled their taste. Third-rate films, short stories and novels have created extremely cheap tastes among them. A class of so-called short-story writers and authors, taking advantage of this mentality among the people, is creating an inferior-quality literature. They have adopted a criminal carelessness towards their responsibilities.

Joan Porter has said, “A country’s splendour and greatness according to Johnson is because of its writers. But only when writers are the prophets of reason. If lessons of exemplary conduct are not forthcoming from them, then there should be a collar of curses around their neck instead of a garland.”

How painful is the confession of this fact that the new crop of our ‘progressive’ writers will indeed be deserving of the “collar of curses” according to the future generations. In this hopeless atmosphere, if some writer or poet keeps a perception of one’s responsibilities and instead of walking behind the people, considers the latter’s leadership to be their right, then undoubtedly he or she is deserving of extraordinary respect and honour.

So when we review Amrita Pritam’s poetry and her short-stories from this viewpoint, we necessarily conclude that she had a deep perception of her poetic and literary responsibilities.

She had been least affected by the ‘progressive’ course of her contemporary poets and writers. For this scribe, for example, the earthy image which she has portrayed of the leader of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in her poem Lenin Ke Naam (To Lenin) is far more progressive, therefore preferable than the more bloodless portrayals of the same by her more doctrinaire contemporaries:

‘You, how much of a beautiful character you are of my history 

Who coming out of the calendar on my wall, always changes its date 

And comes to meet me in the form of a new morning 

After coming out of the calendar you go out into the streets 

And a sunshine appears 

Wherever there is a soft corner, he begins to laugh like a green leaf 

Wherever there is a dirty corner, he is indeed ashamed 

But what for you is a natural thing, is an un-natural process of history 

History takes a breath of comfort 

When it becomes really disturbed dwelling in the past 

Then it deals with the present 

So for the sake of this history indeed 

So many times have I imprisoned you in the calendar 

And similarly affixed the stamp of my land’s covenant 

And have hammered the nails of so many ‘isms’ on it 

But you come out of the calendar on my wall, change the date daily 

And with new anxiety, new salvation in hand 

You – meet me like a new day 

Yours – the greatness of a new day 

As if a shady corner of my being has heard a couplet of your sunshine 

And which is an un-natural process of history 

But what is natural for you, has become un-natural for me.’

Amrita Pritam’s short stories like her poems are rich with the best moral values. There is not a single short story which can be censured from the viewpoint of modesty and morals.

They contain all the elements. Her characters are ordinary human characters. Though she was not the possessor of fame on account of her short stories, but even a bird’s eye view of these short stories will make us conclude that Pritam had gained profit from all the qualities of short story writing.

She could examine, think and narrate her meaning in excellent style with skill and artistry. She did not just make do with the direct observation of events but also made a psychological analysis of every character of her short story. An ‘emotional analysis’ of human life was also prominent in each of her short-stories.

Amrita Pritam kept searching for new topics for short-stories, and was successful to a very great extent. Her ideas were unusual; her paths modern. Her ‘ideal’ was constructive, no destructive. Like her poems, in her short-stories too she was seen to be giving a ‘message’ to her readers. Her message was one of life and love.

Her short stories were short in the real sense. Some short stories, like couplets, seemed shorter than was necessary. The reader wishes that they were more detailed. In this respect, the example of her Choti Kahani (‘Brief Story’) from her collection Chabees Saal Baad (’26 Years Later’), definitely published before 1947 from Lahore by the Lahore Book Shop can be cited here.

In a mere four pages, Pritam summarised the whole philosophy of ‘art for life’ and the idea of selfless love with stunning economy of words and minimal dialogue between the two central characters. Undoubtedly, if her short stories were not so short, Pritam’s pen had the power to increase their attraction by giving her abridgement a colour of detail.

But this is merely the aesthetic demand of this tribute writer, it is not necessary that every reader would totally agree with his opinion. I am sure that a re-reading of Pritam’s short-stories on her birth centenary would establish her at a prominent pedestal in subcontinental literature.

Amrita Pritam was the modern spirit of the folk, spiritual, mythological and poetic literature of Punjab in the 20th century. Her Punjabi intonation and style was very close to the Urdu of the Punjab; she dealt with Urdu words exactly in the manner of the people of my native Lahore, and indeed this allowance turned her into the touch of an undivided voice. With her.,the description of the truths of life was extremely topical. She painted the internal struggle of Man with such sorcery that the reader could not but be entranced.

Any tribute to Amrita Pritam will not be complete without an anecdote from Lahore, the city she made her home as a teenager after her native town of Gujranwala, and forced to leave after the horrors of the Partition. It involves Rauf Malik, 92 years of age now, one of the last living witnesses to the generation which produced the likes of Pritam and her contemporaries.

He is the younger brother of Pakistan’s legendary communist leader and writer, Abdullah Malik (whose own birth centenary will be celebrated next year); and was the proprietor of the Peoples Publishing House, which played a seminal role in the propagation of progressive and socialist idea in Pakistan, often at some extremely difficult moments in the country’s history.

Malik junior’s autobiography Surkh Siyasat (‘Red Politics’), which is no less of a historical document of its times, was launched in Lahore with much fanfare in 2018 and contains a tribute – among others – to Amrita Pritam.

In that chapter, Malik informs us that he was the first proper publisher of Pritam’s collection of poetry in Pakistan, which was titled Naveen Rut (‘New Season’), compiled at the poetess’s behest. This is the sole volume of her poetry ever published in Pakistan with her express permission and consent.

Given the tensions between India and Pakistan over the recent revocation of Kashmir’s special status by the Indian government, it will be apt to conclude this tribute with Tamghe (‘Medals’), one of her biting polemics about the futility of pseudo-nationalist, flag-waving patriotism, of which I suspect Amrita Pritam was always very suspicious:

‘Brave are the people of my nation 

Brave are the people of your nation 

They merely know death and assassination 

Offering heads as sacrificial libation 

That the head is never one’s own 

Is a separate conversation 

This Man is a corpse 

Rare like God’s own corpse 

So when in the midst of Man 

This piece of God’s own land 


Then its disliked odour 

Does not rise ever 

There is no lover 

And neither is proximity a fear 

No danger of pain 

Just a border which is bigger domain 

It makes them a subject of ridicule 

Remove those borders which do not suit the rule 

So the entire victory is free of disruption 

And the whole feast is free of obstruction 

On the lip of time a smile 

And fixing on their bosom 

Many medals of valour, impotent, unwholesome’

Quad in Display

Trump meeting Abe frequently at G-7 meeting, Trump joining Modi in Houston and then joining Morrison indicates the growing clout of the Quad. China, you should pay attention. And Pakistan, you do the same. The Americans are sending a strong signal. Do you copy? US President Donald Trump will not only appear at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Houston rally, but also have a separate bilateral meeting with him in New York.

It’s quite a departure from trying to mediate in Kashmir to make Pakistan feel good for a bit. But Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s daily calls for jihad and threats of nuclear war have unsettled American and Arab leaders alike. He may have totally lost Trump.

As Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani told me, while Trump may have hosted Khan, it is Modi that he considers his “ally and friend”. This will certainly “depress those who thought Khan’s last trip to Washington represented a breakthrough in relations”.

So why is Trump courting Modi? Yes, it’s great to be part of a charged up crowd. But we know Indian Americans lean more towards the Democratic Party. Can he sway a significant chunk of the vote?

There may be a deeper play on. Notice the White House announcement on Trump attending Modi’s rally. It also mentions a joint event with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to celebrate a new manufacturing plant.

Three of the four leaders of the Quad, or the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue — the US, India and Australia — are doing things in pairs this week. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the fourth member, assiduously courts Trump and meets him frequently.

In the struggle to maintain supremacy, the American deep State wants India in its corner. It doesn’t want China to establish any more points of control around the Arabian Sea — think Gwadar — as it has done in South China Sea. The rest is detail.

Pakistan’s military-intelligence complex, which was gearing up in a last-ditch attempt to grab attention by trying to disrupt Modi’s rally, may want to think again now that Trump is attending.

Imagine shadowy figures of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) pulling the strings of obvious ‘front’ organisations such as ‘Kashmir2Khalistan’ or ‘Sikhs For Justice’ for a protest against the US president in the US! The FBI is probably on their tail already.

On the other hand, India and the US have a trade deal to announce, so long as the US doesn’t pile on any and everything. The idea is to solidify what the two sides already agree on and keep adding to the deal. US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is ‘ready to roll’ because Trump needs a trade win for his 2020 re-election campaign.

Republican Congressmen are pushing Lighthizer to restore India’s benefits under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) — at least partially — if India removes specific barriers.

Thing is, US importers of Indian products eligible for GSP are hurting because their costs have risen. If a trade deal fructifies, Trump and Modi can celebrate together in Houston. But as they say, there is many a slip — or tweet – between the cup and the lip.

All said and done Trump’s presence at ‘Howdy, Modi!’ is a PR bonanza. It comes in the wake of New Delhi’s controversial moves in Kashmir. The US administration has been doing a delicate balancing act — neither condemning nor condoning the decision, while urging a quick lifting of the communication freeze and release of political leaders. Like it or not, in these times of great churn, Kashmir is only a small part of the puzzle.

But there is one potential downside. Since Trump is a polarising figure, some Democrats are uncomfortable sharing the stage with him. As a long-time observer told me, Indian American community leaders will have to ‘play this smartly’.

The choice for Dems: should they anger the base, or please an Indian American donor? Pressure on Kashmir from leftist groups, dalit activists and Muslim American organisations — Black Muslims recently protested outside the Indian embassy — is intense.

BJP’s best friend, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, has backed out. But about 25 Democrats and Republicans are expected. House majority leader Steny Hoyer, second only to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, will address Thousands of such emails are being generated as Modi heads to Houston.the rally.

Don’t forget that Pakistan has stirred both Muslim and Khalistani groups. Last month, ISI masterminds reportedly organised a ‘community meeting’ in Norway of Sikhs from Europe, the US, Britain and Canada to rile them on the Kashmir issue. The message: ready, get set, go.

But US lawmakers and their young staffers have no way of knowing who is calling, or sending a protest email to their offices — a genuine Kashmiri, or a Pakistani American pretending to be an Indian Kashmiri? A quick search of ‘Friends of Kashmir’ reveals that its office-holders are all Pakistanis sitting in Karachi. When Democrat Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal writes on behalf of ‘our constituents’, who’s to say if her staff had the time to crosscheck their antecedents. It doesn’t require a Russian level of interference to game this.

As an experiment, I checked one of these ‘email generators’. One click and I received a prepared statement addressed to the Congresswoman representing the area I live in. It warned of the “looming danger of genocide of Kashmiri people” and demanded that she take notice.  Thousands of such emails are being generated as Modi heads to Houston.

Myth of Religious Solidarity Exploded

Reactions of several Muslim countries to India’s decision on Kashmir shows that political and economic interest bind nations — not ideologies. Religion is not nearly enough to bind the people of the same country let alone unite nations.

As Pakistan struggles to mobilise the international community against India’s decision last month to change the status of Jammu and Kashmir, its chattering classes are deeply disappointed at the lack of support from the world’s Muslim nations. There has been special criticism of the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, long seen as Pakistan’s staunchest supporters in the Muslim world, for not coming out to criticise India’s move.

The public debate in Pakistan did not take long to accept, if grudgingly, that the growing economic stakes in India for the UAE and KSA have trumped Pakistan’s calls for religious solidarity on the Kashmir question. Pakistani analysts also compare the differing perspectives in the Gulf about Delhi and Islamabad. The UAE and KSA see Delhi as a valuable business partner and Islamabad as a supplicant seeking financial favours whenever Pakistan faces an economic crisis.

Pakistan’s own national experience negates the proposition that the world’s Muslims constitute a coherent political community. Religion is not nearly enough to bind the people of the same country let alone unite nations.

Although set up as the homeland for South Asian Muslims in 1947, Pakistan lost its eastern wing within 25 years. In the creation of Bangladesh at the end of 1971, the strength of linguistic identity prevailed over the presumed weight of religious affinity. The current political unrest among the Baloch, Pashtun and the Mohajir communities transcends the shared Islamic identity in Pakistan. So does Pakistan’s oppression of the Muslim minorities like the Shia and the Ahmadi.

China provides an example — twice over — of the limited importance of religion in shaping partnerships between nations. It is communist China — and not the Muslim world — that has extended unstinting support for Pakistan on Kashmir in the last few weeks. The reasons for it are easy to see. China has a shared interest with Pakistan in balancing India. And Beijing is a party to the disputes in Kashmir.

Islamabad’s own willingness to put national interests above Islamic solidarity is seen in its response to Beijing’s ill-treatment of Uighur Muslims in China’s far Western province of Xinjiang. Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan who has been roaring like a lion on India’s oppression of Kashmir turns a mouse when he is asked about China’s repression of Muslims.

If the appeal to religious solidarity has only limited value, why does Pakistan persist with it? For a nation that broke away from India in the name of Islam, the emphasis on religious solidarity is at once a tool of legitimacy and a political mission. After Partition, Pakistan embarked on a massive campaign to promote Islamic solidarity with the Middle East. Bemused by Pakistan’s zeal for Islam, King Farouk of Egypt reportedly remarked in jest that he “did not know Islam was born on August 14, 1947”.

All nations have their founding myths and can’t let reality come in the way of formal adherence to them. India, of course, is not a stranger to this. If Pakistan abides with the myth of Islamic unity, India has its own — for example, the idea that solidarity with the “global South” against the “hegemonic West” is a fundamental principle of its foreign policy.

It was just a decade and a half ago, during 2005-08, that India came quite close to abandoning its own nuclear interests for the presumed obligation to defend Iran’s controversial atomic programme. As the US debate on the historic civil nuclear initiative got entangled with Washington’s pressures against Tehran, there was a strong demand in Delhi that India stand up for Iran in the name of non-aligned solidarity. The Manmohan Singh government managed, barely, to resist this temptation. Delhi’s decision then was vindicated by Iran’s move soon after to accept a nuclear compromise with America on rather harsh terms in 2015.

Pakistan is not alone in viewing the Gulf through the Islamic prism. India did much the same. For far too long, Delhi had over-determined the Islamic factor in assessing the foreign policies of the UAE and Saudi Arabia and branded them as “pro-Pakistan”. No Indian Prime Minister visited Saudi Arabia between 1982 and 2010 and the UAE between 1981 and 2015. When India initiated interest-based engagement with these countries, there was a rapid improvement in bilateral relations.

In the 20th century, many transcendental ideologies such as communist internationalism, pan-Asianism, pan-Arabism, pan-Islamism, and Third Worldism swept the world. But none of these could be sustained in a world that continues to be organised around the nation-state. The Comintern, Arab League, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Non-Aligned Movement have all turned out to be dysfunctional. National interest tends to triumph, almost all the time, over proclaimed loyalty to a collective identity.

To be sure, nations will continue to invoke larger identities when it suits their particular interests. Chinese leader Xi Jinping has talked about “Asia for Asians”. It is a nice way of asking America to get out of Asia. But many Asian nations are afraid of a rising China and would rather have America stay as a balancing power. Recep Tayyip Erdogan sees himself as not just the leader of Turkey but the entire Muslim world. Few in the region are eager to cede that mantle to Erdogan.

Although Pakistan’s Islamic internationalism is a wasting asset, Islamabad will find it hard to stop playing the card. Someday in the future though, Pakistan might yet recognise reconciliation with India will release its energies for a larger role in the Middle East, the Muslim world and beyond.

Sunday Special: What if aging weren’t inevitable, but a curable disease?

If this controversial idea gains acceptance, it could radically change the way we treat getting old. Each Cyclops had a single eye because, legend has it, the mythical giants traded the other one with the god Hades in return for the ability to see into the future. But Hades tricked them: the only vision the Cyclopes were shown was the day they would die. They carried this knowledge through their lives as a burden—the unending torture of being forewarned and yet having no ability to do anything about it.

Since ancient times, aging has been viewed as simply inevitable, unstoppable, nature’s way. “Natural causes” have long been blamed for deaths among the old, even if they died of a recognized pathological condition. The medical writer Galen argued back in the second century AD that aging is a natural process.

His view, the acceptance that one can die simply of old age, has dominated ever since. We think of aging as the accumulation of all the other conditions that get more common as we get older—cancer, dementia, physical frailty. All that tells us, though, is that we’re going to sicken and die; it doesn’t give us a way to change it. We don’t have much more control over our destiny than a Cyclops.

But a growing number of scientists are questioning our basic conception of aging. What if you could challenge your death—or even prevent it altogether? What if the panoply of diseases that strike us in old age are symptoms, not causes? What would change if we classified aging itself as the disease?

David Sinclair, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School, is one of those on the front line of this movement. Medicine, he argues, should view aging not as a natural consequence of growing older, but as a condition in and of itself. Old age, in his view, is simply a pathology—and, like all pathologies, can be successfully treated. If we labeled aging differently, it would give us a far greater ability to tackle it in itself, rather than just treating the diseases that accompany it.

“Many of the most serious diseases today are a function of aging. Thus, identifying the molecular mechanisms and treatments of aging should be an urgent priority,” he says. “Unless we address aging at its root cause, we’re not going to continue our linear, upward progress toward longer and longer life spans.”

It is a subtle shift, but one with big implications. How disease is classified and viewed by public health groups such as the World Health Organization (WHO) helps set priorities for governments and those who control funds. Regulators, including the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), have strict rules that guide what conditions a drug can be licensed to act on, and so what conditions it can be prescribed and sold for. Today aging isn’t on the list. Sinclair says it should be, because otherwise the massive investment needed to find ways to fend it off won’t appear.

“Work to develop medicines that could potentially prevent and treat most major diseases is going far slower than it should be because we don’t recognize aging as a medical problem,” he says. “If aging were a treatable condition, then the money would flow into research, innovation, and drug development. Right now, what pharmaceutical or biotech company could go after aging as a condition if it doesn’t exist?” It should, he says, be the “biggest market of all.”

That’s precisely what worries some people, who think a gold rush into “anti-aging” drugs will set the wrong priorities for society.

It “turns a scientific discussion into a commercial or a political discussion,” says Eline Slagboom, a molecular epidemiologist who works on aging at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands. Viewing age as just a treatable disease shifts the emphasis away from healthy living, she says. Instead, she argues, policymakers and medical professionals need to do more to prevent chronic diseases of old age by encouraging people to adopt healthier lifestyles while they are still young or middle-aged. Otherwise, the message is “that we can’t do anything with anybody [as they age] until they reach a threshold at the point where they get sick or age rapidly, and then we give them medication.”

Another common objection to the aging-as-a-disease hypothesis is that labeling old people as diseased will add to the stigma they already face. “Ageism is the biggest ism we have today in the world,” says Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. “The aging community is attacked. People are fired from work because they are old. Old people cannot get jobs. To go to those people with so many problems and now tell them, ‘You’re sick, you have a disease’? This is a no-win situation for the people we are trying to help.”

Not everyone agrees it has to be a stigma. “I am clearly in favor of calling aging a disease,” says Sven Bulterijs, cofounder of the Healthy Life Extension Society, a nonprofit organization in Brussels that considers aging a “universal human tragedy” with a root cause that can be found and tackled to make people live longer. “We don’t say for cancer patients that it’s insulting to call it a disease.”

Notwithstanding Sinclair’s comment about “linear, upward progress,” just how long humans could live remains bitterly contested. The underlying, fundamental question: Do we have to die at all? If we found a way to both treat and beat aging as a disease, would we live for centuries—millennia, even? Or is there an ultimate limit?

Nature suggests that endless life might not be inconceivable. Most famously, perhaps, the bristlecone pine trees of North America are considered biologically immortal. They can die—chopped down by an ax or zapped by a lightning bolt—but left undisturbed, they typically won’t simply fall over because they get old. Some are reckoned to be 5,000 years young; age, quite literally, does not wither them. Their secret remains a mystery. Other species appear to show signs of biological immortality as well, including some sea creatures.

Such observations have led many to contend that life span can be dramatically extended with the right interventions. But in 2016, a high-profile study published in Nature argued that human life has a hard limit of about 115 years. This estimate is based on global demographic data showing that improvements in survival with age tend to decline after 100, and that the record for human longevity hasn’t increased since the 1990s. Other researchers have disputed the way the analysis was done.

Barzilai says efforts to tackle aging are needed regardless. “We can argue about if it’s 115 or 122 or 110 years,” he says. “Now we die before the age of 80, so we have 35 years that we are not realizing now. So let’s start realizing those years before we’re talking about immortality or somewhere in between.”

Whether or not they believe in either the disease hypothesis or maximum life spans, most experts agree that something has to change in the way we deal with aging. “If we don’t do something about the dramatic increase in older people, and find ways to keep them healthy and functional, then we have a major quality-­of-life issue and a major economic issue on our hands,” says Brian Kennedy, the director of Singapore’s Centre for Healthy Ageing and a professor of biochemistry and physiology at the National University of Singapore. “We have to go out and find ways to slow aging down.”

The aging population is the “climate change of health care,” Kennedy says. It’s an appropriate metaphor. As with global warming, many of the solutions rest on changing people’s behavior—for example, modifications to diet and lifestyle. But, also as with global warming, much of the world seems instead to be pinning its hopes on a technological fix. Maybe the future will involve not just geoengineering but also gero-engineering.

One thing that may underlie the growing calls to reclassify aging as a disease is a shift in social attitudes. Morten Hillgaard Bülow, a historian of medicine at the University of Copenhagen, says things started to change in the 1980s, when the idea of “successful aging” took hold. Starting with studies organized and funded by the MacArthur Foundation in the United States, aging experts began to argue against Galen’s centuries-old stoic acceptance of decline, and said scientists should find ways to intervene. The US government, aware of the health implications of an aging population, agreed. At the same time, advances in molecular biology led to new attention from researchers. All that sent money flowing into research on what aging is and what causes it.

In the Netherlands, Slagboom is trying to develop tests to identify who is aging at a normal rate, and who has a body older than its years. She sees anti-aging medicine as a last resort but says understanding someone’s biological age can help determine how to treat age-related conditions. Take, for instance, a 70-year-old man with mildly elevated blood pressure. If he has the circulatory system of an 80-year-old, then the elevated pressure could help blood reach his brain. But if he has the body of a 60-year-old, he probably needs treatment.

Biomarkers that can identify biological age are a popular tool in aging research, says Vadim Gladyshev of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. He characterizes aging as the accumulation of deleterious changes across the body, ranging from shifts in the populations of bacteria that live in our gut to differences in the degree of chemical scarring on our DNA, known as methylation. These are biological measures that can be tracked, so they can also be used to monitor the effectiveness of anti-aging drugs. “Once we can measure and quantify the progression through aging, then that gives us a tool to assess longevity interventions,” he says.

Two decades on, the results of that research are becoming apparent. Studies in mice, worms, and other model organisms have revealed what’s going on in aging cells and come up with various ways to extend life—sometimes to extraordinary lengths. 

Leonardo da Vinci an environmentalist ahead of his time

Leonardo’s notebooks are filled with illustrations of nature, both plants and animals, their interactions with humans and in local ecosystems. Did his deep engagement with the natural world make him an environmentalist ahead of his time?

Leonardo was a child of the Tuscan countryside, raised in the tiny village of Anchiano, although he spent most of his adult life at the courts of dukes, kings and princes.

Some of his work for these patrons involved planning interventions into nature, most often managing waterways, but his sketches suggest his attention roamed further than the projects he was commissioned to undertake.

He spent time with friends in a villa outside of Milan observing the country nearby and sketching plans for gardens there, and ended his life on a little country estate that was then on the outskirts of Amboise in France.

One of his first biographers, Giorgio Vasari, tells us that Leonardo delighted much in horses and also in all other animals, and often when passing by the places where they sold birds he would take them out of their cages, and paying the price that was asked for them, would let them fly away into the air, restoring to them their lost liberty.

Leonardo was also reportedly a vegetarian. This supposition comes from the explorer Andrea Corsali’s description of the non-meat-eating Gujarati people (from modern India) as like “our Leonardo da Vinci”.

The many notebooks and loose sheets Leonardo filled with jottings and illustrations across his lifetime reveal his close observation of nature — from cats and crabs to flowers and copses of trees – and the spirit of enquiry from which he drew many lessons.

One jotting simply states: “Ask the wife of Biagio Crivelli how the capon nurtures and hatches the eggs of the hen”.

His understandings of the habits of animals informed a series of fables and proverbs bearing witness to various emotional traits he attributed to them: gratitude, rage, cruelty and generosity among them. He suggested, for instance, that “we see the most striking example of humility” in the lamb.

The random cruelty of nature

But Leonardo was also struck by the violence of natural processes. Nature appears to have been “rather a cruel stepmother”, he wrote. “Why did nature not ordain that one animal should not live by the death of another?”

He reflected on the random cruelty of nature in a series of riddles, created across his notebooks. For instance, in the entry on walnut trees, he writes in emotional terms of the violence wrought upon these trees as humans enjoyed their seeds: “beaten, and their offspring taken and flayed or peeled, and their bones broken or crushed.”

Still, Leonardo does not seem to have been particularly concerned about the role of humans in enacting violence against other species. His own quest for knowledge and artistic creativity demanded it.

Vasari tells a story of the young Leonardo seeking to depict a frightening creature on a shield he had “brought for this purpose to his room, which no one entered but himself, lizards, grasshoppers, serpents, butterflies, locusts, bats, and other strange animals of the kind …” “The smell in the room of these dead animals was very bad, though Leonardo did not feel it from the love he bore to art.”

Vasari talks of how Leonardo “suffered much in doing it” – but not as much as the other species whose lives were sacrificed for his art.

In other tales, Vasari tells us how Leonardo, while he was working for Giuliano de’ Medici in Rome, discovered an unusual lizard and promptly

made some wings of the scales of other lizards and fastened them on its back with a mixture of quicksilver, so that they trembled when it walked; and having made for it eyes, horns, and a beard, he tamed it and kept it in a box.

For Vasari, these stories show Leonardo’s “marvelous and divine” mind, but they could also be interpreted as showing the instrumental way in which Leonardo thought about nature, as a resource to expand human knowledge and control the environment.

Leonardo’s nature

His contemporaries clearly thought there was something different about Leonardo and his interest in nature. Does this make him a kind of pre-modern environmentalist?

Western environmentalism (and before it, preservationism) is often understood to have become possible when nature had been subdued by technology. With urbanisation and development of a middle class, more people could feel sentimental about nature.

Although he was raised in the countryside, Leonardo spent most of his everyday adult life in major European towns in the company of princes and kings. He was no longer concerned directly with the need to cut down wood for warmth or kill animals for food. We could say, then, that he could afford to be more sentimental about nature.

Certainly his exquisite drawings suggest a particular depth of feeling, attunement and sensitivity to the natural world. And yet it seems that preservation of nature was not on Leonardo’s mind.

He had not witnessed the speed and scale of devastation of the natural world wrought by humanity with the onset of industrialisation. Instead, he understood destruction as part of the cycle of nature. If, as he wrote, nature “seeks to lose its life, desiring only continual reproduction”, there was nothing to be protected, for annihilation and creation went hand in hand.

“Act Far-East”: A Nexus Between India, Russia and Japan

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Russia in the first week of September can be seen as a primer for Russia to be included in India’s plans of Indo-Pacific. Several deals were signed between the two countries, ranging from enhancing strategic cooperation, bolstering military ties, working on joint space projects, conservation of wildlife, cultural exchange programs and boosting trade between the two. The one thing which stood out was a memorandum of intent signed between President Putin and Prime Minister Modi to start a maritime route between Vladivostok and Chennai. This maritime route will help connect two major ports and connect India with Russian Far-East according to the Foreign Secretary of India. The proposed maritime route will help open opportunities for Russia to trade with Japan, ASEAN and members of BIMSTEC while passing through the South China Sea. Broadly speaking, looking into what the Modi visit to Russia means in geopolitical terms is a timely question.

Prime Minister Abe’s presence in the East Economic Forum in Vladivostok gives India a chance to increase its role in the Far East and maybe help in mending relations between Japan and Russia through the “Act Far East” policy that have not normalised since World War 2. Russia-Japan have been at loggerheads about solving the Northern Territories issue, which is a significant hurdle for signing a peace treaty. In the recent meeting at Vladivostok between Abe and Putin, the only commitment both made was that they would work on the issue. There was also no discussion between the two for joint economic projects on the disputed islands. Also, a closer look at what India can do for Russia-Japan relations is exciting, as both are important partners for New Delhi and Indian fears of a Chinese embrace of Russia are at a high point. A Russia-China alliance would be a torment strategically for Tokyo. Japan has already shown interest by pledging to “actively participate” in the Belt and Road Initiative and is trying to mend fences with China, and peace with Russia has been on Prime Minister’s Abe’s agenda since he returned to power in 2012.

India’s agenda at the time might not be to act as a bridge between the two, but its perspective on Indo-Pacific which is “free and inclusive” would help simmer down Russia’s pessimism about the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue and in extension the concept of Indo-Pacific. India and Japan are also in talks to hold a “2+2” dialogue, and Russia-Japan relations could be a side note to one of the agenda’s set for the said dialogue yet to take place between the two. Unfortunately no major deals were signed between the Russians and the Japanese, but it does not mean that opportunities for investments in Russian Far East are closed to the Japanese. Russia and Japan already have ample opportunities to trade. Indeed, bilateral trade between Japan and Russia is much higher than bilateral trade between India and Russia.

With India giving 1 Billion USD line of credit to the underdeveloped but resource-rich Far East region in Russia, it could use its equally good relations with Japan to invest in the same, an idea which was pitched by President Putin while hosting Prime Ministers of India and Japan, Modi and Abe, in the East Economic Forum this year. However, one should not overlook the fact that the Japan Bank of International Cooperation and Russian Direct Investment Fund created a $1bn joint investment fund in August 2017. It is equally important to question the role of the aforementioned maritime route between India and Russia it is vital to be more precise regarding what the proposed maritime route between India and Russia means. New infrastructure? Is it securing sea lanes of communication? Are they lobbying for commercial shippers to cater that route? Alternatively, merely improving ports on both ends? Besides, what would the economic rationale behind this look like? Are there significant goods to be traded at all and if so what are these? After all, Indian foreign policy, in particular, is replete of grandiose announcements and less active on their realization.

Of course, any Japanese agreements and deals with Moscow would be scrutinised by Washington, so India cannot overplay its role in the bilateral issue as it might jeopardise the growing strategic partnership between India and the U.S. With India acting as a bridge between the two countries, it would help enhance India’s point of view on Indo-Pacific which is different from the American view of “free and open” Indo-Pacific.

Saturday Special: Neoliberalism Explained

I struggle with neoliberalism – as a problematic economic system we might want to change – and as an analytical term people increasingly use to describe that system. I’ve been reading and writing about the concept for more than a decade. But the more I read, the more I think that neoliberalism is losing its analytical edge.

As a result of its growing popularity in academia, media and popular discussions, it’s crucial to understand neoliberalism as a concept. We need to know its origins and its definition in order to understand our current political and economic mess, including the rise of nativism that played a part in Brexit and Donald Trump’s election a year ago.

Neoliberalism is regularly used in popular debate around the world to define the last 40 years. It’s used to refer to an economic system in which the “free” market is extended to every part of our public and personal worlds. The transformation of the state from a provider of public welfare to a promoter of markets and competition helps to enable this shift.

Neoliberalism is generally associated with policies like cutting trade tariffs and barriers. Its influence has liberalized the international movement of capital, and limited the power of trade unions. It’s broken up state-owned enterprises, sold off public assets and generally opened up our lives to dominance by market thinking.

As a term, neoliberalism is increasingly used across popular media, including The New York Times, The Times (of London) and The Daily Mail. It’s also used within international institutions like the World Economic Forum, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the International Monetary Fund.

Neoliberalism a Trump antidote?

Neoliberalism is criticized for giving markets too much power over our lives. Yet in light of the rise of Donald Trump and other nativist, anti-trade populists, there is a growing chorus of people extolling the virtues of neoliberalism.

What’s most evident from this growing popular debate about neoliberalism – whether from left-leaning critics or right-leaning advocates – is that there are many different views of neoliberalism; not just what it means politically, but just as critically, what it means analytically.

This raises an important question: How do we use a term like “neoliberalism” when so many people have such different understandings of what it means?

The term “neoliberalism” has a fascinating intellectual history. It appears as long ago as 1884 in an article by R.A. Armstrong for The Modern Review in which he defined liberals who promoted state intervention in the economy as “neo-liberal” — almost the exact opposite meaning from its popular and academic use today.

Another early appearance is in an 1898 article for The Economic Journal by Charles Gide in which he used the term to refer to an Italian economist, Maffeo Pantaleoni, who argued that we need to promote a “hedonistic world … in which free competition will reign absolutely” — somewhat closer to our current conception.

Adopted by liberal thinkers

As the 20th century dawned and the world moved through one World War and onto the next, the term was appropriated by a range of liberal thinkers who felt sidelined by the ascendance of state planning and socialism.

The conventional narrative is that “neo-liberalism” was first proposed as a term to describe a rebooted liberalism in the 1930s after the so-called Walter Lippman Colloquium held in Paris in 1938. Lippmann’s writings were influential on the neo-liberal movement in the first half of the 20th century.

However, its history is not as clear cut as this narrative might imply. According to Arnaud Brennetot, for example, the term was subsequently mainly used to refer to French and other liberals associated with a publishing house called La Libraire de Medicis at least until the early 1950s. By then, the term was increasingly used to refer to German Ordoliberalism, which was a “neoliberal” school based on the idea that markets need a strong state in order to protect competition — ideas that are a major forerunner of the European Union’s framework conditions.

Famously, Milton Friedman even referred to himself as a “neoliberal” in a 1951 article for the Norwegian magazine Farmand, although he subsequently dropped the term.

By the 1970s, Brennetot and others argued that neoliberalism was a term primarily associated with a shifting emphasis in Latin America away from import-substitution policies towards open economies, influenced by Chicago School thinkers like Friedman.

It was around this time that neoliberalism increasingly took on negative overtones, especially after the violent overthrow of Salvador Allende’s government in Chile in 1973. As the 1980s dawned, along with the generally accepted birth of the modern neoliberal era, the term “neoliberalism” became indelibly linked to the Chicago School of Economics (as well as Law and Business).

Neoliberalism has several ‘schools’

When we use the term today, it’s generally with this Chicago inflection, rather than its other previous and alternative histories and associations.

But it’s important to remember that there were and are at least seven schools of neoliberalism. Some of the older schools, like the First Chicago School (of Frank Knight, Henry Simons, Jacob Viner), disappeared or were subsumed in later schools – in this case, the Second Chicago School (of Milton Friedman, Aaron Director, George Stigler).

Other old schools, like the Italian or Bocconi School (of Maffeo Pantaleoni, Luigi Einaudi) faded into academia before being resurrected as the legitimization for current austerity policies. Other more marginal schools, like the Virginia School (of James Buchanan, Gordon Tullock) – itself influenced by the Italian school – have existed under the radar until recent critiques by historians like Nancy MacLean.

As these various schools of neoliberal thought have evolved and mutated over time, so too have our understandings of them and their influence on us. It’s therefore tricky to identify neoliberalism with any one particular school of thought without missing out on a whole lot of the story.

Three contradictions

That’s a major reason why I identify three core contradictions in our current understandings of neoliberalism in my new book.

First, too little has been done analytically to address the contradiction between the supposed extension of “free” markets under neoliberalism and the growth in market power and dominance of corporate entities and monopolies like Google and Microsoft.

Second, there has been too much emphasis on the idea that our lives, identities and subjectivities under neoliberalism are framed by “entrepreneurial” beliefs, attitudes and thinking.

In contrast, my view is that our lives, societies, and economies are dominated by diverse forms of rentiership — for example home ownership, intellectual property monopolies and market control. According to British academic Guy Standing, rentiership can be defined as the extraction of income from the “ownership, possession or control of assets that are scarce or artificially made scarce.”

Finally, there has been little interest in trying to understand the important role of contract and contract law – as opposed to “markets” – in the organization of neoliberal capitalism.

All these areas need addressing in order to better understand our future, but neoliberalism has perhaps run its course in providing us with the necessary analytical tools to do this work. It’s time to find new ways to think about our world.

Hong Kong Conundrum

The noise created about Hong Kong has raised a smoke-screen around the reality. The non-issues are being brought forward to cloud the real issues. Hong Kong’s protest movement, which has been going on since June, has resulted in intense debate about the future of its democratic legacy, and China’s complaints about ‘interference’ by the US and Britain in the city’s domestic politics.

An equally important issue is the future of Hong Kong’s pre-eminent position as an international financial centre. This issue affects thousands of foreign companies, including hundreds of Indian firms, which are registered in Hong Kong and utilise its low or zero-tax advantage as an offshore financial centre.

An important question is whether Beijing is concerned that the former British colony will lose its financial eminence, which would, in turn, impact investments in Mainland China. Large number of foreign investors in China, including overseas Chinese, use Hong Kong as their registered address and take advantage of its unhindered financial markets. There has been some suspicion that China’s communist leaders are trying to gradually replace Hong Kong with Shenzhen as a financial centre, because they have failed to persuade the financial elite and local residents of the former British colony to accept Beijing’s style of administration and control. The suspicion gained strength when nearby Shenzhen was given special status to emerge as a financial hub and a strong centre of innovation in August.

But communist authorities are not yet ready to rock the boat. They did order armoured cars to cross the border from Mainland China to Hong Kong as part of a ‘normal’ military exercise last August. But it did not allow army tanks to roll down the streets of Hong Kong. This was a sign that Beijing is conscious about its international image and also wants to preserve Hong Kong’s business strengths. At least, for the time being.

Beijing has two other concerns. Presidential election in Taiwan is due in January 2020. Any use of official violence to crush the protest movement in Hong Kong will have repercussions in Taiwan, which is an independent democracy with its own currency and military. Chinese authorities have been trying for decades to ensure that apro-China regime emerges in Taiwan in order to bring about the ultimate reunification.

The ongoing trade war with the US is another reason why Beijing’s hands are partially tied. Image matters to the communists. This is why China has sponsored a massive media blitzkrieg to tell the world about its version of the protest movement in Hong Kong. The protests started after a pro-China leadership in Hong Kong pushed through a Bill that, once approved, would allow local authorities to extradite Hong Kong citizens to Mainland China for trial, if and when they are charged with any illegality. This spurned fears that Beijing is trying to grab pro-democracy demonstrators and try them in government-controlled courts in China.

Local authorities have finally bowed to the protesters and withdrawn the Bill from the legislature. But this has not stopped the demonstrations in Hong Kong, with protesters seeking assurances about the continuance of democracy as they see it.

Chinese officials and the media have criticised demonstrators, blaming them for supporting former colonists like the British, instead of trusting Beijing’s assurances that their lives would not be disturbed.

The ongoing protest movement has shown that China’s ability to offer vast business and employment opportunities in Hong Kong, and to send millions of tourists to the former colony, is not sufficient to placate pro-democracy residents of the city. This issue has implications in US-backed Taiwan, as China tries to lure away the latter’s business and local population with promises of greater opportunities. The possibility of government authorities using high-pressure police, and probably military force, to crush the demonstration is not ruled out. Chinese communists do not take loss of face, as evident in the withdrawal of the extradition Bill, lightly.

The ruling party does not want to be seen in the eyes of the domestic audience in Mainland China as weakening in the face of pro-democracy protests. This, indeed, is the crux of Beijing’s worry and it would not allow Hong Kong to create a political problem for itself in Mainland China.

Meanwhile, foreign businesses, including Indian ones, which are closely linked with Hong Kong, may have to consider alternative strategies to handle a sudden change in situation. A good number of them operate through offices of business agents who allow their premises to be used as the registered address. Besides, many foreign companies prefer to use Hong Kong based banks instead of those located in Chinese cities like Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Beijing. These companies have reasons to be worried about the safety of their assets and the future of their business if Beijing succeeds in imposing on Hong Kong some of the rules and regulations developed under its communist system.

Kashmir and Srinagar today: The Myths of Foreign Media Exposed

What you are reading is all trash and manipulated or manufactured. Unfortunately, even Indian media and opposition parties are willing conspirators in this war of infamy.  I asked a close friend to visit Kashmir and she went there. Here is her report verbatim. And she is so reliable, that I shall take her world against anybody and all. She lives by truth. And now read:

“I decided to go with a friend who has a family home in Srinagar, for a visit and talk to people about their fears and challenges. Arriving at the airport I was stunned to see hundreds of people that had come on different flights. The airport was buzzing with returning Hajis, tourists and Kashmiris. The flights into the city were full. Porters streamed around asking to collect our baggage. My friend had her favourite porter who gave us a big smile and took our baggage tickets while another friend of hers who was the manager of an airline greeted us and told me that he was from Kashmir and his wife was running a successful IVF clinic there with the latest equipment and I must see it. His mobile worked as he was with an airline.

I noticed that the road from the airport had changed considerably since my last visit seven years ago. There were several flyovers, which the driver told me had been completed in the last year and had made access to Gulmarg and Pahalgam easier—one did not have to go through the city.

The streets were lined with trees and stunning new homes built like Swiss chalets but much bigger. Our driver told us there was no shortage of food and all the hospitals were open and fully staffed. Junior schools had no attendance as people were scared to send young children to school. Scared of what I asked, “The militants who put up posters in areas telling people to not let their children go to school and shops not to open.”

He told us that just recently a shopkeeper who always kept his shop open was shot by terrorists. 

Surprisingly all pharmacies and medical shops were open and from 6 am to 8 am and from 6 pm to 8 pm the other shops were also open. We had arrived around noon. Seniors who were about to have exams went to school. There were cars and several trucks on the road taking apples to the plains, and people were moving around rather freely buying fruit and vegetables from vendors. Some vegetable and fruit shops had their shutters down but just outside their closed shops, they had put out all the produce for sales. They had cleverly skirted around the terror posters.

“Many people send their children to private schools,” our driver said, “As they don’t have faith in the government schools.” Just like Delhi, I told him. The schools are all English medium. He had nine-year-old twin daughters and a five-year-old son. They all went to private schools and had tuitions in the evening from teachers in the schools. I told him this seemed to be like double-dipping, and obviously, the teachers were making a lot of money.  He laughed and said I was right but the class teacher would insist the kids needed tuitions.

Next, we went to the GB Pant Children’s hospital, started by a trust of the family of India’s famous minister Govind Ballabh Pant. My first stop was at the emergency ward which was full of parents with children.

I ask the doctors if there was any shortage of medicines and she looks surprised and says no. “Why would you think so?” she asks. I tell her I am visiting from Delhi and there were rumours going around that medicines were in short supply. 

Next, I visit the wards. They are clean and well- kept and large windows keep it bright. I see a little boy sitting on a bed and writing away-his mother tells me, with the help of my driver, he is four-years-old and has been in hospital with pneumonia. 

Are the doctors good here and is he getting medication, I ask in Hindi and she starts speaking to me in Hindi. She says the treatment was good and he will go home tomorrow. Another child around 12 years-old also has pneumonia and he is getting a nebulizer treatment. His mother seems more worried and tells me he has not eaten for three days—just has a few spoons of food. I try and reassure her and tell her children with fever sometimes need time but keep him hydrated and let him eat his favourite foods. She seems relieved and says this is just what the doctor told her. 

Next, we go to the X-ray rooms and the Ultra Sound areas; there are fewer parents here but everything is working. By now I have spoken to many parents outside the OPD found out about their kids, questioned them on whether they have cooking gas at home and all their food requirements. They all say yes and but are puzzled by my questions. Again, I tell them about the rumours.

Not all of them are from Srinagar as this is one of the best children’s hospital and they have been referred here from the district hospitals. Many have come from villages and small towns around the valley. I am amazed at the way they chat openly with me even though I am a total stranger.  

On my way out I see a passenger bus with big Red Crosses all over it. This caters to patients from outside town my driver tells me.

Next, I go to the biggest hospital in Srinagar, SMHS Hospital. Here there are lines to register for OPD at Rs 10. I see a big board printed in English which says -This a Free Hospital. Admission and treatment are free but when I visit the wards the families complain to me that they give glucose-free but make them buy some medicines from the pharmacies and medical shops just outside the hospital.  This has a familiar ring to it as I know of government hospitals all over the country that do this. While I am talking to one family, others gather around to tell me about their patients. Once again, I ask them about food supplies and cooking gas and once again all of them look at me puzzled as if I am trying to change the subject. I have to reassure them that I have come from Delhi and heard there was a shortage here. They smile and reassure me that it is not a problem. I think they feel happy about my concern. I decide to go to the Chief Medical Officer to ask about the medicines. A pretty lady greets me and tells me she is the CMO, I ask her if there is a shortage of life-saving drugs or medical supply in the hospital. She tells they are adequately supplied. I want to ask her why are the people in the wards complaining to me about being made to buy some of their medicines from the stores outside, but refrain as I don’t want the patients I have just seen and their families get into trouble. 

When I ask my driver, he says this is usual. He has been here many times over the years with his relatives and sometimes they even have to pay for tests. I go back to the admissions counter and the guy there once again reassures me in front of my driver, that once admitted all medicines and tests are free for patients. The people in line behind me whisper to me, “Don’t believe him, it is not true, as for years we have been paying for some tests and medicines.”

I say to them I am sure it will change now, just wait a while.  What else can I say? I am in no position to change a system that has been going on for years. 

Strangely one does not see any check posts. Near the airport, there are two. CRPF jawans and police are present but not in large numbers as one had expected. It does not seem like a city under a major security clampdown.

I headed to Residency Road, the area with expensive shops. They are all shuttered. It is around 4 pm. I ask my “all-knowing” driver, who has been born and brought up in Srinagar, why are they doing this? He says from the mainstream parties to the militants to the Separatists—all have over ground workers that have brought the state to a halt many times. I see a half-shuttered shop selling Indian Sweets and ask the driver to stop. A man outside the shop says I can buy sweets there. They open the shutter for me and my friend and we go in together. I expect to see empty shelves but the place is full of freshly made mouthwatering delicacies. 

I order some Kalakand and barfies. I ask the owner, a polite young English- speaking guy in his mid-thirties if the shop is shut who buys your sweets. He tells me they have enough orders.   We end up speaking to him for an hour on Article 370. He is against what was done. Why I ask him? he says that Kashmir produces so much that it can be independent. He has a couple of businesses, has studied in the US and says most people are literate and have jobs. I tell him I see Kashmiri youth even in Goa trying to make two ends meet—selling clothes. Their parents have sent them out as they don’t want them to get involved in the problems that have been going on here for decades. He tells me that Kashmir has a very high capita income. He is open to suggestions, but coming from an affluent family, I feel he is out of touch with the joblessness that I see here.

He insists that most of the shops are closed because they want to show they are against the new law but at the same time, he admits this has happened many times before during 2010 and 2016. He seems a little confused but we debate back and forth, without any rancour.  I point out how much the Centre has spent on J&K. I ask that if they were so self- sufficient the state would be contributing to the GDP. 

I can see he has no faith in Dynastic politics but probably knows everyone involved. He says stone pelters are not paid but come out because they want to.  The media has spoken to some who had been stone pelters I tell him and they honestly admit they are paid and that there are not enough jobs. Many apply for police and army jobs.

I realize the owners of the shops in Residency Road are part of the elite and they do business even while they have their shutters down, unlike the smaller Kirana stores. The shop near my friend’s home is open all the time. Perhaps they are not afraid. We go in to buy groceries and they are really helpful. They are known to my friend and there seems to be no dearth of supplies. 

In the evening people are glued to their televisions. There is no internet but landlines are working. People in the local government say that the internet was being used to create fear and chaos and should not be opened soon. One What’s App message or doctored video can cause havoc. As it is, so many false rumours are floating around.

Friends drop in to meet my friend. Some of them are doing very well in government jobs and tell me that the valley will take time to settle down. My friend tells them that the residents of the homes around us pay no property tax and very few have electricity meters. It seems that many people have got used to not paying for electricity and taxes. In fact, one can see lines being pulled from poles everywhere. Governance has been lax for decades. Several areas that are prone to floods have huge homes built, which were once spill-off areas.

This is true of many cities, but Srinagar has no slums, as such, expect in the old city, which was the only place cordoned off. We saw it while driving around. This was Yasin Malik’s area the driver told us. On another plush street, we saw The Residency Hotel that had been sealed off belonging to Yasin Malik. He did very well for himself as a Separatist. He was sheltered and fawned over by all the local political parties even though hard evidence showed he had shot down four Air Force men. Finally, a case has been registered against him after 30 years. 

Many should be brought to justice— we have been a soft state for too long appeasing murderers who killed innocent people. But finally, there is hope that the victims will find justice.

We drive past Mehbooba Mufti’s home. It is an estate, the walls of which go on for a mile or more. The PM of India has a tiny place by comparison. This is the kind of fiefdom that only existed during the time of the monarchies in India. The Abdullah’s have their own such residences, father and son live separately. Such is the wealth they have all accumulated with dynastic power. 

The next few days were spent in talking to Shikara wallahs and vegetable vendors and shopkeepers. Their tourist season is nearly over. They get locals and some tourists in the evening hours. They charge us Rs 500 for half an hour but we are happy to give it as this tourist season has not been good. Our shikara wallah has a 10-year-old son, who is also out of school. His name is Salman and we tease him that he is going to be a big actor like Salman Khan. He smiles happily.

Our driver tells us that a new set of posters has appeared all over town telling people to stay at home or face death. Lashkar e Toiba terrorists have been caught trying to infiltrate into the valley. A truck full of arms and IEDs were found coming across the border from Pakistan. 

Rumours abound regarding the presence of terrorists in the valley. They will definitely try and strike somewhere in India. Pakistan cannot abide that J&K has slipped from their hands for good.

But in the valley people seem happy. Just going about their work as people do everywhere. It seems they are used to disruption and many say we feel safer now than we have for decades. This is a good sign. “

Weekend Special: Cyborgs Poised to Replace Humans & Remake the World

‘Our supremacy as the prime understanders of the cosmos is rapidly coming to end.’ For tens of thousands of years, humans have reigned as our planet’s only intelligent, self-aware species. But the rise of intelligent machines means that could change soon, perhaps in our own lifetimes. Not long after that, Homo sapiens could vanish from Earth entirely.

That’s the jarring message of a new book by James Lovelock, the famed British environmentalist and futurist. “Our supremacy as the prime understanders of the cosmos is rapidly coming to end,” he says in the book, “Novacene.” “The understanders of the future will not be humans but what I choose to call ‘cyborgs’ that will have designed and built themselves.”

Lovelock describes cyborgs as the self-sufficient, self-aware descendants of today’s robots and artificial intelligence systems. He calls the looming era of their dominance the Novacene — literally, the “new new” age.

These days, there’s no shortage of modern-day Luddites warning that technology will soon overwhelm us. But Lovelock’s bold predictions stand apart. Unlike technoskeptics, including University of Louisville computer scientist Roman Yampolskiy, Lovelock thinks it unlikely that our machines will turn against us, Terminator-style. And unlike utopians like futurist Ray Kurzweil, he doesn’t envision humans and machines merging blissfully into a union that some call the singularity.

Rather, Lovelock views the rise of technology through an evolutionary lens, in keeping with his decades of research and thinking about ecological and biological systems. He also brings the unique perspective of a scientist who just marked his 100th birthday, with a deep awareness of changing scientific fashions and with nothing left to prove. It’s an outlook that pushes him to conclusions at once optimistic and deeply disturbing.

The first stages of the Novacene are already underway, Lovelock argues. He cites the example of AlphaZero, a computer program that taught itself to play the game Go — and then quickly went on to become the world’s best Go player. Today’s computers can already process data far faster than we can; with fully independent artificial intelligence, he says, tomorrow’s cyborgs will easily become a million times smarter than we are.

Lovelock imagines cyborgs filling every evolutionary niche on the planet. “I think of cyborgs as another kingdom of life,” he says. “They will stand to us in much the same way as we ourselves, as a kingdom of animals, stand to plants.”

What would cyborgs look like? Lovelock is intentionally vague because he expects that they’ll rethink the basic rules of design in ways that we puny humans cannot imagine. “Cyborgs would start again; like Alpha Zero they would start from a blank slate,” he writes in his book. He speculates that they might look like spheres, though when pressed he says, “It’s entirely possible they would have no form at all,” existing mostly as virtual forms inside computers.

Whatever their form, the cyborgs will be so far beyond us in intellect that they may dismiss us as part of the planet’s background landscape. Alternatively, they might appreciate us in much the way that we appreciate plants. This possibility appeals to Lovelock, who likes to spend days in the garden around his cottage home in Dorset, England. “Think about the way you go to a great arboretum,” he says.

Once established, the cyborgs will remain dominant on our planet. “The Novacene,” Lovelock says, “will probably be the final era of life on Earth.”

This isn’t the first time Lovelock has rocked the scientific world with a big, controversial argument. His new idea about an impending cyborg takeover draws on a sweeping idea that originally made him famous, the so-called Gaia hypothesis that he and biologist Lynn Margulis developed in 1974.

In the Gaia view, our planet behaves as a single, self-regulating organism. Over the four billion years since the dawn of life, biological processes have steadily modified the atmosphere, land and oceans to keep Earth habitable. The sun has grown brighter, volcanoes have erupted, asteroids have struck, and yet our planet has steadily maintained the right conditions for liquid water and carbon chemistry: the essentials of life.

Initially, many researchers took a dim view of the Gaia hypothesis. But in recent years it’s become respectable.

“The concept of Gaia is quite key to our growing understanding about life in the universe,” says David Grinspoon, an astrobiologist at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona. Paul Davies, a physicist at Arizona State University in Tempe, calls Gaia “a useful concept in stressing how biological and geological cycles are coupled.”

The skeptics are back regarding Lovelock’s latest prognostications. “Nobody knows how this will unfold, because we don’t know how brains work or what consciousness is,” Grinspoon says. “And specific predictions about artificial intelligence and its future impact seem to depend on specific, untested, unverified answers to these big questions.”

But Lovelock believes that advances like AlphaZero mean we don’t have to look to the distant future to see how the story will unfold. “The crucial step that started the Novacene was, I think, the need to use computers to design and make themselves,” he writes. “It now seems probable that a new form of intelligent life will emerge from an artificially intelligent precursor made by one of us, perhaps from something like AlphaZero.”

Once we get used to being treated like houseplants, the early days of the Novacene might not be so bad. For one thing, Lovelock says, cyborgs and humans will have a shared interest in protecting Earth from climate change, because neither we nor they can tolerate temperatures beyond about 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit).

If humans fail to find ways to mitigate the effects of global warming, then the cyborgs will need to do it. “They will, of course, bring something new to the party, probably in the field of geoengineering — large-scale projects to protect or modify the environment. Such projects will be well within the capacity of electronic life,” Lovelock writes. For instance, the cyborgs might cover large areas of Earth’s surface with mirrors to reduce the amount of absorbed solar heat.

What will humans make of their robotic overlords? “I can’t imagine,” Lovelock says. “It must be a bit like a dog trying to understand a genius.”

They won’t have long to wonder. As the Novacene progresses, the cyborgs might decide to remake Earth’s ecosystem. With no need for oxygen or water, they might create a new world that is better for them but lethal for us. For example, they might replace carbon-based life with silicon equivalents: photovoltaic plants that generate electricity, or trees that bear batteries instead of fruit.

With green plants largely or totally eliminated, oxygen levels would plummet, and the sky would turn from a rich blue to a tepid brown. “Eventually, organic Gaia will probably die,” Lovelock writes. “But just as we do not mourn the passing of our ancestor species, neither, I imagine, will the cyborgs be grief-stricken by the passing of humans.”

Given their complete dominion over Earth, the cyborgs would become our planet’s final inhabitants. Lovelock thinks the Novacene could last a billion years or so, until the growing heat from the sun makes Earth unbearable even for synthetic life. At that point, the cyborgs might migrate to another world.

Perhaps they will eventually make contact with cyborgs from other planets as well. Seth Shostak, an astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, thinks the same scenario might already have played out across the universe. “I think it’s likely that most advanced intelligence in the universe is synthetic,” he says.

If this strikes you as a grim scenario, you’re not thinking like Lovelock. “I’m now past a hundred and to have an optimistic view is the only one worth having,” he says. Humans have had a great run on Earth, he writes, and before we bow out, we’re engaged in one of the noblest things we could do: “We are now preparing to hand the gift of knowing on to new forms of intelligent beings.”

Europe’s geopolitical shift

The exchange of prisoners between Russia and Ukraine earlier this week is a signal, albeit faint, that the European geopolitical tectonic plates are also shifting, along with those in Asia. This has consequences for India. Bitterness between the West and Russia over the latter’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 seems to be abating.  The shift began with the election of Trump who refused to go by conventional thinking on Russia. His persistence in rebuilding ties with Moscow is apparent from his recent invitation to Moscow to attend the next G7 summit to be held at Miami next year. European Union (EU) and American pressure pushed Moscow to overcome its geopolitical wariness and embrace Beijing. The two built up a trading relationship based on growing energy exports to China, while Russia perforce has begun to rely on Chinese finance and manufactured goods.  At the heart of this partnership is the need to deal with their primary adversary – the US – and not worry about their backyards. But Russian weakness brought on, in part, by its EU quarrel, has pushed Russia to a junior status in its relationship with China, and Moscow knows it.

India has had to face a double whammy here. First, China has displaced India as Russia’s “go to” defence partner. There was a time in the 1990s when Russia ensured that India got the highest level of weapons systems that it exported – the Sukhoi 30 MKI, the Brahmos missile, technology for a nuclear propelled submarine and so on. Now China has that privilege, having been the first to receive the Su-35 and S-400 missiles last year. Second, India has to contend with the US Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions (CAATSA). The US is unlikely to ever supply India with a class of weapons like nuclear submarines or hypersonic missiles to counter China. The only country that would is Russia, and arguably France. Whether it is Russia or Iran, the US also wants India to subordinate its regional policies to align with those of the US.

Now there are signs of a thaw in American and EU ties with Russia. On September 9, France held 2+2 talks with Russia in Moscow.  It is not entirely a coincidence that all this is happening as the most hawkish anti-Russian country – UK – is leaving the EU. Germany-Russia relations, too, are much improved, witness the numerous high-level visits of German leaders, including Chancellor Merkel to Russia in the past year. The thaw has boosted the Normandy format meetings between Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine to resolve the crisis. On Monday, President Trump said he was not averse to joining the talks whose next round could take place at the end of the month. The stage is set for a possible compromise on Crimea. Other things could then follow.

In all fairness, both sides need to take a step back and look at their own conduct. NATO’s eastward expansion could not but have rattled Russia. In turn the latter built up a web of links with right wing and radical forces across EU. Paris was not amused when Marine Le Pen, leader of the right-wing  National Rally, confirmed that her party had received a 9 million euro loan from a Russian bank some years back, and that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  Europe and Russia understand the value of their relationship very well. Part of it is shared history, part is the present where Russia is the largest oil and natural gas exporter to EU and the latter is its largest trading partner and source of FDI.

Given its location, India has both continental and oceanic interests. European shifts in conjunction with a possible thaw in Iran-US ties will be a boost for India’s Eurasian interests. After taking Indian policy unconscionably close to the US, Modi is discovering the virtues of multi-polarity. A strong and stable Russia and EU would certainly be a better option than a world dominated by the US and China.

The Jallianwala Bagh stain: Archbishop of Canterbury’s act of repentance mark of interfaith reconciliation

The dramatic image flashed across the world. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Protestant church in England and spiritual leader of the global community of 85 million Anglican Christians, lay prostrate in front of the memorial to the victims massacred a century ago by troops of the British Indian army in Amritsar. It was, as he intended, a visible symbol of repentance for an action that since 1919 has left a stain on Britain’s relations with India.

It was not a formal apology. The most revered Justin Welby said that he was a religious and not a political leader, and therefore could not speak for Britain or its government. But he condemned the shootings as a crime and a sin, and said he was “personally very sorry for this terrible atrocity”. He felt a “deep sense of shame” when visiting the Jallianwala Bagh park.

His prostration, in the searing heat, was compared by many to the gesture of repentance by Willy Brandt, the West German chancellor, who spontaneously fell to his knees in 1970 in front of the former Jewish ghetto in Warsaw when he offered an apology for the Nazi atrocities committed there during the Second World War.

Like Brandt, Welby’s action has sparked controversy in his home country. How could a gesture atone for history? Why should he not also atone for the many other terrible actions committed not only in India but also elsewhere by the British and many others who have killed innocent civilians? Critics in Britain said he was simply “virtue signalling”, and was not entitled to express the judgement of humanity more than three generations later.

That was not the point. Since becoming Archbishop in 2013, Welby has made reconciliation and tolerance, between faiths and among former enemies, the watchwords of his time in office. He believes the second is impossible without the first. And he came to India for 12 days, the longest overseas tour he has yet undertaken, because he believes that India holds the key to better relations between the great world faiths, since many of them are based in India or have strong roots there. India has lived with religious diversity for more than a thousand years, and since Independence has had a Constitution that specifically upholds the freedom of worship for the country’s religious minorities.

That freedom has recently come under strain. India has seen the growth of religious nationalism, the ideology behind the ruling BJP party, and this has heightened tensions between the Hindu majority and India’s large Muslim minority. Recent actions in Kashmir and in Assam have been seen by some as discrimination against minority faiths. And in recent years these tensions have spilled over in sporadic violent attacks on isolated Christian communities across the country.

Welby knew that any call by a visiting outsider for greater protection for India’s Christians – some of them, especially in Kerala, hundreds of years older than Christianity in Europe – would be resented and would be counter-productive. Instead, he underlined the importance of Article 25 of the Constitution, and pointedly expressed the hope that that India’s commitment to religious freedom would be vigorously enforced by local authorities at local level.

He went to India, he said before he began his visit, to learn how mutual respect and tolerance between faiths could be translated into common actions to counter the scourge increasingly affecting all faiths today: the growth of extremism, religious fanaticism and terrorism. That is clear across the world – in the Middle East especially, but also in Sri Lanka, where he made a two-day visit before going to India, in Africa and in Europe, where Muslim minorities face growing Islamophobia among Christians. Reconciliation is not possible, he believes, unless there is acknowledgment of past failings by political and religious leaders.

But for him reconciliation means more than simply gathering for polite conversations with other spiritual leaders. He called this “tea and cakes” reconciliation, which was shallow and did not tackle the roots of intolerance. Instead, faiths should work wholeheartedly together to assert their values and the common humanity that lies at the heart of all their doctrines.

He did not achieve any dramatic breakthrough in his meetings with Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and leaders of Christians from other denominations in India. But he insisted that he also came to India to learn how Christian communities, which account for no more than 3% of India’s population, were attempting to build bridges to the wider community.

In the time of British rule, dozens of prestigious schools were founded by Christians to educate both girls and boys from largely well-to-do Indian families. These still exist and exert a lifelong influence on the pupils from other faiths, the majority, who attend them. But the two indigenous Anglican churches, the Church of South India and the Church of North India, are now deliberately focusing on the marginalised and the downtrodden. While in Kolkata, Welby visited a centre that is pioneering efforts, in conjunction with NGOs and overseas aid agencies, to stop human trafficking – a serious problem in poor border areas, where girls are lured into prostitution or forced marriage and boys are kidnapped for use as indentured labour or for the criminal harvesting of bodily organs.

If India can mobilise such social engagement by all faiths, working together, the country could set an example to the world. Such an example would have a powerful influence in Britain and Europe, now multicultural communities, where faith is increasingly divisive instead of reconciling.

To achieve that, however, Britain and India had to acknowledge each other’s fraught common history. And that called for a heartfelt and symbolic gesture from Britain’s most senior religious leader if the stain of Amritsar is to be erased.

Liberties are at an end

“I will for ever, at all hazards, assert the dignity, independence, and integrity of the English Bar, without which impartial justice, the most valuable part of the English constitution, can have no existence. From the moment that any advocate can be permitted to say that he will or will not  stand between the Crown and the subject arraigned in the court where he daily sits to practise, from that moment the liberties of England are at an end”.

~Thomas Erskine, 1792, address to the jury defending Thomas Paine

It was the year 1792. Thomas Paine published the second part of the Rights of Man. His support for the anti-monarchical sentiments of the French and American Revolution infuriated the ruling establishment in England. Paine fled England and he was tried in absentia for seditious libel. Contrary to the opinion of the polite society of the time, and the lynch mode of the general populace, England’s most eminent barrister Thomas Erskine rose to defend the man whose thoughts on liberty were translating itself into human freedoms into many a free constitutions. 

The quoted words were a grand opening address to the jury which has remained etched in stone for the future generations of lawyers and judges. The winds of time have neither erased the memorable text of his splendid oration or its invaluable and timeless message for lawyers and judges. Neither personal danger nor the imminent loss of the coveted post of Attorney General deterred Erskine.

Stalin’s Stolen Cigars

Legend has it that one of the most eminent counsel, while arguing the celebrated Habeas Corpus case in the Supreme Court, recounted a telling joke about dynamics of a prosecution in a totalitarian state. One day Joseph Stalin found that his box of Havana cigars was missing. He immediately summoned the Pavlovich Beria, the KGB chief. He wanted the person who stole his cigars arrested and also his box of cigars retrieved in 24 hours. Beria returned the next day and with much trepidation told Stalin, “we have not found the stolen box of Havana cigars. We also could not find the man who stole it. But we have arrested and detained 6 men who have confessed to have acted in conspiracy to steal your cigars.” 

Bhima Koregaon

From June 2018, ten of the most brilliant minds in the country pursuing the rights of man, found themselves in the tragicomic situation of the six men arrested in the Stalin cigar joke. Unfortunately for them this was a Kafkaesque reality which stared them in the face. This list is a virtual who is who of academics and social activism in India: Sudhir Dhawale is a writer, activist and Mumbai-based Dalit rights activist; Surendra Gadling is a lawyer and an expert on Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and Forest Rights Act; and from Nagpur, Mahesh Raut, who works on displacement issues from Gadchiroli; Shoma Sen, a retired university professor and former head of the English literature department at Nagpur University;Rona Wilson, a Delhi-based prisoners’ rights activist; Arun Ferreira is a rights advocate; Sudha Bharadwaj is a Harvard decorated lawyer, who renounced her US citizenship working for civil rights and is also the general secretary of PUCL; writer Varavara Rao is an eminent poet, literary critic and journalist; and Vernon Gonsalves is an academic who extensively taught in Mumbai’s prestigious colleges. 

They have been accused amongst other things of the overthrow of the state. There is one common thread running through list of the prosecuted, they were connected with the function of Bhima Koregaon ceremony symbolic of Dalit resurgence inaugurated in 1928 by B. R. Ambedkar.

For the Koregaon accused, it is a daunting prospect. Oscar Wilde writing from Reading Goal wrote, “every trial is a trial for a man’s life”. For the ten Bhima Koregaon activists arrested this will be the trial which will engage their lifetime. Unlike the trial of Paine (which lasted 19 months) and trials in the developed world(in the United States the average is 12 to 14 months), this might take a decade. 

In India, the criminal prosecutions can be made to crawl at the will of the police establishment. In most cases reprieve from incarceration will be frustrated, no matter the absurdity of the charges or the inability to produce any evidence. Kobad Gandhi was arrested with much fanfare and tried for similar offences for 8 long years. 3 days after he was finally released, he was arrested again on another FIR. In the United States, the district attorney will lose his job or his political ambitions will be set at naught for a misconceived prosecution. 

Here nothing really needs to happen except fleeting criticism in the media many decades after the event and after much of a life is spent in incarceration. The Bhima Koregaon is now stuck in a predictable procedural quagmire. The prosecution has not turned over the electronic evidence despite 60 hearings. It was not filed with the chargesheet or during the bail hearings and is taking its time to give the crucial evidence in their possession.

Indira Jaising and Anand Grover, like the many eminent lawyers Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Yuk Chaudhary, Mihir Desai, Susan Abraham, Rohan Nahar, Arif Siddiqui, R.Satyanarayan and scores of other brave members of the Bar, chose to appear for the Bhima Koregaon activists. Both Jaising and Grover have in the great traditions of our bar, spent a lifetime making our living Constitution work for the living. They have represented where many fear to tread. They have regularly appeared for the forgotten and those out of the zone of consideration of state and society. They have made the living Constitution pierce not just the walls of prisons and but also the walls of prejudice, hate, bigotry and xenophobia. After the decision of the Supreme Court in Navtej Singh Johar, a gay activist emotionally recounted how the couple helped him escape the mobs at the height of the xenophobia surrounding HIV victims.

In this dysfunctional situation, the stellar dissent in Romila Thapar v. Union of India, which took the free world’s press by storm, laid the groundwork for an integral roadmap to calibrate the criminal administration system to bring it in tune with constitutional morality. The words ring the urgency of our times to make justice real in real time “Equally, the Court has to be vigilant in the exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 32 to ensure that liberty is not sacrificed at the altar of conjectures. Individuals who assert causes which may be unpopular to the echelons of power are yet entitled to the freedoms which are guaranteed by the Constitution. Dissent is a symbol of a vibrant democracy. Voices in opposition cannot be muzzled by persecuting those who take up unpopular causes. ”Despite the resilience of unjust and persisting aberrations, there has been no unified judicial voice or response.

The Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi delivering the Ramnath Goenka address could spelt out the dichotomy, “the aspirational aspect of the Constitution and the operational aspect of the Constitution will always be two different notions”. He emphasized, “But, the fact of the matter is that if we have to take stock of how we have fared – and about seven decades later since we ventured into becoming a Constitutional Order, this appears to be an opportune time to do so – we might as well do it comprehensively.”

On this day in the lives of this husband and wife duo, one can perceive what they are going through in the words of the finest of the liberal judges of the Supreme Court of the United States, Justice William O Douglas:

“As a result of Nixon’s instructions to the FBI and the CIA, hundreds of documents concerning me were turned over to the house. The tempo quickened in the executive branch, so that some 40 federal agents spent an amount of time investigating me in equivalent to one-man working 15 years for eight hours a day.

It is easy to make a charge against a public official and put him to the test of defending himself. But when the accuser is the federal government itself with all its resources behind it, the person attacked is at a tremendous disadvantage. It costs money, and a lot of it, to transport eight lawyers across the country, put them up at hotels, pay telephone calls and all incidentals necessary to do the work. Over and above all that, there is the question of compensating the lawyers… That raised a staggering problem as to how a salaried person can afford the luxury of these long-range investigations.”

Bearing Cross of Free Societies

The lawyers from time immemorial have had to bear the cross for maintaining free societies. When Mark Anthony seized power in 49 BC, his men hunted down the greatest lawyer of all times- Marcus Tullius Cicero. The story repeats itself in every age. The events in democratic Turkey reveals the tenuous grip of the Constitution and its institutions in sustaining a democracy. The UN human rights council has been alerted about the arbitrary dismissal of 4,260 judges and prosecutors of which 634 were convicted on terrorism charges by a plethora of bodies like the  International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, the Paris Bar Human Rights Institute, the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights, the Human Rights Committee of the Norwegian Bar Association, and other legal organizations. Simon Davis, the president of the Law Society of England and Wales, said: “Judges’ and prosecutors’ independence has been systematically undermined..and lawyers who can still practise report intimidation and threats”.

It is this fragility of a democracy which made Dr. B.R. Ambedkar canvass for the non-negotiability of judicial independence. When addressing the Constituent Assembly he said, “there can be no difference of opinion in the House that our judiciary must be both independent of the executive and competent in itself”.

India Ramifies its Energy Diplomacy As The First Mover in Russia’s Energy-Rich East

Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok on September 4. The visit and its outcomes are a peek into how foreign policy has transmuted in the past few years of the Modi regime, affecting every sector and percolating affirmatively into the common person’s life.

The highlight of the visit were the inroads made in Russia’s Far East region – an underdeveloped part of the country brimming with natural resources, like oil and gas, diamonds, gold, coal and other vital poly metals. 49 MoUs were signed between the Russian and Indian public and private players during the PM’s visit.

India and Russia have had a special, privileged and strategic partnership but the relation in recent days has steadily expanded into non-traditional spheres. Before his Vladivostok sojourn, Modi sent two Union ministers, including me, and four CMs to scout for investment and trade opportunities in the country.

Here is a snapshot of why Russia is vital for us, especially as a trade partner. Russia is a global energy powerhouse – it is the largest holder of hydrocarbons and the largest exporter of gas in the world. India, on the other hand, is heavily import-reliant for crude oil and LNG.

It is, therefore, imperative that we diversify our sources in the age of volatile geopolitics. Moreover, in moving towards a $5 trillion economy, the demand for energy will only go up. Russia has the potential to be a natural and stable partner for fulfilling the needs of an aspirational people, while also benefitting from the partnership.

Our strategy has been twofold: one, to increase Indian assets in the region, and the other, to enter into stable supply contracts. Towards the first end, we have invested around $15 billion in Russian assets, including OVL’s investment in Sakhalin-I and Vankorneft that have been one of their best investments to date.

For achieving the second objective, Indian companies are now entering into long-term crude contracts with Russian partners. For instance, GAIL entered into a contract with Gazprom for purchase of 2.5 mmtpa of gas. Russia, looking to increase its LNG exports, signed an agreement with the government for increased use of LNG as a transport fuel, which includes preparation and evaluation of the readiness of vehicles, information exchange, developing city gas distribution networks and so forth.

The Russian government is taking several steps – that will work to our advantage – to increase the viability of export of hydrocarbons, including through the development of the North Sea Route, development of port infrastructure and the development of an incentive-based tax regime, which will encourage companies to invest in assets in the Arctic. On the other hand, Russia is the largest investor in India’s oil and gas sector, with Rosneft-led consortium’s investment of $12.9 billion in 2017.

Additionally, for the first time, we found significant openings in sourcing of metallurgical coal – which is not produced in significant quantities in India but majorly feeds into the steel industry – from the Russian Far East. Non-binding MoUs between NMDC and SAIL with the Russian Far East mining company, that provide for long-term contracts for sourcing, exploring and extracting metallurgical coal resources from the region and also training of experts and joint development of future technologies, have been exchanged.

Owing to the PM’s visionary diplomacy India has partaken of the first mover’s advantage in the Far East. The government has extended a $1 billion line of credit to the region, primarily an enabling clause to help our businesspeople set up shop at a place, which lacks infrastructure but is vitally rich in trade potential. This will be a tool for the government to handhold its own commercial interests in the region.

Modi’s astute diplomacy has resulted in a paradigmatic shift in India’s standing in diplomatic negotiations. It is, indeed, a matter of pride for us that while we have emulated the Soviet model of five-year plans, today, the Russians want to come to India to understand our city gas distribution networks and its implementation strategies. So also for the Ujjwala scheme, where Latin American, African and our neighbouring governments have sent delegations to understand how the scheme was implemented. Moreover, because of our diversification of crude procurement, consumer countries now have a voice in forums like OPEC, which have traditionally been producer dominated.