The Upcoming Trump Visit Sans Trade Still Will Not be Sans Meat

It might paper over the fact that the two sides have not yet been able to close the circle on a limited trade deal. A trade agreement between India and the US would always be difficult – “fair and reciprocal” mean very different things in Washington and New Delhi. It’s the one area in the bilateral relationship which stays out of the “strategic” umbrella, leaving both sides to squabble like Tom and Jerry. Cranberries, dairy, pecan nuts, poultry feed, grapes, ethanol, medical devices, walnuts, and almonds – this is the stuff of dispute and contention.

The growth of India-US relationship has been the strategic headline of the 21st century, even though viewership ratings have focussed on the US-China one – swinging between ‘G-2’ and ‘decoupling’.

A grand spectacle will dominate next week’s visit by US President Donald Trump. Trump loves spectacle, so does Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi will return the compliment of Trump gracing Houston’s ‘Howdy Modi’ last year by giving Trump possibly the biggest rally he can ever hope for. Please don’t be literal-minded or killjoys about numbers at the Motera Stadium ‘Namaste Trump’ tamasha. Indians are the progenitors of ‘over-the-top’, and we will deliver to gobsmacked audiences around the world.

That, by the way, will be the true gift from one politician to another, especially one going into a gruelling election cycle. It will be the biggest instance of a global leader addressing the Indian public, a political achievement in and of itself.

The USTR has long nursed an active dislike for India and India’s trading structures. They have company. India is bad news in trading circles in the US, Europe as well as Asia. Indian negotiators are famously prickly and unyielding, they have an annoying habit of making a virtue of a congenital inability to close a deal.

Not for nothing has Modi bumped up the negotiating team to the Cabinet level, entrusting it to the care of Piyush Goyal, Hardeep Puri and S Jaishankar. So, there was some disappointment when Robert Lighthizer, the tough-as-nails USTR decided to call off his visit, because, they believe India is one political-level meeting away from a deal. But, as a US official explained, the US had had enough of getting the royal run-around by the Indians for the past year and some.

The protectionist Trump administration has, despite the bluster and tariff walls, managed to squeeze through trade deals with Canada and Mexico, and a recent “phase 1” deal with China.

If you follow the timeline of the US-China trade negotiations for the past couple of years, Washington’s modus operandi is similar – pull back at the last minute for any number of reasons. Thing is, Indians have been playing the same game for years, because successive Indian governments have rolled with the same wish list of domestic business interests.

Our economy is doing swimmingly, unemployment is non-existent, say the Americans. We need not labour the point on the state of India’s economy, or that India’s growth is contingent on an open economy. To be sure, a $60,000 per capita superpower haggling with a $2,000 nation or even tagging India a “developed” economy is little short of extortion, so India pushing back is fair game.

But on the strategic end of things, the depth of political comfort has grown exponentially, and we can safely say the relationship enjoys excellent health. India is making strategic choices both in the Indian Ocean and Indo-Pacific, sharing security and strategic goals with the US, which is, broken down to its fundamentals, a balancing of Chinese power.

In the Indo-Pacific, India is teaming up with the US, France, Japan and Australia. The most recent entrant in India’s close circle of partners is Indonesia, a relationship that should be followed. With the US, France and Japan, India has signed logistics sharing agreements (India should be able to announce completion of negotiations with the US on a BECA, the last of the foundational agreements). The Quad is creeping from talk shop to a ministerial level strategy platform.

What lies beyond the horizon for India and the US? There are three main areas that the two countries could aim for – technology, third-country cooperation and nuclear.

The field is vast in technology – just in telecommunications, India and the US can start with working together on 6G and 7G technologies. China is the acknowledged master of 5G. For this to happen, India should be part of the global rule-making systems on technology and telecommunications; it should go out of its way to attract minds, companies, inventions and investment in technology. India needs the US to help it navigate the tech sphere, and the US should have India by its side in the tech battle that will force the world to make tough choices. Space is another – India has demonstrated expertise and willingness, it remains for the two sides to take this to the next frontier.

The US deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger, at the Raisina Dialogue spoke about the Blue Dot initiative, a new rating system to assess the sustainability and fiscal prudence of international projects. The US Build Act has started the process on improving US performance in projects overseas. India has sharpened delivery of its own international development projects. The US could start by giving Blue Dots to Indian companies, along with American, that deliver clean, sustainable projects overseas.

The third, and a key leftover of this partnership is nuclear. Modi 1 found some band-aid fixes for the disastrous nuclear liability law. But this law needs to be amended substantially for the Indian nuclear industry to grow. The US, meanwhile, is reworking its nuclear weapons. There is an obvious synergy here, we should pick up the bato

A Westless Europe Is a Fundamental Shift

World leaders gathered for the Munich Security Conference over the weekend in one of the most important military and foreign-policy conferences of the year. This year’s theme was “Westlessness.” No, that’s not a typo. Instead, the conference focused on a fundamental shift in world order.

Since the end of the Second World War, “the West” has been one of the key players in world events. While not totally unified, the West includes the United States, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Western Europe, with Eastern Europe joining after the end of the Cold War. This bloc has held similar values—freedom, democracy, relatively free market economies—and is held together by a series of overlapping alliances, like nato and the European Union.

Westlessness is the end of this worldview. This bloc wields less power on the world scene. It is less unified. Parts of it are turning against its core values. In focusing on Westlessness, the conference exposed one of the most important trends in world events.

With leaders from both the U.S. and Europe giving their thoughts on the big issues of the day, the conference exposed the massive divide between the two. “The two sides aren’t just far apart on the big questions facing the West (threats from Russia, Iran, China), they’re in parallel universes,” wrote Politico.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier openly blamed many of their problems on the U.S. Yet U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted, “The West is winning; we’re collectively winning.” His triumphalism was met with stony silence. Many in the room no longer consider themselves on the same side as the U.S.

“One thing is certain: There will be no return to the heyday of close trans-Atlantic ties,” wrote Deutsche Welle. “Rhetorically, at least, the Europeans have been shaken awake from that dream. There is much talk of Europe becoming a sovereign, strategic, political power. There are demands that Germany once again learns the language of power, which French President Emmanuel Macron has already seemed to master.”

Macron really drove the agenda. His push for a strong European military received strong support. Deutsche Welle approvingly noted: The highlight of the conference was perhaps the appearance of French President Emmanuel Macron. The French president brings incredible dynamism to the European debate. He fights for European independence. He wants a common foreign and defense policy. And if that does not work for all 27 remaining EU members after Brexit, then Paris would be happy to work with those that do support the idea repeatedly advocated at the conference: to create a Europe capable of action in the face of the “rivalry of the great powers.”

Macron said that Europe must avoid being America’s junior partner. He has a grander destiny in mind. He said he was “convinced that we need a much stronger Europe in defense.” Some European states—particularly those in Eastern Europe—would rather stick close to the U.S. than have Europe go alone and create its own separate, powerful military. That opinion was also on display at the conference. But Macron’s message was that Europe must simply move on without them, even it is only a smaller, “core” group of nations that become a military power.

Macron’s comments were enthusiastically endorsed by the German participants. Armin Laschet, one of the top candidates to replace Angela Merkel as Germany’s chancellor, said, “I would like to apologize on behalf of the German government” for not moving more quickly on Macron’s proposals. German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said she “completely agreed” with Macron. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called for the “construction of a European security and defense union” within 10 years.

Some of this renewed push for a military union is already bearing fruits. The day after the conference, EU leaders agreed to a new military mission to enforce an arms embargo on Libya. Maas made clear he envisioned more such missions. German security is defended “in Iraq, Libya and the Sahel,” he said at the conference.

Macron even raised the prospect of France helping this military union by sharing its own nuclear weapons. Currently, many European countries rely on American nuclear weapons for their nuclear umbrella. Macron wants to end that dependence. “We have to think in a European way as well,” he said. Shortly before the conference, he invited Germany for talks on the subject of nuclear weapons with France—further indicating that France may be willing to share its nukes.

Macron also indicated that Europe could move closer to Russia as it moves away from the U.S. He said U.S.-led sanctions against Russia were “totally inefficient.” Europe, he said, “will reengage in a strategic dialogue.”

American officials worked hard at the conference to encourage Europe to move away from China. They failed; European nations will continue their close cooperation despite pressure from America.

It is clear that “the West” is no more. There are two power blocs: a German-dominated Europe on the one side; the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand on the other. They with Europe appeared to be one bloc in the postwar world because America was powerful, and Europe, devastated by World War II, was weak. But as Europe rises, the divide is clearer than ever—so clear that it’s obvious to the organizers of the Munich Security Conference.

This is the true source of “Westlessness.” America still believes this German-led Europe is its closest friend. To Secretary of State Pompeo, the relationship between the two is great.

America has given Europe nuclear weapons. They’re stationed in Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and elsewhere—and ready to fly on German planes. The U.S. spends nearly $700 billion on defense, while the EU spends much less than half that. These European countries can have their generous welfare states because the U.S. is paying for most of their protection.

U.S. President Donald Trump is trying to change this and cut back on some of the “gifts.” Europe is responding by saying that the relationship is over, and it is all America’s fault. If Europe isn’t receiving the gifts, it doesn’t want the alliance. It’s not really an ally America can trust.

France’s role in this is important to note. France is also descended from biblical Israel. Yet it is playing a major role in creating this new European power—all with the strong encouragement of Germany. The United States built modern Europe. Its prosperity and security rest on American foundations. And now the Continent is turning against America.

Most urgent health challenges we’ll face in the 2020s

  • The WHO released the top 10 global healthcare challenges in the coming decade.
  • Global warming, conflict zones and unfair healthcare provision are among the main obstacles.
  • Many healthcare challenges are interconnected and will require a coordinated international effort to overcome.
  • Experts are concerned governments around the world are failing to invest sufficient funds in overcoming these issues.

The world can’t afford to do nothing – that’s the World Health Organization’s message on the release of its report listing the most urgent health challenges for the coming decade.

All of the health challenges on the WHO list are urgent – and many are linked. And each challenge requires a coordinated effort from the global health sector, policymakers, international agencies and communities, the organization says. However, there is concern global leaders are failing to invest enough resources in core health priorities and systems.

The most urgent global health challenges for 2020, according to the World Health Organization.

These are the main challenges on the list.

1. Elevating health in the climate debate

The climate crisis poses one of At the same time, more – and more intense – extreme weather events like drought and floods increase malnutrition rates and help spread infectious diseases like malaria.

2. Delivering health in conflict and crisis

The already difficult task of containing disease outbreaks is made more challenging in countries rife with conflict.

Nearly 1,000 attacks on healthcare workers and medical facilities in 11 countries were recorded in 2019, leaving 193 medical staff dead. Despite stricter surveillance, many healthcare workers remain vulnerable.

For the tens of millions of people forced to flee their homes, there is often little or no access to healthcare.

3. Making healthcare fairer

The gap between the haves and have-nots is growing, especially in terms of access to healthcare. People in wealthy nations can expect to live 18 years longer than their poorer neighbours, and wealth can determine access to healthcare within countries and individual cities, as well.

Rising global rates of diseases like cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory conditions have a greater impact on low- and middle-income countries, where medical bills can quickly deplete the limited resources of poorer families.

4. Expanding access to medicines

Although many in the world take access to medication for granted, medicines and vaccines are not an option for almost one-third of the global population.

The challenge of expanding access to medicines in areas where few, if any, healthcare products are available includes combatting substandard and imitation medical products. In addition to putting lives at risk by failing to treat the patient’s condition, these products can undermine confidence in medicines and healthcare providers.

5. Stopping infectious diseases

Infectious diseases continue to kill millions of people, most of them poor. This picture looks unlikely to change in the near future.

Preventing the spread of diseases like HIV, tuberculosis and malaria depends on sufficient levels of funding and robust healthcare systems. But in some areas where they are most needed, these resources are in short supply.

Greater funding and political will is required to develop immunization programmes, share data on disease outbreaks and reduce the effects of drug resistance.

6. Preparing for epidemics

Airborne viruses or diseases transferred by mosquito bite can spread quickly, with potentially devastating consequences. the biggest threats to both the planet and the health of the people who live on it. Emissions kill around 7 million people each year, and are responsible for more than a quarter of deaths from diseases including heart attacks, stroke and lung cancer.

Currently, more time and resources are spent reacting to a new strain of influenza or an outbreak of yellow fever, rather than preparing for future outbreaks. But it’s not a question of if a dangerous virus will come about – but when. 

7. Protecting people from dangerous products

Many poorer parts of the world face malnutrition and food insecurity, while at the same time, global obesity levels and diet-related problems are on the rise. We need to rethink what we eat, reduce the consumption of food and drinks high in sugar, salt and harmful fats, and promote healthy, sustainable diets. To this end, the WHO is working with countries to develop policies that reduce our reliance on harmful foodstuffs.

8. Investing in the people who defend health

Health workers are in short supply the world over. Sustainable health and social care systems depend on well-paid and properly trained staff who can deliver quality care. WHO research predicts that by 2030, there will be a shortfall of 18 million health workers, mostly in low- and middle-income countries.

New investment is needed to properly train health workers and provide decent salaries for people in the profession, it says.

9. Keeping adolescents safe

Every year, more than 1 million adolescents – aged between 10 and 19 – die. The main causes include road accidents, suicides, domestic violence and diseases like HIV or lower respiratory conditions. But many of these premature deaths are preventable.

Policymakers, educators and health practitioners need to promote positive mental health among adolescents, to prevent illicit drug use, alcohol abuse and self-harm. Programmes that raise awareness of things like contraception, sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy care help address some of the underlying causes of adolescent fatalities.

10. Earning public trust

Delivering safe, reliable healthcare to patients involves first gaining their confidence and trust; a trust which can be undermined by the rapid spread of misinformation on social media. For example, the anti-vaccination movement has led to an increase in deaths from preventable diseases.

But social media can also be used to spread reliable information and build public trust in healthcare. Community programmes are another way to boost confidence in healthcare provision and practices that prevent the spread of diseases, such as vaccinations or condom use.

The Return of The Ugly American

“Yankee, go home! And take me with you” is an idea that has long summed up the world’s mixed feelings about America. Since the Second World War, people and governments around the world have frequently demanded that America go home. For them, there are enough things to object to — none more important than the expansive American global hegemony.

At the same time, there is an unending attraction around the world to the American lifestyle. That anyone could get to the US and “make it there” has been the essence of the global US dream. For 18th and 19th century Europe, America was about liberation from the oppressive hierarchies of the old world. For Asia and the global south in the 20th century, America was about finding opportunities that were denied at home.c

The Indian elite has been as schizophrenic about the US as any other in the Third World. For decades, elites of all political persuasion reveled in denouncing the US and proudly sending their children to incredibly successful careers there. No other place in the world has been as welcoming to Indians as the US.

Under President Donald Trump, though, some of that might be changing. Trump’s America wants the Yankees to come home but is shutting the door on unrestricted immigration from the rest of the world. Domestic critics say America has been a nation of immigrants and Trump is wrong to keep them out. But Trump has much support among the working people who know immigration keeps wages low, helps the capitalist class and disrupts the familiar cultural and social landscape.

Some chancelleries in the world demand that America must go home. The president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, wants to end Manila’s century-old relationship with the US military. Iran wants America out of the Gulf. Russia and China would like to see the US forces out of Europe and Asia respectively.

Only a few years ago, these demands would have been laughed out of court. But as Trump threatens to question America’s military commitments in Europe and Asia and denounces the past military interventions in the Middle East, the world is paying serious attention to the possibility of Yankee going home.

Trump shrugged off Duterte’s demand by saying it will “save money” for America; in the Gulf, he wants the Asian powers to police the vital sea lines of communication; in Europe and Asia, he wants the allies to do more for their own security.

In Europe, France and Germany are now talking about creating new defence capabilities for the European Union amidst the prospect for American security retrenchment. In Asia, Japan is debating a larger security role. In the Gulf, America’s Arab allies are scrambling to diversify their security dependence.

The idea of downsizing America’s role, along with the rejection of free trade and open borders, is at the very heart of Trump’s America First policy. To be sure there is deep resistance in the US to these ideas that run counter to America’s post-war internationalism. Wall Street on the East Coast and Silicon Valley on the West Coast along with the old foreign and security policy establishment in Washington all oppose Trump’s America First focus.

Trump’s message, however, resonates across the political divide in the US. Many candidates for the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party agree with Trump’s goal of ending America’s “endless wars” in the Middle East. Many in the working classes, who traditionally supported the Democrats, believe Trump is right in arguing that free trade has hollowed out American industry and eliminated manufacturing jobs.

Put simply America is at an inflection point; India needs to come to terms with the profound changes unfolding in the US. The Indian political classes castigated the US for excessive interventions in the affairs of other nations. Trump now says such interventions are counterproductive and all nations must strengthen their sovereignty. Indians criticised the US for imposing globalisation on others; the US President is now one of the biggest critics of globalisation. Trump’s America is not the one we have known.

During the Cold War, Delhi had trouble figuring out US domestic politics, given the limited nature of its engagement with the US that was focused largely on the State Department. As India broadened its engagement with America in the last two decades, Delhi has become more sensitive to the US domestic political dynamics. In getting the US to ease off on Kashmir and nuclear issues, Delhi had to look beyond the foreign policy establishment to generate better US appreciation of India’s concerns and interests.

One of the instruments that came in handy was the mobilisation of the Indian diaspora — a process that began during the tenure of Rajiv Gandhi as prime minister, acquired momentum in the late 1990s and emerged as a key factor in elevating the bilateral relationship in the 21st century. Delhi, however, needs to unlearn some of the assumptions about US policy as it prepares to host Trump next week. While the diaspora is important and could be of some value in dealing with Trump, it can’t override the deeper forces animating American politics.

Trump is throwing overboard the domestic consensus on foreign policy that has held through the post-war period. Trump rode on the turbulence of US domestic politics to seize the White House to the utter surprise of the establishment in Washington DC as well as other capitals around the world. He is betting that ending unpopular wars, reordering trade relations with major economic partners, and limiting migration will bring him back to power in this year’s election.

Delhi’s success with Trump will depend less on the size of the welcome in Ahmedabad and more on the kind of strategic imagination it can display on trade cooperation, securing Afghanistan after America’s withdrawal, stabilising the Gulf and developing a new global compact on migration that is sensitive to domestic political considerations and yet contributes to the collective economic development

The Partition of India Doesn’t Validate Two-Nation Theory

In February 1943, some months after his Quit India call, prisoner Gandhi went on a 21-day fast in protest against the British empire’s worldwide anti-Quit India propaganda. That month Gandhi discussed the Muslim League’s Pakistan demand with a visitor, Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, the only senior Congress leader not in jail at the time. Having openly disagreed with the Quit India move, Rajagopalachari had not been imprisoned.

In their Pune talks, Gandhi and Rajagopalachari quietly agreed under what was later called the C R formula that if the League joined the Congress in a common campaign for independence, the Congress could accept a post-independence plebiscite in contiguous Muslim-majority districts in the north-west and the east of undivided India. If the plebiscite favoured Partition, a bond of alliance would cover the subjects of defence, commerce and communications.

Nineteen months later, in September 1944, a freed Gandhi met Jinnah 14 times in Mumbai to sell him the CR formula. The talks failed. Jinnah offered five grounds for rejecting this formula’s Pakistan. One, it was not large enough: West Bengal and East Punjab were excluded. Two, he said, it was not sovereign enough: The proposed bond of alliance clipped sovereignty. Three, the scheme gave all residents in the contiguous Muslim-majority areas the right to vote on Pakistan, whereas Jinnah wanted the right restricted to Muslims. Four, while Gandhi wanted voting for separation to follow independence, Jinnah wanted the British to divide India before quitting.

Finally, complained Jinnah, while Gandhi was conceding the right of contiguous Muslim-majority areas to separate, he was refusing to admit that Hindus and Muslims were two different nations. “Let us call in a third party or parties to guide or even arbitrate between us,” Gandhi suggested. Jinnah did not agree. Three years later, in August 1947, Jinnah obtained no more than the Pakistan area that Gandhi had offered, but he obtained it without any bond of alliance.

Though a sad Gandhi acquiesced in the 1947 Partition, neither he nor any of the Congress’s prominent leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Rajagopalachari, Maulana Azad or Rajendra Prasad agreed that Hindus and Muslims comprised two nations.

What took place in August 1947 was emphatically not the creation of two nations, one Hindu and the other Muslim. It was only the separation of contiguous Muslim-majority areas in the subcontinent’s north-west and east. Later, Pakistan indeed chose to become an Islamic nation, yet India remained a nation for all, with equal rights, firmly entrenched in its Constitution, for all its citizens, irrespective of religion (or race, gender or caste).

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has blamed Partition on Nehru. Assigning sole or main responsibility for that painful event to Nehru lacks any historical basis. It should be recognised, moreover, that if Partition had not occurred, all the residents of today’s Pakistan and Bangladesh would have been free to move to any corner of today’s India.

This should be realised by persons like Union minister G Kishan Reddy of the BJP who claimed, on February 9, that if Indian citizenship was offered, half the population of Bangladesh would migrate to India.

Who should be held responsible for Partition is not this article’s theme. Nor am I focusing here on movements or migrations of people. My purpose is to recall that though the two-nation theory was indeed advanced by the Muslim League after March 1940 and by the Hindu Mahasabha from 1937, India’s 1947 partition did not validate the two-nation theory. It should also be remembered that the Constitution of India adopted at the end of 1949 totally rejected that theory.

Ignorance about one another is a reality in almost every society. So is prejudice about groups different from ours. But the history of human beings is, among other things, a story of growing awareness that all of us are the same underneath.

When a Korean movie wins the Oscar in the US, when people of Asian descent hold powerful political positions in several countries in Europe and North America, when Indian-Americans not only win seats in the US Congress but hope, one day, to send an Indian to the White House, something like the two-nation theory can only be seen as a relic from a retrograde past.

Long ago, people indeed thought that other tribes, races, religious groups or castes were inferior, or superior, or menacing, or an easy target. We know better today.

The two-nation theory has to be rejected not only categorically but also thoroughly. It is not enough to agree that as between Indian citizens no law can discriminate against anyone on religious grounds. Denying a path to citizenship to immigrants of a particular religion is an unconcealed expression of the two-nation theory, apart from being a violation of the constitutional and human principle of equality.

Applied today to immigrants, the theory will be directed tomorrow against fellow-citizens whose ancestors were Indians several hundred years ago. Eventually, it will set neighbour against neighbour. It should be given no sustenance whatsoever, not even in the name of succour for the persecuted.

Revelations of Secret Obama’s Shadow Government

What exactly happened in the transition between the Obama administration and the Trump administration? We now know more. We now know that the man who launched the Mueller investigation was in touch with several former officials from the administration of Barack Obama, right before he ordered it. For example, on May 15, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein received a call from Obama’s self-proclaimed “wingman,” former Attorney General Eric Holder. Two days later, Rosenstein appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller iii to lead an investigation aimed at destroying the Trump presidency.

The e-mails and calls between Rosenstein and Obama aides were revealed last week by Judicial Watch, which obtained the documents thanks to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

The two-year Mueller investigation found no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion. But that didn’t stop Obama’s deep state from illegally spying on the Trump campaign and presidency long after they knew Donald Trump was innocent.

Author and columnist Lee Smith has called it the “Paper Coup,” a “bureaucratic insurgency” against the results of the 2016 election whose perpetrators were powerful and whose weapons were “memos, letters and legal documents as well as falsified reports.”

But somehow Donald Trump won the vote and withstood the coup. Then, in early 2017, the perpetrators began losing the ability to keep it secret. Obama’s aides scurried to cover it up. Officials like his former Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper frequented CNN and MSNBC to peddle absurd conspiracy theories. The theories came from the now-infamous “Steele dossier,” a Russian disinformation communique that had been funded by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

On Jan. 6, 2017, Obama-appointed Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey met with president-elect Trump. He said it was a briefing intended to help the new president, but it was actually a sting operation. Comey told the president about some of the more salacious claims made in the dossier and told the president that he was not under investigation. It was all a coordinated setup by Barack Obama’s shadow government.

After his inauguration, President Trump selected Jeff Sessions to be his attorney general at the Department of Justice. The radical left immediately applied intense pressure on Sessions to recuse himself from anything related to the ongoing Trump-Russia investigation. They thought (and think) that an attorney general should never be a “wingman” for a president who isn’t a leftist. After all, Sessions had shaken hands with the Russian ambassador at a public event. He must have been compromised.

This is what led to President Trump nominating Rod Rosenstein as deputy attorney general on Feb. 1, 2017. As National Review’s Andrew McCarthy wrote, “For years, Rosenstein had carefully tended to his reputation as an apolitical lawman, beloved of both parties. At a time when Trump nominees for top executive offices were extraordinarily difficult to move through the Senate with Republicans holding a razor-thin 51-49 majority, Rosenstein breezed to confirmation as deputy attorney general by the margin of 94 to 6, with overwhelming #Resistance support” (emphasis added throughout).

When Rosenstein assumed the position of deputy attorney general on April 26, he became Director Comey’s boss. On May 9, 2017, President Trump fired Comey, at Rosenstein’s insistence—an action that led directly to the appointment of a special counsel and the spurious charge that by firing Comey, President Trump was somehow obstructing justice. Comey immediately started leaking memos about his communications with the new president, with the first memos published in the New York Times on May 11, 2017. He even admitted later that he had hoped the memos would trigger a special counsel investigation.

The very next day, Rosenstein received an e-mail from former Obama Special Counsel Jonathan Su: “Hi Rod: I know there’s a lot going on right now, but I wanted to send you a note of support. If there’ s anything I can do to be of help, please let me know. Hope you hang in there.” The day after that, Rosenstein received an e-mail from former Obama White House Deputy Associate Counsel Mike Leotta with the subject line, “Thinking of you and your family.” The message read: “I hope you’re hanging in there, [redacted] despite all the press attention, attacks, and contradictory claims.”

Former Attorney General Holder then called Rosenstein’s office on May 15. Rosenstein’s assistant said Holder wanted Rosenstein to call him back. The next day, May 16, U.S. Attorney John Huber, another Obama appointee, wrote to Rosenstein: “Rod, We’re proud of you.”

Also on May 16, Rosenstein received an e-mail from former Obama Deputy Attorney General James Cole: “You have the right approach. I always found that if you concentrated on doing your job (protecting the Constitution) your reputation takes care of itself.”

That same day, the New York Times published its most consequential article built around James Comey’s memos: “Did Mr. Trump Obstruct Justice?” The next day, May 17, 2017, Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller iii to lead a special counsel investigation into a sitting president. We now know it was with plenty of encouragement from Obama officials. And who knows what other support they may have offered that was redacted or is still secret.

Wouldn’t it be illuminating to read a leaked transcript of that phone conversation between Rod Rosenstein and Eric Holder? It seems the only leaks we read about in news reports anymore are the ones intended to hurt the Trump administration.

For nearly three years, a team of radical leftist, anti-Trump attorneys and prosecutors attempted to destroy President Trump and anyone associated with him. In March 2019, Mueller finally concluded the one-sided, completely unjustified investigation. Mueller’s team of hateful zealots found zero evidence of Trump-Russia collusion. Thanks to a follow-up investigation by the Department of Justice inspector general, we now know that Mueller had the exonerating evidence he needed to conclude his investigation just hours after it started. He knew going in that there was no collusion! Yet the investigation continued for two years!

We now know that members of his team were biased and told lies (remember former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and Agent Peter Strzok?). We also know that the Obama administration’s counterintelligence investigation—the one that preceded the Mueller investigation—was based on an illegal warrant obtained by using falsified documents. That warrant was then used to spy on American citizens serving in the Trump campaign and administration.

An actual coup against America’s constitutional government came within an inch of succeeding!

Donald Trump winning the 2016 presidential election thwarted Obama’s plans. Since that time, Obama’s supporters in government, out of government, and in the left-wing media have done everything in their power—and they still have a lot of power—to blot out the Trump president

Role of Literature in Restoring Integrity

Literature can help in restoring integrity to ordinary people within the unfolding politics of the grotesque. At one level, it would seem obvious that if there is a time to speak out against such politics of hatred, regardless of consequences, it is now.

The politics of hatred has become endemic. The Republican-Democratic tussle in the US, the BJP-Opposition tussle in India, The Imran Khan-PPP tussle in Pakistan are example of the degradation of human values and ethics. The Delhi state elections are over, but the residue of the venomous rhetoric that was let loose not only against Muslim communities but also against those who were part of political protests more broadly, is not likely to disappear soon.

 At one level, it would seem obvious that if there is a time to speak out against such politics of hatred, regardless of consequences, it is now. Yet there are many, otherwise decent people, who seem to find it difficult to speak. Before we hastily move into outright condemnation of the so-called average person wanting a quiet life and reasoning to himself (or herself) that such times force one to make compromises, let us pause for a minute. My concern here is less with those who support the political and economic agenda of the BJP, for such people are easy to condemn. What is more difficult is to respond to the loss of a moral compass evident in everyday practices and the simultaneous temptations of crass moralism that marks much of liberal discourse today.

Perhaps instead of turning to the tired vocabulary of moral philosophy with its well tested routes of categorical imperatives and rule following, we might turn to literature to ask how might one restore integrity to ordinary men and women within this unfolding politics of the grotesque.

The philosopher Jonathan Lear reflects on these questions through the work of the novelist J M Coetzee. He argues that a major question for Coetzee is to inquire into ethical awakening within the milieu of severely unjust societies in which torture is routinely practised against those termed as barbarians, terrorists, or as vermin, who must be eliminated.

First, through the character of the magistrate in Waiting for the Barbarians, Coetzee suggests that the first imperative is to face the fact that even when one has not given explicit consent to practices of violence (torture, lynching, hateful rhetoric), one is implicated in these projects by virtue of being a citizen of such polities.

Second, Coetzee does not want to cede to the desire of the reader to find an external authority, to tell her what is the “correct” ethical response in such circumstances? Instead of commanding or prescribing, Coetzee takes to describing what is entailed in ethical awakening, to defeat the very desire for ersatz posturing.

I learnt from Coetzee that we can be rightly unhesitating in our admiration for those who speak up in difficult times, who turn up for protests on the streets, who face lathi charges and fight court cases, but we should also make room for other responses, extend some sympathy for those who are only able to join these projects intermittently, or who worry about the consequences of defiance for their families, their aged parents, or their children. Such people are not to be amalgamated to the category of others who come armed with slings to attack peaceful protestors or even those whom Coetzee specially targets, the liberals who are generally against torture but will concede that in exceptional circumstances it is justifiable; or those who are for free speech generally but not when it disrupts a much-awaited award ceremony.

Those literary figures who have written from within authoritarian regimes invite us to bring a more compassionate perspective to our ethical tasks than to spew moralistic rhetoric. Here are some stunning lines from another novelist, Julian Barnes, in his novel, The Noise of Time, on the great composer Shostakovich and his struggle to preserve the integrity of his music in the brutal regime of Stalin. “He admired those who stood up and spoke truth to power.

Those heroes, these martyrs but they did not die alone. Many around them would be destroyed as a result of their heroism. And therefore, it was not simple even when it was clear.” The brutal choices before Shostakovich — silence your music or become part of the propaganda of the Stalinist regime — are not what confront many of us in our daily lives. But the cruelty and brutality of this regime is that even very simple quotidian acts such as the right of my neighbour to buy meat have been put under suspicion.

In Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians, the magistrate bemoans the loss of ordinariness that Empire has created. “What has made it impossible for us to live in time like fish in the water, like birds in the air, like children?” Things are not simple anymore even when they are clear — recognising this simple fact may introduce more gentleness in these troubled times.

Now, as it happens, I am one of those who has been able to find friends who helped me speak out whether it was on the massacres of Sikhs in 1984, or in support of students and teachers now. But I have never been able to share how hopelessly defeated I feel by the inadequacy of my responses to the demands of the day; or on how much I depended upon luck to have come out somewhat unscathed by my experiences.

In 1984, I witnessed the wanton bloodshed and agony of the Sikh survivors of the massacres in Sultanpuri in Delhi, and one of the local goons against whom I had been compiling evidence fell in step with me as I was going to the bus stop at the end of the day, walking alone. With a studied casualness, he said, “Sir, I admire your courage but have you thought of what could happen to your children? You have survived because of your position, but your car can meet an accident.” In my impetuous fury, I asked by guards to chastise him and hand him over to police. Later on, I reflected. to I, like many others, lived in private terror for many years and my children had to put up with the panics of an overanxious parent besieged with what they saw the irrational fears — still I was lucky that the threats passed. But what if they had not? Who would I have been then? Just that thought makes me pause hoping for the return of sanity.

Trump, Modi & Political Extravaganza

US President Donald Trump’s visit to India on February 24-25 will be a brief and busy one. The personal will blend with the political in colourful ways, while serious business of State gets done on the side.

The trip will be heavy on optics — India can’t be otherwise — but also on substance. It will underscore what brings the two countries together — wide strategic interests, people-to-people ties and everything in between.

Officials are working hard on a modest trade deal and getting approval for 24 MH-60R Seahawk helicopters for the Indian Navy worth $2.6 billion before the visit. Although India has bought $17 billion worth of US defence equipment since 2007, Trump Administration officials complain that no deal has been signed during his term, despite offers to sell systems that no past president would. This week, the US approved the sale of an Integrated Air Defence Weapon System (IADWS) to India estimated at $1.8 billion.

Trump’s the Word

That said, the visit will also provide a stage for Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to bolster each other in different ways.

Trump’s popularity is at its highest with a 49% approval rating, the Republicans are behind him, the Democrats are in disarray, and the impeachment is yesterday’s news. To top it all, Trump is riding the longest economic expansion in US history. In short, he is in a good place.

Now, if he can steer a significant number of Indian American votes his way by showcasing he has done more with India, he will deliver another blow to the Democratic Party. Politically savvy as Trump is, he has an alarming ability to divide and rule. Forget the Democrats, he has done it to his own party.

As for Modi, it helps to have the US president standing beside him in the safe zone of Gujarat at a rally of supporters — ‘…[Modi] thinks we will have 5-7 million people just from the airport to the new stadium,’ Trump told reporters at the White House on Monday — even as protests continue elsewhere in India, and both Republicans and Democrats continue to raise questions about India’s domestic policies, some quietly and others a little more loudly.

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal’s non-binding resolution critical of Modi’s Kashmir policies remains in play, now with 58 co-sponsors, including five Republicans.

Even without the resolution making headlines, Trump may privately raise questions about Kashmir. He wants to have both India and Pakistan in his corner. In his mind, he has solved the Israel-Palestine problem. With the Afghanistan peace process once again showing signs of life, he may plead Pakistan’s case.

Human rights groups and a few Pakistan proxies in Washington have kept a steady drumbeat on Kashmir with briefings, lunches and lobbying.US officials may defend Indian civil society’s ability to sort things out in public, but privately they have begun to wonder about ‘shared values’.

But, in the end, the compulsions for the US and India to cooperate on issues of common interest remain greater than their differences. As a wise practitioner of the art noted, the last four US presidents couldn’t have been more different from each other. Yet, they all found ways to agree that India was strategically important. The same goes for Indian prime ministers.

Dealing With a Better Deal

In just the past three years, the Trump Administration has offered India armed drones and integrated air and missile defence technology, both of which were denied by the Barack Obama regime on grounds they would alter the balance with Pakistan. The Trump administration also gave India Strategic Trade Authorisation-1 status in 2018 to allow sale of sensitive technology.

The Modi government, in turn, has signed two of the three remaining foundational agreements with the US, which guide the sharing of sensitive military and communications technology and reciprocal use of military facilities. Last year, the two sides conducted the first tri-service military exercise, ‘Tiger Triumph’. These form the sinews behind the optics.

Most importantly, the US and India are synchronising their policies on the Indo-Pacific, and pushing back against the Beijing-Moscow alignment in Asia. US Deputy National Security Advisor Matt Pottinger was scathing in his critique of Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov’s attempt to define the Indo-Pacific policy as ‘divisive’ and an effort to ‘contain’ China.

The Quadrilateral Strategic Dialogue (QSD) of the US, India, Japan and Australia, meanwhile, was raised to the foreign ministers level last year and a ‘hesitation of history’ shed. More load-shedding might be on the way.

Whether India joins the US-led ‘Blue Dot Network’ announced in November remains to be seen. The scheme is designed to certify infrastructure projects as market-driven, financially sustainable and transparent. The idea is to mount a multilateral effort and offer an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

So far, the Blue Dot Network is more a vision statement — it lacks the billions the Chinese have poured into their investment spree. But for Japan and Australia to sign up with the US despite China being their largest trading partner says something.

For all the dysfunction in Washington, important initiatives have been bubbling up. Most importantly, the India file is moving and that is what Trump and Modi will celebrate.

Forget What You Know-Start Relearning

It’s time to forget what you know about your job – but that’s not a bad thing

  • De-learning has been overlooked in the discussion about the future of work
  • Employees must learn to forget the job description and past ways of working
  • Traditional, purely finance-focused leadership is out of date

By now, it’s no secret the Fourth Industrial Revolution is rapidly changing today’s business landscape, particularly with advancements in data and machine learning providing companies new, tech-enabled opportunities.

With one in five US workers saying their professional skills are no longer up to date, it’s clear we need to do more when it comes to preparing our workforce for the fast-evolving 21st-century workplace.

To date, too much of the conversation surrounding the future of work has been focused on reskilling. Reskilling is – of course – immensely important. Equally important, but thus far under-addressed, is the concept of de-learning. Specifically, everyone must ask themselves three questions:

  • How do we recognize what is outdated?
  • How do we disrupt our outdated ways of doing things?
  • How do we challenge ourselves to deviate from conventional business practice in order to chart a new path to a brighter future?

De-learning means forgetting what was once ‘best in class’

No industry is exempt from the effects of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and companies that once dominated their industries are likely to fail if they don’t rethink what it takes to be “best in class.” Just look at the meteoric rise of Netflix, once a snail-mail DVD delivery service that’s now dominating the streaming market and Hollywood awards season. Its chief competitor, the once-ubiquitous Blockbuster, is gone. Similarly, direct-to-consumer retailers like Glossier and Bonobos are thriving, while the deified Barney’s is shutting its doors in New York. The reasons behind these incredible transformations don’t just lie in a company’s ability to incorporate new technologies, but in their ability to de-learn previous conceptions about what being “the best” meant. Whereas in the past, consumers may have prioritized luxury or variety, today, consumers want companies to provide products, services and experiences that are personalized to their needs and lifestyles.

It takes courage to set aside what has worked in the past, especially considering how long it probably took to master. These courageous initiatives – as Julie Sweet, CEO of Accenture, recently said – must be CEO-led, or they will be doomed to fail. Perhaps there’s no better example of a CEO who led such efforts than the “business person of the decade” Jeff Bezos, who championed Amazon’s transformation from an online book store to a retail and entertainment juggernaut. Striking an important balance between innovative and creative thinking, he posited, allows us to be open to new ideas about how to define and nurture talent.

De-learning requires a different kind of leadership

Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson has often emphasized the need for leaders to move away from having “moments of brilliance” to focus on pioneering lasting, industry-wide transformation. To achieve this long-term impact, we need leaders who can adapt to changing consumer and employee expectations. No longer is it enough to simply roll out blockbuster products or churn out positive financial results – people crave leaders who go beyond those typical metrics of success.

his year alone, more than 1,300 chief executives have stepped down, many because of their inability to de-learn and adapt to 21st-century leadership requirements. The list of dethroned CEOs includes many high-profile founders and eccentric personalities, suggesting that board members, consumers and employees are raising the bar when it comes to expectations for excellence. As such, CEOs need to de-learn the assumption By remaining open-minded to new opportunities and letting go of our tried-but-no-longer-true ways of working, today’s business leaders can be prepared for whatever lies around the corner in the future.that their personal brand can protect their position.

Gone are the days when CEOs could get away with minimizing facetime with actual customers. According to one study, most CEOs spend about 3% of their time meeting with customers. But those who listen to and form emotional bonds with customers are driving higher profits, suggesting that approachability and listening skills should now be considered priority qualities in a business leader.

Additionally, in the past, most business leaders were expected to keep their political or social views private. Today, however, CEOs are held responsible for a wide range of issues that matter to broad stakeholders, including diversity and inclusion, climate change, globalization and local job creation, gun control, privacy and so much more. Employees crave leaders who are bold and embody their own values. Anne Rafail, CEO of Air France, says we need to set goals that are bigger than ourselves. We have to deviate from introspective, often company-centric leadership mindsets in order to become outward game-changers.

The modern business landscape is only going to continue to change. By remaining open-minded to new opportunities and letting go of our tried-but-no-longer-true ways of working, today’s business leaders can be prepared for whatever lies around the corner in the future.

A Pakistani Christian Cries Out

I just saw the most revealing and heart rending video today from a Pakistani Christian and if after what I write the politicians of India, and some Mullahs in this country still feel the Citizen’s Amendment Act, is against them, please listen to the many voices from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. I would think every person in Shaheen Bagh and the elite of India would raise their voices against what is happening to the minorities in Pakistan and just for their human rights would write and fill up our newspapers with the pitiful conditions of girls from Hindu, Christian and Sikhs living in that country.

From the many social media outlets, the voice of Rahat John Austin, on You Tube compelled me to write about this.

Austin speaks about these problems very matter of factly, and yet it needs to be heard.

He starts of about the story that made headlines recently about a Hindu cricketer in the Pakistan team who was one of the best but was ostracised even while playing for Pakistan by his Muslim colleagues. He says it is not really the fault of his colleagues as from the time they go to school they are made to feel the difference between them and the children of a lesser God be they Sikh, Hindu or Christian.

He talks about text books teaching hate against non Muslims and teachers in schools hammering in this point. He says our parents would warn us not to defend ourselves and get into fights as there would be no recourse. Austin recalls the many times when Christian and Hindu places of worship were vandalised and the houses in their communities burnt, but the perpetrators even when caught were given light sentences, whilst the Blasphemy Laws would be misused to get even minors a death sentence.

In schools there would be different water dispensers from which the minority communities could drink water from and God Forgive the child who accidentally drank the water from a fountain for Muslim majority children. This is what happened in the fields of a village with Asiya Bibi the well known case against a innocent Christian women who spent 10 years on death row before a worldwide campaign got her spirited away to Canada.

Not even Britain would accept her as they were scared to upset their Pakistani voters. This the state of affairs in Pakistan in the year 2020. This speaks volumes of Imran Khan’s Naya Pakistan, where he uses words like the fascist regime of India, whereas, his own country, kills innocent people in Baluchistan, Sindh, and the frontier provinces. Where a 1000 young girls are abducted, raped and married off to Muslim men much older than themselves and forcibly converted. Where the case of a young minor Rinkle Kumari, proved that she had been gang raped by a Mullah and than made to marry a much older man and when she pleaded in court, she was told she was converted to a Muslim and thus there was no way back and would have to live with her rapist husband.

The 1000 girls that are forcibly converted and abducted and raped are just the official figures. Many more are not reported as the local police refuse to file FIRs. The parents can go from pillar to post but no one is willing to listen. Few lawyers willing to take up their cases as many are not only threatened but killed as in the case of Asiya Bibi, where even the Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, was shot by his body gaurd, for the sin of standing up for her and visiting her in prison.

The bodyguard was brought to justice as it was a too high profile case to go unpunished. The most telling thing is that once he was hanged millions of Pakistanis came for his burial and now a shrine exists for him and he is literally worshipped by the masses, including some of Imran Khan’s own party people. Once elected their first visit was to the shrine of a murderer, who they felt had rightly killed Salman Taseer for standing up to the rights of an innocent woman on death row.

This is how bizarre the Pakistan of the 21st Century is.

Austin in his video also talked about the fact that the most menial jobs in Pakistan like sanitation and cleaning sewage were advertised in the newspapers for Non Muslims only. It is ditto to what happened in Kashmir when they invited 200 familes to Srinagar for sanitation work but refused to give future generations any jobs but what their parents came for, even when their kids topped in the school leaving exams.

This is also happening in Pakistan and Austin said that minorities can’t even open restaurants because no one would want to eat in a place run by non Muslims! Even the educational institutions that were set up by Christians and Hindus, in Pakistan, have now all been taken up by the state. Just the fact that Hindus and Christians were more educated and did better in life made them pariahs in the nation and even textbooks wrote about them as conniving people.

Thus even children today grow up learning about how bad the other is and how one should not mix with them or eat with them or have anything to do with them as they are dirty and inferior.

If only our elite and journalists and the Mullahs and politicians against the CAA would listen to such voices from Pakistan, perhaps it would move them enough to stop the nonsense and rumours they are spreading and feel for the girls and minorities forced into marriages and menial jobs, with nothing to look forward too.

Is this to much to ask of Indian Citizens who all benefit equally from every program the government starts whether it be housing for all, toilets, efficient and clean trains, electricity and skill training along with better education with scholarships.
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And in India you will never see a newspaper advertisement that clarifies that only Muslims can apply for menial jobs as it does for minorities in Pakistan.

This would be a offence that could be taken up in our judicial system, unlike in Pakistan. I wonder why Aakar Patel of Amnesty International has not highlighted this? Could he be biased? I just hope not as he is letting an International NGO down by not highlighting why it is necessary for India to accept the minorities from such countries, that are deliberately discriminating against their own citizen

Saturday Special: ‘American Dirt- A Novel on Migrants-Ignites Literary Controversy

Hailed by luminaries such as Stephen King and Oprah Winfrey, ‘American Dirt’ was touted as the next “great American novel,” bought for a seven-figure advance, backed by aggressive marketing and launched last week to great fanfare in both English and Spanish.
Instead of glory, however, author Jeanine Cummins finds herself at the heart of a cultural maelstrom, accused by some of exploiting the tragedy of Mexican migrants in a US election year and of validating stereotypes such as those used by President Donald Trump to fuel his anti-immigration rhetoric.
The book tells the story of a Mexican woman who owns a bookshop and flees on the notoriously dangerous cargo train known as ‘The Beast’ that migrants ride to the north. She also survives the slaughter of almost her entire family by drug traffickers at a traditional birthday celebration.
The book’s publication has generated intense debate about cultural appropriation, the marginalization of Hispanic authors by US publishers, the dangers of spreading misrepresentations and the responsible limits of fiction.
The firestorm took publisher Flatiron Books by surprise, and on Wednesday they canceled Cummins’ planned tour of US book stores.
“Based on specific threats to booksellers and the author, we believe there exists real peril to their safety,” said publisher Bob Miller in a statement.

‘Exploitative’
Horror supremo King described the book as “marvelous” and author Don Winslow compared it to the Steinbeck classic “The Grapes of Wrath”. It is already being adapted for Hollywood.
But more than 120 writers, including Mexico’s leading novelist Valeria Luiselli and chicana author Myriam Gurba, whose withering review sparked the debate, have signed a letter calling on Oprah not to feature ‘American Dirt’ in her book club, which has historically been a gateway to massive sales.
“This is not a letter calling for silencing, nor censoring,” said the writers, who called the novel “exploitative.” “But in a time of widespread misinformation, fearmongering, and white-supremacist propaganda related to immigration and to our border, in a time when adults and children are dying in US immigration cages, we believe that a novel blundering so badly in its depiction of marginalized, oppressed people should not be lifted up,” the letter went on to say.
Mexican actress Salma Hayek put out a selfie of herself with the book, unaware of the controversy erupting around it, then quickly apologized for promoting it. Photos that Cummins herself posted of a lobster luncheon for the book launch, featuring floral arrangements wreathed with barbed wire — a nod to the book’s cover — did little to help. ‘Border chic’, said Gurba on Twitter. “Cruel” and “insensitive,” said the authors in their letter to Oprah.

‘Ignorance and negligence’
“This is a book that oversimplifies Mexico, uses bad Spanish, and in which the protagonist, a Mexican woman, does things that don’t make any sense for a Mexican,” said Ignacio Sanchez Prado, a professor of Latin American studies at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.
An expert on Mexico, he told AFP he did not believe that only Mexicans can write about the Mexican experience but said that Cummins “did it badly.” He also laid the most blame on the “editorial process,” lashing out at Flatiron’s “ignorance and negligence.”
The author of the book, who describes herself as white but also “Latinx” because she has a Puerto Rican grandmother, has not alluded to the controversy in her posts on social media but told The New York Times “there is a danger sometimes of going too far toward silencing people.”
“No one intends to censor Ms Cummins,” said Daniel Olivas, author of a collection of poems about the US-Mexico border, and one of the signatories of the protest letter sent to Oprah.
“But the promotion of this book as the ‘Great American Novel’ and ‘a dazzling accomplishment’ of John Steinbeck proportions is simply galling when so many brilliant Latinx writers are given a mere fraction of such attention and monetary compensation,” he said.
Flatiron did not respond to a request for comment on the controversy and an interview with the author. The publishers said in a statement they were “proud” of the book, but Miller acknowledged that the controversy “has exposed deep inadequacies in how we at Flatiron Books address issues of representation.” “We made serious mistakes in the way we rolled out this book,” Miller admitted.
“The concerns that have been raised, including the question of who gets to tell which stories, are valid ones in relation to literature and we welcome the conversation,” his statement said

Demise of Multilingualism in India

At a recent dinner in a friend’s home, his teenage son said to me, “Why should I be fluent in Hindi? I don’t want to learn Hindi.” That is the language of his birthplace and his parents: Perhaps the only language in which his grandparents are comfortable to this day. What a difference a couple of generations can make. Indians once displayed pride in multilingualism, and the return of an instrumental English signals a new phase. 

Not so long ago, educated Indians displayed considerable pride in the country’s inheritance of multilingualism: In children who spoke Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, Tamil, Oriya as well as English, and scholars who were accomplished in Persian and Urdu, Sanskrit and Pali, German, French, Russian and more. Leading thinkers stressed the richness and diversity of this inheritance. Indians needed to learn English and other foreign languages for use in their work, travels, and interaction with the wider world. At the same time, they must preserve and nurture their mother tongues, the language of love, poetry and storytelling that they grew up with in their homes and local communities.

Now, the sons and daughters of India’s upper and upper-middle classes appear to have lost all pride in that inheritance. In a remarkable way, and perhaps without much realisation on their part, they have become more and more like the British rulers of colonial India. Today’s Indian elites speak incessantly in English — in shops and elevators, offices and homes, in person and online. They use Indian languages only for functional conversations with servants and trades-people. And parents occasionally reprimand their children for speaking in the “vernacular” — even in their own homes, at their own dining tables.

I want to be clear. English has an undeniably important place in India today. Leading intellectuals and commentators have noted that English is now an Indian language. Indian writers have contributed remarkable new works to the domain of English literature, and taken it in new directions. Yet the English in common use among India’s middle and upper-middle classes is hardly a sign of new literary encounters or sensitivity. It is a sadly reduced version of the language, in the jargon of the business-world and self-help individualism and text message slang. What it signals is a decline of pride in bilingualism (not to say, multilingualism) – indeed, a decline of pride in linguistic/cultural inheritance and skills, more generally.

The re-institution of such an “English” language indexes the return of much else that British rule had sought to impose in its advancement of colonial interests and practices in India. Who or what is responsible for this?

I would point to two inter-connected factors. The first is an erosion of self-respect in the nation, with its rich and diverse history. The demise of an anti-colonial, inclusive and forward-looking nationalism seeking welfare and justice for all; and the rise, in its place, of a narrow, exclusivist, backward-looking jingoism — in which English (the language of “development” and “capitalism”) becomes the only language worth knowing or learning. A second factor reinforces that narrowness. This is the worldwide ascendancy of today’s neoliberal, market-driven, consumerist capitalism — in which literature, art, philosophy, the environment, intellectual work, compassion for others, concern for the poor and downtrodden, the aged and the sick, none of these counts against brute calculation of monetary profit and loss.

The result is paradoxical and painful. On the one hand, the sky is rent with slogans of the greatness of Indian civilisation, Hindu traditions and the tolerance of Hinduism: “Garv se kaho ham Hindu/Hindustani hain;” “Hindustan mein hi saari duniya ke dharma ek saath reh sakte hain;” “Hinduon ki hi vajah se Bharat ek dharm-nirpeksh desh hai.” On the other, we see the disappearance of a commitment to long-standing nationalist goals of freedom, equality, religious tolerance, economic and political opportunity, work, self-respect and dignity for all of India’s citizens, irrespective of caste, race, religion, language, gender, or place of birth. And, with that, the decline of serious interest in the preservation and development of India’s languages, and the literary and cultural legacies of Hindi, Urdu, Marathi, Kannada, Bengali, Oriya and so on.

What a world of difference there is between Lal Bahadur Shastri’s simple slogan, “Jai jawan, jai kisan,” for that matter, Indira Gandhi’s “Garibi hatao,” and the Modi government’s “Howdy Houston.” Not to mention the latter’s “5 T’S: Tradition, Talent, Tourism, Trade and Technology,” or “3 D’s: Democracy, Demography and Demand,” in which the last two words make sense only in terms of an aggressive new culture of consumerist capitalism.

The Indian ruling class seems to believe that every country around the globe must become another United States of America. In actuality, it chases a pale shadow, or imitation, of what is thought of as “America.” The surface show, emptied of its most energising and creative spirit. What the regime promotes in consequence (in India, and increasingly in America,) are half-realised dreams — or nightmares — of highways and air-ways, automobiles and airplanes, towering multistoried structures, gated communities and smart cities, military displays and aeronautical and space adventures.

Is this the only path open to the world today, the path of crony capitalism? A market-driven, profiteering order, built on speculation, tax breaks for the super-rich, manipulation of statistics, and financial fiddles by those in the know. A capitalism and an autocratic “democracy” made for the national and international one per cent, increasingly by the one percent that controls the political and economic resources of so many countries around the world, including the media, the bureaucracy and judiciary, and bodies responsible for conducting free and fair elections.

More and more ordinary Indian citizens have seen through this subterfuge. Poor Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims fighting for livelihood and home, opportunity, access to resources and equal rights, brave women of the lower and middle classes, and idealistic youth of all classes, protesting across the length and breadth of India against the government’s policies and actions. Their understanding is captured in the holding up of the national flag, the reading of the Preamble to the Constitution, the call to defend the spirit of anti-colonial nationalism, which the ruling classes are so reluctant to uphold.

India and the Gulf: Power shifts and re-calibrations

Recently, Saudi Arabia has reportedly turned down Pakistan’s request for an immediate meeting of foreign ministers of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to discuss the Kashmir issue. While the Saudi reluctance does not imply that the OIC will not discuss Kashmir, it suggests a marginal modification in its policies on India’s core concerns. Probably, such modifications are a consequence of changing geopolitics caused by shifts in US-Arab relations.

Over a month ago, while addressing the nation on the Iran crisis, the United States (U.S.) President Donald Trump stated : ‘We are now the number-one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world. We are independent, and we do not need Middle East oil’. At a time when U.S. diplomatic and defence forces were in full-scale engagement in the Middle East, Trump’s statement suggested that the stakes for Washington in the region were fast diminishing. The reduced dependence on Middle Eastern oil for the economic survival of the U.S. implies that the nature and commitment of Washington to the region’s security will witness a significant change. The countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and other energy-dependent countries, such as India, have long recognised this trend and are recalibrating their policies to the shifts in the balance-of-power.

Quite often, the analysis of balance-of-power tends to view nation-states as pieces on a Chessboard which can quickly adjust to changing realities. In the real world, however, nation-states will take time to reconfigure their policies as developing institutional linkages, economic interactions, people-to-people connect, and a change in the mode of thinking tends to be a long-drawn process.

Given the power shifts, India has acquired an increased salience for the GCC countries. Moreover, India, which is a maritime neighbour, with its 2.6 trillion-dollar economy, leading consumer of energy resources and with a robust defence apparatus fits into the Gulf countries’ notions of a strategic partner. Economically, India and the Gulf are more connected today than ever before. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia are India’s third and fourth-largest trading partners respectively and the total bilateral trade of the GCC countries with India for the year 2018-19 stood at USD 121.34 billion. UAE also features in the top 10 sources of FDI inflows into India.

The reported statement of the Saudi Arabia Ambassador to India on a potential investment of USD 100 billion in the areas of energy, refining, petrochemicals, infrastructure, agriculture, minerals and mining by Riyadh have generated considerable interest. Of course, India’s dependence on West Asia for crude oil is paramount as New Delhi primarily imports oil from Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Saudi Arabia investments are also increasing in India. The recent announcement of a USD 15 billion deal between Saudi Aramco and Reliance Industries will see Aramco acquire a 20 % stake in the Jamnagar Refinery in India.

India’s ONGC Videsh has acquired a 10 per cent stake in an offshore oil concession in Abu Dhabi for USD 600 million. An Indo-Oman joint venture, Sebacic Oman is undertaking a 1.2 billion USD project to set up the largest sebacic acid plant in the Middle East. There is also a significant hunger for investment in infrastructure in India which Arab countries can tap into through collaboration with Indian firms for long-term gains. Arab capital and Indian technology have the wherewithal to evolve into a formidable coalition. Investing in India will have long-term positive benefits for the Arab countries as India, with a market of 1.3 billion offers unmatched potential.

An important factor in the growing economic relations between India and the Gulf is the vast Indian diaspora in the region. Ministry of External Affairs of India estimates that as of December 2018, the six countries of the GCC are home to more than 8.5 million Indians. This has resulted in massive inflows of remittances and relaxation in visa rules. In fact, out of 78.6 billion USD received in remittances by India in 2018, 48.5 billion USD came from the six GCC countries.

In addition to economic imperatives, the Indian leadership has made strenuous efforts to build better relationships in response to the shifting balance-of-power. Sustained engagement of Prime Minister Modi through his ‘Link West Policy’ has brought the Gulf closer to New Delhi. During his time as Prime Minister (PM), Modi has visited UAE thrice, Saudi Arabia twice apart from visits to Bahrain, Oman and Qatar. Outside the GCC, the Indian Prime Minister has also visited Turkey, Jordan, Israel, Palestine and Iran in the Middle East. Today, the relationship between the leaders of the Gulf and India is one based on camaraderie and respect. Specific examples of bonhomie include the Indian Premier breaking protocol to personally receive Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in New Delhi, PM Modi receiving the ‘Order of Zayed’, the highest civilian order of the UAE and the ‘King Hamad Order of the Renaissance’, the third-highest civilian order of Bahrain.

India, in the recent past, has demonstrated an enhanced appetite to forge security partnerships with the Gulf States. This is evident in the recent Joint Statements between India and the UAE as well as India and Saudi Arabia where the respective leaders have vowed to enhance anti-terror cooperation with India, including combating the growing presence of ISIS. Another impetus to security cooperation between India and the Gulf is the numerous bilateral defence exercises.

Apart from the participation of Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Iran and others in India’s mega multilateral Milan Exercise, India also has bilateral exercises with most of them. India and Oman hold annual bilateral exercises across all three wings of the armed forces. Further, Oman has provided the Indian Navy access to the Port of Duqm SEZ which is one of Indian Ocean’s largest deep-sea ports. India has a bilateral naval as well as an air force exercise with the UAE and is set to hold its first bilateral naval drill with Saudi Arabia in March this year.

In addition to India and the Arab countries, others are also recalibrating their policies to the evolving power shifts. Recently, a trilateral maritime exercise was held between Iran, Russia and China in the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean. These developments suggest a steady increase in the density of international actors seeking to shape the geopolitics of the region. However, unlike others, India has been careful not to partake in regime-change tactics or intra-regime politics of various countries. Further, New Delhi has refrained from deploying resource extractive approaches to define its engagement with the Arab world, which is not surprising given the deep and respectful civilisational connect between the two.

A prudent response to shifts in balance-of-power mandates giving up old habits. While India has refrained from bandwagoning with the Western punitive approaches on democracy promotion and human rights, some of the Arab countries are struggling to give up their old positions on multilateral platforms such as the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC). At the bilateral level, issues such as Kashmir were relegated to the background. In the recent past, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have not adopted hostile posture to New Delhi’s domestic developments such as the abrogation of the temporary provision pertaining to Kashmir (Article 370). Instead, the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman had a successful trip to New Delhi soon after the abrogation of Article 370, during which five Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) were signed.

However, at a multilateral level, the statements on Kashmir often conveyed unwarranted unfriendliness towards India. Saudi Arabia’s recent refusal to support Pakistan’s demands for an immediate meeting of the OIC Foreign Minister’s meet on Kashmir is a step in the right direction. Nonetheless, it should be noted that Saudi Arabia reportedly offered to hold a joint meeting on Palestine and Kashmir issues, which was rejected by Islamabad as it feared that Kashmir would not receive enough attention. Giving up such old habits of criticising India on multilateral platforms will constitute the last hurdle for the establishment of a genuine strategic partnership between India and the Arab world.

Saturday Special: Technology & Play Can Power High-Quality Learning in Schools

Learning through play has a critical role in education and in preparing children for challenges and opportunities ahead.

  • Creating a playful learning environment with technology can tap into children’s natural ability to learn through play – and develop the rapid learning skills essential today.

Education systems around the world will need to evolve to better meet the needs of a rapidly evolving economy and society.

Unfortunately, many education systems remain outdated – designed for old industry models and societies of the past. In addition, national economic reform often prioritizes upskilling the current labor market to transfer between jobs, in both old and emerging industries, rather than investing in the future of our economy by reforming the education system.

While traditional education metrics of literacy and numeracy are vital, society also requires learners to have a range of holistic skills to thrive in the modern world. These include creative, technology, innovation and interpersonal skills. And today, these skills and knowledge need to be acquired in a more accessible, personalized and active way than ever before.

The amount spent globally on education technology is expected to increase approximately $342 billion by 2025 as EdTech is globally considered as a viable way to address increasing and changing learning demands. Technology can support classrooms, schools and education systems to evolve at the pace required to better serve learners in 2020. However, the U.K.’s Education Endowment Foundation stresses that technology itself is unlikely to improve young people’s learning. Many EdTech solutions and services simply digitize old ways of working, re-enforcing rote learning and other practices more suited to the past. These practices rarely support the development of skills and knowledge in an effective and engaging way. This challenge is sometimes referred to as the race between technology and education, where education either tries to catch up and capitalize on advances in technology or technology enslaves education into learning paradigms of the past by digitizing old ways of working.

In parallel, research has repeatedly underscored that learning through play has a critical role in education and in preparing children for challenges and opportunities throughout their lives. A growing body of evidence supports learning through play as fundamental for children’s positive development, serving as an essential way to foster a range of holistic skills required to thrive in today’s world. Thinking deeply about how to apply what makes a quality playful experience to technology (including EdTech) solutions can provide a powerful lens to ensuring that the technology or the technology experience provides a mechanism or context for high quality and deep learning to take place.

Education 4.0 Image: World Economic Forum

Purposeful learning through play experiences can be constructed through a range of active pedagogies to create deeper learning experiences that a child will remember and internalize. Evidence suggests that learning through play happens when the activity is experienced as joyful, helps children find meaning in what they are doing or learning, involves active, engaged, minds-on thinking, as well as iterative thinking (experimentation, hypothesis testing, etc.) and has opportunities for social interaction. Learning through play with technology, including hybrid play (experiences that combine digital and physical), provides opportunities for young learners to acquire knowledge across a variety of contexts while developing a range of holistic skills, such as cognitive, creative, physical, social and emotional skills.

When students learn through play with technology, the learning gains appear to be the most significant when the experience is guided, with adults or peers providing a supportive role. This guided experience often occurs through active pedagogies (such as project-based approaches), which give children the opportunity to make independent choices in their own learning (or agency) and to create their own physical and/or digital artifacts with special meaning to them.

Technologies designed to fully embrace opportunities for agency, guidance and creation while allowing playful interaction are some of the most powerful tools we have to support high-quality learning today. Examples of such technologies include creative coding platforms such as Scratch where children have an opportunity to create their own stories, games and animations with the support of an on-line community; open ended sandbox games such as Minecraft where children build and explore vast virtual worlds with their peers); robotics systems of play such as LEGO MINDSTORMS that allow children to work collaboratively to build robots to solve complex problems); and other technologies that allow the digital augmentation and sharing of physical creations, such as digital animation, podcasting, video editing and online publishing.

  The 8 Digital Citizenship Skills every child needs Image: DQ Institute

Creating a playful learning environment with technology will not deter children from learning the basics of reading, writing and mathematics. On the contrary, creating engaging environments is an opportunity to tap into children’s natural ability to learn through play, while utilizing the transformational power of technology to develop learning experiences that facilitate the rapid learning essential in society today.

By leveraging technology to enhance what we know works in education – such as learning through play – we will not only help revolutionize education systems, but also ensure our children are empowered to thrive now and in the future.

We can do this by embracing playful interventions with technology and writing a new narrative on Education 4.0.

Whither Dragon-Elephant Tango

PLA has undergone three stages of modernization since the foundation of PRC in 1949. The period upto1980 mainly focused on building a large conventional military for countering an invasion and large-scale mechanized warfare keeping nuclear warfare secondary. This made the ground forces predominant, supported by Air Force, Navy and second Arty. Thereafter the period upto1990 brought about a strategic shift in military modernization with a focus on preparing for a local war under high-tech conditions. With the advent of the information-centric revolution in military affairs, the focus now appears to be on winning local wars under informalized conditions.

Beginning Jan 2016, China replaced Seven Military Regions with Five new Military Theatre Commands, 13 Combined Corps and 89 Combined Armed Brigades. These commands are headquartered at Nanjing, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Shenyang, and Beijing, each with a particular strategic direction. These forces are supplemented by Special Operation Brigades, Aviation Brigades, Air Assault Brigades, Airborne Brigades, Marine Brigades and other force multipliers including Artillery, Air Defence and Engineers integrated till Combined Arms Battalion level. The concept of developing the rocket force, space, cyber, electronic warfare and special operations in form of PLA Rocket Force (PLARF), PLA Strategic Support Force (PLASSF) and Joint Logistic Support Force (JLSF) signify a focused commitment to the development of force multiplier capabilities to ensure overwhelming superiority during the conflict.

China has reportedly test-fired S-400 long-range SAM system and has developed HQ-19 with ballistic missile defence capability. The PLAAF continues to grow its IRBM inventories, including that of the DF-26. ICBMs under development represent a significant improvement in China’s nuclear-capable missile forces. PLASSF is a service and is on a par with the PLAA, PLAN, PLAAF and the PLARF, thus implying the increased importance given to indirect, long-range strikes from a credible array of missiles in addition to an emphasis on ‘non-contact warfare’ that relies on a credible plan in the electromagnetic, cyber and space domains

China through these reforms has, therefore, significantly addressed sweeping changes ranging from the PLA’s size, structure, human resource policies, professional military education system, budgeting processes, and defence industrial base.

Threat to India

Western Theatre Command of PLA has India as a strategic direction wherein one Theatre Commander with all warfighting capabilities would be able to execute synergized and integrated operation against India’s four Army Commands and three Airforce Commands. As far as the threat to India is concerned, the components which require due attention are command and control capability, strategic forces, space and cyber capability, since these assume maximum importance in the ‘non-contact, non-kinetic’ domain of warfare where China is currently spending maximum time and effort. The strategic implications of PLA reforms on India thus includes singular Political and Military leadership to focus on areas of threat along Northern Front ensuring jointness in planning and execution thereby enhancing operational efficiency, enhanced capability to orchestrate and conduct Non-Contact Warfare (NCW) and optimized combat & logistics capabilities.

The emphasis has been on shifting from manpower heavy people’s army to high tech, modular, responsive ground forces are capable of three-dimensional manoeuvre, long-range weapons of precision strike capability duly supported by SSF offsetting the shortage of infantry on the ground and decreasing the reliance on costly frontal attacks, on the periphery or away from the mainland. Though aviation support will be significantly restricted in HAA due to altitude & weather conditions, ground forces too will be relatively smaller because of restricted terrain giving advantage to the defender, however, recent PLA doctrinal writings express a belief that high tech weapons and equipment can mitigate these problems of HAA and enhance offensive capability and operational tempo. Insertions of airmobile & SOF into rear areas would support frontal ground force combat, seize or destroy key targets, supporting joint fire strikes and interdict enemy reserve. EW and Psychological operations would be important components in achieving information superiority critical for any successful operation.

With rapid military reforms and modernization China is also investing in enhancing influence in the entire canvas of India’s neighbourhood. Besides CPEC and military collaboration with Pak, China continues to induce proxy asymmetric threat – Pakistan, NE insurgents, Maoists or resistance to India’s Security Council and Nuclear Supplier Group aspirations.

PLA’s Vulnerabilities & Challenges at National Level

While on the face of it China has undoubtedly transformed from a poverty-stricken country to an economic powerhouse but this has also led to the population becoming less rural which is gradually resulting in rising labour ratio. Since most of the growth has come from higher labour productivity, Economists are now doubtful if China would be able to sustain its incredible growth pattern with the population becoming less rural.

The current prevailing situation in both Tibet and Xinjiang are posing a big challenge to CPC which leaves adequate room for the West to exploit this vulnerability. The continuing unrest in Tibet and Xinjiang as also economic slowdown coupled with instances of rising corruption and political scandals have started to pose threat to the credibility of the autocratic Govt, which if not addressed in right earnest may make CPC rule look increasingly illegitimate and untenable in times ahead.

PLA which is supposed to defend the party has also begun to see mysterious leaks in the press calling for depoliticization and nationalization of the armed forces. As the PLA moves towards rapid modernization it faces a shortage of technical hands besides human resource challenges. Today’s combatant are not rugged soldiers of 1960s and this has got further compounded by one child policy which has resulted in increasing ageing problem. At the higher level raging debate whether PLA continues as CPC’s army or gets established as PRC army will usher in a grave contradiction as PLA gets closer to becoming Global or even Regional power consequent to ongoing rapid modernization.

Hurdles limiting China’s Growth as – Global /Regional Power

As analyzed above, China has arrived on the global power scene as a latecomer and is seen to throw its weight in a measured way only. Not having been an active participant in the process of formulating institutional rules and regulations at the end of World War II has only made China’s task more complex. Further, the United States, the developed nations that wield power in the EU, and Japan, are all focused on limiting Chinese influence at both the regional and global levels. With the US perceiving China’s rise as a threat, its ‘zero-sum’ view has provoked a strong response to counter China’s growing influence by a military show of strength and openly provocative statements, whenever deemed necessary.

The US has stepped up its naval presence in the India Ocean Region, East and South China Seas as also resumed long-range bomber patrols in the region for the first time after World War II. The bulk of China’s goods and energy commodities like oil, coal and natural gas goes through East and South China Seas and the Indian Ocean Region. Any blockage, therefore, will not only lead to threatening China’s or the regional economy but also the global economy. The US is focused on limiting Chinese influence and reasserting America’s dominance and leadership in the region. Also, the resurgence of the independence movement in Baluchistan and KPK, and resultant turmoil has severely jeopardized the ongoing CPEC project.

India’s Response

It is, therefore, not only imperative for India to develop and acquire requisite technology and military capability to effectively challenge their coercion but also simultaneously engage in the economic domain to take advantage of their emerging vulnerabilities and provide the shoulder support. India needs to give the necessary impetus to the development of border infrastructure and military modernisation to include long-range vectors and Information Warfare assets.

While the LC with Pakistan continues to burn, the LAC with China has not seen any border conflict since 1973. More so, as of now, there is also no signature of china’s aggressive military activities covering the maritime domain of Indian Ocean Region from Chabahar, Gwadar, Hambantota, Chittagong to Strait of Malacca, however, this cannot be ruled out in future. India, therefore, needs to expand both Navy and Air Force and extend their reach deep into blue waters.

The Real Threat to India

Notwithstanding, India’s security challenge is not only confined to cross border threat from Pakistan and China, the so called ‘two front war’ but also from multifaceted domain which provides enough opportunity and space for both Pakistan and China to exploit these to their advantage. India is blessed with a diverse society which unfortunately more often than not presents itself as a fractured society with nearly 3000 major castes and 25,000 sub castes in Hindu religion besides nine recognized religions, 22 constitutionally recognized languages covering 29 States leading to lack of unity of ethos which translates into a sense of lack of integration and no common national identity. This is further vindicated by existence of certain political parties organized not only on a religious identity but also on caste and regional identity and strangely at the same time claiming to represent the Nation at the global level.

There is also no dearth of Pseudo Arm Chair Intellectuals and foreign-funded NGOs as also both print & electronic media successfully creating and deepening the divide by misleading perception. Other hanging threats which are not so visible at present but have very dangerous lethal potential are cyber terrorism, data colonization and demographic invasion from neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Myanmar and Tibet in addition to the growth of Islamofascism in Jammu region.

How to Mitigate the Threat

The Decisive GoI has to continue with their hard push towards building a robust economy by graduating from agrarian to manufacturing & exporting economy with a focus on defence manufacturing. A strong economy will not only enhance our warfighting capability but will also help in developing strong economic linkages, especially with neighbouring countries. With a strong economy as the foundational pillar, India will be able to ensure leverage during negotiations with major business interests and multinational corporations. This leverage, in turn, will help in coercing these corporations to build, develop and operate data centres within Indian boundaries to protect digital autonomy and privacy of citizens of India. A robust govt structure will undoubtedly help address social reforms and contain caste politics also. The prevailing internal issues like Insurgency, Maoism, cross border terrorism, terror modules, the likes of ‘tukde tukde’ gangs etc, all will get effectively tackled by the people of India themselves once a sense of Nationalism starts to get instilled promoting One India Dream.

As far as the external threat from Pakistan and China is concerned – a disintegrated Pakistan won’t be in a position to fuel terrorism while China can be easily tackled by leveraging India’s long geographical reach into the warm waters of Indian Ocean Region. India, thus, needs to build a strong Navy and Air Force to be able to extend a dominant and decisive reach beyond the trade lifeline of all major powers of the world passing through the Indian Ocean Region. Setting own terms India may consider allowing China access to Indian Ocean Region through a couple of own seaports both on eastern and western coastlines for trade through Nepal and North East. This will not only generate huge job opportunities but certainly will also help in finding an equilibrium between the two countries on many key issues affecting both.

For tackling other multifaceted National Security Challenges under the unfolding global security scenario and its impact on Asia Pacific region and India in particular, the Political leaders and the People of India have to realize sooner or later that there would be no option in times ahead but to ‘Unite with one National Identity or else Die,’ as Benjamin Franklin, the founding father of USA had said drawing a sketch of a mutilated serpent in 1776 while fighting for independence against the Britishers.

Watch Protean Germany

In his book The Europeans, the late Italian author and historian Luigi Barzini likened Germany to Proteus, the sea-god of Greek mythology. Proteus was unpredictable and changeable, like the ocean; he had a mysterious talent for assuming many forms.

Proteus couldn’t be “pinned down easily” and it was impossible to know “the shape of things to come.” He “could be a roaring lion, a harmless sheep, a slippery serpent, a charging bull, or in turn, a rock, a tree, a brook, a bonfire.”

What an apt description of Germany past and present.

Germany today is one of the most peaceful and open-minded nations in the world. It is outward thinking and globalist, and is at the vanguard of all the great exertions, like tackling climate change and inequality and making the world more accepting and inclusive. Germany is tolerant and multicultural, opening its doors to millions of migrants. It is so pacifist that other nations, like the United States, are trying to compel it to be more aggressive. It has no great interest in nuclear weapons, and its military is underfunded and underdeveloped. It has little interest in engaging in martial adventures.

Germany’s capital, Berlin, is one of the most diverse and cosmopolitan cities in Europe. It’s a hub for start-ups and tech companies. Fifty-five percent of its population is under the age of 45, many of whom are university educated and have been raised on a diet of enlightenment and liberalism.

But all is not as it seems.

There is another Germany. One aspect of this Germany is its long-standing problem with intense anti-Semitism, which is reviving once again. Some believe this present bout of Jew hatred is a function of Germany’s large Muslim population. The facts dispel this belief. Anti-Semitic attacks by native Germans are rising all across Germany, especially in Berlin. Several surveys and investigations in the last few years have shown that anti-Semitism is firmly rooted in Germany’s government and many of its institutions, including its military.

Underneath its well-known globalist multicultural skin, this Germany holds increasingly extremist ideologies. The Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) is now its third-largest political party. According to one recent survey, nearly 50 percent of Germans expect this far-right group to enter the national government within the next 10 years. Last week’s elections in Thuringia saw the extremist AfD play a role in forming a state government.

These radical tendencies are not only in those on the far right and far left. [A]n undercurrent of right-wing radicalism has always infected German politics, including the cdu [Christian Democratic Union],” noted this Foreign Policy article from today. The cdu is the mainstream party of Chancellor Angela Merkel. The article also noted that “a number of long-term sociological investigations have found widespread support for right-wing radicalism within the German populace.”

The article addressed German politics, which are in total shambles right now. Chancellor Merkel has her hand on the door to leave, and the woman she prepared to succeed her just resigned, casting the whole government into chaos. Be sure to read “Germany Sails, Leaderless, Into the Storm” to see how fearful Germans are about their national leadership right now.

Barzini’s comparison of Germany to Proteus is just as relevant as ever. Germany can seem as stable as a rock, then abruptly become more like a trembling volcano. Will it settle down again, or will it erupt? No one seems to know!

This changeability exists in many ordinary Germans as well. Right now, many Germans are experiencing a deep, destructive identity crisis. Who they aspire to be conflicts with who they actually are. How they want to feel about Islam, about the AfD, about the Jews, about the migrants, about Germany’s traditional culture and heritage, struggles against how they actually feel.

The 21st-century German abhors war, defends the environment and human rights, and values international cooperation and collaboration. He is enlightened and sophisticated, liberal and democratic, progressive and open-minded. This is the type of person (and nation) many Germans aspire to.

But there’s a problem. In addition to the fact that these “enlightened” ideologies have major flaws, Germans are now facing major challenges in their national leadership, in the European Union, in trans-Atlantic relations and in Russian relations. The German, who craves order and stability more than most, isn’t getting it.

Meeting the challenges of reality necessitates compromising the aspirations of progressive ideals. Being tolerant feels good, until hundreds of thousands of foreigners enter your nation and you must pay for them. Being multicultural is wonderful, until Muslims waving Islamic State flags settle into your village and stalk your wife and daughter. Being anti-war feels righteous, until the nations around grow feisty and belligerent.

Germany right now is a nation where dreams are dashing against the shoals of reality. Harsh truths are forcing more and more Germans to reconsider their postwar values and reconcile them with more basic human urges. Tolerance is being replaced by prejudice, multiculturalism by patriotism, community spirit by self-preservation and self-advancement.

This is why we watch German so closely and passionately!

Germany is changing—into something terrifying!

Weekend Special: Modern Living Can Learn From These celebrated Philosophers

Western democracies are in a state of crisis. The liberal world order that was created after World War II is crumbling and we don’t quite understand what is going on or what to do about it. Fortunately, some of the great literature and philosophy of the past can help us to make sense of it and maybe even to find a way out of the mess.

First of all, we need to give up the idea that the world is organised in a rational way. The world has not gone mad. It has in fact always been mad. The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer argued that at the heart of everything – and that includes us – is not reason but blind will. This, he wrote, explains why the world is in such a sorry state and we keep messing things up by fighting needless wars and inflicting so much suffering on ourselves and each other.

Herman Melville, the author of the wonderful (and rather disturbing) novel Moby Dick, thought that our life was all a cruel joke that the gods play on us, and the best we can do is to play along and join their laughter. Friedrich Nietzsche declared God to be dead so that we are now free to do as we please and to make our own will the measure of all things. The French philosopher and novelist Albert Camus described the world as an alien place that couldn’t care less about our human needs and wants.

What we can learn from these writers is that the first thing we have to do to make sense of what is happening in the world today is to stop believing that any of this is meant to make any sense. Madness is the rule – not the exception.

The need for chaos

In a mad world it is to be expected that people are generally quite mad too. This is the second thing we need to realise. We tend to assume that people do things and want things for good reasons. But very often we want things that it makes no sense to want because they are clearly harmful. When someone tries to reason with us, pointing out all the factual and logical errors we commit, we just ignore them and carry on as before.

This would be very puzzling if we were indeed rational animals. But we are not. We are certainly capable of being rational and reasonable, but the problem is that we don’t always want to be. Reason bores us. Occasionally we want and need a little bit of chaos. Or even a lot of chaos.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, the author of Crime and Punishment and other great novels about a world that has lost its way, once remarked (in his 1864 novella Notes from the Underground) that people are generally “phenomenally stupid” and ungrateful. And he wouldn’t be at all surprised, he says:

“If suddenly, out of the blue, amid the universal future reasonableness, some gentleman of ignoble, or, better, of retrograde and jeering physiognomy, should emerge, set his arms akimbo, and say to us all: ‘Well, gentlemen, why don’t we reduce all this reasonableness to dust with one good kick, for the whole purpose of sending all these logarithms to the devil and living once more according to our own stupid will!’”

No doubt such a gentleman (and perhaps more than one) has now indeed emerged. Yet this is not the main problem. What is really offensive, according to Dostoyevsky, is that such a man can be sure to find followers. Because that is “how man is arranged”.

Creators and performers

Nietzsche, too, knew how easily we can go wrong and desire things that do not deserve to be desired and admire people that do not deserve to be admired. In Thus Spake Zarathustra he writes:

“In the world even the best things are worthless without someone who performs them: those performers the people call great men. Little do the people understand what is great, namely that which creates. But they have a taste for all performers and actors of great things.”

Our problem is that we idolise the performers and not the creators, those who only pretend to make things great again and to get things done, and who are very good at convincing others of this without actually doing anything great at all. The performer, Nietzsche says, has:

Little conscience of the spirit. He believes always in that which makes people believe most strongly – in him! Tomorrow he has a new belief, and the day after, one still newer. Quick of perception is he, like the people, and his moods change. To upset is what he means by ‘prove’. To madden is what he means by ‘convince’. And blood he deems to be the best of all reasons. A truth which only slips into subtle ears he calls a lie and a nothing. He indeed believes only in gods that make a great noise in the world!“

And what now?

So is there anything we can do about all this? How do we deal with a world that is clearly off-kilter? How do we keep our sanity in a world that seems to be getting more insane by the minute? Various coping strategies have been proposed by our great writers: Schopenhauer thought we should find a way to negate the will and turn our backs on the world for good.

Melville suggested amused detachment, Marcel Proust an escape into the world of art. Tolstoy found meaning and solace in faith, Dostoyevsky in universal love and Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard in being grounded in God. Nietzsche thought we should embrace and love whatever happens to us, and Ludwig Wittgenstein believed that we should live in and for everything that is good and beautiful.

But to change the world we may need a more active and combative approach. Instead of trying to escape from or accept what is happening, we can also – as Camus suggested – create a more meaningful world by becoming rebels and fighting injustice in all its forms. Such a rebellion can be quite modest in scope. It does not have to be loud and flashy. Not much more may be required from us than being and remaining – despite all the challenges we face today – decent and reasonable people.

The following passage from an address that William James gave in 1897 on the occasion of the unveiling of the Robert Gould Shaw American civil war monument in Boston sums it up quite nicely:

“The deadliest enemies of nations are not their foreign foes, they always dwell within their borders. And from these internal enemies civilisation is always in need of being saved. The nation blest above all nations is she in whom the civic genius of the people does the saving day by day, by acts without external picturesqueness; by speaking, writing, voting reasonably; by the people knowing true men when they see them, and preferring them as leaders to rabid partisans or empty quacks.”

Amen to that.

Those were the days…

Nostalgia sloshing like the milk of human kindness. Miss the pleasure of buying a film and manually loading it onto a camera till ‘1’ came up in black and red and sometimes missing it and ending up with ‘2’ then unloading it in a darkened room and sending it for developing. Ten days later that yellow and brown envelope arriving to much excitement and of the 32 shots six were blank, five were blurred, one had a thumb obliterating half the photograph but the others were worthy of rescue and each was unique and you put those black flower shaped adhesive corners on them and stuck them in albums with tracing paper after each page and each had a story to tell. Rare moments captured. Now you take 37 shots in 3.7 seconds, soulless and perfect and identical and on your phone.

Past perfect: Many things which we earlier took for granted we now invest with glamour. I recently came across a word I’d never heard of before: glamping. It turned out that glamping stood for ‘glamorous camping’.

When I was a kid, camping – spending a night or two in a tent in the countryside – was a rough and ready sort of business, meant to toughen you up. Not so any more, thanks to glamping, which involves living in a 5 star tent with air-conditioning, attached loos, TVs, and all the mod cons. Unlike camping, which was inexpensive, glamping costs an arm and two legs.

Or take the clothes we wear. In the past khadi and cotton were the poor cousins of man-made fibers like nylon. Today, such man-made cloth is scorned as down market, while khadi and cotton – particularly organically grown and very expensive cotton – represent fashionable ethnic chic.

It’s much the same with the foods we eat. Previously, exotic edibles – fruit, or vegetables, or whatever – which came from far-off lands and distant climes were greatly sought after.

Now, because of increasing environment consciousness, it’s local and seasonal produce – preferably grown without the aid of pesticides and chemical fertilisers – which commands a premium. We take pride in the fact that the ingredients of the food we eat leave behind the most minimal of carbon footprints.

Earlier, people – even urban, relatively affluent people – took in a lot of physical exercise in their day to day lives, by walking or doing manual housework, all of which kept them reasonably fit.

Today – what with an increasing reliance on motorised transport which minimises walking, and with labour-saving devices which take the effort out of domestic chores – we live more sedentary lives and run the risk of becoming physically unfit.

So we join a state of the art gym and seek the expensive services of a personal trainer to tone up our bodies and help make us stress-free.

Glamping is only the tip of the iceberg of a past, which we are now beginning to realise might have been more perfect than our present, tense.

Like the airmail letter with that blue grey distinctive colour and the yellow postcard that the postman read first, the gaily coloured birthday telegram and the scary fear scorching pink one that meant bad news with the taped message stuck inside. And writing in every conceivable corner of the airmail all the way to PPPPS and maybe PPPPPS and turning the badly ripped letter east and west to get in every written word.

The fun of opening the door and mail scattered on the floor, Reader’s Digest delivered, bills with windows on the cover, little rakhis inside thicker envelopes, crossed cheques in registered mails, postal orders, the fleeting sadness of receiving no letters and then a bonanza. Letters from girlfriends and first loves, cute and coy and handwritten with a little doodle only you understood, what price cold and clinical emails and infatuation by emojee.

The fun of filling a fountain pen with ink from a well on your desk and staining your fingers and blobbing your test paper and the pen leaking copiously on the top pocket of your shirt looking like the map of Sri Lanka. The carbon paper smudge as you made copies and the sharp tang of the ribbon on the clackety clack typewriter so the whole household knew you were working and the triple space and the xxxxxxxxx to remove errors till the whiteout came and you invariably spilled it on your clothes. And the miracle of red and black double ribbon as if we had won the world. Wet Blanco on PT shoes (that is what we called them) holdalls to spread on the train bunk, transistor radios covered in leather, peanuts in paper cones for 10 paise at the Rs 3 dress circle movies, rosewood spinning tops and opaque marbles, stamp collections with triangles from San Marino, where did it all go. Those were the days of airmail letters and fountain pens, clackety-clack typewriters and Reader’s Digest delivered.

Positive Discrimination Is Inherent in Indian Constitution

By the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019, a proviso has been added to section 2 (1)(b) of Citizenship Act 1955, modifying the definition of illegal migrants and specifying that the persons belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddist, Jain, Parsi or Christian community from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who entered India on or before 31.12.2014, were not to be treated as illegal migrants if exempted by the central government. Section 6 (b) has been added in the Citizenship Act for grant of citizenship to such persons on fulfillment of certain conditions and restrictions as prescribed.

Section 6 of the Citizenship Act 1955 otherwise provides for citizenship by naturalisation of a category of persons as per the provisions of the 3rd schedule of the Act. The purpose of enacting Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 is to give citizenship by naturalisation to the persons of such communities, who faced persecution in three neighbouring countries because of them belonging to said communities. It has to be kept in mind that these communities are minority communities in three neighbouring Islamic countries.

The persons of above minority communities, now living in India, were made to flee from these countries due to fundamentalism, intolerance, and torture on the ground of religion: Blasphemy laws in these countries are so rigid that the onus of proving innocence lies on the accused and not the complainant. A student can lodge a complaint with the police that his teacher committed blasphemy by not properly interpreting the religious scriptures or showing the religious scriptures in a bad light. It is not a secret that in many such cases, in these neighbouring countries, people have lost their lives at the hands of violent crowds. The punishment for blasphemy is death.

The terror in the minds of minority communities — of being implicated in false cases of blasphemy has come to light in many instances. The USA and other European countries have been using strong-arm tactics against harassment of Christian communities in these countries, especially in Pakistan, and have ensured that members of the Christian community who face blasphemy get proper legal help. However, the fear is so much that Pakistani lawyers appearing on behalf of such accused have faced threats to life. Minority communities have been decimated in these countries either by killing them or by converting them forcibly to Islam.

The problem of granting citizenship to those who had taken shelter in India was pending for long. Almost all political parties at different times had expressed their concern for these communities and advocated for granting citizenship to them. However, since the advent of coalition governments in India, no political party in power had the courage to bring such a law, lest it affect their vote bank. After this law was passed recently by the Parliament, those very political parties, who in the past had been advocating for citizenship to these minority communities, started opposing it in the name of secularism.

The word secular has not been defined in the Constitution of India. Article 15 is the first article in the Constitution which mandates that the State shall not discriminate against any citizen on ground of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. The mandate given to states is in respect of citizens — that the citizens of this country cannot be subjected to any disability or discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste or place of birth. The Constitution has not mandated that non-citizens also cannot be discriminated against on the grounds of religion, race or caste. A State can have reasons to discriminate among non-citizens.

These reasons may be various and one may be the security of the State. India has been facing terrorism from across the border for decades. This terrorism in India is primarily sponsored terrorism by the neighbouring state: Some terrorist organisations based in Pakistan have proclaimed their goal of establishing an Islamic fundamental order in India. This goal is openly pronounced in the meetings of terrorist organisations.

The sole motive of these terrorist organisations is to establish Islam’s rule in India and to crush all other religions and communities and subjugate them. Afghanistan is fighting a bitter battle against terrorists who have the support of Pakistan. Terrorist organisations in Bangladesh also get support from Pakistan. This is good enough reason for the Indian State to deny naturalisation of illegal migrants/infiltrators belonging to the majority religion of these neighbouring countries.

Secularism in the Constitution is spread over its different articles. The word secular in the preamble was not present when the Constitution was framed. Indian secularism is based on equal respect for all religions of the citizens of India, that is the Indian concept of “Sarva Dharama Savabhav”. Based on this concept of secularism, an attempt was made in the 45th Amendment Bill of the Constitution to define secularism. This definition could not be adopted by Parliament because of inadequate support in Rajya Sabha. The definition read — the expression secular Republic meant that there was equal respect for all religions. Interestingly, the Congress party in opposition at that time opposed the adaptation of the definition introduced vide 45th Constitutional Amendment Bill 1993. This amendment proposed to insert a new Article 28(a) reading “the State shall have equal respect for all religions”.

Despite the Indian State being a proclaimed secular state in view of the various articles of the Constitution, the central and state governments, right from independence, did not profess secularism even in making laws. What was needed was to separate religion from the civil rights of the citizens. The Constitution had mandated enacting a Uniform Civil Code which would have protected all the citizens, irrespective of their caste, creed, and religion in respect of their civil rights. It would have left them free to profess any religious practices in respect of worship of God, Deities, Prophets or Holy Books, adopting any ritualistic practices in their worship, provided the rituals did not interfere with the rights of other citizens.

However, instead of framing UCC for all citizens of India just like the Uniform Criminal Code — which treats as equals all citizens of India, the governments went on to regulate the practices associated with the Hindu community and made significant changes in the Hindu personal laws. It is not that these changes were not required but similar changes were equally required to be made for all citizens of this country, irrespective of their religion. While the state took steps in respect of Hindus, it did not take similar steps of enacting progressive laws in respect of Muslims and Christians and even when the courts tried to give such rights to followers of Muslim faith, the government at the Centre overturned the decision because it enjoyed a majority in the legislature. The word secularism was present in the preamble when the Shah Bano ruling given by the Supreme Court was overturned by Parliament. The principle of secularism is there in the Constitution from the very beginning. Non-framing of the UCC by Parliament defeated the very concept of secularism. The first step to be taken by the legislature towards secularism is enacting UCC.

The developments until now have exposed the sham secularism of the contemporary politicians, the governments and the legislature. Therefore, the State has, from the beginning, been accused of showing undue protection of even the foulest practices of minority religions and interference with the majority community at will. The propagators of secularism have been using the word only as a tool for vote mopping: Their real credentials have never been secular.

Article 14 of the Constitution mandates the State equality before law for every person. Article 14 is not qualified by the word citizen, whereas Article 15 is qualified by the word citizen and mandates that the State shall not discriminate against any citizen only on the ground of religion, race, caste and sex. While interpreting Article 14 as early as in 1953 in Satish Chandra Vs. UOI (AIR 1953 SC 250), the SC stated that the guiding principle of Article 14 was that persons and things similarly circumstanced shall be treated alike. The provisions of Constitution do not forbid different treatment of unequal: The rule is that like should be treated as like and unlike should be treated differently. Uniform treatment of unequals is as bad as unequal treatment of equals (AIR 1989 SC 88).

As stated earlier, the position of minority communities in all the neighbouring countries and the position of Muslims in the same countries has never been equal and the minority communities there have consistently suffered at the hands of the majority community. The Indian statute book is full of instances of special legislation applying only to a particular class or group. Discrimination on the ground of caste and sex has often been approved by the Supreme Court if it is done as positive action by the legislature to protect the groups or to undo the historical injustice. Despite Article 15 (I) mandating that there shall be no discrimination on the ground of religion, race, caste, sex and place of birth etc. Article 15(IV) mandates that the State has a right of making special provisions for advancing any socially or educationally backward classes. The State has been making laws preferring women over men or making special laws for securing protection for certain sections of the society on the ground of historical injustice done to such communities. The State has full authority to pass a law to undo injustice done to minority communities of neighbouring countries, who have sought refuge within its borders.

The Indian Constitution meticulously lays down the power of the State and the Union. It creates a balance between the power of State and Union. While the Union normally cannot interfere with the powers granted to a State by the Constitution, the States also cannot refuse to administer the laws passed by the Union. The Constitution has given authority to the Centre to enforce its administrative directions against the States and to compel them to comply with them. This power is intended to ensure harmony between the Union and the State. The executive authority of the States have to be so exercised that it ensures compliance with Union laws and its administrative directions. Where a State exercises authority to impede or obstruct the execution of Union Laws or services, the State exhibits a definite attitude of hostility against the central government, and, the central government — in order to maintain the integrity of the country, has been empowered to intervene. States have no option but to implement the laws passed by the Union.

The Indian Constitution does not envisage dual citizenship, one of the State and other of the Centre — there are no state citizenship laws. The power in respect of the laws for citizenship exclusively lies with the Union. The State has only one option: To approach the judiciary only if it feels that the law was not as per Constitutional provisions. Passing of a resolution by a state assembly is a meaningless exercise, only having a palliative effect.

The Constitution makers and the people of this country have opted for Parliamentary democracy, which works by the principle of majority rule. This implies the willingness of the minority for the time being to accept the decision of the majority. Normally the political parties have their own agenda and they go to the people with this agenda at the time of contesting elections. The political parties are divided on the issues of policies. In a country like India, there is an existence of a large body of voters who owe no allegiance to the vision of any party and they at the time of election decide, which political party would serve the national interest in the best way or whose policies should be considered best for the nation and best for the people.

Once the people have exercised their rights, the minority is supposed to respect the majority opinion and wait for the next election and convince the people that the policies of the political party in power were not good for the country. The minority cannot take the law into its own hands nor can it undermine the will of the majority expressed through their representatives in the Parliament. If they do not want to wait for the next parliamentary election, they have the option of bringing a no-confidence motion against the present government. The battle for political parties is fought during the general elections or within the Parliament during debates and it is not fought on the streets, as the same leads to anarchy

Asia Overwhelmed by Four ‘Plagues’

Parts of the world are in a panic due to the rapid proliferation of four different diseases across Asia: the Wuhan coronavirus, bird flu, African swine fever and swine flu.

Figures related to the Wuhan coronavirus continue to soar. As of Monday afternoon, the official death count stood at over 1,000, with more than 40,000 infected. An initial quarantine of 11 million people has now been expanded to include over 50 million people. The flu-like symptoms make the Wuhan coronavirus difficult to identify, further complicated by the fact that the infected generally do not exhibit symptoms right away. Resultantly, it has spread to at least 27 other countries, with the first non-Chinese deaths reported in Hong Kong and the Philippines. Several nations, including Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan and the United States, have changed their border policies to deny entry to anyone who has been in the most heavily infected regions.

Meanwhile, about two thirds of China’s swine herd has been lost in recent months due to African swine fever. The disease has no cure and no vaccine, and once one pig has been infected, the entire herd has to be killed to prevent spreading. Prior to its outbreak in 2018, about half of the world’s pigs lived in China. Now, pork prices are soaring as herds in Cambodia, North Korea and Vietnam have been similarly devastated.

While the African swine fever cannot be transmitted to humans, its similarly rapidly spreading counterpart, the H5N1 bird flu, can. According to the Daily Mail, “China has reportedly seen an outbreak of a ‘highly pathogenic’ strain of H5N1 bird flu which has already killed 4,500 chickens.” It has forced Chinese authorities to cull over 17,000 chickens. According to the World Health Organization, human cases of H5N1 avian influenza are uncommon, but when they do occur, “the mortality rate is about 60 percent.” The coronavirus by comparison, has a mortality rate of just 2.1 percent.

On top of all this, Asia is also suffering an outbreak of the H1N1 swine flu. It has already spread to 100,000 people in Taiwan, which saw 13 infected people die in the space of a week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One woman died despite having been vaccinated.

Many claim these diseases result solely from poor food safety measures. The Washington Post writes that such epidemics are the result of urbanization—large populations being densely packed in cities. Indeed, such living situations made fertile conditions for the bubonic plague, which decimated a third of Europe’s population in the 1300s. Four cases of a deadlier strain, the pneumonic plague, were even reported in China at the end of last year.

The diseases in Asia are a harbinger of the worldwide devastation soon coming on Earth. These diseases may not be the very pandemics that will decimate global populations.

The Importance of Family Office in Education

Pope John Paul II said that “The family is the basis of society and the place where people learn for the first time the values that guide them throughout their lives.”

The family implies an alliance and an affiliation in which all its members are unique beings welcomed as members of that community.

The first social experience of the human being is born in the family, the place where he forges his identity and relates by strengthening trust in the human race through interaction between family members.

That is why it must be constituted as the refuge for the development of the security and self-esteem of each one in order to develop the virtues firmly and without fear of how the world is, despite the fact that wolves always arise in nature. Therefore, the family is the basis of man and his history where the person, through education is motivated and understood by being a member of the union by parents, who are undoubtedly the engines of life.

The family should add that, from the humblest to the wealthiest; it has always contributed to both the world economy and education.

The family in the West has been weakened by multiple causes such as extreme social movements and populisms that favour the legal distortion of the family figure, returning each of its members as interchangeable pieces.

Since nuclear families are in crisis and, more and more individual contributions prevail instead of family ones. However, they are cyclic crises. In this regard, you can see quotes from authors such as Cicero, who stated in the first century before Christ that & “they are bad times because your children have stopped obeying their parents and everyone writes books”.

To weigh this crisis, currently one of the figures that show the continuation of the family legacy is the Family Offices.

The Family Office is weighing the effects that have emanated from the family crisis as such, basically because it safeguards the core interests of the core: protecting the legacy.

One of the most striking aspects is that the investments made through family offices follow that spirit of sheltering the development of the security and self-esteem of each individual, allowing new generations to develop their personal projects and create their own legacy covered in the help of other families.

About Family Offices, one of the world’s leading experts is Sir Anthony Ritossa, who through his Family Offices events brings together more than 4.5 trillion dollars looking for new opportunities to protect and sponsor new generations in projects based both in Technological as of human capital initiatives.

About Ritossa Family Office, they speak to the refining of 600 years of history – of woods, family and a region. The contorted foundations of the Ritossa olive forests have driven forward through war and catastrophic events, through Climate Change and nation, and under the standard of warrior rulers, affluent trader rulers and current tyrants.

The Ritossa Family Office is known for its revolutionary investments. These incorporate the US Subprime Crisis, the European Sovereign Debt, Banking Crisis, vital PE, RE and blockchain technology.

The Ritossa Family Office is host to The Global Family Office Investment Summits. The Summit Series has stood out as truly newsworthy as the world’s most significant and most elite social occasion of private abundance ever. More than 600 Elite Family Offices, Prominent Business Owners, Sheikhs, Royal Families, Private Investment Companies, Sovereign Wealth Funds and industry experts from around the world gather speaking to more than 4.5 trillion dollars in riches.

Regarding the Family Offices and their relationship with higher education Sir Anthony is a firm supporter of higher education and through the power and influence of his events encourages global family offices to consider investing in new school expansions, education technology, innovative learning opportunities and missions to support disadvantaged youth.

Increasingly, Family Offices contribute to education in emerging countries. See how the Bloomberg family itself, anticipating that the UHNW amount, which they invest through Family Offices, will reach 263,500 in 2025, is progressively considering investing in developing markets, where the new UHNWs come from countries such as India or China. Therefore, the objective is to try to alleviate the risks of an investment in these countries to convince other families so that they invest and allow the construction of new metropolises and with it, new family legacies.

That is why it can be said that its economic and cultural impact is undoubtedly impressive and of high relevance, since they contribute to both the commercial and cultural legacy and, therefore, directly and indirectly to the educational development of the new generations.

Directly, due to the direct investments that each of the Family Offices makes to be able to promote individual projects so that they become family projects, and therefore in tradition.

Indirectly, due to the social conscience, they induce through their investments. The new fortunes and heirs of the great fortunes prefer to encourage the development of new businesses rather than keeping their income in their bank accounts fixed term. It is possible to clarify that, this event allows to influence because the majority of the banks now charge instead of giving interest for the short or long term deposits; however, the new investments arise from a regenerating and driving mentality of the society that fosters a much healthier competitiveness and not a monopolistic society, just as it once was.

Knowing that the family is a &”masterpiece of nature”, as George Santayana stated, it is necessary to take care of it and preserve it, since it is the essential element without which it would not have passed, present or future. The family is the actual constituent of history and therefore of education.

Following Iain Duncan Smith, it should be added that like economies and governments & “when families are strong and stable, so are children who show higher levels of well-being and more positive results”. Since the family is an essential core and primary contributor to education and the world economy, it is necessary to remember that family relationships are not perfect. However, maintaining harmony among the members helps the union and therefore, strength.

A Brand of Islam Tested in a Lab Called UK

On November 29, 2019, five people were stabbed on the London Bridge. The attacker, Usman Khan, had been released from prison in 2018 “on licence”. A known extremist boasting ISIS and Al-Muhajiroun flags at the age of 15 didn’t alarm the authorities enough then. Khan’s hatred was British-born, though, and unrelated to Pakistan.

Pakistanis get radicalised after migrating to the UK. Their children get radicalised growing up in labour-class communities where Islam is practiced in more intense forms. One such “transformed” person was Al-Muhajiroun’s founder, Anjum Chaudhry, of Pakistani origin, who is now in jail. The son of a taxi driver, Khan was his disciple when he was arrested in 2010. It is said that Khan was affected by the bullying he got from his schoolmates. He was ultimately shot dead after the London Bridge stabbings but not before a section of the Indian media linked him to Pakistan, where religious extremism is rampant. The British media, however, knew better: Muslim extremism grows out of the melting pot of extremist Islam in Britain.

In 2010, too, three terrorists had stabbed to death seven innocent people on London Bridge. One of the terrorists turned out to be of Pakistani origin, Khurram Shahzad Butt: A typically radicalised boy in his 20s, maladjusted in his East London milieu, Butt was reported when he told a neighbour, “I’m ready to do whatever I need to do in the name of Allah. I am ready in the name of Allah to do what needs to be done, including killing my own mother”. He had reportedly also entered a local mosque and demanded obedience while parroting Chaudhry’s line that Muslims refuse to vote as democracy was an enemy of Islam.

It appears that religious radicalism didn’t go from Pakistan to the UK, but actually came to Pakistan from London. Al-Muhajiroun had come to Pakistan along with its British-based sister terrorist organisation, Hizb ut-Tahrir, in the mid-2000s, and recruited a number of people inside the Pakistan army till the Musharraf government banned them. Brigadier Ali Khan was arrested for his alleged ties with Hizbut and, before that, Colonel Shahid Bashir, commanding officer of the Shamsi air force base, was apprehended by the military police in May 2009 for keeping links with this banned pan-Islamic political outfit.

French scholar Gilles Kepel has studied the “reverse” phenomenon in his books on expat Islam. In the UK, Islamisation of the immigrant Muslim community was an early postcolonial trend stemming from the British experience in India. “Communalisation” rather than “integration” suited the UK because it could then farm out the menial jobs to a community formed especially for them.

Workers’ mosques came up in the 1950s in the industrial areas of the UK. In the 1950s and 1960s, the mosques were divided against each other on the basis of Barelvi-Deobandi religions. There were even Pathan and Punjabi, Mirpuri, Bengali and Gujarati mosques. Then came the individual charismatic figures like Barelvi Pir Maroof Shah who built a number of mosques for his followers in Bradford, founding the World Islamic Mission in 1973. Sufi Abdullah built himself a similar Barelvi empire in the area in the early 1980s. The Bradford Council of Mosques in the 1980s was already “separating” the community on such questions as halal and girls’ education, and the Labour Party was the popular party for the Muslims.

Next came the Rushdie affair in 1988: The protest that was organised against Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses united the fragmented Muslim community in the UK — toppling its less educated leaders in favour of the anglophone radical ones.

The Islamic Foundation of Leicester sent out the call against Rushdie’s blasphemy, but the man who finally ran away with the collective Muslim response was ex-journalist, Kalim Siddiqui, of Jamaat Islami background, who set up his Muslim Parliament and issued what was termed the Muslim Manifesto in 1990, actually challenging the British system. This caused Labour politician Roy Jenkins, who had described the British policy of integration as equal opportunities with cultural diversity in 1965, to say in 1989 that the policy had failed to effect any integration of the Muslim culture and religion within the British society.

Coping With Anxiety & Stress of City Living

The risk of developing depression is 20% higher in urban dwellers than those who live outside the city. Urbanization is increasing – more than half the world’s population are urban dwellers. Studies show city living can have a negative impact on mental health, with depression is 20% higher among urbanites.

Over half of the world’s population—4.2 billion people—live in cities. This number is expected to rise, with 68% of the global population estimated to live in urban areas by 2050.

Among the world’s megacities—defined as urban areas with more than 10 million inhabitants—Tokyo, Japan is the largest, with 37 million citizens. It is followed by Delhi, India (29 million) and Shanghai, China (26 million). In the UK, after several decades of rural-to-urban migration, 83% of people live in urban environments—and London has become the first European megacity.

The detrimental effects of urban living on physical health have long been recognized, including higher rates of cardiovascular and respiratory disease. More recent, however, is the revelation that urban living can also have adverse effects on mental health.

The risk of developing depression—the most prevalent mental disorder in the world, characterized by low mood and feeling helpless—is 20% higher in urban dwellers than those who live outside the city. Meanwhile, the risk of developing psychosis—a severe psychiatric disorder associated with hallucinations, delusions, paranoia and disorganized thought—is 77% higher in urban than rural dwellers. The risk of developing generalized anxiety disorder, a state of mind characterized by feeling anxious and a sense of impending danger or panic, is also 21% higher in urban than rural dwellers.

Critically, the longer you spend in an urban environment during childhood and adolescence, the higher your risk of developing mental illness in adulthood. This “dose-response” association provides indirect support for a causal relationship between urban living and mental illness.

Brain science

Support for these epidemiological findings comes from the brain sciences. In a pioneering study in 2011,

researchers measured neural activation during a stress-inducing task.

As expected, all participants showed increased neuronal activation within the limbic system—a network of regions that plays a key role in our day-to-day regulation of emotion. Within this network, neural activation in the amygdala—the “fight or flight” center of the brain—correlated with the size of the city in which an individual resided at the time of the experiment. And neural activation of the perigenual anterior cingulate cortex—a region implicated in the processing of social stress—correlated with how long a participant had lived in a city during their childhood.

Intriguingly, other studies have shown similar alterations in people who have high genetic risk of developing psychiatric disorders. This supports the notion that urban living causes changes within a network of regions implicated in the development of mental illness.

Underlying factors

Taken together, epidemiological and neuroscientific studies provide converging evidence that, indeed, people who live in urban areas are at greater risk of mental health problems. So which specific factors within the urban environment increase the risk of developing such problems?

Epidemiological studies have identified a large number of factors. Some of these highlight potential problems in the built environment, such as reduced access to green spaces and high levels of noise and air pollution. Others pertain to the social environment, such as loneliness, perceived and actual crime, and social inequalities.

These studies were based on the collection of a single snapshot per participant, and therefore could not capture the multiple and diverse environments that most people experience throughout the day. But some new studies are using smartphone technologies to collect multiple measurements as people go about their daily life. Urban Mind, for example, is a citizen-science project which uses a smartphone app to measure the experience of urban or rural living in real-time.

It’s important to recognize that those factors within the urban environment which increase the risk of mental illness are neither intrinsic nor inevitable aspects of urban living. Instead, they are the result of poor planning, design, and management, and could be reversed. Which takes us to the next question: could urban living be good for our mental health?

The bright side

While existing research focuses on the negative impacts of urban living on mental health, framing the accelerated urbanization taking place worldwide as a challenge to humankind, this is an oversimplification of what it means to live in a city for at least three reasons.

First, urban living is a complex, contradictory and difficult-to-define phenomenon, with little in common between the resident of a deprived suburb and that of a garden city; or between the processes of gentrification and those of inner city decline. Consistent with this notion, the incidence of depression within urban areas is lower when people have access to high quality housing and green spaces.

Second, we know that all health, and mental health in particular, depends on both nature and nurture. For example, emerging evidence from epigenetics, which examines how the environment affects the expression of our genes, suggests that the impact of urban living depends on our preexisting genetic makeup.

Third, for many people, urban living can bring great benefits to mental health through increased opportunities for education, employment, socialization and access to specialized care. Moving to a city can be the first step towards the realization of one’s full potential, and a necessary condition to gain access to communities with similar interests and values.

Ultimately, cities offer a swath of obstacles and opportunities, freedom, and captivity, which can challenge as well as nurture us, often at the same time.

Balochistan- A Festering Wound & An Undying Dream

I first heard of this issue of Baloch patriotism when Frontier Gandhi, Gaffar Ali Khan told the Congress leaders that by accepting partition, they had thrown The Pustooons, the Pathans and other tribes to the wolves. Whoever wishes to understand Balochistan’s political travails, and the aspirations and frustrations of its long-suffering people should read the history of their political awakening and the formation of their first broad-based political party, the Balochistan and All-India Baloch Conference, 87 years ago.

A well-researched account of this party has recently been published as the fourth volume of the history of the Baloch and Balochistan that Dr Shah Mohammad Marri has been compiling for many years.

The author traces signs of political awakening in Balochistan in 1917 when several Baloch supported the Red Army in its operations against the Basmachi in Turkmenistan while some others attended the Baku International Conference of Eastern Peoples. He quotes Abdul Qadir Nizamani who had claimed on the authority of P.C. Joshi, the long-time general secretary of the Communist Party of India, that several Baloch figured among the subcontinent’s first communists and one of them, Tara Chand, was a non-Muslim.

The first Baloch political group, called the Young Baloch, was formed in 1920 by Abdul Aziz Kurd. Soon afterwards the group was renamed Anjuman Ittehad-i-Balochan. According to Shah Muhammad the group was a political faction, a trade union and a literary association all rolled into one. It was an underground party and some of its members walked many miles after dusk to join its night-long meetings at Mastung. When the party decided to work openly, it elected as its president Yusuf Aziz Magsi, a poet, short-story writer, agitator and a charismatic character in the history of Balochistan.

At its first open meeting in 1931, this party adopted the following objectives: 1) abolition of the sardari system; 2) unification of the various parts of Balochistan and inauguration of a constitutional and democratic system of governance; 3) increase in educational facilities in Balochistan; and 4) establishment of an Islamic society based on non-exploitative ideals.

When Yusuf Magsi met Muhammad Amin Khosa at Aligarh Muslim University, where the latter was studying, their discussions led to the idea of collecting Baloch notables from Balochistan, Sindh and Punjab. Thanks to the untiring efforts of Yusuf Magsi and his colleagues, the All-India Baloch Conference was held at Jacobabad on Dec 28-30.1932.

The following were some of the resolutions adopted by the conference on the first day.

The conference was named Balochistan and All-India Baloch Conference; Sindh’s separation from Bombay was welcomed; the custom of siah kari under which the culprit was punished by forcing his sister or daughter to marry into the victim family was condemned and its abolition demanded; and closure of all brothels was urged. The conference also demanded abolition of the custom of lab and vulvar and asked the authorities to enthusiastically promote the cause of women’s education. The authorities were also asked to prohibit handing over of the widows/ other women in the family of a deceased person to his heirs “as household wares”, and recognise women’s rights as given in Sharia. (The author emphasises the fact that ,out of the nine resolutions adopted on a single day, five were related to women’s rights.)

The other resolutions adopted later on included: a call for allotment of barrage lands to peasants from Makran; reduction in courts’ delays; withdrawal of the Frontier Regulation that was applied to the people in upper Sindh; formation of Balochistan as a governor’s province under a constitutional government; implementation of an eight-point programme to promote education; and choosing the members of the Quetta municipality through a free election.

Although the conference idea was initiated by Baloch leaders, they wanted to include all other ethnic communities in their political party. Special deference was shown to Abdus Samad Achakzai who was already in prison for his political struggle when Abdul Aziz Kurd had formed his underground group. The conference decided to function as a political party under the title ‘Balochistan and All-India Baloch Conference’. A party executive board was constituted with members representing the various districts of Balochistan, Sindh, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi, and the states of Kalat, Khairpur and Bahawalpur. Abdus Samad Achakzai was appointed vice president of the party (the president was the Khairpur nawab) and he was also head of the subcommittee charged with framing the party constitution. The Pakhtuns named on the working committee and other committees also included Nawab Muhammad Khan Jogezai and Sardar Ghulam Muhammed Tareen.

When after the Jacobabad conference Yusuf Aziz became sardar of the Magsi tribe, he introduced in his area some of the reforms demanded by the conference.

The party held its second annual conference at Hyderabad on Dec 26-28, 1933. The political agent, Kalat, told Yusuf Aziz Magsi not to attend this conference but he ignored this diktat. The resolutions adopted by this conference included one moved by Abdus Samad Achakzai which called for constitutional reform in Balochistan and another demanded the end of the sardar system which denied women their share in inheritance. A scheme of constitutional reform in Balochistan was sent to the joint parliamentary committee under Achakzai’s signatures.

The Balochistan and Kalat authorities decided to crush the party. Abdul Aziz Kurd was jailed for five years, Abdus Samad Achakzai was confined to Machh jail and Yusuf Magsi was sent into forced exile in England. The conference became dormant. Yusuf Magsi perished in the May 1935 earthquake in Quetta. He was only 27 years old.

Throughout the past eight decades, Balochistan’s quislings and external forces opposed to the people’s interests have been engaged in suppressing the 1932 agenda but it has refused to die, thanks to the sacrifices of Abdus Samad Achakzai, Yusuf Aziz Magsi, Abdul Aziz Kurd, M. Amin Khosa and their colleagues. As politicians who called for the establishment of democratic, constitutional order in Balochistan, abolition of sardari system and emancipation of women in the 1930s, they deserve to be acclaimed as the people’s heroes and installed as such in their dharti’s pantheon. At the same time, the much maligned people of Balochistan deserve to be saluted for saving their dream from dying

The Future of Transport-From self-Driving to Flying Cars


Cars are changing – fast. But are innovations such as autonomous and flying cars bright new dawn, or just a wild pipe dream? And if they become the future’s way of getting from A to B, can we trust them to take us there safely? Here are five key questions answered by an expert.

Are self-driving cars safe?

At present, the general public doesn’t trust the concept of autonomous vehicles. In a recent survey, 15% of the US public said they don’t believe there will ever be an autonomous vehicle on the market, and 42% said they would never ride in a fully automated vehicle. In addition, 56% of those surveyed would demand 100% safety before they would take a ride, and 60% said they’d demand the same level of safety – 100% – before letting a family member step into a fully autonomous vehicle.

But is this fair? The Eno Center for Transportation, a non-profit, independent think tank in Washington DC, has commented that “driver error is believed to be the main reason behind over 90% of all crashes”. Replacing driver-controlled cars with autonomous ones could result in far safer road travel.

To get to this point, however, all the vehicles on the road would have to be autonomous. It may be many years before this is the case, with a survey claiming that by 2034, autonomous vehicles will make up just 10% of all vehicles being bought and sold.

So, we know that this will take some time and, in the interim, there will be a mix of fully autonomous, partially autonomous and non-autonomous vehicles on the roads. This has the potential to cause problems. For example, cyclists or pedestrians crossing the road may make misplaced assumptions about a vehicle’s capability to detect them.

We need to be certain that autonomous vehicles will be safe and reliable, and there is still some way to go. There have already been a handful of cases where autonomous vehicles have killed or seriously injured other road users when they did not act as predicted in certain traffic scenarios.

Autonomous vehicles will also only be able to operate on certain roads where appropriate infrastructure is in place – for example, road markings and signs – so that the vehicle can “read” the road and know what to do in different situations.

Without these, the vehicle will either give up and shut down altogether (leaving its occupants stranded), hand control to the driver (thereby defeating the object of vehicle autonomy), or do something entirely unpredictable and possibly disastrous.

Will cars change shape?

Vehicles may become multi-purpose spaces in the years ahead, enabling occupants to perform a number of different tasks while being transported from one place to another.

It’s possible to imagine situations where cars become “offices on wheels” in which the occupants can work normally, hold meetings in transit, or even relax and recline during breaks. This will mean that the entire interior space will need to be redesigned to allow these types of activities. In turn, this could mean wider, taller and bigger vehicles, which will have further implications for road design.

What about flying cars?

There is plenty of space above us that is not currently used by aircraft, so the concept of flying cars has some merit. After all, it would potentially prevent many of the conventional problems associated with road traffic, especially congestion.

It could also be a very fast form of mobility. Flying vehicles would not be constrained by traffic controls, junctions and roundabouts. Another significant consideration would be financial; if all vehicles could fly, theoretically we would need far fewer roads, saving building and maintenance costs.

But the whole concept of flying cars would have to be regulated, or there would be no end of mid-air collisions. The consequences of these would potentially be much worse than crashes on the ground since debris falling from the sky would injure and kill people. Indeed, every mid-air collision would almost certainly have fatal implications.

Perhaps we could imagine dedicated “air corridors” controlled by on-ground traffic controllers who would work in the same way as traditional air traffic controllers. Regulation in this scenario would be essential, and it could be that the whole concept is limited to private professional operators running sky-based taxi services or transporting goods around cities. Numbers, after all, would have to be tightly controlled.

It is hard to see how members of the public would be allowed to simply purchase a flying car and drive it off the showroom forecourt. Finally, there are environmental issues, as some of the vehicles are likely to be powered by fossil-based fuels in order to achieve the necessary thrust – although the potential for electric-powered vehicles is also being explored.

And how about future driving tests?

As the motorist’s task will change from driver to monitor, it’s possible to envisage that the whole task will need to be regulated by some form of vehicle controller licence. “Controllers” (as opposed to “drivers”) will need to learn much more about the vehicle’s capabilities and limitations and will need to know what to do in emergency situations in which they may need to assume control. So, the task of controller might require twice as much knowledge as a conventional driver and the driving tests will need to evolve to reflect this.

Will all cars soon be computer-controlled?

All new cars are already computer-controlled to some degree. When a modern car has a defect, the normal procedure for finding out what is wrong involves a diagnostic test. This test relies on a computer system that links to the vehicle’s computer processor, sensors, and microchips, logging any problems or issues. It can reveal flaws including problems with the exhaust, transmission, oil tank and other systems.

It is only a relatively small step from vehicle diagnostics to vehicle control and computing capability is already present on many vehicles for functionalities such as automatic cruise control, auto-parking, and advanced or autonomous emergency braking systems. The computer systems on future cars are likely to become extremely sophisticated.

As a result, autonomous vehicles are going to be very expensive compared to non-autonomous vehicles for the first few years after introduction. This may impede widespread uptake, as is presently the case with electric vehicles.

Voting for populist leaders doesn’t mean upsetting the applecart

With the rise of populist political forces across the globe, democratic values appear to be under pressure. The global democracy is actually healthy and the focus ought to be on processes.

I may be in a minority but I think the health of democracy globally today is pretty good. I know that many sophisticated intellectuals today see democracy as glass half empty. I understand where they are coming from. People they thought were outside shouting are now sitting in the room with them, and they are not comfortable with this. But the reason I am optimistic is that in many countries a situation has developed where many people have concluded that the political system no longer works for them. And rather than a system of democracy that allows them a representative voice, they see a system that tells them how things should be. So they have seen elections since at least the 1990s as a way for the elites to ratify their position. This is a sentiment that is among ordinary people both on the right and the left. And this is why populism is on the rise and successful populist leaders are appealing to them.

For example, in the US many Obama voters ended up voting for Trump in the 2016 election. So those who are voting for populist leaders are essentially shaking up the political snow globe. They don’t want to overthrow the system, but they want the system to become more responsive to them. And unless we want democracy to become its ancient Athenian version, it has to work for the largest number of people.

I think there are some fundamental democratic values like participation, equal vote, freedom of speech and press, and transparency – these are all core democratic values. You also need to develop a culture where the losers accept losing. But sadly in many parts of the world that is not the case. Culturally in those places if you lose you find another way to win – financially, militarily, etc. But if you are going to have a democracy, accepting loss in elections is fundamental. But there are two reasons why we have failed to universalise these values.

First, these values often don’t suit the interests of powerful actors, like in the case in many post-colonial African nations. Second, democratisation is evolutionary. And the predominant notion in the US since the Iraq war has been that if we export elections, poll counts and freedom of speech, we will have a fully functional democracy. This ignores the fact that for democracy to sustain it has to be cultural. I don’t think there is any place that can’t be democratic, but it depends on where they are on the democracy continuum. In most cases, you need to have a certain level of economic development where people care enough. Because if your focus is on food on the table and a roof over your head, you don’t care about who you get to vote for.

With the rise of China there is a growing sense that development is more important than democracy and the latter is overrated.

In the Chinese case there was a realisation a generation ago that they needed to do better. They made a lot of fundamental economic changes that have proven to be beneficial. So, the country became much richer. So what happens next? The problem is that the system that allowed that change is not keen on allowing other changes. Their notion is if you are richer and happier you are not going to cause any trouble. But I think in the long-term their political system is unsustainable. Given the Chinese people’s growing exposure to the wider world, there is stimulus for change. And that’s why the Chinese government is worried and doubling down on control as an overreaction. They know in the larger scheme of things they are losing control. In this context, the Hong Kong protests are interesting. I think Hong Kong is where China will be in the future, because Hong Kong society is way ahead in the democracy continuum than rest of China. In Hong Kong you have an early 20th century political system stuck on top of a 21st century economy. So we need to be patient with democratic evolution.

Interest groups exist to represent diverse interests. Fundamentally they are positive. But the trap is when the bureaucracy or politicians become captive to a particular interest group. In America this is often the defence industry. In the West historically the tobacco lobby came to be very powerful.

So how do you make it work? Governments have to make sure that processes are transparent where everyone’s views are welcome but obviously not everyone’s views will translate into policy. This goes back to the issue of representation and ‘Did I have a say’ or ‘Was the process fair even if I don’t accept the outcome’. It shouldn’t be about ‘We don’t like you so we will ignore everything you say’.

Paralyzing effect of religion as per Marx

Religion as history will testify has always been the most powerful and influential institution instrumental in mobilising people and enabling a collective articulation. But it is not without its own downsides. Marx called religion an opiate. What exactly does an opiate do? It sedates a person, numbs the senses, makes pain disappear. In other words, the pain is still there but the suffering isn’t. It appears as if the pain and agony have disappeared once one is under the influence of a drug. The truth however is that it is only a numbing smokescreen that gives us an impression that the pain has gone as we do not experience it anymore and it is convenient to believe it and even become oblivious of the reason behind the pain or to think of a permanent cure or a treatment.

Religion is an opiate in Marx’s view. Religion tells humans that it is our lot to suffer but that also it is ok to suffer because this is just a temporary phase, a temporary place to be in which comes very close to Neitzsche’s true world theory which posits that there is another world which is better, more permanent and our final destination and we should be focusing on heading towards it. All religions do this: whether they call it afterlife or moksha or nirvana or heaven, there is always a reassurance, a kind of hope of escape from the current circumstances. This lure of the world beyond is what keeps people going, what makes them even accept suffering and oppression.

Religion thus, in Marx’s view, also helps in maintaining the status quo because it makes one indifferent to it. In fact he goes as far as to say that religion is always a reflection of the economic order of its times. He compares the feudal system of economy to the catholic version of Christianity and draws parallels between the two orders. Both are hierarchical, stratified with the Pope and the king at the top of the order and then nobility, feudal lords and peasantry in a descending order in the economy and the bishop, the clergy, the pastor and finally the locals, the churchgoers in the religious order. In fact the Pope crowns the king as god’s surrogate in this world. So institutionalised hierarchy in the societal and economic order is legitimised by religion. It is not a mere coincidence that when Protestantism challenged Catholicism, it coincided with the overthrow of the feudal system and its replacement by capitalism under which the individual was supposed to be way more free than they were in the feudal system of governance. However society remained as stratified as ever, groups of the population were as segmented as before. Only it was an inequity of a different kind.

At an individual level, as someone from the working class, all the frustration that stems from a keen awareness of being exploited, deprived of entitlement and discriminated against which keeps accumulating and building inside you loses steam once you go to a religious discourse and listen to the Godman preaching how it is easier for people with no money to enter heaven than people with a lot of money or for that matter, whatever religious ordinance or faith you subscribe to or follow, listening to the master or the preachers of that religion who will always tell you one or all of the three things:

1. That there is something better than this that awaits you.
2. The problem lies in your reluctance to accept what you are going through rather than blaming the world
3. Suffering elevates you.

This inspires the follower to be acquiescent and sustain the existing order instead of challenging its loopholes and desiring a change. Marx says this is not healthy because every order is inherently flawed, however idealistic its projection may be. If we start being complacent and acquiescing, we can never bring about change and systems along with their flaws and drawbacks will become fossilised and narrativized. The vital thing then is to question givens and resist naturalisation of oppressive and discriminatory practices that are often systemic in nature since they have religious and social sanction. In fact if something has a religious sanction or seeks justification on the basis of some larger rhetoric of an overarching ideology, it becomes all the more important to question its legitimacy. Because religion, unlike spirituality (which is deeply personal), is a manmade construct, an institution that manufactures consent, conformity, influence and compliance and encourages complete surrender to its dictates.

Faced by existential crisis, China can earn loyalty of friends only by effective action against coronavirus

As novel coronavirus infections are doubling every four days and the death toll is steadily mounting – over 800 at the time of writing – China’s latest health crisis has created the opportunity for a new loyalty test.  

China has publicly chastised countries like New Zealand for “joining efforts to isolate the Chinese economy” under the guise of fighting the spread of virus. Although some of China’s friends have sent messages of support, Beijing has complained about those that have not. Cambodian PM Hun Sen went a step further, offering to travel to Wuhan to show his solidarity (after being dissuaded by Chinese officials, he flew to Beijing instead). After meeting with President Xi Jinping, he expressed full confidence about China surmounting this challenge, signalling his bullishness by leaving Cambodian students in Wuhan “to share [Chinese people’s] happiness and pain and to help them solve this situation”. 

 Hun Sen also acknowledged that Cambodian students who depart Wuhan may not receive scholarships to continue their studies. In a veiled threat, a Chinese diplomat reminded a New Zealand newspaper that, as Wellington’s largest trading partner, China does not take kindly to travel restrictions that contribute to its “international isolation”. He warned of unspecified loss to the New Zealand economy in consequence. After Indonesia imposed a travel ban on Chinese nationals, Beijing’s ambassador in Jakarta darkly warned about the “negative impact” on their relationship. 

 A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson has accused the United States of “unceasingly” manufacturing and spreading panic, expressing regret that advanced countries have taken the lead in “imposing excessive restrictions contrary to WHO recommendations”. The Chinese ambassador to the UK expressed his disappointment that PM Boris Johnson has taken a drastic measure to call all Britons to leave China and has not sent a personal message of support to Beijing over the virus. The fact that already 10 countries including the US, Australia, Japan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam have barred entry to visitors who had recently been to China, and numerous countries have suspended flights from the mainland makes China’s position tenuous. Veteran China watcher Bill Bishop called Xi’s current troubles “as close to an existential crisis for Xi and the Party” since the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. 

 The virus crisis has come at a time when Xi has already been criticised for his handling of relations with the US and the Hong Kong protests causing economic harm to China. Emboldened by Xi’s current difficulties, some domestic critics have called for the president’s resignation, deriding him as “just someone who is not very smart”. Such criticism must sting Chinese leadership as it comes under global criticism for its clumsy effort at a cover-up. The reported death of a whistleblower doctor Li Wenliang, who informed colleagues about the appearance of the new virus over a month ago, could deal a fresh reputational blow to Beijing. In a typical effort to protect political stability and Party prestige, his calls for action were suppressed. Li and eight of his colleagues were instead reprimanded by police for rumour mongering, thus leaving Wuhan’s 11 million people exposed to the virus. Similar efforts to suppress news of SARS in 2003 led to a global emergency; that virus ended up killing 800 people. 

 Now struggling to control the virus’s fast spread, the government has resorted to criticising foreign governments for hostile intent towards China in taking measures to protect their the Party’s infallibility and supremacy, the Party has squandered valuable time. The loyalty of its friends must citizens. Chinese scientists have admirably sequenced the novel coronavirus genome in record time and Chinese engineers have – in the space of just ten days – built two large hospitals to treat the new patients. Chinese authorities have also mobilised their technological prowess, from apps to drones, to combat the virus. But in its bid to maintain be earned by effective action to protect the health of its own citizens and the world, not by bullying.

Sunday Special: Pakistan Shares Heritage of Being a Part of Sacred Geography

 Is Pakistan really demonized by India? While India is subject of demonization and ridicule in Pakistan, is it true that Pakistan receiving the same sort of ridicule and hatred in India? In Pakistan, the school books are full of hate for India, but Indians, apart from a small minority, still consider Pakistan a part of Indian heritage- the sacred geography. They often talk of two brothers having separated, dividing the ancestral property and they it stops- as fraternal relations can not be broken.  but Under the shadow of the Alamgiri gate constructed by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb that opens towards the iconic Badshahi mosque and is now used as the principal entry into the Lahore Fort, is a small temple, a modest structure with a small dome on the top, a typical Mughal structure.

The city of Luv

Known as the temple of Lava, or Luv, the current structure is believed to have been constructed on the top of an ancient temple that was built here to honour Prince Luv, the son of Lord Ram.

Stories about the origin of Lahore state that when Sita, the wife of Ram was banished from Ayodhya after being rescued from Ravana, she found herself in the ashram of a hermit called Valmiki, where she gave birth to her twin sons Luv and Kush.

Legends narrate that Valmiki, the author of the Ramayana, was living on the banks of the river Ravi, not far from the present-day city of Lahore. In fact, it is believed that Luv founded the city of Lahore, while Kush founded Lahore’s twin city, Kasur, about 50-odd km away.

Therefore it was present-day Pakistan where the first Ramayana was written and the twin sons of Ram were born.

The land of Prahlad

About 350 km from Lahore, is another ancient city, Multan. The city slowly developed around a mound where now lie the Sufi shrines of Bahauddin Zakariya and Shah Rukn-e-Alam, the patron saints of the city.

Next to the shrine of Bahauddin Zakariya are the remains of one of the most ancient temples in the subcontinent that once served as the focal point of the city.

The temple of Prahlad Bhagat commemorates the victory of the child saint over his tyrant father, Hiranyakashipu, who is once believed to have ruled this ancient city. Legends narrate that it was also at the city of Multan that Holi – one of the most prominent festivals of India originated.

Prahlad Bhagat deceived and managed to kill his paternal aunt Holika, who attempted to kill him at the behest of his father. Holi is the celebration of victory of righteousness over evil, of Prahlad over Holika.

The tears of Shiva

On the north-western side of the country, in the foothills of Himalayas, within the embrace of the hills, is an ancient pool around which the Katasraj temples are constructed.

It is believed that this sacred pond was created out of the teardrop of Shiva, which dropped at this location while he was flying above it carrying the dead body of his consort, Parvati.

Regarded as one of the holiest sites in ancient India, this temple complex was once the site of a major university, and visited regularly by students of Hinduism and spiritualism. The temple complex and the pond have remained sacred through the long history of this land.

Relics of the Buddha

There is a partially-excavated Buddhist stupa here dating back to the third century BCE. Next to it are temples dedicated to Shiva constructed around the seventh and eighth century CE.

It is narrated that the Pandava brothers constructed these temples during their long exile. Adjacent to it is the Ram temple constructed during the tenure of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Next to this temple is a gurdwara dedicated to the visit of Guru Nanak to this pilgrimage site.

Across the mountain, on the top of a mount, is the spot where Al-Beruni, the famed Arab scholar, spent several years studying the “religion of the Indians” and calculating the radius of the world.

Further west, on the banks of the Indus, located on the top of rugged mountains, are the ancient stone forts of Kafir Kot and Bilot, containing some of the earliest temples in this region. Like the temples in Katasraj, they too are believed to be made by the Pandava brothers during their exile.

Not far from here, in the embrace of the Margalla Hills, are the remains of the splendid Buddhist cities, temples and university dating back to the fifth and sixth century BCE.

One of the most prominent archaeological sites here is Dharmarajika, established by Emperor Ashoka in the third century BCE, as a major Buddhist monastery.

The monastery was constructed around a stupa, one of the many stupas that contain relics of Buddha. In Peshawar and Swat, other stupas were also found that contain relics of the Buddha.

Where Mahavir preached

While much has been written about Hindu and Buddhist sites of Pakistan, one of the most neglected aspects of Pakistan’s history is its connection with Jainism.

Scattered all over the country are several ancient Jain shrines constructed in the memory of several Jain acharyas.

Perhaps one of the most prominent priests in recent history is Acharya Vijayanandsuri, also referred to as Atmaramji of Gujranwala. His smadh still stands in the heart of Gujranwala, one of the most populous cities of Pakistan.

Ancient Jain scriptures identify that during his lifetime, Mahavir, the 24th and last Jain tirthankara, undertook an extensive tour of Punjab.

Many of the names of those ancient cites have been lost, but it is likely that the Jain heritage scattered all over Punjab in Pakistan, in the cities of Kasur, Lahore, Multan, Sialkot, Bhera and Jhelum, were raised by his devotees to commemorate his visit to those places.

Any mention of the non-Muslim heritage of Pakistan would be incomplete without a mention of its Sikh heritage. There are several hundred Sikh gurdwaras all over the country, most of which are associated with the Sikh gurus.

Birthplace of Guru Nanak

One of the most prolific gurus in this regard is Guru Nanak, the first guru of Sikhism, who traveled extensively. His devotees constructed commemorative shrines at many places he visited.

Two of the most prominent ones are Gurdwara Janamasthan in Nankana Sahib, where he was born, and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur, where he passed away.

Pakistan, which is today solely associated with Islam, is in fact the birthplace of several prominent religious movements that today influence a large part of the world.

It is easy to view Pakistan stripped of its historical context, which makes it easy to call it hell, as the Indian Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar, recently declared.

However if Pakistan is hell, then are all these religious pilgrimage spots counted above also part of this hell?

How can followers of Ram say that Lahore is hell, given that this city is believed to be founded by his son?

How can devotees of Shiva accept this statement when one of the holiest Shiva sites is located in Pakistan?

Can readers of the Mahabharata and the Vedas also accept that Pakistan is hell given that this land features prominently in these sacred texts?

How can Buddhists accept that Pakistan is hell, a land which contains Buddha’s relics?

Would the devotees of Mahavir not be offended by anyone calling Pakistan hell, a land that was made sacred by the blessed feet of this tirthankara?

Would any Sikh ever call Pakistan hell, a land where Guru Nanak was born and preached his first message of peace and unity?

In this regard therefore Parrikar’s remarks are not only offensive to Pakistanis but also Hindus, Buddhist, Jains and Sikhs living in India and other parts of the world whose religions developed in the land which is today known as Pakistan.

The Soul of the Indian Constitution

The current pushback is a long haul, it must use constitutional legacy of Parliament as a living organism to strengthen federalism and democracy. The Constitution empowers Parliament to supplement constitutional provisions by passing legislation.

Homage has been paid to the chairman of the drafting committee of our Constitution by our political class in a plenitude of platitudes without applying the creative and critical faculties that were Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar’s hallmark and could help improve the quality of our parliamentary democracy. India was extremely fortunate that as stringent a critic of mainstream nationalism as Ambedkar placed his intellectual prowess at the service of the nation for five crucial years from December 9, 1946, to October 12, 1951. As the minorities face the cold winds of exclusion from the powers that be in today’s India, it is pertinent to recall what Ambedkar said on the question of minority protection while introducing the draft constitution on November 4, 1948. “The minorities in India have agreed to place their existence in the hands of the majority…They have loyally accepted the rule of the majority which is basically a communal majority and not a political majority. It is  for the majority to realize its duty not to discriminate against minorities.”

In the same speech Ambedkar tried to respond to critics who powerfully argued that there was “nothing new in the Draft Constitution, that about half of it has been copied from the Government of India Act of 1935 and that the rest of it has been borrowed from the Constitutions of other countries”. Ambedkar explained that he had borrowed and not plagiarized. He agreed that ideally administrative details should have no place in a constitution but asserted that it was necessary in the Indian situation. It was in this context that Ambedkar invoked the concept of constitutional morality, which he contended was “not a natural sentiment” and that “our people have yet to learn it.” Another eloquent member Zairul-Hasan Lari pointed out that constitutional morality was a value that not just citizens but also the government must learn. Just because the government has the power to act, it does not mean it should. The spirit underlying the constitution and not just the words must guide and restrain the government.

If Ambedkar had profound insights into universal adult franchise, freedom of conscience, minority protection, adequate representation for scheduled castes and tribes, and constitutional morality, he and the Constituent Assembly collectively fell short on the question of emergency provisions and federalism. The Constitution was framed under the dark shadow of the dislocations wrought by partition. Ambedkar candidly acknowledged that the Indian Constitution, unlike the American one, was not cast in the pure federal mold. The Constitution of India, he claimed, “can be both unitary as well as federal according to the requirements of time and circumstances.” “Once the President issues a Proclamation which he is authorized to do under the Provisions of Article 275,” he went on to say, “the whole scene can become transformed and the State becomes a unitary state.” We now know from subsequent history how this lacuna in the form of emergency provisions can allow authoritarianism to get the better of both federalism and democracy. Even fundamental rights are not as inviolable in the Indian Constitution as the bill of rights in the United States. “Though imbibing the principles of democratic Constitutions,” Asok Chanda wrote in his 1965 book Federalism in India, “the Indian Constitution is not altogether free from authoritarian trends which it inherited in accepting the basis of the 1935 Act.”

It is this colonial inheritance that has created a tension between the spirit and parts of the letter of the Constitution. The uplifting quality of the Preamble being recited all over the country today is undermined by the menacing potential of certain clauses left as the legacy of colonial authoritarianism. Nasser Hussain’s major study of colonialism and the rule of law concluded by emphasizing “the continuity between the ideas and practices of law and emergency of the colonial state and the nationalist state”.

Did no one in the Constituent Assembly foresee the dangers posed to federalism and democracy by the states of exception written into the Constitution? A few did. But their far-sighted amendments were typically voted down or “negatived”, to use the parliamentary jargon. Hari Vishnu Kamath, a close associate of Subhas Chandra Bose during the freedom struggle, rang the alarm bells during the debate on Article 275 on August 2, 1949:

I have ransacked most of the constitutions of democratic countries of the world – monarchic or republican – and I find no parallel to this Chapter on emergency provisions in any of the other constitutions of democratic countries in the world. The closest approximation, to my mind, is reached in the Weimar Constitution of the Third Reich which was destroyed by Hitler taking advantage of the very same provisions contained in that constitution…But those emergency provisions pale into insignificance when compared with the emergency provisions in this chapter of our Constitution.

The President of the Constituent Assembly, Rajendra Prasad, terminated the debate with a show of some impatience. The Constituent Assembly passed the motion empowering the President to proclaim an Emergency if the security of India was threatened “whether by war or external aggression or internal disturbance” or if he was satisfied there was “imminent danger thereof”.

The next day Kamath rose to the defense of federalism during the debate on Article 277-A that would let the Union Government intervene in the internal affairs of states in case of “internal disturbance”. He brought an amendment to replace that phrase with “internal insurrection or chaos”. Kamath received some support from K.T. Shah, Shibbun Lal Saxena, Hirday Nath Kunzru, Renuka Ray and Biswanath Das in taking a stand against the emergency provisions and over-centralizing tendencies. They were outvoted and Kamath’s plea to lay “the foundation of a real democracy” sounded like a voice in the wilderness. “I do not altogether deny,” Ambedkar conceded, “that there is a possibility of these articles being abused or employed for political purposes…the proper thing we ought to expect is that such articles will never be called into operation and that they would remain a dead letter.” That was a pious hope waiting to be belied.

“Part XVIII of the Constitution conferring emergency powers upon the President,” Sarat Chandra Bose wrote in a critique in January 1950 in the Indian Law Review, “has a remarkable family-likeness to Section 42, 43 and 45 of the Government of India Act, 1935, the quintessence of which is re-incarnated in our Constitution with a minimum of verbal changes.” He described the emergency provisions as “time-bombs”. He further pointed out that Article 21 of the Constitution “does not secure due process of law; it secures procedural process only”.  This lacuna enabled the suspension of the fundamental right to life and liberty during the Emergency imposed in 1975 and played a key role in the Supreme Court’s ruling on habeas corpus. The Supreme Court in a 4 to 1 decision with Justice H.R. Khanna dissenting upheld the government’s position on the inadmissibility of habeas corpus petitions. When the article enabling the suspension of habeas corpus during an emergency was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on August 20, 1949, Kamath had called it “a day of sorrow and shame”, adding “May God help the Indian people.”

Some of the more egregious legal amendments of the Emergency era were reversed by the forty-third amendment of the Constitution. Yet, most of the colonial inheritance of the states of exception remain on the statute books, including the law on sedition enshrined as Section 124A of the nineteenth-century Indian Penal Code. It is deployed today to brand as “anti-national” those expressing disaffection towards a government that has done incalculable harm to the very idea of India. As secularism and socialism lost legitimacy as justificatory ideologies of a centralized post-colonial state, an implicit and then explicit resort was made to Hindu religious majoritarianism to shore up central state authority against myriad regional and subaltern challenges. The relentless onslaught on democratic institutions, including the media and the judiciary, in recent years has led opposition leaders and political commentators to talk darkly about an undeclared emergency in today’s India. The dominance of a democratically elected authoritarian leader along with the organizational muscle provided by the forces of Hindutva poses a far graver challenge to the world’s largest democracy than the one that was overcome in 1977.

The drafters of the Indian Constitution conceived of it as a living organism that could take account of changing needs in the future. They did not foresee how a brute parliamentary majority could cynically use some parts of the letter of the Constitution to violate its spirit. Elaborating three types of amendments, the Constituent Assembly bequeathed to Parliament some of the functions of a continuing constitutional body. The Constitution empowers Parliament to supplement constitutional provisions by passing legislation. This power was invoked at the time of enacting the original Citizenship Act of 1956. The Constitution of the United States, unlike India’s, categorically provides for the indestructibility of states and, as co-equals with the union, any adjustments require the consent of the legislatures of affected states. The downgrading of the status of a state to that of a union territory by misusing a parliamentary majority, as was done on August 5, 2019, is repugnant to the principles of genuine federalism.

The purpose of this brief lesson in constitutional history is to tell the brave young men and women demonstrating in the streets the importance of resorting to both reason and emotion in upholding the spirit of the Constitution against the cunning use of certain constitutional provisions by a majoritarianism rampant to transform a democracy into a dictatorship and a federation into a unitary state. We must be prepared for years of satyagraha and as many states as possible must resist the machinations of an overweening center. There will be no safe anchor until “We, the People” are able to decisively overturn the current parliamentary majority. We must then use the constitutional legacy of Parliament as a living organism with wisdom to strengthen the features of federalism and democracy, and make fundamental rights and habeas corpus inviolable, so that India may be free from discrimination along lines of religion, caste, class and gender, and free from the scourge of majoritarian tyranny.

China: The Dictator’s Fantasy

What happens when one man attains absolute power over hundreds of millions?

“I begged them to kill me,” said Mihrigul Tursun. “Each time I was electrocuted, my whole body would shake violently, and I could feel the pain in my veins.”

Tursun was describing the torture she suffered while being held for months with 60 other women in an internment camp. Their cell was small and suffocating. They slept in turns, with most standing to make floor space for the few whose turn it was to lie down. They were routinely beaten, electrocuted, and forced to take unknown medications, including capsules that caused them to blackout and a liquid that caused bleeding in some and cessation of menstruation in others. During Tursun’s final three months, nine women from her cell died. All the while, in an Orwellian twist, the women were made to sing songs praising their captors.

And here is an important detail: Tursun’s nightmare did not happen decades ago in some long-shuttered concentration camp. It happened in an internment network run by her own national government, and it is still operating right now.

‘The Great Family of Chinese National Territory’

Mihrigul Tursun is an ethnic Uyghur from Xinjiang. This region, south of Kazakhstan and Mongolia, was long contested by the Mongols, the Chinese and several Turkic groups until the Qing Dynasty brought it under China’s control in the 18th century. Ever since, Xinjiang has been an intermittent flash point for tensions between the Uyghurs, who are mostly Turkic-speaking Muslims, and the Han Chinese, Mandarin-speaking atheists who comprise more than 90 percent of China’s total population.

The anxieties intensified throughout the 1990s: The Kazakhs, Kyrgyzians and other Turkic-speaking, Muslim, Communist neighbors seceded from the Soviet Union and formed independent nations bearing their names. Many Uyghurs sought to make Xinjiang a sovereign nation as well: Uyghuristan. But Chinese leaders were bent on keeping Xinjiang locked into what they call “the great family of Chinese national territory.”

The tensions exploded in 2008 when Uyghurs protested Chinese oppression with terrorist bus bombings and attacks on police facilities. Chinese authorities said the violence killed hundreds of people, mainly Han Chinese, and deployed large numbers of People’s Liberation Army soldiers to Xinjiang’s largest city, Ürümqi. The violent outbursts continued throughout the next few years, but the Chinese Communist Party kept tightening its grip on Xinjiang.

Then a new man was appointed leader of China. He would tighten the Communist Party’s grip to a choke hold.

‘Nets Above and Snares Below’

When Xi Jinping became general secretary of the Communist Party in late 2012, he was a relatively obscure personality in Chinese politics. Most experts believed he would lead the nation in the tradition of his most recent predecessors, maintaining the status quo.

But Xi began almost immediately to confound those forecasts.

Rather than keeping the “first among equals” brand of leadership followed by his recent predecessors, he embraced a strongman approach. He bypassed State Council authorities by creating policymaking party groups, many of which he personally chairs. He took direct control of writing policy on everything from China’s economy and international relations to its Internet regulations. Xi waged an anti-corruption campaign resulting in the arrest or imprisonment of a breathtaking 1.4 million Communist Party members. He disappeared dissidents and hundreds of human rights lawyers in waves of arrests. He also implemented profound military reforms that made him the unchallenged head of China’s vast army.

“[H]e not only controls the military,” Shanghai-based military expert Ni Lexiong told the Associated Press, “but also does it in an absolute manner. [H]e is ready to command personally.”

In April 2014, just weeks after knife-wielding Uyghur terrorists killed 31 people and injured 141, Xi made an official visit to Xinjiang. Hours after his departure, a Uyghur bomb tore through an Ürümqi train station, killing three and injuring 79.

Xi seemed to take the attacks as a direct challenge to his authority and to China’s overall stability. “Build steel walls and iron fortresses,” he said later that year while announcing a “People’s War on Terrorism.” He told party leaders in Xinjiang: “Set up nets above and snares below. Cracking down severely on violent terrorist activities must be the focus of our current struggle.”

Xi’s government lost no time making his vision a reality. And the campaign quickly began to extend far beyond a crackdown just on “violent terrorist activities.”

Cultural Genocide

By May 2015, when Mihrigul Tursun was first detained, Xinjiang was being transformed into a state of inescapable surveillance and “predictive policing.” There were ubiquitous cameras, thousands of police checkpoints, and hundreds of what the Chinese government euphemistically calls “reeducation” or “vocational training” schools. It was in these facilities that Tursun was tortured for months on end.

She was detained upon returning to China from Egypt, where her husband lived. Since the Chinese Communist Party views Egypt as a potential radicalization zone, party officials snatched her and abused her until they were convinced that she posed no threat to societal stability. Vast numbers of other Xinjiang residents have suffered similarly for far less.

Various sources put the total number of Uyghurs and other Xinjiang Muslims detained in the camps in 2019 between 1.1 million and 3 million. This is of a total population of just 10 million Uyghurs, which grows to 12 million when the count includes non-Uyghur Muslims, some of whom have also been detained.

Xi’s government says the purpose of holding these individuals is to educate religious extremism out of their thinking and to teach them Mandarin and job skills. But evidence from survivors such as Tursun and from two caches of highly classified Communist Party documents reveal the true goal: Xi Jinping is using his dictatorial powers to perpetrate cultural genocide.

‘The Organs of Dictatorship’

Before Xi, the Communist Party portrayed China as a multiethnic society that believed in cultural pluralism. In this spirit, it permitted various minority populations certain government-sanctioned expressions of distinction. But Xi has changed that. He has shown himself determined to “Sinicize” Xinjiang and to subdue and assimilate Uyghurs into a monolithic Han culture.

“The organs of dictatorship” must be used to subdue the region, Xi told Communist Party leaders during a 2014 speech that was transcribed among the documents leaked in 2019. “Show absolutely no mercy,” he said. “The weapons of the people’s democratic dictatorship must be wielded without any hesitation or wavering.”

Inside Xinjiang’s camps and prisons, Chinese agents are implementing these orders. They are forcing detainees to consume alcohol and pork and forbidding them to pray or speak their language. They are subjecting those who resist to torture, sexual abuse, forced abortions, sterilization and transplanting their organs against their will. The organs of dictatorship.

Outside of the camps, Xinjiang has been transformed into the world’s most technologically advanced and obtrusive police state. Arabic script and Islamic imagery is being eradicated from businesses and homes, often replaced by pictures of Xi and Communist China’s founder, Mao Zedong. Mosques and Muslim graveyards are being systematically destroyed.

The Communist Party is not only detaining Uyghurs, but they are often replacing them, in their own households and in their own beds next to their wives with Han Chinese men. The party is literally breeding Uyghur genes out of Xinjiang: genocide by father replacement.

This and more was confirmed to the world when the party’s internal documents were leaked. Yet the leak and the international condemnation that followed does not seem to have shaken Xi. He has claimed that the personal testimonies and leaked papers are “fabrication and fake news.” The Global Times, which his party controls, recently praised Xi’s “training centers” in Xinjiang for their success in turning potential extremists into “normal people.”

While he used the “organs of dictatorship” to commit cultural genocide, including cutting organs out of unwilling victims, Xi was also successful in early 2018 in removing the constitutional term limits on his rule. His organs of dictatorship can now continue for the rest of his life.

It is clear that this self-justifying and unfathomably powerful Chinese dictator will keep on asserting his will upon the Uyghurs and all of China’s 1.4 billion people. And this will result in profound suffering for millions far beyond “the great family of Chinese national territory.”

The Ends Justify the Means

In the modern age, Xi’s immense and almost entirely unchecked powers seem somewhat anomalous. But history is filled with dictators like him. Such men have almost always produced broad-scale abuses of human beings like those now underway in Xinjiang.

Give government enough power, and this is what happens.

Qin Shi Huang, Ghengis Khan, Vlad the Impaler, Ivan the Terrible, King Leopold ii and Adolf Hitler: All used the organs of dictatorship to gruesome effect. Xi’s fellow champions of communism are notorious for it: Mongolia’s Khorloogiin Choibalsan killed tens of thousands of his people; Cambodia’s Pol Pot killed almost 2 million of his own people. But they were merely bullies on a playground compared to the Soviet Union’s Joseph Stalin, who slaughtered 20 million to 60 million. Then there was Mao Zedong, Xi’s recent predecessor, under whose despotic reign 65 to 75 million Chinese people were starved, tortured, bullied to suicide or executed as traitors. “Every Communist must grasp this truth,” Mao said. “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”

Over and over again, when a human government is given great amounts of unchecked power, genocide, politicide, democide, repression and egregious human rights violations are inevitable. This is often because the leaders feel violence is justified to build a better world, and they succeed in selling their vision to supporters. In many cases, it is a matter of leftist, utopianist tyrants who believe the ends justify the means. My vision is noble, and my ideals are virtuous. I must use absolute force to quash dissent so my ideals can become reality. I must wield my power pitilessly today to create a beautiful world for tomorrow.

When an authoritarian is driven by such thinking, the throat of liberty is slit. Human rights are blindfolded and shot in the street. And rule of law is publicly guillotined. These are all necessary casualties in the pursuit of the larger goal. They are the blood sacrifices that must be offered up to the “greater good.”

Possibly,  Xinjiang is just the beginning—such authoritarian governments and policies will soon dominate the world.

Saturday Special: Thomas Becket’s Murder That Shook the Middle Ages

The assassination of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral on 29 December 1170 changed the course of history. Becket was one of the most powerful figures of his time, serving as royal Chancellor and later as Archbishop of Canterbury. Initially a close friend of King Henry II, the two men became engaged in a bitter dispute that culminated in Becket’s shocking murder by knights with close ties to the king. It is a story of betrayal, of the perceived abuse of power and those who fall for standing in the way of the Crown. Here we explore Becket’s rise and fall, and unpick the events that led to the murder that shook the Middle Ages…

Who was Thomas Becket?

Becket was a second-generation French immigrant, born around 1120 in Cheapside, in the City of London, to Gilbert and Matilda, who had left Normandy following the Norman Conquest. His father was a well-connected merchant but the family was neither excessively wealthy nor powerful. Becket was sent to school at Merton Priory and, after a few years studying in Paris, he eventually gained employment through one of his father’s friends as a clerk for Theobald, the then Archbishop of Canterbury. Becket was described by his contemporaries as intelligent, charming and authoritative and, in 1155, he got his biggest break. Recognising his talents, Theobald suggested that Henry II appoint Becket as Chancellor of England. He and the king quickly became close friends, hunting, gaming and travelling around England together. Becket embraced life in the royal court: he is said by his contemporary biographers to have enjoyed vast wealth, throwing lavish parties, decorating his residences with beautiful furnishings and making numerous journeys to France on his own ships.

Rise and fall

When the position of Archbishop of Canterbury became vacant, Becket was put forward. Given his lifestyle and reputation he was an unlikely candidate but the king had other ideas. Henry was keen to appoint his close friend to the role but, crucially, he wanted him to continue as Chancellor. With Becket in both positions, Henry saw an opportunity to exercise greater authority over the Church as well as the state. Becket was appointed Archbishop on 23 May 1162 and consecrated (officially blessed) on 3 June. However, at some point during the rest of that year, and against the king’s wishes, Becket resigned as Chancellor. His actions drove a wedge between him and the king which would never be repaired. From this point on, Becket’s relationship with Henry began to deteriorate. A series of disputes ensued regarding the division of power between the Crown and the Church. By 1164, tensions were at an all-time high and, in October, Becket was summoned to appear before the King’s council and ordered to forfeit all his personal property. He refused to accept the terms of his punishment and, fearing further repercussions from the king, he fled to France.

Life in exile

Becket remained in exile in France for six years. During this time Henry flexed his power in England. His most blatant snub of his old friend’s authority was his decision to have his son, Henry the Young King, crowned in June 1170 by Becket’s long-standing enemy, the Archbishop of York, . Becket appealed to the Pope and, under significant pressure, Henry agreed to reopen negotiations. Following this, the Archbishop and the king spoke privately for the first time since 1164, and Henry promised to restore Becket’s rights as Archbishop of Canterbury. Becket was reassured that it would be safe to return to England. However, his final act was to punish those involved in the unauthorised coronation. Before leaving France Becket issued three letters expelling (excommunicating) the Archbishop of York and two bishops from the Church. This act was to have devastating consequences upon his return to England.

The lead up to the murder

Becket returned from exile on 1 December 1170. Contemporary reports record that he was greeted on his journey back to the Cathedral by cheering crowds and rejoicing monks, but he faced increasing hostility by the authorities loyal to the king. Meanwhile, the Archbishop of York and the Bishops of London and Salisbury, furious that they had been excommunicated, travelled to Henry’s royal court in Normandy where they relayed Becket’s actions to the king. Henry was outraged and, although it is unclear whether he ever specifically ordered retribution for Becket’s actions, his furious outburst prompted four knights – Reginald FitzUrse, William de Tracy, Hugh de Morville and Richard le Bret – to travel to Canterbury in search of Becket. One of Becket’s biographers records Henry’s words as: What miserable drones and traitors have I nurtured and promoted in my household who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born clerk!

The crime scene

We are fortunate to have five eye-witness accounts of Becket’s murder, all of which broadly agree on the details of what took place. One key account was written by a man named Edward Grim, who was so close to Becket during the skirmish that he was wounded by one of the knight’s swords. Grim tells us that when the four knights arrived at Canterbury Cathedral, Becket was in the Archbishop’s Palace. They attempted to arrest him but he refused. Becket was persuaded by the monks to take refuge in the church, but the knights pursued him, bursting into the Cathedral with swords drawn, terrifying those inside by shouting:

“Where is Thomas Becket, traitor to the king and the kingdom?” the knights then rushed at him… roughly manhandling and dragging him, intending to kill him outside the church, or carry him away in chains.

As Grim recounts, Becket held tight onto one of the Cathedral’s pillars to prevent them seizing him, and it was at this point that one of the knights raised his sword for the first time, bringing it down on Becket, slicing off the crown of his head. Two of the other knights then started to attack Becket and most of the monks fled. The third blow brought the Archbishop’s life to an end. Gruesomely, by the end of the attack, Becket’s crown had: “separated from the head so that the blood [turned] white from the brain, and the brain equally red from the blood.” 

The murderous knights were accompanied by a clerk, who, because of his involvement, became known as ‘Mauclerk’ or ‘evil clerk’. Following the attack, this Mauclerk put his foot on the neck of the holy priest and precious martyr, and, horrible to say, scattered the brains with the blood over the pavement. “Let us go, knights”, he called out to the others, “this fellow will not get up again. 

The aftermath

Chaos ensued following the murder, and with none of those present knowing what to do next, the body remained where it had fallen for several hours. Some individuals dipped parts of their clothes in his spilled blood, or collected it in small vessels to take away in anticipation of Becket’s future sanctity. After spending the night on the high altar of the Cathedral, he was buried by the monks the next day in the crypt. Reports immediately circulated of miraculous healings connected to Becket. Facing increasing pressure from the people of Canterbury, the monks opened the crypt of the Cathedral so pilgrims could visit his tomb. An extraordinary wave of miracles was recorded and, in recognition of this, Becket was made a saint (canonised) by the Pope on 21 February 1173. It was one of the fastest canonisations in history. Becket’s reputation as a miracle-working saint spread quickly and people from all over Europe started to flock to Canterbury in the hope that they would be healed. As well as visiting the tomb, pilgrims could also purchase a mixture of his blood and water, called St Thomas’ Water, which was bottled and sold by opportunistic monks in small lead vessels called ampulla. Henry II, in a public act of penance for his involvement in the murder, visited the tomb in 1174, granting royal approval to Becket’s cult.

Becket’s death and subsequent miracles transformed Canterbury Cathedral into one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in Europe. In 1220 his body was moved from the crypt to a glittering new shrine in a purpose-built chapel upstairs in the Cathedral. Geoffrey Chaucer famously captured something of the atmosphere of pilgrimage to this shrine in his Canterbury Tales. In death Becket remained a figure of opposition to unbridled power and became seen as the quintessential defender of the rights of the Church. To this end you can find images of his murder in churches across Latin Christendom, from Germany and Spain, to Italy and Norway. Becket was, and remains, a truly European saint. His relics at Canterbury were visited by people from across the continent until 1538, when Henry VIII would label him a traitor, order the destruction of his shrine and try to wipe him from history altogether. That, however, is a story for another time.

Will the Trump Peace Plan Bring Peace?

Henry Kissinger once said there is no other choice than the peace process. That is terribly wrong! That is not a choice of life today, given socio-political tarnished environment. Last Tuesday, United States President Donald Trump unveiled his peace plan for the Middle East. It was 180 pages and covered an enormous number of specifics. The White House called it “the most detailed proposal ever put forward by far.” It received support from Israel: President Trump announced it at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by his side. But Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas responded, “We say a thousand times: No, no and no to the deal of the century.”

Does anybody really think this plan will bring peace? I don’t suppose many people do.

The Bible tells us to beware when you are hearing a lot about peace. The Prophet Jeremiah wrote of false prophets “saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14; 8:11). Isaiah the prophet foretold of a time when “the ambassadors of peace shall weep bitterly.” Diplomats run around talking about peace, peace, peace—but we never have lasting peace. This has been true throughout history.

When they keep talking about peace, you know we are about to have war—war like you have never seen! Did you know that Jerusalem means “city of peace”? You would almost think that is a sick joke. There has been no lasting peace in that city. In fact, Jerusalem has flowed with rivers of blood! And Islam is supposed to be a religion of peace and yet both are at war. 

Why do these peace plans always fail? There is a reason—a cause we need to understand. Jerusalem provides a stunning example of this reason. Many of the most arduous peace efforts have centered around this city. For years, many nations have labored to bring it peace and have failed.

We desperately need to understand this fundamental point. If ever there was a time we need to be concerned about how to bring peace to this world, surely it is now. The number one problem the world faces today is human survival! Many nations are acquiring nuclear weapons and honing their nuclear power! We are facing a nuclear war that stupefies the imagination!

Isaiah said, “The way of peace they know not” (Isaiah 59:8). There is a way of peace—but mankind does not know that way! Man keeps trying to somehow generate some kind of peace, but never can.

This is a deadly dangerous issue. If we are to avoid great suffering, we must understand how to have peace. We need peace not only in nations, but in our own homes. How do you have peace in a home?

There is a way, and you can absolutely prove it. In fact, even the name Jerusalem, “city of peace,” is prophetic, telling us that we will have peace—in spite of man, not because of him.

‘Peace’ Process

Over some decades now, the United States and Britain have pressured the Jews to accept a peace process that has repeatedly failed. Clearly America and Britain, like the rest of mankind, do not know the way to peace.

When the modern State of Israel came into being in 1948, the Arabs immediately attacked. The Jews had no real army. Within three weeks, they were losing the war. Then the Arabs strangely agreed to a temporary United Nations-sponsored truce. This is just what Israel needed to rearm and train its weary troops—many of them civilians who carried guns. Soon after, the Arabs started attacking again. This time the Jews were well prepared and quickly won the war. It was a miracle from God.

The Jews experienced many miracles in the following years. The Six-Day War in 1967 was a major clash between the Jewish nation and Egypt, Jordan and Syria. In that short but intense conflict, the Jews captured all of the Sinai, the Suez Canal, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights—in six days! Study that history and you will see they were aided by miracles.

In late 1973, the Arabs attacked again, this time on the solemn Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. With much aid from the Americans, the Jews won the war in three weeks—another miraculous deliverance.

At some point, however, the Jews decided to stop looking to God for help. They decided, prodded by America and Britain, to seek security by negotiating with the very people who wanted to destroy them.

In 1993, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat made a pact in which Israel gave up land for promises of peace. Arafat, before he led the Palestinians in the peace process, was the number one terrorist in the Middle East! Does it make sense that you could somehow achieve peace by making a deal with a famed terrorist? There is no logic in that!

Even as Arafat talked about peace to the Israelis and to the world, in private he would often tell people of his plan to take over Israel and destroy the Jews completely! That was always his ambition! Yet somehow we thought that simply handing him land would soften him or convince him to abandon that goal. Such reasoning shows terrible weakness and only encourages an enemy who thinks like that. Swapping land for peace has never brought peace.

Since the start of that peace process, the Jews have given up Gaza, Jericho, Bethlehem and the West Bank to the Arabs. Think about that: Arabs attacked the Jews on multiple occasions with a goal to annihilate every one of them! Where in history can you find a war where the victors later gave the land back to the aggressors who tried to wipe them off the map?

Today, the Jews have very little land left. They have run out of land to give away. Yet the Trump peace plan includes a map that shows a lot of Israeli territory becoming a new Palestinian state.

To think that if you give the Palestinians their own state they will abandon their plans to destroy Israel is utterly delusional! Those peace plans are a deadly delusion! We ought to see by now that it won’t work! Every time we have tried giving land for peace, or negotiating with terrorists to bring peace, it has only brought more war!

Something is terribly wrong with man’s reasoning. “The way of peace they know not.” Men are trying to work the problem out themselves, and are even looking to their enemies to make a peace pact with!

The truth is that nobody can bring peace in a family or a nation unless there I inherent desire for peace and that is simply not there. You will never have peace any other way.

These leaders seem to have more faith in their enemies than in themselves!  The human mind is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. That is human nature, and we can never have peace as long as we have human nature. Man must be rid of human nature before we can ever have peace!

Iran has created a presence and influence in Gaza, Lebanon and Syria. It has surrounded the Jews, and it hates the Jews more than anybody in the Middle East. Yet today, Israel is proffering a peace pact with, essentially, an Iranian proxy! That will never work!

Indian Engagement With Sri Lanka Vis-a-vis China

Today is the day when the new Prime Minister of Sri Lanka starts his visit to India and during Mahinda Rajapaksa’s India visit,  two major issue are likely to crop up- the Tamil issue and Indian efforts to counterbalance Beijing’s influence in Indian Ocean

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s official visit to India is taking place just a a few months after he assumed office and his brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa was sworn in as president. The two were voted to office on a Sinhala nationalist wave, a sentiment that isn’t primarily anti-Tamil this time, but a fallout of the Easter attacks on Christian shrines, including the Saint Anthony’s shrine, in April last year. The attacks had killed more than 250 people, six months before the elections. The polarisation worked in favour of the Rajapaksas vis-à-vis Sri Lanka’s 10 per cent Muslim population, mostly Tamils, who are especially numerous on the country’s east coast.

The “Easter tragedy” remains mysterious. The Sri Lankan authorities did not pay adequate attention to the warning signals that India had sent them about an imminent attack. Moreover, on September 22, 2019, Gotabaya’s official spokesperson admitted in an interview that Zahran Hashmi, the chief architect of the Easter tragedy, had been supported by Gotabaya himself when he was the defence secretary. Whatever the circumstances and politics behind this massacre, it fostered ethno-religious polarisation before the elections.

While Muslims have become the number one scapegoat for the Easter tragedy, the Rajapaksas have not tried to engage the Hindu Tamils, who voted against the duo. Hindu Tamils, who make about 11 per cent of Sri Lanka’s population, have had an acrimonious relationship with Mahinda Rajapaksa ever since he wiped out the LTTE in 2009 — many members of the community became collateral victims in the process. Gotabaya was the defence secretary at that time. The Hindu Tamil factor may complicate India-Sri Lanka relations.

Muslims were targeted by the Bodu Bala Sena. For instance its chief, Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara, is reported to have said: “If the (Buddhists) monks could get the support of even 7,000 temples in Sri Lanka for one political front during the elections, and each temple can garner 10,000 votes for that front, there could be a Sinhala government”. Today Sri Lanka’s government has 49 Sinhalese Buddhists, two Tamil Hindus and no Muslims.

The China factor is likely to aggravate the complication: The Rajapaksas are known to be pro-Sri Lanka. Mahinda Rajapaksa was largely responsible for opening Sri Lanka to massive — and strategic — Chinese investments. The Hambantota Port and 15,000 acres have been conceded to China on a 99-year lease, causing considerable consternation in New Delhi, which apprehends that this deep sea port could be used for military purposes, and not just trade. The deal was put on a hold by former PM Ranil Wikremasinghe but the present dispensation wants it to be restored. This Sri Lanka-China axis was the main reason why India is reported to have helped the opposition to the Rajapaksas before the 2015 election. In fact, Mahinda had accused India’s top espionage agency for engineering his defeat in 2015.

India’s effort were also designed to thwart China extending its influence in Sri Lanka at a time when the Narendra Modi administration is trying to counter Beijing’s clout in the Indian Ocean. Modi’s visited on May 30, 2019, just after beginning his second tenure as PM. Few days later, Modi visited the Saint Anthony’s shrine to show his solidarity with terrorism-affected Sri Lanka.

New Delhi has tried to engage the new Sri Lankan government after the Rajapaksas assumed office. India’s foreign minister S Jaishankar, landed in Sri Lanka on November 20, 2019 to invite Gotabaya for his first visit to India — rather than to China. Gotabaya visited New Delhi for three days in late November last year. Jaishankar is said to have told Gotabaya that India expects his government to treat Tamils with dignity in the process of reconciliation. There is speculation that India might appoint an ambassador of Tamil origin to Colombo.

The Indian PM went further when Gotabaya Rajapaksa visited New Delhi: He announced a $50 million line of credit for security and counter-terrorism and another $400 million for development and infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka. Modi did not miss the opportunity to explain that the counter-terror fund would further strengthen cooperation against terrorism after making an obvious reference to Easter bombings. In return, Gotabaya allayed India’s fears on China by saying that Sri Lanka would not allow a third country to affect Sri Lanka-India ties.

This question will again be part of the conversation that Mahinda will have in Delhi during his visit. But other issues are likely to be raised in relation to the domestic situation in Sri Lanka. In the Citizenship Amendment Act the Indian Parliament passed in 2019, the persecuted minorities of Sri Lanka are not taken into account. However, the Hindu Tamils of Sri Lanka are feeling insecure again.

They look at Rajapaksa brothers as hostile to minorities. After all, when the new president took oath — in Anuradhapura, the historical capital of the pre-British Raj Buddhist kings — he publicly regretted that the minorities had not supported him during the elections. Moreover, the BBS leader Gnanasara declared that he would disband his organisation if the Rajapaksas win the general election in April 2020 because he would then consider his mission to have been accomplished. India may not wait for these elections to show its interest in protecting the minorities of Sri Lanka in order to be true to “India’s tradition to shelter the persecuted in  neighbourhood.

Weekend Special: Archaeology Teaches Sustainable Eating

What we eat can harm not only our health but the planet itself. About a quarter of all the greenhouse gas emissions that humans generate each year come from how we feed the world. Most of them are methane released by cattle, nitrogen oxides from chemical fertilisers and carbon dioxide from the destruction of forests to grow crops or raise livestock.

All of these gases trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. Extreme weather events like floods and droughts are becoming more frequent and severe in our warming world, destroying crops and disrupting growing seasons. As a result, climate change could wreak havoc on already precarious food supplies. The challenges for agriculture are vast, and they’ll only mount as the world’s population grows.

The new special report on climate and land by the IPCC warns that without drastic changes in global land use, agriculture and human diets, efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions will fall significantly short of targets to hold global temperature rise below 1.5°C.

A food system that produces nutritious food without harming the environment or other aspects of our well-being is sorely needed. But can it produce enough food to feed billions of people while reversing biodiversity loss and pollution?

This is where I believe archaeologists and anthropologists can help. Our recent paper in World Archaeology explores past agricultural systems and how they could help make agriculture more sustainable today.

Canals and corn in South America

There’s a long history of societies around the world experimenting with the way they produce food. Through these past successes and failures comes perspective on how humans have transformed local environments through agriculture and affected soil properties over thousands of years.

Ancient agricultural practices weren’t always in balance with nature – there’s some evidence that early food growers damaged their environment with overgrazing or mismanaging irrigation which made the soil saltier. But there are also many instances where past systems of growing food improved soil quality, increased crop yields and protected crops against flooding and drought.

One example originated in Pre-Incan South America, and was commonly used between 300 BC and 1400 AD. The system, known today as Waru Waru, consisted of raised soil beds up to two metres high and up to six metres wide, surrounded by water channels. First discovered by researchers in the 1960s around Lake Titicaca, these raised field systems were introduced into wetland and highland areas of Bolivia and Peru over the following decade. The canals used in Waru Waru farming could make food production more resilient to climate change.

Although some projects failed, the majority have allowed local farmers to improve crop productivity and soil fertility without using chemicals. Compared to other local agricultural methods, the raised beds capture water during droughts and drain water when there’s too much rain. This irrigates the crops all year round. The canal water retains heat and raises the air temperature surrounding the soil beds by 1°C, protecting crops from frost. The fish that colonise the channels also provide an additional food source.

Research is still ongoing, but today these Waru Waru systems are regularly used by farmers throughout South America, including in the Llanos de Moxos, Bolivia – one of the largest wetlands in the world. Waru Waru farming could prove more resilient to the increased flooding and drought that’s expected under climate change. It could also grow food in degraded habitats once considered unsuitable for crops, helping ease pressure to clear rainforest.

Fish as pest control in Asia

Monocultures are a much more familiar method of agriculture to people today. These are the vast fields that contain one type of crop, grown on a huge scale to guarantee higher yields that are easier to manage. But this method can also degrade soil fertility and damage natural habitats and decrease biodiversity. Chemical fertilisers used on these farms leach into rivers and oceans and their pesticides kill wildlife and create resistant pests.

Growing multiple crops, rearing different species of livestock and reserving different habitats for conservation could make food supplies more nutritious and resilient to future shocks in the weather, while also creating more livelihoods and regenerating biodiversity.

That may sound like a lot to consider, but many ancient practices managed to achieve this balance with rather simple means. Some of them are even used today. In southern China, farmers add fish to their rice paddy fields in a method that dates back to the later Han Dynasty (25–220 AD).

The fish are an additional protein source, so the system produces more food than rice farming alone. But another advantage over rice monocultures is that farmers save on costly chemical fertilisers and pesticides – the fish provide natural pest control by eating weeds and harmful pests such as the rice planthopper.

Research throughout Asia has shown that compared to fields that only grow rice, rice-fish farming increases rice yields by up to 20%, allowing families to feed themselves and sell their surplus food at the market. These rice-fish farms are vital to smallholder communities, but today they’re increasingly pushed out by larger commercial organisations wishing to expand monoculture rice or fish farms.

Rice-fish farming could feed more people than current monocultures while using less of the agricultural chemicals which pollute water and generate greenhouse gas emissions.

The enduring success of these ancient methods reminds us that we could reimagine our entire food system to feed ten billion people while rejuvenating wildlife and locking carbon away. Instead of reinventing the wheel, we should look at what worked in the past and adapt it for the future.

POTUS’s Forthcoming Visit to India

It won’t be like any other US presidential visit. That’s a safe assumption because with President Donald Trump, everything is different. And interesting.

First, he has his own patois — it is ‘amazing’ as it is ‘unbelievable’. As he said once, ‘I have the best words.’ They can fly out on wings, or hit like bullets. They can be ‘brilliant’ or ‘terrible’, depending on his mood. Things can be a ‘complete and total’ surprise.

Trump’s ability to reduce rivals to one word is devastating — Hillary Clinton (‘crooked Hillary’), Joe Biden (‘Sleepy Joe’) and Nancy Pelosi (‘nervous Nancy’) have all suffered. India is the ‘tariff king’. And these are the softer ones. His name for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man and owner of The Washington Post, is best left to the imagination.

Let’s hope Trump will come up with a friendly moniker for his Indian adventure, set to begin on February 24. It’s a standalone visit with no diversions, despite fervent requests from Islamabad. Last month’s Davos meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is deemed enough for the moment, since it came with yet another Trump offer to mediate on Kashmir. The message: deliver theTaliban in Gandhian mode and then ask.

First Lady Melania Trump will accompany the president along with some Cabinet members and an entourage of officials. Whether his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner would join is unclear. The delicate decision is yet to be taken.

A huge ‘Howdy, Trump!’ rally is already in the works to complement the ‘Howdy, Modi!’ gathering in Houston last year, where Trump appeared with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in front of a crowd of 40,000 Indian Americans.

The idea is to recreate the magic, even if Modi’s own magic seems to be diminishing. It shouldn’t be a problem since rallies are BJP’s ‘thing’ — made to order, done to scale and designed to please. The venue is in Gujarat, which makes it easier to gather the extended New Jersey family.

But ab ki baar, don’t diss the Dems, yaar! Things shouldn’t get too ‘Trumpian’ in the excitement, given it’s an election year in the US. The president will, no doubt, project himself as India’s ‘best friend’, better than any president in history. Almost ‘perfect’.

He will list the steps his administration has taken to put India at the centre of his Indo-Pacific policy, even agreeing to give it a wider geography to align with New Delhi’s. This is the ‘big league’. Subtext: please tell your relatives back in the US to vote for Trump.

Will Modi keep his and India’s distance from domestic US politics? Memories of Houston and his virtual endorsement of Trump are still fresh in the minds of Democrats. Subtext: if you can’t build bipartisan support, at least don’t undermine it.

The substantive part of the visit is still under discussion. Don’t be surprised if Trump and Modi issue a statement that goes further than the ‘Joint Strategic Vision for Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region’ announced by Modi and President Barack Obama in 2015. Trump gets a special thrill out of besting Obama.

The US president is also expected to preside over the signing of a ‘trade deal’ after long, tortuous negotiations. Some US insiders think it’s an exaggeration to call it a ‘trade deal’, which implies greater strides than are being made here.

Shifting a few tariff lines is not a deal. It’s such ‘small potatoes’ as to be embarrassing, one India watcher said. Americans are constantly surprised by India’s attempts to be a powerhouse by closing its economy while extolling the international trading system. Vietnam, meanwhile, is running away with the loot.

Of course, the Indian side feels it’s giving away the kitchen sink and expects ‘full restoration’ of duty-free privileges under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP). Anything less would be a political minus for Modi. The Trump government withdrew GSP benefits last year because trade talks were going nowhere except in circles.

To the Indian complaint that Washington keeps ‘adding’ new demands to the list, the US response: India didn’t do anything to address the reasons for GSP removal for two years while continuing to levy tariffs on more US products. The list grew as a result.

Of course, if Trump decides to get into the weeds of the trade deal on the flight over, it could be total ‘covfefe’. Or maybe not. He needs to add India to his victory lap on trade deals. He may decide it’s the world’s ‘best’ deal.

Plethora of Buddhas

Buddha was imagined differently by Ambedkar, Savarkar and Nehru. Ambedkar believed that Navayana Buddhism, rooted in social justice, was the only way to stop caste affirming Manuvadi Brahminism that threatened India’s Constitution. Savarkar argued that pacifist Buddhism is the reason why India gave up its martial Hinduness and was overrun by violent Muslim and Christian forces in the last thousand years. Nehru admired Buddhist ideals as the inspiration behind the secular governance of India’s greatest emperor, Ashoka. All these three imaginations about Buddha, which are widespread even today, owe their origin to Edwin Arnold who in 1879 published a book called Light of Asia that introduced the literary world to the Buddha.

Before the publication of this book, Buddha was largely unknown to the Western world, as well as to Indians. He was at best a minor avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu, preserver of the world. Arnold’s book was a loose adaptation of the Mahayana scripture, Lalitavistara, which was composed in Sanskrit in the 3rd century AD, 800 years after the historical Buddha. In 1928, the book was adapted into a silent film called Prem Sanyas, directed by Franz Osten and Himanshu Rai.

It is this Orientalist vision of Buddha that most of us are familiar with, as it is the Buddha that reappears again and again in popular books of the 20th century, including the Amar Chitra Katha retelling. It tells the story of Prince Gautama of India, who renounced his kingdom, his wife and newborn son, and became an enlightened monk, who taught people the importance of conquering desires to overcome suffering. It is this understanding of Buddhism that is carried forward till date by the gentle and avuncular ever-smiling Dalai Lama. And it is this understanding of Buddhism that startles the West when confronted with the violent politics of Buddhist countries such as Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand. Academics are only now unravelling the diversity of Buddhism in its 2,500 year history.

Scholars of the Pali language are trying to differentiate the actual words spoken by the Buddha from later additions by monks, who were mostly from elite Brahmin families. They have argued that Buddha never claimed he was from a royal family. All we know is that he came from an affluent family of farmers, who had many houses and were known to be generous. He never refers to his wife or child.

Gender studies are now pointing out to the essential misogyny and patriarchy of early Buddhism. The Vinaya Pitaka, the code of discipline for monks, are full of stories where women are seen as the obstacles of dhamma. One reason why Buddhist monks were encouraged to wear robes rather than wander naked, like Jain munis for example, was to hide their spiritually charged bodies from the lust of women. Monks were advised to travel in pairs, if not groups, to avoid contact with women.

While women were allowed to be monks, there were more rules for women than for men, and they were never allowed to lead the community, and the belief emerged that they had to acquire male bodies in order to attain nirvana. In these rulebooks, we find the first documented laws that were meant to keep gays, lesbians, hermaphrodites and transgenders out of the monastery. Literary analysis of Jataka tales reveals that while the Buddha-to-be took birth as plants and animals and humans in various professions, he never once took the form of a woman.

Art historians are noticing that women are relatively underrepresented in Buddhist art. There are more images of Buddha with his mother, who died soon after his birth, than with his wife, who he renounced. Mahayana texts describe all-male heavens such as Sukhavati with paintings of Buddhas who are born from lotus flowers, to avoid contact with female flesh.

The popular Buddhist goddess Tara appeared only a thousand years after the historical Buddha, around 5th century CE, in the Ellora caves of Maharashtra, and in cave paintings of China, around the same time, manifesting as the female wish-fulfilling Bodhisatva or Kwan-yin. Unlike the passive and dispassionate Buddhas of older Buddhism, Buddhas of Himalayan Buddhism dated to the Pala period (7th to 10th century) are both sexual, copulating with shaktis, and yoginis, and even violent, trampling Hindu gods such as Brahma, Indra, Shiva and Ganesha, in the form of Heruka and Yamantaka.

European Orientalists took pains to differentiate Hinduism and Buddhism. In India, such differentiations mattered only in elite circles, between orthodox Brahmins and orthodox Buddhists. Rest of society worshipped both Buddha as well as Brahminical gods, which is why the Buddhism, which spread to Southeast and East Asia from 3rd to 13th century CE, has Hindu gods such as Indra, Brahma, Ganesha, Kubera, Lakshmi and Saraswati alongside images of Buddha. Even Muslim warlords who broke idols in northwest India 7th century onwards, did not differentiate between Hindu and Buddhist images. For them, the Arabic-Persian word for any idol was ‘but’, a derivative of ‘Buddha’.

Lazy scholarship, and politics, prefers a static, simplistic and homogenous vision of the past. This is why WhatsApp groups are nowadays flooded with memes seeking to either appropriate Buddhism into Hinduism (‘Hindu gods worshipped in Buddhist Japan’), or position Buddhism as a counter to Hinduism (‘Mindfulness yoga is Buddhist, not Hindu’). The former is favoured by Hindutva groups, the latter by Ambedkarites and neo-Buddhists. The only way to dilute such pernicious binaries is by exploring the many Buddhas out there

Time to Stop Typecasting Communities

We had our own undeclared culture war in Canada in part because of the way Trudeau, and to some extent, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, hammered Conservative party Leader Andrew Scheer and even Green party Leader Elizabeth May, over two wedge issues with ties to religion — abortion and same-sex relationships.

These two ethical concerns were torqued so hard that most of the electorate likely lost track of any real sense of what Canadian Catholics and Sikhs actually believe about abortion and LGBTQ issues. The public might be surprised.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau regretted in the fall that “divisiveness and disinformation were all too present features of this past election campaign,” in which he acknowledged he had become a polarizing figure.

What the Liberal party leader didn’t quite admit, however, is he played an oversized role in turning the October 2019 election, in which his party was reduced to a minority, into a toxic battle about, of all things, religion and sexual ethics.

Who would have thought it would come to this in multicultural, multi-faith Canada? We like to think it is only other countries, like the rivalrous U.S . or India, that are torn apart by religion-fuelled conflict.

The Angus Reid Institute found Scheer, an active Catholic, suffered the most as a result of his religion. Commentators say it’s a key reason he announced last month he would step down as Conservative leader.

More than 51 percent of Canadians told pollsters they developed a negative attitude to Scheer based on what they heard about his Catholicism and his

A smaller proportion, 36 percent, leaned negative about the religion of Trudeau, who says he is Catholic. Voters’ pessimism declined to 31 percent for May, an Anglican who wears a small cross on a necklace, and to just 24 percent for Singh, an orthodox Sikh who wears a turban and carries a ceremonial dagger.

Faith clearly remains combustible in Canada. Even though two of three Canadians believe having “freedom of religion” makes this a better country, more than one in five admitted they feel deeply “repelled” when a political candidate is a person of faith.

Scheer’s political opponents didn’t want voters to forget he is personally “pro life” on abortion. That lead to Scheer often saying “as leader of this party it is my responsibility to ensure we do not reopen this debate.”

Nor did Liberal or NDP campaigners want anyone to overlook that Scheer doesn’t attend Pride Parades. To which Scheer’s typical defence was, “I find the notion that one’s race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation would make anyone in any way superior or inferior to anybody else absolutely repugnant.”

But Scheer’s commitments to non-prejudicial behaviour did not assuage a suspicious electorate. Two of three Canadians said they don’t trust politicians to keep their personal views out of the public realm.

It’s possible, however, the public might have felt a bit more trusting of Scheer if they knew most of the country’s 13 million Catholics, many of whom are recent immigrants, are not nearly as uniform or doctrinaire as they are often portrayed.

Even though the Catholic church has long opposed any “direct attack on the fetus,” University of Lethbridge sociologist Reginald Bibby and Angus Reid reveal in their book, Canada’s Catholics, that 85 percent of Canadian Catholics approve of abortion when a woman’s life is in danger.

Illustrating striking variance among the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, the book also shows half of Canadian Catholics believe “a woman should be able to obtain a legal abortion for any reason.” That was the same pro-choice stand championed by Trudeau and Singh.

When it comes to same-sex relationships, Catholic authorities continue to formally oppose them, while urging compassion. However, Canada’s Catholics are much like the rest of the laissez-faire population: “Close to two in three approve both of same-sex couples marrying and their adopting children.”

Canada’s 13 million Catholics are hardly doctrinaire on abortion or same-sex marriage.

Contradicting the pundits, who said before the election that Singh would provide the strongest test of voters’ tolerance for religious diversity, Angus Reid Institute polls show he was harmed the least because of his religion, in which he often expresses pride.

It’s conceivable many Canadians were, through extroverted, upbeat Singh, getting more exposure than ever to a member of the Sikh faith, which is about 500 years old, rooted in the Punjab region of India, has about 27 million followers and more than 500,000 in Canada (mostly in Greater Toronto and in Metro Vancouver).

But just as Scheer does not come close to representing all of Catholicism, Singh does not represent all Sikhs. Nobody, especially a politician, can embody everything about faith (and that includes the pope).

Sikh scholars make it clear that followers hold a spectrum of beliefs about abortion and homosexuality, most of which are more conservative than those promoted by the NDP leader.

In Sikhism: A Guide for the Perplexed, respected University of Michigan professor Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair says the “idealistic” position in the Sikh religion, which teaches reincarnation, is opposition to abortion.

“To terminate a birth through abortion would be tantamount to refusing a soul entry into a particular body and sending it back to the cycle of birth and deaths — a choice that is not ours to make,” says Mandair.

However, the professor says many Sikhs today feel “morally ambiguous” about abortion and are less “hard and fast” about it. Mandair says Sikhism’s ethical bottom line is abortion, though sometimes acceptable, should not be “driven by selfish motives.”

Many Sikh leaders have condemned homosexuality in recent years, leading to most members of the faith believing in a “hetero-normative model of sexuality” that discourages alternative forms of family.

Such a process of forcing homosexuals to go underground, as it were, has led to a belief among many Sikhs that there are no homosexual Sikhs. Despite it, the professor maintains the primary source of Sikh ethics, the Guru Granth Sahib, does not justify castigating homosexuality.

All of which should help demonstrate that followers of religions are not monolithic. So we can always hope next time an election comes along more voters will have a bit better understanding of people of faith.

In that way, perhaps fewer politicians will try to twist religion-linked concerns into dangerous wedge issues.

A fake hero and a million-dollar scam

Recently, Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai made headlines yet again on account of her distasteful comments regarding India’s latest move to fast track development in Jammu & Kashmir by abrogating Article 370. Ever since India abrogated Article 370, Pakistani citizens and government have seemed pretty restive. Malala Yousafzai, a make-believe human rights activist, spoke on expected lines. Even though she comes from a country which is known for its poor human rights track record and fomenting cross border terrorism against its immediate neighbours, she lectured India about human rights violation in Kashmir.

To quote an extract from her open letter- “There is no need for us to continue to suffer and hurt each other. Today I am worried about the safety of the Kashmiri children and women, the most vulnerable to violence and the most likely to suffer losses in conflict. I hope all South Asians, the international community and concerned authorities respond to their suffering. Whatever disagreements we may have, we must always defend human rights, prioritize the safety of children and women and focus on peacefully resolving the seven decade old conflict in Kashmir.” 

However, this is not the first time that Malala’s hypocrisy has been exposed. Earlier this year, she came under fire after she blocked a Twitter user asking for justice for two Hindu girls who were kidnapped and coerced into marrying Muslim men in Pakistan. The Twitter user had tagged the Nobel Peace Prize winner and stated, “Two Hindu girls of your age were kidnapped from their home, were molested and forcefully converted to your religion, Islam. The world should know about this barbaric act by Islamists. Please RT in support of those two poor Hindu girls. Thank you.” She has also made unsavoury remarks about India in the past.

Malala made it to the headlines during 2009 when she wrote a blog for BBC Urdu about her life under Taliban rule. Later, New York Times journalist Adam B. Ellick made a documentary on her life. She started giving interviews on Pakistani channels about the importance of education for girls and this is what irked Taliban. On October 9th, 2012, a Taliban gunman entered her school bus and tried to kill her by firing three bullets. One of them severely injured the left side of her forehead. While under treatment, she was moved to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England on October 15th. Since then, this-United Nations certified-brave girl has been staying in the UK. Her father suggests they may consider returning to Pakistan only after Malala Yousafzai completes her University education.

Malala Yousafzai was hailed as a brave warrior and was given the opportunity to meet Queen Elizabeth II, Barack Obama, etc. She also spoke at Oxford Union, Harvard University, the Girl Summit in London, and during certain events in the US, Canada as well. In October 2013, she met then US President Barack Obama and surprised everyone by suggesting Obama to rethink on drone attacks that the US uses to kill terrorists in Taliban-controlled areas of Pakistan. She stressed on the point that educating terrorists can solve the terrorism issue. And this is where her tryst with hypocrisy started.

How idiotic can one be? In spite of being a victim of Taliban’s attack, she does not want the US to target Taliban militants in Pakistan? Perhaps, she is not aware that most of the Islamic terrorist group leaders are highly educated. She must read news reports in order to understand that such groups are run by educated fellows.

Her wealthy father has established ‘The Malala Foundation’ and collected millions in the form of funds from organizations and celebrities, including actress Angelina Jolie. Reports suggest that in June last year, Malala’s organization started school for Syrian migrant children in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.

She has won several awards, rewards, appreciation, Nobel Peace Prize, medals, etc till date. She has been traveling across various countries, giving lectures, television interviews, criticizing Donald Trump, collecting funds, and so on. Surprisingly, she or her father has never criticized ISIS for brutally raping and killing non-Muslim women in Syria and Iraq. She never urged the UN to take immediate action in order to save Yazidi girls from clutches of Islamic State. However, the Nobel Peace Prize winner has urged people to not blame Muslims for terrorism.

While Malala Yousafzai lectures other countries about human rights and has also spoken up on Kashmir’s issue following abrogation of Article 370, even though it is India’s internal issue. However, her hypocrisy stands exposed as the Nobel Peace Prize winner now seems oblivious towards human rights violations in Pakistan, where hardly any women activists are left. 

Imran’s Well Known Hypocrisy

Imran Khan came into limelight because of cricket, and yet he has not imbibed any sense of honesty and fair play in real life. Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, has been interviewed many times on the plight of Uighur Muslims in China. The first few times he actually had the audacity to say he did not know anything about the problem, instead, he wanted to focus on the Muslim population in Kashmir. After several diplomats have been to Kashmir and found life for the inhabitants better than before, Imran is now focused on the Muslim population of India. Unfortunately, for him, no country is buying his propaganda.

In Davos once again he was asked about the Muslims in China, who are literally, in re-education camps in the millions, separated from their families, their organs sold in China’s organ transplant business which earns them billions of dollars from desperate foreigners who agree to pay any amount for an instant organ transplant.

This in itself should be a major human rights abuse, but Imran turns a blind eye and says, China has been Pakistan’s best friend and such problems are not in the best interest of Pakistan to be discussed openly.

Thus he has made his hypocrisy on persecuted Muslims plain. He will not talk about the Muslims in Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan hit by the Taliban, or anywhere else in the world, except India, where if asked, the Muslims of India would refuse to be a part of Pakistan, as some sects in Pakistan are treated not only as second class citizens but their citadels of prayer have to be guarded. For instance, the Shias places of prayer have been selected for IED blasts on a regular basis. The Muslims of Baluchistan, a province of Pakistan, has had several decades of war against the establishment and many Pakistani writers have written about their genocide, which has never got world media attention. The Pashtuns in Pakistan are suffering the same fate as the people of Sindh.

How long can Imran Khan think he can get away by ignoring the atrocities on his own people by trying to divert the attention to Muslims in India? Not long. No international institution is buying his fake narrative anymore. Ordinary Pakistanis are suffering from major inflation in food prices. Wheat prices have gone up a hundred percent as well as sugar and vegetables. Gas and electricity bills are soaring. The average Pakistani is getting fewer Rupees in hand and sky-high prices that are making lives unbearable. Inflation is in double digits and joblessness has grown. In fact, some Pakistani news channels are openly reporting that millions of families have gone below the poverty line since the new government came into power.

The latest news is that though every country in the world is getting its citizens evacuated from China’s Wuhan province, including India and Indonesia, Pakistan has said they will not do this. Videos of their students in colleges in China near Wuhan have surfaced, pleading with the Pakistani govt to evacuate them as students from India and Indonesia are being evacuated but the government in Pakistan is not listening. Some reports suggest that their hospitals are not equipped to handle the virus, others say they are better off in China, as Pakistan would not have the wherewithal to handle such an epidemic.

The fact is that Imran Khan has made a mess of Pakistan and with its external debt rising and different provinces having mass scale agitations on human rights , he seems to be floundering and blaming everything on past governments. It worked in the beginning of his term but now a year and a half into his tenure, he can’t keep blaming past dispensations. Even Pakistanis are no longer buying it, leave alone the media and the world.

The Financial Action Task Force might keep Pakistan on the grey list yet again, even though it knows that neither Hafiz Saeed or any other terror heads have been convicted or gone to jail as promised by the government. They move around freely, as do the heads of the Taliban network who are protected and nurtured in Quetta. They fly in and out of Quetta for peace maneuvers being made out of Qatar.

There is so much evidence against the state-sponsored terror groups in Pakistan, that it is no longer able to convince world bodies about its actions against them. But there is Malaysia, China and Turkey ready to bail out Pakistan and it seems that the FATF is just another political world body where even insurmountable evidence can be overridden just by three countries, even when several nations support the evidence. This does seem to be quite ingenious. But then nothing in the world is based on only evidence. It’s all politics and self-interest. Imran Khan, however, with his stirring speech on Islamophobia, in the United Nations, has been caught in a bind by the world media on his justification of China and its treatment of its Muslim population. He is no longer believable on the plight of Muslims worldwide, his own country being one of the worst offenders. His hypocritical stance is clear for the world to see. No one is buying his Kashmir story anymore, why should they? It would be best if he got his own house in order first.