Saturday Special: Soul Leadership

“When we are thrown into fire – some of us come out well-cooked and ready to serve the world, some of us simply get burnt and uselessly shrivel away.” – Turkish Proverb

The global crisis today has awakened our sleeping conscience. For decades, we have ignored the seeds of injustice and trauma woven into the very fabric of our society. Today, those seeds have grown into mighty trees with branches spreading across every aspect of life, choking humanity. The global suffering we face today is a sacred passage to a better world, if we EACH decide to make it so.

It is time to gently move towards the fire, instead of turning away. It is time to look at the pain people are going through and let ourselves be scorched, so that we may rise as phoenixes- understanding that by participating in social action, we can be a better-prepared community for facing crisis. It isn’t just collective liberation that we will win from fighting social injustice, but personal liberation too. We have each now seen how planetary crisis isn’t a far-off, ‘out-there’ situation for the world authorities to deal with, but is actually something that will knock at our own doors.

Experiencing trauma and tragedy does not change everyone- although it should. Some of us fall back asleep. Some of us go on to create revolutions. Suffering comes with a purpose – to create transformation, to wake up sleeping dragons, to unleash dormant power. When we are triggered by suffering, we need to seize the moment, seize the emotional upheaval, and ‘MAKE’ it change us, not ‘WAIT’ to be saved. We need to ask questions –

1) Why is this happening?
2) What is blowing it so out of proportion?
3) What solves it?
4) What could we have done better, as individuals who create a society, to have improved this?

The answers are within EACH of us. We will each come up with our own weapon to chop the branch of corruption that’s blocking the daylight. And then, when we come together, we will be an army who fight with mind, body and soul to chop down that mighty tree with it’s many dark branches.

Throughout history, it has always been suffering that has birthed new world orders. When, as a people, we have had ENOUGH of turning a blind eye to oppression, in any of it’s myriad forms, we have fought and changed the world. Right now, we are on the brink of another revolution. Are we going to be the ones who will continue to bear moral, economic and planetary degradation – looking over the horizon with longing eyes for a better world? Or are we going to be the civilization who picks ourselves up and walk into battle for a new world order, a better tomorrow for our children?

For the world to change, we can’t be helpless bystanders, standing on the edge waiting for someone to do something. We have to each make a vow – a promise that we will commit to ideals. This will take dedication and a new way of life. This will mean facing fears, speaking up, diving in with teeth and claw, making trouble for those who put selfish gain over community well-being.

Consider:

1. An economy that has been designed to keep the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer- where inequality has been normalized, when in fact, if we had reigned in the lakhs of crores of corrupt money and set upper limits on individual wealth, inequality could have been wiped out long ago.

2. A world in which ANY crisis – whether its a pandemic or an economic recession – ALWAYS hits the underprivileged first and hardest, leaving them fighting between life and death.

3. A world in which millions die of starvation even though sufficient food is produced.

4. A world in which intolerance, violence, crime and anarchy is ever increasing.

5. A world ignoring the silent screams of political prisoners.

6. A world which does not even realize that it is amidst moral and physical catastrophe – a world where people cannot differentiate between right and wrong, good and bad, black and white – because ‘grey’ has been toted fashionable.

7. A world where militarization for profit and power is draining our energy resources, re-directing funds meant for human development into war.

8. A world where political instability is castrating international organizations.

9. A world where foreign-aid and funding is used for political interest and corporate beurocracy instead of human interest.

10. A world where industries are allowed to burn up non-renewable natural resources instead of being incentivised to create ecological solutions

11. A world of political chauvinists whose so-called ‘patriotism’ supersedes respect to human life itself.

12. A world where human rights like education and healthcare have been turned into the most profitable business ventures instead of social service domains.

13. A world where climate change and natural disasters threaten us with disease, starvation and extinction. It isn’t that we don’t have scientists, researchers and brilliant minds to find solutions. It’s just that the country never seems to have money to spare for this research. They do have enough and more for political campaigns, multi-billion dollar weddings, monument constructions etc. though!

14. A world where businesses and governments are increasingly non-accountable.

The fortitude to face all this cannot be rooted in denial. Let your heart break. Let your tears flow. Because once you decide to face it, the depression will stop, and your inner hero will arise. If we don’t do this, Earth will turn into a hell-realm. Dramatic? Yes, but that’s what we’re on the brink of. Wake up the hero in you. The world is in need of heroes again.

To be effective agents of social change, every individual has to start with themselves. Begin by understanding that the antidote to pain and fear is ACTION. Take ANY action to solve a problem that bleeds your heart. For example, I took up a pen to write this and share with as many people as I could. As a business owner, I have re-ordered my business for better profit sharing and personal support. I have decided to purchase only sustainable, eco-friendly products. I have decided to give up designer labels (by the way, fashion industry is one of those with the most unreasonable profit margins. Huge designer labels set 700% – 7000% profit margins or more, but the profits are not distributed to labour. They are pocketed by that one big name that makes many salivate – a mirror of all other industries) go with more reasonable brands (I’ve found that they don’t lack sophistication or beauty). I waste no energy resources – water, electricity etc. in buildings where I have a say. I’ve taken measures to bring in eco-friendly constructions and contraptions into my spaces. I switched out of a blue-chip corporate career to start a profession that brings well-being to people. I donate money, time and effort to Causes that resonate with me. I try to be the person who walks into a room full of anger or sadness, and change that energy into love, peace and joy. I try to balance between selfless giving and self-care. I try to lead a truthful, unpretentious, responsible and caring life instead of flashing shiny, meaningless objects and lifestyles at people’s faces. And I know that all of this is making a difference. I don’t get it right 100% of the time, but I do sleep better at nights.

I don’t share this to strut. I share this to show every person out there who is asking the question: “What can I do to contribute?” The answer is: do all you can! Start small. Baby steps today, giant leaps tomorrow! Speak. Make art that transforms souls. Tell stories. Donate. Pray. Do whatever you can, but spare the world a thought every single day. And before you know it, you will be an integral part of a new revolution – a new, better world.

Prospects and challenges in South China Sea Issue

Notwithstanding optimism reflected at the 36th ASEAN Summit on 26th June 2020 in the Chairman’s statement that noted the progress of the substantive negotiations towards the early conclusion of an effective and substantive Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) consistent with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS and welcomed the completion of the first reading of the Single Draft COC Negotiating Text, any hope of early finalisation of the CoC remains a pipe dream.

China and the ASEAN have been holding talks for years to evolve a CoC, a set of regional norms and rules in the South China Sea (SCS) to avoid conflicts in the disputed waters. When the Single Draft for CoC was made at the 51st ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers’ meet in Singapore in 2018, it was termed as ‘a milestone’ and a ‘breakthrough’ for the CoC negotiation. This, however, does not indicate the truth. A look at the draft would make this dimension clear.

The Single Draft actually contains only the differences on important issues. First, the geographical scope has not been defined in the draft. Unless the CoC covers the entire South China Sea, it would be meaningless. Second, its legal status is not defined. While most ASEAN members desire that CoC should be legally binding, China does not want this. Third, the CoC must follow international law and norms but this can’t be accepted by China, which has ignored the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s (PCA) Ruling based on international law and norms. The PCA Ruling has pointed out the illegality of the Chinese claims and that should be taken into account for framing rules for CoC. Fourth, there is no agreement on the dispute settlement mechanism. An effective monitoring mechanism is essential for enforcing international law and norms. Only then mutual cooperation and trust can be built among the claimants. Crucially, it must be ensured that China does not try to impose its unjust ‘orders’ over others. In the past, China had asked Vietnam to stop oil drilling with the Spanish company and threatened war if the Philippines tried to enforce the PCA Ruling or drilled oil in the disputed areas. Fifth, on the applicability of the CoC on third parties, there are differences. While China does not want to indicate the rights of the third Parties, US Secretary of State in his interaction indicated that the rights and concerns of the third parties should be incorporated.

In essence, the Single Draft places all the differing views and can be considered as the agenda for future meetings. The Draft is a “living document,” which means the parties may add to or subtract from the draft text. At present, it appears that the process of finalisation of CoC would face several hurdles. Both China and other claimants are unwilling to change their positions. While China aims at turning the South China Sea into its lake, other claimants are not prepared to accept the illegal claims of the Chinese sovereignty in the region and give up their rights that rea protected under the UNCLOS. The discussions during the Draft reflect that some of the claimants are now becoming more assertive in opposing China. The hesitation to talk about UNCLOS and international norms in the presence of the Chinese representatives is vanishing. The strengthening of this trend with the support of external powers can reduce to some extent the Chinese ability to use coercive diplomacy. This factor propels Beijing to keep the other claimants away from other external powers.

In fact, very little has been achieved in regard to CoC. The contentious issues have remained unresolved. Neither Beijing nor other claimants have shown any inclination to accommodate each other on these issues. There is no hope that it would be finalised by 2022 as decided between China and ASEAN.

It is necessary to understand the game-plan of China in prolonging the discussions. China diplomatically wants to drag this dialogue to project that the claimants are talking among themselves and there is no need for external involvement and also to gain time to strengthen its claims through different means like enhancing its presence, further militarisation of the features and to change the perception of the International Community on its claims in its favour. China has already bought sufficient time to consolidate its position in the encroached areas. The time gained is also utilised for engineering divisions amongst ASEAN members using coercion and allurement for financial assistance. The division engineered in 2012 in ASEAN over criticism of the Chinese aggressive acts may be giving hopes to China that it would succeed in future also. Another factor that China may be keeping in view is that its military strength has to match that of the US, which is unhappy over the Chinese attempts to establish hegemony in the SCS. For this, China requires some more time. Besides, China hopes that with its wide publicity over its claims in the SCS, the International Community may begin to accept the Chines claims.

The domestic population, which is kept on a diet of irredentism and ultra-nationalism has to be satisfied. Xi when he took over as the President had projected the ‘Chinese Dream’ to restore all the territories in the periphery, which China projects to have lost to the forces of imperialism and colonialism. The SCS was shown as the Chinese area and If Xi fails to get it, his position would be weakened. The publicity given through the Chinese maps showing SCS as their area has a two-fold objective- first to create a misimpression in the world that the area in the nine-dashed line belongs to China and second to convey to the domestic population that China is working hard to get back the region and that requires their support. It has recently given its own names for 80 features to reflect its sovereignty over them.

The overall strategy of China is to bring SCS under its control to have the strategic depth for operations in the Indo-Pacific region. For this, it intends to strengthen its naval force and for this it needs time. It has scant interest in having a CoC that would impose some restrictions on China. Therefore, China is playing a waiting game for the CoC. And if it is finalised under some pressure, China would renege as has been seen in the past. Trust on China among the International Community has vanished. Other claimants need to understand this game plan of China.

China has started its aggressive moves in all the periphery areas- ECS, SCS and at the Indo-Tibetan border. This has angered US, Japan, Australia, UK and other European countries. The hegemonic designs to alter the geopolitical map is not liked by them. The anti-Chinese sentiments are on the increase as it is violating international norms. The recent approach to UN by Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia as also by US against the Chinese claims which are not legal as per the PCA verdict and UNCLOS provides with an excellent opportunity to press for CoC that would be legally binding with a monitoring mechanism and preferably with the involvement of UN. The chair of ASEAN has already established a process for ASEAN-UN dialogues. This needs to be utilised for pressurising China for the CoC and implementation of PCA Ruling. The Chinese aggrandisement and militarisation of SCS give it major advantages in all situations. Hence, countering the broader geostrategic threat that China is posing by its activities in the SCS demands urgent counter-action action by all stakeholders desirous of peace, stability and security in the region.

For Covid, an empathy primer

What can be a more real threat that fascism or totalitarian thought in any democracy striving to preserve its freedoms?

“Other-ism” has been part of the human semantic arsenal for ages. Here, I propose a new variant of this concept more suited to our fast-paced, kill-by-scattershot-meme times — namely, “Bogey-ism”. The idea of “the other”, it goes without saying, has caused wars, genocides and recurrent epidemics of fear, hate and violence for pretty much all the long arc of our species memory. Indeed, many socio-biologists hold that the cognitive processes of “othering” have been an evolutionary constant across cultures.

It seems a plausible hypothesis, then, that an investment in creating narratives of otherness enabled societies to form strong, sustaining self-images in prehistory as well as history. Certainly, epics everywhere would have lost their stuffing ages ago if they did not have Ravana as a foil to Rama, Spartans to scale the Trojan walls or the repeated confrontations between Liyongo, the eponymous hero of the great Swahili epic, and his vindictive brother, Mringwari, to reinforce notions of a good “self” versus its evil “other”. The survival value of myths is precisely their ability to push otherness as a limit concept, as the penumbra boundary of an enlightened selfhood.

More recently, when two world wars brutally broke the spine of the 20th century in half, decolonisation, mass migrations and the redrawing of national borders followed in short order. As a result, old insider-outsider distinctions were dumped and everyone was suddenly a “designated other”, as evidenced in wartime classics such as Albert Camus’ L’Etranger or The Outsider. Meanwhile, the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas articulated an “ethics of the other” in which the Other epitomised what he called “the primordial phenomenon of gentleness”. Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela are uncontested modern exemplars of such a strong-willed philosophy of toleration in the political sphere.

I want to argue, however, that we may need to imagine today a more nimble and less portentous cousin of Levinas’ “primordial” Other, one more suited to the current communication technologies that obviously include the ubiquitous 24X7 cycles of “breaking news”, swathes of social media chatter, full-Monty exposures to the spout-mouths of opinion gurus, and so forth. The psychological impact of these hosts of jumping-jack stimulations via simulations is still unclear, but there is little doubt that they have physically affected the circadian rhythms, the sense of location and body space of at least half the world’s population. It stands to reason, then, that our long-standing perceptions of otherness have also been influenced by these mass-scale global changes in the perceived proximity, the mobile intimacies, of the “other”.

Hence, just as the Princeton philosopher Harry Frankfurt suggested in his 2005 bestseller that “bulls**t” was a particular variety of the blanket noun “lie” that most aptly described a substantial part of US public discourse, I want to suggest that “the bogey” is a sub-type of the ancient and baggy concept of “the other” that works especially well as a rhetorical tool in virtual, mediatised contexts. According to Frankfurt, “truth” is no constraint on a person seeking to persuade or woo others through words; he can say more or less anything he likes if not bound by legal oath. Bullsh****ng is not lying; rather, it is semantic leverage. Now, how about bogey-ism as a “disruptive” form of other-ism?

Bogey-ism, as I see it, has at least the following half-a-dozen features: One, it derives its emotional energy from the primal emotion of fear; two, it requires a mythic narrative space in which the teller can quickly locate a “scarecrow” enemy, usually conjured up via a simple stereotypic word or phrase; three, it invariably infantilises its narrative hearers; four, and relatedly, its attitudinal stance is protective and “patriarchal”; five, it thrives in the polarised environment of populism; and finally, six, it is mostly immune to “truth-hood” but can be dissipated, vanquished or diminished by exposure to the luminous rays of reason, scepticism, irony and irreverence.

Six simple sentences that illustrate the pit-stops of a bogeyman narrative are: The bogeyman is coming to get you. He will snatch from you your freedom, health, well-being and all your birthright securities. He will destroy who you are, your precious, intrinsic selfhood. He will turn you into your dreaded other. But I have your back and will save you from this monstrous scarecrow. Trust in me, then, my dearly beloveds.

Modern nation states are ideologically structured and so, it follows, are their scarecrows. As a consequence, we are quite familiar with a huge array of bogeys: Communist, capitalist, terrorist, fascist and anti-national bogeys; religious bigot and godless atheist bogeys, gendered bogeys and alien sci-fi bogeys; virus, druggie, population explosion and universal corruption in the developing world bogeys. Individuals such as, let’s say, AOC, Greta Thunberg, Kangana, Sonia, Mayawati or Mamata can also be prone to being portrayed as scary threats to a posited “way of life”.

At this point though, I must emphasise that it is certainly not my case that these bogeys — and countless others — are all false or bogus. What can be a more real threat that fascism or totalitarian thought in any democracy striving to preserve its freedoms? COVID-19, likewise, has proven to be a massive attested danger in almost all the world’s nations. How then can we possibly include it in a list of “bogeys”? My point here is that the seeds of bogey-ism are only planted when we start calling COVID-19, for example, the “China-virus”, letting it drag a whole people in its wake, or when we infantilise Thunberg as an “autistic child”.

Further, it would be naïve to believe that it is the historically or scientifically observed “reality” of bogeys that concerns most of the current legion of populist leaders. No, the fact is that Nazism, Stalinism, McCarthyism and what have you, are too complex a bunch of phenomena, too embedded in the intricacies of history, to explain at painful length to those already suffering from mind-boggling information overload. The health hazards posed by a coronavirus similarly require a patient’s respect for expert knowledge accompanied by the humbling acknowledgement that much about such viruses remains mysterious even to experts.

These are times of great psychic vulnerability when we yearn for authoritative “paternal” voices to lead us out of the deserts of confusion, to direct our intuitive senses of panic, loathing and resentment. Populist rhetoric must thus make swift play for sources of fear nearest to home, be they Mexicans or Muslims, taxmen and thugs; it must be able to pull a bunch of favourite scarecrows out of its closet at immediate notice. To my mind, the best antidote to any such fear-mongering tactics is to listen to our “outsider” selves with intelligent empathy. So let’s bogey, shall we?

China Secretly Owns Corporate America

America prides itself on its great companiers having global reach like an octopus. Depite all action of MAGA and claims of being a leader in capitalism, the shocking reality is that over fifty great American companies are owned by China. The so called Great American Companies are Secretly Owned by China.

America takes pride in boasting that America is home to many companies that are true titans of industry. From Microsoft to General Electric to General Motors, all of these thriving businesses help buoy the economy when it needs it – but even these giants need to get their money from somewhere. 

Some brands that you may think are quintessentially American are actually owned or overseen by Chinese investment conglomerates. It’s not always obvious until you see it yourself – even sports clubs have some interesting stakeholders. Read on to discover just how much help some of these well-known brands get from Asia

General Electric

Headquarters: Boston, Mass. Bought By: Haier Headquarters: Qingdao, China

General Electric may have started out as a relatively small brand when it was founded in 1892, but the company has grown exponentially since then. Now, GE has its fingers in a lot of pies, from aviation and healthcare to power and venture capital. It’s a titan. 

Many Americans find the brand appealing because it has a “Made in America” stamp on its products, however, the company has been owned by Chinese company Haier since 2016. Haier bought GE for $5.4 billion, a recording breaking sum at that time. The products are still made in the USA, but the decisions are made in China.

AMC

Headquarters: Leawood, Kansas, Bought By: Dalian Wanda Group, Headquarters: Beijing, China

AMC cinemas have been around for 100 years, providing movie lovers with a wonderful, relaxing experience watching the latest blockbuster hits. AMC is prolific for many reasons, not least because it’s the largest movie theatre chain in the world. 

AMC might be short for American Multi-Cinema, but in reality, Chinese company Dalian Wanda Group was the majority stakeholder from 2012-2018. This did change slightly when Silver Lake Partners made a $600 million investment back in 2018, but Wanda Group still calls the shots when it comes to making decisions at the executive level. 

Smithfield Foods

Headquarters: Smithfield, Virginia, Bought By: WH Group, Headquarters: Hong Kong

When it comes to producing pork-based products, Smithfield Foods reigns supreme. The company has been going since 1936 when it was created by Joseph W. Luter and his son. The business grew steadily over the years to become one of the largest in the industry, with over 500 farms in America alone. 

Back in 2013, WH Group bought Smithfield foods for the astronomical sum of $4.72 billion. At that time, it was the most expensive acquisition made by a Chinese company in America. So, while Smithfield’s HQ might be in Smithfield, Virginia, the company is actually run from Luohe in Henan province. 

The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel

Headquarters: McLean, Virginia, Bought By: Anbang Insurance Group; Headquarters: Beijing, China

If you’re making a trip to New York, staying at the Waldorf-Astoria is a true taste of luxury. Not only is it an institution, but it’s also a part of American history. While the company is managed by Hilton Worldwide, it was bought by the Anbang Insurance Group of China in 2014 for $1.95 billion. 

That extravagant price made it the most expensive hotel ever sold. Anbang made some big changes to the Astoria, including making some of the rooms into condos. This Chinese company has also looked at buying several other American-owned businesses over the years, including Starwood Resort

IBM

Headquarters: Armonk, New York; Bought By: Lenovo,Headquarters: Quarry Bay, Hong Kong

As far as technology companies go, IBM has gone from strength to strength to dominate the market. Since its conception in 1911, the business has gone on to work on computer hardware, software, consulting services, invent the floppy disc, and more. The advancements the company has made are undeniable. 

Back in 2005, IBM announced that it had been acquired by Lenovo who paid $1.25 billion for the pleasure. The Chinese business poured a lot of money besides that into IBM too. According to the statement, “Additionally, Lenovo will assume approximately $500 million of net balance sheet liabilities for IBM.” 

General Motors

Headquarters: Detroit, Michigan; Bought By: Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp, Headquarters: Shanghai, China

General Motors holds the distinction of being America’s largest automobile manufacturer. As such, it’s also one of the biggest companies of its kind in the entire world, which certainly makes it profitable and appealing. 

While General Motors isn’t entirely owned by a Chinese company, it does rely on its partnership with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp to keep the money rolling in. Both of the companies formed a joint venture in 1998. SAIC sells companies under the General Motors name, even if customers don’t realize it. SAIC has its headquarters in Shanghai, while GM has theirs in Detroit. 

Tesla

Headquarters: Palo Alto, California;Bought By: Tencent Holdings Ltd, Headquarters: Shenzhen, China

Elon Musk might be the brains behind Tesla and the majority shareholder with 21.7%, but he isn’t the only one pumping money into the automotive company. There are plenty of shareholders, including Tencent Holdings Ltd. Tencent isn’t just into music, but a variety of things. 

Tencent is the world’s largest video game company and one of the largest social media companies, making it a force to be reckoned with. In 2019, it had a net income of $95.8 billion, so whatever they’re doing, they’re doing it right. At the moment, the company is still on the up and up. 

Microsoft Corp

Headquarters: Redmond, Washington; Bought By: FIH Mobile Ltd, HMD Global , Headquarters: Tucheng District, New Taipei

Microsoft Corp is a gargantuan business with many fingers in many pies. However, back in 2016, the company decided to ditch the entry-level feature phone side of its production to FIH Mobile Ltd. The deal brought in $350 million, which is still a relatively small change to Microsoft. 

Instead of cutting jobs, all 4,500 employees were given the opportunity to transfer to join FIH in the new direction of the business. Microsoft continued to develop other mobile phones though, including the Lumia line and other existing projects as well as partnerships with brands like Acer and Alcatel.

Hilton Hotels

Headquarters: McLean, Virginia; Bought By: HNA Group Co Ltd, Headquarters: Haikou, China

Hilton Hotels & Resorts has been operating since 1919 thanks to founder Conrad “Nicky” Hilton. From a handful of simple locations, Hilton became a worldwide name with 586 hotels in 85 countries by 2018. Hilton’s are everywhere. 

In 2016, China’s aviation and shipping titan HNA Group paid $6.5 billion for a 25% stake in the hospitality chain, becoming the biggest shareholder. This was the second purchase that year for HNA who also bought Carlson Hotels Inc. in a bid to spread its wings into the hotel industry. At the time of the purchase, Hilton was worth around $26 billion.

Sotheby’s

Headquarters: New York City; Bought By: Taikang Life Insurance Co Ltd, Headquarters: Beijing, China

What does a luxury broker of fine and decorative art and a life insurance company have in common? The answer is more complex than you might think. Sotheby’s was founded in London in 1744 before setting up shop in New York City and opening locations around the world. 

In 2016, Chinese life insurance company Taikang Life was announced as Sotheby’s newest majority shareholder. Taikang held that position until 2019 when the company was bought by French-Israeli titan Patrick Drahi. It’s unclear what happened to Taikang’s 13.5% stake or if they’re still in partnership with Drahi. 

Uber Technologies Inc

Headquarters: San Francisco, California, Bought By: Baidu Inc, Headquarters: Beijing, China

Grabbing a cab was made even easier when Uber rolled around, allowing users to book a ride with just a touch of a button. It was created by Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick in 2009, before going on to become a multi-billion-dollar business and a household name across the world.

In 2014, Chinese internet-search titan Baidu Inc. made a big investment of over $600 million to help Uber expand into China. The partnership was mutually beneficial, as Baidu wanted to use Uber to grow its mobile payment service. It was a match made in heaven. 

Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc

Headquarters: Chicago, Illinois; Bought By: Lenovo Group Ltd, Headquarters: Quarry Bay, Hong Kong

Motorola Mobility was formed in 2011 after Motorola split into two different companies. Mobility took control of the consumer electronics side of things, while Motorola Solutions focused on other aspects of the business. In 2012, Google bought Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion. 

However, they didn’t stick around for long. Google sold ownership to Lenovo in 2014 for much less than what they paid for it. Lenovo snapped up the company for just $2.91 billion, marking a loss of around $10 billion for Google. Since making the purchase, Lenovo has stopped making its own smartphones and concentrated on producing Motorola-branded ones

Electrolux AB (Eureka Brand)

Headquarters: Medford, Mass.; Bought By: Midea Group, Headquarters: Beijiao town, Shunde District, Foshan, China 

The Eureka Vacuum Cleaner Company was founded 111 years ago in Detroit, Michigan. As you might expect, the household appliance makers have undergone some drastic changes since then. Swedish company AB Electrolux bought the business in 1974, but manufacturing continued in the United States. 

In 2016, Eureka was sold once more to the Midea Group, who took over production of the products. According to the website, Midea prides itself on “humanizing technology”, bringing in a revenue of $40.5 billion in the last financial year. It’s unclear how much the China-based company spent on acquiring the business.

These is just a sample of great American companies secretly owned by China. And if the revenues of these over 50 companies is taken into account, then Chinese economy today is number 1. Americans take pride in something that is not theirs. And China continues its march to world supremacy.

Weekend Special: The mills of God continue to grind!

This saying read with familiar adverbs, “slowly, and too small” does make sense. These were the words of Plutarch, the Greek Philosopher (1st AD ) as the current adage in his Moralia. Somewhat like what we feel today. He was making a reference to an earlier utterance to an unknown philosopher, who more acceptably said, ”The mills of God grind late, but they grind fine”. There are many references to these lines to question or to abide by God’s will, taking hardship as an essential part of life. The proverb was in frequent use in Protestant Reformation. Amongst the many mentions of the adage down history, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, elaborates “Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small; Though with patience He stands to wait with exactness grinds He all.”

History must have faced more trying times, but their magnitude, patience, the theme to bear hardship, can only be seen, when one traverses through one. Fourth months down the line of suffering, morbidity, mortality, hypothetical use of all measures and medicines, we still can’t draw an exact line from the beginning to the unexpected spread we face now. Every adventurer or opportunist has jumped to into the pool. Each day a new vaccine, plasma therapy from a pre-infected donor (convalescent plasma), HCQ, BCG vaccines have been tried, but a much-awaited fool proof trial is still awaited to knock the doors of the multiple “control rooms” and committee rooms.

The final global count as of now has reached 1.50, 000 deceased, and close to three times the number testing positive, — a figure the mind refuses to analyse—-just goes numb.

Social distancing, hand cleansing, masks, and quarantine are the only measures, that have brought down the rates. The Indian figures, tragic, but somewhat acceptable, stand roughly less than 15,000 positives, and close to 5,00 deceased.

It was a great decision to go for a national lockdown in a country of 1.35 bn , struggling to align its economy, but the ruling chair, put lives before a sparsely affordable economic burden. With govt food-outlets, self- initiated human booths. A second stimulus of 1.7 lac CR announced and directly disbursed in farmer accounts should last a while, hopefully till the tide is turned.

With doubling rate going down from 3 days to 7 days. One has to catch a figure of 15 days, which is the quarantine period. At that stage, the numbers going into quarantine, would be the same as those coming out. That would be the first threshold in terms of survival and much needed manpower. By then, hopefully turnover numbers, may also decrease.

The clampdown, now extended till May 3rd has brought down much-needed discipline in the people as well as healthcare providers, and law enforcers. People lined up 5-6 feet away at chemist counters, without the usual daily jargon, and no punctuations as spitting is how the public behaviour should have been otherwise. These constraints on distancing and punitive action on spitting should continue.

In Delhi, policing has been immaculate. The on the move PCR vans, a cop hiding behind the pole is quick to book you before a red light, even if no contra traffic is seen for many metres.

The sense of self- imposed discipline is well understood.

The young medical warriors, have had un-imagined hurdles. Under normal training a young resident operates from a clinic with assistants, be it a hospital, a primary centre or a camp. With charged up situations, phobic minds as they are primed, it can be done in a better way. The doctors can set up a protected camp with all that is required to collect and preserve samples. A para medical staff or nurse may be accosted under police protection to the residents to ascertain particulars as per the Corporation register, and then asked to come to the collection centre. This should work better than a needless scare. Compliance would be better, and those who have given samples may be the ones to persuade others to follow a beneficia procedure.

Those who fail to turn up, may asked permission that the sample be collected at the doorstep, failing which, a notice may be served, with whatever be the legal implications, including any outbreak of the disease in the area, or family.

A cash strapped India, with holes in its pockets, announced with much audacity, that it cannot be dependent on external outlets for its basic needs. A lot of electronic hardware, telecom- based investments by foreign sources, may pile- up as too much of revenue to part with, besides raising another hostile front of mortgaging its land and infrastructure to a foreign party.

Self- reliance, is the key to equitable and well seamed external relations. This is the true “Make in India” definition. Somehow, as long as cheap material reaches your door step, you forget to run your own kitchen. With curbs on FII, the government throws a tough, though un-avoidable challenge at India Inc. The same applies to basic pharma research, vaccine research units, and setting up world standard API units. (active pharma ingredient).

With alliances with generic giants as Teva, other multinationals, Sanofi, Novartis, and Indian as Sun, Intas, the task goes abegging.

Roald Reagan’s famous words, later used by PM Man Mohan ji, “Trust but verify”, sound well as a Hollywood dialogue, but with such calamities, can erode the economic base of any country.

The demands of Indian industry bodies can be adjusted with a negotiated leeway, with strict promises of a good turnover, competing global markets.

It shall be essential to separate who worked on govt largesse, and those who showed their ability building nationwide services. NRIs, topping the field, can be roped in.

Yes, God’s mill’s, were slow, and gave little, but it appears they are nearing the final grind!

The work-culture is there, (see the Delhi Metro), but has to be modulated, and re-enforced. There are many in India’s group to support, and partake in their efforts to slightly alter the world’s economic order!

“Phir rag-e-koon mein charagaan ho,/Saamney who phir be-naqaab aaye”      Faiz

“Let the blood in my arteries light up, /Let them confront again, when a mask is not require

Whitening’ creams undergo a makeover but colorism persists

The world’s biggest cosmetics companies have been selling a fairy tale that often goes something like this: If your husband’s lost interest in you, if your colleagues dismiss you at work, if your talents are ignored, whiten your skin to turn your love life around, boost your career and command centre stage.

No company has had greater success peddling this message across Asia, Africa and the Middle East than Unilever’s Fair & Lovely brand, which sells millions of tubes of skin lightening cream annually for as little as $2 a piece in India.

The 45-year-old brand earns the Anglo-Dutch conglomerate Unilever more than $500 million in yearly revenue in India alone, according to Jefferies financial analysts.

Following decades of pervasive advertising promoting the power of lighter skin, a rebranding is hitting shelves. But it’s unlikely that fresh marketing by the world’s biggest brands in beauty will reverse deeply rooted prejudices around “colourism,” the idea that fair skin is better than dark skin.

Unilever said it is removing words like “fair,” “white” and “light” from its marketing and packaging, explaining the decision as a move toward “a more inclusive vision of beauty.”

Unilever’s Indian subsidiary, Hindustan Unilever Limited, said the Fair & Lovely brand will instead be known as “Glow & Lovely.” French cosmetics giant L’Oreal followed suit, saying it too would remove similar wording from its products. Johnson & Johnson said it will stop selling Neutrogena’s fairness and skin-whitening lines altogether.

The makeover is happening in the wake of mass protests against racial injustice following the death of George Floyd, a black man pinned to the ground by a white police officer in the US.

It’s the latest in a series of changes as companies rethink their policies amid Black Lives Matter protests, which have spread around the world and reignited conversations about race.

Activists around the world have long sought to counter Unilever’s aggressive marketing of Fair & Lovely, with the brand’s advertisements criticised by women’s groups from Egypt to Malaysia.

Kavitha Emmanuel founded the “Dark is Beautiful” campaign in India more than a decade ago to counter perceptions that lighter skin is more beautiful than naturally darker skin. She said multinational companies like Unilever did not initiate skin tone bias, but have capitalised on it.

“Endorsing such a belief for 45 years is definitely quite damaging,” Emmanuel said, adding that it has eroded the self-worth of many young women across India.

For women raised on these fixed standards of beauty, the market is awash in products and services that can both brighten pigmentation from skin damage and outright lighten skin.

At the Skin and Body International beauty clinic in South Africa, owner Tabby Kara said she sees a lot of people inquiring about going one or two shades lighter.

Historically, throughout North Africa and Asia, darker skin has been associated with poor labourers who work in the sun — unlike in Western cultures, where tanned skin is often a sign of time for leisure and beauty.

India’s cultural fixation with lighter skin is embedded in daily matrimonial ads, which frequently note the skin tone of brides and grooms as “fair” or “wheatish” alongside their height, age and education.

The power of whiter, fairer skin in many countries was further reinforced by European rule, and later by Hollywood and Bollywood film stars who’ve featured in skin lightening ads.

In Japan, pale translucent skin has been coveted since at least the 11th Century. So-called “bihaku” products, based on the Japanese characters for “beauty” and “white,” remain popular today among major brands.

The high-end Tokyo-based skin care brand Shiseido says none of its “bihaku” products contain ingredients that bleach skin, but do reduce melanin that can lead to blemishes.

The company says it has no plans to change its product names, including the “White Lucent” line, simply because other global companies have done so.

In South Korea, the words “whitening” or “mibaek” have been used in about 1,200 kinds of cosmetics products since 2001, according to the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety.

About $283 million worth of “mibaek” products were manufactured last year in South Korea, the ministry has said.

South Korean beauty company Amore Pacific said it uses the word “brightening” for exports to the US to respect cultural diversity.

The US-based Proctor & Gamble, which sells Olay brands “Natural White” and “White Radiance”, declined to comment when asked whether it had plans to rebrand globally.

Unilever said in its announcement that it recognises “the use of the words ‘fair’, ‘white’ and ‘light’ suggest a singular ideal of beauty that we don’t think is right.” Instead, the statement referred to products that deliver “glow, even tone, skin clarity and radiance.”

Alex Malouf, a Dubai-based marketing executive who was formerly at Proctor & Gamble, said companies had been playing to different audiences around the world but are now paying attention to the societal changes happening in the US and Europe, where shareholders are primarily based.

L’Oreal, for example, tweeted last month it “stands in solidarity with the Black community and against injustice of any kind.” Its products in the US include the Dark & Lovely brand, aimed at black women. Outside the US, however, the company was marketing its “White Perfect” line for a “fair, flawless complexion.”

South Asian Union Viable

South Asia and specifically India, can learn much from the European Union (EU).

This is despite the income dissimilarities. South Asia with a per capita GDP of current $1960 is low-middle income, at best. The EU with a per capita GDP of current $34,843 is high income. Also, Europe is rather blandly homogenous in religion and race, unlike diverse South Asia.

But the EU is not a gift of nature. Europe has worked hard to bind itself together. Squabbling over borders and leveraging external interventions to destabilize each other, in the classic Mir Jaffar style, is no longer their dominant leitmotif, as in South Asia

What is common to both regions is their rootedness in a shared history and culture, though language, food and customs differ. This is something we have not built upon sufficiently. Not surprising then that trade within South Asia is just 5% of its total global trade versus 22% in Sub Saharan Africa and 50% in East Asia (World Bank. 2018)

The twenty-seven members of the EU trade more with each other (average 60%) than globally – the only exception being Ireland. (Eurostat 2019).

In our “trade barrier” threatened world of today, the self-contained coziness of the EU is reassuring – not just for the smaller members, three fourths of whom account for just one fourth of EU GDP, whilst the biggest seven account for three fourths of economic power. In comparison East Asia, despite the trade links, remains fraught with geo-political tensions, boundary disputes and lacks the “comfortably settled” feel of European integration – despite the traumas of Brexit.

Political economy constraints are fingered for keeping South Asia economically fragmented. India’s long-term border dispute with Pakistan is complicated by geo-political incentives to avoid peace and reconciliation. The continuing domestic religious cleavage between Indian Hindus and Muslims does not help matters in our near abroad, with Muslim dominant neighbors to the East and the West.

This seems an impossible backdrop for peaceful trade relations. But too much should not be read into our new strategy of “domestic religious equity” versus the politically motivated “minority appeasement” of the past. India with nearly 200 million Muslim citizens jostles Indonesia for being the country with the most Muslims.

Our relationship with Bangladesh, under the existing regime of Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, are productively, cordial. We simultaneously have cultural and economic links with the Islamic states of the Gulf, Iran and Afghanistan. India has an open border with Nepal. We share a special relationship with Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Maldives.

The gains from trade, despite all this political capital are paltry. Why? “Gravity modelling” of trade – jargon for the assumption that countries situated closer together, trade more with each other, along with other factors like differences (or similarities) in income, resource and technological advantage, suggest that regional trade could triple from the existing 1% of regional GDP to 3%. (Kathuria, Sanjay 2018. “A glass half full”).

Despite the 2007 South Asian Free Trade Agreement, too many artificial constraints have been positioned to throttle trade. A long list of products categorized as “sensitive” effectively bars their import. Special (para) tariffs are added to normal tariffs for intra-South Asian trade but not for global trade. This incentivizes value diminishing external “third party” imports. Non-tariff barriers are formidable due to non-harmonized standards and protocols and poor infrastructure. The transaction and logistics cost are 20% higher than in East Asian regional trade. It is cheaper to trade with Brazil than with each other!

Joyeeta Bhattacharjee, of the Observer Research Foundation, who tracks the new Integrated ChecK Post facilities on India’s border with Nepal and Bangladesh, notes that these are far from the seamless, 24X7, digi-savvy, modern, low transaction cost facilities they were meant to be.

One problem is India’s economic dominance. It comprises just under 80% of South Asian GDP. In comparison, Germany, the powerhouse, is one fourth of EU GDP and combined with France 42%. The “frugal five” – Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Austria – whose austere fiscal policies resonate with Germany but are the bane of the big spenders in Southern Europe, together have 15% of economic power.

The more even distribution of economic power in Europe, together with high income levels, lends itself to more give and take. Nevertheless, the burden of making a success of the Union falls disproportionately on the more fiscally disciplined northern economies. The consumption oriented southern economies provide the markets for northern exports – a mirror image of industrious China and big spender US, till President Trump violated the delicate rules of economic integration by fingering China as an existential threat.

India’s relative regional economic dominance resembles China’s over East Asia, excluding the high-income economies of Japan, Korea and Singapore. The difference lies in the symbiotic relationships, China has diligently forged, by integrating the developing East Asian economies into its supply chains.

India is yet to grapple with its own economic insecurities before it can play the role of the benign South Asian hegemon like France-Germany in Europe or threateningly dominant China, in East Asia.

Nevertheless, comprehensive collaboration with neighbors is a key ingredient for regional development. Letting others profit from you is a powerful binder. Boosting cross border trade and investment, facilitation of trade between physically separated members like Nepal and Bangladesh or Sri Lanka and Maldives and the region, even at a fiscal cost to India, should be factored-in as the cost of pulling South Asia together. Indian business should get special incentives to develop regional supply chains and invest in the region.

Setting up a multilateral South Asian Development Bank (SADB) to finance green development could send a powerful signal of India’s commitment towards collaborative regional integration. An authorized capital of $50 billion and one half of that as subscribed capital, is substantial versus the regional economy of around $750 billion (excluding India).

India can provide 15% of the funds and leverage multilateral relationships for the residual from Japan, Korea, Australia, the UK, France, Germany, the Nordics and the US. The bulk of the incremental development financing would go to South Asian economies, other than India, including Afghanistan and Myanmar, under the open tender, human habitat and environmentally sensitive rules, followed by other multilateral banks.

Financial, cyber, space, industrial engineering and construction services and design are our comparative advantages. We must build on these core strengths whilst relying on regional partners for the downstream supply chains. Product and functional differentiation, rather than immiserating all-out regional competition, is a good way of incentivizing smaller economies for voluntary, regional integration. The Europeans know this. We should learn from them.

Australia Orders Google, Facebook to Share Online Ad Revenues

Indian government must take note of an Australian code that will force digital platforms Google and Facebook to share advertising revenues earned from news content with local news producers. The Australian government has taken note that while local media companies are struggling to stay afloat, Google and Facebook have raked in the moolah. Operating as monopolies, and behaving as if they do favours to news producers for displaying their content while incurring zero cost for news gathering, multinational tech giants can only be reined in with firm government regulations.

The Australian code envisages a time-bound process of bargaining/ negotiation between digital platforms and news producers (individually or collectively) – followed by mediation and arbitration, if necessary. When matters reach arbitration, the arbitrator will have to gauge direct (revenues) and indirect (customer acquisition/ loyalty) benefits accruing to digital platforms from displaying local news, costs borne by news producers for journalistic operations, and whether the final award places “undue” burden on a digital platform’s commercial interests.

This is an even-handed approach. It looks as if Australia has succeeded in belling the cat, when other governments don’t regulate US tech companies for fear of incurring the wrath of the US government. Other countries, including India, should follow in Australia’s footsteps. The tide is turning even in the US, evident from US Congress – which has been largely forbearing despite mounting anti-trust evidence – grilling big tech CEOs last week. Their questions, ranging from anti-competitive misuse of data to stifling of competitors, echo many Indian concerns. A committee of experts on non-personal data governance headed by Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan has flagged the rise of data monopolies with tech giants on one side ranged against Indian businesses, citizens, startups and even the government.

This phenomenon is already dogging the crisis-stricken media industry. Opaque algorithms and absence of regulations mandating data sharing with news partners leaves local media outlets, who are domestic job and wealth generators unlike digital platforms with their disproportionately poor local hiring, at a distinct disadvantage. Journalism also performs the critical task of strengthening democracy. If newspapers turn unviable and close down, governance and information dissemination will suffer. The corrupt will be emboldened as journalists will not be around to report on crumbling infrastructure, civic issues, law and order and political or bureaucratic malpractices. It is in India’s interest to closely examine the Australian model.

The Vision of Apocalypse Then

Today is the day, when 75 years back the horrofic deed of destroying a complete city happened- when US nuked a Japanese city out of existence. Bad as it was, the rfoundation was laid three years earlier. It may be an exaggeration to say the world lost its innocence on July 16, 1945. On the other hand, it would probably be an understatement merely to claim that something changed that day when, at 5.29am local time, a device containing about 6kg of plutonium exploded in a desert in New Mexico.

It has been claimed that the flash of light generated by the explosion, equivalent to 21,000 tons of TNT, would have been visible from Mars. The reactions among the Manhattan Project scientists witnessing the Trinity test varied from euphoria to panic.

A few people laughed and a few people cried but most of them were silent, the director of the project, J. Robert Oppenheimer, recalled 20 years later. Oppenheimer was well-versed in Sanskrit, and the phrase that flashed through his mind came from the Bhagavad Gita, where Vishnu informs Arjuna: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” More prosaically, test director Kenneth T. Bainbridge reputedly muttered a profanity: “Now we are all sons of b——.”

It wasn’t years or months but just weeks before the destructive power of the deadly discovery was demonstrated in very different circumstances. Fat Man, the device dropped on Nagasaki on Aug 9, was a replica of the test weapon. Three days earlier — 75 years ago — the uranium-based Little Boy had devastated Hiroshima.

‘Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.’

On the day after the Trinity test, a petition signed by 70 scientists had been sent to president Harry Truman, imploring him to give Japan another chance to surrender instead of immediately authorising the use of atomic weapons. “A nation which sets the precedent of using these newly liberated forces of nature for purposes of destruction may have to bear the responsibility of opening the door to an era of devastation on an unimaginable scale,” it said.

In the event, the US not only used the weapons but has worn the responsibility lightly ever since, insisting (despite evidence to the contrary) that the nuclear carnage was necessary for the conclusion of World War II. In fact, Japan was already willing to surrender; the only condition its military hierarchy insisted on was that the emperor, Hirohito, potentially culpable as a war criminal, remain on the Chrysanthemum Throne.

The US insisted on an unconditional surrender — but left Hirohito in place anyhow. The bombing of Nagasaki coincided with the Soviet Union’s declaration of war against Japan, in keeping with Stalin’s promise to his American and British allies that Moscow would rescind its neutrality on the Pacific front three months after victory in Europe.

Japan threw up its hands on Aug 15, and historians remain divided over whether it was the atomic apocalypse or fear of invasion by Uncle Joe that proved to be the last straw. The more than 200,000 mostly civilian deaths in Hiroshima and Nagasaki as a consequence of Fat Man and Little Boy also tend to obscure other Allied war crimes in 1945, including the destruction of Dresden in February and the fire-bombing of Tokyo in March. The latter is estimated to have killed up to 100,000 people in one go, and involved the sprinkling of napalm, which acquired far greater notoriety after its widespread use in Vietnam.

In a sound bite relayed on the BBC World Service earlier this year, a British prisoner of war who witnessed the annihilation of Dresden spoke of seeing women, children and anonymous body parts being tossed about as the bombs landed. Such dreadful sights cannot be unseen, he remarked, adding that in his opinion the terror tactics were intended to send a message — not to the by then retreating Nazis, but to the advancing Soviets.

The Cold War still lay ahead, but the pieces were falling into place before World War II ground to a halt after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and even the dastardly atomic bombings are viewed by some as partly, if not primarily, demonstrations of US technological supremacy intended to deter any overreach by Moscow.

It’s impossible to say with any certainty whether the strategically unwarranted mass murder in Japan would have gone ahead had Franklin Roosevelt not been replaced by Truman in April 1945. And it’s important to acknowledge — as German leaders often do, although Japanese politicians are more reticent about it — that most of the war’s worst atrocities were perpetrated by the Axis powers rather than the Allies.

And one must be grateful to the Western ‘traitors’ — including several associated with the Manhattan Project — who shared their atomic knowledge with the Soviets. It’s dreadful imagining the possible consequences of an American monopoly over nuclear weaponry. However, while deterrence might have worked, it remains an imperfect solution, and proliferation has made matters much worse.

The mainly Western popular movement for nuclear disarmament has steadily receded since the 1980s, but the state of world today provides plenty of cause to reflect afresh on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and renew the tattered vow: Never again.

China’s Pincer Movement Aims at India

Dragon’s has accelerated its efforts to strengthen its stranglehold around India particularly in its neighbouring countries situated in India’s north and west. This is the continuation of the Chinese manoeuvres to create a “string of pearls”. The recent moves suggest that for Dragon, the pandemic provides an excellent period to intensify its efforts to woo weaker nations.

The China-Iran deal was aimed at bringing the latter in its fold, which is suffering from the US sanctions. As per media reports, the two countries have drafted an extremely important economic and security partnership agreement that may pave the way for billions of dollars of Chinese investments to flow into the energy sector and other industries within Iran. It would expand the Chinese presence in the sectors of banking, telecommunications, ports, railways and dozens of other projects. In return, China will receive regular supplies of the Iranian oil over the next 25 years at a fixed price. The deal also covers deepening of military cooperation between the two countries that envisions joint exercises, significantly with the involvement of Russia. According to reports, a joint meeting of government, military and intelligence officials of Iran, China and Russia would take place in August to finalise further steps. The Chinese companies would be allowed to build the infrastructure for the fifth generation (5 G) telecommunication networks in Iran and would provide the Chinese BeiDou system for satellite navigation.  

The Chinese aim is to build a stronghold in the region which was strategically important for India. India had been interested in Chabahar port and for connectivity to Afghanistan and beyond. Besides denying strategic space to India, this would allow China to have an additional base in the Indian Ocean and access to the Central Asia for going ahead with its Belt Road Initiative (BRI). The Russian involvement reflects that the problems between China and Russia arising from the Chinese deal with Ukraine and the espionage incident have been managed. The anti-US stance of the three countries has cemented the bond. This Chinese move changes the strategic balance in its favour in the region.

The second step in this direction was taken by China on the 27th July when it convened a joint virtual meeting of Foreign Ministers of the four countries-China, Nepal, Afghanistan and Iran. The meeting had fourfold agenda- steps to contain pandemic, avoid politicisation and stigmatisation of Covid 19 and to support WHO, boost economic recovery and more importantly resumption of BRI infrastructure projects in the region. Foreign Minister of China Wang stressed the need for regional cooperation between the four countries for joint prevention and control of pandemic ‘drawing on the experience of China and Pakistan’. Strange logic! Both these countries are known to have suppressed the real figures and have not done well in handling the pandemic. China had withheld information about the disease. China is trying to woo other countries by propagating misleading information. Wang also assured the other three countries that as and when China develops the vaccine, it would provide them accessibility to the vaccines and would help them to strengthen their public health system. He exhorted the three countries to support World Health Organisation to play its due role in building global health community and avoid politicisation and stigmatisation. He was trying to ensure that China may not be blamed for coronavirus.    

The economic development and support to BRI was the main focus. Wang exhorted the other countries to support the BRI for economic development by improving connectivity. He announced that jointly they would “promote the building of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the Trans-Himalayan Connectivity Network (THCN), support the extension of the corridor to Afghanistan and further unleash the dividends of connectivity”. He further stated, “We should play to our geographical advantages, strengthen exchanges and connectivity between four countries and Central Asian countries”. The wordings assume great significance in the context of Chinese incursions at the Indo-Tibetan borders. On expected lines, the Foreign Ministers of the three countries assured Wang to actively support the four-point proposal of wang and thanked China for providing medical material assistance, food support and sharing the experiences in dealing with the pandemic. China is using medical supplies and influence operations to change the perceptions of nations about China.   

China is creating a wide ‘colonial area’ from Tibet to Iran that includes Afghanistan, Nepal and Pakistan firmly under its control. This is aimed to give a boost to its BRI plan and enhance its footprints in the Indian Ocean, while ensuring removal of influence of India in this critically important region. China has already won a number of politicians in Nepal and used Nepalese PM Oli to criticise India. At the Chinese behest, Nepal issued a map to claim the Indian territory like what is doing at the Indian borders. Reports of corrupt politicians in Nepal being used by China are doing rounds in media. Pakistan has long been playing its game in keeping India engaged at the LoC and organising terrorist attacks in sensitive areas. Pakistan in fact is a Chinese vassal state. In Afghanistan, it carrying on talks with both the government and Taliban along with Pakistan with the objective of keeping India out of that country. It is using the space provided by the withdrawal of US. Both Pakistan and China have a common objective of removing Indian influence from Afghanistan.

All the above nations are economically weak and would fall victim of the debt trap diplomacy of China. They would have to pay a heavy price in terms of leasing crucial areas and China would acquire permanency in the region. This certainly is not in the interest of India or the larger free and open Indo-Pacific region. The Iran deal would give China a strong base at the entrance of the Arabian Gulf and with that the US in the Strait of Hormuz would have a rival. This demands a review of the US approach towards Iran. India needs to use its influence on the US to see the strategic implications of this development in the long term and take corrective measures.    

The Shocking Rise of Neo-Nazis in Germany

Neo-Nazis are once again on rise and that too in their home country-Germany. It is mostly a reaction to advent of migrants and refugees who refuse to merge in the German society. These Neo-Nazis have infiltrated broad areas of German society—that’s the verdict of an in-depth report from the New York Times’ Berlin bureau chief, Katrin Bennhold, published over the weekend.

Her report focuses on North Cross, a group of soldiers, police officers, a lawyer, a local politician, a doctor, an engineer, etc, who stockpiled body bags, ammunition and explosives. They planned to round up migrants, refugees and political enemies, and kill them—ready to leap into action on “Day X.”

“Day X” refers to the moment when modern Germany falls apart and the extremists step forward to save the nation. “Today, Day X preppers are drawing serious people with serious skills and ambition,” wrote Bennhold.

Day X preppers are just one of many different extremist groups growing in the country. “Germany has belatedly begun dealing with far-right networks that officials now say are far more extensive than they ever understood,” she wrote.

“This movement has its fingertips in lots of places,” said local politician Heiko Böhringer. “All this talk of Day X can seem like pure fantasy. But if you look closer, you can see how quickly it turns into serious planning—and plotting.”

“I fear we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg,” said Dirk Friedriszik, another local politician. “It isn’t just the ksk [special forces]. The real worry is: These cells are everywhere. In the army, in the police, in reservist units.”

The general picture presented by the Times report isn’t new. Stories of this massive neo-Nazi presence have been dripping out of Germany for years. But too few connect the dots and ask what it means for modern Germany.

The New York Times article is investigating just one of many far-right conspiracies. Consider just the briefest summary:

  • July 2020: Names and addresses were taken from a police database and used to send threatening letters. This has been going on for two years, yet the police and even Interpol have not found the culprits.
  • June 2020: A company of Germany’s Special Forces (ksk) was disbanded because it was so full of far-right sympathizers. The problem is so widespread that the government is considering disbanding the entire special forces. Forty-eight thousand rounds of ammunition and 62 kilograms of explosives have gone missing from the ksk—presumably to far-right groups.
  • June 2020: Newly released data shows anti-Semitic crimes reached the highest levels on record, with another 2,000 committed in 2019.
  • May 2020: A sergeant major in the ksk was arrested after police found thousands of rounds of ammunition, two kilograms of explosives, an AK-47 and Nazi memorabilia in his home. The German military intelligence service say they believe the ksk is a “hotbed of the far right.”
  • February 2020: Far-right shooter kills nine in terrorist attack.
  • December 2019: A lieutenant colonel in the ksk is suspended for making far-right extremist posts online.
  • October 2019: Far-right shooter attacks a synagogue in the town of Halle.
  • June 2019: Walter Lübcke, a politician in the state of Hesse, is assassinated by a far-right extremist.
  • June 2019: The head of Germany’s largest police union complains that police officers are increasingly leaning toward the far right, in response to the influx of migrants in 2015.
  • November 2018: The German government revealed a 200-strong plot, including veterans of the ksk, to kill Green Party leader Claudia Roth, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and former President Joachim Gauck. Their hit list included other left-wing leaders and leaders of asylum-seeker groups. They had stockpiled weapons and ammunition near the border with Switzerland and Austria.
  • April 2017: A lieutenant in the German Army was arrested after planning a terrorist attack that would frame migrants.

It’s no wonder both Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and the president of its domestic intelligence agency, Thomas Haldenwang, identify the far right as the biggest threat to German democracy.

Signs of something disturbing under the surface of Germany go back decades. Some of the first signs came as the nation reunified in the early 1990s. Some in Germany seemed to take this as a sign that the nation was about to rise again. Extremist crime exploded. In 1991, there were 1,483 recorded incidents of violent crime—10 times more than the year before. The number of organized right-wing extremists more than doubled in two years, from an estimated 32,000 in 1990 to 65,000 in 1992.

In 1992, the small Baltic seaport of Rostock shocked the world. A group of neo-Nazis attacked a refugee center for Romanian gypsies. Locals cheered. One officer later admitted, “The police had an arrangement with the rowdies not to intervene.” State authorities knew in advance that the attack was planned, but did nothing.

Hoping to stop the violence, the government decided to remove all foreigners from the city and deported around 100,000 gypsies to Eastern Europe.

In an earlier article, Bennhold wrote: “In interviews I conducted over the course of the year with military and intelligence officials, and avowed far-right members themselves, they described nationwide networks of current and former soldiers and police officers with ties to the far right.”

She said that officials told her that ties between different groups “sometimes reach deep into old neo-Nazi networks and the more polished intellectual scene of the so-called New Right. Extremists are hoarding weapons, maintaining safe houses, and in some cases keeping lists of political enemies.”

“Some German news media have referred to a ‘shadow army,’ drawing parallels to the 1920s, when nationalist cells within the military hoarded arms, plotted coups, and conspired to overthrow democracy,” she warned.

Some dismiss the idea of a shadow army. But Gen. Markus Kreitmayr, head of the ksk, isn’t so sure. “I don’t know if there is a shadow army in Germany,” he told her. “But I am worried, and not just as the commander of the ksk, but as a citizen—that in the end something like that does exist and that maybe our people are part of it.”

So many people are involved that it’s hard to see how widespread the networks are. One high-ranking investigator was suspended in June after he passed on confidential information to a contact in the ksk—who then tipped off other potential targets. In another investigation, a lieutenant colonel in military intelligence was found trying to cover up an effort to infiltrate the military with neo-Nazis. “If the very people who are meant to protect our democracy are plotting against it, we have a big problem,” said Stephan Kramer, president of Thuringia’s domestic intelligence agency. “How do you find them?”

Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV)—its domestic intelligence agency—has also been implicated. The National Socialist Underground (nsu) is a neo-Nazi group that killed nine migrants and one police officer from 2000 to 2007. It received funding from the BfV. The BfV claims it was paying off informants. But others said the informants were handing the money straight to the nsu, with the BfV’s blessing. An agent was present at one of the murders. Despite being just feet away when Halit Yozgat was shot to death, the highly trained spy claims to have noticed nothing.

“The worrying question that arises is whether the German security agencies merely failed at doing their job, or did they actually turn a blind eye and intentionally enabled the nsu’s activities,” wrote Ynetnews. “And if so, could neo-Nazis have infiltrated Germany’s spy agencies and actively encouraged the crimes? The authorities’ insistence on covering up information and stonewalling the investigation on the matter only raise further suspicions.”

Prosecutors have spent three years investigating North Cross. But only one member has faced any charges. One of the group’s leaders, Marko Gross, has received a light sentence for “illegal weapons possession.” Those weapons included 55,000 rounds of ammunition, a Uzi submachine gun, and a long list of other guns and explosives. It took 45 minutes to read out the full list in court.

But there have been no prosecutions for a wider conspiracy. It’s reminiscent of another far-right leader who received only a slap on the wrist for his attempt to overthrow the government in 1923—Adolf Hitler. “The outcome is typical of the authorities’ handling of far-right cases, extremism experts say,” wrote Bennhold. “The charges brought are often woefully narrow for the elaborate plots they are meant to deter and punish. Almost always they focus on individuals, not the networks themselves.”

Why is far-right extremism such a systemic problem? Why do those involved repeatedly get off so lightly? Why have the police, the military, the special forces and the intelligence agencies repeatedly been implicated? Why are so many investigators complicit? Why are so few punished? And if so many are willing to act on these kind of beliefs—to the point of stockpiling weapons and assembling hit lists—how many more sympathize from the sidelines?

This is the crucial question that too few are asking: What does this mean for modern Germany? It looks as if Germany is soon to take a radical turn toward becoming an aggressive military power.

A lot of people disagree. They take a surface look at Germany and see a stable, modern country with a relatively small military—a country that has completely changed since World War II. But there are clear signs that all is not well. This is one of them. Under the surface, a Nazi spirit is brewing in parts of Germany.

We don’t understand German thoroughness. From the very start of World War II, they have considered the possibility of losing this second round, as they did the first—and they have carefully, methodically planned, in such eventuality, the third round—World War iii! Hitler has lost. This round of war, in Europe, is over. And the Nazis have now gone underground. In France and Norway they learned how effectively an organized underground can hamper occupation and control of a country. Paris was liberated by the French underground—and Allied armies. Now a Nazi underground is methodically planned. They plan to come back and to win on the third try.

Even during the founding conference of the United Nations, just hours after World War II ended, and Europe was in ruins; there was a Nazi underground. A series of reports from the German government, as well as United States intelligence, confirm this as fact.

Now we’re seeing more and more signs of this underground Nazi spirit. This beast is still rising today, but it is a mystery to the world. 

Women leaders are better at fighting the pandemic

On 8 June 2020, New Zealand was declared virus-free and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern lifted all restrictions except stringent border controls. With fewer than 500 confirmed cases and seven deaths from the virus Taiwan, under the presidency of Tsai Ing-wen, is seen to have performed very well.

Germany, under Angela Merkel, has done better than most European countries in the first quarter of the COVID pandemic. The performance of these female leaders in the COVID pandemic offers a unique global experiment in national crisis management and has given rise to much media attention. This is a significant shift from the male-dominated view of history within which events are typically considered as determined by the instrumental and causal influence of a small number of ‘Great Men’. But does this association stand up to systematic scrutiny?

Leader’s gender in the fight against the pandemic

Lets see whether there are significant differences in the COVID-outcomes of male and female led-countries in the first quarter of the pandemic. We also consider whether these differences can be explained by differences in policy measures adopted by male and female leaders. In particular, we consider the timing of lockdown in these countries.

Anything said about the pandemic now has to be qualified by the fact that we are only at the start of the pandemic. Much could change in the next few months. Our analysis therefore relates to the immediate reaction of leaders to the first wave of the crisis. Another qualification to keep in mind is the quality of data currently available. In particular, with the shortage of test kits, testing has been poor and therefore case numbers are an underestimate. While data on deaths are more reliable, there are concerns about its comparability across countries. In some countries, if a COVID-positive individual dies, the death is registered as a COVID death irrespective of any other previous illness (such as tuberculosis or cancer). But this is not standard or mandatory, so practice varies across countries.

The female-led countries have fared better in terms of absolute number of COVID-19 cases and deaths, with male-led countries having nearly double the number of deaths as female-led ones. However, drawing anything conclusive from these raw comparisons is difficult due to the massive underrepresentation of female-led countries in the sample. We have only 19 countries across the world being led by women, compared with the 174 in our sample that are male-led.

To overcome the difficulty of imbalanced sample sizes, try to‘match’ each of the female-led countries with their nearest neighbour. The female-led countries have fewer cases and fewer deaths and have locked down earlier than male countries with respect to cases and deaths.

Nearest neighbour analysis clearly confirms that when women-led countries are compared to countries similar to them along a range of characteristics, they have performed better, experiencing fewer cases as well as fewer deaths. This is true whether we consider the nearest neighbour, the nearest two, three or even five neighbours. The results are especially highly significant in the case of the number of deaths experienced by female-led countries. These results remain robust when we drop countries that have been in the COVID spotlight – the US, Germany, and New Zealand – from our sample to see if they might be driving the results. We find that these changes in the sample only strengthen the results.

What is also clear is that timing of lockdown has been driving the better outcomes in female-led countries. Female-led countries locked down significantly earlier, i.e. when they were seeing fewer deaths (22 fewer) than male-led countries. The nearest neighbour matching estimates confirm this result at a very high level of significance. While this may have longer-term economic implications, it has certainly helped these countries to save lives.

Why have women leaders decided to lock down their countries earlier than male leaders?

Gender differences in risk aversion

One explanation for gender-differences in the propensity to lock down early might be found in the literature on attitudes to risk and uncertainty, which suggests that women, even those in leadership roles, appear to be more risk-averse than men. Indeed, in the current crisis, several incidents of risky behaviour by male leaders have been reported. Particularly noteworthy among these are Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro’s dismissal of COVID-19 as “a little flu or a bit of a cold” while attending an anti-lockdown protest in April. Similarly, Britain’s Boris Johnson is reported to have said, “I was at a hospital where there were a few coronavirus patients and I shook hands with everybody”.

However, while women leaders were risk averse with regard to lives, they were prepared to take significant risks with their economies by locking down early. Thus, risk aversion may manifest differently in different domains – human life versus economic outcomes – with women leaders being significantly more risk averse in the domain of human life, but more risk taking in the domain of the economy. We find some support for this idea in studies that examine risk taking behaviour when lotteries are framed as losses. Men are found to be more risk averse than women when lotteries are framed as financial losses rather than gains . It could well be that the relatively late lockdown decisions by male leaders may reflect male risk aversion to anticipated losses from locking down the economy.

The neuroscience literature also throws light on sex-differences in feelings of empathy which cannot be fully explained as cultural derivatives of socialisation alone but have deeper neurobiological drivers. There exist quantitative gender differences in the basic networks involved in affective and cognitive forms of empathy, as well as a qualitative divergence between the sexes in how emotional information is integrated to support decision making processes. When combined with the findings from the risk literature, we begin to see how women leaders could have been risk-averse about anticipated losses to human life, while at the same time taking risk with negative financial outcomes associated with early lockdown.

Gender difference in leadership style

Another explanation of gender differences in response to the pandemic is to be found in the leadership literature, where strong evidence can be found to suggest that men and women differ in their leadership styles. Eagly and Johnson (1990), through a meta-analysis of research that compares male and female leadership styles, find that leadership styles were gender stereotypic, with men likely to lead in a ‘task-oriented’ style and women in an ‘interpersonally oriented’ manner. Consistent with this finding, women tended to adopt a more democratic and participative style. Evidence also suggests that good communications skills are important for women to be chosen as leaders and that this is one of the key attributes in managing a crisis.

Indeed, the decisive and clear communication styles adopted by several female leaders have received much praise in the ongoing crisis. Thus, in Norway Prime Minister Erna Solberg spoke direct to children answering their questions, while in New Zealand Prime Minster Ardern was praised for the way in which she communicated and for checking in with her citizens through Facebook Live.

Conclusion

The findings show that COVID-19 outcomes are systematically and significantly better in countries led by women and, to some extent, this may be explained by the proactive policy responses they adopted. Even accounting for institutional context and other controls, being female-led has provided countries with an advantage in the current crisis. Examining what is already known about the gender differences in behaviour from a variety of disciplines gives us some insights into observed differential behaviour of female and male leaders in tackling the current pandemic.

The Reality of Barack Obama Mystery


Thomas Jefferson once said, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”

A great deal of vital information is being unearthed about which every American must not be ignorant. It reveals unprecedented corruption by government officials that is undermining our freedoms and the political structure of our constitutional republic!

Americans’ ignorance and lack of concern regarding these truths is making us extremely vulnerable to people who want to destroy this nation. The United States is already dangerously close to becoming a police state.

Handwritten notes from former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Peter Strzok have confirmed that Barack Obama personally directed an illegal investigation targeting retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. Flynn is a decorated war hero who has saved countless American lives. But the Obama administration listened in on his phone calls and illegally leaked his conversations to the media.

If government agents can slander and spy on a well-connected American hero like General Flynn, what can they do to you if they disagree with your political views?

After the Department of Justice dropped its case against Flynn on May 7, President Donald Trump said that what President Obama did was “the biggest political crime in American history, by far!” He later added, “Obamagate makes Watergate look small time!” When the type of tactics Obama was using become routine, your freedoms can be stripped at will. The nation becomes a dictatorship.

Obamagate goes far beyond personal animus between Barack Obama and Michael Flynn. It was a plot to overthrow the U.S. government and realign American interests with those of the number one terror-sponsoring state. A number of political analysts have revealed how President Obama tried to accomplish this devious goal. But they are at a loss as to why he would do something so evil.

What motivates Barack Obama is a mystery to most analysts, but the Bible reveals this mystery. People need to understand what a dangerous threat this is to America’s very foundation!

All this is prophesied in your Bible. But to understand it, you have to study it. If you do, then events in America will begin to make sense, and you will see how, sadly, this nation’s days are numbered!

Targeting General Flynn

Two days after winning the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump met with President Obama in the Oval Office to discuss the transition to the new administration. Of the many issues Obama could have discussed with Trump during their 90-minute meeting, he mainly wanted to talk about two people. He told Trump that the two people he really had to worry about were North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un—and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.

Why was President Obama so concerned with General Flynn?

Many consider Flynn an American hero. As an intelligence officer in the Army, he tracked down Islamic terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was good at his job, and President Obama nominated him as director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. But in this new office, Flynn exposed how the Obama administration was failing to effectively fight the Islamic State and other enemies in the Middle East. He told colleagues that he felt like a lone voice warning that the United States was less safe from radical Islam than before the 9/11 terrorist attacks.“Flynn incurred the wrath of the White House by insisting on telling the truth about Syria. He thought truth was the best thing, and they shoved him out.”

He also criticized Obama for failing to support the enemies of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, a strong ally of Iran. According to former Defense Intelligence Agency official Patrick Lang, “Flynn incurred the wrath of the White House by insisting on telling the truth about Syria. He thought truth was the best thing, and they shoved him out.” He had been on the job for only two years when the Obama administration forced him into early retirement in August 2014.

But telling the truth about Syria was not the only thing that got Flynn in trouble. He was also a vocal opponent of President Obama’s disastrous nuclear deal with Iran.

General Flynn was well educated in intelligence-gathering techniques. That unnerved Obama officials. They were doing a lot of illegal spying on American citizens, and Flynn was well placed to expose their crimes. Clearly they were nervous about what Flynn might say: About a year after forcing him to retire, they started to spy on him.

A former senior Treasury Department official told the Star Newspaper Group that, starting in December 2015 and continuing well into 2017, Barack Obama’s Treasury regularly surveilled Flynn’s financial records and transactions. This was unlawful, but the Obama administration didn’t care. They were obsessed with targeting Michael Flynn.

Obama administration officials told the public that Flynn had illegally colluded with Russia. This was a bald-faced lie.

So how did Flynn end up as the Obama administration’s prime target? American journalist Lee Smith answered this question in an article for the Tablet, “How Russiagate Began With Obama’s Iran Deal Domestic Spying Campaign.”

“Why were officials from the [Obama] administration intercepting [Flynn’s] phone calls with the Russian ambassador?” Smith wrote. “The answer is that Obama saw Flynn as a signal threat to his legacy, which was rooted in his July 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran—the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (jcpoa). Flynn had said long before he signed on with the Trump campaign that it was a catastrophe to realign American interests with those of a terror state. And now that the candidate he’d advised was the new president-elect, Flynn was in a position to help undo the deal” (May 22).

In other words, the smear campaign against Flynn had nothing to do with Russia. It was all about stopping Flynn from helping President Trump undo the Obama administration’s Iran nuclear deal!

Obama’s Iran Deal

The Obama administration implemented its nuclear deal with Iran on Jan. 16, 2016. Under the terms of this agreement, the United States lifted oil and financial sanctions on Iran, while Iran agreed to stop enriching uranium beyond 3.67 percent.

General Flynn had left the Obama administration 17 months before, and he was a vocal critic of the deal. He wrote a 2016 book, The Field of Fight, describing correspondence between the Iranian government and al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Apparently al Qaeda was working on chemical and biological weapons in Iran, but the Obama administration refused to declassify the proof.

Flynn also warned that the Russians were cooperating with the Iranians and would probably not help the U.S. fight radical Islamic terrorism. Still, the Obama administration agreed to let Russia export more than 100 tons of natural uranium to Iran—enough to make 10 nuclear bombs!Flynn warned that the Russians were cooperating with the Iranians. Still, the Obama administration agreed to let Russia export more than 100 tons of natural uranium to Iran—enough to make 10 nuclear bombs.

Now, the whole message the Obama administration was peddling about the Iran deal was that it would prevent the mullahs from getting a nuclear bomb. Yet they colluded with Russia to give Iran a hundred tons of uranium! What was really going on?

General Flynn condemned Iran as the “world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism” and advocated a strategy aimed at overthrowing the Iranian government. He criticized the Obama administration for trying to align America with the interests of a terrorist state. So when President-elect Trump appointed Flynn as a national security adviser, Obama went to work trying to get rid of Flynn.

As Lee Smith put it, “Russiagate was not a hoax, as some conservative journalists call it. Rather, it was a purposeful extension of the Obama administration’s Iran Deal media campaign, and of the secret espionage operation targeting those opposed to Obama’s efforts to realign American interests with those of a terror state that embodies the most corrosive forms of anti-Semitism” (ibid).

How could the American public be so ignorant as to allow such disastrous foreign-policy decisions?

Crossfire Razor

To smear General Flynn as a Russian agent, Obama’s fbi opened a counterintelligence investigation called Crossfire Razor. Having found no evidence of any wrongdoing by Flynn, investigators planned to close the case on Jan. 4, 2017. But then fbi agent Peter Strzok was directed by top officials at the fbi to ensure the investigation of Flynn stayed open.

Court filings in Flynn’s criminal case show that Strzok texted an unnamed associate on Jan. 4, 2017, “Hey if you haven’t closed razor, don’t do so yet.” Strzok’s order was delivered at the behest of fbi leadership, which he referred to as the “7th floor.”

The next day, intelligence officials met in the Oval Office to brief President Obama about the findings of their report on Russian interference in the election. Present at the meeting were: Vice President Joe Biden, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, cia Director John Brennan, fbi Director James Comey, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers.

After the initial meeting, President Obama held a follow-on meeting with Susan Rice, Joe Biden and the two individuals that would retain their positions into the next administration: Comey and Yates. This meeting was documented over two weeks later in an e-mail Susan Rice sent to herself immediately after leaving the White House on Jan. 20, 2017.

The Justice Department has disclosed handwritten notes from Peter Strzok recounting what Comey had told him about this January 5 follow-on meeting. These notes show that Obama knew details about private conversations between Michael Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that even Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates did not know. This meeting shows that Obama was personally overseeing the effort to take down Flynn.

Strzok’s notes recount how Comey told Obama that Flynn’s phone calls looked legitimate and that Obama told Comey to “make sure you look at things, and have the right people on it.” They also recount how Vice President Biden brought up the Logan Act—an 18th-century law that forbids private citizens from discussing foreign policy with foreign governments. The law is likely unconstitutional and definitely does not apply to national security advisers for incoming presidential administrations. But it ended up being key in taking down Flynn.

Obama and his top brass listened in on conversations between Michael Flynn and the Russian ambassador and then accused Flynn of violating an obscure 18th-century law. They then used the transcripts of those perfectly legal conversations to entrap Flynn.

Seven days after the January 5 Oval Office meeting, the Washington Post’s David Ignatius published a story about Flynn’s contacts with the Russian ambassador, and he raised the non-issue of the Logan Act. How did the Post find out about Flynn’s phone calls? The Obama administration had illegally leaked that information in an attempt to set up Flynn.

The Post article triggered the mainstream media and Democrat politicians to focus their attention on Michael Flynn.

There was absolutely nothing wrong with Flynn’s phone calls with the Russian ambassador. Consider what a Washington Post reporter, Adam Entous, said during a conference in October 2017. He explained that the newsroom was made aware of the fact that Flynn was having conversations with Ambassador Kislyak, but that it wasn’t worth reporting because, “There’s no reason why he shouldn’t be having that conversation.”

Entous said that Ignatius could write about it because he was a columnist and, “Unlike me as a news reporter, he was able to just throw this piece of red meat out there and just say, ‘There was this conversation. What was it about?’”

By getting the media to write about the Flynn phone calls, the Obama administration was giving the media bait it could use to trap the incoming administration. And it worked.

Flynn could be forgiven for not remembering every detail of each phone call he had with the Russian ambassador. The Obama administration, on the other hand, had transcripts of each of his phone calls and could use the transcripts to entrap him.

The Perjury Trap

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe recently declassified the Flynn transcripts. In all those transcripts, the word “sanction” appears once, and it was brought up by Ambassador Kislyak. The Federalist’s Sean Davis wrote: “The transcripts show that while Kislyak obliquely raised the issue of financial sanctions against certain Russian intelligence officials, Flynn himself never discussed the financial sanctions against Russian individuals and entities levied by the Obama administration. Instead, Flynn focused on preventing U.S. ‘tit-for-tat’ escalation following the Obama administration’s expulsion of Russian diplomats.”

The day after the January 12 Post article, members of President-elect Trump’s staff were asked by the media about Flynn’s call, particularly about the topic of sanctions. Flynn told his co-workers that he didn’t remember discussing sanctions. Then on January 15, Vice President Mike Pence publicly stated that there had been no talk about economic sanctions between Flynn and the Russian ambassador. Pence said that Flynn told him that neither sanctions nor the decision to expel diplomats came up on the call. The transcripts of the call do reveal that Flynn spoke to Kislyak about the expulsion of diplomats, however. This miscommunication is what was ultimately exploited by the Obama holdovers to force Flynn’s resignation.

Pence, however, did not have access to Michael Flynn’s transcripts—and neither did Flynn himself. But the Obama administration did.

On Jan. 23, 2017, three days after the inauguration, the Washington Post ran an article titled “fbi Reviewed Flynn’s Calls With Russian Ambassador but Found Nothing Illicit.” This article was designed to put Flynn at ease. There was obviously nothing illicit in the phone calls and everyone knew it. But the Obama administration pushed ahead with its plan to catch Flynn in a lie.

On January 24, fbi Director Comey sent Peter Strzok and Joe Pientka to Flynn’s office at the White House. The agents were sent to lay a perjury trap against Flynn. Armed with the transcript of his phone calls, the agents invited themselves into Flynn’s office, pretending they were there to casually talk to him about reports in the media.

Flynn’s “sin” was forgetting that the word “sanction” came up once during a phone call four weeks earlier. Because Flynn denied having a conversation about sanctions, the Obama holdovers determined that he was lying and actively misleading members of the Trump administration. Some even publicly speculated that Flynn would be susceptible to Russian blackmail because of the call.

On January 26, Sally Yates told President Trump’s counsel that Flynn made statements to them about sanctions that were untrue. Flynn continued to publicly state that he did not discuss sanctions. Then on February 9, the Post wrote about the content of Flynn’s phone calls. Disclosing that information to the press was illegal. Citing “unnamed current and former officials,” the Post reported that Flynn “privately discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States during the month before President Trump took office, contrary to public assertions by Trump officials.”

“It’s not hard to see why [Obama] went after Flynn …. But why Obama would choose the Islamic Republic as a partner and encourage tactics typically employed by Third World police states remains a mystery.”

The article embarrassed the Trump White House and led to Michael Flynn’s forced resignation on February 13—not because of anything he said to the Russian ambassador, but because he made Vice President Pence look bad by not fully communicating with him about everything he discussed on the phone with Ambassador Kislyak. The Obama administration holdovers were actively trying to sow chaos for the incoming administration. In the end, they achieved their goal, causing the public to believe that Flynn was trying to cover up some sinister crime with Russian agents.

In fact, the whole situation was orchestrated by Barack Obama to protect the Iran nuclear deal.

Lies, Lies, Lies

On May 12, Joe Biden was interviewed on ABC’s Good Morning America. George Stephanopoulos asked him what he knew about the Flynn investigation, and he dogmatically stated, “I know nothing about those moves to investigate Michael Flynn.” Then when he was pressed about his role in the Jan. 5, 2017, meeting, he revised his answer, and said, “I thought you asked me on whether or not I had anything to do with him being prosecuted. I’m sorry. I was aware that … they had asked for an investigation, but that’s all I know about it.”

Peter Strzok’s handwritten notes have since revealed both statements to be lies. It was Biden who brought up the Logan Act as a possible means of prosecuting General Flynn. Now the Democrats act like such lies are nothing to be concerned about. But the reality is, lying is the modus operandi of those Obama-era officials!

They called American hero Michael Flynn a clandestine agent of Russia. Such lies are hard to even fathom, yet millions of people believe them. These officials have been repeatedly exposed for this kind of deception. They believe it is right to lie when it is for an “important purpose”! They have no fixed principles. And very few will hold them to account!

America’s Constitution was made to rule a moral, self-governing people, a well-informed people who will hold their leaders to a high moral standard. Ignorant people can never make our Constitution work. The ignorance of the American people regarding what is happening here is disastrous.

Something deadly dangerous has seized the country—far more than people realize. There is a spiritual dimension to what is happening, and you cannot understand these events unless you recognize that. We must know our enemy to understand what is happening in America.

Lee Smith wrote a book titled The Plot Against the President: The True Story of How Congressman Devin Nunes Uncovered the Biggest Political Scandal in U.S. History. Smith is an expert on how Obama and his colleagues tried to frame Donald Trump, Michael Flynn and others for crimes they did not commit.

Still, Smith does not understand why Barack Obama so vehemently supported Iran. “It’s not hard to see why the previous president went after Flynn: The retired general’s determination to undo the Iran Deal was grounded in his own experience in two Middle Eastern theaters of combat, where he saw how Iran murdered Americans and threatened American interests,” he writes. “But why Obama would choose the Islamic Republic as a partner and encourage tactics typically employed by Third World police states remains a mystery”.

Iran’s mullahs publicly say they want to “wipe Israel off the map.” That is another way of saying they want to “blot out the name of Israel from under heaven”!

Why in the world would an American president align with these murderers? Why permit Russia to give them 100 tons of uranium? And why implement a deal that virtually guarantees Iran becomes a nuclear power?

Through his Iran nuclear deal, Barack Obama was helping them accomplish this goal! He was implying, You take care of the Jews and we’ll take care of America. We’ll “blot out the name of Israel from under heaven” by transforming America into a socialist state our founders wouldn’t recognize. He wants to destroy everything good in America and to fundamentally change the nation into a Marxist dictatorship. Spiritually, he wants to wipe out the faith of Israel—just like the Iranian mullahs want to wipe Israel off the map!

This is what Lee Smith doesn’t understand. Obama decided to “choose the Islamic Republic as a partner” and to use “tactics typically employed by Third World police states” because he wants to blot out both the Jewish state and America! He also expressed hatred for Britain. Like the ancient Seleucid King Antiochus (Daniel 8:24), he is empowered by the devil to destroy the people of Israel though flattery and deceits that lead to violence.

The Devil’s Fingerprints

There is no truth in the devil—none at all! And the radical left lie like the devil. That is the spirit behind these people who will say and do anything to accomplish their goals. The way they worked to destroy the life of Michael Flynn, an upstanding American patriot, is chilling proof. They will stop at nothing to take over the government and align America with the government of Iran. Every time they are challenged on anything illegal they have done, they lie—over and over and over again.

Society needs to regain moral compass

The critical vulnerabilities of Indian society that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed are undoubtedly those laid bare by the humanitarian crisis that unfolded as the nation-wide lockdown took effect. The searing images of the endless ordeal of tens of thousands of famished and exhausted “migrant workers” trying to make their way back to their home villages to escape starvation in cities where they work, will endure long after the pandemic is over.

Epidemics are “not random events that afflict societies capriciously and without warning,” says historian Frank Snowden in his book Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present. “On the contrary, every society produces its own specific vulnerabilities.”

The world’s severest lockdown dealt a body blow to their insecure and fragile urban livelihoods, and many of them also faced imminent eviction. With public transportation shut down, many began their long journeys on foot over distances that could span hundreds of miles. A large number of them died of heat, exhaustion and starvation; and quite a few were killed in horrific accidents.

Reverse migration of this kind is not how epidemics and migration have historically been linked together. This history is mostly of the fortunate few fleeing urban contagion to places where the chances of survival are better. This happened at the time of the Black Death in Europe in 1348; and in more recent years, during the SARS outbreak in China, and in New York City during the current pandemic.

To be sure, reverse migration to villages by the working poor is not new to the history of epidemics in India. During the plague panic in colonial Bombay — which gave us the infamous Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897 — more than half the city’s population left for the countryside fleeing the disease as much as the colonial state’s authoritarian response to it. But they were caught between the plague-ridden city and the famine-stricken countryside, and the flow of migrants soon became a two-way process. It produced a crisis of labour supply in the city’s important cotton textile industry that led to a shift in the balance between capital and labour which worked to the advantage of workers — albeit temporarily.

The multitudes escaping Indian cities more than a century later, however, are mostly employed in an informal labour regime in industries and service sectors increasingly characterised by outsourcing and contracting-out arrangements. Without the moral imagination and political will to launch a massive social intervention, it is unlikely that the shock to the labour supply will yield even modest wage or welfare gains for these workers.

A report by the Stranded Workers Action Network, which its authors describe as “distress-biased” because it draws on data collected from those who made distress calls to the network, found the majority of them to be factory or construction workers on a daily wage. The rest earned their daily wages as drivers, domestic workers, and self-employed workers — among them were street vendors and those engaged in zari embroidery work. It is not a representative sample, but the figures convey some idea of the circumstances that pushed them to the brink; only about 6 per cent of those who reached out to the network received full wages during the lockdown and about 78 per cent received no payments.

Ninety-nine per cent of the self-employed — among them, street vendors and rickshaw pullers — earned no money at all during the lockdown.

That such important segments of India’s urban workforce are “migrant workers”— and the fact that we refer to these poor fellow citizens as migrants — is itself quite telling. They are not all migrants in a strict sense. It is their precarious employment and the high cost of permanent relocation in cities that make them oscillate between urban India and their home villages.

Many male seasonal migrants leave their families behind and return to their villages when old age or illness makes them unemployable.

A 2012 volume of essays on internal migration in India published by the UNESCO distinguishes three types of rural to urban migrants: (a) permanent, (b) semi-permanent or long-term circular and (c) seasonal and temporary or circular migrants. Significant segments of India’s informal or unorganised economy escape official statistical recording. Seasonal or circular rural-to-urban migrants, for example, are a major segment of the workforce in India’s formidable construction industry.

Yet neither the Census nor the National Sample Survey, says Ravi Srivastava, who has studied internal migration extensively, “adequately capture seasonal and/or short-term circular migration”. He and his research team have tried to get a handle on the phenomenon with a number of micro-level field surveys to complement macro data.

The difficulties encountered by Srivastava and Rajib Sutradhar in surveying construction workers in Delhi and its satellite towns are revealing. First, the gruelling work schedule of construction workers — long hours and seven days a week with no rest day — made access to them difficult. Second, the construction sites that included the living areas for workers are guarded by private security guards creating another set of hurdles. Several interviews “had to be abandoned half-way due to the hostility of security staff and/or contractors”.

When the term informal sector began to be used in development studies in the 1970s it was thought of as a residual — even temporary — niche peculiar to the urban economies of developing countries. As Dutch sociologist Jan Breman puts it, informal economy activities were expected to “fade away with the expansion of the formal economy”. But during the successive decades “informality turned out to be not a waiting room but an end station for the swelling workforce locked up in it”.

The informal or the unorganised sector now accounts for nearly half of India’s GDP and 80 to 90 per cent of the labour force (including non-plantation agriculture). Outsourcing of work to smaller firms and contractors has informalised even many organised sector industries. With the erosion of labour rights and social protection associated with formal sector jobs, it is not surprising that our cities now host thousands of people whose precarious livelihoods keep them steps away from destitution.

But a far more deleterious effect of informalisation is that we now seem to be on the verge of abandoning even the aspiration for an inclusive future. With informal employment dominating the economy, laws regulating working conditions are now nothing more than aspirational. Still, it boggles the moral imagination that soon after the historic exodus, in the middle of the pandemic, a number of state governments decided to dilute labour laws turning the clock back on legal working hours from eight-hour days to 12-hour days (six-days a week). And this with the half-baked intention of attracting businesses that might leave China.

One can only hope that our society will regain its moral compass and re-discover the quality that Adam Smith — popularly thought of as the high priest of capitalist individualism — called sympathy. No matter how selfish we suppose human beings to be, he said, “there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it.”

Responsibility or Ruin

Although the top priority today is to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigate its economic fallout, we must not ignore the long-term implications of the crisis. Our actions now determine the fate of all other species on the planet, yet we are not fully in control of nature.

After many months, the global economy is still reeling from the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic. Never before in peacetime has our technology-driven modern society experienced anything remotely similar to this.

Will there be a “second wave,” followed by more waves thereafter? That frightening question is now preoccupying people around the world, but particularly policymakers and national leaders. Nobody knows the answer. There is no playbook for a scenario in which a high-tech world economy interconnected by global supply chains is brought to its knees by a microscopic pathogen.

It would be a mistake to assess the meaning of this abrupt stop only from a short-term perspective. To be sure, the immediate priority is the fight against COVID-19. The pandemic has had dire economic and social implications for billions of people, and it seems to be hastening a global shift in political and economic power

But the crisis will also have consequences that last far beyond the coming months and years. It is not unreasonable to expect that future historians will remember 2020 as the beginning of an era of transformative change. This could be the moment when, having realized the consequences of how we have organized our economic systems and engaged with nature, we finally commit to a decisive shift toward sustainability.

In that case, the coronavirus will have served as a timely wake-up call. But if we fail to make the necessary changes, the pandemic of 2020 will mark the beginning of an unprecedented human catastrophe.

One thing is already certain: the crisis should finally disabuse us of our naive trust in human progress. For too long, it has simply been assumed that the adverse unintentional consequences of constant economic growth would be offset or minimized by the fruits of that growth. Despite the obvious facts and scientists’ warnings, we convinced ourselves that we are ultimately in control of nature. Yet for all our fantasies about colonizing space, the fact is that our power extends only to a certain point, usually defined by the horizon of human interests. Beyond lies everything that we still don’t know.

The immediate lesson of the COVID-19 crisis is that human civilization urgently needs a deeper sense of responsibility. Most of us will have already come to this realization subjectively. The question is whether we will act on it collectively, by launching the changes we need.

There are 7.7 billion people on the planet, and that figure is expected to grow to 9.7 billion by 2050. Our insatiable demand for material resources will continue to grow, implying that our exploitation of the planet will continue to outpace natural systems’ regenerative capacity. That reality has launched the geological epoch called the Anthropocene: For better or worse, humankind has reached the point at which our own actions will determine the future for almost every other species on the planet.1

Such enormous power entails enormous responsibility. Until the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, human activity had little relative impact on the planet itself. Now, it has an utterly disproportionate, all-encompassing effect. Population growth and mass consumption, driven by exponential improvements in technology, have led to a dramatic decline in natural resources that once seemed inexhaustible. And the emissions from all this production have caused the atmosphere to heat up at breathtaking speed.

We can either assume responsibility and muster the courage and vision to undertake a Great Transformation, or we can wait, with eyes wide open, for the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. With COVID-19, the first rider has already appeared.

Faced with such a choice, there are many questions one could ask. To what purpose should we deploy artificial intelligence and quantum computers? Many will be tempted to develop more sophisticated instruments of war, or even more refined consumer platforms. But what we really need is better systems analysis with which to improve public health, conserve the environment, and maintain a habitable climate.

In the future, feeding humanity will not be possible without protecting the world’s plant life. Given an unprecedented mass extinction of plant and animal species, we should harbor no illusions about our ability to fulfill this basic task. While the pandemic has taught most people to heed scientific advice in certain contexts, we may remain in denial when it comes to even more dangerous developments such as climate change.

Inevitably, leading the Great Transformation will be a task for the world’s most highly developed economies, because they have the necessary know-how and financial resources. Among them, Western democracies, in particular, must take seriously the idea of freedom that they purport to represent.

Freedom and responsibility are tightly linked: Those who desire freedom shirk their responsibilities at their own peril. The COVID-19 crisis has made this plain: to avoid lockdowns and other restrictions, one may first have to abide by them.

There is one more byproduct of the crisis that cannot be ignored. The United States and China are currently moving toward a confrontation over global leadership. But what will tomorrow’s world even look like? Will power be defined primarily by military superiority, as in the past? Or will it be tied to completely new and fundamentally different sources? Will a traditional understanding of power even still be what holds the world together?

Europe has been offered an unexpected opportunity, provided that it doesn’t bet on superpower competition. Instead, it must gather the courage to set the example of collective responsibility that humanity needs.

India pushed towards Rafale Post Kargil War that de-hyphenated the US-India relations from Pakistan

On 26 July 2020 India commemorated 21 years of Kargil victory, valour and martyrdom of soldiers. The Kargil War fought in 1999 becomes more relevant in today’s tensed security environment on India’s North-Western border. The Chinese intrusion in the Galwan valley and Pakistani intrusion in Kargil draw similarity as both happened when India was trying to improve the relationship with Pakistan and China respectively. But also both incidents have only smashed India’s hope of peace and pushed India to be more realistic in dealing with its two arch-rivals. Kargil conflict was a watershed moment as it exposed India’s defence preparedness and set the US-India relations towards de-hyphenation from Pakistan.

Though the Operation Vijay recaptured all the Indian posts in Kargil from Pakistan, the conflict exposed India’s dulled defence capability- from intelligence system to the shortage of artillery ammunition and precision-guided arms. But the conflict also pushed India to improve logistics and intelligence capabilities, focus on detailed renewal and backup policy, and towards a modern defence system. India embarked on the modernisation of the domestic defence industry of which the diversification of the arms acquisition from Russia to the other leading advanced defence nations became a major policy focus. Operation Vijay demonstrated that besides the Indian Army’s mountain warfare capability the support of India’s air power was critical in the victory.

To put above in the present context, with China’s aggressive military build-up and China-Pakistan security nexus only intensifying and when the India-China standoff is simmering in an exacting and rough terrain of Himalayas, India’s air power capability becomes significant. The French delivery of Mirage-2000 in 1999 and now Rafale is momentous and has boosted India’s air power. India’s ties with France is robust and resilient in which defence sector is striking. France has strongly supported India’s fight against Pakistan backed terrorism and Chinese military adventurism. Despite India’s progress in space and missile development programme, the continued dependency on import for high-end arm products exposes decades of lack of a clear-cut vision of its defence industry and modernisation of arms industry in a slapdash manner with huge cost and time overruns.

Furthermore, Kargil intrusion turned out to be Pakistan’s biggest strategic blunder as Islamabad could not foresee the global repercussions. Pakistan not only faced international ignominy and alienation, but Kargil paved the way for the US tilt towards India. For the first time, the US viewed India-Pakistan relations independently and objectively and slammed Pakistan for putting the two South Asian arch-rivals at the risk of a nuclear war. The US-India relation was to stand on its merit and no longer tied to the US-Pakistan relations. This became obvious during President Clinton’s visit to South Asia in 2000 when in India he spent five days and constructively engaged with Prime Minister Vajpayee. But Clinton’s Pakistan visit was of five hours and that to lecture Musharraf to stop cross border terrorism. Later on President George W. Bush pursued a policy of de-hyphenation which was welcomed by Prime Minister Vajpayee which followed a series of foreign policy initiatives including the 2004 Next Step in Strategic Partnership which sought to expand the US-India ties to high- technology, defence, space, and civilian nuclear energy.

Before the Kargil conflict, the US had imposed sanctions on India because of its nuclear test in 1998. Clinton administration sought to fix ties with India under the Strategic Engagement- the dialogue between the US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh. This was also the time when India mounted the daunting task of justifying its nuclear test on Capitol Hill in which the Indian lobbying carried on by India Caucus was significant. This was the most daring and ambitious diplomatic and political manoeuvring that India ever pursued since Independence aimed at clearing the doubts about its nuclear test and highlighting its security concerns. Clinton administration was adamant on India for signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) which India refused to sign on the ground of it being an extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NNPT). For India, the NNPT undermined its security concerns and was biased in favour of permanent five. Kargil conflict also helped the Indian lobbying to consolidate its position in the US Congress which would only grow in its clout to play a decisive role in the passage of the US-India nuclear deal in the US Congress which ended the nuclear pariah status and dismantled the technology denial regime against India.

Though 9/11 brought Pakistan in the US strategic relevance in the War on Terror in Afghanistan, the US relations with Pakistan since then has only deteriorated. Pakistan’s double game in its support to the US War on Terror was exposed when Osama bin Laden was found in Pakistan. President Barack Obama with his Indian counterpart Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Prime Minister Modi converged on the issue of terrorism. But President Trump with PM Modi has taken the US-India ties convergence on terrorism and Pakistan a step ahead. A significant action by Trump in this regard has been the canceling of the US military funds to Pakistan on the ground of deceiving the US and using the Taliban to further its interests.

Pakistan’s attempt to hyphenate itself in the US-India relations has not been successful. Pakistani society has become more anti-American and Pakistan has drifted towards China strategically. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who has lived in both West and Pakistan, was seen as the last beacon of hope. But unlike his 1980s-90s stint as the Captain of the Pakistani cricket team, Khan has failed to charm as the Captain of Pakistan which is in the news more for its deadliest terrorists than its deadliest fast bowlers.

Coming to the COVID-19 geopolitics era, China’s geopolitical game plan amid the humanitarian crisis is challenging the US in which Pakistan does not fit. China-Pakistan nuclear/defence bonhomie and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor have deepened their connivance and further put Pakistan off the US strategic radar.

Pakistan is no longer needed by the US to bring down the Soviet Union from the Southern vantage point. No longer Pakistan is needed also for its past moderate Muslim state image for strategically engaging the energy-rich Middle East which is losing its relevance amidst the Paris Climate Summit goals and Greta Thunberg phenomenon, shift to renewable energy sources, the US shale gas revolution and new hydrocarbons sources.

Pakistan has again resurfaced in the US move to wrap up its longest war in Afghanistan, but this is only going to be disappointing for the US. The US-India strategic partnership is crucial not only for China but also for Pakistan which is not a security solution but a security problem.

Spiteful Legacy of Toxic Bolton

Card carrying members of the Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) club have cheered revelations of dysfunction in the administration by sacked national security adviser John Bolton, in his book The Room Where It Happened. Yet Bolton’s long record of assaults on the normative architecture of the UN-centric multilateral order makes him a dubious champion of a better world. Melody Townsel, a foreign aid worker, alleged that in 1994 Bolton, then a private attorney, chased her “through the halls of a Russian hotel – throwing things at me, shoving threatening letters under my door and generally behaving like a madman.” Still, in 1994 Bolton notoriously said the UN “Secretariat building in New York has 38 stories. If it lost 10 stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.”

Bolton’s public service legacy is largely baleful. He is no diplomat, detests professional diplomats as gutless appeasers, is yet to meet an arms control agreement he likes or a crisis that cannot be solved by bombing the enemy. He still holds the invasion of Iraq was America at its finest and best. He behaved like a Mafioso heavy with José Bustani, DG of the UN’s chemical weapon convention’s implementing agency. As undersecretary of state, in 2002 Bolton told him: “You have 24 hours to leave the organisation, and if you don’t comply … we have ways to retaliate … We know where your kids live.” In 2005, as the US ambassador to the UN, Bolton came close to wrecking the World Summit completely. He never hid his distaste for the organisation, for example dismissing deputy secretary-general Mark Malloch Brown as just “a petty bureaucrat”. Bolton was the architect of the US policy of threats of sanctions, including criminal prosecution, of the International Criminal Court and its personnel for daring to investigate possible war crimes by US troops in Afghanistan. As a private citizen in 2017, Bolton wrote the US “should welcome the opportunity … to strangle the ICC in its cradle.”

In 2018, NSA Bolton in effect implemented his own advice. Christoph Flugge, a German judge, resigned in protest at US interference with the ICC’s operations, citing Bolton’s threats. The 2019 US cancellation of the INF treaty underwriting Europe’s strategic stability for three decades was another example of Bolton implementing his own earlier advice from 2011. Ditto with President Donald Trump’s pullout from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Another harmful Bolton legacy as NSA was the decision, at a time when experts were already warning that the US was dangerously exposed to the risks of a pandemic, to disband the global health security team of the National Security Council in 2018.

Bolton holds that Trump was more interested in crafting a media narrative of success based on his gut instincts, than in ensuring North Korea’s denuclearisation based on a firm grasp of issues and US interests. Writing in Foreign Affairs, Sue Mi Terry endorses Bolton’s telling that “in reckless pursuit of an attention-grabbing deal with the North, Trump did considerable damage to US relations with Seoul”. But South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s internationally respected special adviser Moon Chung-in accused the ‘paranoid’ Bolton of having thwarted a deal on freezing the North’s nuclear weapons development in exchange for lifting some sanctions. In his judgment, “The bad is Bolton, the ugly is [Japan’s PM Shinzo] Abe and the reasonably good is President Trump.” US special representative for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, was a “very good man”. In 2018, I speculated that Bolton may have tried to sabotage the inaugural Trump-Kim summit in Singapore by urging North Korea to follow the ‘Libya model’ of denuclearisation. It’s baffling why any serious observer of North Korea’s nuclear programme would give credence to Bolton’s advocacy of strangling it with sanctions, using military force to effect regime change and insisting on total denuclearisation by the North before it gets any benefits. President Moon’s alternative framework of a step-by-step negotiation based on reciprocal concessions was always more plausible.

Sunday Special: How Busyness Can Be Laziness

It’s better to take your time and slow down than trade a good job well done for hasty speed or effectiveness. Here’s where Buddhism and busyness collide.

Busy can be good! “Chaos should be regarded as extremely good news!,” as Trungpa Rinpoche used to remind us (and our egos). But busy-ness…not so much–and our speediness and quest for efficiency doesn’t even produce results, often. Mindfulness anchored to busy?

Life emerges out of the silence of our inner being. The life that we have in our mind, the life that is a reflection of our planning, the life that has been constructed out of bits and pieces in our environment—external conditioning, things we have observed in other people, things that influential people have told us—is actually not who we are.

That pre-planned life is rigid. It’s artificial. It’s unresponsive. It doesn’t reflect the life that we were born to live. As a student of mine observed, obstacles—which are always with us—are not really obstacles when you work with them in the right way. And we have to work with them.

Many, many people tell me “I’m having a lot of problems doing this [meditation] practice because I am so busy. I’m really busy. I have a full life. It’s busy and I run from morning ‘til night.” People actually say that.

Now think about that for a minute. What kind of life is that? Is that a life worth living? Some people feel it is. America is probably the most extreme example of a speed-driven culture—and this is not my particular personal discovery, but something that has been said to me by many people from other traditional cultures. The first time this was said to me was when I was 19 and I went to Japan. Western people are running from themselves and they use the busy-ness of their lives as an excuse to avoid having to actually live their own life. We are terrified of who we actually are, terrified of the inner space that is the basis of the human experience.

We are actually incapable of being alone—of any work that requires genuine solitude, without entertainment, that requires making a connection with the silence of the inner being. The American family engineers a life in which there is never any time alone, where we never have to actually talk to each other. Even dinnertime is around the TV, at best—or we’re just grabbing something at McDonald’s.

But it’s not the larger culture. It’s actually us. It’s me and it’s you. We load our life up to the point where it’s about to snap. And when you ask someone to sit down and be with themselves they go, “I can’t. I don’t have time for that.” Now you and I may realize that there actually is a problem. Most people don’t think there is a problem.

We run our kids in the same way—and it’s destroying them. The soccer practice and the music lesson and three hours of TV and homework—it goes on from the minute they get up until they go to sleep. They never have an opportunity to experience silence. Psychological development requires periods of solitude. Anthropological psychology—studying other cultures, as well as our own—shows that when children do not have completely unstructured time, when there are no parental expectations looming over them, they actually can’t develop normally.

We see this at higher levels of education, too. Even the unusual and gifted students at Naropa [University]. These people are disabled, in many cases, because they have lived a busy life, fulfilling all expectations that middle and upper-middle class parents lay on their children because of their fear. The underlying thing is fear of space.

We all have it. I have it in a major way. I am busy. I have all these things that I like to do. When one thing ends, the next thing starts. It’s all important and I have to do it and I don’t sleep enough. So we all have to take another look.

The problem with being busy is that it is based on ignorance—not realizing that by keeping your mind occupied constantly you are actually not giving yourself a chance. We even put an activity in our life, called meditation, where you practice not being busy. Think about it. It’s actually genius. You have added another thing on top of everything else you do, but you are pulling the plug for a period of time every day—so it actually has a reverse effect of opening up and creating space. So you are just going to be more busy now! But this is good, especially in Western culture. People put meditation on their To Do lists. This is something I tell my students: “If you don’t put meditation on the top of your To Do list, it will be at the bottom, and it won’t happen.” I find that if meditation is not the first priority of my day it won’t happen. You know if I am foolish enough to say, “Well, I have to make this phone call, check my email…,” then it’s over. Finished. “I’ll do it later.” It never happens. Look at your life and ask, “Am I being honest with myself? Is it really true that I don’t have time?”

“Work expands to fill all of the available space.” The problem is not the amount of things you have in your life, it’s the attitude. It’s your fear of space. Busy-ness in the Tibetan tradition is considered the most extreme form of laziness. Because when you are busy you can turn your brain off. You’re on the treadmill. The only  intelligence comes in the morning when you make your To Do list and you get rid of all the possible space that could happen in your day. There is intelligence in that: I fill up all the space so I don’t have to actually relate to myself!

Once you have made that list, it’s over. There is no more fundamental intelligence operating. So the basic ignorance is not realizing what we are doing by being busy. What we are doing to ourselves, what we are doing to our families, what we are doing to our friends.

These people…we loved each other. We were so close. But it was always the same: after 10 minutes they said, “Well, we got to run!” Every single one did the same thing. And Lee said to me, “What are they so afraid of?” Not one of them was actually present. It made me realize why I left the East Coast and went to India. “How far away can I get?” But these patterns are deeply ingrained in us, and running away is not going to solve the problem. It’s in us.

People on campus always say to me, “Gee, you must be really busy.” I could be standing there looking at an autumn tree. I say “No, I’m not busy, I have all the time in the world.” Now, I may not really feel that way—but somehow we have to stop this mentality. It’s sick. Literally. So I never say to my wife, “I’m busy.” Ever. I used to do it, but it didn’t evoke a good reaction.

“I’m too busy.” I am sorry. I don’t buy it. It’s self-deception: “I am too busy to relate to myself.” I don’t care if you have four children and three jobs—we have one human life. And if you can’t make the time, 15 minutes to relate to yourself, everyone else in your life is going to suffer. You have to realize that you are harming other people by making up excuses and not working on yourself. This is serious.

I do understand that things happen in life, and in the course of a week there are going to be times when you can’t practice if you have a job, a family. But to say that over a period of three months I can’t practice because I am too busy? That is the very problem that you came here to solve. I implore you.

Being busy is tricky. We set up our life so we are busy. I do this to myself; this is one of my biggest obstacles. I get excited about things and agree to do things three months from now. But when the time comes I realize it is not a good idea because I can’t do it properly, because I have so much else going on. But I have no choice. I have to go through with it. “God, you idiot, how could you do that!” But getting angry doesn’t help, because there I am and I’ve got a 16-hour day I have to get through.

Unless you viciously carve out time to work on yourself it’s not going to happen. You have to be brutal about it, actually. If your mind is always busy then you have no sense of the world you live in. Because there is no communication, there is no space within which to see what we are doing. We will end up destroying our lives, and you may not realize what you have given up until you are on your deathbed. By being busy you are basically giving away your human existence.

One of the things about being busy is that it is a un-examined behavior. It’s habitual.

3 Thinks to Ask Yourself to Evaluate if You’re too Busy

What’s the Point?

So when something comes up and you think “I need to do this,” the first question to ask is, “Why do I need to do this? What am I expecting to get out of this particular activity? What is the benefit going to be?”

A lot of times we actually don’t even think what we are going to get out of it, or what it’s going to accomplish. Amazing. Say I need to call so-and-so right away. Okay: “Why?” You’d be surprised. You think “Well, it’s obvious.”

It isn’t. We have not thought through most of the things that we do at all. We haven’t looked at what the desired consequence is.

What are the Odds?

I may think I am likely to get something, and sometimes I do. But what is the likelihood that something is not going to happen? How sure am I that what I think I am going to get, will happen? What is the percentage of possibility?

Is Other Stuff Likely to Come Up?

This is the big one for me. Does this action have unforeseen karmic consequences? For example: I want to call up somebody and check on something. A lot of times they start telling me some terrible thing that has just happened. I’d allowed five minutes for this conversation, and 45 minutes later I am still on the phone. We do this all the time. We don’t look at the consequences of a particular action.

It’s like somebody who goes into a café, and there is this huge cheesecake right there. You could buy a slice, but you get a cappuccino and sit down with the entire cheesecake and start eating. Now, from a certain point of view this sounds like bliss. And maybe for a short period of time you are going to forget all the pain of the human condition. I mean, that is the great thing about cheesecake. [Laughter] It boosts your endorphins for 5 or 10 minutes. You feel great! But then, having eaten the entire cheesecake, you feel sick for the next three days.

Strangely enough, this is how we live our lives. We jump on things. Someone asks me, “Why don’t you come to Switzerland, teach for a few days and then hang out in the wonderful Alps?” By the time I get off the phone I am ready to pack. Then I talk to my wife. [Laughter] And she asks me, “Have you considered what a 17-hour trip is going to do to your bad back? Have you thought about that?” And then I get back on the phone. [Laughter]

But, because of our ambitions of all kinds, we are ready to fill our life up to the point where, even if I’m in Switzerland, nothing is different. This is one of the great discoveries: wherever I go it’s still lousy. [Laughter] It’s just me and my mind and I don’t feel good and I have got this work to do and I don’t have the energy. It’s the same story, no matter where I go or what I’m doing.

Except when I sit down and meditate. Then, I feel like I am creating an inner space so I can actually relate to the fact of what my life is, rather than just being in an out-of-control mode. So sit down and ask yourself, “What is important in my life, and what’s less important?” Almost on a daily basis, we have to look closely at the things that remain on our To Do list to see whether they are actually realistic.

Ten years ago, after I’d taught a Dathün—a month long meditation—some of the students said to me, “We feel bonded to each other and to you. We’d really like to keep going” And I said, “Well, we could start a meditation group.” And 10 years later I am trapped with a community of 200 people, called Dhyana Sangha. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful. But I got into it in a blind way. And there are many other things that I do not love in the same way that I get into blindly. We all do that all the time—and we wind up with a life that doesn’t work and isn’t helpful to others.

My ambition to accomplish things is going to be one of the last things to go. I can’t help it; it’s just the way that I am. I see a pile of leaves that need to be raked up and I start salivating. I love to do things. I love to be active. And you can say, “Well, that’s great.” But there’s neurosis in that. It’s a way of shutting out space. This is another thing my wife has taught me: when there’s no space nothing really happens.

If there isn’t a complete sense of openness and space, then communication between two people can not happen. Period. It’s that simple. The communication we have with each other is often based on agendas: negotiating with other people to get what we want. That’s not communication.

My wife taught me that. Insistently. It’s to the point where that busy mind is just not acceptable in our house anymore. It doesn’t matter what’s going on my life. If she comes into my study, I have to be completely there. And that’s fabulous, because I’m never able to get invested in that neurosis. If I do, she’ll let me have it.

Giving up this state of busy-ness doesn’t mean that we aren’t going to be active, creative people. We’re giving up the mentality where you can’t actually relate to what’s in front of you because you have this mental speed going on. Let it go. I’m saying it to you. This is an issue that we are going to have to address if we want to be any good to anyone.

You’ll notice when you work in this way over a period of years—and this is something that I have discovered accidentally—the more you practice, the more you get done. If you sit for 2 hours in the morning, which is a lot for people, you will find that your day is 30 hours long. When you establish sitting, somehow, in your life—when you sit in the morning—your day takes care of itself. Things happen as they need to. There is a sense of auspicious coincidence throughout the day.

And when you don’t sit, things go to hell. Everything runs into everything. You say, “I don’t have time to sit ‘cause I have to do this email.” You run to your computer, turn it on and spend the next 4 hours trying to get your computer to work. This is just how things work.

Magic is actually very down to earth. It’s a part of our lives. It’s going on all the time, we just don’t see it. But when you actually take care of yourself, work with yourself and create openness in your life, life will respond by cooperating. And when you are unwilling to relate with yourself at the beginning of your day, your life is going to give you a hard time.

I realized that the way you accomplish things in life—whether with family or going to work—is through practice. One hour of work with the practice behind you is worth two days when the practice isn’t there. Things just don’t work well—there’s too much neurosis in it. When I don’t feel busy, things I have to do fall into place. Going through my day with a sense of relaxation, I connect with people. I appreciate the outdoors when I walk to my car. I see the sky.

I encourage you to take a chance: put practice at the top of the list. Don’t make that call if it isn’t something that actually needs to happen—so many of the things we do is to make people like us. “I have to make this call or so-and-so is going to be upset.” I have a pretty good idea that if you do that you will find that there is plenty of time to practice, no matter how busy you are. Busy people will look at your life and go, “I don’t see how you can do it!”

Learn how to invite space into your worklife. The space itself will actually accomplish most of what you need to do. In the form of helpful people turning up, auspicious coincidences… And in so doing, you are not only opening up your self, you are opening up the world. It becomes a dance. It’s no longer your job to sit there for 10 hours doing your thing, it’s to respond to the way the world wants things to happen. It’s de-centralized.

In Buddhism, this is one of the paramitas: exertion. Exertion is tuning into the natural energy of the world. And when you tune in, you don’t get tired. You become joyful. That you are part of a huge cosmic dance that is unfolding, moment by moment. And you have to change your ideas of what you thought should happen. It requires flexibility on our part!

Busy-ness. It’s the most commonly mentioned obstacle that everyone faces, and I know for me it’s #1. So I thought it would be worthwhile spending a little time with it. I invite you to take a fresh look at your life. Relate to the fear that comes up when we are not busy. Am I still worthy? It’s that Calvinist thing, underlying our culture. But try letting go and lo and behold it’s a better human life, and much more beneficial for other people.

Saturday Special: A Purported Fanatic Pens an Advisory to His Son

“Ignore the disputations of Shias and Sunnis; for therein is the weakness of Islam…” wrote Babar to his son Humayun and that is no sign of a person who os deemed a rabid Muslim. He was promoting Islam, but as he writes in the same letter: ”

“Oh my son! The realm of Hindustan is full of diverse creeds. Praise be to God … that He has granted unto thee the empire of it. It is but proper that you, with heart cleansed of all religious bigotry, should dispense justice according to the tenets of each community. And in particular refrain from the sacrifice of cow, for that way lies the conquest of the hearts of the people of Hindustan; and the subjects of the realm will, through royal favour, be devoted to thee.

“And the temples and abodes of worship of every community under the imperial sway, you should not damage. Dispense justice so that the sovereign may be happy with the subjects and likewise the subjects with their sovereign. The progress of Islam is better by the sword of kindness, not by the sword of oppression.”

This letter was written him on Jan 11, 1529.

In the current superheated nationalistic discourse that is at the heart of India’s Hindutva appeal, the Mughals are cast as the villains.

In this version of Indian history, this dynasty contributed little to the country’s architecture, administration and the arts. Indeed, Emperor Babar and his descendants are supposed to have done little but destroy Hindu temples, and cruelly subjugate non-Muslims.

If there’s a lesson here for India, there’s a more powerful one for Pakistan. Indeed, the entire Muslim world would be a far better place if we took Babar’s words to heart. Although his message of tolerance is universal, it is now largely ignored.

But it is not just Muslims who are intolerant: from America’s Trump to the UK’s Brexit, the public discourse has coarsened. Instead of listening to each other, we shout stridently in an effort to gain acceptance of our views. Recently, the speaker of the British parliament had to rebuke members for the toxic language used on the floor of the house.

Closer to home, we constantly persecute our minorities. Hindus, Christians, and Ahmadis, live in fear, as do the Shias. Hindu temples and holy carvings have been defaced. Christians have often been accused of blasphemy, a crime that, if proven, carries the mandatory death penalty. Ahmadis can be thrown into jail for the ‘crime’ of using a Muslim salutation. Young Hindu girls have been frequently kidnapped and forced to undergo conversion to Islam and then married to powerful feudals.

What would Babar make of our attitudes today? We proclaim ourselves to be heirs to the Mughals, and yet behave like barbarians. There was a time, not that long ago, when India set an example in democracy and secularism. No longer, alas. There is considerable irony in the fact that voices in Pakistan — an Islamic republic — are now reminding India of its secular constitution.

Tolerance is fading across the world, and yet it is the foundation of democracy. A country may have all the external features of a democratic dispensation, but the most liberal constitution in the world will crack and buckle before a forceful executive prepared to ignore legal niceties.

Americans were justly proud of their groundbreaking constitution drafted by the country’s founding fathers in 1787. Incorporating a wide-ranging set of checks and balances, the document sought to limit the powers of the president by counterbalancing them with the judiciary and the legislature.

However, these checks and balances only work if the president respects them. In many countries, the constitution limits a leader’s terms in office to usually two. But powerful presidents with dictatorial tendencies have either forced through amendments that allow them to hang on forever, or switch jobs with their prime ministers for a term while continuing to remain de facto rulers.

In brief, without tolerance, a constitution and all the trappings of democracy are worthless. If there is no will to ensure that India remains a truly secular state, no number of constitutional clauses will make it one. Simi­larly, the constitutional protection Pakis­tani minorities are supposed to receive is meaningless when the state caves in to mob rule.

There was no concept of a democratic dispensation when Babar ruled India. But as an administrator, he understood that social harmony in a huge and diverse country was only possible by dispensing even-handed justice to every community. A small Muslim minority could not rule by waging war against a much larger number of Hindus.

In both Pakistan and India, as well as in many other countries, suspicion of the ‘other’ drives persecution and fear, and robs us of our humanity.

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Decoding China’s war strategy and doctrines in the Himalayas: Recaliberating India’s counter-strategy

Current protracted India-China Standoff shows that the PLA objectives have actually fallen apart, as a more determined India stands firm. Nevertheless, India should take this as a warning shot. There is a need for India to counter challenge on the fast track and recalibrate the lacunas to cause sufficient deterrence to the aggressor in the near future. Initially, the Chinese grabbing of unheld areas along the ‘Line of Actual Control’ (LAC) in April 2020 appeared to look like an isolated incident between India and China. It looked akin to the Doklam or the Deepsang Plains incidents of attempted incursions. However, now there appears to be the unfolding of China’s sinister grand design on the global stage. China is challenging the present peaceful status quo all across many nations. Military action and coercion of US allies is a clear possibility, but China will be cautious and will evade a direct confrontation with the US. Because presently the US Military is the only existing dual power in the world. This translates to the US being the sole continental and maritime power and has the capability to project itself in both the sea and the land all across the globe. Whereas countries like Russia, China and India are fundamentally continental powers, which have large armies to fulfil their role in operating on land territories. China has been trying to leapfrog to acquire the ‘Blue Water Navy’ status. However, the same may take a decade more as the present naval capacity of China gives it the status of a ‘Green Water Navy’ implying regional power projection capability. Therefore, the relevance of the ‘QUAD’ in this context for dominating the seas is critical in the India-China war scenario and the power matrix in the seas appears to be in India’s advantage. 

Now looking with more focus to the India-China confrontation, it clearly stands that China’s war strategy towards the North is the protection of the CPEC and towards the Northeast is to seize Arunachal Pradesh. Here, it will be appropriate to quote, Wen Wei Po a Hong Kong-based daily owned by the People’s Republic of China, which published an article in June 2013 and captioned ‘Six Wars to be fought by China in the next 50 years’. It was reposted on a Hong Kong web site around middle of September 2013. The paper had said that ,out of the six wars, the third war to capture Arunachal Pradesh has been scheduled in the year 2030-2035. As per the newspaper, it also said that simultaneously, China may use Pakistan to capture Kashmir(Indian side). Obviously, such an event will enable China to consolidate astride the Himalayas and that the CPEC would function flawlessly to allow mass transit of commodities (manufactured in Tibet) all across the world bypassing the long sea route and naval threats/blockades thereon. In fact, the CPEC is a counter to the “Malacca Dilemma” (Malacca is a narrow strait, where a naval blockade can be easily established). 

China’s historical strength has been its People’s Army working in a geographic boundary. However, after the Gulf war (1990-1991), the Chinese were convinced of the overwhelming advantage to a nation, which has adopted the strategy of conducting an ‘Informationalised Warfare’. This led to the concept and doctrine of ‘Unification of Command’ as well as the concept of a ‘War zone Campaign’ (WZC) took roots. This further facilitated the synergisation of all military platforms in a theatre. Because of these changes, the Western Theatre Command (Located in Lanzhou) was created in 2016 and now manages the entire LAC segment on the Indo-China border. Further, in the Tibet Military District, the establishment of the PLA Strategic Support Force (PLASSF) to conduct electronic, cyber warfare and psychological operations, and the Joint Logistics Support Force are unique additions. Yet another important goal of the ’’WZC’ is to use PLA’s selective “Pockets of Excellence” available anywhere, to offset the adversaries’ strengths. They have thus evolved a very interesting concept of a ‘Trans-Regional Support Operations’ (TRSO), which involves management, deployment and employment of ‘Pockets of Excellence’ from other Military Regions into the conflict zone, thus concentrating national resources at the point of action. PLA has articulated various principles associated with deployment (Bushu), coordination and command. One of the key principles is Gaining Initiative by Striking First (GISF) (Xianji Hide): these amounts to the destructive fire by all weapons/aircraft to cause maximum damage to the opponent’s assets before the battle joins. (This aspect needs special care in the present standoff scenario as has been discussed subsequently).The next principle of the element of surprise is also very important in the PLA drills for security and protection. But the next principle of ‘Initiation and Initial Battle’ should cause us to be sceptical and cautious during the on-going military-level talks for reasons as now explained and as highlighted in italics. As per their doctrine of war, it is quoted: “window of opportunity, or the optimal timing for a first strike, is the brief period between the failure of political and diplomatic initiatives at the strategic level and the constitution of enemy comprehensive strike capabilities through completed deployment. In the circumstance of enemy loss at the strategic level, campaign commanders should grasp the favourable opportunity when the enemy’s campaign deployment is still developing. Therefore, it is necessary to throw a powerful and superior initial strike force into the initial battle. For the air force, for instance, as high as 80 present of the campaign air force should be used in the initial battle in coordination with surface-surface missiles, long-range artillery, ground force aviation, electronic warfare, and special operations capabilities.”  The above-mentioned statement needs to be read repeatedly against the backdrop of the current level of military-to-military talks. It has various serious connotations. Can the Chinese apply the above principle if talks fail after yet another month of dialogue? Because, by then the deployment of all the Indian troops would have already been located and their digitised data would have already been fed into the Chinese systems, may it be artillery, Fighter aircrafts, or the Rocket and missile Forces. In fact, by India’s continued reinforcements in the Ladakh sector is ‘Allowing the PLA to box our forces within the Ladakh sector and record their location by digitised coordinates’. As per the above-italicised statement, the Chinese, if their intention changes due to failure in talks-have to just initiate a synchronised fire order for all the weapon systems(including Long-Range Missiles/Rockets) to fire in a coordinated salvo after salvo attack to cause maximum in situ destruction to Indian combat assets even before the war has commenced. All this is done by moving his fire capable assets at the last moment before the barrage of fire comes. Beware India, as this situation is live and happening now as the talks may actually be a deception. India should, therefore, desist from concentrating all the Infantry divisions and combat elements within the Show window (Eastern Ladakh) but keep some of them out of the battle zone as fast-moving reserves to be employed only after the first fire salvo of the PLA.

The sequence of PLA battle is the same as all armies of the world. Stage 1 is for Information Domination, which enables almost real-time information in the digitised format of all available targets and simultaneously denying own information to the enemy. Stage 2 is the execution of massive destructive fire by all platforms in a synchronised way to ensure the earliest destruction of targets through precession strikes.Stage3 commences with assault after the targets/objectives are softened or destroyed. India can dominate all these stages, provided it can change the doctrines towards creating NCW platforms(Already done to a great extent) and ability to harness real-time information and thereafter ‘Fire for Effect’. India’s alliance partners should be able to facilitate this aspect of Info domination. Further, India’s war strategy should also transit to offensive/counter F offensive capabilities in a High Altitude environment. This, in turn, will need reorganisations of fighting units and formations and the equipment required would change accordingly. This will take some time. Nevertheless the above, undoubtedly, the present incursion is a very calculated manoeuvre as part of the psychological war and to create a flashpoint for forward mobilisation of troops by the PLA as part of a deception plan. As per reports, the PLA has done extensive training with mechanised elements and artillery in Tibet during the last winters at heights of 10000 feet and above. In addition, they have introduced new equipment and tanks, especially for mountain warfare. All this indicates that an all-out offensive by the PLA in the coming winters cannot be discarded as a likely contingency. India, therefore, has to change the present narrative from a defensive mind-set to a war strategy of a counter-riposte of one or two strike corps targeted at ‘Ground of Strategic Importance’, thus forcing the adversary to recoil and suffer damages.

Recaliberating India’s counter-strategy

To be realistic, India has very little time to offset its military weaknesses as China continues to exploit its strength under the shadow of this pandemic. May be, India has to be fully geared up in a short time span before it faces a very serious threat. India’s immediate options need to be expedited on a fast track as discussed above to thwart the present threat. In addition, it needs to take full support of its ‘Strategic Alliance’ partners to offset the asymmetry. However, in the longer run(after this threat has been dissipated), India needs to change direction towards self-sufficiency and a new defence strategy, fresh doctrines, organisations and enable ‘Make in India’ manufacturing. First need, is to re-orientate our strategic direction and review India’s ‘National Security Strategy’ (NSS) and downwards to Joint Military Doctrines. The operating ‘Defence Policy Guidelines’ (DPG) should shift to a more proactive stance and India’s war strategy should transit to an ‘Offensive-Defensive’ principle of war. To build and evolve national strategies, we should encourage the raising of Indian Defence University (INDU), and within it, we should create a Military Science College. We should thereafter, spin out PhDs from these centres of excellence to enable cultivating a strategic culture with Indian characteristics. The thrust of warfare will continue to be based on networked technology supported by artificial intelligence and robotics. The above-mentioned capabilities warrant jointness at all levels. Therefore, there is a strong case to pass an ‘Armed Forces Joint Act’ in the Indian Parliament. This should be on the same line as the Goldwater–Nichols Act of 1986 passed in U.S. senate to force the spirit of Jointness in the US Armed Forces and streamline the command chains. India should institutionalise a ‘Strategic Defence Review’ (SDR) periodically to cater to emerging threats including the impact of Covid-19 Pandemic scenario and the emerging alliances. New alignments of nations and a changed world order need to be re-calibrated. New geo-political and geo-strategic realities may compel military alliances, to rebalance the power matrix in this region. The voids in the military power equation will have to be addressed through various asymmetric strategies akin to what the Chinese played to face US superiority. One has to locate multiple weak links of the adversary, akin to the chakras in a human body. For example, a strike at the solar plexus chakra can make the strongest also reel back in pain. Obviously, this implies the need for a very sophisticated architecture for harnessing the space and near earth surveillance assets. If help on this aspect has to be taken from strategic allies then it should be standardised by an MOU and joint exercises in peacetime. In fact, such a “Real Time” Information based network should be the heart of future campaigns to give India the decisive edge. Additionally, there is a need to upgrade our spectrum warfare capability. For asymmetric threats, this is the best solution. The newer concept of using state of the art ‘Non-Nuclear Electromagnetic-Pulse’ (NNEMP) weapons or maybe similar weapons, can blackout the battlefield for both sides paralysing all communication networks and causing a systems failure of all entities like the artillery support, air support and missile firing. All communication controlled force multipliers will go off-road and the two armies will face the pre- First World War scenario, where the primacy of the battle would be relegated to the infantry combat level. Handheld weapons and fistfights will then be the battle-winning factor. The Cyber-war/social media domain should also be strengthened by recruiting thousands of volunteers with laptops.

Yet another pressing reorganization required is the concept of ‘Unified Theatre commands’. This needs to be urgently established for the Headquarters Northern Command akin to the recently formed China’s Western Theatre Command (Formed in 2016 at Lanzhou). This will be a war-winning strategy by a simple reorganizational initiative. There is also a case to revisit our nuclear doctrine, which also needs to reflect on our tolerance thresholds limits astride the LAC on the Himalayas. This is the art of leveraging nuclear assets to offset conventional disadvantages, either due to an adverse battle situation or as a deterrent philosophy. It can be argued that Tactical Nuclear Weapons (TNWs) are always an option for warfighting at least theoretically. Thus, their development should not be taboo. In fact, it will control the ‘Escalation Ladder’ and strengthen the deterrence. Fusion technologies have allowed miniaturisation of nuclear warheads and thus the capability of MIRV type of nuclear arsenals, which have always been included in PLA nuclear doctrines and other P-5 powers, should be added in India’s inventory too. They automatically increase the deterrence asymmetry during the warfighting stage and only add one more step in the ‘Escalation Ladder’. Therefore, the aspect of TNWs needs to be debated as a deterrence stabilising factor. India also has to cater for a surprise Chemical or Bio attack. 

As regards organisational reforms, there is a need to hasten up the already started process of creating brigade bricks and many other organisational restructurings with the basic philosophy of making leaner organisations to which have to be added the power of Info-networks and the punch of precision fire. There is a need to re-orbat and redeploy Formations keeping in mind the lessons of the present standoff. Additional Formations can be created by right-sizing various units and sub-units in the military. This can in fact release strength for creating minimum two more divisions or an additional offensive Light Corps, with objectives in-depth to outmanoeuvre the enemy’s main offensive opposite Ladakh/Central Sector/Eastern sector of the LAC. Let them practise to seize vital objectives in the depth and many such areas north of the LAC. Indian Special Forces be also grouped into brigades and be practised for operations all across the front behind enemy lines. Harnessing local Tibetans should always remain on the agenda. India enjoys a unique geographic advantage. The LAC runs along the Himalayas. India’s core strength is these Himalayas, which also provide natural caves, which can be reinforced for defence purposes. Not only they merge into the environment giving concealment from satellites but also they can easily withstand enemy’s precision strike and air attacks. Further, one can also deploy long-range rocket and missile forces towards the south of Ladakh (For e.g. at Manali etc.) in similar natural caves. India should utilise this advantage and thus adopt a strategy of massed fire from these bases, akin to the Russian concept. (Deep battle is a Russian concept that focussed on terminating enemy forces not only in the front line but throughout the depth of the battlefield).This strategy of massed fire at long ranges from protected bases can break the PLA offensive at low costs. We can also start thinking of the sixth generation of warfare with ‘Offensive Aerospace Operations’ led by UAVs and proceeded by ‘EW’ operations. The infantry gets only the supporting role for ground forces. Again, this enables an asymmetric warfare capability to counter the numerical strength of the PLA.

India’s war strategy should shift to alliance/partners until 2035 to offset the discussed asymmetry. In this interim, one should vow not to make strategic blunders that have been made in plenty since the last 70 years. Remake India’s defence capabilities to be self-reliant based on Indian thought created through academic centres of excellence (like INDU etc.) Encourage fast track R&D akin to the ‘DARPA’ like the model of America, specifically to beat the dragon in the Himalayas. Let DRDO remain as an alternative military scientific enterprise. Evolve a ‘NSS’, which can define tomorrow’s warfare challenges and helps in shaping the combat elements of our own forces. The bias has to be less on manpower but more on real-time precession firepower. Thus, the basic shift in our war strategy has to be Information Domination (including management of Space assets) followed by massive precession fire from short and long ranges. Therefore, the basic strategy has to shift to having 60 % offensive assets and only 40% defensive assets. Further, to enable a timed development, a guarantee of budgets (preferably more than 3-4% of GDP be annually ensured). All this is dependent on India’s economic rise, which is bound to happen. Otherwise, let the patriotic Indians contribute in a ‘Bharat Raksha Fund’ and de-link Indian Military transformation from the routine budget. It is then, maybe after 15-20 years that the Indian Armed Forces will emerge as a self-reliant first-grade military force.

Finally, the opening phase of any war will be pivotal at the critical time of fire. Fire for effect would enable any defender to stymie a wave of attacks, as the Chinese always do. Obviously, by executing some of the war changing strategies (in combination with Nuclear Deterrence) as mentioned above, will nullify China’s conventional superiority and combat differential ratio. Thus, India-China conflict would again become a ‘Zero Sum Game’. This equation will naturally give India the right place in the comity of nations and that India would then become a factor of stability in world peace.

A Wakeup Call for Canada: China Enters the War for the Arctic

Canada, US, Denmark and other Arctic states need to wake up. They are on the verge of being overwhelmed by wily Dragon on the northern frontier. China dispatched its 122-meter-long icebreaker, the Snow Dragon ii, from Shanghai to the Arctic on July 15. It is intended to patrol the Northern Sea Route and establish a Chinese presence in the east-west maritime corridor. This comes during a time of increased Russian military presence along the same route and an America in retreat.

While China has publicly stated that its main interest in the region lies in protecting the Arctic environment, the Northern Sea Route has emerged as a valuable trade route, running from eastern Norway to the Bering Strait, just south of the Arctic Circle.

As the Arctic ice caps melt away, this route provides a shipping lane providing safe passage for container ships from the Bering Sea, off the coast of Alaska, along thousands of miles of Russian border, all the way to Norway, and from there, out into the Atlantic. This is of significant importance because it connects the Arctic to the already existing trade route from Vladivostok in Eastern Russia, through the Strait of Malacca and the Suez Canal, reaching Western Europe.

Russia has had a reestablished presence in the region for over a decade, having had strategic air patrols off the Alaskan coast in 2007. In 2014, it created a new military district for the entire region and, in 2017, began construction of icebreaking vessels capable of antisubmarine warfare.

However, Russia does not have the means to fully develop and expand the Northern Sea Route, and so, in steps China. Snow Dragon ii will traverse over 7,000 miles of the area for the next three months. It made its maiden voyage into Antarctica late last year and is now ready for the Northern Sea Route.

Despite China saying the purpose of the mission is scientific, this excursion is not just into the Arctic Circle, but along the Northern Sea Route itself. It will last longer than China’s 10 previous visits into the region.

China’s vested interest in this trade route is part of its long-established Belt and Road Initiative as the “Polar Silk Road.” This route is one of six important links, or roads, between China and Europe, promoting and enabling China’s geopolitical strategy.

The United States has historically had a sizable presence in the Arctic, but Russia’s recent reemergence in the region, coupled with China’s entrance, is supplanting a retreating U.S. Despite opposing China’s growing Arctic footprint, America’s presence in the region has greatly diminished since the end of the Cold War. U.S. President Donald Trump has mandated increased air patrols off the Siberian coast, but this lags behind Russia’s established defense systems and deployed fleet of icebreakers.

With China joining Russia’s side, the U.S. is outnumbered in the region. Russia already has an established presence in the Arctic, allowing it to exploit the vast mineral riches, worth an estimated $30 trillion. With China helping to fully develop and streamline the Northern Sea Route, Russia and China could form a lucrative trade partnership connecting the great wealth of the Arctic Circle to European markets.

With Russia and China’s already close ties, their collaboration in the Arctic will only bring the Dragon and the Bear ravage North America and Europen littoral states. As America continues its withdrawal from the Arctic, it is on the verge of finding itself frozen out of an emerging global trade order.

What is going to come out of these events will affect us. Understanding where these events are leading is imperative.

Weekend Special: The problem with perfectionists

People often brag about being perfectionists – but new research shows people much prefer colleagues with realistic expectations.

When you hear the word ‘perfectionist’, someone may spring to mind nearly instantly – a boss, colleague or even work friend whose standards have almost nothing to do with reality. They await the impossible from themselves or others, put in hours and hours making tweaks invisible to anyone but themselves, then wind up burnt out and exhausted by the end of the week.

Often these people will even advertise this trait, announcing brightly: “I’m a bit of a perfectionist”. It’s a boast of sorts, and a way to differentiate themselves as a star employee. After all, who wouldn’t want to hire someone who strives for perfection?

The answer may not be a resounding ‘yes’. Increasingly, research suggests that perfectionism isn’t a professional trait you necessarily want to advertise. It can actually negatively affect the workplace environment, alienate colleagues and make it harder for teams to get along. perfectionists might be far from the ideal, or even preferred, colleague to work with.

“If colleagues could choose between working with a perfectionist or a non-perfectionist,” says Kleszewski, “they would always prefer the non-perfectionist – the person with realistic expectations for themselves, and also for the team.”

Although perfectionism can permeate every corner of a person’s life, it’s rife in professional contexts

And while perfectionism can permeate every corner of a person’s life, it’s rife in professional contexts, she says. “If you ask people in what domain they are perfectionists, the most frequent answer is always the workplace. There’s a lot of performance and evaluation inherent in the tasks.” Research has tended to focus on perfectionists’ actual output, rather than the effect it might have on team climate or interpersonal relationships. But it’s worth investigating, says Kleszewski: “We know from previous research that good team climate is important for mental wellbeing at work.”

Is perfectionism any good?

Before about 1910, ‘perfectionism’ was generally used to describe a niche theological viewpoint. In the past century or so, it’s come to describe a particular worldview: someone who avoids error on a personal crusade for flawlessness.

If given the choice, colleagues would almost always choose working with a non-perfectionist

Initially, many psychologists thought perfectionism was wholly negative and deeply neurotic. In 1950, the German psychoanalyst Karen Horney described perfectionists as being terrorised by the “tyranny of the should” – that they felt they “should” be any number of contradictory ideals, able to solve any problem, complete impossible tasks and so on. Telling a patient they expected too much of themselves tended to be fruitless, she wrote: “He will usually add, explicitly or implicitly, that it is better to expect too much of himself than too little.”

In the decades since, academic opinion has become a little more conciliatory. On the one hand, perfectionism seems to be closely correlated with mental-health difficulties, including depression, anxiety and eating disorders. Professionally speaking, it can equate to burnout and stress, as expecting the impossible may mean setting yourself up for failure. On the other hand, perfectionists have been found to be more motivated and conscientious than their non-perfectionist peers, both highly desirable traits in an employee.

In a best-case scenario, perfectionists successfully channel their high standards into doing great work – while cutting themselves and others some slack when things don’t go perfectly.

Even with all of the downsides of perfectionism, perfectionists have been found to be more motivated and conscientious than their non-perfectionist peers

But such a balance isn’t always so easy to strike. In Kleszewski and Otto’s study, perfectionists and non-perfectionists were asked to rank potential colleagues for desirability, and to describe their experiences of getting along with others at work. Perfectionists were overwhelmingly described as highly able, but hard to get along with, while non-perfectionists topped the ratings for social skills and how much people wanted to work with them, even if they weren’t considered as competent. Perfectionists seem to notice a little coolness from their peers: the study showed that many described feeling excluded or on the edge of team dynamics.

Different approaches

These days, most researchers agree that perfectionism comes in many different forms, some of which may be more harmful than others.

Perfectionists seem to notice a little coolness from their peers: one study showed that many described feeling excluded or on the edge of team dynamics

One well-accepted definition splits perfectionists into three groups. You might be a “self-oriented perfectionist”, who sets very high standards for just yourself; a “socially prescribed perfectionist”, who believes that the acceptance of others is dependent on your own perfection; or an “other-oriented perfectionist”, who expects flawlessness from those around them. Each type has their own strengths and weaknesses – and some are more harmful to a team dynamic than others. (Kleszewski and Otto’s study showed that perfectionists who limit their quest for excellence to their own work are far easier to get along with than those who expect a lot of those around them.)

A vast meta-analysis of 30 years of studies, conducted at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School, explored another commonly-used classification system: “excellence-seeking” and “failure-avoiding”. The first kind of perfectionist fixates on achievingexcessively high standards; the second is obsessed with not making mistakes. While both groups exhibited some of the downsides of perfectionism, including workaholism, anxiety and burnout, they were especially true of the “failure avoiding” perfectionists, who also were more likely not to be “agreeable”.

Perfectionism can equate to burnout and stress, since expecting the impossible may mean setting yourself up for failure – at work or otherwise

Even though perfectionists may be undesirable colleagues, perhaps surprisingly, there was no relationship between perfectionism and job performance for either group, says researcher Dana Harari, who worked on the meta-analysis. “To me, the most important takeaway of this research is the null relationship between perfectionism and performance,” she says. “It’s not positive, it’s not negative, it’s just really null.”

Your perfectionist colleague may be setting themselves up for failure – especially when it comes to getting along with others. Research suggests that by throwing all their weight at one task, they may inadvertently neglect others along the way, or miss the value of maintaining positive relationships with their co-workers. People who manage perfectionists, meanwhile, should encourage them to invest a little less in their work and a little more in their own wellbeing.

And if you’ve read this with a sinking sense of guilt about your own workplace behaviour, go easy on yourself. No one’s perfect, after all

The Global Times is a perfect metaphor for China’s rise and current adventurism

The Global Times appears to have gone on a war footing with its recent slew of jingoistic propaganda in the form of badly worded write-ups ever since the Sino-Indian skirmish at the Galwan valley. From championing the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) rhetoric after the skirmish, which included publishing videos with peeks into PLA military exercises, to issuing subtle threats after the more recent de-escalation of tensions, the Global Times has indeed captured every opportunity to broadcast the CCP’s discourse in an attempt to hijack the ongoing narrative.

Owned by the People’s Daily, a CCP mouthpiece, the Global Times published its first English version in 2009, followed by its launch in the US in 2013, South Africa in 2014 and the EU in 2016. It has amassed a sizeable readership ever since, with both an estimated daily circulation of 2 million people and a website that attracts circa 30 million unique visitors every month. Presently Global Times has an entire vertical on its website dedicated to spreading its propaganda on ‘China-India’ relations in the garb of news and an appeal to ‘expert’ opinions.

Over the last few years, Global Times has used its platform to pontificate on a variety of different subjects relating to CCP’s foreign policy. This has ranged from vilifying Australia as a “paper cat” and an “offshore prison”, denigrating Hong Kong and Taiwan at every opportunity, conducting smear campaigns to lambast internal Chinese dissenters like Ai Weiwei, to threatening war with the US.

More recently, Global Times has not only used its publications but has also employed targeted Facebook and Twitter advertisements, both of which ironically are banned in China, to spread misinformation regarding the treatment meted out to Uighurs in Chinese detention camps and to create conspiracy theories which distance China from the origin of the Covid-19 virus.

Although Global Times and its belligerent rhetoric play a critical part in influencing the general narrative for an authoritarian regime, it has indeed exposed the existence of alternative domestic opinions in China, with Chinese career diplomats like Wu Jianmin criticising Global Times’s chief editor Hu Xijin for publishing views which are “extreme and narrow-minded”. Interestingly, Hu Xijin stated in an interview that Global Times reflects what the CCP is thinking, “but can’t come out and say”. This has essentially reiterated a dichotomy between the voice of the Chinese people and CCP’s “inner voice” which is championed by this auxiliary of the People’s Daily.

While the use of propaganda is anything but new for CCP, the growing intensity of rhetoric by Global Times has moved hand in hand with enhanced authoritarianism of CCP under President Xi Jinping. CCP until the recent past, primarily focussed on manipulating the domestic narrative by firstly controlling the domestic flow of information through the ‘Great Firewall’ and secondly injecting its propaganda at regular intervals. Accordingly, this strategy allowed CCP to create knowledge which would support the structures of CCP’s political legitimacy and power, which in turn would recreate more of the same knowledge, essentially forming Michael Foucault’s ‘knowledge-power nexus’ that is critical for any authoritarian regime.

However, with CCP’s rising stakes in the international arena, and its decreasing ability to limit the inflow of information into China which threatens to reduce its ability to control its domestic narrative, there has been an evident expansion in its scope which has now included an ongoing attempt to influence the international narrative. Global Times is essentially at the vanguard of this new adventurism by CCP.

Much like Soviet Union throughout the Cold War the CCP is working, chiefly through the Global Times, towards generating an outflow of information and propaganda to the global community that exceeds the inflow of information into China. This ensures that while CCP’s propaganda is positioned to influence the international narrative, information and ideas from external sources are comparatively less capable of doing the same within China.

An extension of this coordinated effort by CCP, described as wolf warrior diplomacy, appears to herald the transition of China’s metaphorical international image from the ‘panda’s’ peaceful rise as a status quoist power to the ‘dragon’s’ aggressive ascent as a revisionist power. This change is worrying against the backdrop of increasingly positive results of Chinese foreign initiatives which have successfully influenced and manipulated public debate, politics and the media and consequently narratives by creating media collaborations in foreign countries like South Africa and Argentina.

More concerningly, a study carried out in 2016 in six African countries underlined that the larger the presence of Chinese media, “the more favourable public opinion towards China has grown across multiple dimensions”. While there is a growing awareness about this ‘propaganda dumping’, its potential to manipulate and influence narratives across countries is a threat and looming reality for democracies across the world.

As part of this rising concern there is now a pushback with several Chinese media firms, including the Global Times, being recently designated as ‘foreign missions’ by the US which increases their regulations and compliances in an effort to control this Cold War-styled export of propaganda. In essence, the Global Times personifies CCP’s twofold approach to establish its cyber sovereignty by not only protecting its internal image but also ensuring an export of its rhetoric, policies and approach to the wider world, parts of which might be particularly susceptible to this propaganda in an environment shaped by the pressures of Covid-19.

As the world reassesses the assumptions that have shaped its perspectives about a rising China, the role of the Global Times should be seen as a metaphor for that rise.

Dueling Mars Missions Highlight New Space Race

Don’t be fooled by another seemingly innocent science mission. China launched its first independent mission to Mars on July 23 in the most advanced Mars mission ever undertaken. If the mission is successful, the probe should reach Mars’ gravitational field in February 2021 and will explore the planet for over three months. Meanwhile, NASA plans on launching its own advanced Mars mission this week. Is a new space race underway?

Nine years ago, China first attempted to send a probe to Mars in collaboration with Russia; however, the launch failed and the probe never left low-Earth orbit. Last week’s Tianwen-1 launch succeeded where the last probe failed; however, because the landing is the most difficult part of the mission, its success may not be known for another seven months. The United States is the only country so far to successfully land a probe on Mars.

China is one of three countries sending probes to Mars during this time period when Earth and Mars are at their closest. Less than a week before Beijing’s launch, the United Arab Emirates launched its Hope probe from Japan. It should also reach Mars in February; however, it will remain in orbit to study the planet’s atmosphere for 687 days. On July 30, the U.S. also plans to launch its Perseverance Mars mission.

The U.S. Mars 2020 mission’s main goal is to look for signs of ancient life, test for habitable conditions such as oxygen production, and bring soil and rock samples back to Earth. It is expected to land on Feb. 18, 2021, with the mission lasting at least one Mars year, or 687 days. Perseverance is very similar to previous rovers the U.S. has sent to Mars, but this rover contains more advanced scientific instruments. Perseverance will take samples of Mars’ surface; but since the technology is still being developed to bring the samples home, they are not expected to be retrieved until 2031. Scientists are speculating that this mission may provide the first evidence of alien life.

China’s Tianwen-1 aims to be the most advanced mission to Mars ever completed. Chinese scientists involved with the mission told the journal Nature Astronomy, “Tianwen-1 is going to orbit, land and release a rover all on the very first try, and coordinate observations with an orbiter. No planetary missions have ever been implemented in this way. If successful, it would signify a major technical breakthrough.” This mission is unique because the combination of an orbiter, lander and rover has never been used before.

Tianwen-1 forms part of China’s space strategy laid out in its April 2020 China National Development and Reform Commission to create an independent space infrastructure. The Diplomat wrote, “Once all is completed and demonstrated, China will work to offer an alternate credible space infrastructure to the world, thereby competing for global leadership in space.”

The technical challenges that the NASA and Chinese missions face are immense. The final seven minutes during landing will be the most difficult. However, it can take up to 40 minutes for communication between Mars and Earth, so the probe has advanced automation and the ability to make its own “decisions” based on scientific exploration and sensing its environment.

NASA has decades of experience in space, but China is catching up in many ways. This level of technical expertise not only allows for incredible scientific breakthroughs, it provides incredible militaristic advantage.

The last space race was a race for prestige—Russia and the U.S. competed to achieve the most impressive feat. For China, impressive feats are still important. But its main focus is on challenging the U.S.’s dominance of space militarily.

The militarized space threat China poses is one of the major reasons for the development of the Space Force as an independent branch of the U.S. military. The CEO of the United Launch Alliance, Tory Bruno, said that “this show of national prestige on Mars, I feel, is certainly connected to” what the Pentagon’s Defense Space Strategy report says is the weaponization of space to “reduce U.S. and allied military effectiveness and challenge our freedom of operation in space.”

Heritage Foundation Chinese aerospace expert Dean Cheng said, “The technology involved will have military implications because all space technology is dual use.” Cheng warned that “space technology, more than almost any other technology, is extremely fungible”—meaning interchangeable or readily able to adapt.

The technology used and the lessons learned from its Mars mission will aid China’s space military. “China views space as reflecting multiple pieces of what they term comprehensive national power,” Cheng continued. “Space touches on economic capability; it touches on military capability; it has impact on diplomacy, on internal political unity. It’s a wonderful advertisement for Chinese levels of science and technology.”

China is becoming a major threat to America’s hegemony in space. Since the end of World War ii, the U.S. has been the world’s sole superpower. The Soviet Union attempted to threaten its position, and the U.S. took it down through its Star Wars space program. But can America succeed a second time around? And against such a technologically advanced nation?

You need to wake up to the fact that the United States, even still possessing unmatched power, is afraid—fears—to use it; that the United States has stopped winning wars—that America was unable, with all its vast power, to conquer little North Vietnam! The United States is fast riding to the greatest fall that ever befell any nation!

America is falling fast. This is what we are seeing right now. Even as the United States still holds significant power, it is much more vulnerable than ever before. China is conducting missions in space that have never been attempted before. America is rapidly losing its “unmatched power.”America’s reliance on technology, including space technology, could be its Achilles’ heel. If China has the ability to land on Mars, it also has the technological capability to devastate American infrastructure. Should a nation wipe out U.S. satellites, America’s military would effectively be blinded. Within seconds, the world’s greatest military superpower would be paralyzed.

This is the state that America has reached today. Its position as the world’s sole superpower is being increasingly threatened with each passing day.

Emerging Economies Should Build Back Greener

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to stop and think about our impact on the planet, and to imagine the kind of world we want. There is still time for governments to plan for a green recovery, which would also help many of them address existing structural problems.

– While lockdowns have slowed the spread of the coronavirus in many countries, their economic impact has been devastating. At the same time, with fewer commuters, factories at a standstill, and limited construction, the havoc that humans wreak on the environment has become apparent.

Around the world, people are experiencing a revitalization of their natural surroundings, even as they deal with the tragic human toll of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many city dwellers are seeing blue skies, hearing birdsong, and breathing clean air for the first time in years.

This “return of nature” proves that even in lower-income countries, decisive policies and collective action can transform lives in a matter of weeks. Governments should take note of this as they craft policies for a post-pandemic recovery. Near-term measures will understandably be aimed at alleviating the immediate economic pain. But long-term success requires addressing the structural problems that fueled public frustration long before the pandemic.

Six months ago, major cities in Latin America and the Caribbean were in turmoil. Many factors triggered the mass protests that engulfed the region, but recurring themes were rage over limited job opportunities, poor public services and infrastructure, and environmental degradation. People were tired of long commutes on overcrowded buses in smog-choked cities. They were fed up with unsafe tap water and unreliable electricity supplies. And they were anxious about their prospects in economies buffeted by natural disasters and weak leadership.

The devastation of the pandemic has temporarily eclipsed such concerns. But, a year from now, if their lives feel like a replay of 2019, people in these countries will be justified in asking why policymakers have not met their demands with concerted action.

Similarly, the threat from climate change has not diminished. If unaddressed, future devastation is inevitable, threatening the economic security, political stability, and the health of our planet and its citizens. That is why the policy choices made in the pandemic’s aftermath will be more critical than the virus itself in determining our future.

Developing countries have a historic opportunity to adapt their economic model in preparation for these challenges. They should start by embracing a “green recovery” based on sustainable infrastructure in transportation, energy, sanitation, logistics, and communications.

For example, as a result of COVID-19, governments everywhere are rethinking transportation systems to accommodate social distancing. In Europe, some cities are creating large “car-free” zones to facilitate walking and cycling. Emerging economies should seize this moment to build next-generation public transport systems, such as electric buses, trains, or subways that reduce emissions while enabling large numbers of people to get to school or work safely.

Similar choices can be made with energy. Instead of extending their reliance on fossil fuels to generate electricity (which is especially tempting now, given the current plunge in petroleum prices), governments should take advantage of recent breakthroughs that have made renewable energy much less expensive.

Countries in or near the tropics are also disproportionately affected by the floods, droughts, and hurricanes associated with climate change, and by the warming temperatures expected to encourage more pandemics in the future. Now is the time to protect and restore wetlands and rebuild coastal infrastructure, and to invest in low-cost housing and water systems that can withstand weather-related shocks.

Investments to protect and restore the rich biodiversity of fragile ecosystems primarily located in the tropics would also yield high returns. In addition to the critical role they play in storing carbon, tropical forests are vitally important to the indigenous people who inhabit them, as well as for eco-tourism, implying that the restoration of natural habitats could create many jobs.

We can pay for these efforts through a combination of smarter public spending and aggressive incentives for private investment. A large proportion of the huge sums allocated for fiscal stimulus should be channeled toward sustainable infrastructure and related initiatives. The tens of billions of dollars that were previously spent on fuel subsidies could now help to fund clean transportation. According to a recent University of Oxford study, “green recovery” projects deliver more jobs and higher returns on government spending compared to traditional fiscal stimulus measures.

Emerging economies can also draw on external sources of income to fund such initiatives. Investors are currently seeking opportunities to invest in green bonds, which attracted $255 billion in private capital last year. Moreover, billions of dollars are potentially available from global NGOs and foreign governments to protect and restore natural habitats, and holders of fiscally constrained countries’ debt may be willing to forgive part of it to protect tropical biodiversity.

The pandemic has forced us to stop and think about our impact on the planet, and to imagine the kind of world we want. There is still time. By planning for a green recovery, governments can help ensure that the coronavirus leaves a positive legacy for future generations.

The problem of distory: Setting Right Distorted History is tougher than toppling statues

of George Floyd’s death. Then in Antwerp, a statue of King Leopold of Belgium (who oversaw the systematic killing of millions in Belgian run Congo) was set alight. But now there are many statues that are targets. And unlike Joseph Stalin or Saddam Hussein, whose statues were knocked down many years ago in Hungary and Iraq, the new targets are those who have often been on the right side of the historical narrative. Mahatma Gandhi, Robert Clive, Winston Churchill, Christopher Columbus. The list is long.

Pulling down a statue is relatively easy. What’s far more difficult is presenting a historical counter-narrative to the one that has been force fed over generations. Author William Dalrymple recently wrote, “In Britain, study of the empire is still largely absent from the history curriculum. Now, more than ever, we badly need to understand what is common knowledge elsewhere: That for much of history we were an aggressively racist and expansionist force responsible for violence, injustice and war crimes on every continent.” And that’s where the real challenge lies. History can be quite easily manipulated by leftists, rightists, whites, blacks, conservatives, liberals, Hindus, Muslims, Catholics, capitalists, socialists, fascists and virtually every other group to erase their past sins or to glorify their own deeds.

History is always seen as part of a liberal arts curriculum. ‘Liberal’ comes from the Latin ‘liberalis’ that means ‘free’. The end of World War II resulted in Western democracies that called themselves liberal. The values encompassed included individual rights, democracy, free markets, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, gender equality, racial equality and secularism. But history, that progeny of liberal arts, rarely talks of the contradictions within the liberal narrative.

While preaching liberalism at home, America was supporting dictatorial and monarchic regimes in the Middle East that suppressed women’s rights, killed homosexuals and punished non-Muslims. Britain was teaching the world about liberalism while it drained $45 trillion from India during 173 years of colonial rule. France gifted the Statue of Liberty to America while colonising Algeria and Indo-China. Mahatma Gandhi, the messiah for equality and religious tolerance was happy to support the Khilafat Movement aimed at reviving a global caliphate. Liberals let down liberalism.

So let us ask ourselves this question: What is fundamentalism? I see it as the attempt to impose a single truth on a plural world. In that sense one can see fundamentalism in all walks of life. Religious fundamentalism is the most obvious example. But political fundamentalism and historical fundamentalism are no less dangerous. Liberalism was meant to be a solution to fundamentalism. Alas, liberals spawned their own fundamentalists. Disallowing alternative narratives of history is one aspect of such fundamentalism.

We are often advised to avoid treating something as the ‘gospel truth’. But when the four gospels of the New Testament cannot agree on a single narrative about the life of Jesus Christ (not even taking into account the gnostic ones), which version will we consider to be the ‘gospel truth’? French author de Fontenelle famously said, “What is history but a fable agreed upon?” The version of events penned by the victors tends to gain credence over time. All history is distorted by the lens of the observer. I call it ‘distory’. Each set of historians peddles their own narrative and repeats the errors of the group that held the opposite view earlier.

What’s the solution? As it turns out, the solution in the matter of both statues and history is the same: Don’t be selective. Let thousands of statues stand. Let thousands of historical narratives flourish. Allow history to be understood as an inexact narration of events often coloured by the sensibilities of the narrator. Allow all sides to have their say.

It’s possible that Churchill may indeed have saved England from fascism; but why can’t it be equally true that he allowed millions of Indians to starve to death during the Bengal famine, an act no less horrendous than genocide? Why isn’t it possible that the Mughal empire was extremely wealthy and powerful, yet presided over a time period when India’s share in global GDP actually fell?

The problem, as I see it, is selectivity. When we say ‘black lives matter’ but use fairness creams, that’s selectivity. When the lynching of a Muslim doesn’t attract the same sympathy as the death of a lynched Hindu monk, that’s selectivity. When the Kashmir issue is a problem but the clampdown on Uighurs is not, that’s selectivity. When Azaan on the loudspeaker is a problem but the DJ on a Ganapati truck is not, that’s selectivity. When private control of churches or mosques is fine but private control of temple trusts is not, that’s selectivity. When prevention of cruelty to animals is noble but veganism is unnecessary, that’s selectivity.

George Orwell said, “He who controls the past, controls the future. He who controls the present, controls the past.” While politics determines control of the present, history determines control of the past. It’s about time we freed them from the shackles of one-sided narratives. Unfortunately I am not too optimistic. Alas, in the words of Hegel, the only thing that we learn from history is that we never learn from history.

Check the emperor’s health

There are three reasons why governments, like humans, act irrationally rather than the rational economic agents they are supposed to be. 

First, if they perceive that their time in office is limited there is nothing to be lost by dropping all restraints and doing whatever they wish to – a daring end-game strategy. 

Extravagantly, unsustainable, populist welfare measures– of the kind being recommended by Left-liberal economic analysts – are one such. These would inflate the fiscal deficit (FD) of the Union government to 10% of GDP as against the targeted 5% by adding 1% for additional defence and security expenditure, 1% on health, 1% to recapitalise banks against new debt write-offs and 2% to extend generous cash support to households. 

General government FD (including states) would then become 14%. GDP would be lower than the 2019-20 level of Rs 204 trillion by 4.5% (IMF) and 4% (ADB) per their June assessments in 2020-21, recovering in 2021-22 to barely equal the 2019-20 level. IMF and ADB assess growth at 1.5 to 1% in 2021-22. But they are habitually optimistic forecasters.   

The fact that the Modi government is being cautiously generous in adopting a “permanent income” approach – as should any entity in a downturn- shows it expects to be in power over the medium term.

Second, if governments perceive that the political cost of not exploiting an opportunity exceeds the economic cost, they will sacrifice the treasury even if they do not perceive an existential threat to remaining in power. The 1971 war to liberate Bangladesh falls in this category. 

Indira Gandhi returned as Prime Minister for her second stint in March 1971 for a five-year period. She plunged in to support the courageous revolt against oppressive discrimination of Bengalis by the West Punjab dominated regime in Pakistan in December 1971. 

Security analysts committed ideologically to the United States, would recollect that the United States intervened to thwart the Indian support for the Mukti Bahini, reflecting the then US global strategy of maintaining stability (the quiet of the graveyard) in preference to global equity or justice. Cold war counter-tactics pushed the then mighty USSR to checkmate the US by stepping in to support the Bahini and India.

That Bangladesh remains a friendly neighbour with whom we have deepening economic ties and with whom we have settled the border issue peaceably, speaks volumes of the sagacity of that overseas adventure.

Third, nations become dysfunctional when the leadership stops working in the public interest; the line between personal ambition and national interest becomes blurred and state resources are used for personal aggrandizement. 

India had its moment during the national emergency from 1975 to 1977. So isolated had Prime Minister Indira Gandhi become by the bureaucratic firewalls she drew around herself, that she was led, by her fawning advisors, to believe that an election would validate the emergency. She was wrong and suffered a humiliating defeat at the polls.

The US, under President Donald Trump, is similarly playing to the gallery of middle America, which has not benefited from the enormous wealth accretion at the top since 2000. Stepping back from charity and muscle-flexing in distant jurisdictions, which have no visible link to the welfare of the average American, mixed with jingoistic rhetoric makes an attractive pre-election gambit. 

Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State has called out the Communist Party of China as a “rogue party”. Since there is only one party in China this is equivalent to terming China itself a “rogue state”- an over-the-top end-game tactic. 

This posture aligns with our near-term interests to pressure China into restoring status quo ante in Ladakh. But the depth of US commitment to support sustained militarisation of Ladakh is unclear. It is pressuring its European allies to pull their own weight, whilst pulling away assets from Europe (targeting Russia) to counter the Chinese threat to ASEAN and India. 

The Dragon has acted whimsically in stampeding non-aligned India into the US corner. Does this irrational decision warrant a check on Emperor Xi’s physical and political health?

The CCP is solidly in control of China and faces no political threat. China remains on an economic ascendant albeit with a lower trajectory. But it is only an upper-middle-income country with a per capita GNI of current $ 9460 – higher than India at $2020, but far below the lower limit of $ 12,375 for joining the High-Income economies like Japan at $ 41,310 and Australia at $53,250.

China’s growth expectation for this year is 1.2% (IMF) and 2.3% (ADB). Slower global growth will hit China significantly since exports are a big growth driver. It has little to gain politically by a flurry of “Empire” type adventures. All this points to the third driver of irrational government decisions – a leader in hubris or one who perceives he has run out of time. 

Consider that, Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s improbable propagation of Pakistan in the 1940s was a similar end-game tactic when he found no substantive room in the Congress leadership. The Lahore Declaration, 1940, of the Muslim League cemented the demand for a separate Muslim state. Jinnah died of Tuberculosis – a fatal disease back then, which he concealed – within a year of Pakistan being created. Would the Hindu nationalists within Congress have been less opposed and Nehru more agreeable, to accept him as the leader had they known it was a mere short-term gesture? 

For the moment, India can do little else but dance to the tune of the Dragon by responding actively to the military threat whilst continuing the diplomatic initiative to isolate China. 

Domestically, this means tighter belts for all. If the government departs from its class alignments and goes into overdrive to benefit the bottom 40% of India directly, the economic pain will be sucked upwards by osmosis- to the delight of the CPI(M)- imposing higher taxes leading to a richer government but a poorer economy. 

Big business and small entrepreneurs will enjoy a short spurt of demand for goods and services, funded by the government largesse followed by continuing depression and further loss of jobs. The 100 million-strong salaried class (one-third of Indian households) will find, like middle America, that they have been left holding the cost of China’s hubris induced misadventure in Ladakh and that too, minus the cheap imported products we are all addicted to, in our shop-till-you-drop, upside-down world.

Dragon employs “useful Idiots” in host countries to achieve its far-reaching goals

Recently three reports revealing Dragon’s use of influence operations to penetrate the strategic and influential communities of adversaries, who act as its agents or ‘useful idiots’ to protect its interests, have emerged. Such psychologically treated persons support the hiring of the Chinese companies and project that opposing Chinese interests could significantly harm their country .

First, a dossier entitled “China’s elite capture” compiled by the former MI 6 officer Christopher Steele provides details of manipulations of China and its telecom giant Huawei to penetrate the strategic and influential community of UK and to manipulate them to serve its larger strategic objectives. They are termed as Beijing’s ‘useful idiots.’

The dossier revealed the names of several VIPs who were targeted by the Chinese company Huawei. They included Sir Kenneth Olisa, the Lord Lieutenant of London, Sir Mike Rake, the former chairman of BT group currently on its non-executive UK board, Lord Clement Jones, a spokesman for the digital economy and former Huawei adviser, Dr. Sarah Wollaston, who at the time chaired the liaison committee, comprising the chairmen of the 32 Commons select committees, and John Suffolk, the former Government chief information officer, who became Huawei’s head of global security. Significantly, a surveillance cell established by Britain’s Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ) failed to notice the Huawei’s manipulations. Interestingly, this cell was financed by Huawei.

The dossier reveals how this had impacted the decision making at the top. Boris Johnson was influenced to take the decision in favour of Huawei. However, a powerful alliance of at least 60 Tory MPs, including a string of former ministers, threatened to vote down any attempt to allow Huawei into the system. This attracted a strong response from the Chinese Ambassador, who warned that trade between the two countries could be at risk if the Government changed its mind about Huawei’s involvement in the 5G network. This revealed the extent of support of the Chinese state to Huawei.

Second, in US, similar observations were made by former CIA operative Bryan Dean Wright. In an interview to “Fox and Friends” in April 2020, he blamed the democrats including former Vice President Joe Biden for placing too much trust in Beijing’s narratives. According to Wright, in 2013, Biden and his son flew over to Beijing, sucked up $1.5 billion. At that time the Chinese were violating the US intellectual property rights, stealing jobs, facilitating the nuclear programme of North Korea, and the ballistic missile programme of Iran. He further pointed out that as Trump takes a tough stance on China, the Chinese have started to push their own narrative more forcefully using “useful idiots in the Democratic Party” to blame Trump.

Third, an article by Ronald Jacquard in Global Watch Analysis points out that China is using corrupt leaders in economically weak countries like Nepal to enable the Chinese companies to not only further their business interests but also to help China to surreptitiously penetrate the nation’s polity, with the objective of ensuring a long term influence. The article gives details of dealings of Nepali PM Oli. A large number of influential persons were mentioned who had helped in providing funds to Oli for protecting the Chinese interests and these included the Cambodian PM Hun Sen Hun Sen was also used by China to divide ASEAN on the issue of criticising China for its bullying tactics.

These reports throw light on the main features of the Chinese methodology for influence operations to woo the strategic communities in foreign countries to take up its cause publicly and in the crucial decision meetings. Personalised details of the targets are collected from big data and analysed to draw strategies with the help of Artificial Intelligence to influence them. Big data is obtained through its companies and theft. Specialised programmes are created to effectively change the perceptions of the targets. Targets are then bombarded with pro-Chinese views using different social media platforms. Fake radio shows are organised and senior figures invited for interviews and panel discussions with the aim of ‘encouraging’ them to support the Chinese objectives. Their videos are circulated in the social media. They are supported by their cyber experts to give them a feeling of a large following. A covert ‘manipulation’ campaign is co-ordinated by Chinese authorities on the ‘dark web’. The targets do not realise that the radio stations are fake or they are becoming victim of Dragon’s influence operations.

The moot question is how many ‘useful idiots’ have been created in our country using the above-mentioned techniques. Politicians, academics, and other ‘elites’ are being targeted by the Chinese Communist Party with the intention of making them either ‘useful idiots’ or its full-time agents. As such there are groups which position themselves on the Chinese side for political and ideological reasons. Dragon is using the ‘three-warfare strategy’ to change the perceptions of important persons in the strategic and influential community. Their task is twofold- to project the Chinese invincibility by creating doubts in the Indian capabilities and support the Chinese companies like Huawei. That Huawei remained in India despite experts expressing the security concerns itself suggests the possible sway of the Chinese influence operations. At time when the clashes took place at the Indo-Tibetan border, several opinion shapers were stating that we should not think of using armed forces to oppose China as they have Strategic Support Force (SSF) and have started using Artificial Intelligence. Such ‘useful idiots’ were seen in videos shivering and quivering while talking of the Chinese armed capabilities, particularly of SSF. Some of them recommended a deferential approach towards China by painting a grim picture stating that ‘these are dangerous times, more so for countries in China’s vicinity and specially India’. They suggested that India should not provoke China by aligning itself with US, Australia and Japan or by joining G 7 on the invitation of Trump as China is not invited. For them possession of nuclear weapons has no value. They also fail to see how small countries like Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia mobilise their ships to protect their interests and they were not deterred by SSF.

These statements definitely reflect the impact of Chinese influence operations. There is no point in blaming the targets. Their perception gets changed and they become incapable of thinking logically. Possibility of the role of money cannot be ruled out. Dragon is following Sun Tzu’s dictum, ‘The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting’.

India should investigate such Chinese activities in our country and identify victims of this evil design of Dragon. It should be ensured that they are not involved in the decision-making process. While exposing the fallacious propaganda by ‘useful idiots’ is important, India should build its own narrative based on verifiable facts. The Indian armed forces and our political leadership is doing this but in view of the Dragon’s influence operations, it requires a greater push. The influence operations can prove far more harmful than physical damage. If we have to beat China in its information warfare, a better and stronger system for protection of big data is to be put in place. The Data Protection Bill should be approved and implemented urgently so that a comprehensive and strong data governance framework may be made functional. The need for strict system for data localisation can hardly be under-estimated. As the meta-data constitutes a new form of weapon, its security needs to be given primacy for national security. This is particularly important when we move to 5 G network which will multiply connections with millions of hackable IoT platforms.

Effective coalitions form bottom up, not top down

“The world needs local systems solutions to solve global problems. Therefore, all civil society actors must be good multi-stakeholder coalition builders on the ground.”

Coalitions are invariably necessary for addressing the complex issues that civil society organisations are motivated to work on. They are required to aggregate adequate resources and bring together diverse capabilities.

Philanthropists and corporations with CSR ambitions, often form coalitions amongst themselves to aggregate financial resources to have ‘impact at scale’. Generally, their theory when shaping the coalition is that they should focus on one cause, combine their resources, and push out a common solution as widely as possible—a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.

Other forms of coalitions bring diverse partners together, from across the corporate/philanthropic, civil society, and government sectors. The reason for this is the understanding that complex issues require combinations of diverse perspectives for a good understanding of the challenge, and to provide diverse capabilities for the delivery of the solution.

The former, single stakeholder type of coalition, though limited in its capability, is simpler to set up. Nevertheless, even such coalitions have difficulties in forming and performing. Issues of ‘brands’, decision rights, and even personal egos, come in the way. Attention to the scale of the outcome in terms of sustainable impact on the lives of people, slips too easily into attention to the scale of the coalition itself, and to impacts on the brands of the partners involved.

Coalitions amongst civil society organisations are bedeviled by similar, self-centered concerns, even when they are focused on a single cause—for example, the rights of women, or the needs of children. Who will be invited to high-level meetings with governments? Who will get the most credit for the outcome? When coalitions aim to be broader, difficulties in forming coalitions increase. For one, the coalition must have a common purpose for its existence and a common goal to align partners’ actions. Another, is the requisite architecture for the coalition.

The recent history of the labour rights movement in India provides insights into some of these challenges. Indian labour unions have been struggling for some years to combine their energies to serve the crying needs of marginalised workers, who are in informal employment or in self-employment, have no protections of their rights to speak of, and no social security.

“Labour unions are mistrusted because they are perceived to be serving the interests of their own leaders.”

The unions have been unable to form an effective coalition for the common cause of India’s workers because they cannot agree amongst themselves on the methods of action to apply, and because they mistrust each other’s broader political intentions. They have realised that unions are mistrusted because they are perceived to be serving the interests of their own leaders, and only the small number of workers in the organised sector. They must change public perceptions and win the right to represent all of India’s workers. Therefore, many have been working on the ground to provide relief to families in distress, even before the pandemic struck, and they have multiplied their efforts since then.

Some unions believe that the Establishment must be confronted, because sitting around with it in tripartite negotiations has failed to achieve any fundamental changes in the conditions of Indian workers.

These same questions—about appropriate methods and about ultimate objectives—seem to arise in other civil society coalitions also. Putting it bluntly: Is it a matter of only service to the people through relief and development, or also of fighting for their rights?

Formation and governance of coalitions

Civil society organisations must become parts of two types of coalitions to produce sustainable all-round change in the lives and livelihoods of people marginalised by the prevalent socio-economic structures.

One is the single stakeholder type—that is a coalition amongst civil society organisations, as mentioned before. The other is coalitions that include other stakeholders too—the institutions who have wealth, governments who have power, and the people as well.

It is important that civil society’s leaders build good coalitions at the top for building better multi-stakeholder coalitions on the ground, if we are to achieve future goodness of humanity and the planet.

Civil society coalitions

Coalitions of civil society organisations, whose core purpose is to make sustainable improvements in the lives of the poorest citizens of society, and who are also concerned with threats to their existence from the Establishment, may find some common cause with labour unions. They will also be confronted with similar issues in forming effective coalitions. These are:

  1. What is the reason for forming a coalition—what is its purpose?
  2. Is it a tactical coalition, for a short-term objective? And will we disband when we have achieved it (or failed to achieve it)?
  3. Or, are we united for a superordinate purpose, which will provide us a glue to stay together and win the war, with several tactical campaigns on the way?
  4. Are we all committed to this superordinate purpose?
  5. If we want ‘scale’ in our coalition so that we can overcome challenges, and we also want the strengths of diverse capabilities, who will we admit into our coalition, and who will we shun?
  6. Who is the ‘we’ that will decide whom to admit?
  7. Do we see ourselves as an ‘organisation’ with conventional structures of governance? Or, will we operate as a network, or even only as a movement?
  8. How much structure do we need to define while we are getting going? And, a related question—what would be appropriate structures for providing adequate coherence to shape an energetic movement or an effective network?

Multi-stakeholder coalitions

Holistic, sustainable changes on the ground, that benefit and empower people, require collaboration between the different sources of power—the power of the people, the power of money, and the power of government authority.

“Good coalitions at the top are hard to form because the partners are divided by invisible wall.”

There is little benefit to the people by stakeholders forming coalitions only at the top and declaring goals for change in the world, if their representatives do not collaborate with each other on the ground, and if they do not make improvements in the lives of people, which is their common objective.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) point the way to address this challenge. The first 16 SDGs address the many and multi-faceted challenges facing humanity that must be addressed very urgently. None of the SDGs can be addressed without multi-stakeholder collaboration. Moreover, multi-stakeholder teams, working on each of the 16 goals, must work with each other too, because all the goals are systemically interconnected. The 17th SDG—the need for better partnerships—is the key to achieving the other SDGs.

Good coalitions at the top are hard to form because the partners are divided by invisible walls created by competition for recognition, and with jockeying for control. These walls also tend to extend all the way down the rank and file of their organisations.

Convergence amongst all stakeholders must happen on the ground

The world needs local systems solutions to solve global systemic problems. Therefore, all civil society actors—other than pure activists perhaps—must be good multi-stakeholder coalition builders on the ground. They must have the ability to facilitate systems thinking and collaborative action on the ground—which must be a common capability for all, irrespective of the specific causes they are committed to.

Effective coalitions form bottom up, not top down. The people on the ground must set the agenda, because they are the common cause that the coalition at the top was formed for.

China sees an India without economic strength as a paper tiger

In a dramatic reversal from barely a year ago, China’s standing in the world has sunk to a new low. From Covid-19 to Uighur concentration camps, from assault on Hong Kong’s autonomy to threats to Australia and bloody attack on India, China has given reason enough to unite its critics. There are signs that the long simmering discontent with China is coalescing into an incipient anti-Beijing coalition. Parallel naval exercises on South China Sea and Indian Ocean by the US and its Quad allies are the most recent examples of changing dynamics.

China too has been mobilising its Belt and Road partners and developing country friends as shown by 53 countries lining up to support imposition of China’s national security law on Hong Kong. The future will tell if this is a passing phenomenon or if we are witnessing the emergence of a new Cold War divide over trade, technology and security issues. One thing is clear though: schadenfreude over China’s difficulties could be turned into complacency only at India’s own peril.

The Covid-19 crisis has exposed the crippling dependency of global industrial production on Chinese supply chains. One of the earliest efforts was virtual meetings between the US and a number of countries to seek alternatives. But the effort to replace the Chinese supply chain has to be tempered by realisation of the significant amount of time and money it would take. Meanwhile manufacturers all over the world would have to rely on Chinese suppliers. With China ramping up its control over South China Sea and expanding its occupation along the Indian border India, which has been a reluctant partner of the Quad, has a new incentive.

India is now likely to shed its reticence and invite Australia to its Malabar exercise. The parallel exercises held this month are a forerunner of such a move. The mostly symbolic exercises are designed to send a signal to Beijing which will surely irk China. However satisfying the imagery, warships cutting a swath through blue waters and jet fighters screaming off aircraft carrier decks are still a paper deterrence. While foreign vessels will head home, the powerful Chinese navy and its thousands of armed fishing militia and coastguard vessels will stay.

In a way thousands of small fishing vessels manned by ex-navy personnel – the so-called ‘little blue men’ – are key actors in China’s naval aggression. China has succeeded in turning the South China Sea into a Chinese lake because of their asymmetric warfare involving the People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia (PAFMM).Thousands of their vessels swarm the waters engaged in fishing but more importantly in combat operations and enforcing Chinese control against foreign vessels.

History shows most of China’s acquisitions since 1974 have been the work of the militia. They have even engaged in harassing Seventh Fleet ships – always under the threshold though of provoking a strong response. Large US warships sailing by illegally Chinese occupied islands or reclaimed reefs as part of Freedom of Navigation Operation may satisfy US policy makers, but they do nothing to shake the Chinese hold or encourage cowed neighbours to challenge China. Thanks to Chinese harassment, attacks on fishermen and threats to blow up oil drilling by South China Sea claimants, Chinese sovereignty has been established.

According to a recent report, forced to abandon drilling operations under Chinese threat, Vietnam has had to pay a billion dollars in compensation to European and UAE companies. ONGC’s joint venture with Russian Rosneft appears to have been abandoned. American FONOPS do not appear to have made any difference in the Chinese domination of South China Sea.

The kind of economic strength and military deployment needed to stand up to Chinese aggression would require determined, long-term efforts and sources. In the end it is the economy, stupid. Without national mobilisation of resources mere exercises with foreign friends would not convince China that it is facing anything other than a paper tiger.

Another Headache from China: Bhutan-China Border Issue

In a not too surprising move, China has proposed a ‘package solution’ for resolving its border dispute with Bhutan. This comes after Beijing made new claims over Bhutan’s Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary in that country’s eastern sector. That claim is ridiculous because Sakteng isn’t even contiguous with Chinese territory. In fact, Sakteng borders India’s Arunachal Pradesh. So for China to access Sakteng, it would actually have to go through India.

Thus, it is quite possible that China is using Sakteng to pile pressure on Bhutan to do a border deal that may not go down well with India. After all, India and Bhutan share a special relationship. Any border deal that Bhutan does with China has to have India’s approval. Of course, this is not officially the case as the re-negotiated India-Bhutan Friendship Treaty of 2007 no longer requires Thimphu to take New Delhi’s guidance on foreign policy. Nonetheless, the two countries are still supposed to be sensitive towards each other’s interests. Besides, India and Bhutan have deep military ties. This was exemplified during the 2017 Doklam standoff when India intervened on Bhutan’s behalf to halt Chinese construction on Bhutanese territory. But China today has taken over almost all of Doklam other than the 2017 standoff site. This means that Bhutan today has little hope of recovering Doklam.

And as per previous rounds of border negotiations between Bhutan and China, the latter had earlier offered a swap that entailed Bhutan giving up Doklam in exchange for China giving up on another disputed territory in the central sector of the Bhutan-China border. But it appears that Doklam is no longer on the negotiating table today. Therefore, it is possible that the Chinese offer of a package deal is essentially aimed at getting Bhutan to cede territory in the central sector of the border in exchange for China relenting on Sakteng.

Of course, Bhutan would be loath to take such a deal and Thimphu has already protested against Chinese claims on Sakteng. But the deal itself could initiate a debate within Bhutan that may be uncomfortable for India. For, some constituencies within Bhutan could cite Doklam to say that India can no longer assure Bhutanese interests on the border issue. And that is precisely what China wants – to take Bhutan out of India’s sphere of influence. Which is why India jumping into the Doklam standoff in 2017 may have been a tactical error. Perhaps we should have allowed Bhutan and China to settle Doklam themselves and then supported Bhutan if it was getting a raw deal.

But China’s objective is clear here. It wants to slowly make inroads into India’s backyard and show strategic territorial gains for internal consumption. As I have argued before, the current Chinese leadership is under pressure internally, particularly after the outbreak of Covid-19. To deflect some of this pressure it is deploying aggressive foreign policy manoeuvres to show strategic gains. And the Bhutan border issue is a low-hanging fruit that also poses a strategic conundrum for India. Thus, New Delhi must be very careful and nimble here. We are being drawn into a very complicated strategic game with China where we may have to expend our energies on multiple fronts, that too in the middle of a pandemic and with the economy in doldrums.

Therefore, this is no time for populist politics. The entire political spectrum must unite to formulate the right strategy for these tricky times. For a start, the government must be transparent and reach out and share all details about the evolving situation with opposition parties. We must acknowledge that we are facing considerable strategic headwinds. It is time for the nation to unite to manage this difficult situation.

Humour the Democracy’s handmaiden: : In today’s India, we need more of a funny bone in our public life

In these dark times, there is no harm in easing up with some sharp humour. Like the coronavirus, humour is infectious, but can spread much needed joy. The world over, social media is lighting up with witty memes around the pandemic. Bumbling politicians have been prime targets, and especially President Donald Trump. “Calm down, everyone,” reads one meme, “A six-time bankrupted reality TV star is handling the situation.”

But that is the US, where comics can get away with a lot, without political backlash. Where in fact, politicians themselves can create the humour.

In 1985, former President Gerald Ford hosted a three-day conference on ‘Humour in the Presidency’. Ironically, Ford was hardly known for his sense of humour. When asked why he had hosted a conference where he himself might be the butt of many jokes, he disarmingly said, “I thought a look at the lighter side of politics may help us to realise that perhaps sometimes we take ourselves too seriously.”

This is the crux of the issue, then and now. When politicians take themselves too seriously, and when the public takes its politicians too seriously, unintended yet harmful consequences can emerge. Imagine if more people had laughed outright at the self-important demagogues of the past century. Could that have prevented some from taking their own absurd and dangerous ideas to fruition? We don’t know; but it is worth thinking about.

The Ford conference was a refreshing change after the humourless years of the Nixon presidency, where America had perforce to look into the dark soul of its politics and its president. There was a steady stream of jokes about US presidents, with Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, and John F Kennedy as the favourites. Conference speakers remarked on how the smarter politicians would make self-deprecating jokes before others could mock them.

President Kennedy had the best flair for it. Criticised for bankrolling his campaign with his father’s money – he retorted, “I just had a telegram from my famous Daddy: Dear Jack. Don’t buy a single vote more than is necessary. I’ll be damned if I am going to pay for a landslide.” Similarly, Reagan was very skilled at winning over crowds and critics with his jocular manner. “I’m not worried about the deficit,” he famously said. “It’s big enough to take care of itself.”

In today’s India, perhaps we need more humour in our public life. Are our politicians able to joke about themselves? Or do they mainly use ridicule? And what about us? Do we lack a political funny bone?

India has had a long, strong history of political satire. The kingdoms of India appointed court jesters or vidushaks to lighten the atmosphere. They would take pot shots at the public, at visitors and sometimes at the king himself. Remember the stories of Tenali Ramkrishna, Birbal, Gopal Bhar and Gonu Jha? Their job was to bring wit and humour to expose oppression and injustice.

Through India’s freedom struggle too, there were many lighter moments. Sarojini Naidu’s descriptions of the Mahatma as Mickey Mouse and Little Man did not anger him. Instead, he signed off as Little Man in his letters to her.

Today, too, we have a burgeoning number of stand-up comics, especially in Hindi. At increasing personal risk, they take sure-fire aim at our politicians, who manage routinely to generate great material for satire. But in India, this is still a cottage enterprise compared to the full-fledged industry in the US, now in full spate through Trump’s term.

Arguably, today, there has been a chilling effect on our humorists. Cases of sedition have been initiated on cartoonists and others, for criticising the government or the ruling party. Intensive trolling and threats have inundated those who raise important issues in jest. Certainly, today’s humorists have to be braver than their profession should require them to be.

As citizens, we should renew our understanding of why political humour is critical to society. Historically, too much power and secrecy has often coincided with a lack of tolerance for satire, leading to a breakdown of trust between the public and the government. Humour can provide a safety valve when social pressures are building. It can inform us about social relations.

Concentrated power without feedback loops is dangerous. We all know the story of the emperor’s new clothes. When they mock elites, humorists can hold leaders accountable. They create safe space for us to think through things, to question our beliefs and to change our minds.

That’s precisely why governments and politicians don’t like humorists. They hate to be challenged. But it is also why the samaj must support humorists. We need mirrors held up to us; we need new ways to refract reality.

Of course, there is a Laxman Rekha that is crossed at great peril to both humorists and society. Comics need to practice both restraint and sophistication. They need sensitivity to local histories and culture. But offence is taken, not given. Even if some humour makes people in power uncomfortable, it may simply be because the truth sometimes hurts.

The best example often comes from the top. At the White House, when Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin Roosevelt was asked where the President was, she said, “Where the laughter is.”

Would that we could say the same, here, and soon.

Sunday Special: Robert Clive-an 18th-Century Nouveau Riche Dream Come True- A page From Indian History

Robert Clive is once again in the news due to the statue topplers. Is he a bigger villain today than he was in his own time?

Robert Clive remains valorous and vile through the centuries. A boy-man who nearly drowned on his way to India, who grew to be an intuitively bright and bullying man-boy, a soldier’s commander, ruthless and belligerent, at once driven to success and driven by extreme anxiety to the level of opium intake, a man with an eye on the big picture and yet consumed with petty detail, a disciplined man and yet a grand louche, focused with goals and greedy as a goat, for whom money always talked loudest. Clive, Baron Plassey, was an 18th-century nouveau riche dream come true, perhaps the first white Mughal. He was big in history. He remains big in history.

To me Siraj-ud-Daulah is neither absolute villain nor tragic hero. He was a victim of some circumstances of his own making as well as those beyond his control, such as dynamics unleashed by the crumbling Mughal empire, and the geopolitical and geo-economic contest between Britain and France. Siraj was callow, somewhat impulsive, certainly spoilt, naturally nervous and tense, but hardly the illiterate and complete Caligula he is made out to be, or the martyred nawab. Siraj is also sometimes portrayed as a Bengali nawab, which is hogwash. And, as I like to mention, Siraj was 23 when he took over as nawab, and 24 at the Battle of Plassey. Imagine fresh postgraduate students in his place as nawab of Bengal, being jostled by Mughal pressure, Maratha pressure, a warring Britain and France, and powerful conspirators at his court, home – and bank!

Why should we be reading about Plassey in 2020? 

To downplay Plassey is to downplay history, because the very notion of modern India, and modern Indians, and the fact that we are conducting this interview in English and not French or Marathi or Persian, is an indicator of the importance of the Battle of Plassey, and its riveting, little-known and little-discussed backstory.

There is no doubt about the far-reaching impact of that chain of events culminating in the Battle of Plassey. In the process the British defeated the French, their main European competitors, and put their imprimatur on the court of Bengal. And Plassey set off another chain of events. The deposing of first Mir Jafar, a key Plassey conspirator and then Mir Qasim, his son-in-law, as nawabs of Bengal. The Battle of Buxar in 1764 in which Company forces defeated the opposition that included the forces of Mir Qasim, the nawab of Awadh and the Mughal emperor. The granting of the Diwani or revenue administration of Bengal and Bihar to the British East India Company in 1765 by the Mughal emperor was a direct consequence. It gave the Company revenue control alongside administrative control of Bengal – and helped raise and maintain armies alongside reversing the flow of bullion from Britain. This joint heft of money and power underwrote the Company’s move west to Awadh, and then, in a few short decades, to Delhi. The Permanent Settlement. Subsidiary Alliance. The Mutiny in 1857. The formal replacing of Company with Crown. Bengal – and India – becoming the hub and glory of the British Empire, underwriting its local and global growth and several local and global wars. It all began with the Company’s victory – British victory – at Plassey. To downplay Plassey is to downplay history.

This traitor vs patriot narrative

This traitor versus patriot narrative often confuses, but seems to be inseparable to the Plassey tale. However, it needs to be separated because largely it’s bunkum. The Battle of Plassey is mostly mentioned as an event in terms of wrong and right, black and white, betrayal and martyrdom, but quite a lot of it is pure pamphleteering for either the British or the subcontinental cause. Hapless Siraj, Crafty Clive and Treacherous Mir Jafar is usually the cant for Indians (and Bangladeshis and Pakistanis). Many British tellings valorise Clive and the British East India Company, and dismiss Indians as a bunch of snivelling, conspiring lowlifes. Both are incomplete. These are emotional and expedient – not clinical – tellings. Several Indian textbooks are also challenged when it comes to Plassey; they give it a hyper-nationalistic spin. All this is a travesty for the study of a such a landmark event which actually started a chain of events that led to modern-day India.

There is a need for corrective history. There is a need to peel away layers to expose the truths and lies, the myths, and the nuances: the greys between the black and white absolutes. Moreover, the back story of Plassey, which is a mix of aggressive mercantilism married to geopolitics, is often diminished. For instance, few works acknowledge just how much the French were a factor in the run up to Plassey. And how much those like Robert Clive were dead set to be rid both the French in Bengal and India, as much as Siraj or any nawab of Bengal who proved to be inconvenient. There is also the immensely interesting cast of characters – dramatis personae – in and around Plassey.

Clive was even considering to accept the Maratha Peshwa’s offer to send Maratha horsemen to help the British deal with Siraj-ud-Daulah. 

Clive considered every option to work to his advantage against the Siraj and the Bengal army, even though by that time, in June 1757, the Company’s treaty with Mir Jafar and other co-conspirators was signed and sealed. Clive was keen to have on his side as much cavalry as he could muster, and the Maratha cavalry was famous – or infamous – besides being decades-long adversaries of the Bengal nawabs. Just days before the battle at Plassey Clive even proposed postponing the battle to buy time to reach out to the Marathas, besides local and regional rajas and nawabs, like that of Bardhaman and Birbhum. Clive had no cavalry, was a nervous wreck with worry, completely on edge on that account besides a host of other factors – including the risk of putting his career and the Company’s future on the line.

Events like Plassey, like the so-called First War of Independence in 1857 (or the Mutiny, depending on your perspective and politics), will be used for nationalistic purpose whenever it suits nationalists du jour. As far as what you term colonial propaganda: several prominent Hindu-Bengali historians, chroniclers and intellectuals of the nineteenth century gladly accepted that as fact. For them Siraj was the foolish, impetuous Muslim who lost Bengal and Mir Jafar the Muslim traitor who gifted away Bengal.

Histories and epic poetry referred to Muslims as ‘yavana’ and Plassey as having freed Bengal from yavana. Such messaging has tended to be treated more clinically by several twentieth century chroniclers and historians, although you will still find a few Oxbridge historians and British novelists with raging Orientalist fetish, the odd Nirad Chaudhuri massively glorifying Clive and the odd Bangladeshi chronicler and propagandist treating Siraj as a Bengali nawab, which he was not.

 The bid to separate the Company from the Crown when it came to the loot and rapacity of the early colonial enterprise is not acceptable.

This is another attempt to perpetuate a myth. It was always a Company and Crown enterprise. The Crown looked out for the Company, and the Company subsidized the Crown – the British treasury – from time to time. The British Navy actively participated in Indian campaigns. Indeed, Admiral Charles Watson, who led the naval forces to Bengal from Madras in October 1756, wanted clarity in sharing loot that might accrue from the Bengal (and, as it happened, the Chandannagar and Plassey campaigns), as much as the land forces led by Robert Clive, a Company employee. Government and business were, as always, handmaidens to the other.

Indians also shared the spoils of the plunder of Bengal by the Company after Plassey and later

Those elites – bankers, merchants, Murshidabad nobles, courtiers, generals – who allied with the British East India Company enterprise did very well. These cut across religions and ethnicity. The Company was ruthless, though. When Mir Jafar as nawab found it difficult to cater to the Company’s needs and the needs of its officers, they deposed him and placed his son-in-law, Mir Qasim, as nawab of Bengal – and took a fee for it. When Mir Qasim couldn’t cope, they deposed him and brought back Mir Jafar – again for a fee! The legendary Jagat Seth family aided the Company enterprise to secure its business. But the British steadily cut the Seths’ influence and by the 1790s made the family strategically and financially irrelevant in the greater scheme of things. Dog fed dog. Dog ate dog. Just business.

The period after Aurangzeb’s death in 1707 until the end of the 18th century can be called anarchy by those with dramatic flourish, but only in the context of the loss of authority of the crumbling Mughal empire. While the pay-per-farman Mughal court in Delhi remained in disarray, what was happening across the subcontinent was the assertion, or reassertion, of power by those who saw themselves as power centres, including the Marathas, the various nawabs and rulers of southern India, and the nawab of Bengal. The French and the British played the game of gaining and retaining advantage on this fluid chessboard, leveraging anything and everything they could. Post-Mughal consolidation led by policies of the Company began with a great push in the 1790s, although the need and intent for that consolidation had become increasingly clear after the Treaty of Allahabad in 1765, which granted the Company its initial grand war chest: the diwani of Bengal. Then you had another empire again in the subcontinent, after a gap of a hundred-odd years. But I would urge that not every significant history in the subcontinent be seen through the lens of the Mughals. That can lead to its own anarchy of cause, effect, and chronicling – a dangerous, if glamourous, skew.

The Law Must not Fall Silent

Nations must not ignore fundamental and overriding principles of existing international law in fight against pandemic.

Respect for norms and standards of international law is among the paramount constitutional duties of the State under Article 51 of the Constitution, regardless of the quibbles on whether the language here only refers to treaty/obligations or also to customary international law.

The coronavirus epidemic has now enveloped the globe and generated new forms of governmentality and bio-legitimation practices in its wake. But only new forms of human compassion and solidarity can help overcome this lethal and formidably grim challenge.

Even amidst the disease and death caused by the pandemic, theoretical discourse rages, on the one hand on the intensification of the state of exception in combating COVID-19 and, on the other, the projection of the crisis as an opportunity for building a new future for global politics marked by empathy, fraternity, justice, and rights.

We engage here with only one facet of the new developments: How to read international law in the context of the pointers to the future?

Respect for the norms and standards of international law is among the paramount constitutional duties of the state under Article 51 of the Constitution, regardless of the quibbles on whether the language here refers only to treaty/obligations or also to customary international law. And despite US President Donald Trump’s recent threat of actions against the WHO, international norms, standards, and doctrines remain relevant to making national policy and law.

The difference between the United Nations as a site of normative discursivity and as a site of doing global power politics is sadly manifest even now in the accelerated pace of the pandemic. President Trump’s insistence on calling it a “Chinese virus” renders it extremely unlikely that the pandemic will be discussed during the current monthly presidency of the UN Security Council by China. The threat of veto by China and Russia will always loom large whenever the matter is placed for discussion.

But the UN is also a site of systems of norm enunciation. Along with the International Law Commission, it is responsible for the progressive codification of law. The UN system has developed lawmaking and framework treaties as well as provided auspices for systems of “soft” law that may eventually become the binding law.

Some of the norms of international law are robust and deeply relevant. For example, the peremptory jus cogens — a few fundamental, overriding principles of international law such as crimes against humanity, genocide, and human trafficking apply to all states. And Article 53 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties goes so far as to declare that a “treaty is void if, at the time of its conclusion, it conflicts with a peremptory norm of general international law”.

And even when ingredients of genocide remain difficult to prove, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has held, in 2007, that states have a duty to prevent and punish acts and omissions that eventually furnish elements for the commission of crime of genocide. There also exist erga omnes rules prescribing specifically-determined obligations which states owe to the international community as a whole. This was enunciated by the ICJ in 1970 for four situations — the outlawing of acts of aggression; the outlawing of genocide; protection from slavery; and protection from racial discrimination. A great significance of this judicial dictum is that it lays down obligations which transcend consensual relations among states.

In addition, there are three other sets of international law obligations. These are primarily derived from the no-harm principles crystallised in the International Law Commission’s 2001 Draft Articles on the Prevention of Transboundary Harm (DAPTH) and the Paris Framework Agreement on Climate Change, 2015.

The DAPTH has carefully developed norms of due diligence, stressing all the way that these may be adapted to contextual exigencies. But due diligence obligations certainly extend beyond local and national boundaries, especially because the environmental problems have a transboundary impact. Each state is obliged to observe these standards in the fight against COVID-19 as a matter of international law.

The second set of obligations relates to the other core human rights measures — no law or policy to combat epidemics or pandemic can go against the rights of migrant workers, internally displaced peoples, and refugees and asylum seekers. Respect for the inherent dignity of individuals in combating COVID-19 and for the rights of equal health for all, non-discrimination, and the norms of human dignity further reinforce accountability and the transparency of state and other social actors. Panicky and sadist policing, including shoot at sight orders in collective exodus situations, and militaristic responses to food riots de-justify health lockouts and curfews.

The third set of obligations arises out of international humanitarian law. The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) is pertinent here. India did not subscribe to any conspiracy or racist theory about the origins of COVID-19 — in fact, India’s foreign minister rightly affirmed the BTWC obligations on March 26 (on the 40th anniversary of that Convention). Surely, this global and non-discriminatory disarmament convention deserves applause because it outlaws a whole range of weapons of mass destruction. India has, and rightly so, called for “high priority” to “full and effective implementation by all states parties”.

Multinational and domestic corporations are also liable before an increasing number of domestic courts. As if to confirm this, the Canadian Supreme Court, on February 28, held that customary international law can give rise to a direct claim in Canada if obligations pertaining to forced labour, slavery, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, and crimes against humanity are violated.

The starting point of a determined fight against COVID-19 has to be a full-throated repudiation of an ancient Latin maxim, inter arma enim silent leges (in times of war, the law falls silent). Combating this fearsome pandemic calls for re-dedication to nested international law obligations and frameworks.

Neo Endearment Terms in Covid Era

One can ride a one-wheel cycle, with some practice of gravitational balancing. Riding a bicycle with two flat tyres is impossible. The only way out is if the leakages from the tubes are small, and after every pump-up. You can cruise, say ten miles, the journey may be completed with much needed rest for the rider as well as the bike.

Ever since the fateful week or weeks in Dec-Jan, the world has come to a saner mode of interaction, co-operation, though there are a few outliers. Each country has its mammoth task of controlling, containing its Covid cases. Economies if not in the red, are running on an average 30%-40%, for obvious reasons of health bills, loss of working hands, and periodic lockdowns. Un-employment, due to losses that only allow low capacity production, less money in circulation, therefore low demand. Forget about consistent demand-supply chains. It is as though automated signalling is out. Train and road traffic is better managed by manual keepers. For one does not know when the next train shall pass, or another breathless lorry climbs over the hump. There may be cash, but mostly purse strings are half opened with a tedious job of counting the notes within the bag. Sometimes withdrawing the hand, and zipping the purse back.

India’s non-confrontational diplomacy, respecting matters of trade surplus, curtailing aggressive pushing of its products, may seen as a lapse by some, but has given it a seat of respect and its voice is heard by the developed world. The UNSC seat comes at the right time.

On the defence front, our we got a wake-up call from our bigger neighbour. With inductions just a few weeks ago, we have upgraded to a formidable defence system necessary for ground combat, air and sea defences. It is not the kind of expenditure India can afford. To have done it, was a long pending fence repair job. Some solace on that front.

It is the same goodwill, that brought other progressive economies as Japan, Australia, and trade agreements with EU, to the fore. The Biggies as US and Russia may not declare much, but a leaning towards India would be in their interests, as military powers as well as economies.

Agriculture which shall be the only sector that may show a 3-5% growth, is still the backbone of an agrarian economy, besides giving employment to 50% of the population. There has to be a method of blending urban elements in rural set-ups. Particularly the ones that improve quality of life. Un-interrupted electricity, indigenously manufactured accessories as mini-ACs, refrigeration, W-Fi, is what our bright IITs should do! Then have good schools webcast classes where required, and CMEs for the school faculty. Solar panels for every roof, that besides the utility can be a source of income. Computer classes may tat from mid school. Yes, tat way you shall inculcate Sundar Pichai’s. Queen’s English has long bee replaced by the Telegu’s JAVA!

On the product and manufacture sector, Indian companies, HCL, Wipro, Infosys are in the green. What was back-office work for other countries from a formal platform, can well be done from specially designed hoe offices, taking adequate fire=walling measures. 

What is needed soon is FDI from other countries, particularly the US. Infrastructure, technology, employment are all substantial gains. I suppose, buying so many arms, should have such and such $ millions in hundreds for a certain sum spent, as credit card points, though much more seriously. The Indian diaspora besides its numbers has contributed to IT, medicine, both research and clinical, and elite faculty in management schools.

Coming to Indian Pharma. The industry and the government has been able to stress the world, that we have already made at least two of the half dozen antiviral drugs which are in use in Covid patients. The joint research in the search of an impending vaccine may come from the Indian joint venture, or any other group, is anyone’s guess. Whatever that be, India shall have at least 60% in global drug and vaccine manufacture. Even today, 60% of world’s vaccines are produced in India.

Automobiles, already sturdy for Indian roads, should be fit enough for Arizona or the Thar desert. That bit of finishing. Crash safety, and some more suspension work, is perhaps all that is needed.

A substantial part of Indian economy, close to 50%, comes from FMCG, consumer packaged group (CPG), household and personal care products. Healthcare 32% of this, and food and beverages, 20%. The rural turnover may touch $ 100bnby end of 2020, and $200bn by 2025. It leads the market share with 14.3%. The good part is that it is a shareholder’s company, with the government holding close to 12% share. Amul has made a big impact in milk product industry, and soon shall become a significant Forex earner. Budding sweet-shop groups are taking the chips ‘n wafers market over!  Easy on the task of “Make in India” ,and rural earnings.

When you read the papers every morning, the depressing part is that, the Covid numbers are on the increase. To make it palatable, it is stated that, it is lesser than the last three days average! Surely you know all other names used for “statistics”

The appreciable part is that no major project has been stopped. For instance, Delhi Metro (though suspended presently), has been given the green flag for phase IV. With that, we may soon touch the top three in terms of expanse of track!

The Indian endearment extends further. The JIO-FB, with association of Google, is attracting more and more keen investors. Think of a cyber canopy of like -minded developed countries, the neglected Africa, connected in every possible way—from diplomacy, disputes, to trade, health, education, environment, and entertainment. And that propped-up on an indigenous 5G. Section officers taking offers from the secretary, often say ,“ ji, ji, ji”. Now say it five times! It may become global, just as the word, “hello”

Someone’s dream of a prosperous India seems to be coming true! Each one of us share it! 135 cr, but this number needs to be brought down amicably, and soon. For the moment, in a lighter vein, It’s like being dressed in combat boots, and a mini skirt!

Covid still poses challenges, with reports of a longer, insidious form, that is not manifest easily, recently spotted in NE China. The confirmation comes from a different gene sequence, than the present neo-Covid. An active ICMR is seized of the matter.

Time to take what comes our way. We are not in competition with any one on trade. Trade based on professional excellence, and goodwill is was lasts. The world is more aware now than before.

Saturday Special: Brahminization Of Bharat That is India

The Brahmins were the priestly class of the tribe of the Aryas (not Aryans). There is however no unanimity about where these Aryas came from. There was also a tribe of Aryas in ancient Persia who had a priestly class called Arthvan, phonetically similar to Brahmin, meaning a person of essence. Like the Rig Veda in India they had a very similar holy book the Zend Avesta. Both books were written in a similar language as Old Sanskrit was nearly identical to Old Persian. They were also written in the same cursive Kharoashti script written from right to left. The phonetic Devanagri script was only used in India after the 5th century CE.

According to the Zend Avesta they also had a class of warriors called Rateshwar (charioteers) that is phonetically similar to the Kshatriyas in India. Their third class was the Vastrayosh, similar to Vaishya, who were their cattle herders and workers. When the Aryas gave up their nomadic life and settled down the Vaishyas became traders and farmers. There had originally been no fourth class but as the nomads picked up tribal people and stragglers on their travels they later added a fourth class who were called Hutoksh in Persia and Shudra in India. As the Persians could not pronounce `S’ that became `H’ so Shudra is phonetically not very different to Hutoksh. They similarly called their sacred intoxicant Haoma like the Soma in the Rig Veda.

Both sacred texts and their very sophisticated language must have taken a very long time to evolve and could not have suddenly erupted out of nowhere. The Persian Aryas were clearly related to several other `Indo European’ tribes as they spoke a similar language and revered similar deities like Varuna, Surya and Indra as is recorded in the Treaty of Cappadocia between the Mittani and Hittite tribes in 1380 BCE. In India however the Harappan civilization has revealed almost nothing of any literary culture and the extensive ancient Tamil texts showed a completely different tradition of language and scripts. In later times Tamil and other indigenous languages borrowed many words from Sanskrit.

There is no evidence that the Aryas went from India to colonize west Asia but considerable evidence that a number of tribes speaking an old Indo-European language settled in the Caucasian area, south of Russia, and streamed southwards in waves after 1,800 BCE. Well-documented records in West Asia show that many of tribes like the Hittites and Kassites entered Turkey and destroyed Syria in 1732 BCE. The Mittani attacked Babylon in the same year, while the Hyksos attacked Egypt in 1,730 BCE. The Dorians and Achaeans went to Greece and the Italics to Italy. The Aryas may have slowly migrated to Iran and then to India through Afghanistan.

As most of their artifacts were made of biodegradable wood or leather they have left little to prove where they originated from. Scholars have studied the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in studies of populations from all over the world. This shows that western-Eurasian lineages found in India today average 5.2 per cent as compared to 7.0 per cent in Europe. On the basis of the same data protagonists of the `Aryan Invasion’ and `Out of India’ beliefs draw totally opposite conclusions. A complicating factor is that the genetic inheritance of people today cannot prove what they were 4,000 years ago. It however seems unlikely that a large number of people chose to leave a well watered land like India to migrate huge distances over harsh mountains and deserts to the barren lands of central Asia.

It however seems certain that the Aryas first settled in the Indus river valley from where they gradually moved north and entered the Gangetic Plain from where they slowly spread all over India as indicated by their distinctive gray ware pottery. There is no mention of the Ganga River in the Rig Veda but many references to the Saraswati that might have even been the Harirud (Sarirud) of Afghanistan. It also makes no mention of tigers and elephants unique to India.

The Rig Veda is actually the only Veda because the later Sama Veda and Yajur Veda were essentially rearrangements of the hymns of the Rig Veda with priestly texts added. These were all elaborated as the Brahmanas, Aryankas and Upanishads. Kalpas and Yugas feature nowhere in the Rig Veda and seem to have also been a Puranic idea. The Artha Veda was added very much later to include many non Vedic indigenous traditions concerning cosmology, astrology, yoga, medicine, mathematics, philosophy, etc. The early Vedas and shastras do not mention reincarnation but often mention the eating of beef at their fire sacrifices.

The Rig Veda describes the local inhabitants of India as dark skinned `Dasyus’ with whom they clashed as well as walled cities (Puras) that might have been the Harappan cities that they proudly destroyed. Several historians believe that India’s earliest organized religions were Shaivism and Jainism. Tamil Sangam poetry preserves some of the old traditions of the original Puranas. After the legendary Brahmin warrior priests like Agasthya and Parusharam entered south India about the 3rd century BCE, 18 of the Puranas were translated into Sanskrit. As Rig Veda makes no mention of Brahma and Shiva and has Vishnu as a very minor god among its 33 deities it is postulated that Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu were not Vedic but gods of the Puranas. Some even speculate that the epic Mahabharata could have been a clash between the invading Kauravas and the resident Pandavas as Krishna and Draupadi were recorded as being dark complexioned.

While Brahmins took their evolving Brahminism southwards Siddharth Gautam started a new religion in the north in the 6th century CE. Buddhism was probably a reformed and less extreme form of Jainism. It was however the emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE who spread Buddhism (Dhamma) that became India’s dominant religion for a thousand years. Unlike Brahminism it did not believe in a miracle producing god who would grant boons in exchange for Vedic sacrifices. Buddhism believed that salvation only came from the evolution of the souls of all living things by their actions that shaped their Karma enabling them to evolve in subsequent lifetimes. Though Buddhism was the main religion of India it co existed with Brahmin sects that grew stronger over the centuries. The Gupta Empire (320 – 550 CE) began the Hindu renaissance though there was no Hindu religion at the time but many hundreds of sects that had Brahmin priests. The word Hindu, as a name for a religion, was alien to all sacred texts till 1826 when Ram Mohun Roy first coined the word.

The caste of Rajputs had completely disappeared during this thousand year period but revived in the 7th century and the Brahma Kshatra progenitors of the revived Rajputs severely persecuted the Buddhists and Jains. Inspired by Shankaracharya (788 – 820 CE) it destroyed Buddhism and weakened Jainism. The Brahmins however ingested many Jain and Buddhist beliefs like reincarnation and Karma and added many Puranic deities like Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu as well as Ganesh, Hanuman, Kubera, Kali and Devi to their pantheon of deities. The worship of Krishna and Rama were still very far in the future.

Buddhist and Sanskrit accounts mention that the country had been made up of 18 Mahajanapadas (great kingdoms) each comprising a number of smaller kingdoms so there may have been over 200 kingdoms with their own traditions, languages and local deities. The first name of the country was Jamundwipa (island of jamun fruits). In the 6th century BCE the Persians under Cyrus ruled the land of the Indus (Sindhu) as the 19th province of their huge empire but they pronounced Sindu as Hindu and all the land east of the Hindu Kush was thereafter called Hindustan. It had never been called Bharat that was the name of one of the ten earliest Arya tribes.

Many Brahmins believe that India has no history except that which is recorded in Sanskrit texts but no Sanskrit text mentions Alexander, Mauryas or Kushans and starts their calendar from the victory of king Vikramaditya of Ujjain over a Saka tribe in 56 BCE though the Saka era actually begins in the year 78 CE. These Sakas were probably the nomadic Scythian tribes from eastern Europe, who streamed into north India. Sanskrit as a sacred language was therefore forbidden to people of low castes as evidenced by the story of Ram’s killing of Shambhuka because he was a Shudra who was studying the Vedas. Perhaps even more serious was the fact that women had also been forbidden from learning Sanskrit. It therefore was never a `Mother Tongue’ but a theological language for male priests and scholars. Local languages and dialects therefore continued to be used for all domestic matters. Buddhist scriptures were therefore told in Pali, the common language of north India, and written in Prakrit.

The caste system is not found in the Rig Veda except for one small verse. It only hardened after a Brahmin called Kulluka Bhatta wrote an elaborate commentary on Manu’s old Manusmriti in the 7th century CE that made the caste system rigid and unforgiving. The terror of pollution made all those defined as being of lower caste into loathsome parriars to be abused and shunned. All forms of creativity were now frozen into a series of inflexible Shastras. All art, sculpture, music, literature architecture, medicine and even sex were frozen into ritualistic and lifeless forms. The guilds of artisans and craftsmen that had been so honored in earlier times were reduced to low caste workmen. Now there was blind worship and undiscriminating awe. The past became sacred and all that it produced, good and bad, was reverenced alike. Slavish imitation was inculcated as duty while novelty and originality became crimes.

After the eighth century Many Rajput kingdoms flourished with their Brahmin priests and many huge temples dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu began to spread north, east and west modeled on the fine examples from south India. The rich offerings of devotees made them very rich and temples became guilds of bankers. It was these spectacular riches so conveniently found at one place that attracted robber warlords like Mahmud of Ghazni.

The entry of Islam from the 12th century was very traumatic as their rigid beliefs were alien to Indian thought. The early Afghan Sultans and the Mughal rulers were not very religious until the Sunni orthodoxy of Aurangzeb from about 1680 CE. An exception were the wandering Sufis who preached a purely spiritual faith that did not concern itself with social or moral issues or the rituals of religion. Not surprisingly, many Sufi shrines became places of worship for people of other faiths. They believed in simple direct worship and developed large followings. They believed the Vedantic or Bhakti idea that “God is everywhere and the whole world is a manifestation of the emanation of God.” They converted more people to Islam than all the Muslim soldiers and priests.

The Bhakti Movement probably originated in 7th century Tamil Nadu and spread northwards to influence other religious communities. Ancient Alvar poetry is attributed to twelve Vaishnav saints (including one woman) and was all about being ‘immersed in God’. While the southern movement had been focused on a devotion to Vishnu and Shiva, another devotional movement developed in north India after the 12th century that was centered on the mortal heroes Krishna and Ram, who were both called incarnations of Vishnu. The tolerant Bhakti faith, however, co-existed peacefully with other movements in Hinduism though the Brahmins initially condemned bhakti as it was opposed to caste and disregarded Brahmanical authority. A prominent devotee in the north was the woman Meera Bai. The Bhagavat Gita, incorporating many Bhakti beliefs, probably evolved at this time and was inserted into the epic Mahabharata.

The influence of Christianity after the 15th century, with its lifelike statues and paintings of a suffering Christ, may have also contributed to the evolution of Krishna and Ram because lifelike statues and paintings were much more emotionally satisfying than stone idols. Chaitanya (1436-1532 CE) and Goswami Tulsidas (1532-1623 CE) were mainly responsible for raising Krishna and Ram from mortal heroes of legend to deities of worship. The Ramacharitamanas was a long lyrical poem written by Goswami Tulsidas. It soon captured the minds of people and made cows into objects of veneration and the eating of beef shifted from being an item of diet to something sacred. Cow slaughter soon became a big political issue because beef was commonly eaten by Muslims. The first movement to protect the cow began with the Sikh Namdhari sect in 1820 and Dayanand Saraswati founded the Gorakshini Sabha in 1882. These provoked communal riots and beef moved from being a matter of diet to becoming a defining icon of Hindu versus Muslim identity.

It also made Ayodhya a place of pilgrimage. The first recorded incident of violence between Hindus and Muslims at Ayodhya took place in 1853 when a Hindu sect called the Nirmohis claimed the structure, contending that the mosque stood on the spot where a Hindu temple had been destroyed. There was subsequent violence from time to time. On 22 December 1949, when the police guards were asleep, two small statues of Rama and Sita were surreptitiously installed. On hearing this news, Vallabhbhai Patel, India’s first Home Minister, directed the UP Chief Minister Govind Ballabh Pant to see that the deities were removed but no action was taken.

In 1984, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad launched a massive movement for the opening of the locks of the mosque. On 6 December 1992, the RSS and its affiliates organized a huge rally with some150,000 `Kar Sevaks’. The vastly outnumbered police fled and the mosque was soon brought down. The event however propelled the BJP to become a major political force. The Janta Party (later BJP) had only 5 seats in parliament in the 1991 elections but got 161 seats in 1996. In the General Elections of 2014 the BJP won 282 seats.

The BJP believed in Hindutva a word that was first coined by Vinayaka Damodar Savarkar (1883 – 1966) in a pamphlet he had written in 1923 called `Hindutva: Who is a Hindu.’ It advocated a narrow interpretation of the Hindu identity and promoted by other organizations who were to later become members of the Sangh Parivar or a family of organisations led by extreme right wing Hindu groups like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). M.S. Golwalkar (1906-1973) believed that India’s customs, traditions and ways of worship was its uniqueness and that this had a strong cultural underpinning that was native to India. He believed that all Indians shared “the same philosophy of life, the same values and aspirations”. They called for the protection of all traditions, holy structures, rivers and animals in a unified Hindu society to include all including Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains… inclusive of all who are born and who have adopted Bharat as their Motherland. It also stated that Muslims, Christians and Parsis too are Hindus by culture although not by religion. They were especially hostile to all things Muslim or Christian. The foundations of most of Hindutva thinking is based on Sanskrit literature that was a huge corpus of writing ,entirely written by Brahmin scholars in Sanskrit, therefore reflects the Brahmin world view. They consider the Vedas to be the source of all wisdom

India is and has always been a multicultural country with many widely different religious practices and linguistic traditions will not easily become a homogenous monocultural society. The Brahmin continuing aversion to the low castes has been moderated because the Adivasis are a big political community who need to be wooed. Though there are 22 official languages and 1,635 dialects (according to the 2011 census) Hindi, the national language, is spoken by 41% of the population. The BJP is however trying to force Hindi on all the states.

As the BJP have evolved to become a major political party the ideologues are now trying to project Hindutva as the philosophy for the creation of a `Hindu Era’ similar to a British Era or a Muslim Era. Their vision of Hinduism is a nation that will integrate all castes and language groups in one homogenous whole. Brahmins today account for just 5.5% of the Indian population but Hindutva wants to create a Hindustan that is mainly rooted on Brahmin beliefs.Weekend Special:

Whose Asian century? Clearly, China’s

Xi Jinping has now followed Deng’s rulebook by unilaterally breaking the Hong Kong Treaty. The timing is important not just because China is more powerful. The Western Alliance has fallen apart.

When the English Ambassador George McCartney went to Beijing in 1793 to pay respect to the Chinese Emperor, he was at pains to deny that he had ‘kowtowed’. He had gone because Great Britain had a trade deficit with China. The British wanted Chinese tea but had nothing to offer in return . The Chinese did not fancy English woollens.

But parts of India had come under British control and soon Indian opium was going to China to pay for tea. When the Chinese wanted to ban opium imports, the British launched the Opium Wars. After 1840, China had to give way to western powers.

Asia, especially Iran, India and China, had been the dominant rich economies till 1750. After the naval adventures of Columbus and Vasco da Gama, the Europeans first concentrated on American continent. But then, half a millennium later, it was Asia’s turn. The European World Order was constructed in 1815 after the Battle of Waterloo. First Britain and then America ruled the world. The Anglo American consortium won the battle for European hegemony in two World Wars and then the Cold War by 1991.

It has been said for sometime that the twenty-first century will be Asia’s, but no one knew which Asia. In Europe, it was Western Europe plus North America. Now it is quite clear that it is East Asia and more particularly China which will denote Asia.There is an important change in Beijing’s perceptions of Asia. China once used to talk about the “Asian century”. Its current focus is on building the “Chinese century”. China’s hegemonic ambitions, that it has become much more powerful than its neighbours, mean that Beijing’s focus is now on building Chinese century.

The deepening conflict between India and China is bound to complicate the prospects for an Asian century, as well as the Chinese century. As China privileges nationalism, it is bound to compel its Asian neighbours to do the same.

Delhi remembers very well the meeting between India’s then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in Beijing at the end of 1988. Deng offered a long and warm handshake to Rajiv Gandhi, the first Indian prime minister to travel to China after the 1962 war. Underlining the importance of normalising relations between the two neighbours, Deng emphasised the centrality of India-China cooperation in realising the dream of the Asian century.

The idea of an Asian century has a longer lineage, but it is Deng who gave it a contemporary meaning. The idea of Asian unity was among the many transcendental political notions that emerged in the late-19th and early-20th centuries as the eastern civilisations struggled to rediscover themselves amidst the domination of the West. Pan-Asianism, Pan-Islamism, and Pan-Arabism provided tremendous inspiration for the people of Asia and the Middle East. But all of them crashed against the rocks of nationalism and irreconcilable contradictions among the multiple nations they were trying to unite.

The current president of China, Xi Jinping continues to talk about Asian unity. But for a very different purpose. For Deng, Asian unity was central to his strategy of rebuilding China. At home, he was determined to heal the scars from Mao’s blood-letting under the Cultural Revolution that lasted from the mid-1960s to the 1970s. Deng also put an end to Mao’s external adventurism that destabilised the neighbouring states in the name of promoting revolution.

Deng rightly saw peace on its frontiers and cooperation with the rest of the world as a precondition for modernising China. Xi has a very different objective. He is leading a country that has emerged as a great power, thanks to the sweeping reforms under Deng. For Xi, Asian unity is about getting Beijing’s neighbours to acquiesce in China’s regional primacy.

Xi is not the first Asian leader to deploy a high-minded ideal for the pursuit of national interest. Japan did much the same between the two world wars of the last century when it presented its colonial expansion as building the Asian century. Imperial Japan’s attempt at folding the rest of Asia into its “co-prosperity sphere” is seen by many as the predecessor of China’s current effort to tie its neighbours into the Belt and Road Initiative.

Russian communists and the Communist International promoted by them brought together the nationalist leaders in Asia and the Middle East, a hundred years ago, at the “Congress of the Peoples of the East” at Baku. The surging ambition to build an anti-imperialist front evaporated amidst the compulsion of the Asian nations to fight different imperial powers.

While some Asian nations fought Japanese occupation and imperialism, others saw Japan as an ally in liberating their nations from the clutches of European imperialism. Asian unity and solidarity was even harder after the Second World War, in the era of decolonisation.

Although there has been much romanticisation of the 1947 Asian Relations Conference in Delhi and the 1955 Asia-Africa conference in Bandung (Indonesia), both the events underlined multiple faultlines within the newly independent countries. The 1962 war between India and China and the deep suspicion of the CCP among China’s neighbours made the idea of Asian unity or century largely irrelevant to the politics of the region in the 1960s and 1970s.

It was only in the 1980s, when China under Deng opened up to the world, shed its revolutionary ideology, actively sought economic cooperation with the West and its neighbours that it became possible to imagine Asian unity in any practical sense. India’s own economic reforms at the turn of the 1990s and its Look East Policy reinforced the notion of Asian unity and the idea of shared prosperity.

At the centre of all this was the Association of South East Asian Nations which demonstrated the high growth path to its larger neighbours — China and India. It also provided a platform for Asia-wide political consultations and economic integration. At the heart of ASEAN’s success was the shared understanding that nationalism must be tempered in favour of regionalism.

The dissipation of great power contestation in Asia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the new wave of economic globalisation, and the rapid economic growth in China and the region helped renew the idea of the Asian century.

In an unfortunate paradox, the phenomenal rise of China may have created the very conditions for the demise of the Asian century. That China has become far more powerful than all of its Asian neighbours has meant Beijing no longer sees the need to evoke Asian unity. As it seeks to surpass the United States and emerge as the top dog in the world, it is no surprise that Beijing’s imagination has turned to the construction of a Chinese century.

Although China has every right to claim Asian primacy, others are not obliged to accept it. That brings us back to deeply entrenched Asian nationalism that fought against imperial powers and refused to accept the diktat of the superpowers during the Cold War.

If powerful nationalism is driving China to seek more territory from its neighbours and dominate the region, equally intense nationalist forces in Asia will react against the CCP’s assertive policies. India’s decision to walk out of the China-centric regional economic order (the RCEP) last year, its standing up to the People’s Liberation Army in Ladakh and the announcement of the first steps towards digital dissociation from China underline New Delhi’s political will to resist the negative consequences of a Chinese century.

To be sure, an India that is smaller in economic size than China will pay a price for being the first to challenge the Chinese century. But Delhi may be strong enough to extract a cost from Beijing which is discounting the enormous power of the nationalist sentiment that the CCP is unleashing in China’s neighbourhood.

China has been preparing for this moment for decades. Mao wasted 30 years after the Revolution in his fantasy economic experiments costing 30 to 40 million lives. But then came Deng Xiaoping. Indeed he was always there biding his time. Even now the Chinese worship Mao not Deng. Deng did not seek permanent office. After retirement, he continued to work as Secretary of the Bridge Club of senior comrades in the Zhongnanhai. He abandoned his core beliefs in socialist economics and transformed China by a singular application of the Capitalist model adapted to China. China’s transformation within the 30 years following 1978 has been the fastest of any economy anywhere. Deng has to be one of the Greats of the Twentieth Century.

More than the economy was his subtle way with foreign policy. He signed the UK-China Treaty on Hong Kong playing a softly softly strategy, agreeing to One Country Two Systems. He had learnt from Chinese history that as England had done in McCartney’s days, pretend to bow while waiting for your turn to strike. The British fell for it. Of course, they already knew that they were no longer the top power but just a client of the US.

Xi Jinping has now followed Deng’s rulebook. He has unilaterally broken the Treaty. The Hong Kong Treaty was like Article 370. It was designed for international display. Now that the time has come, China has torn it up. The timing is important not just because China is more powerful. The Western Alliance has fallen apart. The battle for European hegemony was over in 1991, with the collapse of the USSR. Trump has shown that America is no longer interested. The UK has Brexited. Xi knows that the US will not fight the UK’s battles, nor will the UK, whatever protest it mounts.

The Asian Era is here, like it or not.

Weekend Special: Our failures have hidden learning opportunities

Failure is often seen as a source of shame. But if we studied and shared our failures, we could learn a lot from them. Successes enjoy more attention than failures. We celebrate stories of triumph, and pore over them to extract the reasons why things went so well. Industries package the lessons and share them as tips for ‘best practice’, while after-dinner speakers regale their audiences with the steps they took to glory. By contrast, if they’re not buried completely, failures, and those who perpetrate them, are more often seen as sources of shame or ignominy.

Yet it is often the errors, missteps and outright flops that contain more useful practical information on how to do things better, if only we were more willing to share and study them. That’s according to Ayelet Fishbach and Lauren Eskreis-Winkler, psychologists at the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago.

The pair believe that we often fail to learn sufficiently from when things go wrong. “Take bad business decisions, which we make because we don’t learn from others’ and our own failures. We similarly often ignore signs that our relationships aren’t going well or that our boss is unpleased with our performance. We don’t code [pay attention to] failures and don’t bother to learn the lesson for how to succeed,” says Fishbach.

Reluctance to share

Previous research had already exposed our unhelpful aversion to information about ongoing or future failure – a problem dubbed ‘the ostrich effect’ by University of Sheffield psychologist Thomas Webb and his colleagues. Whether we’re trying a new fitness regime, building a company website or planning for a looming pandemic, the human inclination is to put our heads in the sand once we’ve embarked on our path. Rather than monitoring our progress to check if we’ve gone off track, we grit our teeth, continue and hope for the best.

We also tend to neglect imagining what might go wrong when we look ahead toward attaining a goal, as research by psychologist Gabriele Oettingen at New York University and the University of Hamburg has shown. Yet when people are prompted to engage in ‘mental contrasting’ – anticipating the obstacles along the way to attaining their goal – they are more likely to persevere and succeed in their aims. 

Now Eskreis-Winkler and Fishbach have added to this literature by focusing on our reluctance to pay attention to failures – both our own and others – after they’ve happened. In their recent paper, the researchers asked dozens of teachers to recall a specific time they’d been successful at work and a specific time that they’d failed. When they asked the teachers which story they’d choose to share to help other teachers, nearly 70% opted to share their success rather than their failure.

The same thing happened when they asked hundreds of online volunteers to think of times they’d succeeded at staying focused at work, and then of times they’d failed and become distracted. The majority were more reluctant to share their focusing failures than successes. The aversion to sharing failures remained true even when the researchers asked the volunteers to share with their ‘future selves’, suggesting there is more to this bias than wanting to make a good impression on strangers.

Informative failures

Eskreis-Winkler and Fishbach believe a key factor is that many of us simply don’t realise how informative failures can be. To test this experimentally, they created a stripped-down task designed to model real-life situations in which the key to success is avoiding mistakes. They wanted to see if volunteers would avoid sharing their failures even though they were more informative than their successes.

For the task, dozens of online volunteers opened two mystery boxes from an array of three, for the chance to win money. One box contained 20 cents, another 80 cents, while the last was a dud and would cost them a cent. Next, they had the opportunity to share information about one of the boxes they opened to help the next participant in the game. As an incentive, they were told this other player would soon have the chance to reciprocate by sharing information with them.

One study showed how volunteers opened virtual boxes of money and would only share failures (losing money) than successes (winning money) with others (Credit: Alamy)

Crucially, the researchers contrived things so that each volunteer always opened a losing box and the 20-cent box. This meant, objectively, that it was always more useful if volunteers shared their failure – that is, the location of the money-losing box – than their relative success, the 20-cent box. Sharing the failure would allow the next player to dodge it, while sharing their success would still risk the other player opening the losing box. Yet, Eskreis-Winkler and Fishbach found that, across several studies, between one third to half of the volunteers chose to share success over failure – even though sharing failure would have been more beneficial to the other player.

The researchers uncovered more evidence for the way we overlook the value of failure in a follow-up quiz-style experiment, but this time they also found it was quite easy to remedy the bias. Online volunteers guessed the meaning of ancient symbols, choosing from two possible answers for each one. For one set, the researchers told the participants there wasn’t time to give them their results. For the other, the researchers told them they’d answered everything incorrectly. What’s particularly revealing is that when the researchers asked the volunteers which set they knew more about and could help other people with, 70% of them opted for the set for which they’d received no feedback, rather than the set for which they knew they’d failed so badly but which, due to the binary forced-choice format, they now effectively knew all the correct answers.

As with the money-box task, the problem again seemed to be the volunteers’ ignorance of how informative failures can be. Then, when Eskreis-Winkler and Fishbach nudged another group of volunteers into appreciating that learning they’d got all the answers wrong meant that they now knew the correct answers, this increased their willingness to share their knowledge about the symbol set they’d failed on.

‘Pay extra attention’

The new findings suggest many of us could benefit from simply being made more aware of the lessons hidden in our failures.

“In the wake of failure, ask, ‘What have I learned? How can I make this lesson useful in the future?’” advises Fishbach. She adds that it can be hard to learn from failures because they hurt your self-esteem, and you need to infer the correct answer or a more advantageous way of doing things. “So not only [do] you need to pay attention; you need to pay extra attention because it’s harder to learn from failure,” she says. 

It also helps to lay the groundwork earlier, before you even embark on your work project or personal goal. Oettingen’s research on mental contrasting, in which people are prompted to imagine having reached their goal and then to anticipate the obstacles on the way, has shown that performing this exercise at the outset encourages people to be more receptive to negative feedback later on.

“Not only is failure feedback more readily embraced, but it’s also integrated in [the person’s] plans to reach the wish and to actually fulfil the wish,” explains Oettingen. It’s as if anticipating the ways that things could go wrong makes us more receptive to learning from our errors and failures when they inevitably occur. “It’s not only that they’ve kind of processed the information, but they’ve used that information in order to be more successful,” she says.

Of course, thinking about your errors and failures can be demotivating, especially if you are a perfectionist or feeling low in confidence. To face up to your mistakes and learn from them, it’s important not to be overly harsh on yourself.

Thomas Webb, of the ‘ostrich effect’ phenomenon, is currently part of a team at Sheffield University researching this very issue, including working with organisations to look at ways to help people overcome failure through self-compassion. His team will be working with a gym, a parenting organisation and a journal publishing company – in the last case, helping reviewers of papers to overcome their common tendency to procrastinate. 

“The basic hypothesis is that many people are critical of themselves when they lapse or experience challenges,” Webb says, “but if they were able to respond with self-compassion, for example by recognising that failure is a natural part of being human, then it is possible to maintain motivation and efforts [in the face of failure] … part of this will be a cultural shift toward accepting apparent failure.”

Positive trend?

Webb is right that there are broader cultural lessons here. While we quite rightly see failures as a negative, we have much to gain from a wider shift that reframes them not just as sources of shame or regret, but also as richly informative learning opportunities.

Some industries in which safety is a number-one priority, such as aviation or space travel, already have this mentality – but, arguably, it’s an attitude that needs to be spread more widely.

There are positive signs this is starting in some organisations. “I’m fascinated by a growing trend of companies holding ‘screw-up nights’ – the actual name is a bit more colourful,” says Fishbach. “They’re essentially consequence-free opportunities for employees to step up to the mic and talk about the mistakes they’ve made on the job.”

It takes courage to admit when you got things wrong, but if more of us could do it, we would all benefit from the lessons learned.

Siren of China Model Attractive But Unsuitable for India

A major flaw in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s China policy is the intangible one of sneaking admiration for the authoritarian Chinese model of ruthless efficiency. The PM and many in his government believe that the Chinese way is the one India needs to adopt to move up the league table of global power. Overwhelming quantitative upscaling is considered the strategic mode.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has talked too crudely about expansionism and its futility in today’s world order which, according to him, is an era of development which only is relevant. History does have it too prominently that expansionism has been closely linked with economic urge of the countries and their rulers indulging in it. Times have truly changed but economic lust of many establishments remained too high in their agenda though expansionism has become obsolete and outdated.

China definitely is prominently one of such establishments which strongly feels that its economic prosperity is aimed at economic and consequently political dominance over others. Its increasing economic dominance over many African and Islamic countries would go to prove it beyond doubt. Its misadventure at our borders coupled with its luring and trying taking in debt trap the neighbors – Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh etc – and thereby surround India with discomforts goes to doubly prove it again and again.

That is why the Modi government is so fond of reeling out statistics of moneys allocated, the targets met, and the beneficiaries always counted in terms of numbers. The desire is to create gigantic banks, gigantic networks. Anything small is considered insignificant and even shameful. It is this unnoticed admiration of the Chinese way of doing things that seems to have created the proverbial blind spot in assessing China’s militaristic moves at the unsettled LAC.

The most important element in its rethink that the Modi government must do, is to remove the rose-tinted view of the Chinese way and to know that is not the way for India. China has achieved its economic success by adopting the collectivist ethic of communism to achieve capitalist ends of producing goods through state-owned factories, including those of the PLA, on a large scale and flooding foreign markets at cheap prices, in a manner that is unimaginable for any other country which does not have a huge population and an authoritarian government. The human cost of the Chinese success is enormous and unacceptable, and India should not consider it as an option.

Once the Modi government puts away the Chinese ghost from its political imagination, then it will be able to counter China at the LAC more effectively. In the last 70 years, India has created the example that democracy and economic progress are not incompatible. It has had its moments of shameful shortcomings and avoidable pitfalls. But it has shown that India is a diverse society in terms of ethnicity, religion and language and that it meets its challenges and solve its problems through this very diversity.

In contrast, China is a homogenous society and polity. India remains competitive in the world because it reckons with diversity, where competing interests and world views are taken to be the norm. Most importantly, Indian diversity presupposes fierce non-conformism. The superficial Western observer might think that traditional India is hopelessly conformist and therefore it is not capable of adopting ostensible modernism. But India has adopted modernism because it is inherently diverse and compulsively non-conformist.

It is this non-conformism that fires the spirit of diversity and keeps the imagination free. It is Indian creativity which will help the country become the world leader in science and technology. There is space for the genius in the Indian system. The Chinese system cannot afford the free play of imagination.

India, more particularly with Narendra Modi, has predominantly independent feeling of dealing with the countries at par based on equality, be it any of the countries, which must have been pinching China despite Narendra Modi going on pampering Xi Jinping in a grand way otherwise. China’s dream of making and seeing India as its follower was just not possible. And amidst severest of attacks by Corona, Narendra Modi’s call of Atmanirbhar Bharat and Vocal for Local was just unbearable to China. The concept of Jai Jagat would further go on to tease it. Therefore, despite de-escalations and retreats at the border China’s hurt ambitions would continue to haunt it and thus it would be wise and prudent to expedite and accelerate continued discussions and fix the border exchanging maps and agreeing to it. This may very well take time but then if Narendra Modi would not do this probably it would go on hanging for eternity.

The Standoff has triggered many discussions in the country, one of them being China’s economic position as compared to us and the viability of Chinese model of economy being replicated by us as against the western model. Many thinkers felt that the Chinese model is more appropriately suitable for us to follow given the fact, firstly, both have been primarily agro based country with lot of poor population and secondly, both have huge labor force to be utilized for the growth model and also have large market. They also feel both the countries have started their journeys almost simultaneously – India in 1947 and China in 1949 – and both have had almost same economic conditions, in many parameters, in fact, China lagging behind India. Among the non-communist countries India was the first to recognize China and establish diplomatic relations. Both the countries have had their Five-year plans started simultaneously too. Up to early seventies China was largely comparable to India economically and it was in late seventies that China took off and left behind India far behind.

Modi and his aides must get back to the drawing board as it were, and recognise India’s traditional virtues and values. The Indian virtues are democracy, diversity and the underlying principle of these two is non-conformism, cussed individualism. The Indian does not challenge the dominant idea or orthodoxy with an intent to overthrow it. He or she walks off to set up one’s own system and pursue one’s own ideas. In due course, an ecosystem of different ideas and values evolves. This is the Indian genius.

China’s communist leaders have fallen into the trap of reducing themselves into a global economic hub. They shun ideas, they fear non-conformism. Modi and the BJP must avoid going that way, of persecuting non-conformists, of hunting out dissidents. That way, India will become another China. If that happens, the Asian century will become one of sterile uniformity. India can be a beacon to the world not through yoga, but through intellectual imagination, which is its forte.

Historically, Mao advocated self-reliance and focused on local agro development and labor intensive industries and basically this foundation and legacy helped Deng Xiaoping, post Mao, take off to a more liberal and export centric economy. Make in China call was given in 2015 projected up to 2025. The underlying ethos of Chinese growth has been gradual innovative trial and error method with continual review, course correction and even stopping and aborting difficult ideas in between. There is democracy at bottom, experimentation at the middle and meritocracy at the top with very solid and strong govt grip over all utilities, transportation, communication, finance and media. With an autocratic and totalitarian single party establishment there is complete unison of approach and continuity of system with maximum flexibility and speed of decision making. It may be worthwhile to observe that having adopted a communist pattern of single party governance China did not go Russia way and instead found in the USA its growth propelling engine. However, the growth rate has, of late, slowed down these years and would continue to be so as per IMF projections and China desperately is searching viable partners with the major stakeholder the USA becoming crudely hostile. Xi Jinping’s approach has been to expand the ideas and spread Chinese hegemony by injecting ideology, training and debt on attractive terms to the countries making them allies and followers.

This obviously would not be suitable to India in any manner precisely for two reasons – One, the predominant factor being our political governing system being that of a vibrant democracy with a federal structure and two, the Chinese growth is not based on any ethos or dogma, it is just a practical flow of innovative ideas deeply rooted in local situations with the continual course corrections and reversals in the way. Many of Chinese thinkers themselves felt that the Chinese growth story may not be replicated anywhere for the story is full of contradictions and ambiguity.

Xi Jinping himself feels that every nation should follow its own path of development and growth unique to its situation and requirements.

With the West in decline, it is the rivalry between India and China that will dominate world politics for the rest of the century, but this rivalry is premised on a difference between the Indian and Chinese ways. There cannot be rivalry if there are no differences, and both can only offer goods and services at competitive prices. It will be a battle of ideas, a battle of world views.

Right-wing Indians, including BJP and others, entertain the illusion that India and China will dominate the world this century, and it is not important that India should be different from China. What is important is overwhelming economic and military power, and India should reach it through the Chinese way because it seems to pay off right now.

However, the long-term civilisational stakes are played at the level of ideas and values. Americans and democratic western Europe did not win the Cold War against the Soviet Union and its east European satellites because of economic and military prowess. The West won the battle of ideas and values. The Soviet Union crumbled despite being a military and economic superpower, because it had no ideas.

Chinese President Xi Jinping seems to think that the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a creative idea that will fire the world’s imagination. BRI is an infrastructure project to facilitate movement of goods to the farthest points, somewhat like the famed trans-Siberian railway. The BRI will be a conveyor belt of goods, but it is not a communication channel for ideas.

However, there are two things which may be taken from Chinese experience – Firstly, adopting the path of innovation and experiment. Any development concept would require some extent of experiment and innovation when put to practice. We do not seem to encourage this which often result in stalemates and stagnations. Our guidelines are rigid and bureaucratic still depending on red-tapism. Even there are none to interpret them in positive manner and continue clarifying them in line with the purposes they were formulated and secondly, the idea of course correction including withdrawals and reversals. There may be many projects or ideas, which seen with the ground realities, may not seem to be fitting appropriately to the situation.

If we feel that a said project apparently needs some correction or even seems implementable, it must have the flexibility to be amended suitably or even aborted in between. But in our systems there are hundreds of projects and programs which remain on papers for the simple reason either they require some modifications or are not possible to be implemented or possibly will not serve the purpose envisaged for. But either amending them or aborting them is too cumbersome or none wants to initiate the flow from below to up wards for hesitation or fear of being questioned otherwise.

The mission Atmanirbhar Bharat with Vocal for Local is a great endeavor. But it needs lot of commitment and focus. The convictions of Narendra Modi must reflect at each of the levels of bureaucracy. The state govts also are to be geared up to take the responsibility irrespective of which party rules which state. The Prime Minister himself, perhaps, has to take the initiative to institutionalize implementation of the mission at all the levels. Especially agro initiatives and MSME infusions with its new definitions may create revolution in the country. Each of the regions and states has its own uniqueness to yield particular results. These uniqueness are to be properly studied, articulated and then see what part of the mission they fit into and then go on to invoke and implement the part.

Our approach to any of the govt programmes are too casual which completely lacks any seriousness whereas any mission may not see the light of the day without the required passion and conviction to the cause. Narendra Modi govt has to bring in the institutions tasked to monitor the progress and review status at various levels towards the completion. Unless the govt creates the required unison machinery to carry forward the dream of the Prime Minister in a time frame, the mission would not yield required results. Let, therefore, be scrupulous follow up and monitoring mechanism in place.

Russia and China Likely to Rule Space

On July 13, the chief of Russia’s space corporation told Komsomolskaya Pravda that Russia was not interested in partnering with the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Instead, Russia was speaking with China about establishing a joint-base on the moon.

When asked about Russia’s interest in partnering with nasa to send people to the moon, Dmitry Rogozin dismissed the possibility. “For the United States, this is now more of a political project,” he said. “With the lunar project, we are observing the departure of our American partners from the principles of cooperation and mutual support that have developed during the cooperation on the iss [International Space Station]. They see their program not as international, but as similar to nato. There is America; everyone else must help and pay. Honestly, we are not interested in participating in such a project.”

Rogozin then elaborated on his plans with China: “But there are other projects in which we are interested in participating. This morning we held a teleconference with my colleague, the head of the China National Space Administration, Zhang Kejian, a very influential person, and my good friend. We agreed to begin the first steps towards each other precisely by defining the contours and significance of the lunar scientific base.”

Rogozin noted that he was not opposed to American involvement with this new “lunar scientific base,” as long as Russia and China lead the project. So whether he admits it or not, this “lunar scientific base” is part of a new space race: Russia and China against America. Each power bloc wants to establish its own moon-base.

American politician Newt Gingrich is warning that no issue is more important to America than the “great space race.” In a July 5 Fox News editorial, he wrote: “It’s the United States versus China, in competition to be first to create systems for commercial space travel, to establish outposts on the moon, and ultimately to colonize other planets. … It’s vital for Americans to understand that, in the long run, no issue is more important than U.S. leadership in space. As [Charles Miller, president of NexGen Space llc] told me, in the future, whoever dominates space is going to be able to control Earth and dictate the planet’s culture and values.”

Gingrich has a good grasp of what is at stake in the race for supremacy in outer space. If the Russians or the Chinese gain supremacy over the U.S. in outer space, they will be able to use space-based weapons to force their culture and values on the world. Americans cannot afford to be complacent.

President Donald Trump is taking the space race seriously and has established a sixth branch of the U.S. military—called Space Force—to protect the nation. However, pouring more resources into the space race has not stopped foreign spies from stealing America’s technological secrets. In fact, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray has warned that the biggest law enforcement threat to the nation is Chinese theft of U.S. technology. Much of America’s strength is actually being spent in vain.

During the Cold War, the late theologian Herbert W. Armstrong wrote a booklet titled Who Will Rule Space? in which he explained that the U.S. was making a colossal error in the space race. “We are looking exclusively to material science to rescue us from the threat of communism,” he wrote. “We are in a frenzy over methods of training future scientists who can develop even greater weapons of destruction and death! Have we gone utterly mad? For the past few years, the United States educational system has been on a crash program to accelerate the influx of science students in American colleges, universities and institutes of technology. And this very thing—looking to the physical, material, science—is our colossal error!”

America is making the same error today. Developing new and better space-based weapons may act as a temporary deterrent to nations like China, which would like to take over the world. But ultimately, these weapons will only make conflict more devastating when it comes. The only lasting solutions are spiritual.

Newt Gingrich is right that whoever dominates space is going to be able to control Earth and dictate the planet’s culture and values. But no human being can rule in outer space.