Moderation Drive: Saudi Arabia and UAE Lead Against Islamist Radicalism

Two recent developments need to be appreciated for their implications for the Islamic world. First, a senior member of the top Muslim clerical body in Saudi Arabia has said Saudi women need not wear the abaya — the black loose-fitting, full-length robe — marking yet another step towards liberalisation. This comes after Saudi Arabia decided to allow women to drive and also enter sports stadiums among other moves to increase women’s participation in public life. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has already stated that his country will go back to a moderate version of Islam prevalent in the Islamic Kingdom before 1979. In this respect, the clarification on the abaya represents further loosening of the patriarchal religious control that the Saudi clergy has exercised over Saudi life.
This is indeed welcome. There’s no denying that radicalisation in the Islamic world was hitherto fuelled by Saudi Petro-dollars to counter the influence of Shia Iran and increase strategic leverage for Riyadh across the world. However, as the spawning of various Islamist terrorist groups has shown, the Saudis are no longer in control of Wahhabi-influenced assets. Indeed, many of these assets have turned on the Saudi state itself. Thus, unless and until Saudi Arabia hits out at the roots of Wahhabi extremism, radicalism in the Islamic world will become an unmanageable problem.
The second development is the recent groundbreaking ceremony of the first Hindu temple in UAE’s Abu Dhabi. The event was graced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is on his second official trip to that country. In fact, when completed in 2020, this will be the first traditional Hindu temple in the Middle East. Again, a Hindu temple in Islamic UAE is a huge step towards promoting a moderate brand of Islam that is congruent with modern values such as secularism. The temple is a signal to all obscurantist forces that the UAE will no longer tolerate Islamist extremism or elements that support radical thought and will look to build a future on religious harmony and brotherliness.
Both these developments in Saudi Arabia and UAE signal a significant departure from earlier approaches to Islam. And if Islam is given a moderate direction in the birthplace of the religion in the Arabian peninsula, then it is bound to have an impact on Islam all over the world. Let’s hope that the drive against Islamist radicalism and efforts to further genuine moderate interpretations of Islam gain greater strength.

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The New American Morality

Morality has always featured heavily in America’s history. But the morals being promoted and preached today are unlike any the nation has ever seen. The root cause of the collapse of the Roman Empire, according to historian Edward Gibbon, was its loss of civic virtue and individual morality. Gibbon believed the laws of morality were as constant as the laws of physics. Was he right? Or is it different today
You can’t put morality in a box. Our morals affect every aspect of our lives: our families, our education, our charities, our religions, our commerce and business, our economics, our laws, our policing and justice, our governments, our social policies, our strategic planning, our foreign policies—even when, where and how we wage war.
Since its earliest days, American morality was rooted in the Bible. Americans practiced and enforced their understanding of biblical moral prescriptions with remarkable zeal.
In recent years, however, that morality has been replaced by an entirely different, very unbiblical Moral code.
The New Moralists expect compliance on sexual norms, gender roles and definitions, racism, multiculturalism and many more aspects of our lives. Remarkably, though it is irreligious, the New American Morality is increasingly enforced with just as much religious fervor as the old morality once was.
The dictates of this new Moral code are stringent and unforgiving, with intolerant condemnations of all conceivable forms of intolerance, even those practiced by God Himself.
Early America
This new Moral Awakening is far different from America’s previous Great Awakenings.
In colonial times, Puritans, Catholics, Quakers and others fled religious persecution in England and came to America for a refuge to worship as they chose. Early settlers established strongly religious colonies, some of which drew many of their laws directly from the Old Testament. Many of their colonial covenants mirrored the 1620 Mayflower Compact, whose signers said they were undertaking their project “for the glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith.” The Massachusetts Bay Colony, among others, literally cited biblical chapter and verse in establishing the laws of the land.
When settlers encountered periods of difficulty and trial, governors responded by stiffening laws commanding prayer and religious worship, and increasing the severity of punishment against those convicted of adultery, sodomy, rape and other immoral acts. When William Penn established the “holy experiment” of Pennsylvania, he outlawed “all such offenses against God as swearing, cursing, lying … incest, sodomy, rapes, whoredom, fornication and other uncleanness (not to be repeated) …” because “the wildness and looseness of the people provoke the indignation of God against a country.”
In this climate, there spread a uniquely American religious tolerance: People could worship as they pleased—as long as they were Christian, with faith in Jesus Christ. In the 1700s, often referred to as the Age of Reason or the Enlightenment, America experienced a series of religious revivals. Preachers calling for repentance and conversion enjoyed tremendous popularity and attracted large crowds. Most of America’s most prestigious universities—including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Dartmouth—were founded at this time as denominational colleges and seminaries to train clergy. Education, everyone understood, was firstly a moral endeavor.
When the nation entered the tribulation of the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress proclaimed several days of fasting, for “the exercise of repentance and reformation.” It viewed the war as “just punishment of our manifold transgressions,” and adjured civil and military officers to more strictly observe the Articles of War that forbade “profane swearing and all immorality.”
The New Morality changes with time: What was once unacceptable may now be encouraged, and what was once tolerated may now be utterly intolerable.
The nation’s founding lawmakers guaranteed legal protection for religion in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, which prohibits any laws restricting the freedom of religious practice. This separation of church and state protected religion from interference by the government and secured its importance in public life.
When French political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville visited America in 1831, the country was undergoing another outburst of religious fervor, called the Second Great Awakening. “[T]here is no country in the world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men,” Tocqueville noted in Democracy in America. “Liberty regards religion as its companion in all its battles and its triumphs …. It considers religion as the safeguard of morality, and morality as the best security of law and the surest pledge of the duration of freedom ….”
Nobody argues that the United States implemented the Bible’s moral code perfectly. No nation in history has—not even Israel, the nation to which God gave it originally. To take perhaps the most notable example in American history, despite codifying in the Declaration of Independence the belief “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” the young nation took nearly nine decades to finally abolish immoral and unbiblical slavery practices by constitutional law.
Nevertheless, as society broadly sought to practice biblical morality as they understood it, America grew to become the greatest single nation in world history.
Learn the New Rules
Tocqueville said that religion secures morality, and morality secures freedom. But in recent decades, American religion has concerned itself less and less with morality. By ceding its moral footing, it has grown weaker. And its enemies have grown bolder and more numerous. They have managed to transform the concept of separation of church and state to enforce the secularization of public life—not as a protection of religion but as a legal weapon against it.
This process has set the stage for a new Great Awakening—to a New Morality.
The old, biblically based morality was unchanging and absolute. It emphasized the inviolability of marriage, and the responsibility of parents to teach and train their children. It stressed the sanctity of sex between husband and wife. It instilled respect for authority and duty to country. It encouraged personal virtues like temperance, moderation, sobriety, modesty and thrift.
The New Morality changes with time: What was once unacceptable may now be encouraged, and what was once tolerated may now be utterly intolerable. It is inconsistent and self-contradictory. It emphasizes the preeminence of the individual, and the importance of personal fulfillment over duty to spouse or offspring. It encourages unrestrained sexual license—except, in a recent abrupt shift, when it involves men coercing women sexually. Depending on who is in authority, the New Morality either seeks more-authoritarian control or an overthrow of the entire system; and it considers patriotism akin to tribalism. There are no absolute virtues: Depending on the individual and the circumstances, excess, indulgence, intoxication, arrogance and greed may all be praised as Moral or condemned as Immoral.
Despite its contradictions and volatility, however, it is still enforced with unforgiving conviction and authority. The New American Morality says that all men are rapists and potential rapists, and should be feared and contained. At the same time, it says that if one of these men believes he is a woman, that is truth, and Moral. We all must play along. We should allow this man into women’s bathrooms, and anyone who is uncomfortable with this is a bigot. Bigotry is Immoral.
It is now Moral to allow children to choose their gender from their earliest years. It is Immoral to encourage them to conform to sex stereotypes, such as instilling in boys a duty to protect girls.
For a man to prey on a woman is clearly Immoral. Yet if he is married, for him to avoid being alone with a woman, to avoid temptation and/or the appearance of evil is Immoral. Why? Because it could hold back the careers of women who must meet with him alone. When a woman acts sexually in exchange for receiving professional advancement, this is Immoral for the man, yet Moral for the woman. In the much-celebrated words of Oprah Winfrey at the Golden Globes, she did this because she “had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue.” Moral.
Fornication and out-of-wedlock birth: Moral—and woe to anyone who would try to stop it. Pornography, so ubiquitous that it is readily, regularly viewed even by children: Moral. Same-sex marriage: Moral. Heterosexual marriage: Depends on whether the man leads his family. If he does, that is oppression: Immoral.
Efforts to protect the lives of the unborn: Immoral. Exposing clinics and doctors who sell aborted fetal body parts: Immoral.
Religion: generally accepted as Moral. Eastern religions are Moral. African tribal religious practices are Moral. Native American spirituality is Moral. Islam, including mandatory full-body coverings, forced marriage, genital mutilation, and occasional throwing homosexuals off of buildings: Moral. The New Moralists mustn’t be intolerant bigots about such practices.
The notable exception is religion rooted in the Bible: Immoral. Christians whose conscience will not permit them to bake a wedding cake for a homosexual couple: Immoral.
Don’t expect consistency in the New Morality. Just try to keep up—and be sure to comply.
The New Morality in Action
New generations growing up under the New American Morality are learning it well. They are scrupulously measuring society by it: tolerating and even encouraging others for beliefs and acts that would have been considered immoral in less enlightened times—and diligently using their exacting Moral measure to condemn those who fall afoul of the new rules.
One real-world example occurred after a June 2015 church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, by a white supremacist. In response, a movement to remove public monuments and memorials of the Confederate States of America began.
Last August, this movement exploded after competing protests fixated on a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia. Suddenly, memorials across the country were now monuments to white nationalism, rank racism and everything Immoral about America’s slave-owning past. The tide of Moral scorn beat against Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, Roger Taney and other Confederates. But it didn’t stop there: It even swallowed up giants like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln: guilty of slavery and racism. Immoral. And to the inflexible New Morality, unpardonable.
It was a stark example of how volatile, passionate, zealous and fanatical the New Morality can be. It does not give reasoned judgment regarding, say, which aspects of history to preserve and which to topple, jackhammer, sandblast and raze. It reflexively brands all opposition as bigoted and racist. Contrary evidence is noise. The only Morally correct action is to destroy.
These high-minded critics can look at a man like President Washington and view themselves as his Moral superior. This was a man universally admired for his unimpeachable character—a man without whose leadership the United States of America may well have been a failed historical footnote. For returning to private life and thus refusing to turn the American presidency into a monarchy, King George iii reportedly called Washington “the greatest man in the world.” Yet he does not meet the stringent New Moral measure.
These people look at President Jefferson and see nothing but a wicked slaveholder. They are unable to recognize in him the author of the creeds that have helped grant greater freedom to more people than in any other nation in human history. The entire arc of America’s past has been an arduous but remarkably successful struggle to live up to the high ideals of universal rights and liberties that Jefferson articulated at its birth. Yet no less a paragon of virtue than Al Sharpton has demanded that the Jefferson Memorial be stripped of public funding in order to punish his memory.
Today’s Moralists are excellent at pointing out sins. Historical figures are particularly easy targets.
President Lincoln lacked the racial and cultural awareness of today’s Moralizers. Nevertheless, he did manage the staggering feat of single-handedly restoring a divided country, preventing it from being permanently rent in two—while eradicating slavery permanently by constitutional amendment. Yet these achievements were not enough to shield him from the reproach of at least one crusader in his home state who vandalized and set on fire a bust of Lincoln in Chicago’s South Side.
Today’s Moralists are excellent at pointing out sins. Historical figures are particularly easy targets, because nobody in human history has lived according to the strictures of America’s New Morality. So educators can easily demonstrate how they are the Moral superiors of everyone who came before them in Western civilization. They can show how every hero of Western history was actually a villain. But they have no interest in learning anything from them. What could a slave owner like Thomas Jefferson possibly teach us? What could we gain from studying a racist like Abraham Lincoln? They feel no gratitude for what those people built, and from which they benefit. They feel only self-righteous indignation and disdain.
The New Moralists have largely come to hate the country that gave them all their freedoms and prosperity, for all its Immorality—its intolerance, bigotry, slavery, systemic racism, cultural appropriation, capitalist greed, exploitation, class oppression, sexism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, imperialism, war crimes, and the list goes on. Living in the most prosperous, free, inclusive nation in human history, the New American Moralists view it as possibly the most exploitative, racist, oppressive, Immoral nation in history.
How to Morally Measure a Man
“Make America great again” is President Donald Trump’s slogan. When, then, was America last “great”? This question was posed to Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore at a campaign rally last September. He pointed back to around the time Tocqueville had visited, before the Civil War: “I think it was great at the time when families were united—even though we had slavery—they cared for one another …. Our families were strong; our country had a direction.”
The response that appeared broadly across media and political platforms was, Roy Moore believes slavery made America stronger! Roy Moore supports slavery!
In truth, Moore’s response unambiguously acknowledged that slavery was wrong; he said that, setting that evil aside, there was something great about the nation when families were strong and the country was moving forward. Historians might even consider this objectively true regarding early America. But such distinctions are impossible in today’s America—where people would rather view Jefferson as a barbaric slave owner than as the author of the language that would later set slaves free.
Moore was already widely considered a sex offender for trying to date girls half his age as a young man. Now, according to the crude Moral judgment of enlightened America, anyone who voted for Moore is not just an enthusiastic supporter of child molestation and sexual predation, but also a racist who longs to reintroduce slavery. Thankfully he lost his election, so the Senate won’t be corrupted by his Immoral influence—or so the thinking goes.
Perhaps some of the allegations were true and Moore didn’t deserve office. Yet many current members of Congress openly practice behavior as bad or worse, judging by biblical morality—and still, from the New Moralists they enjoy praise rather than condemnation. Moore, however, was guilty of the sin of upholding the Bible and the Ten Commandments, and in so doing painted the target on his own chest.
The Moral mainstream media, the Democrats and even the Republican establishment treated Moore like a convicted pedophile because of allegations from 40 years ago, some of which were proved false. Meanwhile many New Moralists are increasingly normalizing actual pedophilia. It is depicted sympathetically in certain Hollywood movies and mainstream news sources. Psychologists and activists are pushing it along the same path toward societal acceptance that they did with homosexuality and transsexuality. And you dare not condemn people for these irrepressible inclinations. That would be Immoral.
Two Forms of Righteousness
The contrast between this New Morality and biblical morality is stark.
The Bible’s moral code is strict, consistent and inflexible—its standard is absolute moral purity and perfection (e.g. Genesis 17:1; Matthew 5:48; Philippians 3:14-15). It recognizes a whole range of sins beyond those of prejudice and bigotry. In fact, its Author says unequivocally that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)—even the New Moralizers.
Yet our being sinners does not make us irredeemable. Though God is perfect and morally superior to others, He is also full of mercy, compassion and patience (e.g. Exodus 34:5-7; Matthew 18:21-22; Luke 6:36-37). In meting out judgment, God examines the heart, intent, attitude, environment and knowledge of the law. He allows for repentance from sin; that is His aim for all people.
The New American Morality is much more selective in its strictness, but against those it considers transgressors, it is merciless.
This approach is akin to another biblical example, that of the devil. Called “the accuser,” he criticizes, ridicules and scorns people “day and night” (Revelation 12:10). He is negative, cynical and self-righteous. He has a moral standard of his own devising, and uses it as a blunt weapon. Guilty as he is of lying, lust, bigotry and murder, he sees in others only weakness, stupidity, hypocrisy and flaws.
The devil can look at God Himself and see a hypocrite and a failure. Meanwhile, God can look at a sinner and see the makings of a perfect heart.
The Moralizers have ordained themselves as judge, jury and executioner of America’s new Moral law. It is plain to see to whom they look for their inspiration.
The New Morality, with all its inconsistencies, cannot be viewed as a comprehensive, consistent moral code. In practice it operates more as a weapon aimed at one thing: to destroy what is left of biblical morality in America. It was a movement “throwing off the restraints … against prudery, repression and ignorance,” he wrote in a booklet titled God Speaks Out on ‘The New Morality.’ In many ways, this more recent development magnifies that movement by adding secular sanctimony. Wherever we turn, we are hearing lectures from today’s Moral Pharisees.
The Author of biblical morality has strong words for those who establish their own Moral standards.
Through the Prophet Isaiah He says, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:20-21).
In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul warned against those who, like the New Moralizers, “being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:3).
This is really what is happening in this most recent Great Moral Awakening: People are working to establish their own righteousness, and are failing to submit themselves to the righteousness of God—who is the one and only true Lawgiver, who alone determines right from wrong. The more zealous and fanatical they become in this irreligious pursuit, the more unhinged this New Morality will become, and the more society will change under its influence.

Functions of a Brand Evangelists

Microsoft, HP, Adobe, and many other companies have brand evangelists on their rolls. In some cases, the founder is a terrific Brand Evangelist. Think Richard Branson. He is almost inseparable from the Virgin brand. The holding company has a mish-mash of businesses from holiday travel to media to airlines and charities. Branson remains the Brand Evangelist who creates a unifying experience in what would be a potpourri of unrelated businesses.
WHY DO YOU NEED A BRAND EVANGELIST?
Take a look at websites of companies. Most of them seem to be clones of their competitors. Just replace the logo and the rest of the website would be indistinguishable. The content is full of the same few words of corporate-speak words like “vision”, “disruption”, “passion” etc.
HR should have brand evangelists simply to help in differentiating the employer brand. What does your company stand for? What makes it a unique place to work for? Who is the idea employee you are looking for? These would be employees who have a strong individual presence as well.
1. They understand social-media: When social media was in its infancy, most leaders dismissed it as a toy for bored teens. As more and more millennials join the workforce, the leaders find themselves unable to deal with a growing chunk of employees who don’t read e-mails. The millennials spend their time on new media which has its own grammar and etiquette, making it hard for leaders to communicate. Brand Evangelists can use new media to connect with employees as well as opinion leaders outside. Vala Afshar of Salesforce has a Twitter bio that describes him as Chief Digital Evangelist @Salesforce. He blogs at Huffington Post and has more than 200,000 followers on Twitter. He (along with Marc Benioff, founder, chairman and CEO of Salesforce) turns a faceless B2B business into a human enterprise. They can be crusaders for your cause.
2. Making sense: Organisations are being forced to evolve and change shape continuously. Whether it is because of M&A activity or new products or changes in leadership or retrenchments, the company is always in the news. The Brand Evangelists help make sense of these changes. Leaders brought up in the analog world continue to believe that having a quarterly all-hands meet is enough to keep employees connected. Communication today is always, two-way, real-time and authentic. That is what Brand Evangelists are good at. They can simplify and explain why even as they answer the questions and listen to someone ranting about the new policy. Give them a sneak peek at the changes in policy and let them spread the word.
3. They listen: Every product or service has to be in perpetual beta. New features, bugs, data hacking are some of the by-products of living in a hyper-connected world. Brand Evangelists help the users stay connected and keep educating them about the need to update software or try the coolest new features. Most of all Brand Evangelists listen. Starbucks fans can submit suggestions for everything from flavours to merchandise on their My Starbucks Idea site. When did your suggestion box scheme generate as many ideas? Guy Kawasaki is the legendary evangelist for Apple. If Apple needs an evangelist, believe me having an HR Brand Evangelist could work wonders for your organization.
4. They educate: Jason Levine is an evangelist for Adobe. His tutorials make it easy for users to learn tips and tricks of the range of products that Adobe has. His tutorials on YouTube unlock mysterious features of different products. He is known to his followers as Adobe Jesus. He makes technical training so cool. Imagine if you had someone like him to evangelize your latest L&D offering. We have no problem when companies spend big bucks marketing a soap that costs fifty rupees. But we shy away from evangelizing our training programs that could make the company stay on the cutting edge.
5. They are storytellers: Social media is changing storytelling. HR Brands have to learn how to build deep, personal, two-way connections with employees. Consumers and employees together influence pricing, packaging, platforms of engagement and even the time to market. Not engaging the employees with the same level of gusto means leaving out one important part of the brand ambassadors. Evangelists can address this gap.
The best brand evangelists are a great mix of deep expertise of a subject plus marketing savvy. That gives them the credibility to speak about their subject with authority. Their credibility rubs off on the brand. Yes, the companies are often known by the evangelists. You may already have a few potential evangelists. These are the ones that attract the crowds in conferences. Leverage them.
In the digital world, a single tweet can destroy the reputation of a brand that has been built over years. That is when having a human face allows a brand to be forgiven. No brand evangelist can make up for a poor work culture or poor policies and leadership. Brand evangelists are storytellers. A story is the truth told in a creative way. If you have fixed all the HR processes and policies and still the employees are lukewarm in their response, go out and get yourself an HR Brand Evangelist this year

 

Judge the Validity of Prediction 1918 About Life in 2018

Minds of the early 20th century were already theorizing that we would one day have to quit our fossil fuel habit. People in the early 20th century were hopeful about the future innovation might bring. The technology that came out of World War I, and the growing potential brought by electricity (half of all U.S. homes had electric power by 1925) had many looking ahead to the coming century. Futurists of the early 1900s predicted an incredible boom in technology that would transform human lives for the better.
In fact, many of those predictions for the future in which we live weren’t far off, from the proliferation of automobiles and airplanes to the widespread transmission of information. Of course, the specifics of how those devices would work sometimes fell broad of the mark. Yet these predictions show us just how much our technology has progressed in just a century — and just how much further more innovation could take us.
Calling the Future
On a cool February day in 1917, storied inventor Alexander Graham Bell gave the graduating class of McKinley Manual Training School a rousing speech that would later sound a bit like prophecy.
“Now, it is very interesting and instructive to look back over the various changes that have occurred and trace the evolution of the present from the past,” Bell said, after recalling the incredible transformation wrought by electricity and automobiles alone. “By projecting these lines of advance into the future, you can forecast the future, to a certain extent, and recognize some of the fields of usefulness that are opening up for you.”
In 1876, Bell himself had patented the device known as the telephone, which used wires to transmit the sound of human speech. As this device spread, its capabilities allowed voices to cross enormous distances. In 1915, one such “wireless telephony” system had allowed a Virginia man to speak to another in Paris while a man in Honolulu listened in — a distance of 4,900 miles (about 7,886 kilometers), setting the record for the longest distance communication at that time.
Bell marveled at this achievement and the change it had already created, predicting that “this achievement surely foreshadows the time when we may be able to talk with a man in any part of the world by telephone and without wires.” At the time of Bell’s speech, the U.S. had an estimated 11.7 million working telephones; by the year 2000, that number had risen to nearly 103 million.
Extrapolating forward, Bell predicted a future in which this technology allowed people to pretty much anything remotely: “We shall probably be able to perform at a distance by wireless almost any mechanical operation that can be done at hand,” he said. And he wasn’t wrong.
Transportation of the Future
People a century ago were obsessed with the travel of the future. By 1914, the Ford Motor Company had developed the first moving assembly line, allowing the company to produce 300,000 cars in a single year. With transit beginning to transform society, futurists began imagining a world in which every person from Miami to Moscow could own their very own automobile. In that regard, they weren’t too far off — 95 percent of American households own cars, according to a 2016 government report. But those imagined automobiles looked a bit different from the ones we know today.
On January 6, 1918, the headline of an article in The Washington Times announced that the “Automobile of Tomorrow Will Be Constructed Like a Moving Drawing Room.” The author was writing about a prediction in Scientific American that described the car of the future. It would be water-tight and weather-proof, with sides made entirely of glass, and seats that could be moved anywhere in the vehicle. It would be decked out with power steering, brakes, heating, and a small control board for navigation. A finger lever would replace the steering wheel. Other designs imagined that cars would roll around on just three wheels, or on air-filled spheres to remove the need for shocks.
Future-forecasters of the early 1900s were enthralled by the idea that our everyday travel would not be confined to land. Take, for example, the series of postcards produced between 1899 and 1910 by French artist Jean-Marc Côté and his collaborators, who seemed confident that by the year 2000, we would have already colonized both sky and sea — and recruited some of their residents for our transit purposes.
Air travel was foremost in people’s minds: The Wright brothers made their first successful flight of a powered airplane in 1903, spurring other inventors and engineers to test innumerable aircraft designs before World War I. As such, it’s not surprising that Côté’s minute works imagined that, by the year 2000, nearly every form of transportation would be via air. Aerial taxi services, floating dirigible battleships, a flying postman, and air-based public transportation all appear in the whimsical depictions of our predicted current day.
Some craft, like an aerial rescue service or planes outfitted for warfare, are now an everyday part of military forces (though we don’t yet have the “French invisible aeroplane” that Scientific American promised was forthcoming in 1915).
Other predicted technologies, like personal flight devices that allow humans to huntor play tennis aloft, may become features of our near future once jet packs become available.
Indeed, personal flying machines are a prominent feature of the 21st century as envisioned from the 19th and 20th — particularly the concept that personal flying cars would become commonplace. Forward-looking Victorians, such as artist Albert Robida in 1882, assumed the skies would be thick with flying cars by 2018.
In the May 1923 issue of Science and Invention, science fiction writer Hugo Gernsback described his vision for these flying cars, which he dubbed the “helicar,” as a solution to the automobile traffic he already saw jamming the streets of New York City:
The only practical solution is to combine the automobile with an airplane and this no doubt will happen during the next few decades. The Helicopter Automobile or, for short, the helicar, will not take up very much more room than the present large 7-passenger automobile, nor will it weigh much more than our present-day car, but instead of rolling down the avenue, you will go straight up in the air, and follow the air traffic lines, then descend at any place you wish.
We might not yet have a flying machine parked in every garage, but organizations such as Uber and NASA, the Russian defense company Kalashnikov, Toyota for the 2020 Olympics, and numerous smaller companies are developing personal flying cars, so this too may not be far off.
Alexander Graham Bell addressed the possibility of transportation by air, noting that travel by boat was cheaper than travel by rail, because no tracks had to be laid. Bell suggested that a “possible solution of the problem over land may lie in the development of aerial locomotion.” He continued: “However much money we may invest in the construction of huge aerial machines carrying many passengers, we don’t have to build a road,” — a sentiment echoed by one of his fictional successors.
Technology Gets Personal
In 1900, Smithsonian curator and writer John Elfrith Watkins, Jr., penned an article titled “What May Happen in the Next Hundred Years” for The Ladies’ Home Journal. Looking forward at the fresh new century, Watkins imagined a world in which technology wasn’t left in the hands of industry or the military — instead, it would be redirected to entertain and convenience everyday people.
Though he didn’t foresee television in its current form, Watkins predicted that technology would one day bring distant concerts and operas to private homes, sounding “as harmonious as though enjoyed from a theatre box,” and that “persons and things of all kinds will be brought within focus of cameras connected electrically with screens at opposite ends of circuits, thousands of miles at a span.” He also predicted that color photographs would one day be quickly transmitted around the world, and that “if there be a battle in China a hundred years hence snapshots of its most striking events will be published in the newspapers an hour later.” One can only guess what he would have thought of the selfie.
Watkins imagined that technology would transform our homes and diets. Though the mechanically-cooled refrigerator wasn’t invented until 1925, and wouldn’t become widely used until the 1940s, Watkins correctly predicted that “refrigerators will keep great quantities of food fresh for long intervals,” and that “fast-flying refrigerators on land and sea” would deliver fruits and vegetables from around the world to provide produce out-of-season. He even called the development of fast-food delivery, anticipating “ready-cooked meals… served hot or cold to private houses.” He believed these meal deliveries would replace home-cooking entirely (for some city-dwellers with Seamless accounts, that’s not too far off), and might arrive by pneumatic tubes as well as by “automobile wagons.”
Some of Watkins’ predictions might have been close to reality, but he was pretty far off about other aspects of life in the 21st century. He thought that man would have exterminated pests like roaches, mice, and mosquitoes, as well as all wild animals, which would “exist only in menageries.” This prediction was surprisingly common in the early 1900s, and might have been a reaction to then-recent extinctions like that of the quagga (1883), the passenger pigeon (1914), and the thylacine (1934). Though we are now going through another global extinction caused by human activity, we can be grateful that we haven’t quite reached the level of extinction most Victorian futurists expected.
Watkins also thought that we would have eliminated the letters C, X or Q in the everyday alphabet, as they were “unnecessary;” that humans would essentially make ourselves a into super-species, with physical education starting in the nursery, until “a man or woman unable to walk ten miles at a stretch will be regarded as a weakling.” Unfortunately, our global obesity problem shows the reality was, in fact, quite the opposite.
Thematically, though, these predictions are sound: As the use of electricity spread, and technology like automobiles and telephones became more affordable to use, Watkins could envision an age in which technology was entirely integrated into our lives. To futurists of the early 1900s, it seemed obvious that robots and automation would be essential to 21st century people, serving as our chauffeurs, cleaning the house, scheduling the laundry, and even electrically transmitting handshakes.
Alexander Graham Bell also predicted this trend, and he thought it heralded something particularly promising for the McKinley graduates he addressed in 1918. Foreseeing the rise of an industry centered around technology and an exploding need for scientists and engineers, he told them: “It is safe to say that scientific men and technical experts are destined in the future to occupy distinguished and honorable positions in all the countries of the world. Your future is assured.”
A Future of Clean Energy
Perhaps the most surprising predictions from the past century regard fossil fuels and the environment. Yes, today some people still resist transitioning away from fossil fuels and ignore the scientific consensus on climate change. But bright minds of the early 20th century were already theorizing that we would one day have to quit our fossil fuel habit.
As early as 1896, scientist Svante Arrhenius calculated that doubling the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would raise Earth’s temperature between 8 and 9 degrees Celsius. Arrhenius was inspired by the startling discovery of his friend Arvid Högbom, who realized that human activities were releasing carbon dioxide at roughly the same rate as natural processes. Because of the rate at which industrial countries burned coal in 1896, Arrhenius believed human-caused warming wouldn’t reach problematic levels for thousands of years. But by the time he published his 1908 book Worlds in the Making, an attempt to explain the evolution of the universe to a popular audience, that rate had increased so much that Arrhenius was convinced that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could double within a few centuries.
Scientists as a whole wouldn’t come around to Arrhenius’ ideas, or recognize that burning carbon-based fuels had an adverse effect on our planet, for at least a century. Yet even before scientists understood the climate effects of fossil fuels, futurists were predicting that we would have to drop our use of coal and oil before long. “Coal and oil are going up [in usage] and are strictly limited in quantity,” Alexander Graham Bell said in his February 1917 speech. He continued:
We can take coal out of a mine, but we can never put it back. We can draw oil from subterranean reservoirs, but we can never refill them again. We are spendthrifts in the matter of fuel and are using our capital for our running expenses. In relation to coal and oil, the world’s annual consumption has become so enormous that we are now actually within measurable distance of the end of the supply. What shall we do when we have no more coal or oil!
He went on to note that hydropower was, at the time, limited, and implied that one day it might be possible to generate energy from the tides or waves, or “the employment of the sun’s rays directly as a source of power.”
Bell wasn’t the only one who was sure we would have to find a new source of energy in the next century. In 1917, when a severe coal shortage in the U.S. caused people to call for the resource’s conservation, one writer for the Chicago News asserted that stockpiling coal would ultimately be foolish. He insisted that worrying about the supply of coal would soon be like fretting over the supply of tallow candles: pointless.
“These gifted lunatics who are worrying about the coal supply are in the same class,” the Chicago News writer insisted. “It doesn’t occur to them that in a hundred years people will be saying, ‘Our grandfathers, the poor boobs, actually used coal for heating purposes!’”
We’re not laughing quite yet. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the U.S. still gets 17 percent of its energy from coal. Another 28 percent comes from petroleum products, and 33 percent from natural gas; we get only 12 percent of our electricity from the renewable sources that the Chicago News writer — who was sure we’d find a way “to put the sun’s energy in storage, and pump it into people’s houses thru pipes” — predicted by now. Globally, coal makes up about 27 percent of the world’s energy production, and renewable energy about 24 percent.
The good news is that this distribution is changing as renewable energy becomes cheaper than fossil fuels, edging us ever closer to the bright future that 20th century minds thought we’d be living in. Fingers crossed the whale-bus will be next.

Universal & Unifying Aspect of Science

The history of humankind is often told as the epic rise and fall of great empires, clashes of civilizations and epoch-defining conflicts. But another narrative is possible: a narrative in which human progress is chronicled as a smooth and continuous passage towards betterment for all. This is the narrative of ideas, and in particular, of scientific ideas.
Science is universal and unifying. An apple falls in the same way whether it falls in a 17th-century English garden, inspiring Isaac Newton to develop his laws of universal gravitation; or whether it falls anywhere on earth at any time in history. It is this universality, coupled with a love for knowledge and understanding shared by all humanity, that gives science its power to transcend cultural and other differences.
Many of the ideas that have done much to shape the modern world arose long ago in ancient Greece. It is to the Greeks that we owe the concept of atomism, developed in the early 5th century BC and so important in my own field of particle physics. And it is to scholars like Plato and Aristotle that we owe much of the philosophical basis for scientific reasoning. If we fast-forward to the early Middle Ages, we find that the development of ideas has passed to the Middle East while Europe languishes in a period punctuated by war. It was great scholars from the Middle East that gave us concepts such as algebra, and through translation ensured that the knowledge of the ancient Greeks was not lost. As Europe emerged from the Middle Ages, Middle Eastern contributions to the development of ideas provided a basis for a scientific renaissance in Europe.
Ideas flow between cultures over time, each adding to the sum of human knowledge, and each leading to improvements in quality of life for all of us. While cultures may clash, scientific knowledge moves ever forward.
In post-war Europe in the 1940s, the notion of science as a universal and unifying value, transcending boundaries of all kinds, was put forward by a small group of visionary scientists and diplomats as a way to provide a peaceful future for the continent. As a result, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN, was founded in Geneva in 1954. Designed to provide a centre of excellence for fundamental research in physics in Europe, CERN also had a second mission: to foster peaceful collaboration between nations that had recently been at war.
CERN’s founding convention is a work of genius. Deceptively simple, it provides a robust, stable and flexible framework for international collaboration. In the more than 60 years of CERN’s existence, it has been put to the test on many occasions and has been successfully adopted by other scientific organizations. The CERN model for international collaboration is all about recognizing the strength of diversity, the power of sharing, and the benefits that accrue when neighbours work together to achieve common goals.
⦁ The net result of all this is that CERN has thrived and has established itself as the foremost institute in the world for research in particle physics. It has been a magnet for scientific talent from around the world. From the original 12 founding member states, it has grown to 22 members today, along with eight associate members, while almost 17,000 scientists of over 100 nationalities come here to carry out their research.
In the 1960s, CERN collaborated with both the USA and the USSR, with the somewhat surprising result that the laboratory played a small but important cameo role as strategic arms limitation talks got underway in Geneva in the 1970s. CERN provided a neutral ground. The CERN model has also proven itself to work in a field in which timescales for the realization of projects are long and continuity is essential. Perhaps more importantly, the CERN model is a template for cooperation in a fractured world.
Just as science was deployed as a vehicle for peace through CERN in 1940s Europe, the same idea is today being applied in the Middle East. The main difference is that while the protagonists of WWII had laid down their arms before CERN came into being, many of the partners on the SESAME project are still in a state of conflict. SESAME is a laboratory hosted by Jordan with Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Pakistan as members. Despite the differences between its members, the ideal of renewed scientific cooperation in the Middle East has endured for more than 20 years since the notion of a CERN for the region was first aired. The laboratory has persevered and produced its first scientific results at the end of 2017.
Science provides a basis for progress and mutual understanding, but it cannot repair a fractured world on its own. Society as a whole can learn from the way science works. As we take steps into an uncertain future, of this we can be sure: whatever we do, science knows no boundaries, and there will always be people ready to reach out across borders to further the sum of human knowledge for the benefit of all. Let’s make sure that the next chapter in human history is based on the narrative of ideas and not the narrative of conflict.

Political Instability & Disaster in Case Modi Loses in 2019

For nearly 25 years, from the time Rajiv Gandhi lost power in 1989 till Modi’s emphatic victory, India lived in the shadow of endemic political instability. True, P V Narasimha Rao and Atal Bihari Vajpayee lasted their full term and Manmohan Singh was in office for two terms. But a nominal parliamentary majority didn’t ensure stability. Rao was haunted by internal dissensions in the Congress, Vajpayee was buffeted by regional pressures and demands from within his parivar, and Manmohan had to operate within the constraints of a parallel power centre, not to mention conflicting ideological pulls and pressures. This is not to suggest that India didn’t progress in those 25 years but the forward march was slow, halting and marked by missed opportunities.
Three years and nine months is only a small blip in the history of a nation but it is long enough to set the terms of a new normal. Public memory being short and focussed on the immediate, the reality of what preceded the general election verdict seems to have gradually receded from the public imagination.
That the anxieties and tensions of those years have become history are due in no small measure to three developments.
First, the electorate gave an absolute majority to a single party. This has meant that the scope for political blackmail from supporting parties is extremely limited. The unease of the Shiv Sena, for example, stems from its inability to counter the rising clout of the BJP in Maharashtra. And N Chandrababu Naidu’s pressure on the Centre for more funds is nowhere as effective as it was in the Vajpayee years.
Secondly, within the BJP the pre-eminence of Modi is uncontested. Modi is not only the most popular mass leader in the party, he has a proven record of being able to deliver votes. The so-called 220 Club that was said to have existed prior to the 2014 outcome has melted away. Moreover, unlike Vajpayee who was never entirely successful in coping with pressures from the wider Sangh parivar, Modi is seen as being ‘our man’ by the entire RSS fraternity. With Amit Shah as the bridge, Modi has successfully evolved a convivial partnership with the RSS that concedes his right to take the final call, at least in matters of politics and governance.
Finally, on issues of governance, Modi is not prone to either ambivalence or hesitation. The Prime Minister has a set of definite priorities, determined by a blend of idealism and realpolitik, that he pushes relentlessly. His hands-on approach is quite unlike anything India has experienced at the national level for the past 25 years. He isn’t afraid of taking calculated risks — as he did with demonetisation, GST and the surgical strikes inside Pakistan-occupied Kashmir — and even thinking big, as with Aadhaar and Ayushman Bharat health insurance. Nor for that matter is he inclined to panic when confronted with political opposition. He didn’t blink over either the revolt of the intellectuals in 2015 or after the electoral setbacks in Bihar and Delhi. Indeed, Modi has revelled in taking the battle into the enemy’s camp, as marked by his no-holds-barred speech to the Lok Sabha last Wednesday.
In the past 44 months Modi has injected a spectacular measure of stability into the system. At the same time, he has enhanced the popular appetite for big change, including disruption. He has attempted to sell India a lofty dream, but a dream that puts his leadership at the centre.
Modi has reshaped India’s politics, not least by systematically marginalising the old establishment and making power brokers redundant. Along the way, he has made powerful enemies and created a unity of purpose among his opponents. For them, the political battle against the BJP has also become a personal war against Modi. This may explain why three byelection victories in Rajasthan have had Delhi’s bush telegraph buzzing with the belief that Modi is vulnerable and could lose his majority in next year’s election.
How Modi will pitch the 2019 battle is a subject of conjecture. But the possibility of electoral turbulence has excited the imagination of those who feel short-changed by political stability. As of now there is little talk of what any post-Modi dispensation will look like. Rahul Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee and Sharad Pawar seem to have different approaches and conflicting ambitions. One thing, however, is clear: if Modi loses, Indian politics will revert to its old and unsettled ways. For the moment, New India and a Modi government seem inseparable.

The Indian Interlocutor

If you were proud about the Indian origins of Niki Haley, you may just add Raj Shah taking over as Chief Press Secretary of the White House, his ex- boss whom he replaces, complimenting him as the “brightest and most efficient”. His first Press Conference regarding a resigning Rob Porter, till then chief of staff White House, shows how the issue is wisely addressed as a “back issue”, that it is being seriously investigated, and how without answering, how smartly he places “specifics” in the appropriate corner of the queries. The two most crucial windows of the world’s most powerful office, the White House spokesperson, and the US envoy to the UN, are persons that have origins in a single culture!
The beautiful island of Maldives, prone to periodic political volcanic eruptions, required a talk between President Trump and PM Modi, possibly discussing a consensual approach for a larger goal for peace in the region. India keeps close ties with Maldives, its internal eruptions notwithstanding.
PM Modi landed in Ramallah, in a Jordanian plane, escorted by two Israeli choppers. It may not have been without the consent of the other powers engaged in reaching a peaceful accord, in one of the sensitive areas on the globe, not to forget the Asian sub-continent. The speech was well worded, applying a balm of diplomatic wisdom, that mutual agreements and diplomacy should take centre-stage. Retaining equanimity is an essential state of circumstances, before the coin eventually drops, much to the ease and satisfaction of those concerned, and as much to the relief of the world without. The real message is that India was found to be the most suitable country to be given a diplomatic space!
Do not forget the trip to Abu Dhabi, in the Arab sub-continent that is not quite the same politically, even resourcefully.
As a member of BRICS, two-thirds of the power, finances, people, and wall to wall struggles are stacked-up in the RIC column. Indian participation was manifest at the personal level by the head of the executive, visiting each member state in turn from Rio, to the other two vertically stacked in Asia, and these two, play mega diplomacy. To keep shuffling in the ring is half the art of the game!
In ASEAN, somehow Indian diplomacy is chosen, to buoy the “down under” to the surface, for its needed presence. Indian diplomatic profile is such that it is as much at ease in Malaysia, Indonesia, as it is with Australia. Call it the support of the Indian diaspora, or shuttle diplomacy of badminton, or the pitching of the cricket ball!
Doklam, that stirred India, and much of the concerned world as it had two elements that could spread global strife. Firstly, it was the economic power China. Secondly, and more importantly, it was an ignition of “border” disputes, that this region, and other parts of the world are wary of. It, for a while revived memories of an old war, where India failed to read diplomatic signals, slipped on its martial resistance, and for a while glanced back in suspicion on the famous Nehru-JFK parleys.
Ever since, Indian diplomacy has been broad based, as well as specific in sorting out the bundle of issues that were a culmination of the actual incidence. The NIA chief paid absolute professional diligence by multi-visits to Beijing. To my mind, “Doklam” is a strategic, all encompassing word, for quite a bit of homework that a brilliant and well- versed leader as president Xi wants to assign to its neighbour, and at times to the elite club of super-powers, via this country.
Recent examples of evacuation of Indian nationals, through Indian diplomatic interlocution are the return of 174 Indian nationals, including 46 nurses from Iraq, by personal diligence of Mrs Sushma Swaraj, not exactly in the pink of health, and the abilities shown Gen VK Singh to bring back 4,741 Indian nationals, and free around 1,947 nationals from other countries, in war torn Yemen. It is said that a call from the PM to the King of Saudi was the prime mover.
In 1990, much credit goes to the then External Affairs Minister, Mr Gujral, to airlift a historical 1,70,000 Indians from Kuwait, after Iraq invaded Kuwait. It was diplomacy and concurrence at every level, to involve Air India to carry out 488 odd sorties for such an evacuation. That would not have been possible without negotiations with a mowed down Kuwaiti government, understanding with US, and pulling strings from an un-breached diplomacy with Iraq.
Attributes that India attracts externally on the diplomatic front, and its ability to put them to use for human reprieve, may be an object of envy.
It comes from being the largest democracy, that took roots post WWII, with the policy of non-violence, a universal mantra given by the father of the nation. Somehow, as time zooms into the future, that may become the diplomatic Planck’s Constant in inter-nation interaction. It comes from the Indian mindset, family system, drawn from a 4,000, year old culture, or rather science- culture.
It comes from the fact that the early Indo-Gangetic civilization may have had internal wars, but combining fact, and fact and mythology (in case of distortions down the line), the concept of “truth” prevailed as a primary understanding. This civilization never spread through warfare. It just dissipated, as a soluble. More than war, there was a philosophy that was understood, as to its occurrence. Amazingly, the most elite lessons of creation were given on battleground.
What emanated were other acceptable philosophies as Buddhism, Jainism. The Sikh gurus actually gave sermons on self-defence, and close to half of them took martyrdom as a route to defeat hatred and further blood- shed.
India’s freedom indeed was an act of a huge diplomatic mind game played by the father of the nation. Can’t forget the scene in Attenborough’s “Gandhi”, where Bar-at Law Mr MK Gandhi, brings the magistrate on his knees by refusing to take bail that was granted. He knew every extra day that he stays in jail, the Press would blow-up the Imperial sense of fairness and superiority. No-one before or after knew better how to press “Press”.
At a more practical level, the Indian diaspora, and its contribution to every land it settles in, profiles the nation in many ways. Its like the O-ve blood group, that is an unblemished donor.
Sure, we often fail in internal interlocutors. I would summarize two reasons. Somehow, we impose, quote, and get influenced by external interlocutors, forgetting our own strengths. Secondly, and this may be humorously true, that’s the way we are.
Like cricket, champions at home, but often seen struggling in the long version of the game on foreign land!
To bring the point home, there are cultural paradoxes. In the land of “Kamasutra”, the world’s second most populous nation, they shall still fight whether Valentine’s Day should or should not be celebrated!
Fine, my blessings that all may receive their desired affections, three days from now!
“Nukta cheen hai gham-e-dil, usko sunaae na baney/ Kya baney baat jo baat banaaey na baney”- Ghalib
(It is difficult to explain her that the pain of love if full of suspicions, How does one make a pact, when the pact itself draws away from its making)

The Maldives in Sights of the Dragon & Its Implications

The Maldives is facing a serious crisis since the beginning of this month when the country’s Supreme Court overturned the convictions of several opposition politicians, including the President Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s main rival exiled former President Mohammed Nasheed. The Maldives Defence Force surrounded the Supreme Court and arrested the chief justice and another judge on charges of graft while the three other judges party to this unanimous judgment declared the order null and void. President Yameen on expected lines leaned towards China to ward off international pressure while former President Nasheed appealed to India to save democracy. President Yameen sent his envoys to ‘friendly countries’ – China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to explain why the Supreme Court’s ruling had been turned down.
In fact, the genesis of this could be traced since 2013 when the current President in 2013 Yameen came to power by defeating Nasheed. Yameen’s first task was to roll back all democratic gains made during Nasheed’s time. All of his potential political opponents were either jailed or exiled. His government curbed freedom of speech and assembly, with heavy fines imposed on journalists and social media users found guilty of defamation. In 2015, in a trial widely criticized by rights groups, Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in prison. He later received asylum in Britain. Yameen had shown inclinations to move towards China keeping his domestic political situation in view. He was seeing India as a supporter of his rival. His suspicion of India was clearly revealed when in 2017 three local councilors belonging to the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), were suspended for meeting the Indian ambassador without permission.
Yameen’s coming to power was seen as an excellent opportunity by China to enhance its leverages in that country and to turn it as an important maritime base in the Indian Ocean. China by this time had come up with its ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative [later termed as Belt Road Initiative] ostensibly to facilitate trade but actually to expand its area of influence in the Indian Ocean. The Chinese writers had also revealed dragon’s plan to have three lifelines in the Indian Ocean. The North Indian Ocean supply line includes bases in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and the Maldives.
Finding Yameen willing to move closer to China, it began to play its usual card of alluring Maldives through the financial aid and promises to build ports and other necessary infrastructure to serve the Chinese interests for the Belt Road Initiative. The Chinese policy of turning economic power into political concession has already proved successful in Cambodia, the Philippines, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. China began to move in this direction since 2013. Yameen took several steps to facilitate Chinese investments. In 2015, the People’s Majlis, the unicameral legislative institution of the Maldives, passed an amendment in the constitution whereby foreign ownership of territory within the country was given the green signal. The Chinese investment significantly increased as a result of this provision. Chinese heavy investment in the Maldives elicited the remark from Nasheed that China is “buying up the Maldives” under Yameen. He pointed out that the President Yameen has opened up the floodgates to Chinese investments with little or no oversight and transparency. The security implications for Chinese increasing hold are obvious for India.
In addition, the Sino-Maldivian free trade agreement with the Maldives has economic implications for India. What is more revealing is the manner the free trade agreement was pushed through the parliament without any discussion. It has opened the gates for entry of the Chinese cheap goods into India via the Maldives.
Another cause of concern is the fact that Maldives has provided a number of fighters to ISIS. The growing radicalisation, drug trafficking, smuggling in the Maldives remains a security concern for India.
While India has stated that it would not intervene in the internal affairs of Maldives, the security concerns deserve primacy. Whether democracy prevails in the Maldives or not, it is not India’s primary aim. India cannot allow the developments that go against its security and geo-political interests in its backyard. China’s larger objective needs to be kept in view. In the past Chinese submarines were observed moving in the Indian Ocean. Gradually by acquiring maritime bases in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Maldives, China is intending to establish its hegemony in this region. The Chinese intents to change the strategic balance in its favour demands strong and calculated steps from India.

As India Looks West, Let It Confront A Changing Middle East

Women in Iran are taking off their headscarves in a bold protest against Iran’s rule on compulsory wearing of the veil in public. It was among the first prohibitions imposed by the Islamic Republic after the 1979 revolution. Women in Saudi Arabia are learning how to drive as they await legal sanction this summer. Riyadh has also lifted a four-decade-old ban on movie theatres. The current clamour for liberation from social controls imposed in the name of religion is one of the many surprising turns in the Middle East.
Another one is the quest for “moderate Islam”. Key leaders of the region, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt, Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates, and Mohammed bin Salman, crown prince of Saudi Arabia, have all made reclaiming Islam from the extremist groups an important political priority. For decades now, the region’s political leadership has been under pressure to yield to the conservative religious flank. Any reversal, of course, would be hugely consequential for India and the world.
As it intensifies its engagement with the Middle East this week and the next, Delhi must come to terms with a changing region and the opportunities it presents. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj visited Saudi Arabia this week and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is traveling to Palestine, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. India is expected to host President Hassan Rouhani of Iran next month.
Although Delhi’s relations with the Middle East have gained greater traction, many feel there is need for the articulation of objectives and a strategy to achieve them. Suggestions have often been made for the formulation of a “Look West Policy” that puts India’s relations with the region on a sound basis. The success of India’s “Look East Policy”, many believe, provides a persuasive precedent. The transformation of India’s engagement with South East Asia was celebrated last month by the presence of the 10 ASEAN leaders at the annual Republic Day celebrations.
But comparisons between the regions to India’s east and west are not very useful.
One big difference between the two regions is an institutional framework that facilitates India’s regional diplomacy. If the Association of South East Asian Nations has been the vehicle for India’s expanding partnership with South East Asia, there is no similar forum in the Middle East.
Groupings such as the Arab League, or the Organisation of Islamic Conference, were never really effective. Even more narrowly focused organisations like the Gulf Cooperation Council are beginning to crack amid the region’s turbulence. Once formed to counter the Iranian threat, the GCC is badly divided today. The Saudi-UAE effort to marginalise another member of the GCC is part of the story.
The ASEAN’s process-driven diplomacy, with multiple lines of continuous engagement, puts pressure on India to stay focused on its Look East Policy. In the Middle East, the principal impulse has to be India’s own strategic appreciation of the region matched by a vigorous bilateralism. Rapport at the leadership level is critical for success in a region ruled mostly by monarchs and strong rulers. The PM’s personal diplomacy in the region, however, has not been matched by the ability of Delhi’s bureaucracy to follow through on declarations and joint statements.
One important reason for Delhi’s success east of India has been the absence of domestic political discord over the region. Ideological, political and religious divisions in India over the Middle East have long complicated Delhi’s thinking of the region. The Partition of the Subcontinent produced a set of outcomes that complicated India’s relations with the Middle East.
In the first decades after Independence, India had bet that its commitment to pan-Arabism and anti-imperialism would counter Pakistan’s claims for special affection of the region as a state founded on Islam. While religion remains important, pan-Islamism is no longer a dominant force in shaping the politics of the region. The rise of sectarianism has undercut pan-Islamism while individual national interests have blunted the idea of ethnic Arab solidarity.
After the Cold War, India gingerly stepped out to pursue a more practical policy towards the region. Even as India’s economic ties deepened after the economic reforms launched in 1991, Delhi appeared defensive in the region. If too much of political grand-standing marked India’s engagement with the region before the Cold War, Delhi appeared too timid since the 1990s. While the politics of the region evolved, Delhi seemed to be tied down by the past.
Consider, for example, Delhi’s persistent tendency to view the region in terms of the conflict between Israel and Arab states. There is a perception that Modi’s visit to Palestine is part of Delhi’s perceived need to find a balance between the two relationships, especially after the PM traveled to Israel last year. The purported “de-hyphenation” of India’s ties with Israel and Palestine has not reduced the compulsion of seeing the two relationships as tightly interlinked.
This seems at odds with what is happening in the region. Israel, which once embraced Shah Reza Pahlavi’s Iran to balance the Arabs, is now partnering the Sunni Arabs to defeat the growing influence of Shia Iran. It also collaborates with the conservative Arab regimes in fighting the Sunni extremists.
Meanwhile, the Sunni monarchies that traditionally looked to the United States to ensure their security, are taking matters into their own hands to shape the regional security architecture. Troops backed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE are battling groups backed by Iran across the region. That the conflict between Iran and the Sunni Muslims today is stronger than that between Arabs and Israel hardly makes an impression on the Indian debate.
Navigating the multiple internal contradictions of the Middle East has never been easy for external powers. India may not need a formal “Look West policy” to realise the new opportunities in the region if Delhi views the Middle East on its own merits, pays sustained political attention, and delivers on the Indian economic and security commitments made at the highest levels.

Sunday Special: #MeToo Journalism: The New Rules

The allegations of sexual impropriety against Patrick Brown and his quick but reluctant resignation left some conservative columnists aghast. One of their targets was the journalism that has contributed so much to what we are now calling the #MeToo moment.
Many of these critiques hopelessly confused three things: the standards journalists should apply to publishing such allegations; the standards that the public, employers, corporate boards and political parties should apply after stories are published; and the standards courts apply in enforcing the criminal law.
Of course journalists need to consider the potential impact of the stories they write. But they are not responsible for the decisions made after they publish by, for example, Harvey Weinstein’s business partners, the voters of Alabama or the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. Particularly at a time when society is exhuming deeply entrenched sexual attitudes and behaviours by men and trying to sort out what to do next, it is not up to journalists to preclude that debate. It is their job to inform it.
Moreover, the idea that journalists can only publish when they are certain beyond a reasonable doubt is ludicrous on its face. That is a deliberately high standard we apply when people’s liberty is at stake in the criminal courts. It does not even apply in civil cases. And it can hardly be the standard for journalism.
Still, the #MeToo movement has been fuelled in large part by a series of remarkable pieces of journalism documenting allegations against Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Al Franken, Roy Moore and now Brown. In Canada, there was a sort of prequel with the allegations against Jian Ghomeshi, first reported in the Toronto Star. So, of course, the methods that reporters are using deserve scrutiny.
Of all the columnists who railed against the injustice of what happened to Brown last week, the clearest was certainly Christie Blatchford who wrote that “reputable news organizations should swear off anonymous allegations of sexual misconduct unless there is a substantial body of evidence and an overwhelming public interest imperative.”
That is a serious, plausible standard and I think it would sound like common sense to many readers. I want to explain why I disagree; discuss the standards that most “reputable news organizations” have been applying; and argue that those standards are by and large appropriate.
First of all, let me deal with Blatchford’s last point about an overwhelming public interest imperative. It is absolutely true that for some supporters of both Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, sexual morality seems to take back seat to political considerations. But many voters are understandably concerned about the moral fibre of the people they elect. No one in this country thinks we should be spying on politicians’ private lives, but credible allegations of sexual misconduct easily meet the public interest test in Canada in 2018.
More challenging is the issue of anonymity, though I do not think that the critics of the CTV story about Brown, broken by reporters Glen McGregor and Rachel Aiello, show much evidence of having thought this through.
In normal journalistic practice, reporters need less corroboration when an allegation is made on-the-record than when it is made under the cover of anonymity. You couldn’t cover Question Period if you had to corroborate every allegation, insinuation or slur. And many (though not all) political journalists have a rule against publishing accusations made off-the-record without substantiating evidence.
At least equally important when you are dealing with sexual allegations, there is a longstanding journalistic rule against identifying victims without their consent — and with good reason. The woman who made accusations on Twitter against the federal Liberal minister Kent Hehr the other day, leading to his resignation, said she subsequently got death threats. When the CBC reported on allegations against Hehr by a second woman on the weekend, it said it gave her anonymity because of those threats. I think you could argue that journalists have a duty of care to the women they report on who may have no idea of what will pour on their head once their stories are out.
The history of the #MeToo stories so far — beginning with the New Yorker and New York Times accounts of Weinstein’s behavior based on interviews with more than a dozen alleged victims – has not been that they turn out to be false but that further corroboration pours in after the initial publication. That’s because “reputable news organizations” are going to extraordinary lengths to verify matters such as whether the alleged perpetrator and victim were provably together at the time of the offence, whether friends and families recall contemporaneous accounts, and significantly whether there is a pattern of behaviour. One of the most striking feature of these stories is how many of the accused men seem to have an M.O. – a modus operandi — that allows one story indirectly to support another.
Over these remarkable four months in journalism, I have been concerned that sooner or later a journalist would overreach, publish a provably mistaken story, and impeach this whole vein of reporting. But when a right-wing group tried to con the Washington Post into printing a false allegation against Roy Moore, it failed because of the rigour of the Post’s reporting standards. And as we have recently learned, the left-leaning website Slate had evidence of an affair between Stormy Daniels and Donald Trump before the 2016 election but did not publish because the evidence did not meet its standards.
The most contested piece of #MeToo journalism so far was a story about Aziz Ansari which some people felt described a “bad date” rather than anything more serious, but with consequences for his career nonetheless. I won’t attempt to pass judgment on that, but the story did not appear in the New York Times or the Washington Post but on a website called babe.net whose lead story as I write is “Having a belly shouldn’t stop you from sending sexy nudes and here’s how t:o send the hottest ones”.
It is worthwhile pointing out too that Canadian journalists work under much stricter libel laws than their counterparts in the United States which make it difficult for public figures down there to sue. You can be sure that an enormous amount of the journalists’ time in the cases of Ghomeshi and Brown was consumed in dialogue with lawyers.
Finally, a point about timing. Some conservatives have suggested that the timing of the Brown story, just a few months before the June election, seems suspicious. The implication is that a Liberal plot lies behind it.
I would never underestimate the enthusiasm the Wynne Liberals might have for this story. But as any political journalist could tell you, most of the “oppo research” they get handed is smoke, even scurrilous smoke if that is a thing. You need to check it and prove it yourself – something that more often than not simply cannot be done.
But the truth is that the rumours about Brown seem to have been flying in P.C. as well as journalistic circles at least since the fall. Several news organizations, including iPolitics, had been working to see whether there was anything to them. Reporters were not going to be holding back anything reportable for fear of being scooped. But, of course, the fact that an election was a few months away and that Brown seemed reasonably likely to become premier meant they were putting greater resources into the story: much more than they would have done if Brown were still an obscure backbench in Ottawa.
There is actually not much evidence at all that journalistic standards have dropped in the four months of #MeToo. What has changed in how society evaluates the allegations women are making. Paula Jones was derided as “trailer trash”, even by some feminists, when she made allegations against Bill Clinton. The burden of proof when women speak up has decisively shifted, not among journalists but within society.