All posts in the China category

The Israeli Relationship – Moralistic, Geopolitical & Palestine Considerations Analysed

Published July 5, 2017 by vishalvkale

This week, just yesterday as a matter of fact, our Prime Minister landed in Israel  – the first ever Prime Ministerial visit to that nation from our side. This is a seminal event; yet, it was saddening to see some voices being guarded, as opposed to openly welcoming this move. In a democracy, it is perfectly fine if you don’t support the ruling party, having voted for the other side; it is accepted as well as expected that you criticize – but when the Government does something laudable – you should welcome it.
This move by the NaMo Government stands in that list; a fully laudable move, one that we would do well to welcome, leaving our apprehensions aside for the time being. On that other hand – this is not a time for chest-thumping either; let us reflect what this move means for us as a nation, and analyse the pluses and the minuses of this new equation. Whatever else we look at, this is not the time for misguided moralistic analyses – Geopolitics is not a field that lends itself to excessive moralization, to be honest. You have to be extremely hard-nosed and practical in Geopolitics.
These stem from the Israel-Palestine issue; and the hard-nosed Israeli response. I feel for the problem, to be honest; but I have to admit with deep regret that they aren’t Indians – and Indian interests have to be placed first. I don’t say I like the way it is being handled – but there is little we can do, beyond a point. We aren’t the world police – and neither do we want to be the world policeman either. The onlyway to look at this problem is from a Geopolitical angle; not a right-and-wrong angle.
Further, it is surprising to note objections being raised basis Palestine, and in some cases China: I do not recall many voices questioning our relationship with the USA, which actively sends arms and aid to Pakistan, and which was the original provider of weapons to our enemy, leading from the Afghan conflict. The continuing support from the USA to Pakistan is a matter of documented record – and yet  few people raised a question as we went closer to the USA. Where were these moralizing objections then?
Not only that, Is the USA’s record crystal clear? Want that we should go into its highly chequered and ugly history? Or perhaps the innumerable times it stopped India, or tried to, from achieving its justified goals? I respectfully submit that The USA has a far uglier record than the Israelis who actually are saints by comparison. Remember the Iraq Fiasco? Where are those WMDs? And yet, we welcome closer ties – because it is the primary world power, and a much-sought after relationship?
I don’t recall as many questions being raised on the impact of our relationship with the Russians as we came closer to The USA. Why is that? So, it is OK if you go after an aspirational relationship with the premier world power, forgetting our long standing support from Russia? That is something that has required far more serious thought, and has been handled very adroitly by all Central Governments we have had; let us give them credit for that. Thus, cant we cut slack for our Government and our Diplomatic forces that they can handle Israel and Palestine with equal aplomb?
Yet, when we come to Israel, we get instant moralization. Where was this moralization when The USA is involved? Its human rights record is ugly beyond mention – yet, no controversy. Where was this moralistic stance when we moved USA-wards, forgetting that it was Russia who has always stood by us? When has the USA ever stood for us in Geopolitics? Almost never historically! What’s good for the geese is good for the gander – you cannot ignore moralistic issues in one relationship, and apply them in another. You have to apply the precise same standards in each case.
More serious are the Geopolitical objections, which to be perfectly frank – deserve a serious reading, and merit a reasoned response from us. To summarise, these are India-Iran; Arabs; NRIs in the Middle East; and the Israeli-Chinese relationship. We need to look at all of these in an informed debate : a dispassionate analysis of these is required, shorn of ideological baggage. Some of these frankly are fantastic, like the NRI problem or how our NRIs will be treated due to a relationship with Israel – that is just stretching things too far. The Arab world also has relations with Israel!
First, India is seeking alternatives to OPEC actively, trying to reduce the dependence on it for Oil. Second, some Arab nations are anyway fedup with Pakistan due to terrorism, and that is a huge point in our favour. Third, The Arab World is itself giving overtures to Israel – Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia to be specific. We are also building relationships with The Arab World, who can also see our impact in Afghanistan. So, why on earth shouldn’t we build a relationship with Israel?  Fourth, Iran has seen our support to them in the face of The USA – and our diplomatic forces can be expected to handle the delicate relationship balance. That leads to Fifth – the Israel visit comes after a visit to the Arab world!Thus,  If we can balance USA and Russia, we can certainly be expected to balance Iran and Israel, that much seems to be certain. Let us not sell ourselves short.
Now, the Israeli Chinese Relationship. Why on earth should this make us uneasy? First of all, Israel is but of three major defense partners of ours, alongside the USA and Russia. We have hedged our bets, not being dependent on any one partner. Sure, a lot more needs to be done, but the direction is right. Second, Israel had supported us in 1962 against China. While that is no guarantee of the future, it is nevertheless a significant factor. It actively supported our Armed  Forces as well as our anti-terror efforts many times after that as well, including as recently as in 1999 during the Kargil conflict. Third – we are perfectly fine with having a relationship with USA, which is supporting Pakistan openly – but use a different yardstick to judge the India and Israel relationship! That is amazing!
Finally, on Palestine, I accept that we have been a long-standing supporter of the cause.  But we need to understand that we need to look out for ourselves first. We are in a world with rapidly re-aligning geopolitical relationships. In such changing times, we need to change with the times, and respond to the challenges being raised. A strategic alignment with Israel is a given, as we have many common points and mutual areas of interest. This is not present in the Palestine relationship.  Furthermore, there is no other reason to be reticent; we will have to trust our diplomatic corps to play the balancing role, That is the need of the hour. There is no such thing as a perfect strategy – it is always give and take.
This does not include the many areas of trade and scientific commonality that we enjoy with Israel – which is only just one more added incentive for closer and more open relations with Israel. From my opinion, my point of view, it sounds slightly hypocritical to talk of our relations with The USA is one voice, and analyse the Israeli relationship along diametrically opposite tones. In this, I stand solidly with the Government praisers – well done, NaMo Government. You have taken a splendid step for the reasons outined above. That said, it has been a collective effort- it has to be said that all political parties have stood by this relationship for years and nurtured it actively.

Selected References : 

Smartphones – India Vs China Markets

Published January 26, 2017 by vishalvkale

Recently, we saw a very interesting, and for Smartphone and Telecom trade pundits and employees, monumental occurring – a recent report of marketshare showing that the top 5 brands in the Indian Smartphone market are not Indian. On top of this is a constant lament by Media and Telecomists {to coin a new term} alike, that Indian Handsets Brands are not making it; that Indian  manufacturing is not picking up in this industry.
Let us try and place things in perspective first, before we try and understand what can be done to improve the situation; or, indeed, whether it can be improved. In this article, I focus only on the perspective, and an overall market analysis of the two markets in general terms as well as specifically Teleocm / Device terms. After that perspective, I then introduce the basics of the competitive scenario. The reason for that is you need to understand the two markets and their difference to make a meaningful comparison, as well as figure out the way forward.
Let us get something straight : we cannot compete against China as things currently stand. This isn’t pessimistic thinking, but a simple statement of facts. You cannot compare chalk and cheese, or as some like to state, apples and oranges. India is a low-income market, while China is approaching middle income levels. Indian Per Capita Income is dwarfed by the Chinese income. As of April 2015, Nominal GDP per capita of China was $11449, while India was at $2672. If you take PPP, even then we are dwarfed : $20004 vs $9327. There is simply no comparison feasible between two markets with such a comparative economic scenario; we are doing ourselves a massive disservice by comparing
Be it Steel Industry or Handset Industry, India is dwarfed in numbers, and this is something that is not going to change anytime soon. The markets as well as the manufacturing scenarios are completely different; China is a nearly 100 Billion dollar Smartphone market, with production in excess of 600 Million units in 2015, although 2016 may see a slight dip. Exports account for more than 2/3rds of these numbers – even so, you are looking at numbers in excess of 140 Million Handsets in 2015, which though comparable to India’s 100 Million plus/minus a few, is still a larger market. Of greater relevance is the footprint of Chinese Exports, which are 450 Million plus – and that is one hell of a lot.
Moving on, the higher numbers in terms of dollars for the Chinese gives them enormous financial clout, flexibility and strength to innovate. Also note that there is a price differential of a full 100-plus dollars in the average sale price of a smartphone in India vs China. That means, China is a more mature Smartphone market than India. Three, Smartphone penetration in China is also much higher, in excess of 68%  – there were 913 Million Smartphones in China in 2015, and 691 Million unique users. China had 208 Million Smartphone users way back in 2012! In & by 2016,  50% of China’s population had internet connectivity – a figure we are nowhere near. The internet advertising market in China is 3 times India’s.
I could go on; but I think the generic and the industry numbers quoted above or indicated above give a reasonably good feel of the two markets – India vs China. It stands to reason that the Chinese players will be more mature, with a better handle & understanding of the technology involved, with deeper pockets and a larger range of products. They are also ahead on the learning curve, and have been growing right in step with the technological developments in the trade; we are only now catching up in terms of keeping abreast in the technological space.
2010-2012 were the critical years for the Smartphone trade, with a rapid evolution in technology, a massive churning in the competitive space. These two factors combined to heat up the smartphone market from 2008-9 onwards, give or take an year. And the numbers tell us that the Chinese market was following closely on the heels of these developments; thus, making any India-China comparison an exercise in futility, and despondency if we are trying to outcompete them playing on their turf!
They have the money and the deep pockets; they have the manufacturing investments; they have the infrastructure; they have the competence in the industry in terms of economies of scale and captive markets as well as a much wider experience in the technology; they have the technology; they have the processes; all of these add up to a significant advantage. There is no point in beating around the bush; we cant beat them– so long as we are playing to their strengths. This does not mean we cant compete; our competitive response has to be formulated basis our market realities. This is what I look at in the next article, wherein I spell out the ground realities of the smartphone market and consumer in India
References : 

Foreign Policy Under Narendra Modi Part – 2 : Rapport and NRIs…

Published June 1, 2015 by vishalvkale

It is said by many that one of the highpoints is the excellent personal rapport NaMo has with other leaders, and how it will benefit  FP. Maybe, maybe not; again, time will tell. As on date, the result is zero. Precisely zero, and hoopla, based on myth and an incomplete understanding and media hype. I do not deny benefits of a personal rapport; but let us not overstate it. Personal Rapport and Cultural Ties are only door openers, and are completely useless when the door is already open, In Foreign Policy, the $ and the Bullet {meaning brute power} reigns supreme.

Further, it is noteworthy that the same Prime Minister of India, before he became a Prime Minister, was targeted and branded {almost} by Western Nations as something less than nice. And now, the moment he becomes Prime Minister, the same nations’ leaders’, who previously branded Mr Narendra Modi without any proof whatsoever, flouting all international norms – which tantamounts to intervention in Indian affairs – are avowing personal connects. That tells the whole story; it is a mere strategic ploy given India’s status and purported / imagined role in their eyes; and Mr Narendra Modi’s mature and leader-like approach in moving on from the ugly past.

This mature and respect-worthy approach only shows NaMo as a true leader, a patriot, a thinking individual who understands what the nation needs, and ensures no baggage due to past issues. Nothing more and nothing less. He is the leader of the most ancient nation on the planet, one of the rising nations, strategically located, with good prospects and an internal business environment conducive to and aligned with western norms, practices, language, systems and processes : a nation that has justifiable claim to being a World Leader. Thus it is no surprise that the Western Nations would avow personal connects and want to forget the past – they too have nations to run, and wont want to harm their own self-interests. That is all there is to this personal connect stuff.  

Regarding cultural affinity and our penchant for idolizing non-Indians; we now have an American Ambassador whose ancestors hail from India {cannot say Indian-American : you cant have two mothers}; despite that, the American Policy is as hardline as ever, An unprecedented number of American Hindus are now in Government; no definable benefit has accrued to India in strategic terms, and that is a fact. High time we Indians realised that these cultural ties are useless in strategic terms. If these people loved India, or cared about India, they would not have surrendered their citizenship, which to me is like changing your mother, and adopting new parents. They are aliens, not Indians. No benefit can accrue from them – apart from cashing the cultural similarity and a shared past to get them to invest, which is what the NaMo strategy is all about.

Only an Indian Citizen is an Indian, Period. Further, Dr Manmohan Singh enjoyed an excellent rapport with President Obama; look where that lead us. Rapport doesn’t count where the decisions are taken on hardcore strategic parameters, sorry to say so! Neither does cultural affinity win over hardcore business and strategic decisions, be it in business or be it in Foreign Policy. These decisions are taken from a pure play strategic and ROI perspective, period.
Long term positive gains imply a major shift in policy for both the USA and China. Would anyone care to state how that shift will come about in both power dynamics and Trade? Please dont state people-to-people contacts; P2P contacts are the least important paradigm for consideration in appraising a Foreign Policy. If Modi has made a connect with American, Australians of Indian Ancestry, no benefit accrues to India which it would not get otherwise in trade; and none in Power. This community lacks the connections and the power levers in their nations to make even a tiny dent in their policies – as contemporary history proves. This makes P2P useless from a strategic perspective. On trade, interest rate differential and higher growth will ensure Money flows into India Modi or no Modi. Makes no difference whatsoever.

Modi’s FP successes will come; but not from USA or China; they are immaterial. They will come from Russia, Japan, Israel – and Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Burma, if he continues the good work started there. Please understand : I did not claim that the FP is a failure. I clearly state that it is too early to comment. That is one. Two, the sad part is that NaMo is being praised for steps that are ceremonial in nature, a facade as it were; while his real categorical moves lie ignored, which is a sad comment on our people and their analytical abilities, as well as the blind following habit which is now endemic to our nation.
He has re-crafted the entire relationship with Israel; is that good, or is that bad? I am yet to read a fully devoted article on this point anywhere, at least highlighted anywhere. This stands as a long overdue step, one which marks the policy as coming out of the diffident mode it was in earlier with regard to Israel, and a major rebalancing vis-a-vis the Middle East. We have no idea as yet what the repercussions or the benefits will be.

He has moved the relationship with Pakistan up several notches in terms of aggression; No more the diffident and hands-off approach. The new approach is blunt, in your face – and clear. We are for peace; just don’t push us. We know how to push back, and hard. Pakistan stands relegated, with complete disinterest in peace talks unless Pakistan stops talking with the Bullet, a hardline security paradigm in response to Pakistan, and a renewed world-view.

The way Russia has been handled is tremendous; he has pulled back Russia into the fold, signing major deals with Putin while jabbing pointless nonsense with the Americans who prefer more of “showmanship” than any real business or relationship with India. Indicate West, But turn East at its best. Well done, Sir! He has also upgraded India in the relationship with Russia as well as Asia. Our Neighbours are feeling for the first time an India that cares, and that is NaMo’s biggest FP achievement.

The Russians have withdrawn quite substantially from selling Arms to Pakistan in response to our negotiations with them – this the Americans haven’t done despite innumerable proofs of the misuse of their weapons against India by both the Indian Govt. as well as Americans themselves; can they {Russians} be blamed? We take arms from the Americans; have been for years! That is diplomacy and strategy. Rightly stated : reducing dependency.
The tragedy is we are actually celebrating his connect with a people who left India, and made another culture and nation their home; that is nothing to celebrate about. Had these people cared, they would have come back to India eventually, or at least kept their citizenship,  or have stayed in India; this they didn’t do : as I noted earlier : If these people loved India, or cared about India, they would not have surrendered their citizenship. The greatest tragedy is our continuing love affair with Non-Residents and PIOs : witness our news which carries long articles on spelling bee winners, pageant winners in detail, but cannot find the space for 2 lines on any number of truly Indian successes, by people living in India. {Kailash – ring a bell, anyone? When did we notice him? High time we stopped idolizing NRIs and PIOs, and looked for and supported Indian Success stories instead – any number of them to choose from, should we so desire}

These people, may I remind people here – are those that found other nations better than India as places to live. That is nothing praiseworthy, in my humble opinion. Our relationship with them is purely business : being from the same culture, they can find it far easier to do business here. Period. Nothing to celebrate. We have loads of Indian Examples to Celebrate; high time we learnt to have some pride in us as a nation.

In conclusion, let us all sit back and relax just a little, and rise above the hype and the hoopla. Let us not try and paint this Government as a messiah and a knight in shining armour stuff hyperbole which is unrealistic. Foreign Policy requires time, secrecy, commitment and action; not words. It is the follow-up to the visits that are far more important , and the preamble to the visits; the visits are merely media hype and showmanship. The work has all been done prior to the visits, by and large! Let us also not commit the cardinal sin of branding all actions by this Government as bad; most are good actions, well though-out. That does not mean they haven’t made mistakes; but give credit where credit is due!

Foreign Policy Under Narendra Modi – Part 1

Published May 31, 2015 by vishalvkale

A lot of euphoria and hero-worshipping is doing the rounds regarding our Foreign Policy under the new dispensation; in this article, I make an attempt to place things in the proper perspective, and highlight the problem areas as well as the successes in a relatively contained and short article. All is not hunky-dory; a lot remains to be revealed, and lot of it is pure hype which has no basis or substance whatsoever. We need to be able to differentiate the wheat from the chaff; this is what I have attempted.

A lot is being made about the improved image; In FP, image means almost nothing; it is relatively immaterial. FP is a matter of hardcore strategy, deliverance on words, hard power, and economic give and take. How a nation is perceived is of no relevance; what matters is its economic performance and security paradigms and direction. Thus, a better global image makes us feels better as Indians, but counts for precisely nothing in Diplomacy, and that is an absolute. If you sift away the hyperbole and focus on the hard facts, there are no achievements – precisely zero as on date in FP by this Government. FP changes take time to reveal themselves; let us wait and see.

To be frank, there is a decided lack of direction in the current foreign policy; this may be due to the churning that inevitably takes place when course is altered; that is true – but, as on date, from a strategic perspective it is all mixed up. India’s established course over the past 67 years has been fundamentally altered; some needed steps – long overdue – taken; but a lot of confusion prevails – and that is the way it should be in FP for a new Government with high expectations. What matters is the absence of gaffes, and presence of definable good steps. Only time will tell regarding FP, it is way too early.

As on date, there are demonstrably no achievements that would not have taken place otherwise {without NaMo}, apart from the hoopla among the Non-Resident population and the PIO population, who are immaterial insofaras strategy is concerned.  The direction is unclear as on date; remains to be seen what the net result is. NaMo has changed many a paradigm of our FP, and the effects in FP can only be observed over a long period of time. Personally, I am extremely uncomfortable with the FP as on date; at least insofaras USA, Israel and China are concerned.

There is no record of even one nation {non-European / Developing} that has benefited from a close association with the USA; quite the opposite. Add to that the recent revelations on arms aids, and the billions of dollars worth of Arms being given to Pakistan, which decidedly harms Indian interests,  and the differences on intelligence sharing- the net result seems negative. To top it all are the manifest differences on Economic and Trade issues where we are lined on diametrically opposite sides of the debate, added to the pressure tactics of the USA. It is still supplying arms to Pakistan – in fact, it has actually increased them, I think; the pressure game in various economic fields remains as it is- AMS, IPR et al. Sensitive technologies still not being given. No change – whatever happened would have happened anyway, had anyone else been in charge, and that is a fact. India and the USA are not going to be friends anytime soon!

USA is playing upto India not due to NaMo, but due to China, and that is also a fact; history repeats itself – read the period 1954-1960 and the Tibet imbroglio. The preceding silence to these elections was due to the elections themselves; everyone was hedging their bets. The global economy is in a major downswing, making India an attractive bet in terms of markets. China’s rise is making Unka Sammie mighty hot under the collar, and the Japanese look askance, In this scenario, regardless of who was in charge, insofaras USA, China are concerned, there has been no positive or negative impact – except hype and hyperbole, driven by an NRI/PIO population, and an indigenous population which for some strange reason idolizes these Non-Indians and Non-Residents Indians.

Recall the previous time India and China tried to come close. On China, I am afraid he may be wrong. I cannot forget the last time we went into Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai. The situation is the same; the precise same as in the Mid-50s, with USA gunning for China, wanting India on board. The Armed Forces in need of Weapons, and a general euphoria of Bhai-Bhai. The only saving grace is NaMo is far more pragmatic than other Indian leaders. Let us see; I have high hopes that he will handle it in an adroit fashion; judging from his China visit. But he as a leader can afford to play two roles- Security, and trade whereas we, as people, need to avoid euphoria in the case of China, and not hope for dramatic changes; they wont happen.

And ME-Israel? That is a sea-change : requires deep analysis for a thorough perspective. Let us all keep silent here; this is complicated and will require time to manifest. It seems a natural, an Israel with whom we have a deep scientific {Agriculture, Defence} and security commonality,  and one which has been courting India quietly all these years, as well as openly supporting it. But we have to factor in The Middle East, and that is what makes this matter complex. Silence is best on this; time will tell. My personal view is that the shift towards Israel was long overdue.

Nothing has changed fundamentally. Russia is still our only friend; and will remain our only friend in the near future. The USA, for all its pointless words, has not changed even one small sub-sub-paragraph of either its security policy or its economic policy, a few unimportant trinkets here and there apart. On a basic level, if you remove all trappings, as I observed above a lot remains unexplained. Only time will tell. The rest is all hoopla, and has no substance whatsoever. Rather than celebrate and jump for joy, let us not create a hype and hoopla, and give this Government time, as at long last, there is an aggressive government in FP, one which is taking long-overdue decisions, one of which I alluded to above.

As regards money and investments- given the Global Scenario, you cant expect anything else. Will it actually happen? Extremely doubtful. Project implementation has to pick up, and that requires police, political and administrative reform. Land Bill etc wont change one single iota of the on-ground reality. What matters is how we develop our own internal capabilities; if that is in line, the money and the investments will come.

Obama And Our Love Affair…

Published January 28, 2015 by vishalvkale

Another US President visits; and yet again, we go ballistic in our Media interest, in our public adulation and in our analysis! The focus is immediately, yet again, on the visit and its impact, and how it brings the two “natural partners” closer in a friendship, and also how this visit is a landmark visit. Hope is being given that at last, India and the USA are friends, and that there is a convergence of interests…

Let us not compare the incomparables. For example, Clinton came 14 years ago under vastly different geopolitical, economic realities on both the Indian as well as the global scenario, and are thus completely incomparable. Not only that, we have had 14 full years to analyse the impact of the Clinton event, whereas the Obama visit is way too fresh for an impartial and complete analyses.  

Clinton was a watershed; it marked a near-total reversal in some aspects of American policies towards India, while remaining unchanged on any number of policy fronts, largely due to internal dichotomies within the American establishment. This was driven not by geopolitics but by economics, and was in the backdrop of India’s economic growth since 1991, and its opening up of the markets. 

Obama is a precise copy of the above; it is driven largely by Economics, and the desire to increase business. This is proven by his statement regarding American exports to India, which was the focus of the entire visit. The reverse does not feature as prominently, which is understandable from the US point of view, and not quite so understandable from the Indian POV.  Further, this approach wont endear Obama to the Government or to the masses, as the current mood is making India a manufacturing hub, which is diametrically opposed to exports to India from the USA. 

On strategic convergence, US-India differences on Geopolitics stand as they are; China notwithstanding. While China may have been discussed, the real picture will only emerge after May 2015, when Narendra Modi visits China. The Indian Foreign Policy has been clearly Look East for nearly two decades now, and it has been further sped up to Act East under the current dispensation. India is committed to increasing trade in the SAARC region and China, ASEAN and the contiguous region. Nepal and Sri Lanka have been recently engaged quite successfully with a combination of strategies, the result from which has yet to come in, positive or negative. 

Furthermore, there is little chance of India fomenting trouble by  baiting China, which is sitting slam-bang on its border, and has surrounded India nicely and cleanly from Hambuntota to Gwadar, and is actively goading and building Pakistan. The fact that China, while giving arms to Pakistan, has never supported it actively on many aspects in international fora will not have been missed in New Delhi. Not when both countries are beginning to at least talk of de-escalation, and trade. And with Russia now building bridges with China, the situation is fluid to say the least. For one thing seems certain : Russia will never abandon India in the near future, as well as in the mid-term. 

The USA has a large economic exposure to China; as does India, albeit with a lopsided balance. Its strategic interests endear it to a continuance of a relationship with Pakistan; it has no choice. This is exactly the opposite of India’s desires, and strategic interests. On Climate, or trade, or most other parameters, there is little short or long term convergence to speak of. It is still a transactional relationship, as opposed to a stragic relationship. 

In this scenario, it is by no means certain that India will play ball with the USA on anything, let alone China. Furthermore, Narendra Modi and his party are hard-core nationalists {I mean that word in the positive sense}, rightists, and committed to the immediate region. On top of that, 100% of strategic issues leave India and the USA firmly arraigned on opposite sides of the fence. Just as in 2000, nothing has changed. 

Past history is revealing : India stands as the only hurdle against the USA on just about each and every international fora of negotiation. That hasnt changed, and isnt going to. If it didnt change during UPA, it certainly wont during the NDA, rest assured. Again, nothing has changed. As in 2000, so in 2014. We are still on opposite sides. 

On the security parameter, the USA isnt doing us a favour. India has  a proven track record of weapons and high-technology development skills with a string of successes in Satellites and Weapons both, with a couple being actually best in class. Add to that our frugal skills. The icing on the cake, the simple fact that we are the biggest importer of weapon systems. The USA needs us as much as we need them, period. It is a plain and simple business deal as of now; we are developing utlra-high-end weapons with the Russians, and only beginning to talk of development with the USA. Nothing has changed, only thing is that now we are talking. Thats it. 

On Pakistan, the USA is still favouring it, its pointless comments notwithstanding. Anyone can shout Pakistan shouldnt do this and that; talk is cheap. We will believe the USA when it stops supplying weapons to Pakistan! And of that, given the ISIS and the American perceptions of it, wont change, not until the USA realises that Pakistan is the core problem and not the victim, or just a part of the problem. 

Thus, from most parameters, it seems as of now that there is no difference, and change in the status quo. Given our people-to-people connections with the USA, any US President’s visit is an event; add to that the status of the USA as the single superpower. From my memory, if I try and eliminate the recency bias, there was not much of a difference in the public reception in both the cases. On other aspects, only time will tell.

Obama parting shot on Religious tolerance are the only point that makes me think that Clinton was better. Having said that, I have no memory of Clinton saying anything like that; neither have I any memory of his keeping silent – and I havent checked. That is why I said, “If I remove the recency factor”. Having said that, that last comment revealed that underneath the bonhomie, nothing has changed in Washington, which still has its coloured glasses in place. Obama needs a score, USA needs business; India needs technology, FDI and manufacturing. That is the only natural fit, as it always was. Nothing has changed, folks. 

The Post Colonial Hangover 3: The Modern World

Published November 3, 2013 by vishalvkale

This is the 3rd and concluding part of the series on Colonialism in the Modern World. The previous part can be found here :
The age of Empires was over; the age of colonial style exploitation was over; the age of plunder and loot was over; the age of easy money was over; the age of forcible subjugation of Asia by Europe and America was over. The 50s marked the beginning of an era wherein all nations were viewed as equal; wherein all people were one and equal; wherein each nation could survive and grow basis its own economic, political and social policies and experiments, with the better nation winning out in the end. This is best symbolised in that iconic Hindi Song Chhodo Kal Ki Baatein, Kal Ki Baat Puraani; Naye Daur Mein Likhenge Mil Kar Nayi Kahaani, Hum Hindustani! / Aaj Puraani Raahon Ko Hum Chhod Chuke Hain, Aaj Puraani Zanjeeron Ko Tod Chuke Hain… Nayaa Daur Hai Nayi Umangein, Ab Hai Nayi Jawaani (Let history be; it is an old, old story… we Indians will script a new history for the coming generations… / We have broken the chains binding us, we have changed the path… it is a new era, with new desires and dreams… It is a new youth for us Indians!)

67 years have passed since 1947, and, as we saw in my last post – we have achieved a lot, and we have gained a tremendous amount of lost ground. In some ways, we have managed to fulfil the promise contained in the song of the 60s mentioned above. In more than a few ways, we have indeed scripted a new and proud history for our children. But take a look at the second line contained in the song… indeed, a new era with countless new desires and dreams with a motivation to excel.This gives us, theoretically, a limitless horizon to excel and grow… with one caveat. And that is that there are no chains binding us… 
The concept of a free world implies no intervention, and freedom to implement ones own socio-politico-economic policies without undue pressure from external vested interests, a world where each nationality can implement its own policies basis its own internal processes and procedures for doing so – be they democratic, or be they autarchic in nature. Or, in other words, a Utopia, a never-never land – as any economist or business person will readily testify. While lobbying friendly interests in the host country can and is an acceptable strategy, the modern post-colonial world goes far, far beyond mere lobbying. 
State Intervention is and has been the mainstay of economic and political growth in the post-colonial world; be it arm-twisting developing countries in Farm Subsidies in bilateral and multilateral talks, or the creation of an uneven playing field in the name of protectionism – even by developed countries. You cant wish it away… examples are a dime a dozen. In the past 12 months alone, we can spot pressure tactics aplenty that go far beyond “lobyying” or influencing: opposition to the 30% clause in FDI, Farm Subsidies, Pharmaceutical generics and the battles over it, US business houses  and vested interests getting together to calcuate “losses on account of Indian Policies”, Nuclear Liability clause etc. Subtle and not-so-subtle pressure tactics are the mainstay of the day, and are pretty much standard. 
Most critically, the controlling powers in the post-colonial world remain the same colonial powers – USA, UK, France, Germany, Japan etc. That is where the wealth resides; that is where the power resides, almost as a direct consequence. And what of Asia, and especially India? Relatively, it finds itself in the same position: although we may dream of a world where all are equal, this is not going to come about any time soon. We may feel pride of our achievements, and rightfully feel we have earned the world’s respect (which we have, in more ways than one); yet, when you put the entire socio-economic picture together, the conclusion is inescapable: we are the outsiders, from their perspective;  a mere market of 1.25 Billion People. 67 years later, this fundamental fact has remained unaltered: then, we were a huge resource base to be looted… now, we are a huge market to be tapped into. Witness the various utterances, policy measures and objections from the USA. Nothing has changed for us. Time we woke up to this reality. 
While the balance of power has shifted from UK to its son, the USA (The USA is essentially of British history, isnt it?); the same buccaneering spirit portrayed by the Europeans in the colonial era is in evidence, wherever you look at it. They call it their version of “free market”. Strange, methought a free market meant I could make my own policies, without serious repercussions and threats in totally unconnected areas, without being hit under the belt?  This new, free world is a world where an economic folly and criminal stupidity in the west (remember subprime?) can impact lives 5000 kilometres away, of people who have nothing to so with the original event. This new, free world is a world where these innocent people have no recourse to any options, and have to simple wait out the bad times, till the global atmosphere improves. 
There is nothing wrong with a globalised world; India thrived on free trade for over 4 millennia. But it takes on an entirely different hue altogether when a state, or a set of states, gang up on another, deny access to capital and/or technology on frankly flimsy grounds. It becomes a buccaneering loot when you fight the ability of the state to provide for its own people as it may impact your profit lines. And that is precisely what the entire Farm Subsidy, Green House Gases, Pharmaceutical drug battles are all about. There are other examples, but these 3 would suffice. In each case, the richer states, instead of sacrificing for the other, poorer states – and trying to find a solution, are instead re-packaging business as “aid”, and negotiating a heavy (at times) toll  in return – which may vary from market access, to lower duties, to preferential access etc. 
These richer states would do well to remember that they became rich on the back of the plunder and loot from Asian countries and Africa. Without the resources, the loot and the plunder, and the manpower (Africa) The much-touted West would not have been even a shadow of its current self. But the moment you raise this point, people of all hues cry blue murder, and say be practical! It is acceptable for these gentlemen (and ladies) if the very same colonial powers push frankly unfriendly terms on their negotiating partners, to the damage of their own countries. But no, dont mention the C-word! It would serve us well to remember the extent to which the West puts pressure – in the Aircraft deal, there were quick calls in the Media for suspension of aid; so much so that it required as acerbic reply and rejoinder from the Indian Government! 
Which brings me to the central point of my 3 articles: nothing has changed. The Post-Colonial World is still, fundamentally, and at a very basic level, colonial in nature. The power still vests in the colonial powers, who use it to the maximum extent that they can. This extends to Business as well as Security and Political matters, as shown in the support to Pakistan because of its so-called strategic utility, and never mind the damage you are doing to India, On another plane, you are talking to the very same India for greater market access, friendlier terms etc… amazing double speak! This is evident in the racialism that is still extant and prevalent across the West, as demonstrated by racial attacks on Indians in Australia and The UK. This is evident in any number of other examples that are exposed to us through our news; racism is alive and well in the west. As I said, nothing – absolutely nothing – has changed. 
The only change is that there is now a softer form of colonialism in prevalence, where the West can rule without sending a soldier, and without looting, allowing their conscience to breathe free. For true equality, for true freedom, it requires the Asian Powers of India, China and Japan to stand proud, tall, and confident with a comparable Military, Economic and Political Clout. Then and only then can a truly balanced world come about. Then and only then can the ghosts of colonialism be laid to rest, and forgiven, forgotten and buried. Not before…

India and China… what’s up?

Published May 6, 2013 by vishalvkale

This post first appeared in the following questions on Quora, wherein I had supported the diplomatic initiative and tried to analyse the same; and had suspected a peaceful resolution for now…

Why Is China Entering India?

Is China Trying To Impose A War?

This has to be seen in the larger Indo-China relationship. China has been systematically encircling India militarily all around it for quite some time now. These developments have been noted with some disquiet in India – especially in Military circles. On the political level, there is near-total consensus on China: it is a major threat; only political expediency prevents India from officially designating China as a principal threat. George Fernandes stands as the only Defence Minister to have openly stated that China is the threat number one for India. 

China potential threat number one: George Fernandes

India’s New Defense Chief Sees Chinese Military Threat

India realised that in preparing for Pakistan, it had left the Chinese border practically open – wide open. And thus started India’s China Programme. Indian planners realised that first of all, they have to build up the warfare logistics all along the Chinese Border – Roads, Airstrips etc. Plan – 2 was to develop missile strike capabilities against China; Plan – 3 was to develop Naval Strength; Plan 4 was to develop new divisions etc. All these have been gaining momentum in recent years; all were severely criticised in China – and even belittled. However, the fact remains that India has been beefing up its defences all along the Chinese Border for at least 5 – 8 years now. On top of this was our ICBM success: with the development of a missile that brought all of China in its range. 

This is the military backdrop to the situation. China is aware of these developments; the news articles and the decrying of all such military moves by India is constantly derided in newspapers in China. Furthermore, as the below link states, there is the possibility that this is linked to Gwadar port near Karachi – which, apparently – as per the article – needs a link to China from Ladakh region… 

Xtreme theory on China

The point is that this could be another cog in the military encirclement of India – or it could be just a case of China proving India’s vulnerability. In either case, it is a medieval misadventure – and has only served to isolate China even further

Politically, India has never trusted China since 1962. From that day onwards, we have always been wary. The fact of Chinese assistance to Pakistan in everything Military as well as diplomacy has been noted with some disquiet in India. This distance has been further exacerbated by Chinese claims – ridiculous claims – on Arunachal Pradesh; Visa Stapling for Arunachal Pradesh and Kashmir; Blue Water Navy developments; military encirclement of India; open declaration by Chinese Premier that issues with India will take time etc etc. The icing on the cake was the most dangerous of them all – the Brahmaputra Dispute. All in all, this has all but driven a deep chasm in a relationship that was never healthy to start with. 

Rest Assured; India – at least unofficially – designates China as the number one threat to its security. The only full scale war that can happen for India is with China;this too has been accepted (I tihnk) by Indian Policy makers. There can be no other reason for the Defence Minister’s Statement above. Pakistan does not have the wherewithal to wage a war. China, however – does. It is also far more powerful than India both militarily as well as economically. It has the ability, the veto power in the UN (no small factor, this one), the attitude and the reason to wage a war. This is also a fact. And as of now, we do not have the firepower in place in Ladakh – or anywhere on the Macmohan Line – to pull of any retaliatory moves. For that, we need time. And that is what explains the political reaction. 

Sumdorong Chu incident – Arunachal Pradesh, 1986; Demchok during Kargil war 1999; Trig Heights 1999; Pangong Tso, 1999; Chantze 1999

The last 4 were all during the Kargil War. This fact alone is enough the raise the hackles for India. These intrusions are neither a new affair, nor will it be the last. They are extremely serious developments when seen in the backdrop given above. It is also established fact that PLA’s director of Armaments visited Islamabad during Kargil; Musharraf and Sharif both visited Beijing just before Kargil. These are all noteworthy incidents, and cannot be forgotten or ignored. Trust me, The Indian Armed Forces and the Political Establishment have not forgotten them either. General V. P. Malik has openly quoted in his book “We need a credible dissuasive posture in Ladakh  till the LOC and Siachen dispute with Pakistan and the boundary question with China are fully resolved”

He has further noted – quite correctly – ” b) China’s aggressive and assertive policies in the Middle Kingdom, and even after attaining independence in 1949 c) Regular sale of military equipment to India’s immediate neighbourhood d) Close relations with Pakistan e) Rapid changes in international power equilibrium seldom take place without concomitant conflict and turbulence”

Add all of the above, and a picture begins to emerge. And that picture does not speak peace. China wants to dominate – and India will not be dominated; not even by the USA. China wants Indian land; and Indian waters..,. it is encircling India from all sides militarily. 

This may not lead to war; in fact – it certainly wont. But war is increasingly becoming inevitable – unless good sense prevails on the Chinese side… which does not seem likely, basis the above. 

To quote Shashi Tharoor: “Keeps India guessing about Chinese intentions; exposes the giant democracy’s vulnerabilities, and cuts a potential rival to size”

China is simply testing the waters;; pushing India hard. Just like the Visa row; it is wanting to keep the issue burning and volatile; keep India off-balance – and perhaps provoke a response. It could be seeing just how much pressure will India bear before retaliating. Will this lead to war? I dont think so. But how long will peace win out? Difficult to state. 


If what the experts and the newspapers say on the Brahmaputra is anywhere near accurate- the  I see big trouble… meaning War. I hope I am wrong…That one factor – coming on top of all of this – might just be the last straw on the camel’s back. Short of this, I dont see War. Not yet, anyway – not unless China attacks. On that, I am not hopeful; China, in my opinion – will attack someday. The facts above do not speak peace; China seems to be preparing for War with India. You do not militarily encircle a nation for peaceable reasons; you do not build up forces all along the border- massive buildup, by the way – for peace. 

If there is War – it will be started by China. Not India – that is certain. At least, till the Brahmputra problem rears its head; short of that – India wont attack. As things stand today, War is inevitable. It is only a question of when. It will not happen from India – except as a response to a existential or equally serious invasive threat. My analysis predicts the War between 2015 – 2020. There will come a time when we will be ready on the MacMohan Line – as we have already begun preparing for the eventuality since the past few years. And at that time – if a disagreement crops up , as we have shown in Kargil – we will respond. That is assured. It may only be a Kargil style limited War – but a military stand-off is now assured. 

I do not see good sense prevailing in China…

I hope I am wrong on this last paragraph,, and that peace prevails; that the experts who deny any war chances are right…