Foreign Policy

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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.
THE MORAL OBJECTIONS
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.
GEOPOLITICS
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!
PALESTINE
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.
CONCLUSION
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 : 

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Trump & India : A Reality Check

Published May 6, 2017 by vishalvkale

The election of Trump as POTUS had got the right wing in India in a celebratory mode; there were hopes of this event having a positive impetus on the Indo-US relationship. This hope was, at the outset, a wildly optimistic hope, given that Trump was elected on a protectionist rhetoric, a message of bringing jobs back to The USA; this was, however, ignored in the larger light of his views on terrorism as well as other factors, which seemed to indicate good tidings.
In the approximately 100-odd days since his taking over as POTUS, however, early indicators have given enough reason for the more optimistic among us Indians to become far more realistic; Trump as a President has done exactly as he has promised – which is admittedly a surprise even to me. Frankly, on one side, it is good to see a politician walking the talk in the USA. That said, the other side of the equation has given rise to many, many deep rooted questions which need answering for us.
His focus on creating Jobs in the USA are beginning to give results for the Americans; good for them. But, it has come at a cost. In a connected world, any movement either side in any place will have an attendant cost side on some other side. And in this, we are on the other side, as more Jobs in America mean lesser Jobs in India, as visa rules tighten up, and Indian companies are forced to invest in the USA not just in infrastructure but in hiring as well. This means, as per at least one article, loss of jobs in India, to the ratio of 4:1. This makes perfect sense, given the per capita difference and wage rules difference.
From this one example alone, it can be seen that the coming of Trump is nowhere near being exactly a great thing for us Indians, at least not in the business atmosphere. Now whether it is a bad thing remains to be seen; just cause it isn’t good doesn’t automatically mean it is bad. It depends on a variety of sectors {I have taken but one example} as well as on our response on the diplomatic and business fronts. That is something that we shall see in the fullness of time. But for now, there is enough reason for us to become realistic, stop eulogizing Trump and the USA, and analyse dispassionately.
Having said that, there are early indicators of rising stress in some other areas as well, where either disputes are pending, or where the Trump administration is showing signs of toughness. Taxation in startups and corporates is one such area that comes to mind; the USA reviewing nations with which it has a trade deficit is another area of potentially rising stress. Note that early last month, The Trump administration launched  a 90-day investigation of countries, including India, against which the US runs a bilateral trade deficit – just another example.
Just think of this for a moment; a rich country, doing its best to profit for itself, at the cost of a poor country. Think of the amorality of this hard move. You can call it business all you want – but if you knowthat your move will harm a country with which you are trying to be friends, I am pretty sure that a middle path can be found, so long as there is genuine desire on both sides of the equation. India has shown its desire to be friendly; now the ball is in the the US court to respond. I am not hopeful! Not only is this amoral, it does not sound a very friendly move on the part of the USA!
If that isn’t all, this – aah – trend of moves that have the potential to disturb India doesn’t stop at trade. It extends to the Geopolitical and Strategic levels as well, where there is a lot more clarity needed on direction as on date. So far, the USA has not only shown no indication of acting against Pakistan, it has in fact done the reverse,  trying to re-hyphenate India-Pakistan, offering to intervene in our bilateral matters. More recently, it gave indications of cutting aid to India, while keeping Pakistan untouched!
Put it all together – and the reality stares at you. India-USA are as far apart as they were before; yes-  there are possibilities of great relations, a potential which was absent earlier. Agreed, and granted. But the very real differences in world view, economic realities and priorities, internal realities, and geopolitical differences mean that we need to keep our eyes peeled, and our options open; we need to ensure our interests are protected. And this is where the right-wing can help by stopping the rhetoric!

REFERENCES:

  1. Delhi Solar Policy plans to solve energy crisis; here’s how solar panels will power your homes     
  2. Trump card: Delhi to get tough if US blocks Indian exports
  3. Solar energy subsidy: After attempts for amicable solution fail, India drags US to WTO dispute settlement body
  4. India rejects US offer to mediate with Pakistan
  5. US plans to gut aid to India but continue with $200mn to Pakistan
  6. Every American Infosys hires in US will lead to loss of 4 jobs in India

Trumped!

Published November 10, 2016 by vishalvkale

TRUMPED!
The title says it all : the whole world, it seems, has been trumped, or rather, to be accurate : Trumped. That capital “T” is rather important, you know. And thus it is that one of the most idiotic, amusing, divisive, unfathomable and surprisingly illogically logical elections comes to its conclusion, the swansong of what I can only call “The Trumpection”. For this wasn’t a normal event, this beloved “Trumpection”; it was an event unto itself, a roller coaster, amusing and hilarious event. {Sorry, my American friends, but from where I stand, it was, well, Hilarious!} I know that at least I looked up Trumpection at the end of a hard day for a barrel of laughs. I enjoyed it, and will certainly miss the entertainment provided by Trumpection! But, sadly, all good things must come to an end; there are only so many slices you can cut out of a Chocolate Cake, you know.
My regular readers will by now have no doubt noted a marked shift from my normal analytical, factual, annotated and researched writing style towards a seemingly disrespectful and flippant style. But when words fail me, and yet thoughts flow – a curious combination, that : this rambling style is the only possible, feasible result, as any writer ought to confirm. What else can I do, how else can I react, as an Indian, when I am treated to a pantheon of rib-tickling episodes interspersed with racism, xenophobia, manufactured along a seemingly strong skeleton of development, social emancipation et al? I was of the confirmed belief that no one, but no one, could ever top us Indians in the sphere of elections for sheer drama : boy, was I wrong! And how! The USA – please accept my sincere apologies; Trumpection was an event unto itself, and mighty fun it was too, absolute tops in the Electiodramatics school of entertainment!
We have some Indians Celebrating on the streets {!!!!!}, we have images from across the world in varying shades of shock and delight, we have the scenes from the USA… but, for me, a Citizen of the magical and beautiful land of India, it is Indian  responses and the impact on India which is of greater concern; and that is what I found the most rib-ticklingly sad of all. The general consensus is that Trumpidency would be  good for India {Trump + Presidency + Assumptions = Trumpidency, please excuse the flippancy here – I mean no insult; using it to highlight a point}. Amazing conclusion, that – given that the man himself, like as not, has precisely no idea of how to go about dealing with us, as he is yet to occupy the Oval Office!
You are in a moving Vehicle, going along at a nice clip of 60Kmph {Americans, excuse – but you really should get to  using standards all of  us do – pl divide that 60 by 1.62 to convert to Miles; for mathematically challenged people – meaning all of us – it is that “/” character on the Calculator in the Tools section of your UI on your Cell} . Now where was I?? Aah, yes : doing 60Kmph. How do I turn – always assuming I want to in the first place – do I just twist the round thingy called steering wheel 90 degrees? Do that, and a nearby hospital gets one case closer to its annual target. That is pretty much a guarantee, my dear friends.
DO I – OR RATHER TRUMPIDENCY – WANT TO TURN?
There are two points raised above : do I want to turn my Vehicle? And two – if I do, how do I turn, always assuming I want the Vehicle continue moving at a healthy rate after executing the turn? Let me take these two assumptions head-on. {Head-on as in metaphorically, meaning let me get to brass tacks, which in turn means dealing with real issues. Confused? Sorry, USA, so am I} Now this is a moving vehicle; with people in it. The driver cant just twist that round thingy all by his sweet lonesome. The decision to turn or not is most often an issue of common consensus among those who matter. So where is the evidence that there is a desire to turn?
Let us examine in the only meaningful paragraph in this entire article. We have had statements, and they are a dime a dozen; we cannot assume policy decisions basis empty statements. When taking policy calls, views of all impacted interest groups are called for; and thus, we have to look beyond this Trumpidency towards the ground reality as it currently exists. There is already a strong pro-Indian tilt in the USA along some lines; thus, is it any surprise that a new President would not factor that in to his calculations? So where is the change here? It doesn’t exist, not in the realm of business & trade at any rate!
That leaves the second aspect- strategic policy, which in the real world in independent of Trade decisions, for the constituent factors are not common, bar one or  two considerations. And in that sphere, though the new incumbent may want to change a lot – he will be constrained to taking calls basis the current ground reality. He may want to come far closer, call Pakistan’s bluff, but the situation should allow it. He will  not allow any fundamental change if it in any way impeded US interests- neither should he


The ground reality is firstly, there is more than a small share of support for Pakistan in the USA corridors of power; there is a strong presence in Afghanistan that can only be catered through Pakistan, there is a prevalent incorrect belief in the Americans that Pakistan has to be dealt with my humoring  it & not calling its bluff – and so on and so forth. {Yes, that is a second meaningful paragraph. I said one, wrote at least two. I can bluff too, cant I? And you believed me, right? Does that tell you something?}  
HOW DOES ONE TURN?
Short para, I promise you. Then this boring lecture can conclude. There are two ways – sudden, and gradual. Sudden – not the western character Sudden – I mean sudden as in an overnight change – you really want that? I don’t think so. Have we adjusted ourselves to the idea of a genuinely close {please stop ROFLing, my Indian friends} USA? Do we have the systems, people, the trust and the ideas in place to take advantage? I think not. And a gradual change, which will give both sides the time to place the right people in the right places, develop trust and so on and so forth takes time. The question is, will there be a gradual strategic shift in US approach under the new regime? {Note – here I say new regime, not Trumpidency. Refer Trumpidency Definition above}
THE CONCLUSION

For that, we have to wait. We have to wait for the flippant term Trumpidency to become redundant, and be replaced by Mr Donald Trump, POTUS. Then and only then will the cards be opened. Trumpidency implies a set of speculations basis statements, based on subjective desires as per individual readings; a Trump Presidency implies decisions basis the long-accepted science of proper decision making in a developed system of Governance


Till that time, we have to wait.  A lot has been said, both on Strategic and Trade Aspects; I don’t visualize a dramatic change in Trade realities, given the commitments, investments in place and the Economic Scenario; but on strategic aspects – USA, read as “Pakistan’’ for most India {some will say Chinistan – as I do} – we can only speculate. And it is always a bad idea to speculate on strategic aspects. Let us wait and watch…. 

Developing A National Narrative – 1 : Self-Belief and National Dreams in Foreign Policy

Published September 17, 2015 by vishalvkale

Why cant we, as a nation, develop a self-confidence in our own ability, back ourselves, realize our own power and back it to the hilt? In recent times, there has been one indication – when in the negotiations on trade when India stood firm over food security, against the entire world – which was an indication of our power and the strength of our resolve as well as our reputation. And yet, this confidence is at times absent in our strategic and economic thinking at an individual level, when we tend to idolize over relations and closeness to one nation or the other, usually the USA.
Let us study this in the context of and  the example of the USA, for the simple reason that it is the most powerful pull for some Indians. The increasing tendency of us Indians to go ballistic over  the USA, and our relationship with them needs highlighting; there is no need whatsoever to treat the USA with kid gloves; high time we took it on head-on; the structure of the Global Economy will ensure that the business comes to us, provided we manage our own economy well enough. If we just strengthen ourselves, just focus on that point : nothing else is required vis-a-vis the USA
DREAMS OF PARTNERSHIP
The main problem with the USA is that there is a manifest tendency, overt and in-your-face, of mixing stragegic considerations with Business; and a complete abhorance of sharing technology, or partaking in investing locally. It might be, in fact, harmful if we were to come too close. They use business as a tool for strategic considerations, and cruelly, This is what an unbiased study of contemporay post-WW2 Indian History teaches us. History leaves no room for doubt; the USA has always used business as a strategic tool, in addition to caring little for mutual development.
I dont hate them, or get angry at them. The act of hating them or being angry at them reduces me to their level of childishness, churlishness, contemptible stupidity, and unconscionable acts of cruelty, selfishness and brutality. We have grown beyond that centuries ago as a people. India is the land where every religion was welcomed, no one was persecuted; we are the land that taught the world non-violence.
How can we go away from it? We are the ones who taught Vasudev Kutumbakam, dont forget that. Hating them {angry at them as well} as a people or as individuals implies my own inability to deal my emotions, control my thoughts for my own good; nothing good ever came of hate or anger. That is an established fact.
Coming back to the main point, that is why we should keep our distance from them, while simultaneously interacting with them, trading with then, cooperating with them for overall good of both sides. But at no point should we align with them : protection of our fierce independent spirit is and should be paramount. Even at the cost of GDP Growth and Strategic Considerations.
There can be no answer to the manifest truth that there are a veritable list of nations that have paid a heavy, heavy price for proximity with the USA in particular. Furthermore, there can be no doubt of the one-sided nature of their economic policies, be it Solar issues, Agriculture {AMS, as an example}, Climate, Carbon and many many other deep penetrating questions and issues that can be raised with oodles of proof.
Why are we dreaming of getting close to a people and a nation steeped in blood, with one-sided policies, which uses nations for own means, and has no qualms of openly lying? Why did they look the other way when Pakistan was going Nuclear? There is evidence that they may have started so before India. Why did the USA look the other way when Kashmir was flooded with Pakistani Arms and people? I could go on and on… but that would be over-kill
DEVELOPING OUR OWN NARRATIVE
It isnt a question of trusting blindly; it is a hard-core question of dealing with the public perception and craze for an overt pro-USA stance, despite there being a veritable encyclopaedia of questions, hindering factors and objections to a closer relationship with the USA. None of us here is in a position to impact policy {thankfully! speaking for self, at least}; but we are in a position to influence readers. Therefore, it is essential that we anaylse fully and properly, so that the public realises the major downsides of an overt shift towards the USA.
There is an increasing tendency to gloss over the negative in the Media on some of the more significant problem areas in this relationship, which is in fact neither strategic nor a partnership – when analysed fully along Strategic, Economic, Political, Cultural, Social and People-to-People parameters. The last factor aside, we have nothing in common. The need of the hour is a change in narrative in our Media {which admittedly does highlight the problems fully, to its credit} – to a more independent, analytical and developmental tone, rather than reportage. But that is another story.
Even on the Economic front, the indispensability of the USA is a highly debatable assumption; with the strong emergence of EU as a trade block, the emergence of strong relationships in trade in ASEAN, SAARC, Pacific Rim etc are opening avenues of trade that have yet to by fully exploited. By our manic chasing of the mirage of a good relationship with the USA, we might just be ignoring other more promising areas and relationships, as well as screwing up current and existing relationships.
There is no sense in getting into a relationship with a new partner if it destroys or threatens your existing relationships. It is also a mirage, as we do not possess the needed clout to be more relevant to the USA than China, Pakistan and Russia. Strategic, Economic and Trade factors preclude that assumption and possibility. We are chasing a mirage, and probably getting used in the bargain. Rather than go ballistic on pro-USA, it would be far better for us to build a working relationship with China, and take the Russian partnership deeper. My fear : we are being used, just like a whole list of other nations. Note the deeds of our so-called friend the USA, not its words, Words are cheap, and a dime-a-dozen.
And their deeds consistently speak only one language, and it isnt the language of a strategic partnership. That is a fact, and any number of irrefutable supporting evidences of this can be produced, at length, and in detail. Get access to the full reports, and you can write a book on the areas of concern.
Read the signs : The world is moving AWAY from the USA in Trade and Economics at least. The emergence of regional trade blocks, regional power centers, regional agreements, bilateral relationships and agreement, consolidation of some major markets into one bloc and their consequent re-emergence are all the lead indicators that the era of the USA is over. Why are we chasing a has been? Because it is a military might?
The movements in the money markets on the global scenario, especially in the the background of then QE steps, and the consequent clarion calls by bankers from emerging markets for the USA to show caution and concern for other nations’ issues is yet another lead indicator of the collapse of the henemonistic rule of the USA. It is being openly challenged in each and every forum of international discourse, and rightfully so.
The rule of the Dollar is now being openly challenged; the development of the ADB is yet another factor that is pointing to the demise of the hegemonistic pro-western rule. The world order is changing, and rapidly. And to be a leader, the only way forward is to read the signs, take the mantle of leadership into unknown areas and regions, rather than follow the beaten patth – one that has always led to problems for us.
Militarily, its power is a factor – yes; but even there, it is highly debatable whether they will get support from anyone except is Parent the UK. Separate issue that the UK is itself collapsing. Especially so after Iraq; it will never get support in anything for some time to come, if ever. Why are we saluting a power that is falling – especially since it has never done anything in India’s favour?
We arent just anyone; we are India. The oldest living civilization, the cradle of society and life for 9500 years of uninterrupted societal and stable life as per documented scientific evidence; A nation of 1.27 Billion; One of the largest economies in the world; a record of stable political and economic performance, the many challenges notwithstanding; A fast growing military clout with a well-deserved reputation of balanced non-interfering use of power; an acknowledged soft power; a scientific establishment that has won the world’s respect – its shortcomings notwithstanding; a reputation for peace and stability internally and externally; a reputation for complete dependability;
Few nations, IMHO, can match this. The first point alone is enough; nothing more needs be said. We taught the world how to live; this may sound emotional drivel – but is completely practical, if properly used. And, in the modern world, it is yet again India which has proven its stability and advancement, even as large sections of the planet implode.
If you add all the other points, it makes for an irrefutable case : let us start a new narrative, a narrative of an India that is very different from the narrative in the people’s minds. The lead developments indicated above have extensive Indian steps and policies in place in most cases; the need of the hour is a re-calibration of our internal responses and thought processes – a change to one of self-confidence. Not for us the ballistic response when any US President visits; can we dream of a day when that will be a non-event? A day when Indians don’t place inordinate emphasis on one dream, and calibrate their responses basis facts and not dreams?
Let us hope so…

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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.

Modi Sarkar : The First Year… Worrisome Portends and Trends

Published May 23, 2015 by vishalvkale

This is a short and truncated analyses; the full analysis will take time, and will be rather long – and will appear on my main blog, @Reflections in the due course of time. I am only covering the main points here. Please follow me if interested. 

Before I present the negatives : Let me state that it is too early to call this Government good or bad; one year just isnt enough. The following points are indicators that can be used as guides. I am not presenting the positives; there arent very many, as per me. There is far more to worry about, and far more that needs to be explained. 

My View : Negative at worst, and Zero at best… {First time I find myself in agreement with the Congress / Rahul Gandhi!}

Note : All Block-quotes are from my own articles

A lot has been said – and repeated ad nauseum by media and fans alike – way too much of the positives, which may or may not have any bearing with reality. Let me present the other side… the worrying aspect…

1) CENTRALISATION OF POWER
There is a clear and marked trend of centralisation of power; this brings uncomfortable memories from the past. This Government is decidedly about one man, and one centre. Not my idea of an ideal Government, frankly. For a distributed and diverse nation, centralisation is not the answer; a judicious mix of central command with a federated approach is the need of the nation. This is clearly absent; where present – as in Economics, the follow-through is exceptionally poor. This Government is about one man. And that is bad, period.

2) URBAN FOCUS

Read : Farmers see income gains vanish in Narendra Modi’s inflation war

Not one of the problems of Agriculture has been dealt with; as a matter of fact, there is rising discontent within the farming and rural community that is going to hit the electoral prospects of this Government in the near future. What do we need more : Smart Cities, Bullet Trains – or Rural Roads, Seeds, Canals, Schools, Connectivity, Market Access, Fair Remuneration and Price Realisation?

The villages of India have clear priorities : they are primarily agrarian economies, with farming and related activities as a base. The fact of the matter is that digitisation, urbanisation etc are not their primary concerns, Their primary concerns are bread and butter – same as everyone. And in that, they require bridging lab-to-farm knowledge, irrigation, better and faster access to markets, credit terms and avenues, seeds, better price realisation at farmgate… what is being done in these fields with the same level of Government attention, focus, speed and execution urgency? Nothing!

Take Smart Cities Concept as an example. There are two data points available : 5th Economic Survey, 2005 and NSSO 2011, Both tell the same story: Smart Cities are nothing but a fantasy. They are premature, they are the future, but very premature. The Idea is right, but a decade or two too early.

As per the first, there are 41.83 Million establishments in India; 76% of these worked without any power; employing 100.9 Million; 46% were own account establishments. As per NSSO 2011, 66% were OAE; retail trade slipped from 42% to 30% and ,manufacturing grew from 23% to 31%. Own Account Establishments were 60% of retail, 72% of Manufacturing, and 63% of service. Contribution to the GDP : between 46-58%. Statement of Simple Fact.

Now try and fit a smart city somewhere in all that.

What does the nation require? Research shows that nearly 93Million of our farmers are losing 800-odd per crop; data shows the level of poverty in our nation; consumption trends corroborate, with the top 10% growing at a rate of 3% as opposed to 1% consumption growth for the bottom 40%. Farmer suicides are going up; the economic fundamentals are shaky; the global economy is in unprecedented turmoil, and all we can think of is Smart Cities?

Our Armed Forces are in dire need of funds; and all we can think of is Smart Cities? Wow. Fantastic priorities.

We spend the lowest in GDP terms on Education, Defence and Health, and all we can think of are Smart Cities?

Besides, a Smart City requires – DATA CONNECTION. Being a Telecom guy, I now how ridiculous and ill-conceived that notion is; We in India have average & unreliable speeds of around 1,5mbps; the developed nations have a speed of upwards of 22mbps. They have high penetration of credit and debit cards and acceptability of online commerce; we dont. India has precisely 73Million broadband connections – this is including individuals with a double connection; I have three. Less than 69 Million Indians consume more than 512mbps of data on a monthly basis; and cashless transactions are unknown outside the protected environs of top places.

The logic is sound, I clearly stated that concept is needed – but a decade or two too early. This will work in a relatively corruption-free atmosphere, where the Land issues are under control. That we dont have. Next, this works in economic reality which enable the above, which again we dont have, as I have been at pains to point out.

The shift to the small cities will not happen in the industrial sector; the vast majority – upto 90% – of the actual producers are concentrated in only a select few agglomerations, namely Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, followed by Kolkata, Bangalore, Pune, Ahmedabad. Other second-level sites are Nashik,Hyderabad, Coimbatore, Ludhiana, Kanpur, Rajkot,Surat. No one else comes even close to these cities, although Jaipur, Chandigarh, Hissar, Nagpur and a couple others do try hard.

The shift will not happen from these established centers; there is in existence an ecosystem that now is impossible to replace,. with manufacturing facilities being deeply interlinked with their vendors and suppliers who have now set up in the same or nearby areas. In B2B industries, a symbiotic relationship has started with the consumers and the manufacturers sometimes co-located, or located within 8-10Kms of each other.

The proof is in the manifest failure of industrial areas in other wannabe metros, like Indore and Bhopal, which have simple failed to take off. They remain consumption and trading centers, not producers, despite an incredible level of support given to them by successive Governments. The failure of Bhilai to rise as a comparable center to even Nagpur, let alone Surat & Rajkot, is a case in point.

What nonsense are we talking about?

We dont need Smart Cities, We need Schools, Colleges, Primary Health Centers, Rockets, Mortars, Fighter Aircraft, Missiles, Satellites, Seed Research, Irrigation, Water Purity for Agriculture, Extension Workers to teach our Small and Marginal Farmers, Redoing our Duty and Taxation Structures, Fair prices for farmers at farm-gate, cement or pukka roads, etc etc. A smart city can come after that.

3) DEFENCE, EDUCATION AND HEALTH
Let us take just one – Education as an example  :—->
Is This Government On The Wrong Path? :


Now look at education. You first shout to all and then some – education is the focus, we need a school every so-and-so Kms… And then dont budget for it. And on top of it all, in a classic mark of crass stupidity, increase allocation to states – without ensuring a mechanism for extracting value of this excess fund flow to the states, quite a few of whom are known for fiscal profligacy of the worst kind. And then, you expect the states to implement what is in essence a centrally thought plan. While the plan to devolve to states is laudable, there is a dire need to pull up recalcitrant state governments. Interested people can go through this report : State Finances – RBI Report

What has been done to ensure buy-in by stakeholders at the state level? What has been done to improve efficiency of monetary utilization in the states, and ensure that the excess funds dont get spent in idiotic schemes, for which quite a few of our states are famous? If the states were so efficient, they would have already improved on-ground governance, which they havent. One look at state budgets is enough. What mechanism has been implemented – or is being planned to be implemented – to ensure that the states’ budgetary health improves, and that real value for money spent is obtained? This is what I expect a good PM to do, a good central government to do! 

4) FOREIGN POLICY
Too early to state anything here : results – positive or negative – require time to present themselves. I only state this : 

In FP, image means nothing; it is 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. 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.

Now, for example, if the Government had played hardball with USA, and negotiated well with EU, taking Brics along there was an even chance of splitting the combine straight down the middle; in FP, the $$$$$ reigns supreme. It matters little if you are an asshole or a murderer {Read history for real examples of both – Pakistan, or any number of other evil leaders who were hailed by The West} : if you can deliver $$$$, you are a good man, Read the 1971 war and its prelude, or Iraq or any number of other facts. This is beyond debate, I am afraid – and is not open to question.

So far, I have seen nothing except talk talk and more talk.

Talk is cheap. Even I can talk! Look above {EU example} for proof! Where;s the real action????? He 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, intelligence – the net result seems negative. Recall the previous time India and China tried to come close.

And ME-Israel? That is a sea-change : requires deep analysis for a thorough perspective. I am worried.

5) BUDGET

The budget document is also a strategy document, it reveals your real priorities. If you are not putting your money where your mouth is, it clearly raises the suspicion that you are insincere in your words, or you have no idea what you are doing – or you have compromised. And dont have the guts to say so openly. And that is precisely what this Government’s actions in totality are stating to me as a worried and concerned citizen. I am already on record accepting that this is the best Government we have had in a long time – and if this is the best we can do, we had better get seriously worried!

Full analysis here : The Union Budget 2015-2016 : Glaring Holes

This budget has been justifiably praised on any number of points; sadly, it has got no praise for the two biggest points in its favour : The focus on the unincorporated sector, and the change in the duty structures. But most critically, there has been little critical appraisal of its faults, which are numerous.


This is a budget for Corporate India, and the top 20% of society. As I noted in my previous article on this budget,  Defence, Education, Health and Rural India are the priority sectors for us.

If poverty is reduced, in addition to a growing economy, we also require an educated and healthy population, which means an effectively functioning primary and secondary school set up, increase in facilities and so on. We already have an excellent higher education set up. If on the one hand you are pitching yourself as pro-poor, and on the other, you are increasing focus on high education and cutting on schooling spends in terms of a percentage, this does beget the question : are the priorities correct?

What we are in effect saying is, Corporate India, Middle Classes can reap immediate benefit, while making no efforts to tackle the real problems beings faced by Rural India, like reducing middlemen, education, etc. This is a majority government, they can easily take hard decisions. And yet they are not doing so – as I had foretold much earlier. And that is what makes this budget completely unimpressive, and very UPA 3-ish.

My rating : 2 stars. As I expected….

Asia’s third-largest economy spends about 1 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on public health, compared with 3 percent in China and 8.3 percent in the United States. Indian states manage their health budgets separately. From : India keeps tight rein on public health spending in 2015-16 budget

6) HIGH DECIBEL PROGRAMMES WITH POOR FOLLOW-THROUGH

Swatch Bharat Abhiyaan and the Toilet Scheme are just two example that  have now been on for one year almost, and already shoddy implementation, and fanfare and media attention. Enough said; that said, like FP above, early days. Let us not criticize unduly!

7) ARROGANT AND UGLY UTTERANCES AT ALL LEVELS
The most worrisome aspect. It is not acceptable for leaders of a nation to belittle the past leaders at every stage and platform with utterances that reek of sheer arrogance and bravado, like “Good Government after 10/60 years”; “Indians now feel proud”, and any number of other examples. These are statements we should be making – this is proof positive of a total lack of humility and sheer arrogance; it is also unacceptable – as it is beoynd debate that at least UPA-1 made many a good decision. Give credit where credit is due- which this Government doesnt. To top it all come the polarising and deeply offensive voices from people connected with the ruling party – I have heard more than a few. 


THIS IS NOT MY IDEA OF A GOOD GOVERNMENT… THE 7th POINT ALONE IS WHAT HAS DRIVEN ME COMPLETELY AWAY – note the capitalisation. I dont support a set of arrogant people, howsoever good may they be.  

Was the UPA better? I honestly dont have an answer. My recent studies have led me to a rather uncomfortable possibility that UPA-1 at least was a good Government, but to be honest, I need to study a lot more before I can make any such assertion!