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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
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Book Review – Tanzeem by Mukul Deva

Published February 9, 2017 by vishalvkale

The one I missed… this is a book I read more than a couple of years ago, and forgot to review it then. As luck would have it, I dug deep into my pitaaraa two days ago, and thought of re-reading this one to check up on how exactly Iqbal ended up. The immediate stimulus was a twitter conversation with the Author himself. And so it was that I found that this excellent book was spared my attention in the list of books reviewed, which is a real pity; I would rate this as being among the Author’s very best. If any of you haven’t already read it – do so; you will not regret it.
THE PLOT
Image result for tanzeem mukul devaThis is the 4th book of the Lashkar series; and this one is all about Iqbal from start to finish. A shattered Iqbal comes out of Blowback with hatred and revenge the only two alternating emotions in his heart; a heart burning with one desire, and one desire alone. And a mind filled with alternating thoughts of Tanaz, and the man / men who were ultimately responsible for her condition… the combination of the mind and the heart propels Iqbal towards his goal, his purpose, and gives him resolve. And his resolve, his goal? The destruction of the entire people behind the most sordid Saga of his life.
Alongside this overpowering emotional state, is the realization that his personal enemies are also his national enemies; the patriot in him does not lose sight of this reality. He is keenly aware that something big is being planned by the Pakistanis and the terror machine; only this time – he wants to go after them alone. The current book is that story – the story of his infiltration into the vicious terror machine. The entire book is built around this one theme…
THE REVIEW
As is usual for a Mukul Deva book, this is, once again, a hurtling, breakneck speed and incredibly fast-paced story, written in his signature style. And, again as usual, this story is also completely unique in every respect; different from Lashkar, or Salim Must Die, or even Blowback in this very series itself; to say nothing of the other fiction titles of this author. And as a tribute to his skills, let me add that despite this complete difference in the books of the series, the books represent and make one complete fully connected story; the story of Iqbal. For that is what the Lashkar series is all about – the story of one man, one incredible man – Iqbal.
There are two or three things that need to be highlighted in this story. The first aspect is the shocking attention to the scenes of brutality,  including torture – the attention to detail as well as the way they are woven into the story so as to make them not just integral to the story, but also central to carrying the story forward. The second aspect is the graphic descriptions and narrative style that is used to  both capture your attention and build up speed and tension. The beauty is that the story doesn’t lose out on the pace due to the graphic details included.
The third, and as per me, the most critical aspect of this book is the history lesson that it tried to create for the reader. The entire 44 page section dealing with the Ameer’s flashback tells a history lesson that achieves two objectives : firstly, it creates a complete character sketch in the readers’ minds of the principle antagonist,  taking you deep into his psyche and behaviour. Secondly, It uses contemporary history which is certain to capture the attention of the target audience, which is largely Indian; and gives what I regard as a history lesson {almost – let us not lose sight that this is a work of fiction. That said, I took the trouble of cross-checking some 6-8 facts in this section – turned out completely accurate in every respect} in the background to the Af-Pak regions’ headlong rush into disaster.
It also makes for a slightly emotional read for us Indians, as this “aid” to Pakistan was diverted towards fighting India. You could feel a tinge of stunned shock at the clear US stupidity of acceding to Zia’s demand for what tantamounted to unrestrained control of the aid package. Anyone with even a small tiny iota of intelligence should have known that this would be diverted to fighting India! But let us move on… I hope now at least the great USA realizes is folly, its stupid and naïve support of Pakistan through – aah –  aid! This does not make for an easy read for a Western reader; the USA has been, quite literally, taken apart for its role in Af-Pak, as has Russia and its role. This is not a novel that projects either in a positive light; by and large. Even in the climax, it forcefully underscores the USA’s shortcomings, as it is the Indian forces who are in complete control of the operation.
To summarise, this book once again rates an easy 5 stars out of 5. And, as you turn the last page, you realize with more than a tinge of regret that this is the last time you are reading of Iqbal, and of Force 22. I still believe there is a scope of a couple more based on Iqbal; and I am certain that the author can build a new series around Force 22, making them a series as avidly followed as Lashkar was, and the current Ravinder Singh Gill series is. There is tremendous potential for these two story ideas; I hope Mr Deva is reading these words… 

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.

The Biggest Threat – USA or Pakistan?

Published February 1, 2015 by vishalvkale

The USA – Friend, Threat Or Foe? Some voices tend to typify the USA as a foe or a threat, and my own articles have been largely critical. An article a few months ago { Biggest Threat} in a leading daily carried a survey that showed The USA as the biggest threat to world peace.. Let us look at the other side of this issue, and examine the relationship in the light of cold logic. 

First, threat. I am no fan of the USA, anyone who has read me knows that. I am a die-hard nationalist Indian, who loves India beyond description {as most people do their nation}, and who sees the USA as something less than nice;  but even to me – the claim of the USA being a threat to the world  sounds a bit far-fetched. The USA as a threat is a bit of a stretch, even for my highly critical imagination. A victim cannot be called a perpetrator; a fool or naive maybe, or a person who made a strategic error : but threat?

The biggest threat to world peace cannot be the person who is trying to maintain world peace; credit where credit is due. Coming from a critic of the USA, this is saying something. That the means adopted by this peacemaker are all cockeyed does nothing to take away the basic premise. Furthermore, this has no link with the issues of Trade; if you were to ask, the biggest threat to real free trade / fair practices to India, I would state The USA each and every time. But that is trade, and each nation has a right to protect its turf, howsoever amoral may the approach be.  This is not about trade – it is about Geopolitics. 


THE GEOPOLITICAL SITUATION
The Geopolitical situation in the world has 2 hotspots : Ukraine, which is a mild political issue, a creation of misbegotten policies on both sides, and is localised to one region with little chance of getting into a world issue unless the USA pushes needlessly; and The Middle East, or more specifically Islamic Terror. The third one – India/Pakistan, the West’s favourite bugbear, is in reality no threat all, for the perfectly simple reason that Pakistan knows fully well that it cannot take on India in straight honest hard combat and win; that is a manifest impossibility. 

A strike from our side would decidedly have a significant downside. The key aspect here is the overall geopolitical situation, which is not in our favour. A unilateral attack from our side can only lead to international intervention due to the Nuclear bugbear, which is exactly what Pakistan wants. Doing that would be playing into Pakistani hands. Personally, I am sure that the Nuclear threat is just a bluff : we are certain to give a disproportionate response. That would mean certain obliteration for Pakistan. Second, it would leave Pakistan’s owner & master the USA with no option but to participate in the response, and step in. For Pakistan, it means complete destruction and/or dismemberment. That is 100% assured. 


And that is what is Pakistan’s play is : it is buffing. And those geniuses in the West are too smart to see through this, the biggest bluff ever perpetrated by any nation. I would request people here to watch state department interviews on youtube – Pakistan is always viewed as a strategic location. Always and everytime. This is blinding the West to the reality; the grand bluff. A master play by a genius – credit where credit is due. Hence, every time there is tension on the border, everyone from The Western Media to The Western Leaders begin their nightmare scenarios, forcing intervention.

{This analysis taken from  my article :India, Pakistan and The West}

That only leaves the Middle East, and more specifically Islamic Terror, which the USA is trying to fight. That much is the truth. I need not state much on that; the inroads being made by Islamic Terror are known by all. Please note that this is a threat that is not limited to the borders, but rather has the capacity to reach into the innermost and most secure and safe civilian locations within our towns, cities, homes and offices.  From our POV, that the steps taken by the USA or The West at times go aginst our interests does not make them a threat; it only means that we have to strengthen our own response, and ensure that the other side understands the error of their strategy. This can only be through negotiation and discussion. 


THE BIGGEST THREAT?
Pakistan, period. It is a known fact that Pakistani Armed Forces are in cahoots with the terrorists, with deep and systemic links to terror organisations both India-specific and world-focussed. Pakistan is also home to rabid fundamentalism {not my words, words to this effect have also been stated by some forward-looking and worried Pakistanis} for ex :”

The common belief in Pakistan is that Islamic Radicalisation is a problem only in FATA, and that  madrassas are the only institutions serving as Jehad factories. This is a serious misconception. Extremism is breeding at a ferocious rate in public and private schools within Pakistan’s towns and cities. Left unchallenged, this education will produce a generation incapable of co-existing with anyone except  strictly their own kind. The kind of mindset it creates may eventually lead to Pakistan’s demise as a nation-state… “ :  Pervez Hoodbhoy, in Newsline,  January 2009




This is a nation that has nuclear weapons; is highly unstable; with an economy in deep trouble, and no genuine efforts to repair the same; with a fundamentalist population; is a known recruiting and breeding ground for terrorists; with deep, systemic and well-thought-out and supported contacts with terrorist bases and organisations; is increasingly anti-Western; has a  modern & professional Armed Forces; with deep cultural, religious and other contacts with the entire Islamic World. That they have become like this due in part to Western {particularly US } handling does not excuse them from the sins they have or will commit. 

For more specifics, read this : The War On Terror : India Versus Pakistan


That the USA and the entire West are wrong in their handling of Pakistan is beyond debate; that they have created this entire problem is also beyond debate; that does not make them sinners, only erroneous in their approach. That we understand Pakistan better than anyone is also no surprise, for the perfectly simple reason that Pakistan itself is a mirage, with no basis in history, culture or reality – an imagined never-never land. Pakistanis are, after all, howsoever much they may deny it, Indians. That is an inescapable fact. 

How to handle this? I dont know. Going to war with them is not the solution, neither is ostracizing them. Pakistan cannot be wished away; best would be to help Pakistan build its own identity by strengthening moderate forces within Pakistan, and evolving an identity different from India. But that is another story, not relevant here.