Author: Ashish Shukla

Modi puts his foot on the tail of the Dragon; and hopes the nation is with him

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

India is decoupling itself from China, and not just from Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh.

India has banned 59 Chinese Apps used by tens of millions of its citizens and I would be surprised if the Prime Minister Narendra Modi doesn’t warn us of its fallout in his afternoon broadcast to the nation on Tuesday.

China would retaliate by pulling out its investments and factories and looking to cripple our telecom and pharmaceutical industry due to our over-reliance on its equipment and ingredients. Their smartphones have 72% of our market. Half of our electronic imports and two-thirds of our drugs depend on China. Why, even our bulletproof vests are made with material from China.

The investment and jobs we were looking in infrastructure (Tsingshan, steel) and automobiles (SAIC), not to speak of the names which are household such as Big Basket, Byju’s, Flipkart, MakeMyTrip, PayTm, Swiggy, Zomato etc could all take a massive hit. It could grow into a trade war and we the citizens of this country would have rising costs, lost jobs and hardships coming our way.

How do you think our cash-strapped telecom companies could cope? Or how diminishing incomes would react to rising costs? And not just demand, would the supply side be able to stay on its feet if walls go up?

Yet India must decouple itself from China. A nation which depends on enemy for its food, goods and materials don’t last.  Germany lost to Britain because of the latter’s blockade in World War I. Ancient Athens fell to Sparta who won’t allow supply of grains through the Black Sea. Why, Australia today is tabulating the cost of a diplomatic spat with China on its crop exports.

The free-trade advocates might whisper into your ears that its’ protectionism, that we are going to pre-liberalization era of 1991 but don’t pay heed. Instead ask: What kind of open trade China is if its subsidizing land, material and tax-cuts for its manufacturers, brutalizing its labour, just to make sure your manufacturing remains buried forever? It’s nothing but a return to colonial era when we exported raw material and imported finished products.

Time is ripe for India to actively intervene in markets. Put spine in India’s manufacturers. Write-off investments in machinery if required. Revamp land, labour and tax structures. Incentivize them to the extent they reinvest profits in men and material. We could then hope for our future generations to look after their parents. Our disabled soldiers to return to the care of their able sons and daughters

If nothing, listen to what Chinese said a few years ago in their economic White Paper of the 21st century:

“Manufacturing is the main pillar…the foundation of the country. Since the beginning of industrial civilization in the middle of the 18th century, it has been proven repeatedly by the rise and fall of world powers that without strong manufacturing, there is no national prosperity.”

India already has the assurance of US State Department which announced last year that Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea and of course India would take care of its supply chains in a rewired world. The critical industries outlined are pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, semi-conductors, automotive, aerospace, textile and chemicals among others.

Many countries are already opting for China Plus One manufacturing strategy. Taiwan is now actively promoting “non-Red supply chain”; Japan has put $220 billion on the line for its companies to shift production back home from China. South Korea is doing likewise with easy regulations, financial aid and tax incentives to those who could “return” home. Italy has announced an emergency decree which empowers it to veto foreign investment in electricity, water, health, media, aerospace, banks, insurance, robotics etc.

Prime Minister Modi seems to have opted for the brave course of short-time pain to long-term suicide. He has put his political career on line. He had no business to walk down this road which could put India in some serious woes.  It might make us a little poorer, our goods more expensive but it would secure our borders, our future.  China’s cheap exports are a gift which we would pay with ocean of tears in future. Let’s do our bit for our motherland.

 

Congress’ Fundgate Scandal: Spot the enemy in your newspapers

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

I am not sure if you have followed the “FundGate Scandal” which is engulfing Congress party and the Gandhi clan, Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka.

Or you know about funds to Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF), controlled by Gandhis, coming through Chinese government and PM National Relief Fund (PMNRF). Or that in 1991, the then finance minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, later prime minister, had in his maiden Budget speech announced Rs 100 crores to Rahul Gandhi Foundation.

I am also unaware if you have weighed the import of Congress party signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the ruling Chinese Communist Party in 2008, that is if you even know about it in the first place.

Let’s say some of you know. And that some of you don’t know. Either way, now let’s see if you understand its ramifications.

FUNDS FROM OFFICIAL CHINESE SOURCES

Under the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) rule, the ruling Chinese party and its embassy in India donated over a crore to Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. Thereafter, The Foundation encouraged Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China in its studies. An FTA with China is suicide. For China, being authoritarian, can control its prices. What it costs Indian manufacturers Rs 12, China could sell the same product for only Rs 2 by subsidizing its producers. Indian makers ruined. China captures Indian market. Get the import? Please also reflect that India’s trade deficit vis-à-vis China increased by 33 per cent during the UPA rule.

Don’t you think you deserve to know how India became a stooge to China, tradewise. Or if it was a quid pro quo between the Indian and Chinese governments. Or that India could’ve become a vessel state of China through FTA. Of if it explains why we looked the other way when there were 640 Chinese army’s incursion inside Indian territory under UPA.

FUNDS FROM PM NATIONAL RELIEF FUND

Again, under the UPA, funds from the PM National Relief Fund were transferred to Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. More than once. Now PMNRF is for disasters, natural or man-made. After two days of upset stomach, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala has today said it was in the wake of Tsunami in 2004.

Don’t you think you deserve to know if such a transfer was for Tsunami alone, why it was done again and again in subsequent years.  Or if that makes PMNRF-Rajiv Gandhi Foundation complicit since both had Gandhis and their men in controlling seats. Or if the recent tears Gandhis have shed on migrants—India’s poor—are no better than crocodile’s since we now know money meant for poor under PMNRF were being diverted to Rajiv Gandhi Foundation.

MoU BETWEEN CONGRESS PARTY AND CHINESE GOVERNMENT

So, you now know that the Congress party and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between them in 2008. You don’t know the details. I don’t know either. Nobody has asked Congress. Congress has not volunteered the information either.

Don’t you think Indian citizens deserve to know the agreements signed under MoU. Did Congress take permission of this MoU from All India Congress Committee (AICC), its apex body. Were letters of its content shared with its members. If not, could we trust such undemocratic elements to run our democracy.

So you have questions but no answers. I too don’t have all the answers. Who do you think should provide these answers?

It’s our newspapers who should give us answers. All your national English dailies are silent on these questions. No Front Page screamers. No OpEds by your Sardesais-Guptas-Barkhas-Sagarikas or by distinguished scholars, think tanks, human rights group, lawyers, professors, vice-chancellors, historians, philosophers etc. No editorials by those who sit in AC cabins, overlooking the Arabian Sea. Yet we trust them daily. Pay for their poison. Give control of India to those who are breaking it up. Don’t delude yourself that you don’t share the blame. If we don’t make our newspapers accountable, we are party to India’s enemies.

 

This is no soap opera that Russia would come and bail out India

(This is a reprint from NewsBred)

It’s not as much a matter of choice for India as it is for Russia. India media might be scripting a Russia factor in fractured Indo-China relations but you ought to know better.

India’s defence minister Rajnath Singh is in Moscow. The foreign ministers of two nations joined their Chinese counterpart for a virtual dialogue on Tuesday. Both are pre-arranged engagements, not an offshoot of Galwan Valley. Yet hopes are injected that Russia would play a peacemaker. I suggest you examine the evidence than suffer a hangover which is a druggie’s profile the morning after.

Sure, Russia is India’s biggest defence exporter. The two leaders Vladimir Putin and Narendra Modi share a rare warmth. They have reset economic ties to the extent that the target of $30 billion is revised to $50 billion by 2025. The two have a strategic partnership. Both need each other for trade corridors. Both have stood by each other on global forums. The two have not stopped liking each other in last seven decades.

But Russia is no big brother to India. India’s economy is more than twice the size of Russia. India’s arm buys are falling vis-à-vis Russia and leapfrogging with Israel, France, the United States etc. Tourism isn’t quite booming between the two nations.

On the contrary, Russia can’t do without China. Its’ trade with China is worth over a hundred billion dollars. It has a $400 billion energy deal with China. Both share a global vision in Indo-Pacific even though Russia, on its own, has little to lose on that sea expanse.  Both see in the United States an implacable rival. Both are looking after each other’s backs. You help us mate if submarines snarl in South China Sea. We look after you if NATO rolls down tanks in Eastern Europe. No formal pact, just a wink in the eye is good enough.

So, Russia could use its good offices to bring the two Asian adversaries on the table. But it can’t prevent a martial discord turning into a divorce. It doesn’t have that bargaining chip. If it was valued this big by China, the latter would’ve taken Russians into confidence before the Galwan Valley misadventure. And if they did take Moscow into confidence, and still went ahead, it’s worse.

It’s for Russia to plot its future in the 21st century. Its present woes began when it took control of Crimea after a referendum in 2014. The US-led sanctions in its wake are crippling.

It could choose to remember that India defended the referendum in Crimea while China didn’t.

It could turn a blind eye, if it wants to, China going big in elbowing it out in Central Asia which is so, so vital to Moscow.

It could choose to be a junior partner to China or retain the instincts which are genetic in a superpower.

It could ignore–if it could afford –the role India could play in linking the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) with Asian mass through Chabahar Port in Iran, now in India’s control.

It could miss, if it wants to, the critical role of India in the International North-South Trade Corridor (INSTC), a 7,200-km network of ship, rail and road which frees up Russian transportation across Europe, Central Asia, Armenia, Iran, Afghanistan up to India.

Nations today are guided by their own interests. Two countries could converge on one issue and diverge significantly on the other.  Russia discounts China’s role in the devastating Covid-19 spread on global forums but it has also shut its borders against China. Russia is indeed India’s friend for all seasons but it doesn’t stop them from selling arms to Pakistan and joining our arch rivals in military exercises since Afghanistan is vital. India too won’t let Russia come in the way of its growing convergence with the United States. But its adamant to buy S400 anti-missile system from Russia next year even though the United States is threatening crippling sanctions. There are camps, sure, but relationships are more fluid, unlike Cold War era. Look at Turkey, a member of NATO, but blackmailing Europe now and then on refugees.

So rejoice Russia is neutral but don’t expect them in your corner against China. Besides India itself is a power of considerable hulk. India’s issue with China won’t have a mediator. New Delhi would have to pack a punch of its own against China. Russia is no parent and India no child even though China decidedly is a bully. Call the bully out on your own. India could do it.

Indian media seeking Russia’s intervention is comical, if not tragic. On one hand you detest the United States offering mediation; on the other you seek one from Russia. It’s tragic for it betrays a sense of inferiority, a colonial hangover, which refuses to acknowledge India could hold its own. It distorts the immediacy India needs in its military preparedness. It injects a false sense of security.  It lets India down in its own eyes.

 

 

Don’t rule out another Galwan; China’s game is to topple Modi

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

How Indian prime minister Narendra Modi would wish that before he leaves office, he casts India-China border in stone and defuses what could make us humans the dinosaurs of an extinct world.

He would have looked at maps, the prickly western and eastern borders, and wondered if this is all what is holding the two Asian giants from making it Asia’s Century, and not just pawns in the hands of West, our plunderers for over two centuries.

He would be practical to realize that India could no longer drive China out of Aksai Chin (western borders) nor the latter could do the same to us in Arunachal Pradesh (eastern borders), so why not have a quid pro quo and settle the matter once for all. As a bonus, Pakistan would be kept on leash by China who holds it by ear.

India in such a course would’ve to recognize China owning Aksai Chin and the latter would’ve to tone down its shrill on Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh which is a monastery of significance to Tibetan pilgrims.  One other option, to share the land in half as was done in Sino-Russia border pact in 2008, is out of question. It would lose India most of Arunachal Pradesh. But surely a solution could be found.

Modi, that hard-nosed realist, would’ve realized that peace comes at a cost. In this case, ceding Aksai Chin formally would be a political suicide. He would be history’s villain. Millions who swoon over him would bay for his blood. Besides, how does he build consensus in a fractious society.

Suppose Modi is able to carry the nation along. That he is able to convey the entire labyrinth of this dispute to the last man. That it all began after China occupied Tibet in 1959. Till then Tibet was a buffer zone between the two and there was no border conflict. China subsequently refused to accept the border deals Tibet had with kingdom of Ladakh and the British. Now that Tibet was theirs, the sanctity of those deals was zilch. There is no line which runs over ridges, valleys and mountains to clearly define Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the western sector.

Let’s presume Modi is also able to own the missteps of India’s political class of the last 60 years. That China had offered a solution to Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru which the latter rebuffed and brought the 1962 war on India’s door. China had then forwarded the same offer of reason: Give up Aksai Chin in return to have Arunachal Pradesh all to yourself. China was even willing to recognize India’s claim over Jammu and Kashmir. We lost that moment.

The ties went into a freeze till 1979 when India resumed bilateral relations with China.  The border talks were revived in 1980 and for next five years China made the same proposal they had in 1960: i.e. concede Aksai Chin for your control of Arunachal Pradesh (McMahon Line). Aksai Chin was important for China to connect its Xinjiang province with Tibet. We again lost that moment. Thereafter, China had grown strong enough to discard that concessional tone. There was no give-and-take, only take, and India could do little.

Under the Atal Behari Vajpayee government, border talks were resumed in earnest in 2003. Since then 22 such parleys have been held. Solution has remained elusive. Even when the two nations had their strongest leaders in decades in Modi and Xi.

Who knows if Modi and Xi Jinping haven’t discussed the matter in two informal summits? Or that in nearly two-dozen parleys between the two nations, every option has not been explored.  Or that ex-foreign minister Sushma Swaraj possibly had worked out the maths in the “out-of-box solution” she suggested in Beijing in 2015. What really could explain the border dispute which kills soldiers, hurts trade and casts a long existential shadow on the two populations which make up 40 per cent of all humanity?

The only plausible reason is: India has missed the bus. China is now a bully and would play on India’s nerves. For them not just India but also Pakistan, Bhutan, Nepal etc are all pawns in their game of world hegemony. It’s nobody’s friend. They gain nothing to quieten the Indian borders. Plus-trade is small-change in a bigger game. They could use the Galwan Valley prototype to shake the foundation of India’s ruling class. On the date and time of their choosing. They could send India on a defence-buying spree to throw its budget for a toss. They have also gauged how far the world would react.

So, rule out an early border solution. Keep a lid on your fantasy. Or hope that Modi’s sagacity could override China’s evil game. It’s fire-fighting now. And would erupt time and again. China’s game is now out in open. China wants Modi out. It’s for India—and Modi—to up the ante. And leave the enemy with a bloody nose.

 

 

In case of war, would US rush to India’s defence?

(This is  reprint from NewsBred).

Behind their pandemic-induced masks, Indians have a floating question on their lips: What if China was to pour into India and spank us like it did in 1962.

Columns on military match-ups are box-office hits.  In today’s Mint, weighing scales have measured India and China on nuclear, submarines, armoured vehicles, boots-on-the- ground, everything. It assures readers we are better in inhospitable terrains, fighter jets and in shape thanks to our periodic pounding of Pakistan. It doesn’t look at the weight Pakistan could bring into equation but that’s okay. Indian soldiers are world’s envy for over a century for a reason.

Indians are also hopeful on the United States. That Trump and Modi would look after each other’s backs. This lack-in-self isn’t mindful that India’s nuclear arsenal is deterrent enough. We won’t be rolled over in a conventional war too.  Besides, still don’t have a formal military pact with the United States.

Sure, in last decade and a half, the US administration across presidents, and Indians between their Manmohan and Modi, have resembled two lost brothers who couldn’t have enough of each other. It began with access to military sheets (GSOMIA) but ramped up startingly under the Modi regime. An important threshold crossed was reciprocal logistical support (LEMOA) in 2016; and greater Indian access to US military technology (COMCASA) in 2018. The next stage is a deal for 2021 when US could share advanced satellite, intelligence and topographical information (BECA) with India. It would be huge, but not now.

The United States, as it is, has more military pacts than one could count. In the Indo-Pacific waters itself, it’s committed to come to aid of Japan, South Korea, Philippines, Australia and, a little beyond, New Zealand. Western Europe of course is a Biblical commitment in the form of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). It’s extremely possessive about Central and Latin America and if in doubt, ask a Cuban.  In the Middle East, Israel and Saudi Arabia have the blank cheque of security. Since the Second World War, the United States has committed itself to defend a quarter of the world’s population. All are not cut-and-dried military pacts. But de facto, some 69 countries which is worth 75 per cent of world’s economic output, could claim a security umbrella festooned by Washington D.C.

Formal military pacts are dying trends. It forces counter alliances and the world is lit up in smoke as it happened during the First World War. Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire were committed to each other against France and Russia and Great Britain was forging secret alliances of its own in a skullduggery which remarkably has been kept hidden by the historians of Oxford who make up the history narrative of English-speaking schools.

So, sorry folks, a military pact between India and the United States isn’t happening all too soon. If the United States enters the Indian Ocean, be sure that China and Russia would commit themselves in equal measure. The US would have its military cooperation, sea drills and logistical shares with India. It designated India as a major defense partner in 2016 itself. The satellite and intelligence sharing under BECA (Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement) would be big on its own. It would be a game-changer in communications, navigational and threat assessment. India’s defence exports from the United States are second only to Russia. But don’t mistake it for a joint resistancce against an invader.

We’re in a fluid state. We are not at war with China.  Hotheads could spin it out of control for both, and Pakistan. Looking for the United States or Russia isn’t on the charts spread at military commands of the two Asian giants. Treat the two Cold War antagonists as proteins or steroids in a gym. The heavy-lifting is still left to us. Hopefully the worst is behind us. For the time being.

The lessons for India though are unmistakable. China doesn’t have our good in mind. We would know of the United States too if Russia holds firm and delivers us S400 missile system in 2021. Closer home, we need to free up our armed forces from stifling civil bureaucracy. If they want Rafale, that’s what they get. We have a huge lag and delay is not an option.

 

Soldiers have done their bit with lives; what are we doing for our India

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

All of us are grieved for our dead soldiers in Ladakh. That all of us want a retribution. That the government is literally closing doors on Chinese telecom equipment which enjoys one-fourth of Indian market. That the Confederation of All-India Traders (CAIT), claiming to represent 7 crore traders, has called for a boycott of Chinese products. That the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Foreign Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar have used the language the nation wanted to hear.

Most of us have also resolved to boycott Chinese goods. It’s also dawning on us though that it’s easier said than done. I mean our mobile phones run on parts supplied by China. Our consumer goods, electronics, toys, furnishings, textiles, luggage, watches, kitchen items, footwear and frozen food etc bear Chinese imprints. We are also heavily reliant on China in pharmaceuticals and automobile sectors. There are thousands—yes, THOUSANDS– of products we import from China. Our supply chains rely on China. Where do we start and where do we end?

If this is unnerving, you could forward the argument that the Chinese entrenchment in our system is creating millions of jobs in trade, kirana shops and logistics. That there is much ado about nothing since our exports matter only two per cent to overall China’s buying. That India’s loss would matter little to China which has economy five times ours size. Besides, how do I throw out my “Ganesha” and “agarbattis”?

This implies that we need a serious introspection. We want our government to hit China hard; we want our soldiers to spill their blood in inhospitable terrains; we appeal for funds to be raised for the martyrs’ families; we dominate hashtags on social media with our outrage but we don’t—or can’t—do anything else. We could urge boycott of China’s goods but please excuse us from doing it ourselves. There is one thing we want from the nation; quite literally the other we do in practice. We want our soldiers to make the ultimate sacrifice but won’t allow that little pinch in the pocket. Can a nation survive without the cost paid by its citizens?

The Confederation of All-India Traders say there are at least 3,000 Chinese products we could easily replace with our own. If you can’t put away your mobiles, make sure you aren’t buying out-and-out Chinese brands. In case of an IPhone or a Samsung, the profits go to those companies and not to component-makers in Shenzen. Besides, what does it take to delete at least Chinese apps from your mobile phones even if you swoon over tik-tok?

China is today only doing what superpowers have done all through since the Industrial Revolution. You loan out a huge amount to a poor or developing country on very generous terms and with a long window. When the debt becomes unpayable, you extract your pound of flesh in form of a nation’s resources.

That’s what China did with Sri Lanka who now has surrendered the critical Hambantota port which is such a critical military advantage to China overlooking India. It did the same to Djibouti which was forced to allow China a military base on its land. Angola is paying through its nose with crude oil on the debt it’s unable to service as per terms. Kenya is on the verge of defaulting on China’s loan extended for a railway link between Mombasa and Nairobi. It could soon be parting with its Port of Mombasa. South Africa is fearing a similar debt trap. There are endless such instances in Latin America, Europe, Asia and rest of Africa.

I am sure none of us want India to suffer a similar loss of sovereignty. That we want this trade disadvantage of $50 billion to be reduced to a nought.  That we are virtually funding China to hurt us. That if we could boycott the Chinese goods we could, it would reduce the trade imbalance by $13 billion in 2021.

Sure, we want Modi government to stand by us with tariff and non-tariff measures. That it must call out China which subsidizes its products, under-prices it, and makes our traders and manufacturers uncompetitive. Our government does—and could do more—to cushion our exporters. That self-reliance–Atmanirbhar—would create products, supply chains and jobs in due course. After all, in this Corona pandemic, we did manage with our supply chains and various local productions did come up.

Let’s not fool ourselves that Indo-China trade is beneficial only to us. It matters hugely to China. There are any number of investments it makes in India through the back channels of Hong Kong and vessel states. That’s why India has decided to screen direct foreign investments. That’s why India has chosen not to be a part of RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Corporation) which would have only rerouted China’s gains. That’s why India has refused to grant market tag to China as neither its’ banks nor pricing is independent of this Communist state. The Modi government is showing its spine: We need to show ours.

 

 

A muscular India gives its army a “free hand” to knock sense in China

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

It would be a grave misjudgement to believe that China has walked over India in a physical showdown in Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh on Monday.

If nothing, ask the Chinese who made moves in lockstep over the last few weeks to test India’s nerves and found a nation mature in diplomacy and dare in equal measure.

India has used velvet gloves against a petulant Nepal which thumbed its nose on borders but didn’t elicit a raging anger from New Delhi that would’ve played into the hands of its puppeteer, China. India knows, as does Nepal, that the latter can’t survive without India’s open borders. Simply, the land-locked nation would run out of essential supplies. A manufactured border dispute has no future but for headlines and talk shows.

China meanwhile had crossed the Line of Actual Control (LAC) at four different points in Ladakh, agreed for de-escalation but then stayed put when the two armies were to pull themselves back by a few kilometres. India would have none of an enemy’s forward-post left standing inside the Galwan Valley which belongs to India. It didn’t backdown from a physical combat either since arms and ammunitions are avoided by the two neighbours in sensitive stretches of border running into thousands of kilometres.

Now has come the news that Indian Army has been empowered to act as per the ground situation without looking for directions from New Delhi. In other words, the Indian Army has been freed from political constraints. It’s an unambiguous message to Beijing that they are now in the wilds. That your superior nuclear stockpiles, defence spending or armaments wouldn’t be of much aid if it’s bare knuckle fight. So, if it’s to fists, stones and clubs now, may the best man win. There is no referee.

Indian Express has quoted an army source thus: “Army has been given emergency powers for deployment there as per needs and new situations without looking towards Delhi…We have to demonstrate our strength on the ground…there is no need to show aggression, only our strength.”

This would put China in a spot. Either they shove the conventions and turn it into an armed combat. Or they pull themselves back as they did in Doklam in 2017. Or they escalate which wouldn’t go unnoticed to a concerned world. It’s a massive show of intent from Modi’s India which is largely consistent in its zero-tolerance approach on nation’s sovereignty and integrity.

It’s not like South China Sea where the Middle Kingdom has usurped islands, sea tolls, reefs and banks overriding neighbours protests. China could not only carry through the bluff but were assured of its efficacy by the mumbled response of the affected. India seems determined to call out the bully. It’s not the semi-autonomous Hong Kong, a cowering Taiwan or a Vietnamese fishing boat you could sink to the floor of the South China Sea.

China clearly is upset at India’s assertions in recent months. India has signed a pact with Australia in the middle of the pandemic which would give teeth to QUAD (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue) between four democracies of Indo-Pacific: the United States, Japan, Australia and India itself. It has openly given a call to multinationals to shift their operations to India, a blow to China where it hurts the most. It has decided to screen the foreign investments beyond the FDI regulations. It now heads World Health Organization (WHO) which is to take call if China was complicit in hiding the truth on Corona Virus pandemic. It hasn’t helped the matter that Taiwan, which Beijing is paranoid about, could have “observer” status at WHO on pandemic deliberations. Then we have an expanded G-7 group of nations where India is to be included but no invitation has gone out to China

India has an uncontested control of Galwan Valley, between Ladakh and Chinese-occupied Aksai Chin, since 1962. It suffers from poor infrastructure in a hilly terrain unlike China which makes use of the flat Tibetan plateau to carry its road and highway network unhindered. India in contrast has to cross several mountains to access the LAC. It’s only natural that India wants to secure its borders. China would either have to give up the encroachments or face consequences, no less economic. There is a groundswell of consensus to boycott Chinese goods. The little matter of Huawei 5G also hangs in the balance.

There is little doubt China faces uncommon heat across continents. Pushback against its over-arching reach has already begun in Africa and Southeast Asia. Unemployment is unprecedented. Economic woes are spiralling. The world is a hostile theatre after China’s machinations on pandemic which has set the world back by a generation in economic terms. Its present misadventure in Ladakh is an undisguised diversionary tactics.

There is little doubt Indo-China relations would freeze in near future. It would bring Pakistan in closer ambit of China. India, on its part, would have the United States in its drawing room. Distrust between the two main powers of Asia would now run deep. Russia is a common friend which could find its loyalty divided.

Sushant and Gaurav: What’s the connection we all need to know?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Death has hovered around us in recent months. Corona Virus pandemic allows us only incremental life; not a free-flowing one. We are not allowed to forget we are mere mortals. Everyone is a little less confident these days.

We are now grimmer after Sushant Singh Rajput has taken his life. Apparently, he closed his room and hung himself. He talked to few in his last 2-3 days. Nobody knows what took him beyond the brink. He didn’t suffer from finances, fame, glamour or an affair gone rancid. He also wasn’t born in riches and had come up the hard way. He worked very hard on his fitness. He could talk on Jean-Paul Sartre and Stephen Hawking. He was an accomplished student. He also wanted so much more from his life. Possibly the next superstar. There was every reason for him to be proud about his growth in a little life of 34 years. Yet he threw it all away. His suicide is now the stuff of gossip. We all can speculate and a few could introspect but the tragedy has already overtaken us.

 

There is this unrelated case of Gaurav Bansal (see image) who was everything Sushant Singh Rajput wasn’t. Bansal didn’t have money, fame, glamour nothing. He was one faceless amongst us in a lower middle-class Delhi locality. He too took his life. But with a difference. He goaded others to hang him and didn’t do it himself. Rajput was overtaken by his own stress. Bansal’s Gaurav’s was a cool, calm move as he worked out his plan to perfection. He sought out men to murder him, weighed pros and cons on methods, the venue of crime, before having himself killed At least in his case we know the motive of his suicide-by-other name: He wanted his impoverished family of a wife and two young sons to have the Rs 1 crore they could get on his term insurance policy.

Why did Gaurav have himself killed rather than commit suicide? Apparently, most term insurances on suicide commence after the policy has been in existence for 12 months. We could thus deduce that his policy was still in hibernation on the matter of suicide. We could also reasonably conclude that he took this policy with a view to snuff out his life down a few months.

So now that his appointed killers have been held, and the nuances of the manufactured crime are in public domain, would his family get the money for which a concerned husband and a loving father laid down his life?  Would insurance companies, who are out there to make profit, suddenly acquire that human eye and won’t let his death go to waste? And if they don’t, won’t it be a tragedy we won’t know that the life Gaurav lost amounted to nothing.

Then there is this case in the Capital where a father threw down his months-old baby from the second floor because the daughter was bawling. She was brought into this world by her parents but had no say on her life. She wasn’t intelligent enough to fathom that her father was heavily drunk. Her mother possibly couldn’t imagine that the husband has gone to balcony not to calm down the baby but to splatter the road below with the entrails and blood of the innocent.

All these incidents have happened in quick succession in last 72 hours. They all defy the societal norms with which we all grow up in our lives. Yet it isn’t the first time. There would be a repeat in future. Yes, we are not responsible. We can’t be held by police or deemed guilty by the courts. But, is there something we all could do?

For instance, we should keep track on Gaurav Bansal’s family and the insurance company to see it’s not deprived of its bread-earner’s sacrifice. We should ensure that the insurance company has been human and not helpless in its technical shield. Our newspapers and swaggering journalists, who criticize all but themselves, for once could appear grown up.

At a local level, we could ask a few of our elders to offer themselves for counselling to distressed residents in neighbourhood. We should also be more observant to people we meet in our days. Those peons, maids, gardeners, car-cleaners, the vendor outside our colonies, who largely exist and not live if viewed from the window of our charmed existence.

Suicides, worldwide, average 80 lakhs annually. India shares 17 per cent of lives such lost. A lot of these dark moments are avoidable. If “will” fails, loving family and caring friends come handy. At an impersonal level, you and I could be the life-savers in our own little way. All our riches against such acts would weigh lighter on the scale of humanity.

In passing, there is a need to inform that an insurance company could refuse to honour a term-insurance policy if one has a criminal record, death is due to influence of alcohol, addiction to smoking, hazardous activities or during childbirth. Value your life, and that of others, and then rightfully claim you qualify to be a part of the society.

Next time you quote them on Dalits, put them to this neutrality test

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

There is little gain-saying that Dalits have not suffered in India. They have been raped, murdered, discriminated against, distanced from wells and temples and that’s largely because upper-castes kept up the social barriers against them. The same utensils or glasses for both were out of question.

Thus you can’t quarrel with an Arundhati Roy (minorities-Dalits-living-in-fear); Shekhar Gupta (Dalits must suffer as they have over the millenniums and keep mouth shut); Rajdeep Sardesai (Access is not for Dalits); Barkha Dutt (the plight of Dalit women) or Sagarika Ghose (Upper-castes were bigger oppressors than the British) for they can back their claim with evidence. You also can’t pick a quarrel with the BBC (Dalit killed for eating in front of upper-castes); New York Times (Dalits scalped); Washington Post (Lower caste chamar slur); or The London Times (Dalits and discrimination on horse-riding) for highlighting the divide. You also can’t fault with politicians like Sonia Gandhi (horrified on Dalit atrocities); Rahul Gandhi (Dalits are beaten and crushed); Priyanka Gandhi (Dalits insult can’t be tolerated); Mamata Banerjee (Organized crime against Dalits); Akhilesh Yadav (Dalits suppressed); Arvind Kejriwal (BJP has insulted Dalits); Asaduddin Owaisi (I ask Dalits to stop suffering)  or Pinaryi Vijayan (Anti-Dalit politics by BJP) for they arguably are worried about the society. The angst of Dalit leaders like Mayawati, Prakash Ambedkar and Chandrashekhar Azad could also be understood. They are pained at the wrongs against their brothers and sisters.  I may be missing the instances of Rana Ayyub, Saba Naqvi, The Wire, The Scroll, The Quint, The Print, The Squint, The Caravan, The Huffington Post etc but you get the drift.

Now let me narrate a couple of instances of this week. Both instances occurred in Uttar Pradesh. In Jaunpur, houses of Dalit families were set ablaze by Muslims in Batheti village on Tuesday. According to police, the clashes erupted after two groups of Dalits and Muslim boys fought over cattle grazing.  The village head tried to intervene but to no effect. Muslim boys returned with a bigger force, stones were pelted and these Muslims indulged in arson and set fire to Dalit huts.

The second incident happened in Azamgarh on Friday. Sixteen Muslim youths attacked a group of Dalit men under Maharajganj police station. Twelve Dalit men were seriously injured. It occurred after Dalits objected to Muslim boys harassing some girls. One 22-year-old Sudhir was slashed with a sharp-edged weapon. Eleven others were badly beaten with sticks and stones.

A rabid Muslim, anti-Hindu or anti-BJP person would claim that this is a manufactured narrative. That this Muslim violence wasn’t because of caste-divide, never mind a few upper-caste violent acts against Dalits could similarly be over petty matters. Or they could ramble on what do you expect in a state of Yogi Adityanath. Or that these innocent Muslims have been framed by partisan police. Or that the state government has got another stick to beat the innocent, hapless Muslims with. That Hindu elements might have spread rumours for Dalits to confront Muslims and in consequence suffered physical and material losses. Or that this piece by me is a whataboutery to hide what regularly happens against Dalits by upper-caste Hindus. You could also cite the recent US State Department Report to shame present India. You could work out a few more excuses I might have missed out.

Let’s say I don’t contest such an argument. Let’s for a moment concede them the point. That these two specific incidents of Muslims against Dalits in Uttar Pradesh defy credulity. That Muslims can never beat Dalits.

But the thrust of this piece is above this narrow binary. It is addressed to millions of Indians in this country, who are more than a Hindu or a Muslim, more than a BJP or a Congress, more than an Indian Express/The Hindu or a Republic TV which represent the two opposite sides of the spectrum. These Indians who hold the future of India in their neutrality.

And the thrust is: Have you heard a Shekhar Gupta, Rajdeep Sardesai, Sagarika Ghose, Barkha Dutt, Saba Naqvi, Rana Ayyub, the Gandhis, Yadavs, Mamatas, Owaisis, Kejriwals and Vijayans say a word in condemnation against these two horrific incidents against Dalits? Or even from Mayawati, Prakash Ambedkar or Chandrashekhar Azad, the latter who often threatens to fast-unto-death in the cause of his Dalit community? Or Priyanka Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi who wipe the tears of Dalits and photo-op with lunch on the same plate? The Wire, The Scroll, The Print, The Quint, Caravan or Huffington Post outraged? And if not, next time you quote them would you be honest and accept that these illustrious could be prejudiced and don’t mind the ill of our beloved country? Or that you are prepared to sacrifice your next generation as long as you score a point on a Facebook debate?

If these icons in media and politics fail this neutrality test, would you confess that they could be biased. That they are not neutral. That they could be propagandists.  That they could be dangerous for society. For unity of India. Maybe paid for by forces which want India broken. For “Jewel of India” which is still lusted for by foreign cabals. Those who thought India would break up in pieces and are distressed that it has survived 70-odd years and practices the best of democratic traditions?

I don’t suggest you believe me. It doesn’t matter if I find currency with your or not.  All I suggest is that next time you read these sources, pause. PAUSE AND REFLECT. Notice if you see any bias or prejudice. Hold them under microscope and see if you still find them neutral. If they fail the test, don’t quote them next time. Make them honest; and not clink glasses on your back for having once against fooled you.

 

 

Delhi voters cruel lesson: Freebies are not governance

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

The unfolding Corona pandemic disaster in India’s capital Delhi is a reminder to voters that freebies aren’t the yardstick to elect a government.

Just before the assembly elections this year, Arvind Kejriwal had announced free bus rides, free metro travels and multiple other sops to its citizens. He had gloated on his mohalla clinics; declared his medical infrastructure as unprecedented. After winning the elections by a mile, he had preened in front of national media that his government had still made profits in each of his five years of first term.

Both apparently were a lie. If he had made profits for five years, his coffers wouldn’t have run out in just two months of lockdown. If freebies were just a matter of “Rs 150 crores,” as he said to a TV channel the other day, Delhi wouldn’t be struggling for beds at this grave hour.

Let’s look at it in real figures. Delhi presently has a shortfall in thousands of beds where symptomatic patients could be quarantined. If we go even by Kejriwal’s own estimate that only Rs 150 crores of freebies were spared, just imagine the boost it could have given to Delhi’s Corona battle—hotels could have been turned into quarantine centres, paying guest houses likewise and Delhi would’ve done one thing which is now a worldwide truism: quarantine, quarantine and quarantine.

Now hospitals are burdened with unmanageable mix, dead bodies are in corridors and horrific images are being flashed in our living rooms. Paramedical staff is being persecuted to the extent that even the Supreme Court has asked Kejri government to spare the “warriors” in this raging “war.” The lashing by India’s apex court is a scathing indictment of his government.

Delhi health minister Satyendra Jain estimates at least 50,000 Corona patients in the Capital by June-end. The experts put the figure to 100,000. Even if we go by the fatality rate of 3 per cent, it means 16,000 people would be Corona’s fatal victims in the Capital. That’s damning. Death would literally be dancing on Delhi’s streets.

All along, Kejri and his men have flipped and flopped in their measures. Some days the lockdown is lax, on other days suffocating. Some days Delhi’s medical help wasn’t for outsiders, later it was withdrawn. Wine shops had an early reprieve. Tablighi Jamaat fiasco was met with a manufactured response. Kejri and his odd-even methods had a play too. Then there was this migrant fiasco where thousands marched on to Delhi’s Anand Vihar bus terminus only to be told no-go. He is further not in best of terms with his neighbouring states. Clearly, this man is at his wit’s ends.

It’s important that Delhi recovers. Delhi is the engine which drives at least the north India economy. It’s hugely dense mega city with a sizeable lower-class population. Social distancing or home quarantines aren’t an option with them. How do you quarantine a mildly infected young kid when his grand parents share the space with him?

The only option is to seek quarantine facilities outside the box. It’s still not too late to look at hotels and paying guesthouse for those extra few thousand beds. Corona is shattering Delhi to pieces. If it’s beyond Kejriwal and his government, he must ask Centre to take over and impose President’s Rule. You just can’t be a bystander and leave everything “ram-bharose” when the stakes are this high.