Covid 19

Where does Modi go from this Bihar high? Is this bugle of triumph also one of warning?

(It’s a reprint from NewsBred).

There is a reason for prime minister Narendra Modi to have an extra cup of tea which he loves so much in the morning. There are breakthroughs in Telangana and Manipur; a reaffirmation in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh; and Madhya Pradesh sealed for years to come. And then there is Bihar.

And he could afford to smell roses too in his garden now that the foul air of Covid-19, migrants trek, China-at-gate, economic tsunami, engineered anti-CAA etc harnessed by the devil siblings of Opposition and prepaid media has blown back on their faces. Even Hathras didn’t work.

This morning though the tea won’t be the same for regional satraps of Bengal, Kerala, Assam and Tamil Nadu who have an assembly election to defend in next few months. A couple of them are allies who suspect they would be soon out of breath in keeping pace with such a driven partner. They don’t have to speak to Uddhav Thackeray or Nitish Kumar. They know it in heart.

It brings us to two existential questions in India’s political landscape: Are BJP and allies actually enemies sleeping in the same bed?

The basic premise of this puzzle of course is whether the two need each other. BJP didn’t concede to Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and I am sure there must be second thoughts within if it was judicious. Hindu vote is divided in any case, if not stupid. Why fragment it further? It has allowed the Pawars and Gandhis a stroll in the power corridors. Shiromani Akal Dal (SAD) was better to be without since it was cohabiting with farmer mafia while BJP is committed to rid India of weeds on the ground.

Politics is vision. But it’s also about staying in the present. BJP need to be both pragmatic and principled with allies. Only a fool can’t see that the Rest are coming together en masse: It doesn’t matter if they were enemies (BSP-SP; NCP-Congress, JD (S)-Congress, PDP-NC) only till recently. They are sinking and would hold on to any straw. They would get wiser—if not by 2017 UP then surely by 2020 Bihar–that caste piper isn’t quite belting out the chartbusters. They would band aid the pockmarks of corruption. They would woo the masses which so far were not even worthy of their contempt. They would rely less on media and friends-in-courtrooms now that it no longer is cutting the ice.

They of course are on the pitch of anarchy for some time. To their minds, they have already dispensed with umpires, third umpires and DRS etc. It has helped them in paralyzing the Centre, bound as it is by its Constitutional vows. What voters can’t deliver, villains might.

All those who stand with you, matter

It ought to be BJP’s goal to be in power, state after state. It can’t do without allies. It would have to allay their reasonable fears. Like it can’t afford to let go both Chirag Paswan and Nitish Kumar in Bihar. BJP might have a vision for India and its friends might suffer from cataract but then who said it’s an ideal world. You need every that voice, every that whiff, every that ray which could brighten your cause. Most have baser instincts, shallow interests, malleable emotions. But even those who just stand with you, matter.

So instead of a mere blinkered vision, BJP needs to look around and greet those who could say hello in return. It must account for inadequacies of others. It’s too straight-jacket and regimented with its friends. It can’t be that BJP is afraid of criticisms. If it was so, Yogi Adityanath wouldn’t have become CM of Uttar Pradesh; Article 370 would still have been a thorn, CAA-NRC would have gone into files by now. But BJP only harps on development. It doesn’t on discourse. They need to cultivate allies; they need to empower voices rooting for them to do good to Mother India.

It’s a seminal moment in India’s history. In millenniums. BJP can’t let it go only because its rulebook is cast in stone. It has to take every single voice along. And it has to stamp the hood of serpent into ground. It would be a Prithviraj Chauhan if it lets go the moment against Muhammad Ghori.  It would be a mistake to think that chorus is not contributing to the melody. Keep them in the background but keep them on the dais. Rise to their defence even if it’s unsavoury to your style. Men like Arnab Goswami, for instance, need you now. Niceties could wait.

So take your time as you finish your tea, Mr Modi. But open your gates a little wider, your drawing room a little more spacious, and summon extra chairs in the garden. There are more hues in the painting than just winning elections on the plank of bettering masses. There are independent voices, perhaps too stray and too disparate to matter to you or BJP. But they are helping the wider discourse. It would matter to you and India in longer run. Embrace them as you go forward.

 

 

 

I await Pompeo not just for India but for what the two have to say on Taiwan

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

It would be erroneous on the part of United States and India to show intent by way of meeting between their foreign and defence ministers—due in New Delhi on Tuesday—and lack purpose in ignoring the Sarajevo moment in the room.

In 1914, the first World War broke out after an Austrian prince and his wife were assassinated by a local Bosnian group in Sarajevo and it was the beginning of the new World Order. Another such moment awaits us if China, wholly unpredictable and raging mad, were to invade Taiwan.

Taiwan is small, an island, within the breath of Beijing, blocked and bullied all these years by the Mainland. It has stood alone in Covid-19 pandemic and if you thought it was the world which has made her recover, it’s the other way around. Taiwan donated 5.6 million masks to Europe which earned it the gratitude of Brussels. Yet the niceties are not enough. There has to be a resolve and an open one on the part of the World to let Taipei know: We Care.

So it’s all very well for the arriving US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to talk of “regional security in Indo-Pacific” but he needs to shout Taiwan within the earshot of China. And so does India. Taiwan is everybody’s business. For their own good if Taiwan’s democracy, technology, a thriving economy and a role-model-to-follow-on-healthcare is not enough. For all we know, Taiwan could be the first stop of China to test the world’s resolve and we all can’t be talking in circles.

Our leaders need to highlight how military sorties of Beijing are at an unprecedented level in Taiwan Strait. It’s in the same South China Sea which falls in Indo-Pacific and which China wants to make all of its own—and which has drawn world’s biggest democracies together. In 2020, People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has made 49 military aircraft sorties violating the Taiwanese space. It’s the highest ever. It’s defence minister told parliament that the Chinese military “conducted 1,710 aircraft sorties and 1,029 military vessel sorties into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) this year.”

Truth to tell though, it’s India more than the United States which needs to brush up its Taiwan game. More than media or a zealous nationalist, it’s the Indian State which needs to come out in open as Beijing does for Jammu and Kashmir as a matter of daily drill. The United States indeed had caught our eye as their health secretary and under-secretary of state for economic growth have visited Taipei in recent months. It’s the first since they broke off diplomatic relations in 1979. It was a signature transitional moment in Taiwan’s brutalized history. It has been made sweeter now that the United States has committed an arms package of almost $2 billion to Taiwan, with a promise to up it to $5 billion in coming days. The military package includes missiles, sensors and artillery.

The Modi government shouldn’t worry of the consequences of coming out in open for Taiwan. It could conduct a popular poll if that is the fire which would propel our rocket of commitment. The United States, for example, has just done that. The US Congress always was in support of Taiwan. But now the US citizens are showing a remarkable preference to come to Taiwan’s aid if Beijing was to invade it.

Two studies have caught my attention. One was by Chicago Council on Global Affairs (CCGA) which has shown 41 percent o Americans backing US intervention on behalf of Taiwan. It might not sound much but given the tepid response of US citizens since the study began conducting its poll in 1992, it’s remarkable. The other one by Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) is even more remarkable: It shows up a support of 6.69 out of 10 for Taiwan which is more than even what Australia (6.38) could muster. Japan (6.88) and South Korea (6.92) were favoured ahead of Taiwan only in decimals.

People clearing their throats for Taiwan was one thing. The other influential nodes made no less buzz. The Thought-Leaders supported Taiwan’s military cause by a whopping 7.93 out of 10. Human Rights Experts too gave an overwhelming (57%) response in Taiwan’s favour.

So buoyed as we are at the possibility of inking the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) with the US and S. Jaishankar and Rajnath Singh beaming for the Indian audience, this is as good a moment as any to pop out Taiwan in public domain. It would be a pity of China was to test us out on Taiwan and we would show our preoccupation in Ladakh to excuse ourselves from the entanglement.

The world has enough blood on its hand in pampering the wolf and ignoring the lamb. Taiwan must be returned to the global fold with forgiveness on lips.

 

Is Covid-19 letting up out of deference to our Festivals? Or the worst is over?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

I sought out Deepak last morning. I hadn’t met him for long, at least since my daughters still used to hold my hand and walk into his teaching institute nearby. Always above the board, energetic enough to be suitable for a protein ad, and good enough in maths for Rahul Gandhi to figure out how he messes up his numbers on public platforms.

Let’s leave aside why we met. Important for you folks is his Covid-19 experience which he contracted almost to the day when we responded to Modiji’s call to sound pots and ring bells. Every inch of his bones creaked, fever raged like a tropical storm and he thinks it was pandemic. “I didn’t know where to go, the tale of expenses was scary and here I was, in my one-BHK flat, with my wife, kids and old parents. I couldn’t separate myself from them, couldn’t afford treatment and left myself—and my family–in the hands of Gods.”

Well the Gods looked after him and his family. He is fine now but still complains of nagging pain in his ankles. He feels he avoided death not because he submitted himself to good hands but only because some die and some don’t to this scourge of our times.

Now we hear that Covid-19 is in retreat in India. But it is resurging in US and Europe. Ireland has reimposed a complete lockdown; Czech Republic, Spain and France have opted for similar measures; Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland are some of the worst hit. The United States is beginning to hit a lakh each and so it is with France. But India smiled on Tuesday with only 36,601 cases recorded the previous day. We might still touch 10 million by December but recovery rate is above 90%.

It’s the lowest in last 101 days, since July 17 that is. In September, we too were touching a lakh positive each. Now even Maharashtra is reporting its lowest in last five months. Asia’s biggest slums in its belly are beginning to chirp. Its another matter that Thackerays have now moved from one villain to Arnab Goswami and Kangana Ranaut but we would glean on it some other day.

Why Covid-19 is dipping in India? Before you scoff at India’s testing numbers, let me tell you its one million Tests a day done across India on an average for the last few weeks. Yet numbers are dipping. Hospitals which were overflowing with Covid-19 patients are beginning to have freer beds, oxygen cylinders and ventilators. The laudable healthcare workers are even shooting videos of their dancing footwork and have one Hrithik Roshan swooning. Nurses are without PPT cover and gossiping. Intern doctors are again longing for those night shifts when the male-female ratio in whites is abnormally skewed.

Would it last? Our prime minister won’t like us to entertain such a devilish thought. He knows he hasn’t allowed Covid-19 to get out of hand—the proof is that even Rahul Gandhi has let go an issue which he could’ve harped upon for nine months. But Modiji is worried for festivals are upon us, congregations would happen on a Tablighi Jamaat scale (well almost), fairs would abound and shops would overflow. None of them could be restrained, for it’s a moment of cheer and some well-needed finances would come the way of shopkeepers and businessmen. But festivals would also onset winter, which is playtime for viruses in colder weather. Modiji has even got an official body to warn Indians that 50 per cent of them could be infected by February 2021.

I suspect there won’t be an upsurge. For the “herd syndrome” has already taken over us. There are 10s of millions of Deepaks in this country who haven’t reported the Virus to public. They have either survived—like Deepak—or died. None have come in the official count. If around a crore are to be infected soon, there are at least 20-30 crores Positive who haven’t submitted themselves to scrutiny.

It’s just not my suspicion. You might have ignored the news of a few weeks ago that one-third of Delhi already has antigen bodies. Half of Mumbai’s worst slums were declared to have been in grips of Covid-19. Away from news, this is the truth of Covid-19 in India. That the pandemic probably has run its course.

India’s numbers are not dropping because they have hit upon a wonder drug, or because our admirable healthcare staff have acquired a midas touch (well, from inside PPT that is), or Modiji has done any surgical strike on the Virus. It’s only because you and me, or most of us, have already had our brush with the pandemic.  And that this is a perfect moment when you could say: Ignorance is Bliss.

 

 

I mean what’s your problem with “free” vaccine? Taking apart the charges, one by one

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

All hell has broken loose. For the BJP is promising free vaccination to Biharis ahead of the assembly elections. All muck-rakers usually in such situations are found in Indian Express. The order is set too: Randeep Surjewala. Rahul Gandhi, Sitaram Yechury, D Raja, Farooq Abdullah, AAP come in that order. Mamata and Owaisi are catered day next just to keep the heat going. And yes, there is an editorial too. It’s a set matrix, a procedural norm, a codebook as it were. All comrades, be in red or covered in garb of Liberals, know the drill.

Man, when would I be serious.  It’s such a grave matter for people of India are being discriminated against. Didn’t the BJP say that it would cater to health-workers, co-morbid patients first? Who would fault a Mamata, Thackeray or Gehlot if they were to tell their people that you are paying the price of living in a non-BJP State? Where is equality and transparency in vaccine distribution? All this just for an election?

Let’s take the issue of “free” first. The process would be that Centre would buy the vaccine from the manufacturers and pass it on to the States on a subsidized rate. It’s for the States to offer “free” or “charge” its citizens. After all Health is a state subject. They could opt-in free-polio; they could stop Ayushman Bharat, as did Mamata’s Bengal. Bihar would give vaccine free. So would Tamil Nadu. And no other State would dare do otherwise. Who gains in these freebies? People of India.

And Bihar, by your own logic, should be the “first among equals”. I mean you shed bucketful of tears on the plight of migrants heading for Madhubani, Supauli etc .  You moved heavens if they bought train tickets for home. Your reporters and cameraman were virtually on India’s streets. Now the poor would get vaccine “free” and you have a problem. You call Bihar the poorest state in India; acknowledge that poor are the first to be guarded against the pandemic menace for they would lead to community spread. Yet you have a problem when something “free” is slipped inside their shacks.

Now what happens to health-workers and co-morbid patients? Those in the eye of Covid-19 menace? They would still be priority. Where has the manifesto said that Biharis would be given the priority. It would only be free. Not first. Why are you throwing wool over my eyes?

Now let’s look at the logistics and “science” part of it about which Express has given us a lecture in its editorial. The newspaper is pompous which it usually is in such moments. It finds BJP desperate and cavalier to science; not compassionate enough. I could imagine the editor in his glass chamber, hammering his keyboard, sipping a coffee or puffing out his cigar, and wondering when would India have a Pulitzer Prize of its own. I mean how long could one swoon over Ramnath Goenka awards, home awards as it were.

Man, once again I am off to cheap thrills—on a matter as serious as Covid-19 vaccine is and the BJP which is a power monster. I mean don’t BJP know like the Express does that Covid-19 vaccines would need to be stored at temperatures lower than those of MMR and other traditional vaccines such as BCG?

(You won’t know MMR and BCG. I didn’t too. Till Google informed me that MMR is “measles, mumps and rubella” vaccine and BCG is “Bacille Calmette-Guerin” vaccine for tuberculosis.)

Further, Express scares me that resources would need to be mobilized. That one is not sure if it would involve private sector and in what capacity. And that these issues are inextricable from those of equity and transparency (big words). It closes out with an appeal for required “discussion”–and a judgment passed that BJP’s move is “bad science, bad politics—and plain wrong.”

I don’t know how offering vaccine “free” to Biharis is “bad science.” It certainly is not “bad politics” for it would matter to poor.

And now that you find it “wrong”, I presume you mean BJP is bending rules to prevail in assembly elections, never mind the Election Commission finds it perfectly legitimate as it is a “policy” announcement. By “wrong” I guess you mean “ethical deviation” just for “power”—a charge which finds echo with the Opposition.

So, don’t you remember that free vaccination, free diagnostics and free medicines were promised by the Congress in 2019 elections? Why, they did the same in 2014 too  (That’s Anand Ranganathan informing us last night). You wouldn’t have questioned Congress then, nor did our Abdullahs and Yechurys and Rajas. But then selective memory is a wonderful quality: You could avoid questioning Congress on its duplicity.

Make up your mind on India’s poor, folks. I know migrants on foot trouble you, Hathras has you outraged. But don’t grudge them when a manifesto could save them from death. When it’s all-inclusive in Bihar: Everyone gets it; Hindus, Muslims, Dalits, SCs, STs, OBCs—everyone. Or say that you don’t like the idea of India aspiring to be a Welfare State.

 

If India Burns (Part II): No longer a question now that Nadda has thrown down the gauntlet

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

(This is the second part of “If India Burns”, a grim picture of coming days, a forewarning for all of our stakeholders: Majority, minority, government, judiciary etc. No less us, the ordinary citizens. I am excluding media for apparently it couldn’t care less. The first part could be read here).

This glimmer of hope which I mentioned in the first piece has been offered by JP Nadda, Bharatiya Janata Party president, who has announced in Bengal that Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) has only been given a pause due to Covid-19 and that it would be implemented once it’s over.

Let’s admit, for or against, we all were traumatized for months by anti-CAA protests. I doubt if any one of us, in any part of the country, wasn’t held up by protestors on streets at least once. Even Supreme Court came down to public relations. No solution seemed feasible. Until Coronavirus intervened.

Now Nadda has thrown a challenge: Government isn’t backing down. Maybe, the Centre feels it won’t be taken by surprise. Maybe it feels it now knows how to deal with trouble-makers. Or with their chorus party of European Union, US Congress and the UN. “Urban Naxals” are facing the heat in our Courts; Khalids and Zargars face years in jail; Yogi Adityanath has worked out how to name and shame etc, etc.

But does the Centre know enough of how the “trouble” would respond? Have they got, as they say in cricket or in war, all their bases covered? Have they kept a watch on how protests have shaped in Hong Kong and Bangkok, not to say in the United States during BlackLivesMatter anarchy?

In Hong Kong and Bangkok, these are leaderless protests. No forewarning like you got in JNU, Jamia or Shaheen Bagh. A flashmob gathers and before the anti-riot police could bring in their water cannons, they are holding fort somewhere else, a fluid crowd as it were. “Be Water-like” is the guiding principle. Authorities could never be on top of their game.

So these days, they communicate in close offline chat. If it’s WhatsApp in India, it’s Telegram in our South Asian neighbourhood. You get detailed messages on how to pack and where to assemble. There is now goggles, umbrella, masks, sun-creams, water bottles and of course helmet in your backpack. Youngsters in their “rebel” age are enthused to be part of a converging, swarming mob of youth. They get overcome with emotions. To hell with the cause. The hide-and-seek with the police has its own thrills and a sense of accomplishment. Your friends are going, what are you waiting for?

Leaderless yes but it’s not to say that this ProtestNext generation is devoid of symbols. A “Milk Tea Alliance” has sprung up in our neighbourhood of Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Its aim is to spark protest across Asia: Like they did with “Arab Springs” in MENA (Middle East North Africa). Topple governments, cause anarchy and bring the region to its knees as Middle East presently is.

Milk Tea Alliance is around Thailand’s orange-hued tea; the less sugary Hong Kong version of the drink and Taiwan’s boba tea. The plan is to garner youth, swamp societies, create mayhem.

They have created their own characters too: animated ones like Milk Tea Girls which are emblazoned on T-Shirts of various colours and sizes. Youths who are not part of this fluid mob nevertheless wear it to show solidarity. Suddenly 100s becomes 1000s and that into tens of thousands. It’s on top of everyone’s head.

Then there is this three-finger salute (see image above). This has been co-opted from Thailand’s Hunger Game movie series. This gesture is for people, by people, from people who are facing injustice that the “protestors are in sync” with them. That they are all speaking for each other.

The drawn face-off first time in India would be different this time. The showdown is inevitable, more so since Modi government wouldn’t backdown what the Parliament has authorized and the Constitution demands. India’s protestors, while they vouch for democracy, sanctity of Constitution and supremacy of judiciary, would junk it in every action they do. So would our discredited politicians and prepaid media. It could be CAA one-day, farm bills next day and a Hathras next.

It would take some effort from the Modi government to be on top of its game: Nigh impossible in states like Bengal, Kerala, Rajasthan and Punjab where law and order is in the hands of Opposition: Much like in the United States where largest violence and loot during the BlackLivesMatter protests happened in states controlled by Democrats. BJP won’t junk CAA, an assertion of its raj-dharma, but it would need to think on its feet: Its police, cyber cell, intelligence and enforcement agencies need be bigger in numbers, resources and resolve. That alone would douse the fire if India Burns which seems inevitable.

 

Why China is fighting the world? What’s the method behind this madness?

(This is a reprint from the NewsBred).

Why is China so reckless, why it doesn’t mind that the world is beginning to array itself against Beijing politically, economically and militarily?

It has pushed India to a point where India is doing navy drills with the United States in Andaman and Nicobar, right at the mouth of Malacca Strait which, if it was to be blocked, would finish China. Eighty-percent of China’s energy and trade is conducted through these waters. This is the strait which joins Indian Ocean with Pacific Ocean.

China has torched the informal summits between its leader Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi, all those moments at swing in Ahmedabad, those hugs at BRICS and SCOs, after it killed 20 Indian soldiers and buried billions of Chinese investments now, and for decades, in India. It has created an enemy in India when an enduring friendship was in the front lawns.

It has angered the United States, The European Union and a host of other democratic nations with its revamped security laws on Hong Kong to the extent that Washington would offload its officials at airports; England is offering citizenship to Hong Kong residents, tearing the extradition treaty and EU is vowing to stand by the “citizens of Hong Kong.”

It has annoyed most of its neighbours in Indo-Pacific–Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Japan etc—with its aggressive claims on reefs and islands; patrolling and sinking their assets with impunity. Most of them it shares seats with in ASEAN and RCEP.  Besides, nations such as Vietnam, Japan and Indonesia—and many others—are de facto NATO bases which could cripple the supply lines of China.

It has spat on one of its largest partners, Australia, by raising a prohibitive 80% tariffs on exports by Canberra. All this for Australia voicing their concern on Hong Kong.

Leave aside Tibet or Taiwan, China is also making partners such as Kazakhstan fume with claims on its sovereignty. They recently had a report in its servile media where Kazakhstan was said to belong to China since ages and that Kazakhs would have no problem if they were to merge with China.

Isn’t China mindful that Hong Kong, as a global financial hub, is their interface with the capitalist world?

This is a country which has a debt that is 300 percent of its GDP. Its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is staring at a financial catastrophe in the Covid-19 world. It has lent $1.5 trillion to more than 150 countries. Several of these countries would soon be defaulting on loans.

Most of us know that China is world’s largest exporter. Very few realize that it’s also world’s second largest importer. It imports minerals and oil to run its industries which feed its exports. Why is it endangering these imports?

It’s telecom giant Huawei, with over $100 billion of revenue every year, has gone on a “survival mode” as said by its own president, Guo Ping since US has shut its door. So would do India, England and the Western world.

Isn’t China mindful that the world is seething in anger against them? That actions against Beijing are already shifting gears? Why is it shooting itself in the foot? Why is it willing to lose in seconds all that it had gained in decades?

An incident during the lockdown perhaps holds an answer to China’s present recklessness. People of Hubei and Ziangxi clashed with the police as they were refrained from crossing the bridge over the Yangtze River. All they wanted was to get back to work. China’s big firms, which engage 30 crore migrants, were opening up. Millions today need work to survive.

It’s all about population

China has always worried about its population. Even way back in 1820, every third person in the world was Chinese. It could feed its people due to its fertile floodlands around two major rivers: the Yellow river and Yangtze River. That of course was the agricultural era. But food is food in any era. That was the reason it annexed Tibet since both these rivers originated there. What if India, a neighbour, poisons those rivers? What if a puny like Tibet, without any army, could choke it to its death? China thus staked its claim on Tibet and cooked up historical evidence when Tibetans are no Han Chinese.

It’s thus inevitable that people’s anger would burst forth if world begins to pull out its manufacturing units out of mainland.  The population is already ageing, Covid-19 hasn’t been a help in an already falling birth rate. What happens if “Tiananmen Square” erupts in every province?

This is the reason why China is taking on the world. It wants to stoke the feeling of nationalism in its 1.40 billion population. It has insurmountable problems since the world is hostile and views them as villain of this Coronavirus catastrophe. Their best bet is to tell its people that they need to get behind since Capitalist forces of the world want to break them up like they did during the Opium Wars of the 19th century.

It would give Communist Party of China (CCP) the handle to retain its control over the people and even over its own comrades. It could further tighten its surveillance over its own citizens in the name of national security. In China, a mobile SIM subscription links a person to his health, finances and recognition details. In the name of controlling health, Beijing is making it mandatory for all its citizens to register to its Apps now.

There is no getting away that more its “sheep”—a term for its citizens—try to breakaway from the fold, more are the chances that China would indulge in some reckless political or military gamble. It explains why the Dragon is more like a mad elephant gone berserk these days.

 

 

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.

 

 

Mr Kejriwal, we needs your hands on the burning deck; not FIRs against our saviours

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

In filing a FIR against Ganga Ram Hospital in the Capital, and accusing them of “black-marketing” Arvind Kejriwal could’ve appeared a concerned chief minister of Delhi but for a condemnable transgression—he saw a few “political” contacts behind it.

Taken to a logical conclusion, Kejriwal seems to be implying that Corona patients are not given due care and are being turned away as the hospital is secure in its political contacts. That is, if Delhi buckles under Corona’s weight, it would help a few of his political opponents.

If it wasn’t so, Kejriwal could have just limited his diatribe to the conduct of the hospital which doesn’t pass his muster. A FIR and accusation of “blackmail” is bad enough. The accusation that the hospital is not following the due norms is contestable. But to give it a political colour is wildly unnecessary.

One, it’s suspicious for in the past Kejriwal had made many wild accusations against other political heavyweights and then, with his tail between his legs, offered unconditional apology. In effect, he is loose-tongued and makes accusations when it politically suits him – only to flush it down the drain after it has served its purpose. Two, it raises the spectre of fear that Delhi is sinking and pretexts are being manufactured. Both are not good.

The Delhi Medical Association (DMA) duly has sent a stinging reply to Delhi’s chief minister. They feel it’s an “insult” to paramedical staff who are “risking their lives;” and are being “penalized” for their tireless work of the last few months. They feel an “overstressed” medical staff is being “threatened” and “intimidated.”  For good measure, DMA has mentioned its 15,000 members as being the ones who are being put “under pressure” by the “diktats (farmaans)” of the Delhi government.

The DMA, for good measure, has made a few demands which, if true, reveal the immense pressure under which medics are performing their duty. For one, they are explicit that testing facilities are inadequate. There are not adequate labs.  The DMA has made two other relevant points which deserve close attention of readers.

One is that there is need for timely transfer of grave patients to higher care centres. Two, in case of Covid-19 deaths, a prompt and efficient system to transport and cremate the body as per guidelines is urgently needed. It points to an overwhelmed medical system in the Capital. There are multiple issues with Corona pandemic where hospitals are being subjected to sorting their patients; bring additional requirements for those “quarantined” including supervision and in case of worsening patients virtually dictated to keep them within confines instead of shifting them to better care Centres.

Further, a peeved Kejriwal has banned the test on suspected Corona patients by the hospital since June 3.  Implying that they be admitted without ascertaining if they are Covid patients or not. It’s leading to the situation of over-congestion and chaos which the DMA has outlined in its letter. It would overwhelm the system and not help anyone—neither the hospitals nor the unsegregated patients nor Delhi for that matter.

Delhi needs a chief minister with hands on burning deck—not one who is blaming everyone but himself for at least one of his oversight: Remember Tablighi Jamaat? The last thing we need is to put the ones on the dock who are India’s real saviours. If they go, so would Delhi.

US riots: Modi should watch out for a repeat post Covid-19

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

The riots in United States have spread across the nation. From Minneapolis to Dallas, Los Angeles to Atlanta, New York to Portland, 40 cities are under curfew. National Guard have been called out in Washington DC and 15 other states. Today is just one week since Floyd George was murdered.

Innocents are confused at the clockwork precision of multiple riots. All four concerned police officers were fired the next day. The offending police officer with his knee on George’s throat has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is holding its own investigations. Yet the violence has bubbled over.

The United States suffers from racial discrimination. That’s a truth. Blacks might be up to 40% of the entire population but they carry little weight. That’s a truth. Most jailed in the US prisons are blacks. That’s a truth. But could we call it spontaneous riots when pallets of bricks, of same size and standard, shape and colour, are spotted across the rioting cities?

Donald Trump’s government has gone public in naming the alleged conspirator. Trump has blamed the riots on “Antifa and the Radical Left”. Attorney General William Barr, in a statement, has claimed that the “violence (is) instigated and carried out by Antifa and other similar groups.” National Security Adviser Robert O’ Brien has told CNN that the violence “is being driven by Antifa.” Anti-Fascists in short is Antifa.

The principal funding of Antifa, and Black Lives Matter groups, is by George Soros and his Open Society Foundations in which he has stuffed $38 billion for operations in 120 countries. He has been funding terror activities and disruption of government around the world for decades. He pledged one billion dollars last year against “resurgent nationalism” and openly named India’s Narendra Modi as the man on his radar. This was in the wake of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

Everything you want to know about George Soros you could find in this article of mine I penned early this year. His alleged role in overthrowing elected governments; the prime ministers and presidents who have openly accused him of coup d’etats; and his control on media as revealed in Wikileaks, among others. This man, in essence, is part of global cabal which through bankers control the world governments and sees existential threat in “nationalism” which runs counter to their “profits and profits only” agenda of free trade. They fear the likes of Modi and Trump, like darkness would to light.

Invariably they succeed. They succeeded in Libya and Iraq; Ukraine and Egypt; those Arab Spring revolutions; countless Latin American and African countries; and nearly succeeded in Syria. The “pro-democracy” movement in Hong Kong is one such manifestation. The “anti-CAA protests” in India, before it was halted by Covid-19, is another.

The standard method is to bring people on streets, make police duck, splash it in media they control and bring the elected government on its knees. This is what’s being attempted against Trump now. This is what surely would be resumed on Modi after Covid-19. They work on a country’s faultlines  which exist in every country of this world. In US, its’ Whites vs Blacks. In India, it’s Hindus vs Muslims. Before long the country is torn asunder.

Trump has moved swiftly. He has announced his intention to declare Antifa as a domestic terrorist organization. Barr has announced a similar resolve. Once done, Antifa and Open Society Foundations would be prosecuted and the assets of their backers seized. The international banking system could be cut off to Soros and his octopus of affiliated groups.

More importantly, the alleged tie-ups between Antifa and the Democrat party could be laid bare in public. It’s apt to remember that Minneapolis is run by the Democrats. And that Democrat-candidate Joe Biden and his campaign staff have made donations to the Minnesota Freedom Fund. The group donates to pay bail fees for those who are arrested in Minneapolis, a city of Minnesota. President Trump’s campaign finds it “disturbing” that Biden’s team “would financially support the mayhem.” He has called upon Biden to condemn the riots. Biden incidentally is for free-trade or is pro-China compared to hawkish Trump who openly berates the Middle Kingdom

The US presidential elections are slated for November 3. Minnesota is critical. In the 2016 elections, Hillary Clinton had won narrowly by a 1.5 per cent margin. Trump had struggled to attract African-American voters. Only 8% of this group had voted for him in 2016.

Knowing how Trump is raising trade barriers against China; and how it could win him another presidential term this year; and how Modi could follow his best friend in raising the stakes against China; which is important for these pirates of “open trade” there is little wonder that US cities are burning.

Or that similar would be the fate in India after Corona Virus.

Covid-19: Why China can’t shut down its “wet markets” despite outcry

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

There is a chorus around the world that it’s “wet markets” of China which has sunk the world through Covid-19 pandemic but closing them is easier said than done.

Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, blames “wet markets” where pathogens jump from animals to humans while the Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has asked them to be closed where live animals are slaughtered on the spot for consumption. The origin of Covid-19 were laid to rest in January itself when the head of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, said: “The origin of the new Corona Virus is the wildlife sold illegally in a Wuhan seafood market.”

“Given the strong link between illegal wildlife sold in wet markets and zoonotic diseases, the United States has called on the People’s Republic of China to permanently close its wildlife wet markets and all markets that sell illegal wildlife. I call on all ASEAN governments to do the same,” Pompeo said in a statement.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key figure on the White House coronavirus task force, said of China’s wet markets: “It boggles my mind how, when we have so many diseases that emanate out of that unusual human-animal interface, that we just don’t shut it down.” Some 70 House and Senate lawmakers have sent a letter to the World Health Organization (WHO) urging it to support the closure of the markets.

If this causes an outrage worldwide, the statement from World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, accused of favouring China, has only added fuel to the fire. The WHO chief supports the reopening of wet markets. An exasperated Morrison has said,: “I’m totally puzzled by this decision (of WHO).”

Covid-19 is only the latest in the long list of troubles which originate from so-called “wet markets”: AIDS, SARS, MERS, Ebola and the swine flu have happened in too rapid succession for us to ignore the lessons. SARS, the closest relative to the present pandemic, is suspected to have originated from civets sold in wet markets of China. MERS came from camels.

Such appeals from the world nudge China into a coercive action but before long “wet markets” spring back to life as if nothing had happened. In the wake of SARS outbreak, China had briefly banned the sale of wild animals in 2003. Now again, it has outlawed the sale of wild animals—no one knows for how long.

Damningly, the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan (see image), the alleged ground-zero of Covid-19, was reopened this month having been first closed in January. It’s a widely-held theory that Covid-19 came off bats, before spreading to pangolins and making the jump to humans inside the Huanan wet market–said to have stocked 120 wild animals across 75 species, including bats, dogs, pangolins, turtles and snakes.

Why China is reluctant to shut the damn “wet markets”?

The problem I guess is in the terminology of “wet markets.” Wet markets are different from wildlife markets. The majority of wet markets don’t sell wild animals. They largely sell perishable food: vegetables, fruits, fish, fresh meat etc. Not just China, but “wet markets” are common in most of Southeast Asia. Indeed, it’s been a way of life through millenniums. You stumble upon them not just in China or Southeast Asia but in most of Europe, such as Italy, and even in American cities with large immigrant populations. It’s not wildlife markets. By design or by ignorance, today wet markets are being equated with wildlife markets.

It’s the market for wildlife animals which is the source of humanity’s troubles. It’s a live animal market where vendors slaughter animals upon customer’s demands. At a customer’s behest, the stall-owner would pull out, say a snake, from a cage by the back of its head, skin and gut it and drain it off fluids, both blood and one of spine, and draw It into a cut where mixed with some tonic it’s gulped down by the customer.

In Chinese culture it’s a belief that the body fluids of animals hold key to several human’s health problems. Thus the testicles of a Siberian tiger or powdered Rhino horn all carry, in their belief, some cure for some ailment. There are said to be curative powers in Lizard’s oil. China runs commercial tiger farms for traditional medicine and bear’s bile extraction is almost an industry, not just in China but also in Southeast Asia. It’s called Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in normal parlance.

Chinese have been practicing such medicines for close to 2,000 years. It’s a cultural belief that ingesting plans and animal parts keep people safe from illness and restore their inner energy balance. On an average, the TCM uses about 1,000 plants and various organs and fluids of 36 animal species.

Thus there are tiger bones to treat arthritis and other join ailments, bear bile for liver ailments and headaches, seahorse for getting rid of impotence. Tragically, many of these animals are on endangered species list. Yet a demand persists for their magical healing power. It’s belief, and not scientific evidence, which sustains wildlife markets in China.

It’s not helped when WHO has endorsed TCM now. Chinese are apt to treat this validation as a proof of their long-held beliefs and practices. It grows a demand for new TCM markets for the revival of great Chinese nation. Why, even in the midst of Corona Virus, China has been heavily promoting TCM, claiming that it has cured Wuhan virus patients without putting forth any clinical trial proof.

In such an endorsement, poor sanitary conditions are ignored. It becomes a ripe ground for close contact between humans and life and dead animals. It thus turns into a breeding ground for infectious diseases. Belief in TCMs and consumption of wild animals without evidence is surely a problem.

It’s said that bats would now face a backlash from humanity. It would be a mistake. The better option is to let them be where they are in their natural habitat. Bats have unique immune system and carry a lot of viruses around them which could hurt others but not them. They are believed to have played a role in the transmission of at least 12 viruses, counting Covid-19. Scientists believe bats carry a reservoir for a lot of viruses that are hugely dangerous to humans. Yet, the also hold answer to curing various health conditions, such as cancer or diabetes. Wet markets, on the other hand, are integral to Chinese culture and way of life.

Its’ unlikely advocacy groups, politicians and health experts could demand and China would shut down its wet markets. A typical day for a Chinese housewife begins with a visit to wet market. It’s been a practice since the days when there were no supermarkets or fridge to keep food consumable. It’s just a part of life. Not just cultural it has psychological reasons as well. You get to chat with friends and neighbours or develop new acquaintances. Asking price, checking the freshness of items, bargaining with the vendors is a daily experience in such wet markets. Both customers and vendors enjoy such exchanges.

A typical wet market in China doesn’t sell exotic animals. These are expensive stuff which is normally beyond the reach of a common buyer in wet markets. There is no way China could shut down the typical traditional wet markets.

Yet a way has to be found and lessons from Corona Virus must not be lost. Globally, there is a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) which has more than 180 countries as members. It must come down heavily on dubious wildlife markets and animal farms. The illegal international trade in such wildlife exports must be closed. There ought to be a penalty stiff enough to deter exploitation of protected wildlife species. Inspections must get more intense.

Or else world would say that Chinese have food habits which kill millions of people.