Narendra Modi

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.

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

Trump censors Twitter; Should Modi’s India do likewise?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

It’s happening in the United States but it concerns all of us. President Donald Trump has passed an executive order to “censor” Social Media. If it passes the legal test, the current immunity enjoyed by Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp etc would be stripped bare. If they lose freedom, what chances you and I have on our “freedom of expression?”

A background is in order. Trump showed his contempt for mail-in ballots in case the due November 3 Presidential election keeps the voters indoors due to Corona Virus. He tweeted: “no way…mail-in ballots will be anything less than substantial fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be robbed, ballots will be forged and even illegally printed out and fraudulently signed…” He followed it up with another tweet, mentioning it would be “rigged elections.” Twitter censored it, stating “Trump makes unsubstantiated claim that mail-in ballots will lead to voter fraud.”

Trump was livid. He termed it selective censorship. Twitter, the president said, was making “editorial decisions.” In essence, it doesn’t make Social Media a neutral platform. They are publishers, like other media houses and must come under regulations.

“They’ve had unchecked power to censure, restrict, edit, shape, hide, alter virtually any form of communication between private citizens or large public audiences…We cannot allow that to happen…in these moments, Twitter ceases to be a neutral public platform – they become an editor with a viewpoint,” said Trump, adding his comments don’t exclude other media platforms such as Facebook, Google etc.

Is Trump wrong? Probably not. What Twitter censors by Trump would look extremely scandalous if Twitter was owned, say by a Chinese company. How can Social Media censor views on local election process, that too of the US president, when there are legitimate grounds for his comments? The New York Times in 2012 had reported “fraud” in postal ballots. Washington Post is on record for stating that “no one questions the mail-in ballots have much higher rates of not being counted.” Twitter’s action does curtail “freedom of expression”. Social Media today has the power to shape truth in the image they want. Democracy won’t have the diversity it preens upon.

Trump’s order aims to turn Social Media platforms as regular publishers. It means they could be bogged down by lawsuits. It could, and should, flag down racial and religious bigotry; terrorism and pornography etc. But Social Media giants ought to have no role in censoring people’s opinion. More so, political opinions.  Trump has accused twitter of “doing nothing about all of the lies and propaganda being put out by China or the Radical Left Democratic Party (i.e. his rival Joe Biden).”

It could well be that Trump’s executive order falls flat on legal count. But Social Media giants can’t have unbridled freedom. They are being hauled up, for instance, in Europe and Australia; the latter quite close to labelling Social Media platforms as media outlets. They derive commercial benefits on disseminating news content. Their usage of people’s data has long been in regulators’ crosshairs. There are wide-ranging antitrust probes against them. They are no innocent bystanders.

Twitter presently is asserting its power to “curate” the content So, tomorrow, if the Indian prime minister Narendra Modi was to say that Congress can’t hold a candle to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS); or that Mamata Banerjee is supporting Jihadi elements in Bengal; or that he is worried about attacks on Sadhus; or that he is surprised to learn that below Babri Masjid remains of a temple has been found, could Twitter “fact-checks” and blocks those tweets? Is Twitter now the new “arbiters” of truth? And if they think they are, shouldn’t they be deemed as media houses and suitably brought under legal purview? Who is to say they are being neutral and not biased?

In the Indian context, just imagine the size we’re talking about. Between Facebook and WhatsApp, there are 700 million users. YouTube has 265 million users: twitter 14 million. It’s an enormous power to wield if the Social Media giants choose to be the arbiters of truth as they see it. If tomorrow, the Indian government follows Trump’s example, how would we react? In the name of “freedom of internet” would we be helping or breaking the India we know?

 

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.

Indians can’t desert Modi and leave him at the mercy of sharks

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

All of us would agree that public transport should’ve been allowed to let migrants reach home. Done and dusted in the first week of Lockdown 1.0 itself.  Free food and community centres are not homes.

Then came mischief. One fine day, we had thousands of migrants at a bus station in Delhi. Somebody had promised them transport home. This whisper also worked in Mumbai. Thousands poured into Bandra station. Somebody was trying to get them on streets. An educated guess is it was politics. As we would presently see, any political upheavals can’t be caused without people-on- streets.

It’s now Priyanka Gandhi on the move. Her bleeding heart has arranged a thousand buses for migrants for Uttar Pradesh. She has chosen buses over trains.  Never mind UP is successfully requisitioning tens of trains by the hour. Half of all Shramik Trains, 301 out of 642, have headed to Yogi’s state. She won’t tell, and our media won’t ask, if she has allergy to Indian Railways. She is surely not living up to her surname who once discovered India on trains and ended up as Mahatma.

So let’s agree on the basics: One, State made a mistake in denying migrants a window to escape. Two, somebody wants human misery on streets. This agenda was bound to soar on the headwind of people’s trauma. This was one reality which was wired to favour fiction.

We got to know of fictions on a regular basis though our media don’t give enough credit to its readers for intelligence. This usually happens when you are unchecked. NDTV was caught arranging migrants through a staged performance. They were shamed enough to delete the video but its men were soon up to another mischief. So, a report has Priyanka’s buses lined up, only the image actually is of Yogi’s buses for Kumbh Mela last year. One recalls a fake report in The Hindu of migrants being extra charged. Indian Express isn’t leaving a single migrant on a single highway who could add to its’ misery editions. India Today group meanwhile is selling migrants photos for thousands of bucks.

These are the kind of times when Western media wakes up to India. Washington Post has run dozens of photographs on Indian migrants; New York Times likewise; The Guardian wasn’t quite British in overplaying it as India’s greatest exodus since the Partition. Quite interestingly, the newspaper in a matter of 24 hours, was praising the United States and Australia for enforcing a complete lockdown on its people; no escaping the measure. It had drooled on UK lockdown as a “necessary hardship.’

All this doesn’t blind us to migrants’ nightmare. People have lost lives on roads, trucks and railway lines. Centre hadn’t seen it coming. Nobody had, truth to tell. Smiling idiots who pass off as experts were moving between one media house to another, predicting catastrophe for at least 40 million Indians. The end was near.

This is the thing about images. Young kids are psychologically scarred by Corona Virus. Possibly in lakhs. But they don’t make up images. Indifferent couples, in 24×7 proximity, hate each other more than ever. We possibly have lakhs of divorces sowed. Again, there are no images. Young entrepreneurs are ruined. Again, no images. Corona has been a pandemic which in real gritty world, outside our Netflixes and home-bakeries, has been nothing short of death to millions. Again, no images.

The political beasts know this truth from ages. In modern world, it’s the most important tool of imperialism. These days they don’t send out armies, well not everywhere. They strangulate you by propaganda. A government, howsoever loved, is pulled down through steps in these orders: (a) Bring people on streets; (b) Show police as murderers; (c ) police freezes; becomes spectators; (d ) anarchy on streets morphs into violent mobs; (e ) Pressure groups—UN, EU, Media, Human Rights Groups, NGOs—pounce on its prey. Its’ “sleeping cells” they have fattened all these years in the home country—opposition and corrupt media—are the proverbial fifth column. Judiciary succumbs. Before long, the popular leader is pulled down. Those who know the truth of Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Iraq, Libya and “Arab Springs” –and a pro-democracy fake in Hong Kong—would agree.

Narendra Modi is in this unfortunate situation. He is popular and nationalist – two traits which financial sharks don’t allow to exist. It hurts free trade and their agenda of endless profits. They hold the presidents and the prime ministers of the world by their little finger. Men like Modi, or Putin, Xi or Kim, who put nation first, are caricatured and shown as savages unworthy to be in office. First the world opinion is won over by propaganda. It paves their road for intervention in the name of “democracy” and “human rights.” The suffering nation would face financial sanctions; or worse military action.

This is Modi’s fate for next four years. People-on-streets is an agenda which has been set in motion. Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was the first roll of the dice. Migrants is another. They would keep recurring, in the guise of one or other, to bring anarchy on streets. Every day, every month, every year. This much I know for sure. What’s Modi’s response we would know. India can’t desert its man in this hour.

 

 

India is now poking China openly; pay close attention to its message

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

India has been rather loose with its pronouncements on “fishing” in China’s troubled waters and gain by having world shift its manufacturing epicenter to our land.

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave a call to states to utilize the opportunity in post-Covid world, Ravi Shankar Prasad, the Electronics and IT minister, rather shockingly has asked the states to be “proactive” when the “anger against China” spills over.

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath has followed it up by laying the doors of his state open and held conference calls with Lockheed, Cisco, Adobe, FedEx and UPS (United Parcel Service) to showcase its potential. Among others are medical device makers and pharma multinationals.

The trouble is India is far from replacing China as world’s global manufacturing hub. Even if India wants to take a hearty slice out of the pie, it needs drastic action on accompanying factors which are easy to manage in a totalitarian system like China’s than in its own federal structure.

China accounted for 28 per cent of world’s global manufacturing output compared to India’s 3.0 in 2018. This has come about not because China offers just cheap labour. A lot of countries could do it. It’s because China hefts up its muscles by additional factors of (a) networked suppliers and distributors; (b) component manufacturers; (c) loose regulatory atmosphere; (d) artificially depressing its currency for its goods to become cheaper than compared to the world. And it has been doing so for 30 years.

India, in comparison, has a gap in its intent from reality. Would it be able to ignore health, safety, environment and employment regulations which China does without a care in the world? Could it deliberately undervalue its rupee by say, buying more dollars? Could it rebate and exempt its export and import taxes? Would India be able to deploy child labour, have long working hours and provide compensation insurance like China does? Does it have a similar integrated industrial system?

If India has in mind to be a hub for mobile phone giants like Apple, the chances are slim. Rare Earth elements are key in mobile-manufacturing and China controls 97% of it. From batteries to headphones, Rare Earth is lifeline to mobiles. Besides, Rare Earth is also needed for electric cars, wind turbines, solar cells etc. (Rare Earth, in layman’s terms, are a few elements which occur in the same ore deposits and exhibit similar chemical properties yet different electronic and magnetic elements).

There is no harm in India coveting world’s top manufacturing giants. But “assembling” isn’t the same thing as “manufacturing.” A separation between the two is possible, say, with delivery-giants like FedEx and UPS. But on matters of manufacturing products, just providing “assembling” is not good enough. India needs a giant churn in manufacturing in a limited time window. China would already be at work to woo the big money with more incentives.

The larger point is geopolitical realignment. For a while now, India had been sliding in the West’s camp, led by the United States. If there was a veil of diplomacy, it’s now gone to winds. India, Israel, US, West, Saudi Arabia, Japan etc now look firmly on one side. India is now open about its bad vibes against China. A large part of it is justified given how China rails against India in international forums, blocks its entry into Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), and sings Pakistan’s tune on Kashmir and terrorism. But the likes of BRICS, SCO etc gave it a semblance of balancing. Now that optics is gone. And what happens to our deep defence reliance on Russia which is firmly embedded into China’s camp? Does it mean we also have “lost” Iran for good?

First was India’s move to scrutinize FDIs (Foreign Direct Investment) which China is vehemently protesting against. Now is this “open” intent to woo world’s biggest manufacturers. There is nothing wrong in sensing an opportunity. But why say “at the expense of China”? Unless you want to signal the West and remove the ambiguity on your neutrality.

India has just done so. It comes with collateral damage though. China enjoys tens of billions of dollars trade advantage against India. They surely would now resort to arm-twisting India. It would be messy but one hopes India has taken into account the Dragon’s next moves. Events would now happen rapidly. Watch the space.

 

Migrants: Know the “dark” forces feeding on their misery

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

People-on-the-street is citizenry against the State. It affected the United States from continuing the Vietnam War. It brought down Charles de Gaulle in France in the 1960s as students came out in droves. Arab Spring had millions on the streets and toppled many governments in MENA (Middle East North Africa) region. “The Maidan” revolution in Ukraine bears a similar testimony. And Hong Kong hasn’t faded from memory in so-called “democracy” protests. India was in the grip of a similar meltdown on CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) before Corona Virus took the matter in its own hand.

Why people-on-the-street are a nightmare for the State is easy to understand. It could encompass a whole range of emotions: Anger, Violence, Hunger, Grief, Helplessness etc. It’s moving at a human level. Images connect the rest with the misery rolling on the roads. Slowly the whole citizenry gets on the back of the moving vulnerable.

It’s known States can’t do much if people rise against it. They either freeze themselves into inaction which only brings a domino effect on the “volume” of protests. Or if they resort to violent curbs, the matter goes out of hands and the world is up in arms. Stark images make headlines worldwide. United Nations, European Union parliament, rival nations, human rights groups pile on the pressure. Political rivals within the State smell blood in the pool. The State staggers. The nation stops.

It’s now well known that Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has made countless enemies on his nationalist agenda. Nationalism upsets powers of the world. These powers have swindled the world in the name of “globalization” and “free trade.” Their maxim is “World without borders”. In nationalism, they see a phenomenon where a State is putting Nation first. That’s why they hate Modi. That’s why they have an angst against Donald Trump. That’s how they see an existential threat in Putin. That’s why Xi is an elephant in the room to them.

Who are these powers? Well, elaborating on it would take my focus away from this piece. Nevertheless, a passing mention is in order. These powers are the ones who control money. If you control money, you control governments, control media and movies, which in turn allows you to control humanity. Money in our world is controlled by Federal Reserve and City of London and a clutch of international bankers. You don’t see much of them in our newspapers. But if you are aware of International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB), you get the picture. George Soros is the only name I could suggest for the uninitiated.

Such forces were in work to hurt India on the pretext of CAA. But then Corona Virus happened. It threw a spanner in their machinations. The issue of migrants then fell in their lap. Migrants on the road served the same purpose as the CAA protestors did. They couldn’t care less about the cause or misery. “People-on-the-street” was good enough.

We would never know how lakhs of migrants gathered at a bus station in the Capital even as the lockdown was in place. Or how a similar movement thronged railway stations in Mumbai. It’s these pictures which anti-National forces feed on; if they don’t create it in the first place.

Western media described it as the “biggest movement of people since the Partition.” Indian mainstream media led the frenzy. The incidence of Tablighi Jamaat didn’t hold them back for long. They are again back on “migrants” theme. Harsh Mander, Barkha Dutt and their likes are busy with their poisonous pens. Indian Express isn’t letting it go. Nobody has died but a Front Page story a day is their staple diet. To them, Migrants is bigger than deaths and infections caused by Tablighi markaz.

Make no mistake that migrants is a real issue. They want to go back home. Either to be with their family. Or attend to their farms. But it’s also a fact that Indian states have made resources to feed and house them. Migrants are closer to medical help under states than they would be in villages. Isn’t it practical? What if they carry infection to villages where medical help of the scale seen in districts would be impossible to replicate?  Everyone is going through hardships. Migrants are no exceptions. Nobody has died out of hunger. Or neglect. These are the days of lockdowns. For the larger good. Personal inconveniences are the least Indians could suffer for the nation.

As things stand, migrants would move towards homes from April 20 onwards. Such arrangements are being made. Still trust the Lutyens Media not to let it go in a hurry. Already some are evoking the image of “detention centres” with the venues where migrants are being put up. Images would still do the rounds. You see, “People-on-the-road” is their design in Modi’s second tenure. They would persist with it in rest of Modi’s tenure.

Dear Folks, you have been warned.

 

A letter to Prime Minister Modi: 21-day lockdown is not enough

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Mr Prime Minister,

The Indian state would be making a fatal mistake if it chooses to sit on its haunches just because a 21-day lockdown is in force from Wednesday.

Your  second address to the nation on Tuesday was an incessant appeal to stay at home. You described this measure as “one flicker of light in this enveloping darkness”. You left no one in doubt that India won’t be able to overcome this deadly killer virus on paramedical staff, ICU (intensive care unit) beds and ventilators alone.

Unofficial figures suggest India has probably 150,000 ICU beds and 75,000 ventilators. Probably a few lakh paramedical staff. It has ramped up random testing since last week. But India needs a proactive strategy to catch the “virus” in hibernation within four walls of homes.

In simpler terms, go for door-to-door testings across India.

You quoted South Korea more than once in your address to emphasis how the Asian nation appears to have come to grips with Corona Virus. You identified “social distancing” as the prime reason for such a spectacular success. But South Korea hasn’t resorted to a lockdown. Of course, such a comparison is unfair given the unequal medical muscle of the two countries.

South Korea has also relied on doing tests on its citizens at every high-spot of people’s presence: medical stores, grocery shops, petrol pumps and of course homes. It so far has conducted over 400,000 tests on its 51-million citizens. United States, in contrast, has done random tests on only 50,000 of its 300-mllion plus citizens.  India, a nation of 1.3 billion people, only has a sample of around 5,000 random tests thus far.

India, before it banned international flights from landing this Sunday, had largely restricted its testing to arriving passengers. It then has lately woken up to random testing. But still random tests are within 1,000 a day. South Korea in contrast is testing close to 15,000 citizens everyday.

Lately, stirrings are being felt across the country. Jaipur is isolating every 3-km radius area where a positive test has emerged. It’s being followed with home-to-home tests. The paramedical staff is being supported by volunteers and nursing students. Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is now conducting door-to-door visits in Mumbai. But these visits primarily are to check with housing societies if there is anyone who suspects himself/herself to be infected with the deadly virus. They are also checking on those with a recent travel history in these societies. Ludhiana is being remarkably alert as health officials are visiting every household in the district to obtain a declaration if anyone in the family has travelled abroad recently or is showing symptoms of virus.

On paper, it shouldn’t be difficult for the Indian state to resort to home-to-home tests. After all, it’s a practice which is followed during vaccination drives, if not entirely during General Elections. India would find volunteers in thousands. All it needs to do is to provide these bravehearts with adequate protective gears, equipments and a few hours of training on how to conduct tests.

One hopes your government isn’t being too wary lest home-to-home tests are construed a “dry run” for National Public Register (NPR) exercise. Rumour-mongers of course are busy overtime. But frankly, the government has no option but to bite the bullet. It must take recourse to judiciary, Constitution and the long arm of law. And to hell with naysers.

Yours’ truly

Ashish Shukla