(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
There is a reason why China doesn’t give a damn to retaliatory measures by the United States, Europe, India or anyone else for that matter.
Individuals or nations don’t turn their back on overflowing coffers and even if they make noise, there is little by way of action on the ground—or ocean if you have South China Sea in mind.
The world today is a buyers’ market and China is stuffing yuan in mouths which open up with the honest intention of registering their protests against the Beijing.
The latest trade figures of China in June are breathtaking. When the world is said to be angry at Coronavirus pandemic and neighbours are traumatized by the Middle Kingdom’s bullying, China’s exports have picked up. The biggest shock though is that its imports have risen by 2.7 per cent too, implying that more money is reaching the pockets of distressed economies of the world.
This is not Cold War II—as analysts are fond of saying these days. Soviet Union was an empire cut off by the liberal or western world. China, in contrast, doesn’t have an empire. It just has found a way to every central bank and command structure of the nations.
This is more than geopolitics. This is geo-economics.
We all had thought that it’s payback time for a boorish China, induced by the pandemic. Well, it imported $167.15 billion worth of goods in June 2020 and made a nonsense of the Bloomberg prediction of a 10 per cent slump. China meanwhile exported $213.6 billion which is a hike of 0.5 per cent.
If China could import as much as it exports—presently some $46.2 billion adrift—it could scoff at punitive actions by the rest of the world as not just economies but the global industrial chain and trade won’t move without its consent.
China’s imports have taken off since their domestic market today is worth 41.2 trillion yuan. It has grown at a breakneck speed in last six years, contributing 57.8 percent to GDP growth during this spell.
Interestingly, its trade surplus hasn’t dropped by much against the United States. In June, it was $29.41 billion compared to $29.91 a year ago at the same stage.
China’s imports of copper concentrate from the United States is its highest in nearly two years. It’s purchase of iron ore has jumped to 35.3 per cent since October 2017. The arrival of soybeans has climbed by 71 per cent. It has imported record meat, including offal, which is nearly 74 per cent up to the same period a year ago.
And this is cutting across all ideologies, without distinction between friends and rivals. For instance, China is about to open its money reserves for beleaguered Iran. Yet, the arch rivals of the Islamic Republic—Saudi Arabia—is the biggest exporter of oil to Beijing. China’s crude oil imports from the Saudi kingdom has risen by 15% in June. This record import is in the shadow of price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, the world’s top oil exporters. This is when Moscow, as we know, is said to be the blood-brother of Beijing these days. On top of it, China has also boosted its inflows from Brazil, Norway and Angola.
India of course is a very minor trading partner for China since it imports a mere 3% of China’s overall exports. New Delhi could hurt mega business houses of China, especially the digital kind, but it’s not to say it is bringing beads of sweat on Beijing’s forehead.
India could feel that it has favourable neighbouring relations with the governments in Afghanistan and Bangladesh but China, against it, has brought Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Nepal in its fold. It’s planning to invest $50 billion in Bangladesh over the next couple of years.
China, further, has deployed its military infrastructure around Indian Ocean. It already has eight naval ships in these waters. It has sold 10 submarines to India’s neighbours—8 to Pakistan and 2 to Bangladesh. It has a naval base in Djibouti and a military surveillance capability on Myanmar’s Coco island. It’s offering land exchange to Myanmar.
So even though one keeps hearing the angst of world against China, in effect little is changing on the ground. It would take more than mere rhetoric to keep China honest. So far there is little to suggest that the world is walking the talk.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
India would watch with concern a blood-pact in the making between China and Iran which could mean trouble both at home and abroad.
China put an agreement in place last month which would virtually turn Iran into a vessel state. Tehran is already in bed in wild anticipation, once its parliament approves the union.
The 18-page agreement, accessed by the New York Times, involves 100 projects worth a staggering $400 billion. China would get discounted oil for next 25 years and in exchange would pepper the Persia of old with subways, high-speed railways and airports. There would be free-trade zones in strategic locations, including two which would overlook the critical Persian Gulf (Abadan) and the Strait of Hormuz (Qeshm).
Iran plans to hand over Jask, a port just outside the Strait of Hormuz, to China which is the vantage point through which most of the world’s oil transits. India, which imports 84% of its oil, has reduced its dependence on Middle East in recent years but it still accounts for 65 per cent of its needs. Saudi Arabia and Iraq are two of its biggest oil suppliers from the Middle East.
China has a string of ports in Indian Ocean, such as Hambantota in Sri Lanka and Gwadar in Pakistan, and now soon in Jask, which puts New Delhi at unease on its energy and security needs, if China was to block the free seas and give these ports a military makeover.
It also messes up the Chabahar port on the Gulf of Oman which India has helped build and now controls since 2018. India had soaring ambitions of turning this base into access to Central Asia and much of Eurasian landmass, through a mix of sea-land routes, not to say oil pipelines, bypassing the physical barrier of Pakistan on its north-western borders (see image).
Now India is hemmed in on its north and west flanks by two enemies and in between are the impassable Himalayas. It would be increasingly reliant on the military muscle of the United States for its freer access to seas upwards.
The United States would be no less alarmed by China’s move on Iran. It had sought-and controlled—the Middle East for decades since the World War II. Now its Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain in the Persian Gulf, could face China’s build-up. Its warships have regularly tangled with Iranian fleets in the busy sea lanes of the Persian Gulf.
The proposed deal also makes a nonsense of the United States sanctions against Iran under the Trump administration, which had brought Tehran on its knees with crippled oil supply and blocked access to world’s financial highways. China, it seems, has braced itself too for the US economic sanctions which are inevitable in the wake of this agreement and would intensify the trade or covert war between two of world’s biggest powers.
Iran needs to produce—and supply—at least 8.5 million barrels a day in order to be relevant in the energy sector. China seeks to import at least 10 million barrels a day for its energy needs. It imports 75 percent of its oil from foreign oilfields.
The agreement also outlines China’s plan to help Iran build its 5G telecommunications network, riding on its major player Huawei. The Trump administration has barred Huawei from the United States and India is set to do the same under prime minister Narendra Modi.
The Shia Factor
India’s ties with Iran have plummeted in recent months. The Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif had made inflammatory remarks on the CAA and on Delhi riots in February for which it was rebuked by the Modi government. India has the second highest number of Shias in the world after Iran. India’s Shias have been a moderating influence on a virulent Muslim section in India.
The document also outlines military cooperation, joint training, exercises and research besides intelligence sharing and manufacturing weapons. The military ties between China and Iran have only scaled up in recent years. The Chinese navy has participated in military exercises in Iranian waters at least three times since 2014.
Then there is the Russia factor. Moscow is India’s biggest defence importer but if asked to make a choice, it would look after China’s back than of India. It is India’s oldest and most reliable friend but the ties now are facing its litmus test. The clincher would be the supply of S400 missile system in 2021 which India is committed to buy and the United States is determined to prevent. It would be a make or break moment for India-Russia ties, at least in the immediate future.
The second Cold War is unfolding. In its first version, the United States and Soviet Union were ranged against each after World War II, in the battle-lines drawn by the NATO and the Warsaw Pact in the European theatre, their respective allies in the neighbourhood of Central-Latin America and Eastern Europe-Central Asia visible in plain view. The contours of the second Cold War is no less apparent. The United States and China are snarling at each other, with Indo-Pacific and the Middle East the two most likely flashpoints. The stand-alone moment for India is gone.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Let’s say you are confused and scared.
Confused, because you read the cure of Corona Virus is imminent. Call it tablets, vials, plasma, vaccine—all would knock at your door with the good news soon. But then the World Health Organization (WHO) or The Lancet would pour a bucket of ice water to leave you stone cold.
Scared, because if the Aarogya Setu App flashes a “high risk” alert on your mobile, the sequence thereafter would be somewhat this: 1-Scan down the hospital of your choice; 2-Hope your testing is shown negative after a mile-long queue; 3-And if positive, worry if you have a home or hospital quarantine in front; 4- If latter, wave your near-and-dears a tearful bye-bye; 5-Multiple tests and X-rays of lungs, hearts, brain etc roll of the tongue of paramedical staff; 6-And, hopefully a fortnight-later return into the arms of your family with your bank account a few lakhs lighter.
In this madness, you of course won’t remember that a month ago, there was this Dexamethasone tablet/injection, which was hailed a breakthrough by the medical community. A few researchers in the United Kingdom had tried it on over 2,000 patients and found that it reduced the death risk by over one-third. It essentially is a steroid since 1977, available over the counter world over, and costs a pack of a cigarette. The common-sense approach was, if Dexamethasone reduces inflammation, and Corona Virus inflames its victims to the point where they are choked to death, why not give it a try? And it worked.
This week, Cipla, an Indian manufacturer, rolled Remdesivir vials into the market. It’s being hailed as a Corona Virus breakthrough. But Ganesan Karthikeyan, a professor of cardiology at the All-India Institute of Media Sciences (AIMS) writes that all it does is to reduce the duration of hospital stay by four days without any significant effect on dying from Covid-19. Yet Remdesivir is being accorded a hero’s welcome. If it was a movie star, the entire country would be at its gate. A course of treatment would cost tens of thousands of rupees.
Then there is Satyendra Jain. Now come on, don’t say that you haven’t heard of Delhi’s health minister. He literally has put a Plasma Therapy in the midst of gods in his puja room. He was detected as positive and today credits the Plasma Therapy for his life saved. All it does is to take the blood of recovered patients and inject it in patients under care. Again, like Remdesivir, it’s not a cure. It just boosts your ability to fight the virus. Karthikeyan says it’s an expensive proposition.
Who do you think you should opt for if, god forbids, Corona makes you its home? Dexamethasone of course. It’s cheap, is vindicated by trials, and even the World Health Organization (WHO) doesn’t fault it. As per WHO website, “the (Dexamethasone) treatment was shown to reduce mortality by about one-third…it’s been on the WHO model list of Essential Medicines since 1977…Dexamethasone is generally safe and is not generally associated with side-effects.”
Now why do you think Dexamethasone is not even discussed on national prime time television and media? It’s been simply wiped clean of our collective memory. It’s not in public discourse. Now before you jump to the logical corollary of Big Bad Pharma, I want you to consider a few facts.
The US pharma industry, the daddy of all, is bigger than all the nations and their GDPs barring the top 20. It’s touching $600 billion. Every year, millions are spent on pharma breakthroughs in research labs and fields. Those big research centres, filled with futuristic pipes and flasks and scientists bent over them in tons of protective clothing and face shields, peering through a microscope, dissecting the future of human race.
These millions of investments in research and salaries are backed by even bigger expenditure of millions on Direct-To-Customer Advertising (DTCA) in which a pharma company is allowed to reach the consumer directly through advertising, bypassing prescriptions and doctors at the bend of your colony. These medicines are shown to be of magical proportions on the broadcasting waves and newspaper print. It gives you a sell on how to grow your hair (when a smart Rs 500 hat would do the job); how to increase your libido (when all you needed was to relax in a mating session) and how to increase your hearing (when a sustained brush of an earbud could suffice).
Before long, the sustained noise has got you. You either buy over the counter and insist your physician gives the prescription of drugs you desire. Not that this physician minds. One of big Pharmas marketing expenses included hiring those attractive medical representatives who come to a physician with the new wonder drug and a prescription pad. The top guys get a free ticket to Hawaii, a golf course voucher, and accompanying fun in the evenings after the Seminars around the world which of course are hosted by these big pharmas under the cloak of some moral compass. That’s how pharmas are growing bigger even in country with the best healthcare system. What is saved from a patient’s pocket is paid by the insurance company.
So if you are confused and scared, there is a rationale. Big Pharma expenses are met by your pockets. India of course doesn’t allow direct advertising by Pharma, and thank god for it, but your billion-plus fellow citizens are in the eye of the Pharma sharks. Cheap solution to Corona Virus is not in their interest. So, god forbids, if you have tested Positive and found yourself on your doctor’s couch, ask him this simple question: Why he thinks Remdesivir or Plasma Therapy is better than Dexamethasone? Perhaps, knowledge is the best cure.
Incidentally, India supplies over 50 percent of generic drugs which the world needs. It’s 40% of all generic demand in the US and 25% of all medicine in the UK. It also supplies 50% of global demand for various vaccines. It’s a robust sector for India, an export worth $21 billion. India’s pharmaceutical sector is expected to cross $100 billion by 2025. Yet its media is busy rubbishing Covaxin and Coronoil, two home-made breakthroughs. Perhaps we are the suckers they think we are.
(This is reprint from NewsBred).
Behind their pandemic-induced masks, Indians have a floating question on their lips: What if China was to pour into India and spank us like it did in 1962.
Columns on military match-ups are box-office hits. In today’s Mint, weighing scales have measured India and China on nuclear, submarines, armoured vehicles, boots-on-the- ground, everything. It assures readers we are better in inhospitable terrains, fighter jets and in shape thanks to our periodic pounding of Pakistan. It doesn’t look at the weight Pakistan could bring into equation but that’s okay. Indian soldiers are world’s envy for over a century for a reason.
Indians are also hopeful on the United States. That Trump and Modi would look after each other’s backs. This lack-in-self isn’t mindful that India’s nuclear arsenal is deterrent enough. We won’t be rolled over in a conventional war too. Besides, still don’t have a formal military pact with the United States.
Sure, in last decade and a half, the US administration across presidents, and Indians between their Manmohan and Modi, have resembled two lost brothers who couldn’t have enough of each other. It began with access to military sheets (GSOMIA) but ramped up startingly under the Modi regime. An important threshold crossed was reciprocal logistical support (LEMOA) in 2016; and greater Indian access to US military technology (COMCASA) in 2018. The next stage is a deal for 2021 when US could share advanced satellite, intelligence and topographical information (BECA) with India. It would be huge, but not now.
The United States, as it is, has more military pacts than one could count. In the Indo-Pacific waters itself, it’s committed to come to aid of Japan, South Korea, Philippines, Australia and, a little beyond, New Zealand. Western Europe of course is a Biblical commitment in the form of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). It’s extremely possessive about Central and Latin America and if in doubt, ask a Cuban. In the Middle East, Israel and Saudi Arabia have the blank cheque of security. Since the Second World War, the United States has committed itself to defend a quarter of the world’s population. All are not cut-and-dried military pacts. But de facto, some 69 countries which is worth 75 per cent of world’s economic output, could claim a security umbrella festooned by Washington D.C.
Formal military pacts are dying trends. It forces counter alliances and the world is lit up in smoke as it happened during the First World War. Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire were committed to each other against France and Russia and Great Britain was forging secret alliances of its own in a skullduggery which remarkably has been kept hidden by the historians of Oxford who make up the history narrative of English-speaking schools.
So, sorry folks, a military pact between India and the United States isn’t happening all too soon. If the United States enters the Indian Ocean, be sure that China and Russia would commit themselves in equal measure. The US would have its military cooperation, sea drills and logistical shares with India. It designated India as a major defense partner in 2016 itself. The satellite and intelligence sharing under BECA (Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement) would be big on its own. It would be a game-changer in communications, navigational and threat assessment. India’s defence exports from the United States are second only to Russia. But don’t mistake it for a joint resistancce against an invader.
We’re in a fluid state. We are not at war with China. Hotheads could spin it out of control for both, and Pakistan. Looking for the United States or Russia isn’t on the charts spread at military commands of the two Asian giants. Treat the two Cold War antagonists as proteins or steroids in a gym. The heavy-lifting is still left to us. Hopefully the worst is behind us. For the time being.
The lessons for India though are unmistakable. China doesn’t have our good in mind. We would know of the United States too if Russia holds firm and delivers us S400 missile system in 2021. Closer home, we need to free up our armed forces from stifling civil bureaucracy. If they want Rafale, that’s what they get. We have a huge lag and delay is not an option.
(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.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
These are bad times for jokes but the one by India’s premier health agency looks particularly awful when it says it’s “testing” less than it could.
India is doubling the count of its Corona Virus patients twice every week and 40 have perished in the last 24 hours but the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) simply hasn’t cast its net wide enough to assure an anxious nation of a billion plus.
India is dawdling at 190,000 tests put together as on Sunday which bears a sorry comparison with the United States (2,700.000), Italy (1,000,000) and Spain (350,000), three nations reeling the most under the unforgiving pandemic.
India today isn’t short of hands or testing kits. It’s good enough for 20,000 tests a day. It also isn’t shy of promising 100,000 tests a day soon. So what’s stopping it from showing its full hand to the growing footprint of the killer virus?
Specific and not random tests
It would seem India’s strategy is more by design than neglect. India has so far preferred to do tests only on those who have shown symptoms. Such information is either being relayed by patients themselves or a confirmed case is being followed up. In no case, suspects are allowed to visit nearby designated hospitals on own.
It appears there is a corollary to such caution. A nursing home in Washington made headlines for being the biggest harbinger of disease to nearby community. The Virus arrived on the host-patients and spread itself on staff, security and residents without distinction. Wuhan in China bears reports on patients calling up on routine health issues and ending up infecting those unfortunate to be around them.
The red flag of mass testing is obvious too. How do you do it? By rounding up people and allowing the disease to hop and spread to the last man in the queue? Instead, India’s healthcare is opting to swarm around hot-spots in the country of which they have identified a few dozens. It’s here that they are rolling up sleeves and getting into combat mode. Mass testing with lockdown in place doesn’t quite make much sense to them.
No community spread yet
India still maintains it’s in Phase Two of the spread, that it is still local and not communal which would’ve set alarm bells ringing. It went into a lockdown mode when there were still only 150 cases on the chart. Italy, Spain and France in contrast shut itself up at least 7-10 days prior but their cases–and fatalities–were already in thousands. The horse had already bolted.
India could also take comfort that out of its 707 districts, only 325 so far are in the infected list. It’s fatality roll of just over 300 isn’t cause for panic yet. The people have so far stoically borne the pains of a lockdown. Indeed, they are bracing for an extension of lockdown without quite throwing up.
It’s not to say India is out of woods yet. It’s a long summer ahead. Slums remain a major worry. Dharavi, one of Asia’s biggest in Mumbai, is racking up patients steadily. Delhi, India’s capital, has sealed off at least two dozen of its infected pockets. The western state of Mahrashtra which houses India’s commercial capital Mumbai, accounts for nearly half of India’s total deaths. India hasn’t turned the corner yet.
India, for sure, would ramp up tests in coming days. It’s also almost given that more cases and more fatalities would show up. It would hope it’s still manageable. And that its’ strategy of testing visitors, and enforcing lockdown when the numbers were still low, was a clincher. Else, it would rue it didn’t test enough when the time was still on its side.
(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.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
India stood as one behind its prime minister Narendra Modi’s call to “isolate” itself on Sunday but there is a fear that the deadly Corona Virus could be laughing in the background—or in the midst of 1.3 billion people.
Any world leader could have swooned at such a doting citizenry which stood indoors and came out with pots and pans; conch-shells and bells at an appointed hour to extol India’s medical warriors in the frontline against the pandemic virus. But Modi’s words in the aftermath are one of caution: “Stay indoors”.
For the moment, Modi’s message is directed at residents of 80 districts of 22 states which have officially been “shut down.” But for grocery and medical shops, nothing moves. This figure, if the example of rest of the world is anything to go by, is due to shoot skywards in coming days, if not hours.
Nations, mauled by this virus, have shown a spike after the first 250 cases are detected. Thus, Italy went from 322 to 41,000 cases in 24 days. Spain (261 to 17,000) and the United States (233 to 14,000) went into a tailspin in just two weeks. Germany (262 to 14,000) and France (285 to 11,000) nosedived in a mere 16 days. United Kingdom took a dozen days to find its 270 cases balloon to 3,200.
India crossed its 300-patient figure last Saturday.
India, on its part, is stretching itself thin to buck this trend. Trains have stopped running as India’s migrant poor, who work in cities and different states, are coming in hordes on platforms to return home. It’s Capital, Delhi, is now formally under curfew. Most states are shutting shops, entertainment malls, restaurants, metros etc. in cities to ensure people stay indoors. Only essential services like grocery and medicine shops are exempted.
All signs indicate that India is fearing the worst. Its health ministry held a press conference on Sunday to confess they are mostly using anti-viral drugs to combat the menace. “But then countries most developed, having the best of
scientific and medical infrastructure, haven’t been able to come to grips with it,” said the official rather sheepishly.
The preparation for the worst-case scenario is underwhelming. New labs are being taken into the fold but they add only 60 to the numbers which is battle-ready from the State’s side. Schools are being converted into quarantine-wards. Medical staff in the business of testing suspect cases is complaining of inadequate protection. India would lose the battle if its medical personnel take to heels. Then there would be no stopping the marauding virus.
A committed, aware citizenry is thus India’s best bet. And there could be no better man than Modi for the task as millions swear by him. His secretariat is holding meetings with honchos of other states to get real on the situation. States increasingly are offering money and free food to aid India’s poor, without a formal job and now shunned by the shops and householders who usually seek them out on a day-to-day basis.
Isolation seems to be the first and possibly best bet for the Indian state. Many of its citizens believe that the rising temperatures could stall its spread. Some hope Indians have the requisite immunity system within their frames, having grown up in less than perfect environment, to combat virus. Nobody knows for sure.
For the moment though the nation is on its Sunday-high. The recent heat generated on Kashmir or the recent Citizenship Act is doused. Families are rooting for neighbours they hadn’t noticed previously. Indian flags are being unfurled on balconies and roof-tops. There is celebration at the sight of empty streets—quite eerie, Orwellian, for this otherwise would signify the end of the world.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
India is refusing to be a choir-boy of the United States which is a dichotomy given the two nations have never been closer on economic and defence matters than now in their 73 years of diplomatic relations.
Most know that India won’t let United States or its sanctions come in between its ties with Russia or Iran with whom it shops its energy, strategic and security needs. Very few though are picking the blunt hints which India’s foreign minister Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar is dropping regularly on the doorsteps of United States and Europe, the geographical region we commonly denote as West.
Dr Jaishankar rounded up his presence in the 56th Munich Security Conference on Sunday by asking a US republican senator to keep off Kashmir and reminding the United Nations of its slipping credibility in the “Westlessness” of today’s world. He headed off to Brussels on Monday where he would agree to Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s presence in the European Union (EU) Summit on March 13 only if the EU shelves its plan to entertain the anti-India resolution a few of its members have in mind on Kashmir. In between his team has thrown out an offer of mediation by the secretary-general of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres on Kashmir.
A man who loves to shoot from the hip
This is perfectly in sync with Dr Jaishankar’s no-nonsense diplomacy trajectory since he exchanged the life of a diplomat with one of a politician at the insistence of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi in May last. In next two months, India had rewired the state of Jammu and Kashmir and Dr Jaishankar has literally been shooting from the hip since.
In December last, Dr Jaishankar had rebuffed the US House of Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) who had wanted him to hold a unilateral meeting with lawmaker Pramila Jaypal by stating “I have no interest in meeting her.” Reason: Jaypal had tabled a resolution in the House of Representatives against India on Jammu and Kashmir. When the Capitol Hill wanted a Congressional hearing on Kashmir in October last, Dr Jaishankar used his channels to make sure that no less than 10 US Congressmen abstained from appearing in the hearing.
He had earlier held back no punches on the United Nations for keeping India out of the UN Security Council when in next 15 years it could be “the most populous country in the world…and the third largest economy…it affects the United Nations’ credibility.”
A world which is no longer bipolar
In Dr Jaishankar’s worldview, the post-1945 bipolar world and the post-1992 American world is no longer the norm. “Things change, nothing is engraved in stone. This world will be different, power will be more dispersed, there will be more actors,” he confided to a French daily last November. He also feels India and China have a common interest in re-balancing the world.
Dr Jaishankar is only taking cue from his boss Modi who once ticked off the US president Donald Trump in a joint media interaction session by stating India wouldn’t like third-party mediation on Kashmir. Trump has alluded variations on “mediation/arbitration/interventions” on Kashmir at least seven times in as many months and India has never failed to ask the US to keep off Kashmir.
All this must not be music to American ears but then the US itself has a “America First” policy. The entire world is looking to protect its own interests as multilateralism is retreating. The United States has heard some plain-speaking, not just from Russia or Iran but also from its’ so-called close allies in Europe (France), Asia (the Philippines) and Middle East (Turkey, Saudi Arabia) in recent times.
Thus India and the US could have economic and defence ties which suit both; Narendra Modi and Donald Trump could serve each other a home audience by the ringside; cameras could keep whirring on the personal warmth between the two, but both go their own way when it comes to having equations with the rest of the world. At least India is letting the United States know to mind its’ own business even though the latter isn’t quite giving up its instincts of intrusion.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
I was seven when the United States sent its nuclear-powered Seventh Fleet to Bay of Bengal to scare India during the 1971 Indo-Pak War. Nearly half a century on, it’s making a similar growl, though financial in kind, to freeze India from buying the S-400 missile system from Russia. India, like in 1971, couldn’t care less.
The State Department has warned India of economic sanctions under CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act ) if it went ahead with its buy which India’s military has eyed so longingly for so long. The US appears no wiser to the snub which New Delhi had delivered on secretary of state Mike Pompeo on the same matter six months ago.
The United States might think it’s indispensable enough to wag a finger at India but it’s no better than grand-standing by a fading superpower which thinks the world is still its oyster and its “friends” are no better than courtiers in attendance.
India doesn’t need to flip the history pages to know how the United States has stood down its friends over the centuries. From the day it was born in 1776 when it roped in and then dumped indigenous Delaware Indians in its war against the colonialist British, to the modern times when the likes of Ferdinand Marcos (Philippines), Manual Noriega (Panama), Saddam Hussein (Iraq), Muammar Gadaffi etc come flashing to mind, used and then disposed of, the United States hasn’t been a long-abiding friend with anyone.
Sure, it has strategic Anglo-Saxon brotherhood with UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and Mexico is always secure but the United States, by temperament, prefers client-states or vassals. Further, there is no Soviet Union for them to over-extend themselves in pursuit of Global Liberal Order. It is now disengaging itself from the world theatre and be it NATO, Turkey, Japan, Israel or Saudi Arabia all feel abandoned by their big brother from time to time. Remember the drone attack on Aramco when Saudis looked for askance from the US and got nothing in return?
Indo-Pacific and the Great Game
Thus India not only has the historical precedent to judge how convenient the United States is as an ally but it also has the chutzpah to know of its own relevance in Indo-Pacific and the abiding interest it holds for the United States. Since 2016, Council on Foreign Relations which reflects the US foreign policy, rates India as one of the most important piece in its’ global jigsaw.
It’s not to say India doesn’t need the United States for its multiple needs, not the least for its secure borders. Its’ overall trade with the United States was worth $84 billion in 2018. It also has a defence logistics sharing pact –the Agreement on Reciprocal Logistics Support (ARLS)– with the United States.
But Russia and S-400 is another thing. India signed a $5 billion deal with Russia in 2018 to buy five systems of this missile whose capability has the NATO in thrall. India signed this deal last year even as the US sanctions against Russia were in place. The S-400 system can shoot four different missile types, forming a near impassable interlocking grid of missiles. These missiles can’t be electronically jammed and its’ range could take care of almost 40,000-feet-high threats in the air. It’s an invaluable buy.
Besides, India has for decades been buying its arsenal from Russia and the fresh buys thus don’t usually have the compatibility issues. Not only the US arms are more expensive, but it’s also not so willing to sell its advanced weapons to India as Russia is. Russia also is an important natural gas provider to India’s monstrous energy needs.
US and its Catch-22 dilemma
When the first system of S-400 is delivered to India this year—all are slated to be provided by 2024—it could be that the United States might enforce a few economic sanctions. After all, it did end India’s special trade privileges last year in a bid to force New Delhi’s hands in importing more goods. But it would be no better than a slap on the wrist. A hard measure could actually come back to bite the United States for it could halt its own major arms supplies to India, including prime weapons such as F-35 which it has been hard-selling to India for some time now.
Instead of threatening India from an assumed position of an indispensable ally, it would help the United States to work out the tariff dispute—a miffed US president Donald Trump calls India “tariff king”–and keep its Indian friends in good humour. India is too important to be sacrificed in haste, certainly not with the empty rhetoric of a ban in case the S-400 missile is acquired by India. The United States has no option but to keep the pretence of being an “ally” going with India.
(This first appeared as an OpEd in rt.com)