Saturday, February 26, 2011

Linkage Between Political And Economic Freedoms

There is lot of analysis on why revolts in Islamic lands are going on now. Ajay Shah tries to make the case between rigid prices and brewing revolts. We think Shah is making a case that doesn't exist. We think issues are, as usually excepted, more broadly about economic freedom & political freedom, not so much price rigidity & political freedom.

Shah tries to make the case citing several examples such as price of bread in Cairo markets to fixed exchange of renminbi-dollar. Can we really extrapolate price rigidity of bread in Cairo to entire Egyptian economy? Surely import prices in China changes when prices change in dollar terms - precisely by that change because exchange rate is rigid.

Shah is being unnecessarily technical.

From socialist India's example, we see that lack of economic freedoms can be masked by nonsensical socialist rhetoric of social justice, as has been done for decades in India, but lack of political freedoms can be masked only as long as anti-nationalist boogie - foreign or domestic - persist.

In many Islamic nations, from Tunisia to Egypt to Libya, the political freedom mask is peeling exposing the desperate lack of political freedoms in Islamic lands. In China, as well as in Saudi Arabia, while the lack of political freedom persists, the lack of economic freedom mask has already been peeled - in China, as long as one is part of Communist Party, and in Saudi, with distribution of oil-money.

When both political and economic freedoms are lacking, revolts and revolutions are certainly waiting to happen at a time when the oppressive regime is weakest and from an unlikely spark.

The larger question that is still unanswered is which system persists longer without revolts - those that have political freedoms but are oppressive regarding economic freedoms, meaning free poverty ridden people feeding on empty socialist rhetoric; or those that have economic freedoms, even of the Chinese Communist Party model, but are oppressive regarding political freedoms, meaning well-off people with little say in governance?

We would bet on the former.

Friday, September 3, 2010

India Can't Master Great Game By Playing The Same Game

Communist Chinese apparently rejected a visa to an Indian General, who happened to command forces in J&K fighting Islamic terrorists sponsored by Chinese all-weather-friend Pakistan, to visit China to continue the bonhomie between PLA and BR. While this is not the first time Chinese played their usual visa games, Indian establishment expressed sharp indignation that no one knew they had when it came to China. And after expressing their new found indignation, the establishment went back to what it always does - pretend that it is the mature party of the two and, of course, looking for validation of the pretense.

Rory Medcalf, Australian India watcher, offers such validation in Wall Street Journal. Indian establishment probably passed on the column amongst themselves and are patting themselves on their backs by now. We have seen the movie before.

Although Sri Medcalf says all the right things, they don't add up to much more than what India is doing currently. So it's a hard case to make that India would somehow master the great game with China by making the same bidding.

First, how it is that, if India broke off defense relations with China, India would end up losing on other areas on cooperation - such as man-made-up man-made climate change issue to serious issues such as global financial reform or world trade negotiations? Why is that it never hurts China when it plays its games?

On making new allies, India has shown no capability, since its inception in the current form, to form and lead alliances when key strategic and national security issues are at stake. This non-capability is the direct result of Nehru's foreign policy shadow on Indian establishment, which still persists. Beyond the utterly useless talk shops like Non-Alignment movement, India formed key alliance with Soviet Union to counter US, British, and Pakistan alliance during cold war, but only as a junior partner of the Soviets, with nothing to contribute to the alliance. The only strategic alliance India formed with other nations was an quasi-alliance to support the Northern Alliance of Afghanistan pre-9/11. But India won't lead its allies to complete the mission even as Pakistan, and its ally, Taliban, took over most of the nation to rule over Afghanistan for several years. Post-9/11, US scooped up the existing Northern Alliance to meet its own objectives while bringing erstwhile anti-Northern Alliance Pakistan into the mix, sidelining the former quasi-alliance that India was part of! India is mulling again to re-form the same Northern Alliance with Iran and Russia. Expect the same result. Beyond bragging rights for Indian establishment, it means nothing on the ground.

So this notion that India will form a strong, or, for that matter, loose, alliance with nations impacted by Chinese actions in South China is just not viable. It simply does not exist in Indian establishment's DNA. Again, with a few exception, the current Congress I establishment is still under the shadow of the left wing liberal Nehru foreign policy contours. (With few exceptions, most BJP leadership also follow under that dark shadow.) So it is comfortable with appropriating and pursing silly ideas, that originate mostly in the Washington, such as narrowing trust-deficit with terror sponsoring Pakistan.

The other suggestion that India should act as a grown up by simply following the current maritime strategy of not competing, but by remaining second tier defense force to China, is more puzzling. How exactly does a weaker power act as though it is the more mature one in a great game?  Chinese leadership may be communists, but they are not stupid to see the pretense of maturity as anything but just that. If India aggressively becomes, or takes a trajectory to become, more powerful than China then, and only then, can it act as a mature power. One can't be both a guerrilla and be a mature party in the game.

Until Indian establishment comes out of Nehru's shadow of abstract, and frankly pompous, foreign policy, with little substance to back it up, China will continue to play the game on its own terms and get away with it.

Beyond taking shot at liberal Indian media for its silliness on serious issues, which is not the most difficult thing to do, at least Sri Medcalf doesn't suggest that India should use Kevin Rudd, former Australian PM, as mediator to improve relations between India and China because, well, Sri Rudd can speak impeccable Mandarin.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Hitchens on Danger to Freedom From Islamists

Christopher Hitchens lecture on the dangers to freedom from Islamists at 2010 PEN in New York City. What's interesting about the lecture, and the conservation, following the lecture, with Salman Rushdie, which was about self-censorship, at times without any threat, of western media when it came to Islamic issues - regarding Danish cartoons of prophet Mohammad or regarding recent Comedy Central, a US TV Channel, ban of use of the word Mohammad in its South Park episode - the opposite happened in India when it came to nasty paintings of Hindu Gods by apparent great painter M. F. Husain, who ran away to Qatar instead of standing up for freedom of speech he apparently believes in. In the case of M. F. Husain's paintings, while the illiberal India media wrote silly columns and interviews supporting M. F. Husain's artistic freedom to paint nasty paintings of Hindu Gods, even as they themselves condemned Danish cartoons on prophet Mohammad, they never published the nasty cartoons!! In this case, most Hindus, who thought M. F. Husain was gratuitously offensive to Hindus, wanted the media to publish the cartoons so ordinary Hindus can see the joker the artist M. F. Husain really was. But self-proclaimed liberal Indian media is selective in its outrage and selective in its censorship.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ramachandra Guha's Comical Defense of Congress I

Firstly, a minor quibble with Dr. Ramachandra Guha in that he assumes Congress I is INC. In case Guha hasn't noticed, INC died in 1969.

Dr. Ramachandra Guha talking to Rediff about the state of Congress I while a bit realistic then his earlier stance, still defends the corrupt and deprived party.

Guha's defense of the worst decision, that which castes a long shadow of economic and political degradation of the nation, by Gandhi, to appoint Nehru, a socialist, is flimsy at best; self serving at worst. When Guha himself says he compares Nehru on par with Sardar Patil and B. R. Ambedkar, the defense of Nehru's appointment by Gandhi falls flat right there. Is Guha's, and Rajmohan Gandhi, grandson of Gandhi, explanation of Gandhi's autocracy believable when Gandhi himself offered the post of prime ministership to Muhammad Ali Jinnah during partition turmoil? Even if one were to ignore Nehru's absolute derision towards Hinduism, the same derision that current leaders of Congress I show, if Gandhi was so interested in nation building, what did he think the nation was going to do after Nehru's term? (This is the core of the problem with India since 1947 - it is not laws and institutions driven, but is driven by personalities and these personalities make up things as they go along.) The damage Gandhi did to political democracy in India, by overruling INC party democratic election, is huge and we still are living with it's severe consequences. Indira, Rajiv, and Sonia can always point to what Gandhi did for their own autocratic ways in the party.

And is to say nothing of what Nehru himself did to the country, its economy, its politics, its borders, its nationhood, and its foreign policy. While we are slowly emerging from Nehru's long and dark shadow on economy; we are still stuck with his politics of vilification of RSS and Hinduism, promoting his brand of disgusting JNU secularism; stuck with his definition of borders – on of the most key pieces of land of Indian nation, not controlled by India, that would connect India to Afghanistan and central Asia, and to Russia, is treated with such nonchalance with so little understanding of international security and politics or strategic thinking (we are told Nehru regretted taking J&K issue to UN. Fine. What exactly did he do after that to change the situation to our advantage? Not much); stuck with his flimsiness of nationhood with no participation of northeastern states in development, even if it was the socialist kind, suffering the consequences of Chinese intrusiveness and with growing, not diminishing, anti-state insurgencies; stuck with his foreign policy on Tibet, on UN, on power dynamics and the submissive culture of our babus – even now foreign minister S. M. Krishna begs the Chinese for consideration for permanent UNSC seat for India which China predictably rebuffs with delight.

It's nice Guha wants to defend what he says is the current vilification of Nehru. That Nehru is being maligned now means people are actually paying attention to the deprecate legacy of Nehru, that JNU secularists like Guha continue to defend. What normal people need to consider is what the state of India would have been if Nehru was a capitalist, as any thinking sane person would be, and did not consider profit to be "evil"; if Nehru understood the international power dynamics – how Tibet and foreign occupied J&K would impact Indian security in the long run; how cutting off Northeast from the rest of country increased the threat to nationhood. Just consider one issue that Nehru is praised for by secularists. Instead of depending on western nations to build the few IITs, if Nehru initiated the process internally – asked the best and brightest administrators and professors in India to start and develop 30, 40, or 50 IITs across the nation and provide access to young and adult to join those IITs (and not just in technical but legal, history, and other non-technical fields). It would have done wonders to the psyche of Indians that they can manage their own affairs at a national and global scale. In reality, any chance that Nehru got, he would look to the west help even as he disparaged them as Coca-Cola capitalists. Just as we would have showered praise on Nehru if his ideas succeeded, we, as Indians, looking at his actual record, are unimpressed. We acknowledge Nehru's contribution to Bharatiya freedom struggle, but post-independence Nehru is not an impressive figure. We wished he studied actual history rather than Fabian history during his formative years.

Going beyond Nehru, while his shadow is long and dark for India, Guha defense of existing Congress I is laughable. Being a typical secularist, he gives an example of rise of Angela Merkel of Germany, ignoring the example of rise of Sushma Swaraj, from a middle class girl to leader of the opposition in current parliament, in the BJP, that Congress I leadership should emulate. The apparent sin of BJP was that L.K Advani consulted with Mohan Bhagwat, which Guha rightly recognizes as social-culture organization. But why won't Advani consult with RSS leadership when it provided so much foundation for BJP's existence. If Arun Shourie begged RSS to give some direction to BJP when BJP was in crisis, we can understand the extent of crisis that BJP was in. We always thought RSS is a net negative weight on BJP's neck – mostly useless weight that contributes little beyond feet on the ground - but that itself does not take away from what BJP stands for.

Guha, quite unamazingly, dodges the pointed questions on Congress I increasing anti-Hindu and anti-Bharatiya narrative to appease Muslims. In fact, Guha would have been the right person ask about current Congress I anti-Hindu stance – he could have easily pointed to Nehru's anti-Hinduism. The meek “corruption is human weakness” response shows the extent of degradation of liberal and secularists value in India, much like it is around world now. While they see non-existing anti-Muslims demons in Karnataka (and in Gujarat) of BJP, they ignore, or worst justify, the malaise and rot that permeates Congress I under the leadership of Nehru's family for three generations.

We do agree with one idea that Guha has caught on to now which he did not see when he wrote his book post-independence history of India. That precedence. especially at the create of something as important as a newly defined nation, is everything. The precedence of Gandhi dictating nomination of Nehru even has INC office bearers voted for Sardar Patil (we would have been more than happy if Gandhi played Kautilya's political intrigue to twist others arms to get Nehru elected directly – at least then we won't have to put up with the notion what a great saint Gandhi was. In fact, we hazard to guess that if Gandhi was a normal political strategist acting in the long term interest of the nation, he would understood what havoc Nehru would have played on the new nation and would have stuck with Sardar. We agree, again, with Guha, that Gandhi and Nehru are one of kind who were completely out of touch with corrupt way of men and nations, meaning the real world, much to the later misery of the newly defined nation); the precedence of Nehru's economic, foreign policy, and amending constitution, beyond recognition, at his whim; the precedence of Nehru not stepping down after serving two terms as prime minister; the precedence of Nehru dying in office; the precedence of Indira's and Rajiv's corrupt ways; and the precedence of Nehru's family take over of leadership of Congress I.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

More Power to Buruma Liberals? - Think Not

One of core self-belief of secular liberals is that they are sophisticated people. Even if their hypocrisy is oozing out from their own writing, speech, and action, they seems to be blind to why thinking people consider secular liberals as nothing but the self-serving people the liberals denounce others apparently are.

The newest syndicate column of Ian Buruma makes the hypocrisy of secular liberals incredibly self evident to those on the right. His conclusion following the analysis of why elites are under siege, while baffling, is laughable.

To take two of the trends identified by Buruma – small government Tea Party activists in US and anti-Islamist stand of Geert Wilders in Euroland. Apparently culture and race are important in US - that Tea Party activities are uncomfortable to Obama being a black man!! This is the sophistication of secular liberals! How exactly does Buruma explain Obama being the president of US then? Small detail! Of course, Buruma also appoints his own kind to provide unbiased analysis of issues ignoring the incredibly biased US media against the candidate opposing Obama. Apparently those on the right cannot “sift nonsense from truth, or demagoguery from rational political debate.”

Tea Party is so popular in US is precisely because people are able sift through liberal nonsense from truth and silly demagoguery of liberal socialists from rational political debate. During campaign, Obama posed as though he could speak no nonsense or pursue no demagoguery. That's precisely why he was elected – most, even the right, weren't bothered by his blackness or his apparent high-culture. It soon became apparent, after Obama became president, that he really is a run-of-the-mill secular liberal who won't think anything about making 16% of US economy, health care sector, a ward of the state or read rights to Islamic terrorist caught in the act of blowing an airplane full of ordinary people.

Geert Wilders sins are even more pedestrian. He stands against runaway secular liberalism that has taken over Europe – talk about liberals not having enough power or not using it!! Geert Wilders defends freedom taking for granted in Europe that are constantly under assault by Islamists from within and without Europe. When was the last time Ian Buruma took a stand against Islamists and defended the freedom the Europe accrued for centuries since west's apparent“enlightenment?” If Salman Rusdie, mostly because he himself came under Islamists threat, and, more importantly, Christopher Hitchens aren't in the forefront forcefully denouncing Islamists, secular liberals in Europe would have folded their tent decades ago. The degradation of secular liberals in Europe is such that apparent human rights group Amnesty International thinks a Talibanian is someone to coddled with!!

Ian Buruma nonsensical defense of secular liberalism would mean nothing to us if not for the fact the tribe of self-proclaimed secular liberals are growing in India too. The same corrupt media, with it extremely biased news coverage and opinion, available to the highest bidder, and the same elites, who speak and behave like the secular liberals of Euroland and US, with the same nonsensical social analysis along with similar policy prescriptions are becoming a norm in India too. Few decades ago, it was mostly communists who wore the patina of secular liberalism. Now it is the entrenching elites who are the secular liberalists. See the opinion makers of the new opinion pages on Yahoo – hand picked by liberals to provide secular liberalism to be consumed by unsuspecting Indians. Talk of secular liberals not having power or not using it!

One just has to look at the books that secular liberals like Ian Buruma write: “Taming the Gods: Religion and Democracy on Three Continents”, to understand why the right knows secular liberalism is a basket case “ism” that is ill equipped and will not confront Islamists (or continued socialist tendencies of the left).

Let the popular Tea Parties, those opposed to Obama's intrusion of government into the last baston of capitalism, in US reign, and let there be several Geert Wilders, those opposed to absolute genuflection of Europeans to Islamists, in Europe appear, because we, in the right, can sift through secular liberal narrative – there are no useful kernels of grains left after sifting through the fluffy liberal narrative.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Strange Debate on India-China 1962 Secret War Report

That the only Henderson Brooks-Bhagat report in existence, on the cause (and lose) of China-India war of 1962, is secret is well know. There have been numerous calls over the past five decades to declassify the report with the governments at the time whether Congress I or NDA - NDA's Fernandes, as rakshak mantri, seems to have tried hardest - ending up not declassifying the report.

Usual interpretation on why the political and defense establishments refuse to declassify the report is that they do not want to embarrass Nehru, star of Congress I and most left wing historians, or Indian armed forces. But a more bizarre narrative is being developed by analysts who are calling for the report's declassification, including Neville Maxwell who actually saw the report, apparently unauthorized, that somehow the document would enable India and China to their settle border dispute with India agreeing to China's claims that India is at fault on the border dispute. It is the most stunning argument we have heard on the declassification argument!

In his view, India’s unwillingness in the 1950s and 1960s to negotiate a border settlement with China — which [Neville] Maxwell [who wrote India’s China War, a book critical of Nehru] cites as the root cause of the war — can be traced to a failure of post-colonial India to “rethink how the legacy of British India had distorted strategic thinking and the national interest.” Freed from “nationalistic myth-making”, the definition of “national interest” could be tweaked, he reasons. “National interest can be redefined as ‘making territorial concessions (of claims, rather than of de facto control) for the sake of international goodwill and friendship with neighbours so long as the people directly affected (on the borderlands) are consulted’.”

But will such a ‘concession’ — even if it’s only of Indian claims — be received by the Indian public, without accusing its leaders of “selling out to China”? In [Prof Dibyesh] Anand’s estimation, the public can be “persuaded either way if the political leadership shows signs of moving beyond unhelpful nationalist myth-making.”
These analysts seem to disdain "nationalist myth-making" of India as if China does none of that and as if nationalist myth-making is wrong. It is a worrisome turn of the debate on India-China border dispute.

Marginal Is Everything - 2009 Indian Elections

We happened to read Ashok Malik new Yahoo politics column. We saw a repeat of the analysis of 2009 election during which Malik quotes from Amit Verma's column which was attributed to analysis in Business Standard by Devangshu Datt. While Amit himself agrees with Datt analysis - which seems to take a wrong conclusion from marginal shift in electoral alliance of population towards Congress I and away from BJP. (While Malik disagrees with Amit's agreement with Datt, he himself had to nothing say about actual number of electoral shift to the two national political parties.) Here is what Amit says, from Malik's quote, quoting Datt's analysis:

...the vote share of the Congress went from 26.5% to 28.6%; the BJP dipped from 22.2 to 18.8: not a seismic shift at all. That the UPA gained so many seats is because of a number of diverse reasons, such as the changing pattern of local alliances that split the opposition vote in many places, such as in Maharashtra.

We are sure the reason for UPA seats gain may have been due to diverse reasons, but the way to look at marginal change is not to look at absolute change. It's always useful to look at marginal change in terms of the change itself.

An increase of Congress I vote from 26.5% to 28.6% is not an increase of 2.1% but an increase of 7.9%! Similarly a decrease of BJP vote from 22.2% to 18.8% is not a decrease of 3.4%, although itself significant, but a decrease of 15.3% - a significant loss of marginal electoral! When one looks at the difference between the electoral gains of Congress I and electoral loses of BJP, it is a swing of 23.2% of marginal electoral vote. Now that's significant number for Congress I and BJP.

Whether it was the media, choice of alliances, coherence of Congress I and incoherence of BJP, faces of Manmohan Singh and Sonia verses face of Advani (may be it was the bread of Singh and white skin of Sonia vs the wrinkle, still white, face of Advani that won the election for them), or simply silliness of Bharatiya voters (after all Congress I won the seat of the worst terrorist attack on 26/11, in South Mumbai, despite display of utter incompetence by Congress I state and central leaders), the win was a decisive win for Congress I and decisive lose for BJP.