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‘English titles chalta hai!’

November 29, 2009 Leave a comment

Way before Hinglish was even bornBollywood has rediscovered the KISS (Keep It Short and Simple) rule, at least where film titles are concerned. Having had its fill of long names — Bollywood’s now high on short words, and most of them straight off the English vocabulary rack. (via ‘English titles chalta hai!’ – The Times of India).

See .. it is all in English

Bollywood, Tollywood, Kollywood

This is an interesting (though superficial) article on how Hindi film industry, out of Mumbai, uses English.  As far back as my memory goes, Hindi film industry (out of Mumbai) used English in all their print material. Whether it was Mother India or Mera Naam Joker, all text was in English. If the film was based on an Indian-English novel like RK Narayan’s  Guide or a Bengali classic like Devdas, the language was English.

Hindi film posters always used English. In the age of LP records, LP sleeves of Hindi film music were in English. Later cassette covers were also in English – and now CDs, DVDs also come in English jackets. Even though a vast majority of the Hindi-film audience had no knowledge of English, Hindi film industry persisted with English.

Interesting! Just why did Hindi cinema end up using English so extensively! I could think of three reasons.

The law of the land

Was it because the Censor Board certification happened in English? The Censor Board bench for South India is different – and standards and norms followed by them are different. Did the South India Censor Board accept South Indian languages – which may have allowed South Indian film industry to use local languages.

Censor legislation was introduced in India at a time (1918) when her British rulers were determined that cinema should serve, unflinchingly, their colonial interests. There was no indigenous film industry at that time and the canons of censorship targeted films imported from the west, especially the US. The British wanted these films to create a rosy picture about the west and the western people’s intentions in the colonies. The Regional Censor Boards, were constituted in 1920 and each one technically autonomous … (from From Coercion to Power Relations: Film Censorship in Post-Colonial India by Someswar Bhowmik).

Tamil industry was different ... why!

Tamil industry was different ... why!

Ours is not to reason why …

Was it because the scripts had to be typed in English. Remember, no Hindi type writers, till the 1960s and Hindi typists were rare and far in between. Or was it because multinationals controlled the Indian music scene till the late 80s – and the gora bosses did not know Hindi.

Kodambakkam (home of Tamil and for some time Telugu cinema) used Tamil and Telugu mostly on their cassette covers. Tamil and Telugu posters were also in Tamil and Telugu respectively.

That ‘insecure’ feeling

The Mumbai film industry always had a complex about not being ‘good enough’ in comparison to Hollywood. Bollywood (Bombay based film industry), Kollywood (Kodambakkam based Tamil/Telugu industry) and Tollywood (for Telugu film industry) were deprecating names used by the gossip journalists – which stuck.

The Tamil and Telugu film industry had no such insecurities – and were always clear about their audience. The look and feel of the Tamil /Telugu films is also different from Mumbai-Hindi film industry.

Chennai storms Hindi film turf with Jeetu, Jaya Prada and SrideviBetween 1967 upto nearly 1973, Chennai invaded the Hindi turf. Using actors like Jeetendra and Mumtaz, they worked on lower costs films, raunchier choreography of the songs and invited the description of ‘spaghetti’ Bollywood. Curiously, it coincided with the spaghetti wave in Hollywood. The second invasion of Chennai into the Hindi turf happened during the 1980-1990 decade. This time with major stars like Amitabh Bachchan in tow.

The glory of the English

There is the usual argument trotted out that English serves as the ‘link language in the Mumbai film industry. As can be seen from some simple data, this argument is fallacious.

The South Indian film industry is significantly insular – catering to its specific clientele, attracting artistes from its home ground. But the Mumbai film industry attracts people from all over India. Is it that they found it easier to deal with each other in English – than in Hindi? Doubtful.

90% of the movers and shakers in Mumbai film industry are either Muslim or Punjabis. There is a token presence from the rest of the communities. It would have been easy for the Punjabis and Muslims to work in Urdu or Hindi. Till about the 60s, Indian actors had to change their name – from Yusufbhai to Dilip Kumar for instance.

All this raises more questions in my mind – and maybe some readers will have answers.

Nicolas Sarkozy ‘helped’ Roman Polanski get bail

November 28, 2009 Leave a comment
The Glitter Dome by Joseph Wambaugh
The Glitter Dome by Joseph Wambaugh

The director’s sister-in-law Mathilde Seigner hinted that the leader has been instrumental to the recent development.

“I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it is thanks to the President that Roman has been freed, but he has been super. The President has been very effective,” Times Online quoted her as telling Le Parisien newspaper.

Sarkozy had earlier expressed his views on the director being held on a US warrant for having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977. (via Nicolas Sarkozy ‘helped’ Roman Polanski get bail).

Joseph Wambaugh on Hollywood

For years now, I have been avid reader of Joseph Wambaugh – a policeman turned writer. His comedies, wrapped in (mostly) LA or (sometimes) New York milieu, are in the style of Raymond Chandler under halogen lamp. The darker areas get better light. The chrome glints more. Glamour quotient gets mixed with large doses of warmth and understanding. Unlike Chandler, Wambaugh’s is never judgmental – which make his characters very real.

I read Wambaugh’s Glitter Dome, and twenty years later I remember one of his interesting observations on Hollywood,

Parking, not pussy, is at a premium around these parts, they said.

Wambaugh captures the politics of Hollywood
Wambaugh captures the politics of Hollywood in The Glitter Dome By Joseph Wambaugh, page 46

Sarkozy and Polanski are both short ... I wonder ...Sex, Cinema and Fashion

Hollywood, Bollywood (a patronizing name by which Indian film industry calls itself), haute couture businesses have a rather blase attitude about sex. Hence, to hold Hollywood to ordinary behavioural norms, has a puritanical air about it. In the Polanski affaire, the alleged victim, Samantha Geimer, wants the case closed.

But anyway, coming to why this story gets me curious, is why did Anand Jon, a haute couture designer get such a harsh sentence. Unwilling /semi-willing /actively willing sex in Hollywood /Bollywood /haute couture businesses is what (I have been given to believe is) normal. I mean these days, stars /starlets ‘leak’ sex tapes on the internet.

And no one has ever been seriously prosecuted, convicted and sentenced – as Anand Jon has been!

Where is the balance

I am assuming that Anand Jon is guilty. Is it the first time that models have tried advancing their career by sleeping with designers? Has it not happened before? I wonder what is it that Anand Jon did, which brought down the entire American judicial establishment onto him like ton of bricks. The case of the Sri Lankan Rajarathnam has similar smell to it.

The US prosecuting authority, Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, alleges that the Galleon Fund made some US$20 million out of this insider trading. I am sure that Galleon Fund (more than US$5 billion in assets under management) spent more than US$20 million on tea, coffee, espresso, soda, Evian and paper napkins. Rajrathnam’s own net worth was estimated by “Forbes” to be US$ 1.3 billion.

Coconut Bharara - Brown outside, White insideIs there any sense, any balance to these cases. Is Preet Bharara, indulging in reverse ‘affirmative action’ by prosecuting Rajarathnam? Is Preet Bharara trying to prove that he is colour blind?

“If you’re a wealthy trader, you aren’t special,” Bloomberg quoted Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara as saying at a press conference. “Knock on our door before we come knocking on yours.”

If you ask me, he should investigate Hank Paulson, the Former Treasury Secretary, under whose watch many bankruptcies happened conveniently in favour of JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs.

Big Brother is watching you

November 27, 2009 5 comments

So, whether it is Red Rage or Green Jihad, the State just needs an excuse to extend its power – and this ‘surveillance’ raj is one part of it.

The Red Rage

There is a increasing chorus in India that a ‘surveillance’ regime is needed in India also.

There is no Pakistani hand 'here' (Image source and courtesy - www.indiatogether.org). Click for larger image.

There is no Pakistani hand 'here' (Image source and courtesy - http://www.indiatogether.org). Click for larger image.

undermanned police managed a low crime society in India till now. The excuse of terrorism is being used to advance the case for a police state in India also – like the UK, USA, China etc.

Lalgarh has proved one thing –purusharth in India is still alive and well. Moksh मोक्ष is the ultimate aim of all humans – and the meaning ofmoksh is freedom, emancipation, deliverance. Moksh is one of the four objectives (धर्म अर्थ, काम, मोक्ष) in the Indian ethical code of पुरुषार्थ.

Santhals and the British

In Lalgarh, middle aged Santhal women, armed with spears, axes and knives came out to battle a repressive state which sold out to Big Business. For nearly a 100 years, a 100 years ago, the same Santhals had fought the British Raj earlier. When so many women come out in the open, with bows and arrows, one thing is clear.

There are more where they come from.

Police States maturing across the world

There are more, where these women came from. (Image source and courtesy - indianvanguard.files.wordpress.com). Click for larger image.

There are more, where these women came from. (Image source and courtesy - indianvanguard.files.wordpress.com). Click for larger image.

China’s Golden Shield Project has several US corporations such as IBM, General Electric, and Honeywell working closely with the Chinese government to install millions of surveillance cameras throughout the country, along with advanced video analysis and facial recognition software, which will identify and track individuals everywhere they go. They will be connected to a centralised database and monitoring station, which will, upon completion of the project, contain a picture of the face of every person in China – over 1.3 billion people.

Law enforcement and intelligence services in the UK and the US possess technology to remotely activate the microphones in cellphones, by accessing the phone’s diagnostic/maintenance features, in order to listen to conversations that take place nearby the person who holds the phone. Mobile phones are also commonly used to collect location data.

When women come out in the open like this ... beware Chiddu Boy!

When women come out in the open like this ... beware Chiddu Boy!

In the US, for instance, under the Communications Assistance For Law Enforcement Act, all phone calls, VoIP and broadband internet traffic (emails, web traffic, instant messaging, etc) are required to be available for unimpeded real-time monitoring by federal law enforcement agencies. Computers are also a surveillance target because of the personal data stored on them. If someone is able to install software (either physically or remotely), such as the FBI’s “Magic Lantern” and Computer and IP verification (CIPAV), on a computer system, they can easily gain unauthorised access to this data. Another form of computer surveillance, known as TEMPEST, involves reading electromagnetic emanations from computing devices in order to extract data from them at distances of hundreds of meters.

Surveillance cameras are often connected to a recording device, IP network, and/or watched by a security guard/law enforcement officer. In the UK, for instance, there are about 4.2 million surveillance cameras — one camera for every 14 people. (via How other countries fare).

The excuse for extending power

Chiddu! I would be afraid. Very afraid

Chiddu! I would be afraid. Very afraid

So, whether it is Red Rage or Green Jihad, the State just needs an excuse to extend its power – and this ‘surveillance’ raj is one part of it.

In the US, for instance, more than three-quarters of young black men aged between 18 and 35 are on the system, the report said. Set up in 1995, the database contains the DNA profiles of five million citizens, eight percent of the population, making it the world’s biggest in proportion to population size. “Parliament has never formally debated the establishment of the National DNA Database and safeguards around it,” commission chairman Professor Jonathan Montgomery said in a statement.

“It has developed through amendments to laws designed to regulate the taking of fingerprints and physical evidence before DNA profiling was developed.

“It is not clear how far holding DNA profiles on a central database improves police investigations.” (via U.K. cops arrest people ‘just for the DNA’ – Europe- msnbc.com).

Big brother is definitely here

As post-WW2 European society was taking shape, one man warned the world – Big Brother Is Watching You! George Orwell’s 1984, a simple, dark and melancholic book warned the world of the spectre of a police state looming over the world.

The book was portrayed as warning against the ‘impending’ threat of Communism. George Orwell himself joined the British Government in its propaganda effort during WW2.

Would George Orwell have imagined that Britain, the ‘citadel of freedom’, itself would becoming the Mother Of Big Brother societies – with the largest number surveillance cameras and DNA data bank and a back-breaking prison population.

I wonder!

In the land of the free

The US prison population at more than 20 lakhs (2 million) is travesty of justice and humanity. The US competes with China and the erstwhile USSR, (the largest totalitarian regimes) in the world, with its rate of incarceration.

Most people are today feel assured about Big Brother's watchful presence

Most people are today feel assured about Big Brother's watchful presence

USA, with a population of 30 crores (300 million), has a criminal population of 70 lakhs (7 million) – behind bars, on probation or on parole. US Government estimates a figure of 20 lakhs (2 million) people serving prison sentences.

A concerned editorial in New York Timesnewspaper summed up the situation.

More than 1 in 100 American adults are behind bars. One in nine black men, ages 20 to 34, are serving time, as are 1 in 36 adult Hispanic men. Nationwide, the prison population … (of the US) surpasses all other countries for which there are reliable figures. The 50 states last year spent about $44 billion in tax dollars on corrections, up from nearly $11 billion in 1987. Vermont, Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan and Oregon devote as much money or more to corrections as they do to higher education.

Persuading public officials to adopt a more rational, cost-effective approach to prison policy is a daunting prospect, however, not least because building and running jailhouses has become a major industry.

… the relationship between imprisonment and crime control is murky. States that lagged behind the national average in rising incarceration rates during the 1990’s actually experienced a steeper decline in crime rates than states above the national average …(ellipsis and bracketed text mine).

Across the pond

Some time back there was another report, on the state of prisons in UK.

Feeling assured? More than 40 old, this cartoon presaged the arrival of surveillance society. (Cartoonist - Ron Cobb; year of publication - 1968).

Feeling assured? More than 40 old, this cartoon presaged the arrival of surveillance society. (Cartoonist - Ron Cobb; year of publication - 1968).

There are almost 10,000 Muslims in Britain’s jails— with 90 of them serving time for terror offences … they fear more and more young lags are being converted and radicalised in prison. A … source said: “You are talking about rootless young men at the bottom of society. They’re in jail and someone gives them some purpose. ”

In top-security jails such as Whitemoor, Cambs, 35 per cent of inmates are Muslim—and they have converted numerous other prisoners to Islam. (viaMI5 spy chiefs are putting undercover officers into Britain’s jails | News Of The World).

Slice and dice …

Britain has an estimated 1.6 million Muslims – a 2.8% of the British population. Of this a 10,000 are in prison – which means about 0.6% of the British Muslim population is in prison. India has 16 crore Muslims – which a 100 times higher Islamic population than Britain.

What if …

If India were to follow the British policy of imprisonment, Indian Muslims inside prisons would number 10 lakhs (or 1 million). India’s total prison population ranges between 2.5 lakhs to 3.5 lakhs – of all peoples, of all religions, races, crimes etc.

Traditionally, Indian society handles crime vastly differently. Technically, India could create a legal system which would ease the ability of the police to imprison people, or better still hang them – and hide its social problems.

Freedom, imprisonment, racism, development, genocide

What is the difference between a ‘banana republic’ where people disappear – and in the Anglo-Saxon Bloc which has the world largest prison population? Maybe, my being from a backward country, stops me from understanding this great ‘progress’ that these countries seemed to have made!

The sight of the West, strutting as a protector of freedom on the global stage is a hoax. How can the West have a problem with Native American tribes (aka Red Indians) and the Aborigines – if there are none left. The West which has the highest levels of prison populations in the world – raucously reminds the world of lessons in freedom.

What is assimilation and integration

The West speaks of protecting individual freedom, whereas the calls for ‘assimilation’ integration are nothing but refurbished implementation of the ‘settled’ principle in the Desert Bloc of ‘cuius regio, eius religio’ (meaning whose land, his religion; CRER) – the ruler decided his people’s religion.

A US WW2 poster! Were those millions of lives wasted!!

A US WW2 poster! Were those millions of lives wasted!!

The West can speak from both sides of the mouth. Nicholas Sarkozy can tell Indians (i.e. Manmohan Singh) to respect foreign missionarieswho want to convert Indians to their religion – while the West can continue with this demonization of Islam.

Would Sarkozy like to mention any other country where such a large minority Muslim population, has greater freedom and opportunity, than in India? Would you, Mr.Sarkozy, like to suggest France instead?

This is freedom – from both sides. For the West.

U.K. cops arrest people ‘just for the DNA’

November 26, 2009 Leave a comment

More than three-quarters of young black men aged between 18 and 35 are on the system, the report said. Set up in 1995, the database contains the DNA profiles of five million citizens, eight percent of the population, making it the world’s biggest in proportion to population size. “Parliament has never formally debated the establishment of the National DNA Database and safeguards around it,” commission chairman Professor Jonathan Montgomery said in a statement.

“It has developed through amendments to laws designed to regulate the taking of fingerprints and physical evidence before DNA profiling was developed.

“It is not clear how far holding DNA profiles on a central database improves police investigations.” (via U.K. cops arrest people ‘just for the DNA’ – Europe- msnbc.com).

Most people are today feel assured about Big Brother's watchful presenceBig brother is definitely here

As post-WW2 European society was taking shape, one man warned the world – Big Brother Is Watching You!

George Orwell’s 1984, a simple, dark and melancholic book warned the world of the specter of a looming police state looming. The book was portrayed as warning against the ‘impending’ threat of Communism. George Orwell himself joined the British Government in its propaganda effort, against the Germans during WW2.

Would George Orwell, a confused imperialist, have imagined that Britain, the citadel of freedom, itself would becoming the Mother Of Big Brother societies – with the largest number surveillance cameras and DNA data bank and a back-breaking prison population.

I wonder!

In the land of the free

The US prison population at more than 20 lakhs (2 million) is travesty of justice and humanity. The US competes with China and the erstwhile USSR, (the largest totalitarian regimes) in the world, with its rate of incarceration.

USA, with a population of 30 crores (300 million), has a criminal population of 70 lakhs (7 million) – behind bars, on probation or on parole. US Government estimates a figure of 20 lakhs (2 million) people serving prison sentences.

A concerned editorial in New York Times newspaper summed up the situation.

More than 1 in 100 American adults are behind bars. One in nine black men, ages 20 to 34, are serving time, as are 1 in 36 adult Hispanic men. Nationwide, the prison population … (of the US) surpasses all other countries for which there are reliable figures. The 50 states last year spent about $44 billion in tax dollars on corrections, up from nearly $11 billion in 1987. Vermont, Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan and Oregon devote as much money or more to corrections as they do to higher education.

Persuading public officials to adopt a more rational, cost-effective approach to prison policy is a daunting prospect, however, not least because building and running jailhouses has become a major industry.

… the relationship between imprisonment and crime control is murky. States that lagged behind the national average in rising incarceration rates during the 1990’s actually experienced a steeper decline in crime rates than states above the national average … (ellipsis and bracketed text mine).

Feeling assuredAcross the pond

Some time back there was another report, on the state of prisons in UK.

There are almost 10,000 Muslims in Britain’s jails— with 90 of them serving time for terror offences … they fear more and more young lags are being converted and radicalised in prison. A … source said: “You are talking about rootless young men at the bottom of society. They’re in jail and someone gives them some purpose. ”

In top-security jails such as Whitemoor, Cambs, 35 per cent of inmates are Muslim—and they have converted numerous other prisoners to Islam. (via MI5 spy chiefs are putting undercover officers into Britain’s jails | News Of The World).

Slice and dice …

Britain has an estimated 1.6 million Muslims – a 2.8% of the British population. Of this a 10,000 are in prison – which means about 0.6% of the British Muslim population is in prison. India has 16 crore Muslims – which a 100 times higher population.

What if …

The British policy of imprisonment, if India were to follow, Indian Muslims inside prisons would be in 10 lakhs (or 1 million). India’s total prison population ranges between 2.5 lakhs to 3.5 lakhs – of all peoples, of all religions, races, crimes etc.

Of course, Indian society handles crime vastly differently. Technically, India could create a legal system which would ease the ability of the police to imprison people, or better still hang them – and hide its social problems.

Freedom, imprisonment, racism, development, genocide

What is the difference between a ‘banana republic’ where people disappear – and in the Anglo-Saxon Bloc which has the world largest prison population? Maybe, my being from a backward country, stops me from understanding this great ‘progress’ that these countries seemed to have made!

The sight of the West, strutting as a protector of freedom on the global stage is a hoax. How can the West have a problem with Native American tribes (aka Red Indians) and the Aborigines – if there are none left. The West which has the highest levels of prison populations in the world – raucously reminds the world of lessons in freedom.

What is assimilation and integration

The West speaks of protecting individual freedom, whereas the calls for ‘assimilation’ integration are nothing but refurbished implementation of the ‘settled’ principle in the Desert Bloc of Cuius regio, eius religio’ (meaning whose land, his religion; CRER) – the ruler decided his people’s religion.

The West can speak from both sides of the mouth. Nicholas Sarkozy can tell Indians (i.e.Manmohan Singh) to respect foreign missionaries, who want to convert Indians to their religion – while the West can continue with this demonization of Islam. Would Sarkozy like to mention any other country where such a large minority Muslim population, has greater freedom and opportunity, than in India? Would you like to suggest France instead?

This is freedom – from both sides. For the West.

The idea of Pakistan!

November 25, 2009 Leave a comment

Extract from "Memories of Jinnah By K. H. Khurshid, Khālid Ḥasan"

हंस के लिए हैं पाकिस्तान, लड़ के लेंगे हिंदुस्तान

With a contemptuous smile, we robbed them off Pakistan;

Now we will battle, to conquer Hindustan

Synthesis of Pakistan

For many years, the above slogan (popular in pre-partition India amongst Muslims) summed up the idea of Pakistan. Pakistan was more about taking away from Hindustan than making and building a Pakistan. And that is no surprise.

Jinnah acted pricey with the support of half a per cent (0.5%) of India's Muslim population - and the might of the British Raj behind him! (Cartoon - Artist - Low; David (1891-1963) Published - Evening Standard, 04 Sep 1946).

Jinnah acted pricey with the support of half a per cent (0.5%) of India's Muslim population - and the might of the British Raj behind him! (Cartoon - Artist - Low; David (1891-1963) Published - Evening Standard, 04 Sep 1946).

Consider what Jinnah later boasted “I will tell you who made Pakistan: Myself, my secretary and his typewriter”. Many versions of the boast exist – though no one disputes the boast itself. Another writer narrates how Jinnah won “Pakistan merely with the assistance of “one Secretary and a typewriter machine”.

Yet another researcher writes how “Jinnah once claimed that “I have won Pakistan with the help of my Secretary and his typewriter”. One memoir of Khurshid, Jinnah’s Secretary, pretty much says the same thing, “I’ll tell you who made Pakistan. Myself, my secretary and his typewriter”. At yet another occasion he seems to have said, ” My dear man, I got you Pakistan with a typist and a typewriter.”

Apocryphal (as Jaswant Singh seems to suggest) or verbatim, this boast was repeated so many times and in the many versions, does capture the Pakistani mindset. The State of Pakistan was an artificial creation – and popular leaders like Sheikh Abdullah refused to even meet up with Jinnah and was deemed irrelevant.

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn …

What partition era Indians remember most about the slogan above, was the indifference, to the fate of Pakistan by the soon-to-be Pakistanis – and their total India-centric focus. It is their reading, that the Pakistanis may not mourn away the passing away of Pakistan much – which is something that most Indians do not factor. Having got Pakistan for a song, they may soon be found snickering at its break up.

Is it this indifference which has allowed Pakistan to become a client state of the West?

Resident Non Indians

Some part of the Indian bureaucracy and English speaking media is possibly made up of RNIs (Resident Non-Indians), whose children and future, they have ’secured’ in the West – much like the indifferent Pakistanis.

And this may be the one quality, that possibly is the one thing, that the RNIs and Pakistanis share – indifference to the fate of the country.

Will China go the Japan way …

November 23, 2009 4 comments

 

After WWII, as old European powers were retreating, the US was building a new imperial system. Pax Americana.

Is this Western 'humility' or a flanking move on China? (Cartoonist - Mike Keefe, The Denver Post; courtesy - caglecartoons.com.).

Is this Western ‘humility’ or a flanking move on China? (Cartoonist – Mike Keefe, The Denver Post; courtesy – caglecartoons.com.).

During Obama’s visit, China secured everything it wanted – the political dividends of funding $800 billion debt to an ailing US economy. Having locked the US into economic inter-dependence, it also used American vulnerability to legitimise a much larger role for itself. Hitherto China was the greatest champion of “national sovereignty” which it deftly contrasted to the West’s intrusiveness. The seemingly innocuous reference to India and Pakistan marks a new willingness to step into an emerging void. China is not going to flex its muscles in a hurry. It has set the markers for a new, global architecture of power that will follow its inevitable emergence as the world’s biggest economy. India has reason to worry. (via China has tamed India with help from Obama – The Times Of India).

The US strategy

Most ‘future-of-China’ debates are incomplete as they miss a very important element –  the American template for co-opting client states. Let us call this as US-Client-Acquisition Programme (USCAP). China’s economic future will be decided by access to US markets, capital, technology, businesses – very closely.

After WWII, as British, French and Dutch colonialists were being thrown out of Asia, in country after country, the West was in real danger of losing markets and raw material sources. Fueled by a growing migrant population, USA, took the place of tired, old powers – Britain, France and the Dutch. Instead of the openly exploitative system of European powers directly running colonial governments in these Asian countries, the US installed an opaque system – which is equally exploitative. To impose its writ on the newly independent Asian countries, the US simply destroyed their  economies by war.

The USA, then instituted the innovative US-Client-Acquisition-Programme USCAP Program and ‘helped’ these countries. These countries (Taiwan, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, et al) were now ruled by overtly independent regimes – but covertly, client states of the USA.

US multinationals and home-grown oligarchs (keiretsus, chaebols, etc.) took over the economy – and sidelined British, French and Dutch companies. To impose this economic model, US armies, using nearly 1 million troops, killed 50 lakh Asians. The takeover of European colonial possessions by the USA was handled over 3 regimes of Eisenhower-Kennedy-Johnson seamlessly.

Club de USA. (Cartoonist - Gary Varvel; publication date - 30-10-2008; source and courtesy - thedailynews.com). Click for larger image.

Club de USA. (Cartoonist – Gary Varvel; publication date – 30-10-2008; source and courtesy – thedailynews.com). Click for larger image.

Multi-lever device

Apart from war, conflict, by using economic levers, it has successfully created client states across Europe, SE Asia, Japan, etc. Some economies have taken the bait, used US incentives and become ‘successful’ client states.

Some prospective  clients states have fallen by the wayside. South American failures, the Middle East, Pakistan, post-Gorbachev Russian reluctance have been signal failures of  American recruitment.

The strategy has 5 five corner-stones: –

  1. High dollar value – vis-à-vis the client state currency.
  2. Export led growth
  3. US multinational corporate investments
  4. US soft-power is allowed unimpeded run (Hollywood, Rock & Roll, Coca Cola, McDonald’s, etc.)
  5. US enemies are the enemies of the client states

The most ambitious target and the biggest challenge in the execution of this strategy is China. But before we look at China, we need to see the US pattern of recruitment and involvement.

In the aftermath of the WW2

After nearly 6 years of WW2, Europe was prostate, with more than 25 million killed (including the Holocaust). European economies were shattered. 10 years after WW2, Europe lost most of its colonies. In the midst of this, the US stepped in with the Marshall Plan and IBRD. Most European currencies were set at a low exchange rate, exports to the USA were boosted, and Europe made a comeback.

Money makes the world go round ... (Illustration by KAL | Feb 5th 2009 | Source and courtesy - economist.com). Click for a larger image.

Money makes the world go round … (Illustration by KAL | Feb 5th 2009 | Source and courtesy – economist.com). Click for a larger image.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Europeans amassed a huge stash of US treasury bills to keep up fixed exchange-rate pegs, much as China has done today. But the purchasing power of Europe’s dollars shrivelled during the 1970s, when the costs of waging the Vietnam war and a surge in oil prices contributed to a calamitous inflation. (from China’s Dollar Dilemma By Kenneth Rogoff)

In return for US aid, Europe agreed to be a junior partner in the NATO alliance. Unlike most overlords and masters of the past, the USCAP allowed significant leeway to their European client states in matters of culture, language, political, economic and religious freedom. The US yoke around the European necks was never too heavy or irksome. Mostly.

Italy, Germany, France, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, The Netherlands made a brilliant recovery. The only laggard was Britain – living on past glory and trying to unwind the past, at the same time. As European economies stabilized, the US ‘allowed’ European currencies to appreciate against the dollar, triggering 40 years of low-growth /economic stagnation in Europe.

The end of the Japanese miracle

As European success stabilized, US turned its attention to Japan. The Japanese star started ascending in the 70s. From the 80s, right upto the 90’s, the business and economic world were agog with the coming of the Japanese. The ‘Japan-MITI-keiretsu-Quality management system’ combination seemed unstoppable. The world waited with bated breath for the Japan to rail-road everyone else. Every businessman, first tried to learn Japanese etiquette.

Hollywood made films showcasing Japanese business and economic systems – like Black Rain (Michael Douglas teaches a few things to the Japanese Yakuza and the Tokyo Police); Die Hard (Bruce Willis fights terrorists in Nakatomi Plaza), Rising Sun (Sean Connery, Wesley Snipes investigate murder in an American subsidiary of a Japanese company).

1973-1985. The Japanese were strutting on the world stage. In their hubris, one Japanese businessman declared that the only world-class product made in USA was maple syrup.

From ‘The myths of Japanese quality; By Ray E. Eberts, Cindelyn G. Eberts’, Page 141

In business schools, Japanese management was the first lesson and the last word. American corporate icons like Xerox, FedEx, Motorola adopted various ‘QIP’ systems – quality improvement processes. The miracle of European Reconstruction and EU was not even in the consideration set any more. The USSR was still a power to reckon with. Berlin Wall looked like a permanent fixture across the heart of the Western world. And the Japanese manufacturing juggernaut seemed unstoppable.

Falling cherry blossoms

Finally, the Americans decided to bell the cat – and the yen-dollar exchange rate was rejigged. The American government put pressure on Japan’s politicians and central banking officials to raise the value of the yen against the dollar. Some U.S. industries, anxious about their eroding share of world markets, put political pressure on American politicians. With some support from academic economists, American producers argued that a higher-valued yen would help their products sell better in competition with Japanese products and therefore reduce the American trade deficit.

In 1985, the US worked out a deal, whereby the US dollar was devalued, without a formal devaluation. The dollar was allowed to sink against the Japanese Yen – only it was not called a devaluation, but was called the Plaza Accord. Whereby the dollar would be allowed to depreciate against other currencies – especially the Japanese Yen. Intense negotiations spread over nearly a decade followed. During crucial and intense negotiation with Japan, in 1992, George Bush Sr., vomited and fainted.

The Oil-Dollar Tango

Endaka – and the end of the Japanese run

After the Plaza Accord, the Japanese team went back home and prepared their industry for endaka – high yen prices. Between August 1971 through April 1995, the yen’s value ratcheted up from 360 to 80 for a dollar. In 1993, for the first time, a non LDP Government was formed in Japan – The Shinseito (Japan Renewal Party) came to power.

And the Japanese goose was truly cooked.

Net outcome, by the mid 1990s, the Japanese juggernaut was halted. Japan had to remain contented with being the world’s second largest economy. George Soros thought,

the prospect of Japan’s emerging as the dominant financial power in the world is very disturbing, not only from the point of view of the United States but also from that of the entire Western civilization

For the next 10 years, the Japanese economy stagnated, investments stagnated. Their dream of supplanting the US as the world’s largest economy were over – for now at least.

Stuffed Tigers

After Japan, the 90s was decade of the Asian Tigers – Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore were all set to replace Japan as the ‘new axis’ of world economy. India especially came out as a clumsy plodder against these countries. Lee Kuan Yew, held forth on the Indian character as faulty – and could not compete with the Chinese-Confucian value-set. Commentators tripped over themselves, predicting an Asian century.

Then followed the Asian Crisis. Significantly affected, Mahathir Mohammed claimed that the 1997 Asian Crisis was a foreign conspiracy. Specifically, he named George Soros as the master mind behind the Asian Crisis. Nine years later, Mahathir made up with George Soros – and at a joint press conference, retracted his charge. (Note: This story got a fresh lease of life during the pre-election campaign in Malaysia. Purportedly, George Soros funded some political parties and websites, with some new stories and fresh charges targetting Mahathir Mohammed.).

Has It Come To This? (Cartoon by David Horsey; publication date - 19th May 2008; source and courtesy - sanfranciscosentinel.com). Click for larger image.

Has It Come To This? (Cartoon by David Horsey; publication date – 19th May 2008; source and courtesy – sanfranciscosentinel.com). Click for larger image.

The ostensible reason for the Asian crisis was that investors in the Asian Tigers were funding long-term investments from short-term borrowings – a classic mismatch. The rapid withdrawal of foreign funds impacted development of these economies to the extent of a decade.

The real reason possibly was in the scheme of USCAP things, the US had turned its attention to the Chinese recruitment.

The 2 trillion trap

Similar to the success of the Europeans, the Japanese, Koreans and the Asian Tigers, China too has embraced the US-client state model. Booming exports to the US, massive FDI by the US in the Chinese economy, has put China in the earlier position of Japan and Korea – prime sub-contractors to the US economy. Where the Chinese economy seems to ‘partially different’ is the military side. On foreign policy and ‘American’ culture, the Chinese have been ‘superficially’ resistant and nominally ‘assertive’.

The Chinese miracle, much like the ASEAN, Japanese and European miracles before, is using exports to the USA as a stepping stone. Chinese growth and expansion depends on access to the US markets and a devalued currency. For how long will the US allow the Chinese to do that? Another 5 years – or is it 10 years. Was Obama’s China visit, the first round – in a 50 round bout, spread over the next 7 years?

What is China's future ...

What is China’s future …

The US dollar-renminbi tango will continue over the next 5-7 years. US pressures will be steadily increasing pressure on the Chinese. After the Asian crisis, China was in a better position to resist American pressure for renminbi revaluation. That resistance to renminbi revaluation, in turn, caught China, in another trap. China has US$ 2 trillion worth of rapidly depreciating foreign reserves.

Which brings us to India!

What will it be

What are the threats to the Indian economy! Will it be a ‘sudden’ collapse in software and outsourcing? Or will it be a severe contraction in gems and jewellery exports? Can it be a 3 year drought due to global warming? Many in India are panting for the day, when the US will deign to look India-wards and make India also into a client state. Most recently, we had the privilege of Shashi Tharoor, our Honourable Minister, who sees India replacing Israel in the US camp!

Without including factors like self-respect, national pride et al, two things make this scenario unlikely. India’s vast entrepreneurial class is unlikely to play second fiddle to American companies. More importantly, with declining US pre-eminence, it is late in the day to become an American client. A more equitable partnership may yet be possible for India.

PS

  1. China has regained roughly 45% in the last 17 years. The USCAP will need another 10%-20% upward revaluation before the US economy regains traction. StPTBarnum twitter message on 14th January, 2011.

China’s yuan at 13 year high. Close to 45% devaluation on 27th December 1993. Will China go the Japan way?: http://is.gd/Yr2ANG

  1. In the last 9 months, after this post, debates, analysis posts along similar logic, parallel lines and tangential orbits started appearing.You can’t go wrong, going with Quicktake!

I list below a selection: –

1. First of the block was a BBC itself. Roland Buerk from BBC News, Tokyo who asked

Is Japan’s economy a warning for China?

Japan’s workers have an air of purpose about them, even if their economy is no longer the rising giant it once was.

2. Then came a post by blogger, David Houle. He was sure that

As Japan Has Gone, So Will China?

wrote David Houle for the MediaBizBloggers group.

3. A littler while later, seekingalpha.com author Edward Harrison started wondering if

Is China Repeating Japan’s Mistakes?

4. In June, Deepak Lal started unravelling Chinese economy

Chinese Puzzle-I – Economy

China’s forex reserves look like going the way Japan’s did in the 1980s. Therefore, all talks of a G2 dominating the world economy are premature.

5. Most recently, we then had Huffington Post linking to a story from Foreign Policy, asking

Is China Turning Japanese?

6. Most recently, Businessweek, actually wished that

If Only China Were More Like Japan

China is heading toward a Japanese-style economic debacle, says columnist John Lee, who warns that the process won’t be as gradual or peaceful


A shift in position

November 22, 2009 3 comments

Last week, eyebrows were raised over yet another media appearance by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief, Mohan Rao Bhagwat. This time, the fuss centred on his categorical public announcement that the next national president of the Bharatiya Janata Party would not be a Delhi-based leader, and that L.K. Advani would soon relinquish his post as leader of the Opposition. Fortuitously for the Indian foreign policy establishment, his prognosis that Pakistan and Afghanistan “are a part of us and will return one day” did not arouse corresponding attention. (via The Telegraph – Calcutta (Kolkata) | Opinion | A shift in position).

From Ashvakan to Afghans

The task of subduing the Afghan, (a possibly corrupt form of Ashvakan, meaning horse specialists in Sanskrit), from the time of Alexander  to the latest Russian and American misadventures in Afghanistan underscores, the nature of the Indo-Afghan relationship. From the time of Tomyris (Thamyris), when Indian elephant units helped the Afghans to massacre Persian invaders under Cyrus the Great, or when the Afghans hopelessly tied up Alexander.

Alexander’s Indo-Afghan campaign ‘gave him the runs’ (dysentery), his soldiers deserted him in droves, he had to make a marriage alliance, pay nearly 1000 talents (25,000 kg in gold) for an alliance, his dear horse Bucephalus died, he was himself injured twice, made to release prisoners (without a ransom).

End result – he massacred defenceless non-combatant populations and armies alike, when ‘opportunities’ presented themselves.Why did Genghis Khan 'spare' India ...

Islamic ‘conquest’ of India

While Islamic armies were marauding Europe, Central Asia, Africa, India held out. When Genghis Khan’s Mongol armies were running rampant, Islamic refugees found shelter in India, during the reign of Iltutmish. In 1221 Genghis Khan‘s Mongol armies pushed Khwarezm-Shah and other Persian refugees across the Indus into the Punjab, India.

During early Islamic rule, when India was still viewed as militarily difficult target, the Mongols did not think of attacking India.  Remember, that the Mongols attempted to invade Japan, a rather poor country then, without the Sado gold mines! The Japanese blessed their good fortune, when typhoons or (‘The Divine Wind” is what the grateful Japanese called) the Kamikaze, that scattered the Mongol invasion fleet in 1274 and 1281. The Kublai Khan himself barely escaped the fury of the typhoon during the second invasion.

India, the richest economy of the world at that time, with known and famous for its wealth, was spared by Genghis Khan! Just why would history’s foremost looter, invader, pillager spare India?

The Mongol fleet destroyed in a typhoon, ink and water on paper, by Kikuchi Y'sai, 1847

The Mongol fleet destroyed in a typhoon, ink and water on paper, by Kikuchi Y'sai, 1847

Encyclopedia Britannica says Fortunately, the Mongols were content to send raiding parties no further than the Salt Range (in the northern Punjab region), which Iltutmish wisely ignored …” (emphasis mine). As Indian military reputation waned under foreign Islamic rule, the Mongols mounted a military expedition. The Mongols could succeed in India only under the foreign rule of the much-derided Islamic Tughlaks.

End of foreign Islamic rule

The 200-year foreign-Islamic rule from 1206 AD to 1400 AD ended when Ibrahim Lodi, an Afghan horse trader, cobbled together an alliance and sent the incompetent foreign rulers packing. The Lodis, were in turn deposed by another Afghan family, the Mughals.

The Mughals realized, early on, that freedom to Indians was non-negotiable – and enlisted Indian generals, kings, allies to expand their boundaries. The depredations of the foreign ‘Islamic’ rulers were partly reversed by these rulers of Afghan extract – with land reforms, tax reforms, reduction in forceful conversions, et al. The Lodis and Mughals partially reformed the Indic political model – deformed beyond recognition, during the 200 years of foreign Islamic rule. Land holdings remained concentrated in a few hands. Taxes were imposed and increased on the trading classes. Licenses and firmaans were reduced – but remained.

In the last 200 years

The only people who could win against the Afghans were the Indians – last under Ranjit Singhji. The British, and more recently, the Russians and Americans have failed miserably. British possessions of Afghanistan and Balochistan, which were handed to Pakistan on a platter, were a part of the Sikh-Punjab Empire, which fell into the British lap.

Kabuliwala - The movie posterTill about 1960’s India-Afghanistan trade and relations were close and neighbourly. Rabindranath Tagore wrote the short story, ‘Kabuliwalla’. Subhash Chandra Bose escaped from Colonial Raj imprisonment during WW2, using the Afghan route to reach Germany finally.

In early 1970s, in Hyderabad,  कागजी बेदाना अनार (seedless pomegranates) from Kabul, were available at around Rs.4 a kg – at today’s value is about Rs.100 a kg (based on gold prices). Local varieties were sold at less than Rs.1 a kg.

Between 1950 to the post-1973, Nixon Chop world, saw increasing of walls, barriers, battening down of national boundaries. Marxism-Communism seemed relentless and inevitable. Closed economies were seen as the panacea of all problems. Trade was a dirty word. During this period, something momentous happened – a complete and total closure of the Indian mind. India’s international profile underwent a profound change. Indians, who earlier saw the world as a their stage, suddenly retreated into a shell.

Right and wrong

So, yes RSS view is right.

India and Pakistan are a part of the Indic family. What this means is to see Pakistan and Afghanistan not as troublesome neighbours, but as prospective future allies. The Indian political construct was always to surround the Indian heartland by buffer states – like Bangladesh, Nepal, Tibet, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It was not to take over these countries and expand into an unwieldy land mass.

Akhand Bharat ...?

So, when RSS, dreams of an Akhand Bharat, they are wrong. The idea of Bharat was value driven and not power-driven or ruler driven. What Bharat needs to focus on is not to create an Akhand Bharat, but a real Bharat, which will become a model for other countries, especially of the Greater India.

Back to the future

But the Indic model was never to have one king who ruled over others. The Indic model allowed for smaller kingdoms to compete for populations – based on opportunities, freedom, equity. Land holdings in the hands of the populations remained a unique Indian feature for thousands of years – and the West saw this feature only in the last 150-250 years. Religious restrictions in India were not even discussed – unlike the Desert Bloc where the ‘Cuius regio, eius religio’ principle (meaning whose land, his religion; CRER) was established.

In the Desert Bloc, the land, the religion and the very life of all subjects belonged to the king – unlike in India. And that is the Akhand Bharat that we all need to work for!

कागजी बेदाना अनार
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