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Rage, Anxiety In The West: BRICS Must Be Doing Something Right

April 2, 2013 2 comments

If corruption is all about cornering wealth, power and resources, look at concentration of power.

Is the West assuming leadership of the global financial system, so that they can pervert the system like this?  |  Tom Toles, in washingtonpost.com on 18 Mar 2010

Is the West assuming leadership of the global financial system, so that they can pervert the system like this? | Tom Toles, in washingtonpost.com on 18 Mar 2010

The day-after BRICS announced their plan to start a BRICS Development Bank in New Delhi last year, reactions in Western media barely concealed anger at the BRICS proposal.

Sample this.

Outside endemic corruption, uncertain or wholly absent rule of law, and relatively low per capita income and life expectancy, there wouldn’t appear to be much that unites this disparate collection of nations. But there are at least two things that do – high growth and trade.

via Why a Brics-built bank to rival the IMF is doomed to fail – Telegraph.

See this statement in wider context.

Rule of Law

On the rule of law, I would agree.The is West is truly the land of law.

Between the US and EU, on a population base of little over 80 crores, the West has about 27 lakh (2.7 million) prisoners – EU (total pop. 50 cr.; prison pop. – 6.07 lakh) and the USA (total pop. 31 cr.; prison pop. 21 lakh). With 27 lakh prisoners, the West is a world leader in imprisonment. Coincidentally, the West labels itself as the Free World.

Graphic source and courtesy – economist.com.

Graphic source and courtesy – economist.com.

Exclude children, the old and women from the population ‘eligible’ for imprisonment, we are left with around 27 crore adult males. This would mean that one out of every hundred Western males is in prison.

Comparably, in India, with an overall population of 120 crores, the numbers in prison is around 3 lakhs. Of the nearly 30 crore males, India has just 3 lakhs in prison. Just one in thousand, adult Indian male is in prison.

To enforce the rule of law, the West has also become a Prisoner Planet. Is that what is missing in BRICS? Brazil and Russia have lower imprisonment rates, compared to the US – but it is still high compared to India.

No, thanks!

Corruption … or Collusion

On the matter of corruption, again he is  right.

After the rule of law, with strict rules about libel and slander, corruption cannot see the light of day. But if corruption is all about cornering wealth, power and resources, look at the

The West-dominated global financial system has pioneered a system that depends on mass-employment, low-entrepreneurial activity, excess production coupled with excess pollution and waste.  |  2003 Cartoon by David Baldinger

The West-dominated global financial system has pioneered a system that depends on mass-employment, low-entrepreneurial activity, excess production coupled with excess pollution and waste. | 2003 Cartoon by David Baldinger

Concentration Of Power

How does one measure concentration of power.

Today the most popular method is the Fortune /Forbes /Businessweek /FT 500 listing of Top corporates.

These listings demonstrate that half the world’s economic output is controlled by about 5000 companies run by about 25,000 individuals. Add another 25,000 politicians and bureaucrats. We have about 50,000 people controlling the lives of 800 billion people of the West – and influencing the lives of non-Western societies.

Between the mega-corporations and State, 60%-75% of the work force is employed or paid for being unemployed.

In some of the inefficient states like India, mega-corporations and the State employ less than 3 crore people – which is less than 5% of the Indian labour force.

Forget Western correspondents, there are quite a few NRI chelas for such Western journalists. Like Hong-Kong based, Venky ‘Chumboo’ Vembu. (Don’t know what Chumboo is? Never mind, Vembu knows what chumboo is).

To get an unprovoked reaction of rage and anger, BRICS must be doing something right.

More power to BRICS.


Elections In Pakistan: What Can, What If, What’s Up?

March 31, 2013 2 comments

Pakistani media and polity seem to be addressing mostly urban issues. How will the rural voter respond?

Phuttt, phutt, phut ...! This is a make or break election for Pakistan. Probably the best organized  |  Cartoon by Sabir Nazar on March 30, 2013; image source & courtesy - tribune.com.pk

Phuttt, phutt, phut …! This is a make or break election for Pakistan. Probably the best organized | Cartoon by Sabir Nazar on March 30, 2013; image source & courtesy – tribune.com.pk

Pakistan attracts stereotypes to the mind like a swarm of flies.

Inviting Images

Among others, civil war, terrorism, bomb blasts, fundamentalist Islam are common stereotypes about Pakistan. Some of these stereotypes are valid – and some are downright irrelevant.

For instance, more people die in the US due to gun-related violence compared to Pakistan. For another, it is worthwhile to remember and understand that Pakistan has never (in its limited election history) elected a fundamentalist party.

The different sides of Pakistani Polity  |  Cartoon by Sabir Nazar on August 25, 2008; image source & courtesy - dailytimes.com.pk

The different sides of Pakistani Polity | Cartoon by Sabir Nazar on August 25, 2008; image source & courtesy – dailytimes.com.pk

This will be the first time in Pakistan’s troubled history that an election will pave the way for transfer of power – and not a coup or martial law. For the first time in nearly seventy years, Pakistan has evaded the ritualized murder of Pakistani polity by the Pakistani army.

The short-shrift given by Pakistan’s power centres to orderly elections and transfer of power is not a stereotype.

This Sauce is Different

The three most significant differences in this election, compared to previous elections are in the manner that Pakistan’s polity has acted to protect the poll outcome. It seems unlikely that there will be any significant post-poll dissonance due to three measures.

Who will do the electioneering for PPP - with Bilawal out of the country?  |  Cartoon by Sabir Nazar on March 28, 2013; image source & courtesy - tribune.com.pk

Who will do the electioneering for PPP – with Bilawal out of the country? | Cartoon by Sabir Nazar on March 28, 2013; image source & courtesy – tribune.com.pk

It does seem like this will be an election that Pakistan will be proud of.

One – is the appointment of a non-competitive caretaker administration at national level – headed by retired Justice Mir Hazar Khan Khoso, and at the provincial level in Punjab with the appointment of Najam Sethi.

Two – Voter lists have been rigorously updated. Some 3.5 crore voter records were found invalid and deleted – and some 3.9 crore new voters added.

Three – The centre of debate is Pakistan’s economy. Nawaz Sharif is talking of an economic explosion – unlike the nuclear explosion last time. PPP is depending on an income-support scheme for the poor that they have implemented. Imran Khan’s 6-promises are all about bringing peace back to the nation. It has been speculated that the Iran-Pakistan oil pipeline agreement signed by the ruling-PPParty, is to reassure restive voters that it has a solution for electricity shortages plaguing Pakistan.

Pakistani media and polity seem to be addressing mostly urban issues.  |  Cartoon by Zahoor on February 03, 2010; image source & courtesy - dailytimes.com.pk

Pakistani media and polity seem to be addressing mostly urban issues. | Cartoon by Zahoor on February 03, 2010; image source & courtesy – dailytimes.com.pk

Is Popularity Enough?

Imran Khan is by far ahead of all other leaders in Pakistan in terms of personal popularity. His first rally after elections were notified, attracted 1-lakh people – closer to 1.5-lakh people according to some other estimates.

Will Imran Khan’s popularity convert into votes?

In India, for decades, election rallies by Nehru-Gandhi family, starting with Indira Gandhi could attract voters for election rallies – but after 1989 elections has not been able to convert voter turnout into votes.

Is Imran facing a similar challenge? Equally, many popular leaders have converted their personal popularity to votes – especially in South India.

Look Who’s Talking

Radio Pakistan seems to be giving good coverage to Imran Khan going by these tweets.

Print media and Pakistan’s huge satire ‘industry’ however is quite dismissive of Imran Khan. Including the like of MajorlyProfound (now probably under the handle of majorlyp).

https://twitter.com/InvincibleHeart/status/317651280866721792

Many from the English-media are quite dismissive of Imran Khan

Apparently, Musharraf has lived up to his earlier threats. He has returned - to what? A nation that cannot imagine a role for him?  |  Cartoon by Zahoor on August 15, 2009; image source & courtesy - dailytimes.com.pk

Apparently, Musharraf has lived up to his earlier threats. He has returned – to what? A nation that cannot imagine a role for him? | Cartoon by Zahoor on August 15, 2009; image source & courtesy – dailytimes.com.pk

Gear Ratios In A Democracy

PPP may get more women’s votes due to BISP income support scheme. Imran Khan has connected to Pakistan’s youth. Nawaz Sharif is appealing the mature male voter who wants the Pakistan economy to do better. None of these constituencies form a majority.

Finally, the winner may be the party that can get its constituents to come and vote at the polling booth.

The Players

Ex-general Musharraf seems to be n0n-starter and non-entity in Pakistan.

Pakistanis sought to drive home the point that Indians held the former Army chief in greater esteem that his own fellow nationals.

The kind of media coverage his return got in India, and the frequency with which he appears on Indian television channels and gets invited to conclaves organised by the media across the border has raised eyebrows here often enough

via Proud of Kargil operation, says Musharraf – The Hindu.

Which political unit is connecting to this Pakistani?  |  Cartoon by Zahoor on March 03, 2006; image source & courtesy - dailytimes.com.pk

Which political unit is connecting to this Pakistani? | Cartoon by Zahoor on March 03, 2006; image source & courtesy – dailytimes.com.pk

Interestingly, Imran Khan’s campaign is well-funded according to some reports.

They were drawn from all over the country through a well-financed and heavily advertised campaign. But they were also drawn, they said, by a simple yet nebulous message. “We want change,”

via Pakistan: Ex-Cricket Star, Ex-President Kick Off Election Campaign | TIME.com.

Imran  Khan’s acceptance by Pashtuns, FATA, Pakhtunkhwa makes him a rare leader with acceptance across various segments.

There are concerns among some of Khan’s supporters about his attitude to the Pakistani Taliban – wanting to negotiate with them – and the decision to work with the Jamaat-e-Islami, a hard-line religious party. But the mere fact that he represents a political force that hasn’t been compromised by power works in his favor — as does Khan’s celebrity. “He won us the Cricket World Cup,” says Shah, “he built us a cancer hospital, and he’s really good looking.”

via Pakistan: Ex-Cricket Star, Ex-President Kick Off Election Campaign | TIME.com.

Will this man get taken in shiny projects?  |  Cartoon by Zahoor on November 22, 2005; image source & courtesy - dailytimes.com.pk

Will this man get taken in shiny projects? | Cartoon by Zahoor on November 22, 2005; image source & courtesy – dailytimes.com.pk

Numbers talk you know …

After 2ndlook called the 2009 Indian election correctly, among many other correct calls, encourages 2ndlook make an attempt at reading Pakistan’s election.

Sixty and seven months ago, when Musharraf was on rampage in Pakistan and Imran Khan was no one in Pakistan’s politics, 2ndlook examined the idea of Imran Khan’s rise in Pakistan.

  1. It is worthwhile to remember and understand that Pakistan has never (in its limited election history) elected a fundamentalist party – unlike say, Egypt.
  2. Since none of the three main players are making a fundamentalist Islamic pitch, this factor will affect no one – except some fringe parties.
  3. What if Imran-PTI consolidate the fringe-parties vote banks – and eat into PPP+PMLN? To me this model of voter behaviour, seems more likely than the static vote bank of PPP+PMLN theory.
  4. In this election, the main contenders, as per opinion polls in descending order are Nawaz Sharif’s PMLN (32%), Imran Khan’s PTI (18%) and Zardari’s PPP (14%).
  5. Not many have tried to make a model for opinion polls in Pakistan – which remain unreliable and have limited value. With this caveat made, raw data seems to suggest that PMLN-Nawaz Sharif are in a pole position for this election.
  6. Most of election analysis stops at Pakistan’s urban centres – while 60% of Pakistani voters are rural. Nawaz Sharif’s Lahore Metro Bus implementation in 11-months has made many political parties nervous. But will the rural Pakistani be impressed?
  7. Will PPP’s BISP attract more rural voters than Imran’s tsunami? Remember, how Chandrababu Naidu paid a price for ignoring the rural voter.
  8. After the fresh voter enrollment, nearly half of Pakistani voters now listed, have not voted before. Since most of these young voters are young, they are likely to be drawn towards Imran-PTI.
  9. Will the Lahore Metro make a difference to Nawaz Sharif? Outside Lahore? Seems unlikely.

Keeping the above factors in mind, what are the likely outcomes.

In the name of the poor and dispossessed ... |  Cartoon by Zahoor on September 02, 2008; image source & courtesy - dailytimes.com.pk

In the name of the poor and dispossessed … | Cartoon by Zahoor on September 02, 2008; image source & courtesy – dailytimes.com.pk

Scenario-1

Imran-PTI emerge as the single-largest party, with a thin majority – or miss becoming the single largest party by a few seats. Imran dithers. Announces that he will sit in the opposition, as he does not have a clear mandate. PTI MPs defect or PTI splits. Most likely PPP wins over the defector faction. Makes a claim to form government. Zardari agrees. Protests engulf Pakistan.

Scenario-2

As per opinion polls, PMLN emerges as the single largest party. Wins over MPs from PTI-Imran and others. Forms government.

Scenario-3

Opposite of opinion polls, PPP emerges as the single largest party – riding on women’s vote. Wins over MPs from PTI-Imran, PMLN and others. Forms government.

Senario-4

One of the three main parties gets a parliamentary majority – and forms the government. Seems like the most unlikely scenario.

Seemingly, Imran is preparing for a narrow victory. Most importantly, is Imran preparing for a narrow loss?


Defense Technology: A World Of Haves & Cannots

March 29, 2013 1 comment

In the last 70 years, technology gaps in defence have increased hugely. US and Russia are far ahead from rest of the world in making arms and armaments.

One of the world’s four airworthy Zero fighters sits on the tarmac in August 2011 in California, decked out in its full Pacific War livery. (Image courtesy - ajw.asahi.com; source - Masahide Ishizuka)

One of the world’s four airworthy Zero fighters sits on the tarmac in August 2011 in California, decked out in its full Pacific War livery. (Image courtesy – ajw.asahi.com; source – Masahide Ishizuka)

A big drawback that hobbled Japan in WWII was oil. Japan had aircraft carriers and fighter aircraft – but little oil. In each battle, in the decisive stages of the WWII, oil was in short supply. By the start of WWII, Japan was prepared for war, with its Zero fighters.

In the last 70 years, technology gaps in defence have increased hugely. Countries like India have decided to build their defence capability by importing the latest and the best on one hand. On the other hand, India has launched ambitious R & D projects that are getting close to world standards.

US and Russia are far ahead from rest of the world in making arms and armaments. Coming close to these countries will take decades and billions of dollars – two things that very few countries have. For instance, few countries in the world (US, Russia, UK, France, Italy) can make world-class jet engines for fighter aircraft. Even countries like Japan and Korea, with a strong electronics and industrial base depend on defence imports.

For WWII, Japan produced more than 10,000 fighters – including the famed Zero fighter.

The Zero fighter found in Papua New Guinea undergoes restoration work. (Image courtesy - ajw.asahi.com; source - Masahide Ishizuka)

The Zero fighter found in Papua New Guinea undergoes restoration work. (Image courtesy – ajw.asahi.com; source – Masahide Ishizuka)

Masahide Ishizuka, 52, a New Zealand resident originally from Tochigi Prefecture is campaigning to bring one of the four airworthy Zero fighter aircraft in the world back to Japan, where it can fly again in the skies of its homeland.

The Mitsubishi A6M Zero, the mainstay of the Imperial Japanese Navy, was produced by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Nakajima Aircraft. Japan produced about 10,000 carrier-based Zero fighter aircraft during World War II.

In the early stages of the war, the Zero gained a reputation as a fearsome dogfighter with its slick maneuverability, long-distance range and high speed–three important attributes of fighter aircraft.

All four airworthy Zeros today are registered in the United States.

The Zero, a Mitsubishi-produced A6M3 Type 0 Model 22, was found in the 1970s in Papua New Guinea, and was restored to airworthiness by the U.S. collector.

via Aviation expert hopes to return Zero fighter to skies over Japan – AJW by The Asahi Shimbun.


Kargil: Breast Beating In Pakistan

February 21, 2013 1 comment

Kargil Misadventure: Pakistan’s superficial ‘analysis’ and breast-beating after each defeat hides a deeper problem.

India operated Hawker Hunter Mark 56 (designation for Hunter F.Mark 6) bought from Britain that was phasing out these aircraft.

India operated Hawker Hunter Mark 56 (designation for Hunter F.Mark 6) bought from Britain that was phasing out these aircraft.

In the India-Pakistan War of 1965, there was a real risk of China joining in with a third front against India. Thundering in the parliament, Pakistan’s foreign minister at that time, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto assured the Pakistani nation of China’s support.

In the event of war, Pakistan would not be alone. Pakistan would be helped by the most powerful nation in Asia. War between India and Pakistan involves the territorial integrity and security of the largest State in Asia. (Z.A. Bhutto, Foreign Minister, Pakistan, in the National Assembly; July 17, 1963).

Though China was neutral, India had its hands full. Pakistan as member of SEATO and CENTO, was brimming with the most advanced arms – supplied by the US. As a part of the Baghdad Pact, Britain was on Pakistan’s side.

When PAF Was In Better Shape

In the 1965 War situation, Pakistan was part of the CENTO and SEATO alliance, armed by the US with the US F-104 Starfighters, F-86 Sabres that were significantly superior to Indian Airforce (IAF).

The US attached, like in Vietnam, Laos, Norway, Cambodia what was then called a Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) to Pakistan. A few months before Pakistan commenced hostilities, the US head of MAAG was changed. In May 1965, General Robert Wiygul Burns became chief of the Military Assistance Advisory Group, Pakistan. Over the next two years, in the face of increasing evidence of the US role in the 1965 war, the MAAG was withdrawn from Pakistan in July 1967. After neo-colonial wars in  Korea, Vietnam, Indo-China, the MAAG became infamous. Mostly renamed as United States Military Groups (USMILGP or MILGRP), MAAGs continue in some Latin American countries such as Peru, the Dominican Republic. Also MAAGs can be found in Africa for instance in Liberia.

Two years later, under a new name, US military advisers were back in Pakistan. Star pilots and trainers like Chuck Yeagaer were sent by the US to Pakistan – to help Pakistan prepare for a battle against Soviet weapons being used by India in 1971 War.

Hands Tied

Comprising of Vampires of WWII vintage, the French Mirage Mysteres, the Anglo-Hawker Hunters and Canberras or the Anglo-Gnats, the IAF went into the 1965 War at a disadvantage. By the 1971 War, the IAF had re-configured tactics, using numbers, altitude to overwhelm the Sabres with inferior Gnats – starting with the airfight at Boyra.

Compared to the nearly 10,000 Sabres that were manufactured world-wide, less than 450 Gnats were built; mostly bought by Indians. The Yugoslavs bought second-hand F-86s in preference to the Gnats. The RAF itself did not buy Gnat for any conflict role – but only for aerobatic, trainer usage.

Indian officers /soldiers atop captured Pakistani Patton tanks at Kemkaran. About 100 Patton tanks were left behind by the retreating Pakistan Army. These captured tanks were used to set up Patton Nagar war memorial.

Indian officers /soldiers atop captured Pakistani Patton tanks at Kemkaran. About 100 Patton tanks were left behind by the retreating Pakistan Army. These captured tanks were used to set up Patton Nagar war memorial.

Though believed, Pakistan’s more modern Patton tanks were not as superior to the Indian Centurions. At the end of 1965 War, India captured 97 Pakistani tanks – and set up a war memorial called Patton Nagar with these captured tanks.

India’s Diplomatic Position

India’s relationship with the Soviets had not yet reached the levels of the 1970s.

What and who stopped China from joining Pakistan in its assault on India? Stalin’s lukewarm response to Nehru’s overtures and the alleged CIA plot to kill Nehru in 1955, temporarily brought Nehru close to Eisenhower. After the 1965 War with Pakistan, India-Soviet alliance grew in strength.

Wailing & Breast-beating

The last one year has seen a lot of ‘analysis’ in Pakistan, about Pakistan’s misadventure in Kargil.

Pakistan’s superficial breast-beating after each defeat hides a deeper problem. Can a nation born out of blackmail – apart from hate, prejudice, have a foreign policy that makes sense.

ISLAMABAD, Feb 16: Former corps commander Lahore Lt-Gen (retired) Shahid Aziz on Saturday said problems in the armed forces are increasing as the army chiefs have been trying to cover up issues fearing it would defame the organisation.

He was speaking at the launch of his book Yeh Khamoshi Kahan Tak at Islamabad Club on Saturday.

Gen Aziz, who played a role in Pervez Musharraf’s coup and also held an important post in the army and ISI at the time of the Kargil war, said his aim to write the book was to guide the new generation.

It may be noted that Gen Aziz also worked as chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for about two years after his retirement from the army in 2005.

Gen Aziz said while taking part in the coup he knew that he was violating the law.

While in service, he added, so many times he had to disagree with the decisions of his seniors and even resigned from the staff college.

He claimed that he was against the decision of following the instructions of United States but Musharraf insisted that only he could see the full picture of the situation. “Even today the policy of Musharraf is being followed,” said Gen Aziz.

Speaking on the occasion, Prof Ashraf Sarab of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), said when the Kargil adventure was started the Kashmiris were asked by the army to take to the streets because they (forces) had decided to enter the Indian held Kashmir.

“But after sacrificing a number of soldiers, the army went back,” he added.

“I talked to then Minister for Kashmir Affairs Majeed Malik but he said Kashmiris should not have started protests.”

It showed that the Kargil war was either a strategic mistake or launched on the directions of someone else, because after the war India and US came closer to each other, he observed.

Engineer Mumtaz from the research and development wing of the armed forces told Dawn that Gen Aziz was the key person during the Musharraf coup. Gen Musharraf used to get his input regarding every decision, he added.

via Army covering up issues, claims ex-general | Newspaper | DAWN.COM  .


In A G-0 World, Can BRICS Show Leadership?

February 19, 2013 1 comment

For the world now, instead of ‘G-7, or G-8, or G-20, the more apt description is G-0’ – per Joseph Stiglitz. Can BRICS offer that leadership – starting Afghanistan.

From 1970s, when Pakistan started meddling in Afghan affairs, by how much have Soviet or the American invasions helped Afghanistan?  |  Cartoon By Jeff Darcy, The Cleveland Plain Dealer - 5/21/2012 12:00:00 AM  via PoliticalCartoons.com Cartoon.

From 1970s, when Pakistan started meddling in Afghan affairs, by how much have Soviet or the American invasions helped Afghanistan? | Cartoon By Jeff Darcy, The Cleveland Plain Dealer – 5/21/2012 12:00:00 AM via PoliticalCartoons.com Cartoon.

With NATO turning tail and leaving, Afghanistan is not much better off than before America’s invasion.

Pakistan, as the sole Islāmic nuclear power, has assigned itself the role of an arbiter of Afghan destiny – a hold over Afghanistan’s future. With its dubious distinction of being a failed State, should Pakistan have any role in Afghanistan?

After ruining Afghanistan with 40 years of disastrous interventions, the West playing the victims is an offensive act | Cartoon By Taylor Jones, El Nuevo Dia, Puerto Rico - 9/7/2012 12:00:00 AM via PoliticalCartoons.com Cartoon.

After ruining Afghanistan with 40 years of disastrous interventions, the West playing the victims is an offensive act | Cartoon By Taylor Jones, El Nuevo Dia, Puerto Rico – 9/7/2012 12:00:00 AM via PoliticalCartoons.com Cartoon.

The West, under NATO’s military command, is walking away from Afghanistan with nothing to show for this invasion.

After billions in dollars, with more than a million Afghans affected by death, combat injuries, manifold increase in corruption, and a Saudi-Pakistan financed Taliban is on the rise, Afghanistan is West’s biggest failure after Vietnam. Never before in the last 200 years has West’s leadership been in question so much.

In the current State of the world, in the memorable words of Joseph Stiglitz, why ‘talk about the G-7, or G-8, or G-20, the more apt description is G-0.’

Afghanistan was a much better place one millennium ago - as its agricultural exports, arts and crafts will testify. It is the US-Pakistani involvement from the 70s, which has made Afghanistan into a no-man's land. | Cartoon By Jimmy Margulies, The Record of Hackensack, NJ - 10/11/2012 12:00:00 AM via PoliticalCartoons.com Cartoon.

Afghanistan was a much better place one millennium ago – as its agricultural exports, arts and crafts will testify. It is the US-Pakistani involvement from the 70s, which has made Afghanistan into a no-man’s land. | Cartoon By Jimmy Margulies, The Record of Hackensack, NJ – 10/11/2012 12:00:00 AM via PoliticalCartoons.com Cartoon.

Afghanistan will be the test of BRICS.

Till 1980s, the Soviet Union bordered Afghanistan. Today, while Soviet Union’s successor, Russia no longer shares a border with Afghanistan, as a part of BRICS grouping, it may continue to play a role in post-NATO Afghanistan.

Will China-India tensions come in the way of BRICS to do what is good for Afghanistan? Will China work with BRICS to keep Pakistan out of Afghanistan? When it matters, can BRICS nations put aside their differences and work on common problems – like Afghanistan?

Straightening Pakistan is a matter of hours. What will take time is building capacity among BRICS nations to work together on common problems – and put aside differences, when these differences are not directly relevant.

One thing is for sure.

If BRICS cam make an Afghan solution stick, a new age will dawn in global diplomacy. The current void in global leadership will start getting filled.

Civil war in Afghanistan is directly the result of Western interventions in the last 40 years.  |  Cartoon by By Arend Van Dam, politicalcartoons.com - 10/24/2012 12:00:00 AM  via PoliticalCartoons.com Cartoon.

Civil war in Afghanistan is directly the result of Western interventions in the last 40 years. | Cartoon by By Arend Van Dam, politicalcartoons.com – 10/24/2012 12:00:00 AM via PoliticalCartoons.com Cartoon.

With the US and the UK apparently conceding to Pakistan the lead role in reconciliation with Taliban, India is set to hold talks with Russia and China on emerging scenarios in Afghanistan ahead of the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force’s withdrawal from the conflict-ravaged country by 2014.

New Delhi is also expected to air its concern over Pakistan’s role in the peace-process in Afghanistan during British Prime Minister David Cameron’s visit to India scheduled on Monday. Cameron recently hosted Afghan and Pakistan presidents Hamid Karzai and Asif Ali Zardari at his country residence Chequers Court. India will get another opportunity to discuss the issues when it will have a trilateral talk with the US and Afghanistan in New Delhi next week.

Sources said India is expected to drive home the point that Pakistan continues to be “a part of the problem” and it cannot yet be seen as “a part of the solution” in Afghanistan. Any hasty careless move to launch the peace process would in fact give an opportunity to Taliban to crawl back to power after 2014. New Delhi is likely to point out that the US itself, in 2011, publicly slammed Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence for its role in fomenting terrorism in Afghanistan.

What worries India is the Afghan High Peace Council’s five-step draft roadmap to 2015, would ultimately give Pakistan the “strategic depth” it always aspired to have in Afghanistan. New Delhi is apprehensive about Washington outsourcing to Islamabad the peace-process with Taliban, before and after the drawdown of the International Security Assistance Force from Afghanistan.

The “draft road map” also seeks to give some key positions in post-2014 Afghanistan to the leaders of Taliban, including that of provincial governors, police chiefs and cabinet ministers.

To facilitate the peace-process, Pakistan, since November, released 26 Taliban prisoners from its jails, ostensibly on request from Afghanistan but without any oversight, triggering fear that some of them might go back to extremism.

When Menon broached the issue during a meeting of the BRICS high representatives for security in New Delhi last month, it was agreed that he and his counterparts from Russia and China would have a separate meeting to exchange views on the peace-process with Taliban and discuss the emerging scenarios in Afghanistan. Sources said the meeting might take place later this month.

New Delhi has made it clear that it is in favour an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process towards peace in Afghanistan but insisted that the “Red Lines” agreed in London Conference in 2010 were strictly adhered to and the extremists entering the process were made to severe all links with Al Qaeda and other terrorist organisations.

via India to talk to China, Russia on Pak role in Afghanistan.


 

Currency Trade: War or Peace?

February 1, 2013 1 comment

Now that Japan has joined the currency devaluation game, it leaves the Euro twisting in the winds of currency storms.

The yen, trading at about 87 per dollar, has shed about 11 percent since mid-November when Shinzo Abe, who became Japan's new prime minister following elections last month, promised a more aggressive monetary policy.  |  Graphic source & courtesy - cnbc.com

The yen, trading at about 87 per dollar, has shed about 11 percent since mid-November when Shinzo Abe, who became Japan’s new prime minister following elections last month, promised a more aggressive monetary policy. | Graphic source & courtesy – cnbc.com

Given a choice between a Japanese car and Chinese, almost any car buyer in the world will opt for a Japanese brand.

If price difference is small.

But as we know the price difference between Japanese and Chinese cars (and other products also) is rather big.

How the Yen has become expensive. From nearly 290 yen:1 USD to 80 yen:1 USD  |  Graphic credit - wsj.net

How the Yen has become expensive. From nearly 290 yen:1 USD to 80 yen:1 USD | Graphic credit – wsj.net

The big reason for this price difference?

The Japan Case

Though not the only reason, the high cost of the Japanese Yen after the Plaza Accord (September 22, 1985) has painted the Japanese economy into a corner.

Japan on Thursday reported a record annual trade deficit in 2012, the second straight year in the red for an exporting nation that has long built its wealth on its vast trading surpluses.

The annual trade gap of 6.93 trillion yen (about $78 billion) was brought about by surging fuel imports and a continued slide in machinery shipments and other mainstay exports. The deficit underscores the challenges Prime Minister Shinzo Abe faces as he tries to lift the world’s third-largest economy out of years of stagnation.

The deficit also brings to the forefront the risks that accompany Mr. Abe’s bid to revive the economy through government spending, which will add to Japan’s public debt, already more than twice the size of its economy. For years, export surpluses helped Japan finance that enormous debt without having to turn to foreign investors.

But that delicate balance is now unraveling. The global economic crisis set off a fall in Japanese exports, and also caused the yen to strengthen, weighing on the country’s competitiveness and recovery. The prolonged shuttering of the country’s nuclear reactors in the wake of the Fukushima crisis has led to a spike in Japan’s imports of oil and gas. A bitter territorial spat with China has hurt exports to Japan’s biggest trading partner.

The provisional data released by the Finance Ministry on Thursday showed exports continued to fall in December at a faster pace than forecast by economists, despite a weakening of the yen that should have come as a boon to exporters.

According to the data, Japan’s annual trade deficit jumped by 170 percent from the 2.56 trillion yen shortfall it recorded in 2011 to 6.93 trillion yen. Energy imports, mainly from the Middle East, surged, machinery and car exports fell across the board. By region, Japan’s exports to China tumbled by 10.8 percent, leaving Japan with a trade deficit of 3.52 trillion yen (about $40 billion) with its rising neighbor. Exports to the struggling European Union also fell by 15 percent.

Trade with the United States was brisk, however, with exports climbing 11.7 percent and imports by 2.5 percent for a 5.1 trillion yen (about $58 billion) surplus. Japanese automakers did particularly well in the United States last year, rebounding from production cuts brought about by Japan’s 2011 tsunami.

via Japan Reports a $78 Billion Trade Deficit for 2012 – NYTimes.com.

BoJ's asset-purchase program has trailed other big central banks  |  Graphic source & courtesy - economist.com

BoJ’s asset-purchase program has trailed other big central banks | Graphic source & courtesy – economist.com

The expensive Yen has increased the price of Japanese exports. Decreasing export-growth due to an expensive Yen, has led to a 20-year economic stagnation-deflation situation in Japan – now referred to as Japan’s Lost Decades (失われた10年 Ushinawareta Jūnen).

Could Japan’s actions to depreciate the Yen have been unilateral?

Highly unlikely.

Japan is the latest country to say enough is enough. Having seen its currency appreciate dramatically in recent years, prime minister Shinzo Abe’s new government is taking steps to alter the country’s exchange-rate dynamic – and is succeeding. In just over two months, the yen has weakened by more than 10% against the dollar and close to 20% against the euro.

via Currency war could cause lasting damage to world economy | Business | guardian.co.uk.

Japan’s new government has vowed to revive the economy and expectations for aggressive monetary easing are running high. This sets the scene for the yen to weaken to the 100-mark versus the dollar.

The yen, trading at about 87 per dollar, has shed about 11 percent since mid-November when Shinzo Abe became Japan’s new prime minister last month, promised a more aggressive monetary policy.

Keen to tackle the deflation that has dogged Japan’s economy for years, “The yen has fallen quickly and once it gets going, it gets going. What kind of number (in dollar/yen) do you need to fight deflation? I think we need to see dollar/yen at 110, 20 to say you’re on top of the deflation problem,” Jerram added.

Inflation in Japan fell 0.2 percent in November from a year earlier, after a 0.4 percent decline in October. A weak currency, brought about by aggressive monetary easing would help boost inflation, analysts say.

Japan’s current account surplus fell 29.4 percent in October from a year earlier to 376.9 billion yen ($4.58 billion) on a fall in exports.

They say another reason to expect further yen weakness this year is a brighter outlook for the global economy, which means there is more incentive for Japanese investors to put their money overseas.

“Everything is in place for a move in dollar/yen to 100, the only constraint being resistance from other major central banks to anyone else adopting a weak currency,” Societe Generale said.

via Picture This: The dollar at 100 Yen.

The Chinese Knot

A cheaper Japanese Yen affects China the most.

Any major currency appreciation, devaluation in the last 60-years has happened under the (what 2ndlook calls) USCAP system.

So, the noises being made of currency wars by Germany is probably to quieten other claims for currency depreciation – like Korea, Euro zone, Taiwan, Asian Tigers, et al.

Decreasing exports, incomes coupled with high production capacities has put Japan on the path of deflationary spiral.  |  Graphic credits embedded.

Decreasing exports, incomes coupled with high production capacities has put Japan on the path of deflationary spiral. | Graphic credits embedded.

China seeks to replace the former Soviet Russia as the challenger to Pax Americana. This challenge by China to Pax Americana is based on manufacturing prowess and huge foreign currency reserves.

China’s Yuan has already appreciated to a 20-year high. In the current global scenario, China’s currency situation puts it in a weak situation. China’s economic engines will seize, if the Japanese Yen were to depreciate to ¥110-120.

EU’s Sports Complex

The interesting point is how EU manages its trade deficit. Without blaming China-Yuan.

EU-zone countries like Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, are on the verge of a sovereign default. Euro-zone is upto its gills in debt. The Euro is being called names. And EU is not snivelling about the Yuan and China?

Very un-European!

USA, EU Trade Balance with Oil Producers (Graphic source and courtesy - www.eurotrib.com). Click for larger image.

USA, EU Trade Balance with Oil Producers (Graphic source and courtesy – http://www.eurotrib.com). Click for larger image.

Usually…

Europe is at the forefront seeing dangers, damage, affronts, threats, effects, fall-outs et al.

The whole she-bang!

But in case of China and Yuan, Europe is not doing much of crying about the ‘undervalued’ Yuan. The Euro revaluation from USD 1.6 four years ago to USD 1.25 now is a recent affair.

So, not of much consequence. The Yuan undervaluation has been on the US agenda for a few years now – with varying intensities. Euro-trade balance with China is slightly in China’s favour. All in all, good management by the Euro-zone, it appears.

Which in the current scenario is the one-bright-spot on the Euro-horizon!

In today’s world, no significant group of countries is looking for currency strength. Some resist appreciation actively and openly; others do so in a less visible manner. Only the eurozone seems to accept being on the receiving end of other countries’ actions.

via Currency war could cause lasting damage to world economy | Business | guardian.co.uk.

The German Footprint

Behind the Euro-zone is the Germanic template.

In the last twenty years, Germany has absorbed East Germany, without a hiccup. During the same period Japan entered into a deep stagnation-deflation phase – but not Germany. While the world succumbed to Chinese manufacturing onslaught, the German industrial complex kept humming – steadily. While the US economy stumbled from bankruptcy of the auto-industry to the dotcom bust and is now deep into the housing crisis, the German economy remained stable.

All this without seeking competitive currency devaluation.

countries nowadays, including systemically important ones, are already actively weakening their currencies. Yet, because an exchange rate is a relative price, all currencies cannot weaken simultaneously. How the world resolves this basic inconsistency over the next few years will have a major impact on prospects for growth, employment, income distribution, and the functioning of the global economy.

via Currency war could cause lasting damage to world economy | Business | guardian.co.uk.

Wars Before The War

WWII was preceded by 15-years (1921-1936) of currency devaluations. Will history repeat? Will the US take a break after ending the Afghan War in 2014 to start WWIII?


Pakistani Soldiers Behead Indian Soldiers at Line Of Control

January 15, 2013 1 comment

For 60-years now, India and Pakistan have been trying to gain a better position at nearly 200 points on the LoC. What can India do now?

The India-Pakistan Line-of-Control (LoC) in Kashmir, has seen some military actions from both sides in recent weeks.

Media goes to war

The defining output from Indian media on the military action at LoC has been the following two stories.

It is a sign of India’s maturing media, that global media has used these two stories to figure out the ‘real’ reasons for this bout of border escalations.

While it may fit the Government of India objectives if passive sections of Indian media blames Pakistan, equally it would be aimless if the liberal-media blames India for the latest escalation.

India needs to indulge in show-piece talks for international diplomacy reasons. Who in Pakistan will India talk to? Is anyone in-charge of Pakistan?  |  Ajit Ninan in Pune Mirror on January 15, 2013

India needs to indulge in show-piece talks for international diplomacy reasons. Who in Pakistan will India talk to? Is anyone in-charge of Pakistan? | Ajit Ninan in Pune Mirror on January 15, 2013

War and Peace

Yes, as of now it is only an escalation – and not a war. War with Pakistan is the most unlikely outcome.

Like it has been pointed out in previous posts, Pakistan does not have the financial capability, the war matériel, leave alone India, to fight a war with anyone.

Except maybe Maldives.

Above all, it is highly doubtful, if Pakistan has enough soldiers, who have the stomach to fight a war against India. Remember, Pakistan could muster no more than one thousand soldiers to take on India in Kargil.

Over the last 35 years, Pakistan’s capacity to meaningfully wage war against India has degraded.

Phoren Maal

If there is a rape in Delhi, we need Saudi justice.

If we lose two soldiers at the India-Pakistan border, we need to learn from Israel.

Our so-called experts in mainstream media and dominant voices in social media display their rank ineptitude, when they can only respond with such empty statements.

Western war narratives have little relevance to India, as we live in a different context. It is received Western wisdom that nuclear powers do not fight wars with each other. Yet, India has fought five wars (1948, 1962, 1965, 1971, Kargil) and shares borders with two de facto nuclear powers – China and Pakistan.

No other country in the world shares a border with two nuclear powers.

So, What’s Going on?

Across the nearly 800-kilometres border in Kashmir, in some places Indian and Pakistani soldiers are less than 50 metres apart.

For more than 60-years now, each side has tried to gain a better position at more than 200 strategic points on the LoC. The most famous such position is the Siachen glacier – which India regained and now controls at tremendous costs. It is unlikely that either side will stop jockeying for better positions on the LoC.

So, low-level conflict will continue.

India must now be prepared for small petty escalations by Pakistans  |  Kirtish Bhatt on September 23, 2010

India must now be prepared for small petty escalations by Pakistans | Kirtish Bhatt on September 23, 2010

Indian Options

War with Pakistan is not needed – or an answer. Any war with Pakistan will quickly mean:

  1. International intervention
  2. Achievement of Indian military objectives, if limited
  3. Nuclear response from Pakistan, if India threatens Pakistan’s existence.

Aggressive actions at LoC will be enough. Since, Pakistan’s airforce is practically non-operational, a precision air-strafing exercise by Indian airforce will be ideal.

There will be a Pakistani response.

With a tit-for-tat bombing raid by Pakistan Airforce. Pakistan may also decide to use some of their HATF missiles. If an Indian missile defence can stage a shoot down of Pakistani fighter or a missile, it will be an ideal military response that will test Indian missile systems in real war conditions.

India’s development of air-response during the Kargil war, a first  in air-warfare, is going to be very useful to India.

Pakistan-Afghanistan Border Region  |  Image source & courtesy - longwarjournal.org

Pakistan-Afghanistan Border Region | Image source & courtesy – longwarjournal.org

What does this mean?

With Obama on course to pull out troops from Afghanistan, there has been renewed threats being muttered from Pakistan.

Is this the time for India to make some points with Pakistan?

With Taliban making mayhem on the Pakistan’s North-Western Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA), any actions by India on the Pakistan LoC, will keep Pakistan in check from meddling in Afghanistan – or in Kashmir.

This is also good time for India to rattle Pakistan, while China is preoccupied with Japan. While US is warm towards India, as it seeks to check China – and disillusioned with Pakistan.

Did anyone notice that this Pakistani provocation happened after the India-Pakistan cricket series – and after the Pakistan team reached home.


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