Tuesday, November 30, 2004

United Nations

On Thursday, a blue-ribbon panel will offer Two Proposals for UN Security Council Reform.

It is worthwhile asking at this stage what purpose the UN really serves. Being long-time cynics about the role of the UN, we have been struck by the fawning for the UN in Indian media.

Two Indian Express opinion-essays buck this trend. This is why they are important.

Does the UN matter?

How to deal with the gang in New York

Update: After reviewing the blue-ribbon proposals, The Statesman concludes India shortchanged in UN overhaul report

This should neither come as a surprise nor does it matter very much in the real world.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Brazil's Bomb -- with Indian help?

Stratfor reports that Brazil has secured IAEA approval to enrich uranium. It speculates that with foreign help, including from India, Brazil will build the bomb within a decade.

Brazil's government received approval from the International Atomic Energy Agency to produce enriched uranium. President Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva insists the country's revived nuclear development programs will be used for only peaceful purposes, with substantial technological assistance from strategic partners such as Russia, China and India. However, within a decade Brazil likely will try to build a nuclear weapon.

Counter-terrorism may be the flavor of the day, but great-power rivalries remain the principal drivers of long-term geopolitics. These battles are always best fought far from home -- in this case in America's back yard. Our neighborhood-rival Pakistan is not oblivious to this. Not surprisigly Musharraf meets Brazil president today.

Pakistan's Hamid Gul

UPI's Arnaud de Borchgrave (Commentary: Gulled by Gul) quotes Pakistani (ex) General Hamid Gul, who once ran the infamous ISI, and currently serves as the "strategic adviser" to the country's six-party Islamist alliance (MMA) -- which, incidentally, has been allied with General Musharraf -- as follows:

"The leadership vacuum created by the sad demise of (Palestinian) President (Yasser) Arafat can only be filled by Osama Bin Laden and (Taliban leader) Mullah (Mohammad) Omar, the real leaders that are the only dedicated individuals with the mass support of the Muslim world."

How can India even contemplate a peace process with a nation where the likes of General Gul are legion? See our previous thinking on this subject here: Kashmir

Bharateeya Blog Mela

Last week's Bharateeya Blog Mela is up at Another Blog in the Wall which mentions our perspective on post-election Indo-US relationship.

Also, Ashish is hosting this week's Carnival of the Vanities . Please nominate interesting posts that merit inclusion there.

Patriot Missiles

This weekend we learned via Jawed Naqvi in Dawn (Big US arms offer for India) that US has offered India Patriot Missiles (along with F16 fighter jets and P3C Orion Surveillance Planes) to balance their potentially supplying Pakistan with F16s.

Sounds intriguing. Indian defence planners have apparently even indicated interest in procuring the Patriot Missiles.

In this context, we are reminded of this February 2004 story on CBS' 60 Minutes (The Patriot Flawed?), which questioned the effectiveness of Patriot Missiles. We hope the issues raised here will be fully investigated before India agrees to purchase this missile system. We strongly favor Indo-US defence cooperation, but not a blind purchase of possibly ineffective military systems.

Relevant excerpts follow:

(Former Congressional investigator) Joseph Cirincione says the Army has known the Patriot had serious problems since at least 1991, when Congress appointed him to lead an investigation of the Patriot's performance in the first Gulf War, a performance that had looked spectacular on network news programs.

But it turns out, that wasn’t true. Almost none of the Patriots had worked. Some of them had failed to hit the incoming Scuds. Some had shot at missiles that didn't even exist. But most of them still exploded in the sky, leading everyone to believe they'd scored a kill, when in fact they hadn’t. “The best evidence that we found supports between two and four intercepts out of 44,” says Cirincione. “About a 10 percent success rate.” Cirincione said the Army responded angrily to his findings: “The Army insisted that they knew they had some problems with the Patriot, but it didn't serve any purpose to make these public. We would just be aiding the enemy. And that they would take care of it in the course of normal product improvement.”

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Pogrom in Gujarat

Indian Express is running a series of investigative stories on who knew what and when about the pogrom in Gujarat. This is based on an analysis of telephone records. An absolute must-read.

Top cops knew ex-Cong MP Ehsan Jafri was burning, his friend had sent out SOS

To us the issue goes beyond the horrific crimes outlined above. This is fundamentally about the nature of Indian citizenship and that of Indian institutions. If a citizen -- an ex-Member of Parliament at that -- can be lynched so brazenly, apparently with the knowledge of the police, how does any other citizen know he/she is safe?

Some may take comfort in the fact that the victims were minorities, and that, mercifully, they aren't. This would be a cynical and profoundly incorrect interpretation of the issue. First, regardless of their minority status, India's Muslims were born here, their parents and grandparents were born here, and their ancestors lived, died and are buried in India's earth. This alone gives them an equal citizenship -- and a right to equal protections -- as any other Indian. Second, we are all minorities in one way or the other -- some based on caste, others on language, and the rest in countless other ways.

Can we be lynched tomorrow for being, say, Brahmins, or Oriya speakers, or NRIs? Would Indians not sharing our specific minority attribute be morally justified in looking away? Can our police ignore SOS calls from us because they speak Tamil and we Bengali? Or because we have lived in New York and they all their life in New Delhi? Where does this madness stop?

Friday, November 26, 2004

Kashmir

Khalid Hassan discusses India's attitude towards Kashmir in this week's Friday Times http://www.thefridaytimes.com/ (The Kashmir Mirage).

In this discussion, he quotes from a August 25th, 1952 letter from Pt. Nehru to Sheikh Abdullah:

We are superior to Pakistan in military and industrial power. But that superiority is not so great as to produce results quickly in war or by fear of war. Therefore, our national interest demands that we should adopt a peaceful policy towards Pakistan and, at the same time, add to our strength. Strength ultimately comes not from defence forces, but the industrial and economic background behind them. As we grow in strength, and we are likely to do so, Pakistan will feel less and less inclined to threaten or harass us, and a time will come when, through sheer force of circumstances, it will be in a mood to accept a settlement which we consider fair, whether in Kashmir or elsewhere.

His sentiments are obviously widely shared -- today, 52 years later.

In our view, India is not merely superior to Pakistan in military and industrial power, it is also superior as a political system. While the former allow us to dictate a solution, it is the latter that gives us the moral basis to do so.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Global Commerce

The Ranbaxy vs. Pfizer battle is worth watching.

http://www.theday.com/eng/web/news/re.aspx?re=F37D48D0-51F2-4AE9-A843-D8412975E0AF

Pfizer Inc. said Tuesday that it planned to vigorously defend its best-selling Lipitor drug against claims by an Indian generic-drug manufacturer that it can market its own version of the cholesterol-lowering medication.

Pfizer will square off against Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd. next Tuesday in federal district court in Delaware, where Ranbaxy's attorneys will challenge Pfizer's patents on Lipitor, the world's top-selling drug, which generated sales of more than $9 billion this past year.


Pfizer had filed legal briefs seeking to dismiss the suit but was denied. The case is a significant one for Pfizer because of the huge success of Lipitor, the drug of choice among many of the world's physicians to lower cholesterol.

The Wall Street Journal said in a story in Tuesday's edition that analysts have called the Pfizer challenge by the generic drugmaker a long shot, but that if it prevailed it would send shock waves throughout the pharmaceutical industry.

United Nations

National Review to Kofi Annan: You're fired !!

http://www.nationalreview.com/thecorner/04_11_24_corner-archive.asp#046631

The story is here: http://www.nationalreview.com/issue/editors200411240800.asp

A UN-insider friend of this blog describes some of what's been happening under Mr. Annan's watch as real nasty creepy stuff. That's the understatement of the year.

See Michelle Malkin's blog for more details.

http://michellemalkin.com/archives/000874.htm

The sooner Mr. Annan goes, the better.

Environment

From AnarCapLib, here is an interesting discussion of environment issues:

'Sustainable development is nonsense'

Here, Leon Louw, an African libertarian says the following to Sauvik Chakraverti:

What is your view on 'sustainable development'?

It is nonsense. The world 'sustainable' has no intelligible meaning. Sustainable for how long and for whom, we are never told. Development is sustainable. What is not is the absence of development. Without development, people will, in fact, starve and the environment will be destroyed. The most developed countries are the ones with the cleanest air, the cleanest rivers, the least human suffering, the best conservation of nature, and the least endangered species.

We could not agree more. The conventional wisdom of leftist environmental activists needs to be directly challenged and defeated.

Culture

G. Vimalah Nair, a politician of the MIC -- Malaysian Indian Congress -- has accused Indian cinema of encouraging many in the Malaysian-Indian community to take to alcohol, or worse to commit suicide!!!

Two points need to be made here. First, India's principal "soft power" export appears to be C-grade cinema -- this is hardly the makings of a great power. Second, to the extent our cinema represents our culture overseas, what does it say about us if it is driving people to kill themselves?

United Nations

Instapudit's Glenn Reynolds talks up the idea of replacing Kofi Annan with Vaclav Havel.

http://instapundit.com/archives/019418.php

Vaclav Havel is this year's winner of the Gandhi Peace Prize.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/400716.cms

We have long endorsed the idea of Bill Clinton for Secretary General for his political skills and pragmatism. We are, however, intrigued by the idea of Mr. Havel for this position.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

China

Rand's Charles Wolf Jr. wrote the following in the Asian Wall Street Journal (http://www.rand.org/commentary/070704AWSJ.html). This is a sobering reality check for the China bulls out there.

Among the major economic problems confronting China, two are particularly difficult.

The problem that has lately received most attention and concern is actually the less difficult of the two. The second is not only more difficult, but also has been largely ignored in public discussion.

The easier problem is the so-called "overheated" Chinese economy, and the worry that the "bubble" may burst with serious consequences for Asia and the world economy.

The problem that is more difficult to resolve springs from a dilemma presented by two economic objectives both of which are of crucial importance for China's future: sustaining a high rate of economic growth and also generating ample job opportunities for large numbers of unemployed and underemployed workers. For political and social as well as economic reasons achieving a high rate of job creation is no less important than is sustaining a high rate of GDP growth.

Although the two objectives are usually viewed as compatible and even mutually reinforcing, there is a fundamental tension between them. This tension arises because of the two-sided effects of rising labor productivity ...

.. while China's economy was growing at the highest annual growth rate, 7.8%, of any of the world's principal economies, its increase in employment was only 1% annually.

Hip Hinglish

From the Christian Science Monitor:

http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/1123/p01s03-wosc.html

The mix of Hindi and English is the language of the street and the college campus, and its sound sets many parents' teeth on edge. It's a bridge between two cultures that has become an island of its own, a distinct hybrid culture for people who aspire to make it rich abroad without sacrificing the sassiness of the mother tongue. And it may soon claim more native speakers worldwide than English.

Indeed, David Crystal, a British linguist at the University of Wales, recently projected that at about 350 million, the world's Hinglish speakers may soon outnumber native English speakers.

India Terror Warning

Today, US Embassy in India warned of possible terror threats both in Delhi and Mumbai. The US consulate in Mumbai has been closed.

Stratfor analyzes this action thus:

The U.S. Embassy in India issued a statement saying the U.S. Consulate General in Mumbai would be closed Nov. 23 after threats of possible attacks. The warning lacked specifics, and considering that most militant activity in India has been away from centers of U.S. interests, the closure and warning are likely a precautionary, proactive measure.

http://www.stratfor.com/index.neo?page=center&storyId=239836

This is likely related to the arrival of Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz in Delhi -- a "good" time to draw attention from a terrorist point of view.

Pogrom in Gujarat

Indian Express has been tracking cell-phone records of key BJP politicians and police officers during the Gujarat pogrom. The results are stunning -- if hardly surprising.

These politicians and police officers were apparently in close, and frequent, contact with mob leaders -- even as the mobs they led were torching entire communities. They have blood on their hands.

In its lead editorial today, Indian Express asks why is it that Gujarat police has not undertaken the exercise the newspaper has?

http://www.indianexpress.com/full_story.php?content_id=59392

Neo-conservatism

Global neo-conservatism is based on three pillars:

1. The movement's core values are freedom and equality -- neo-conservatives seek an equilibrium where both values co-exist without diminishing the other

- Freedom to suppress equality (e.g. Afghanistan under Taliban) is unacceptable

- Equality that curtails freedom (e.g. Cambodia under Khmer Rouge) is unacceptable

http://secular-right.blogspot.com/2004/11/neo-conservatism.html

2. The movement aspires to shape the world around its values

- These values have moral roots and universal meaning

- Political and social systems that do not share these values are a threat

http://secular-right.blogspot.com/2004/11/democracy.html

3. The movement advocates assertive diplomacy where possible, and force where necessary, for shaping the world around its values

- Soviet Union was brought down principally through assertive diplomacy

- Baathist Iraq was brought down through force

http://www.newamericancentury.org/


Monday, November 22, 2004

The Shia Bomb

Christian Science Monitor discusses Iran's nuclear aspirations:

http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/1123/p01s01-usfp.html

One paragraph caught our eye:

Some experts hold out the hope that Iran, if it became a nuclear power, could yet evolve in somewhat the same way India has- from a one-time international agitator to a nuclear power taking its position seriously and demonstrating stronger interests in regional stability.

Meanwhile, Israeli website Debkafile discusses how, if at all, US or Israel might try to destroy Iran's capabilities.

http://www.debka.com/article.php?aid=940

We hope Iran keeps its capabilities recessed -- if not, a nuclear Tehran would give Pakistan one more rationale to maintain/augment its nuclear capability. This cannot be good for India -- or the world.

United Nations

The Economist has a good preview of the upcoming report on UN reform. They title the article "Fighting for Survival".

http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=3398746

We think the UN is an unwieldy and amoral anachronism that's best disbanded. Short of that, radical reform is the only way to salvage what little credibility it has left.

Energy and Environment

Delhi-based Liberty Institute (a favorite of ours) offers this paper by Shreekant Gupta on market based approaches to reduce green house gases.

http://www.libertyindia.org/pdfs/shreekant_gupta_climate.pdf

Resources for the Future, a credible American Think Tank, has now published a book spelling out similar policy options on energy and environment.

The book is reviewed by Gregg Easterbrook in The New Republic.

http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=express&s=easterbrook112204

First, here is a Mr. Easterbrook briefly describing the Think Tank and why it is credible:

The think tank was founded in 1952 by the Ford Foundation, which charged it with warning the world about the coming exhaustion of petroleum and other primary resources. Instead Resources for the Future researchers concluded there was plenty of everything, and swam against the 1960s doomsday-chic tide by saying so.

Then the organization got interested in improved environmental protection using market-based ideas. Its triumph was the 1991 Clean Air Act revisions that created an allowance-trading program for acid rain reduction. Since 1991 acid rain has declined spectacularly--that's why you never hear about it anymore--and the trading system designed by Resources for the Future is the reason.


With this history, here are their key recommendations:

1. Higher taxes on gasoline or on any carbon-containing (fossil) fuel

2. Tradable higher federal miles-per-gallon standards on vehicles

3. A carbon-allowance trading system modeled on the acid-rain trading system

Custodians of Culture

James Robbins in NRO writes this heartwarming story about the re-establishment of civil society in Afghanistan.

Excerpts follow:

In my library I have a guide to the Kabul museum dating from the 1970s ... richly illustrated with pictures of Afghan art and artifacts dating back thousands of years.

These works of art had been preserved for centuries, but the 20th century, as was its wont, put an end to them. They disappeared around the time the Red Army arrived, presumably looted in the chaos of those times, or in the years following the withdrawal when the country was wracked with factional fighting.

Yet, recently something remarkable happened. The Afghan artifacts reappeared.

The story of the survival of the artifacts begins with the Afghan tradition of the talwildar, the key-holder, a person who assumes responsibility to safeguard valuables ... Many of the original key-holders and witnesses died or disappeared, but their relatives assumed the responsibility. Any box of these art treasures would have brought a fortune if smuggled out to the west; yet through war, poverty, chaos and oppression the key-holders and their successors discharged their duties to their country and their honor, waiting for a time when they felt it was safe enough for the boxes to reemerge.

Under the circumstances they had to live through, it is astonishing. One wonders how American society would fare given the same test.

Murder in Kanchi

Selected excerpts from an interesting discussion on the subject follow -- these should be read in the context of our previous post criticizing the VHP and BJP for politicizing the matter.

http://secular-right.blogspot.com/2004/11/murder-in-kanchi.html

Person 1: In what way is the VHP politicising the issue? Is not the arrest itself a political act? Has anyone asked the DMK how they have the gumption to ask for the arrest of the Shankaracharya but sit with murderers and other criminals in the cabinet in Delhi? By not asking this simple question, has not the media itself allowed itself to be part of the politicisation of the whole event?

Person 2: True, the timing and the manner in which the Seer was arrested leaves us baffled about the political intent, but nobody is ready to take a mileage of this episode yet, even the DMK is very cautious to take advantage of this. Only the VHP and BJP are all out to invent a new issue on which they could capture the Indian mind. BJP is gambling big on this for its own existence. If their interpretation of the arrest of the Seer as a politically motivated challenge against Hinduism has been established, some of them involved in the Babri Masjid case will use this immensely for their legal and political battle ...

... The issue whether the arrest should be interpreted as a slap on Hinduism, and whether the Shankaracharya represents Hindu mind is diabolic. It is a slap on the autocratic style of Mutt Management, which has come under serious criticism from Hindu liberal

... This case will throw a lots of issues in the public which may lead to the reforming of religious institutions: be it Hindu, Muslim and Christian. This is the need of the hour and I will look it from the institutional perspective rather than religious perspective. Like the Harshad Mehta episode, which has initiated the Stock market reforms in India, this issue will greatly support the reformation of religious institutional management in India.

Person 3: I would like to take this opportunity to refer to the murder of the CEO of Banco Ambrosiano in Italy in the 1980s where his wife alleged high level Vatican complicity in that murder. A high ranking Buddhist prelate organized the murder of Bandaranaike, the father of President Chandrika Kumaratunga, in 1959. A monk carried out the actual assassination. These incidents cause pain in the minds of the faithful and devout. The Shankaracharya of Kanchipuram is no exception. I liked him for his social activist agenda and his concern for the downtrodden. His possible involvement in a murder case saddened me.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Kashmir

Most of our moderate Muslim friends talk about "root causes" of terrorism. While condemning terrorist violence, they aver that if it's root causes were resolved, terrorism would fade.

What is a "root cause" anyway? What's its nature?

Typically, the "root cause" is political. In Kashmir, for example, the "root cause" is about map making. In response to not getting their way politically , the jihadis have taken to terrorism.

Setting aside the immorality of a violent response to a non-violent disagreement, lets oblige our moderate Muslim friends and examine Kashmir's "root cause" via a thought experiment.

Lets assume that there was no jihadi violence -- and no Indian military response to it. Lets also assume that Pakistan was not involved in fomenting violence in Kashmir.

Would India then be morally obliged to grant Kashmiris their right to "self-determination"? This is the real heart of the matter. The debate over terrorism is distraction from this -- a useful distraction some might argue, but nothing more.

India's answer to this question must not rely on technical issues like the Maharaja's accession letter or Pt. Nehru's Security Council commitments. The answer lies in India's concern for its security, and its responsibility to the world.

If Kashmir were to become independent, or autonomous, it would likely evolve into a dysfunctional State, much like Pakistan and Bangladesh. This India cannot accept, and the world cannot afford. There can never be a new religion-motivated State in India's sphere of influence, nor an Islamic State within the Secular Indian State. If self-determination is to be sacrificed to prevent these outcomes, then so be it.

Not all political ideas are equal. India, for example, is a superior political idea than Pakistan. Kashmiris cannot be given the right to choose a worse political system than one they have as constituents of India. Since the "root cause" of terrorism is the desire of some Kashmiris to mimic Pakistan, there is no favorable resolution to this. Even if 100% of Kashmiris were to choose to become like Pakistan (a scenario we know is absurd), such a wish cannot be granted.

No people have the freedom to choose chaos for themselves. This is the hard reality and should end the "root cause" discussion.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Murder in Kanchi

The circumstances surrounding the murder at Kanchi temple and the arrest of the Shankaracharya are murky. Its best to leave the resoultion of this matter to the courts.

Unfortunately, the religious-right has decided to make this a political issue. The VHP now alleges that Mrs. Gandhi (being Christian) is part of a conspiracy against the Hindu seer.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/929031.cms

Mr. Advani has even launched a three-day protest against the seer's arrest. His BJP calls this arrest an assault on religion.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshowwog/929032.cms

When will the VHP and BJP realize that most Hindus couldn't care less about their divisive politics? The more hysterical the religious-right gets, the farther away it drives the very constituency it claims to champion.

Corruption

The principal driver of political corruption is not usually the politician's desire for enrichment -- rather it is to generate oversized funds to finance expensive election campaigns. As Hilton Root noted http://secular-right.blogspot.com/2004/11/corruption.html, this is very much the case in India.

New York Times' Nicholas Kristof writes today of an interesting Chilean experiment where large contributions (> $500) are channeled via blind trusts. This creates a situation where:

If officials don't know who their major contributors are, they can't invite them to ... (for example) write tax loopholes. A donor might boast about having made a contribution, but special interests will realize they can save money by telling politicians that they have donated when they haven't, and then politicians will doubt these boasts.

Ordinarily, we favor transparency, but this concept has us intrigued.

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/20/opinion/20kristof.html?oref=login

Friday, November 19, 2004

China

Far too many people view China these days through rose-tinted glasses. The smart money is beginning to wonder if this is not a mistaken view.

Stratfor, a private and terrific intelligence shop, has this to say today:

Unrest appears to be on the rise in China (or the media is finally paying more attention). Beijing has been unable to contain or control the economy, the banking system remains seriously flawed and bubbles are growing throughout the economy. What is the breaking point for Beijing? Will the country's economic collapse follow the Japanese model of slow burn? Does China have the underlying social stability to withstand a long, drawn out economic decline?

This is a situation worth keeping an eye on. The implications for India are obvious.

Democracy

Natan Sharansky argues that only with democracy can the middle east be pacified. The status-quo approach of coddling dictators is deeply flawed.

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article.asp?aid=11804074_1

This idea is correct. Given the absence of real democracy all around India, it is worth pondering if it shouldn't be India's objective as well to persuade and, if necessary force, our neighbors into political modernity.

Atal ji once said that nations cannot choose neighbors -- this was his rationale for "peace" with the Pakistani establishment. Could he have been more wrong? Why should strong nations have to accept their environment as a given? This is a reactive worldview.

Instead, strong nations should pro-actively enforce their democratic political standards on their neighbors. This is the only path to lasting peace.

Corruption

Going back to the Hoover well. This Hilton Root essay is a fascinating view on the structural corruption that pervades Indian political-economy.

http://www-hoover.stanford.edu/publications/epp/82/a.html

The summary follows:

India, a rare democracy in the third world, is widely perceived to be a political success, despite its economic failures. India's poor choice of economic policies, however, has a political motivation. Getting elected has required targeting tangible spoils to an increasingly well-organized, but fractured, electorate. Political patronage was the stimulus for interventionist economic management, eventually producing massive fiscal deficits. When the danger of defaulting on foreign debt became a reality in 1991, the country's leadership began to reevaluate the flawed economic policies without considering the flawed system of governance that accompanied and sustained the policy matrix. Patronage politics spawned corruption; money, muscle, or influence propelled public services and government, making the system of public administration as incompatible with liberalism as the system of economic regulation. Political and administrative imperatives impelled the country to economic policies that failed. Economic reform will not be complete until the underlying administrative imperatives are transformed by accountable governance.

Head and Heart

Like someone famously said, if you're young and not liberal, you don't have a heart. If you're old and not conservative, you don't have a head. Wonder where that leaves middle-aged folks? Probably close to where Bill Clinton described his approach in 1992, "taking the best of conservatism and discarding the worst of progressivism" to create a new centrist approach.

The secular right view is long overdue in Indian public dialogue. We don't need the false choices offered by the hard left and the hard right. Why can't politicians live without a conflict between the head and the heart, just like the rest of us?

The Bush Revolution

The brilliant military-historian Victor Davis Hanson writes as follows in National Review:

Our enemies understand the long-term strategic efforts of the United States far better than do our own dissidents. They know that oil is not under U.S. control but priced at all-time highs, and that America is not propping up despotism anymore, but is now the general foe of both theocracies and dictatorships — and the thorn in the side of "moderate" autocracies. An America that is a force for democratic change is a very dangerous foe indeed. Most despots long for the old days of Jimmy Carter's pious homilies, appeasement of awful dictatorships gussied up as "concern" for "human rights," and the lure of a Noble Prize to ensure nights in the Lincoln bedroom or hours waiting on a dictator's tarmac.

Our sentiments exactly.

http://www.nationalreview.com/hanson/hanson200411190830.asp


United Nations

Not only is the structure of the UN flawed (as previously discussed), its leadership is corrupt and tawdry as well -- even the staff are fed up and will vote their lack of confidence in Kofi Annan today.

http://www.keralanext.com/news/?id=66544

United Nations

We strongly agree with this Indian Express op-ed that the United Nations is in effect Security Council’s oligolateral tyranny sitting atop General Assembly’s hyperlateral noise. On substantive matters, the UN is slave to selfish whims of its five godfathers — thus oligolateral — and on trivial matters, to the cacophony of 191 member nations — thus hyperlateral.

http://www.indianexpress.com/full_story.php?content_id=33195

Indo-US relationship

Colin Powell is gone. Condoleezza Rice is apparently now charged with purging the Department of State.

In "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" Milan Kundera famously asked "Muss es sein" (must it be so?) and answered "Es muss sein" (it must be so). This logic applies here as well.

Ahead of the election, we thought that the Bush revolution (re-ordering the world) is highly favorable to India -- but that because it likely was already irreversible, Mr. Kerry might well be the right man to bring the world together in a new (pro-India) configuration. We were wrong as we now realize.

The Bush revolution cannot be complete unless it has changed not only the world outside America, but also the world within. The status quo, of which Washington's bureaucracy is the keeper, has to be fully shattered -- absent which, like lilies in a pond, the old order has a chance to grow back and crowd out new possibilities.

Even as the White House (Ms. Rice, Mr. Hadley, and most important President Bush) have moved to radically change how US views the world (and India), the State Department has stood in their way. Why? Because it is the custodian of fossillized tradition, and (for example) views India principally as a non-proliferation problem (something that our friends in Indian Foreign Service much lament). This view can now change after the purge. It must be so, and we erred in not recognizing this before.

What should Indians in America do now? We think our central task is to re-educate ourselves. Too many of us are status-quoist in our thinking. We are uncomfortable with American assertiveness in the world (even though this serendipitously helps India). We call for "stability" in Iraq, when India benefits from the deliberate destabilization of status-quo dictators and religious witch-doctors all over the middle east. We plead for multipolarity and multilateralism -- not recognizing that the first is presently impossible, and second is a code for putting the (pro-India) Bush revolution back in a box.

This is not to say Indians don't like the results of the revolution. India was one of only two countries worldwide where Pew found more people pro-Bush than pro-Kerry. Last Sunday, CNN reported that India was the only Asian country where more people welcomed Bush re-election than lamented it. Indians like the omelet but are uncomfortable with the egg-breaking that makes the omelet possible. This confusion must be cleared.

The real focus for us (as activists) is to help Indians understand the Bush revolution, and help Americans understand why India's national interests are well-aligned with the said revolution. All else will follow naturally.

Neo-conservatism

We are long time admirers of American neo-conservatives -- (in Irving Krystol's famous words) liberals mugged by reality.

Much like us.

Here is a terrific essay on ne0-conservatism on Hoover Institution's excellent website:

http://www.policyreview.org/oct04/lindberg.html

A notable section is excerpted here:

Because we favor freedom and equality, and as a consequence of our general support for efforts to extend freedom and equality, we must also oppose such demands for equality that impinge excessively on freedom and oppose such demands for freedom that impinge on equality.

Whether one wishes to call this position “neoconservative” or something else, it is both “neo” and “conservative” in the sense that what is being conserved is our liberalism — its extension in time and space. The distinction between this “neoconservative” position and a “progressive” position amounts to the weight one attaches to two sets of claims. One set, the “progressive,” manifests itself as the demand for expanded freedom or the demand for greater substantive equality in the particular case at hand (that is, in the object of a political dispute). The other set, “neoconservative,” concerns itself with whether a demand for greater freedom might impinge excessively on substantive equality or whether a demand for greater substantive equality might impinge on freedom.

If neoconservatism has a claim for the superiority of its outlook, it is that the desire for freedom and the desire for equality are always present in liberal societies and liberal politics (indeed, they are the raw material of liberal society), whereas the striking of an acceptable balance between the two is not a given but a matter to be worked out by politics — a politics that can go badly wrong when the balance is wrongly struck, potentially with disastrously illiberal consequences.

Kashmir

Not an inch, Mr. Prime Minister

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? W.B. Yeats

Time magazine recently reported a leaked proposal for a territory-for-peace swap with Pakistan. India might consider “adjusting” the line of control (LOC) by “a matter of miles eastward” in return for a cessation of Pakistani terrorism.

How did our idealistic fight for secular identity become a real estate transaction? Doesn’t this imply India blinking again versus jihadi terrorism? Our last blinking – in 1999, in Kandahar – presaged 9/11. This time, do we even dare imagine what rough beast would have slouched towards Srinagar to be born?

Even if Pakistan has somehow lost its will to fight – how can India ever be sure of this – and the proposed LOC adjustment is political cover for Islamabad, this idea makes little sense.

It is critical that Indians appreciate the underlying fundament driving this idea. India is increasingly integrating in the global economy. India’s elite envy China’s explosive prosperity and wish the same for themselves. They also seek the trappings of being a great power.

To them, India is far too “obsessed” with its neighbors – it must now unshackle itself from stagnant “South Asia” and play on the world stage instead. A territory-for-peace swap with Pakistan would be a good first step in this direction. They also believe that the ensuing peace dividend would easily buy-off all domestic opposition.

They will thus happily swap a few Himalayan miles for economic and geo-political prosperity. It is therefore necessary to confront their dogma that a “settlement” with Pakistan will yield prosperity and power.

India’s people are understandably tired of war in Kashmir. They yearn for peace and the consequent prosperity. But peace and prosperity through terrorist appeasement are surely illusions. How soon before the Pakistan comes back for a mile, having taken an inch? What if terrorism is resumed? What will India do then? Cry foul and wave around the settlement signed by the untrustworthy General Musharraf?

India’s elite hopes its statesmanship on Kashmir will lead it into bodies like the Security Council and G8, therefore to power and riches. But since when are seats at high tables available for purchase in the currency of weakness? Besides, power and riches are prerequisites to joining these clubs – these clubs are not avenues to power and riches.

Security Council and G8 members matter not because of their membership in these bodies. In fact, it is the Council that derives influence from its permanent members whose own power comes from having humbled their adversaries. Likewise, the G8 derives influence from its members who are prosperous in their own right.

Where does this leave India? With an appeased terror state as peace partner who, past experience suggests, is hardly trustworthy and, if a miracle happens, ersatz membership in global bodies that neither provides power nor riches. Some prize this is.

Domestically, this idea is a sharp stick in the eye of secular Indians – whose identity stands and falls on Kashmir. For what have we fought communal pogroms in India if we are now to accept victory for jihadi terror in Kashmir? That our secular polity would float this blasphemous trial balloon is bitterly ironic, and unacceptable.

This idea will also revitalize our dispirited communalists – whose identity feeds off the perceived weak timber of secular India. They will contrast their “strength” in Ayodhya to secularist “weakness” in Kashmir. While highly cynical, this contrast will alas resonate with many – political dynamite like this can then hardly be put back in a bottle.

Swapping territory for “peace” will satisfy neither India’s restive people nor its myopic elite. It will, instead, catalyze new fissures in our socio-political order. In the worst case, we would have swapped an uncivil war in Kashmir for a civil war in the rest of India. On the world stage, we would have reinforced thankfully fading notions of India being a “soft state” and opened ourselves for future blackmail.

Our erudite Prime Minister frequently quotes Victor Hugo on the power of an idea whose time has come. Given the damaging consequences outlined above, surely the time for this idea has not yet come. Why is it then being whispered in Time magazine’s ears?

Whose blog is this?

This is a blog for, and of, secular-right Indians.

We are rain-makers and opinion shapers. We are tech-savvy and globally mobile.

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We are socially liberal. We abhor religious and social bigotry.

We are not of the secular-left, neither of the religious-right. Our politics are secular-right.

This is our blog.

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