Published on mint on 5/26/09:

http://www.livemint.com/2009/05/26210249/Policies-behind-pandemics.html

It appears that the swine flu pandemic has been averted for the moment due to some quick thinking and action. The tenor of news reports has changed from panic to the smug feeling that it is under control. The World Health Organization and the American Centers for Disease Control probably deserve kudos for helping contain the problem. But as with previous episodes of disease, it may well recur: the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and avian flu have appeared more than once, as have Ebola and Legionnaire’s disease.

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Published on Rediff on May 17th

http://election.rediff.com/column/2009/may/17/loksabhapoll-after-the-counting-and-other-stories.htm

The great fabulist O V Vijayan had a collection of short stories – and some of the best were based on the Emergency — titled “After the hanging and other stories”. I could stretch the point and suggest that democracy was hanged in India, but perhaps that is too dramatic. Democracy was already a walking wounded in India. It had been a zombie for years, with paraphernalia such as elaborate elections, but it is merely form, not substance. What passes for a democracy in India is make-believe. It is, to paraphrase that old racist Churchill, about as real as the equator.

Nevertheless, it is a little sad to see a people committing collective suicide. For, this year’s election is a point of inflexion, coming as it does at a point when the unipolar world of the recent past is clearly unraveling. There is a power vacuum, as the dominant power of the previous century, the United States, is clearly suffering from imperial over-reach. Much as other imperial powers have done in the past, America is also realizing that there are limits to its power to compel others.

Since nature abhors a vacuum, a new power is stepping into it: China. They have amassed, as is well known, a war chest of $2 trillion. They are making noises about replacing the US dollar as the reserve currency, and economist Nouriel Roubini (known as ‘Dr. Doom’ for his Cassandra-like warnings about the economic crisis) wrote in the New York Times about the ‘almighty renminbi’ possibly replacing the almighty dollar.

This was India’s chance to also make it to the top, but of course it won’t with the UPA at the helm. The UPA and its coterie of leftists have a congenital inferiority complex, and they simply cannot imagine that India in fact has the potential to be one of the poles in a multi-polar world. Their imaginations have been stunted by all the dogma of non-alignment they have mouthed for decades – and they can only imagine being a pawn and a supplicant to some superior power.

The fact is that an unfettered India which defends its interests had a very good chance of being not only one among the top ten global powers in its economic, military and innovation capability. India, if it played its cards right, would have had a non-trivial chance of being Number One, the biggest power in the world. If the intrusive Indian government did not interfere, the native genius of Indians would naturally enable the nation to flourish, as was demonstrated in sector after sector after 1991. Indians have thrived despite the government, not because of it.

The problem the Americans face is that, despite their vast continental resources, they are a waning power, as they reached the zenith of their empire in the 1950s and 1960s, and it has been downhill ever since, except for a brief moment when they became the sole hyperpower. The Chinese, on their part, have tremendous problems because, despite the acknowledged entrepreneurial capacities of its citizens, Chinese history shows that it can only do well when there is a strong imperial government. Eventually, the Communist dictatorship will collapse.

India would have had a chance, but not with the UPA in power. An old gentleman, whom I have no reason to disbelieve, once told me of an incident with a Communist leader in Kerala, who opposed prohibition. In a private conversation, this person questioned the minister about the obvious fact that the consumption of liquor by men was impoverishing their families and preventing them from rising up to the middle class. Whereupon the leader told him, in effect: “We don’t want to end poverty. If there is no poverty, who needs us?” This accurately reflects the UPA’s beliefs as well. Their slogans will have no takers unless there is a large, hopeless underclass.

The UPA has demonstrated that it can only think of India as a vassal state throughout the last five years of craven behavior towards the US (“India loves you, Mr. Bush”, said the PM). The opaque manner in which the nuclear deal was rammed through was preposterous.  India will pay tens of billions of dollars for nuclear fission reactors from the US and its allies, and will go into ‘cap, rollback and eliminate’ mode as it is blackmailed into the NPT, CTBT and FMCT. In the meantime, the Americans are giving billions to the Pakistanis, in effect supporting their new plutonium reactors, as reported by MSNBC on May 15th (“Pakistan expanding its nuclear capability”) http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30648446/

It would be ironic if the Americans are taking the very same billions coming from India and giving those to the Pakistanis. That would be, as Karl Marx said, history repeating itself as tragedy: British imperialists, it may be remembered, coerced money from Indians to build the infrastructure to oppress Indians.

The energy issue is just one of many in which the UPA has not looked after India’s interests. Consider China – now that energy prices have fallen, the Chinese have locked up long-term contracts for oil and gas by waving their bankroll around, in places like Venezuela, Russia, and Angola. The UPA has done nothing, apparently complacent that Uncle Sam will ride to the rescue with uranium. The UPA couldn’t even get Bangladeshi or Myanmarese gas, which the Chinese snatched up. That is nothing short of criminal.

In fact there are several reasons why the last five years of UPA rule have been disastrous. I am reminded of Ronald Reagan’s famous jibe: “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” Absolutely not, in area after area:

  • Economy: because of disastrous populist policies, the budget deficit is around 13-15%, one of the highest in the world. Inflation of up to 12% has permanently pushed up the prices of most essential goods by a factor of 1.5 to 3x, and it will return with a vengeance because of the high deficit
  • Foreign Policy: India’s ‘near-abroad’ is a disaster, as India’s sphere of influence has shrunk, and China’s has grown. Nepal is now controlled by friends of China; Sri Lanka is massacring Tamils, and has leased the Hambantota naval base to China; terrorist infiltration via Bangladesh and Nepal continues apace; the Pakistani Taliban are only some 200 kilometers from Delhi
  • Security: Terrorists attack Indian cities at will; the invasion of Mumbai has already been forgotten by the UPA, which only has a long memory when certain privileged people are killed
  • Corruption and Money-laundering: Gigantic amounts of money appear to be stashed away in numbered Swiss accounts – enough to pay off the national debt; the ill-gotten gains of the Italian Quattrochi have tacitly been given to him. This makes the already corrupt Indian system even worse
  • Opaqueness: The UPA lied continuously to the Indian people and Parliament about the details of the nuclear accord, which turns out to be far less attractive than was advertized; the libel, perjury and defamation by certain NGOs about Gujarat have gone completely unpunished; and the huge bags-of-cash-for-votes scandal has been swept under the carpet.

The Indian voter is not stupid, and is exquisitely sensitive to things that affect his wallet. Therefore it is a little surprising that the average voter drank the UPA’s Kool-Aid.

There is, of course, the possibility that the average voter did not in fact fall for the UPA’s charms, and that this election was subject to massive fraud. I am talking about Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). Having spent many years in the high-tech world, I do not trust computers, especially embedded systems. Researchers in the US have shown how easy it is to break into EVMs, which is why they have not adopted them. They have realized how important it is to have a paper audit trail, hanging chads and all.

It would not be extraordinarily difficult to install a program with a Trojan Horse in it. To outward appearances and to ordinary testing, the program would appear normal. However, when it is fed a sequence of keystrokes by the agent of the party committing the fraud, the Trojan Horse wakes up, and then, regardless of what buttons the voter actually presses, it can assign a certain (non-suspicious-looking) percentage (i.e. not 90% but, say 45%) to the preferred party. The Trojan Horse can even be programmed to quietly delete itself when the voting is over. Nobody would know any better, as there is no paper trail.

Let me emphasize that I do not have any evidence that this happened in 2009, but it is worth investigating. There were too many surprising – almost miraculous – victories by certain candidates whom the casual observer would have written off. By Occam’s razor, the simplest explanation is fraud. I would like to note in passing that in 2004, expecting the NDA to commit fraud, an Indian Communist in the US had prepared a suit alleging EVM fraud. Therefore it is clear that the thought has occurred to various people that there could be EVM fraud.

In any case, the 2009 elections, I repeat, were an inflexion point or a tipping point, which will mark the rapid decline of India. Looking back, historians will identify this election as the precise moment that India as a nation and a civilization began unraveling. It is fairly likely that India would have become a dismembered state by 2025, thus fulfilling a long-felt need in certain hostile quarters – one in which both the Communists and the West see eye to eye – to break up India.

Published by the Pioneer on May 4:

http://www.dailypioneer.com/173668/Triumph-and-tragedy-in-Sri-Lanka.html

The news and the images coming out of Sri Lanka are horrendous: 100,000 Tamil civilians trapped on a tiny beach, where cadres of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are making their last stand . The LTTE are using the civilians as shields (according to the Sri Lankan government); and government troops have shelled hospitals and killed thousands of non-combatants this year (according to The Economist quoting human-rights groups and the UNHCR).

The photographs of long-suffering Tamil refugees fleeing the war with nothing more than the clothes on their backs remind us of the curse of the Indian subcontinent: religion- and ethnicity-based conflict, generally leading to the genocide of Hindus. We saw this in 1947 and 1971. Millions of Hindus were ethnically cleansed from Pakistan and Bangladesh then, and the handful remaining are now fleeing newly-Talibanized territories; now they are being driven out of Sri Lanka’s Jaffna and the Eastern Provinces at the fag-end of a brutal civil war.

The LTTE certainly did not expect to fade into oblivion, their leader Velupillai Prabhakaran a fugitive. Only a couple of years ago, the Tigers were rampant, scoring victories on land and sea, and terrorizing Colombo with their makeshift air force. What turned things around? Probably much covert aid from governments, including India’s, wary of the Tigers’ penchant for redrawing boundaries by force (and China’s, fishing in troubled waters).

That, and internal dissension. The turning point was the defection in 2004 of ‘Colonel’ Karuna Amman, formerly LTTE commander in the Eastern Province. The LTTE ran a tight ship, and defectors generally were liquidated, but Karuna – as reported by the Wall Street Journal last year — thrived, and has become a minister, although he is at loggerheads with his erstwhile protégé and now-Chief Minister of the Eastern Province, Pillaiyan.

After sama (negotiations) and dana (give-aways) failed, bheda (creating dissent) worked, and now the Sri Lankans are applying the last of the four tactics of classical Indian stagecraft, danda (punishment). This is an object lesson for India’s pusillanimous politicians who advocate sweet-talk and appeasement of terrorists; and for Obamistas, advocating land-for-peace (India’s land, that is, to be given to Pakistan, so that the ISI would leave the Americans in peace). Pandering does not work, the iron fist does. Crush the terrorists first, then talk to real people.

There is a startling silence in India about the plight of the Sri Lankan Tamils. This has to do with two factors: one is that most of the shrieking banshees in the human-misery cottage-industry do not care about the human rights of Hindus, and Sri Lankan Tamils are about 85% Hindu. Second is that the killing of Rajiv Gandhi by the LTTE, and the incessant noise by the DMK in their favor has genuinely turned off many people. The LTTE’s idea of its Tamil Eelam (they have taken down the maps on their website showing this) consists of north and eastern Lanka, all of Tamil Nadu and Kerala and parts of Karnataka and Andhra: in other words, most of South India. This is comparable to the jihadi wet-dream of a ‘Mughalistan’ consisting of most of North India.

It further appears that this ‘Eelam’ was meant to be a Christian-stan, in fearsome symmetry with ‘Mughalistan’. Let us note in passing that at Partition, missionaries had demanded a Christian-stan consisting of the Northeast, tribal areas of the Central Provinces (Chota Nagpur), and Travancore. Clearly, they have not given up the idea of territorial gains through any means.

The church has a well-known modus operandi. In Rwanda, the church fomented genocide by dividing Hutus and Tutsis – who, to the casual observer, and to the geneticist, appear identical – through claiming that the former were short and dark, and the latter were tall and fair, and that Tutsis were oppressing Hutus. Several Christian godmen and godwomen have been convicted of crimes against humanity for their direct role in massacres of Tutsis.

In India too, the church has fabricated a divide between the alleged ‘Aryans’ and ‘Dravidians’ – tall and fair vs. short and dark, oppressor, oppressed, sound familiar? – which was initially the handiwork of a white padre named Caldwell. It remains an interesting but little-known fact that churchman Max Mueller who invented the entire ‘Aryan’ fiction recanted in later years, admitting he was wrong.

The church has had a dubious role in Sri Lanka too. It is surely curious that most of the famous cadres of the LTTE are Christians (examples include Prabhakaran himself who is a Methodist, Anton Balasingham, the suicide-bomber Dhanu who killed Gandhi). Senior non-Christians in the LTTE, remarkably, have been captured, have died in battle, or been liquidated.

And the LTTE has wiped out all other groups representing the Tamil cause. The very ruthlessness of the LTTE is an indicator of its Semitic thought-process. Buddhists and Hindus have always co-existed peacefully all over Asia – in India, Indonesia, Afghanistan, etc. – until West Asian ideologies appeared. The church, and the LTTE, had no use for moderates or for negotiation.

There is another party with ill-intent in all this: China. As part of their ‘string of pearls’ strategy, they previously supported violent Communist insurgents, but these were wiped out by the Sri Lankan government. Now the Chinese are supplying heavy equipment, including planes and artillery to the army. Their likely objective: the prized deep-water port of Trincomalee, which would help them control shipping in the Indian Ocean, not to mention be a serious problem for India in its own backyard.

But with the apparent demise of the LTTE, the Sri Lankan government should be able to negotiate from a position of strength. Tamils can see that militancy and terrorism has achieved nothing but catastrophe for them. The Sinhalese, if they are wise, will deal magnanimously with their Tamil fellow-countrymen and reconcile with them. They must recognize that Tamils have genuine grievances arising from bumiputra-style discrimination against them for decades. They need to appreciate that the LTTE are not synonymous with Tamils. Then Sri Lanka can become the success story of the subcontinent with its superior health and education record.

Posted on rediff on Apr 13th (jallianwallah day):
http://election.rediff.com/column/2009/apr/13/my-dilemma-with-shashi-tharoor.htm

Published on rediff on April 8th

http://election.rediff.com/column/2009/apr/08/-a-winning-strategy-for-the-bjp.htm

The concept of triage first arose in field hospitals, where doctors had to decide what to do with large numbers of war wounded and very limited resources. Over time, they developed an empirical method of optimization, by dividing up incoming patients into three groups: those who were hopeless, those who could wait for attention, and those who could only be saved if they got immediate care.

The medical staff would pursue appropriate methods with each of these groups. The hopeless cases they would give painkillers to, make them comfort, and let them die in peace. Those who were lightly wounded they would give first aid to and prepare them for further care, not immediately, but as soon as feasible. The last group, for whom emergency surgery could mean the difference between life and death, they would prioritize and operate on immediately.

This rough-and-ready method has been proved to be rational, in a utilitarian way – it provides the maximum benefit to the maximum number of people. Many companies have also adapted this principle, because it turns out that there is a natural ordering in rough triads – one third of the people agree with an arguable decision, a third oppose it, and another third can be convinced either way.

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Published on rediff at:

http://business.rediff.com/column/2009/mar/25/upa-will-cost-india-economic-superstardom.htm

The current global crisis is potentially an inflection point that marks the transition from an Anglo-American dominance to an Asian dominance in world economic affairs. Certainly, there is a startling turnaround in the fact that China holds $2 trillion in US Treasury securities and therefore lectures the Americans about running their economy – it feels like only yesterday when the shoe was on the other foot. Another indicator is China’s aggressive fire-sale purchases of commodities, including oil, copper, iron ore etc. from all over the world. “Have money, will buy” is their mantra.

But where is India in this “Asian century”? Alas, India has once again fumbled a golden opportunity to rise to economic superstardom. Given the profligate spending of the UPA and its self-proclaimed galaxy of economic geniuses, India now sports perhaps the highest deficit of any country: about 13%, a far cry from the 5% that the UPA has been promising us all along. Yet again, the Congress has successfully brought India back to the verge of the “Nehruvian Rate of Growth” of 2-3%, which is an economic crime against humanity, imposing abject poverty on 250 million people. After sixty years of Congress misrule, India has most of the world’s poor people, and some of the worst health and nutrition indicators, even worse than much poorer sub-Saharan Africa (see the NYTImes “As Growth Soars, Child Hunger Persists” http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/13/world/asia/13malnutrition.html?_r=2&ref=world ). This is truly a crime and a national shame.

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Published by rediff at  http://news.rediff.com/column/2009/mar/10/guest-not-cricket-just-the-isi-gaining-strategic-depth.htm

Not cricket, just the ISI gaining strategic depth

Rajeev Srinivasan

Sri Lankan cricketers were shot at, and injured, by a group of young men in Lahore. Meanwhile, the Pakistani state signed a treaty with a fundamentalist group in the Swat region to impose sharia on the area. The real ruling power in Pakistan, the spy agency ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence), is putting on a bit of a show in the first instance, and erasing the Durand Line (which anyway expired in 1993 according to the 100-year-old Afghan-British treaty) in the second instance.

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