Monday, June 15, 2009
Source: The Economist
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Friday, June 5, 2009
For a complete timeline of the event click here: why, how, and what happened? (BBC)
Probably the single most powerful image of the protest episode was that of the 'Lone Protestor' who dared to stand in front of the military tanks that were called in to quell the protests. Here's a video of the Lone Protestor who was immediately arrested and has since 'disappeared'.
So what is the current mood at the Tiananmen Square like? (The Economist) Has China changed after the Tiananmen Episode? (This is a link to a range of views on the BBC.)
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Monday, February 2, 2009
"In many rich countries the stimulus has been matched—and often dwarfed—by the upfront costs of financial rescues, including the recapitalisation of banks and guarantees for troubled assets. America’s Treasury has so far promised about $1 trillion (7% of GDP) for the finance industry.
"Emerging economies are spilling less red ink, both because their banking industries are in less of a mess and because their stimulus plans, in general, are smaller. But they, too, will shift from a budget surplus in 2007 to a deficit of 3% of GDP.
"If fiscal stimulus is no substitute for financial clean-ups, it is an important support at a time of slumping demand."
An important question here is: does a fiscal plan of spending huge amounts by the government the right response to fight a severe liquidity crunch of this scale?
"Economic theory suggests that makes sense. When firms and consumers are gripped with uncertainty, government spending is a surer way to boost demand. Consumers and firms might save the money. The empirical evidence, however, is less than conclusive. Economists’ estimates for the “multiplier” effect of government spending and tax cuts vary widely, with equally reputable studies showing opposite results. More important, the scale of the global slump means that historical multipliers may not mean very much. That suggests a broad strategy—involving both tax cuts and spending—is prudent."
Friday, January 16, 2009
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
The outgoing U.S. President George W. Bush is often the butt of jokes, especially for his way (or the lack of it) with words. The above image carries the words Bush loved to use in his eight State of the Union addresses. Must say one thing: American politicians are obsessed with words like freedom, liberty, and above all, the name of their own country.
Monday, January 12, 2009
(a) Outpost of Tyranny (on the dangerous political and economic situation in Zimbabwe),
(b) A Gate and a Wedge (on the volatile history of modern Afghanistan and the resurgence of the Taliban),
(c) Hades in Darfur (on the humanitarian disaster in Sudan),
(d) Russia's Resurgence (and the rise of a police state, well almost),
(e) 123... and it's done (on the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal),
(f) Island of Blood (on the history of the conflict between the State of Sri Lanka and the LTTE), and
(g) Living in a State of Denial (on the Indo-Pak relationship in the wake of the Mumbai Terror Attacks).
Of course, I can not, for copyright issues, post these essays, running into thousands of words,on this blog. However, what I can do is to blog on my take on issues that are close to my brain.
For those of you who wish to read India's dossier on Pak's terror machinations, click here (Part 1), here (Part 2), and here (Part 3).
From today, I will, for my own sanity, blog on a regular basis.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Let me share with you a video, shot sometime in 2006, capturing the killing of the unarmed Tibetans by soldiers of the Red Army.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
From the day the agreement was signed between India and the U.S. (July 18, 2005), I have been one of its biggest votaries. I believe the deal is strongly loaded in India's favour and we stand to gain immensely by gaining access to till-now denied dual use nuclear technology.
The deal is not with the U.S. alone; once we get a clearance from the NSG, we are free to trade with any nuclear state for purchase of fuel for civilian nuclear reactors. Basically, the deal is a commercial transaction where India would be a buyer in a market with many suppliers.
The skeptics are shouting from the rooftop that India will become a stooge of the "imperialist" U.S. I can understand this when the Commies, fossilised as their ideology is, say this; however, what is sad is that some nuclear scientists have joined the Commie chorus.
Critics of the deal allege that India, rather than depend on external suppliers, should ramp up its domestic capacity to generate fuel by harnessing thorium and to a limited extent, uranium.
While self-reliance is a great thing, it should not blind our eyes to the immense benefits that the transfer of dual technologies will bring in. And also, harnessing thorium reserves and bringing them to fuel stage will take another couple of decades. Why wait when we have got the money to buy stuff that we require so badly?
Now there is another nagging doubt: what if the U.S. stops supply of fuel? First, in what circumstances could that happen? Here, the provisions of the much-dreaded Hyde Act relate to the U.S. only; it is a piece of domestic legislation governing the U.S. administration's conduct in the case of India testing a nuclear device.
In case, the U.S. stops supply of fuel, then the 2005 agreement has an in-built provision which imposes an obligation on the U.S. to ensure uninterrupted supply of fuel from OTHER members of the nuclear club. This provision will help India build a strategic fuel reserve.
Today, the Government of India submitted the draft Safeguards Agreement to Board of Governors of the IAEA, finally. In the draft Safeguards Agreement, the objectives & purposes of the Agreement are laid down clearly:
• India will place its civilian nuclear facilities under Agency safeguards so as to facilitate full civil nuclear cooperation between India and Member States of the Agency and to provide assurance against withdrawal of safeguarded nuclear material from civilian use at any time;
• An essential basis of India’s concurrence to accept Agency safeguards under an India-specific safeguards agreement (hereinafter referred to as “this Agreement”) is the conclusion of international cooperation arrangements creating the necessary conditions for India to obtain access to the international fuel market, including reliable, uninterrupted and continuous access to fuel supplies from companies in several nations, as well as support for an Indian effort to develop a strategic reserve of nuclear fuel to guard against any disruption of supply over the lifetime of India’s reactors; and
• India may take corrective measures to ensure uninterrupted operation of its civilian nuclear reactors in the event of disruption of foreign fuel supplies;
WHEREAS India is desirous of expanding civil nuclear cooperation with other Member States of the Agency;
WHEREAS the conclusion of this Agreement is intended to facilitate the broadest possible cooperation between India and Member States of the Agency in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and ensure international participation in the further development of India’s civilian nuclear programme on a sustained and long–term basis.
What has got the goat of the anti-deal and pro-non-proliferation lobby in the U.S. are the following words:
"India may take corrective measures to ensure uninterrupted operation of its civilian nuclear reactors in the event of disruption of foreign fuel supplies."
The anti-deal and pro-non-proliferation lobby wants India to specify what "corrective steps" will it take in case of disruption of fuel supplies. In fact, the provision reflects the care with which the GoI has framed the Safeguards Agreement.
You can read the complete text of the draft Safeguards Agreement here.
Watch this space for my next write-up on the contentious nuclear deal.
Monday, June 30, 2008
However, if there is one person most people (expect neo-conservatives) dislike (I guess I am exception) it is Dick Cheney, Bush’s deputy. The guy is seen as the brains behind the War on Terror, invasion of Iraq, Guantanamo Bay detention centre, and controversial torture techniques like water-boarding.
However, few people have heard of David Addington. The guy is the brain behind Dick Cheney’s machinations. One of the most powerful behind-the-scenes operators, Addington has, in the process, hurt the ego of many a powerful American politicians.
Last week, Addington was summoned by a U.S. House Committee. Here’s a blow-by-blow account of what transpired in the stormy session. (This is an excerpt from the New Indian Express, which, in turn, culled it from Washington Post – so copyright rests with the original author(s) of the report.) Pl note that italics are mine, for added emphasis.
David Addington was there under subpoena. And he wasn't happy about it.
Could the president ever be justified in breaking the law? “I’m not going to answer a legal opinion on every imaginable set of facts any human being could think of,” Addington growled. Did he consult Congress when interpreting torture laws?
“That’s irrelevant,” he barked. Would it be legal to torture a detainee’s child? “I’m not here to render legal advice to your committee,” he snarled. “You do have attorneys of your own.” He had the grace of Gollum as he quarrelled with his questioners. In response to one of the chairman’s questions, he neither looked up nor spoke before finishing a note he was writing to himself. When Rep Debbie Wasserman Schultz questioned his failure to remember conversations about interrogation techniques, he only looked at her and asked: “Is there a question pending, ma’am?” Finally at the end of the hearing, Addington was asked whether he would meet privately to discuss classified matters. “You have my number,” he said. “If you issue a subpoena, we’ll go through this again.” Think of Addington as the id of the Bush White House. Though his hidden hand is often merely suspected — in signing statements, torture policy and other brazen assertions of executive power — Addington’s unbridled hostility was live and unfiltered Thursday.
He sat slouched in his chair, scratching his moustache, as Jerry Nadler of New York, chairman of the Constitution subcommittee, warned about “the unaccountable monarchy” before offering Addington five minutes to make an opening statement. Addington spoke for a minute and 12 seconds — most of which was devoted to correcting two errors in Nadler’s introduction. “Is that the entirety of your statement?” the chairman asked.
“Yes, thank you,” Addington replied.
“I’m ready to answer your questions.” He sure was. When John Conyers, Democrat–Michigan, inquired about Addington’s pet legal concept, a “unitary executive theory” that confers extreme powers on the president, Addington dished out disdain. “I frankly don’t know what you mean by unitary theory” Addington replied.
“Have you ever heard of that theory before?” “I see it in the newspapers all the time,” Addington replied.
“Do you support it?” “I don’t know what it is.” The usually mild Conyers was angry. “You’re telling me you don’t know what the unitary theory means?” “I don’t know what you mean by it,” Addington answered.
“Do you know what you mean by it?” “I know exactly what I mean by it.” Addington went on to explain how the enemy’s actions — “smoke was still rising. ... 3,000 Americans were just killed” — justified his legal reasoning. And he showed abundant disdain for dissenters, such as Rep Arthur Davis, Democrat – Alabama, who asked whether Addington consulted lawmakers about anti-torture statutes. “There is no reason their opinion would be relevant,” he answered.
Addington’s insolence appeared to embolden another witness on the panel John Yoo who took Rep Keith Ellison, Democrat – Minnesota, on a semantic spin when asked about whether a torture memo was implemented.
“What do you mean by ‘implemented’?” Yoo asked.
“Mr Yoo,” Ellison pressed, “are you denying knowledge of what the word ‘implement’ means?”
“You’re asking me to define what you mean by the word?” “No, I’m asking you to define what you mean by the word ‘implement’.” “It can mean a wide number of things,” Yoo demurred.
After several such dances around the questions, Rep Steve Cohen, Democrat – Tennessee, offered his grudging respect: “You guys are great on ‘Beat the Clock’,” he said.
“I don’t play basketball,” Yoo replied.
“That was a game show,” Cohen explained.
But Yoo was not about to win a nastiness contest with Addington. As Wasserman Schultz, Democrat – Florida, questioned him, he put his chin in his hand, stroked his beard and cut off the congresswoman with an offer of advice “that may be helpful to you in asking your questions.” Schultz, declining the offer, asked him to describe an interrogation he witnessed in Guantanamo Bay Cuba. “You could look and see mouths moving,” Addington answered. “I infer that there was communication going on.” Cohen asked Addington to explain his curious theory that the vice president is not part of the executive branch.
Addington explained that the vice president “belongs to neither” branch but is “attached by the Constitution” to the Congress.
“So he’s kind of a barnacle?” Cohen inquired.
“I don’t consider the Constitution a barnacle,” he said reproachfully.
Cheney’s Cheney continued to dole out the scorn (“You asked that question earlier today and I’ll give you the same answer.”) until Bill Delahunt, Democrat – Massachussetts, the last questioner, inquired about waterboarding. “I can’t talk to you — al-Qaida may watch these meetings,” Addington said.
“I’m glad they finally have a chance to see you, Mr Addington,” Delahunt joked.
“I’m sure you’re pleased,” he growled.
What guts! What temerity! I like this guy.
If you wish to watch the complete Q&A session video, here it is. Pls note that the video is 1 hour 26 min long. It's an engrossing watch.
Monday, June 16, 2008
A. B. Bardhan is one of the grand dads of the Communist movement in India. The man is anything but sane. If you think I am kidding then just read his response when he was asked:
Do you believe that Left still has a role to play?
A. B. Bardhan: Of course. In last five years, communists are ruling Latin America and sooner or later India would also come in its grip. Capitalism is no solution to the food security. As I said India will not be an exception.
What a scary, even if preposterous, thought!! Just imagine the horror of it all. I can't help echoing the profound cry of Kurtz in the Heart of Darkness: "Horror! Horror!!"
You can read the complete interview here.
Friday, June 13, 2008
If you had thought that Robert Mugabe could not do anything worse, his militant goons have perpetrated the most horrendous crime when they burnt alive the wife of Patson Chipiro, a well-known political rival of Mugabe. The incident comes just two weeks before Mugabe and his archrival, Morgan Tsvangirai, face a presidential race run-off.
Following is an extract from a news report from the Timesonline website:
"The men who pulled up in three white pickup trucks were looking for Patson Chipiro, head of the Zimbabwean opposition party in Mhondoro district. His wife, Dadirai, told them he was in Harare but would be back later in the day, and the men departed.
"An hour later they were back. They grabbed Mrs Chipiro and chopped off one of her hands and both her feet. Then they threw her into her hut, locked the door and threw a petrol bomb through the window.
"The killing last Friday – one of the most grotesque atrocities committed by Robert Mugabe’s regime since independence in 1980 – was carried out on a wave of worsening brutality before the run-off presidential elections in just over two weeks. It echoed the activities of Foday Sankoh, the rebel leader in the Sierra Leone civil war that ended in 2002, whose trade-mark was to chop off hands and feet."
The sheer horror of the act speaks of the depravity and inhumanness of the Mugabe regime - all in the name of power.
Monday, June 9, 2008
India is one of the largest importers & consumers of oil & gas in the world. The Government of India's energy policy, like most of its policies, has seldom been transparent. Eminent economic analyst Surjit Bhalla of Oxus Investments analyses the GoI's figure-juggling, and at times, convulated, energy policy.
Continuing the post-1991 Russian story of corruption, here's another story on how the Russian bureaucracy steals one-third of the annual budget.
Pervez Musharraf has seen better days. I guess the former General should cheer up for the worst is yet to come.
Check another incisive article on the Pakistani President; this time it is from the venerable Al Jazeera.
Friday, June 6, 2008
In April 2003, the Americans were welcomed with open hands by desperate Iraqis as they broke free from the 24-year tyrannical rule of Saddam Hussein. In our part of the world, there is a saying: Guests should not overstay. It’s not that the Americans had invaded just to liberate the Iraqis from Saddam’s iron fist; they had come to stay put. The invasion was the first step to establish a strong base, not merely a foothold, in one of the most oil- & gas-rich nations in the world.
While the invasion ‘easily’ opened the door to Iraq, controlling and securing the country has taken a severe toll on the Americans – both in terms of money and men. In fact, it has become a major headache for policy honchos in the White House, Capitol Hill, and the Pentagon.
The war in Iraq is the costliest war in American history, with some estimates topping $1 trillion. It has also taken the lives of over 4000 American soldiers, the highest toll in any single war theatre since the end of the Cold War.
The American troop presence in Iraq is geared to meet the geo-strategic objectives of the world's lone superpower. The U.S. also looks at Iraq as a doorway to the energy storehouse of the world - Central Asia. With troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. has effectively encircled another thorn in its flesh: Iran. (I will focus on the Iran angle in another post.)
On June 5, The Independent published a startling revelation of American strategy to turn Iraq into a country-size military base. Here's an excerpt:
“Under the terms of the new treaty, the Americans would retain the long-term use of more than 50 bases in Iraq. American negotiators are also demanding immunity from Iraqi law for US troops and contractors, and a free hand to carry out arrests and conduct military activities in Iraq without consulting the Baghdad government.
“Washington also wants control of Iraqi airspace below 29,000ft and the right to pursue its “war on terror” in Iraq, giving it the authority to arrest anybody it wants and to launch military campaigns without consultation.”
The U.S. has already the hackles of the various Iraqi groups, opposed to the presence of the American troops, especially the Iran-backed Shiite groups.
The influential former Iranian president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, has castigated the U.S. saying that "[The] essence of this agreement is to turn the Iraqis into slaves before the Americans, if it is sealed".
The U.S. plan is expected to generate heated debate within Iraq and without. I expect some crackling fireworks in the next few days.
Revealed: Secret plan to keep Iraq under US control
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Since May 3, a lot of water has flown down the Ganga. Remember it's summer.
Let me take you to Africa where Zimbabwe has moved from bad to worse. In the second week of May, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe issued a Z$500 million note, again with an expiry date. By the way, Z$500 million will get US$2 (yes, you read it right - two US dollars in exchange for 500 million Zimbabwean dollars). Check the picture of a Z$250 million note (issued a week before the Z$500 million bill came).
While the ordinary Zimbabweans suffer hunger and malnourishment, Mugabe, accompanied by his wife and a few cronies, is in Rome to deliberate at the FAO on the global food crisis. The irony can hardly be missed. Mugabe’s economic policies have systematically reduced the country to a basket case and rendered its people destitute.
Compounding the misery of the hapless Zimbabweans is the attitude of the country’s army. Martin Chedondo, the army chief, barely concealed his loyalty to Mugabe when he said that:
“The constitution says the country should be protected by voting and in the 27 June presidential election run-off pitting our defence chief Comrade Robert Mugabe (against) Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC, we should, therefore stand behind our commander-in-chief. [...] We have signed and agreed to fight and protect the ruling party's principles of defending the revolution.... If you have other thoughts, then you should remove that uniform. Or we will remove it for you.”
Saturday, May 3, 2008
“During the past few years family members of both Fidel and Raul Castro have come to occupy important positions in Cuba's government. This Castro clan represents in addition to the military, the security apparatus and the Communist Party, a significant force in Cuba's political and economic structures.”
The list below is in the order of Name, Relationship, and Position held.
Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart
Fidel Castro's son
Advisor, Ministry of Basic Industry
Col. Alejandro Raul Castro Espin
Raul Castro's son
Chief, Intelligence Information Services, Ministry of the Interior; Coordinator, Intelligence Exchange with China
Ramon Castro Ruz
Fidel's and Raul's oldest brother
Advisor, Ministry of Sugar
Dr. Antonio Castro Soto
Fidel Castro's son
Investment Chief, Frank Pais Hospital. Doctor for Cuba's baseball team
Col. Luís Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja
Raul Castro's son-in-law
Chief Executive Officer of Grupo GAESA (Grupo de Administración de Empresas, S.A.) which supervises military enterprises
Major Raul Alejandro Rodríguez Castro
Raul Castro's grandson
Raul Castro's military guard in charge of his personal security
Deborah Castro Espin
Raul Castro's daughter
Advisor, Ministry of Education
Mariela Castro Espin
Raul Castro's daughter
Head, Center for Sexual Education
Marcos Portal Leon
Married to Raul Castro's niece
In charge of nickel industry, member of the Central Committee of Cuba's Communist Party
Related to Raul Castro
Ministry of Foreign Relations
I would not worry about this kind of naked nepotism but for the fact that the Commies always accuse their ideological opponents of succumbing to the follies of power politics.
The Commies with a capital ‘C’ are the same everywhere: opportunists, frauds, and blood-suckers. A life of sweat and toil is for the masses while perks and luxuries are for the Red Hued.
In the light of the above list, I can say that Fidel Castro was certainly NOT the Last Man Standing (with apologies to David Baldacci).
Long Live the Revolution!! The Revolution to Deprive People of their Freedom and Happiness!!!
Cuba Transition Project
Friday, May 2, 2008
In the last leg of the Olympic torch relay, the flame will pass through many parts of the host country including Lhasa. Check out this cool interactive feature to know the path of the torch relay in China.
Water is the elixir of life. Or so it is said. When a river passes through more than one country, it often turns into a source of conflict between the nations. It's not just that states like Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are fighting over sharing of river water; nations also are going to war. Today strategic thinkers say that the next round of civil wars or international wars would be fought over sharing of scarce water resources. Does water always lead to trouble? I strongly recommend this long but superb article on this important issue.
On the entertainment side, check out this picture slideshow of the $2 billion palace being built by Mukesh Ambani. The slideshow takes us right into the world's first billion dollar home.
The last word brings to the mind the 'torch travails' of the Chinese. The autocrats in China would have believed that the torch relay would be a great way of showcasing the best of China to the world. Little would they have anticipated that it would turn into a public relations disaster.
The 'torch relay' has put the human rights abuses, especially in Tibet, under the scanner. Critics say that these abuses are being perpretated by the commie regime in Beijing. In India, the torch relay generated its own controversy, an issue to which the Indian media has already devoted reams of newsprint and space (and I don't intend to).
The native Chinese feel hurt and dismayed at the double-standards of the western governments and the media alike. What do the overseas Chinese living in the USA and Europe feel about this issue?
I recently came across this poem written by an overseas Chinese. I am reproducing some parts of the poem:
"When we closed our doors, you smuggled drugs to our markets.
When we embraced Free Trade, you blame us for taking away your jobs.
When we were falling apart, you marched in your troops and wanted your “fair share”.
When we were putting the broken pieces together again, “Free Tibet” you scream, “it was an invasion!”
So, we tried communism, you hated us for being communists.
When we embraced capitalism, you hate us for being capitalists.
When we have a billion people, you said we were destroying the planet.
When we tried limiting our numbers, you said it is human rights abuse.
When we were poor, you thought we were dogs.
When we loan you cash, you blame us for your debts.
When we build our industries, you called us polluters.
When we sell you goods, you blame us for global warming.
When we buy oil, you call that exploitation and genocide.
When you fight for oil, you call that liberation and democracy.
When we were lost in chaos and rampage, you wanted rule of law for us.
When we uphold law and order against violence, you call that violating human rights."
If you wish to read the complete poem, check it out here.