Foreign Policy: US’ New Military Strategy (Quad) to contain China

March 12, 2018

Foreign Policy: US’ New Military Strategy (Quad) to contain China

By: Salman Rafi Sheikh

Over recent months, the ‘Quad,’ the nickname for a regional mechanism comprising the US, Australia, Japan and India and ostensibly established as a security forum by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe almost a decade ago, has increasingly evolved into a central tenet of the US’s new military strategy vis-à-vis China.

Using words taken from the US National Security Strategy document, China is regarded as a “revisionist power” that must be contained and whose increasing influence counterbalanced through alternative economic and military means.

The Quad largely went dormant following the withdrawal of Australia during the tenure of the dovish Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister. But Abe, Australian and Indian Premiers Malcolm Turnbull and Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump agreed in Manila last November to revive it. China – and the rest of the world – were delivered a bristling message on the sidelines of the ASSEAN and East Asia summits in Manila last November.

It was a message that was reinforced two weeks ago at a summit in New Delhi in which naval chiefs of the four countries, known formally as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, shared the stage to grapple with what regional news reports termed as “Chinese unilateralism,” which needs to be countered through reviving the Quad, which is seen in China as nothing less than an “Asian NATO.”

Image result for Admiral Harry HarrisCommander of US Armed Forces in Asia, Admiral Harry Harris, has been nominated to the position of US Ambassador to Australia.


Representative of the member countries expressed their views, but the reported star of the show was Admiral Harry Harris, the Commander of the US Pacific Command in Hawaii and the next US Ambassador to Australia. Targeting China in perhaps the most explicit terms, Harris said: “The reality is that China is a disruptive transitional force in the Indo-Pacific, they are the owner of the trust deficit in the region,” adding that China’s intent is not only to dominate singlehandedly the South China Sea but also to rival if not match the American military power and force it out of the region.

Harris’s words were corroborated by the Australian Navy Chief who called upon the members to take concrete action against the PLA’s Navy.

A revival is, therefore, clearly in place here. But there are different objectives working behind it. For the US, the primary motivation is that it wants to maintain its erstwhile position in the region as the guarantor of security, a position that has been considerably damaged by the Trump Aadministration’s own scrapping the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

While TPP itself could have been an effective alternative to China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), the Quad revival is taking place as a military strategy signifying that the US wants to keep its focus on the military aspects of its engagement with the region, and that it aims to maintain economic relations on bilateral terms, as emphasized on a number of occasions by the Trump administration.

For instance, Japan has its own concerns, which are not just militaristic. While the US seems intent on keeping the Quad a security arrangement, a successor-alternative to the “Asia Pivot” and rebranding it as a pivot to the Indo-Pacific, Japan’s aims are more diverse.

Tokyo has already pledged US$200 billion as an alternative to China’s BRI and promised to invest this money into building infrastructure around the world. Japan, using the Asian Development Bank as the primary vehicle of investment and loans, seems to be intent upon countering China and its ambitious Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), but nonetheless remains interested in maintaining a sound economic relationship with China.

This is purely economic competition, not simply containment of a “revisionist power.” China is already Japan’s second-biggest export market and Australia’s No. 1 export market as well. Wouldn’t containing China then mean a potential economic loss? And wouldn’t a military containment of China establish a conflict of interests between the Quad members? It’s hard to deny.

As for Australia, it was only a few months ago when Canberra signed a Memorandum of Understanding with China, regarding BRI, signaling Australia’s increasing accommodation with China’s economic overtures.

Then there is India, which had a tough last year with China due to the border standoff between Indian and Chinese armed forces over Chinese construction of a road on the Bhutan border. There have been other provocations including a contest for influence in the Maldives.  But in fact their bilateral relations have eased and both countries have increasingly started to show sensitivity to each other’s interests. While this easing doesn’t necessarily imply a major transformation, it does indicate that India is not simply following in the US’s footsteps leading to military containment of China.

 As has been reported, the Modi government recently took the extraordinary step of preventing its officials from attending functions marking the 60th anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s exile in India. Clearly, India was showing a lot of sensitivity to the understanding that had was reached between both countries during the recent visit to China by India’s Foreign Secretary, Vijay Gokhale. As such, while the official Indian readout on Gokhale’s discussions in Beijing included aspects of bi-lateral interests, the catchwords were “mutual respect and sensitivity to each other’s concerns and aspirations.”

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Therefore, the US campaign to rope India into its new containment strategy has its limitations. For one thing, while all the Quad member countries except the US want to continue to use the US presence as a counterweight to China, they are more interested in balancing their relations with China than simply taking part in a strategy that stands little chance of success. For another, China’s rapidly increasing economic and military presence in Asia, although it has its own pitfalls, is likely to inhibit other, lesser countries from supporting the Quad.

On the contrary, a military revival of the Quad with its emphasis on countering China might divide the region further and take it towards a highly tense, zero-sum competition. India’s revised China strategy indicates that it would continue to prefer to follow an independent policy vis-à-vis China rather than toe the US line and end up facing stand-offs in the Himalayas.

China, sensing this buildup, has already responded by increasing its defense spending, calling the increase a necessary ‘element of peace,’ thus proving that the adversarial and aggressive depiction of China would do little to develop non-aggressive and non-military relations between the US and China on the one hand, and between China and other regional countries, particularly the Quad members, on the other. Therefore, from the very beginning of its nascent revival, the Quad seems to have been set on a self-defeating path.

Salman Rafi Sheikh is a Pakistani academic and regular contributor to Asia Sentinel

Moving from Defence to Offence on Trade Strategy

March 5, 2018

Moving from Defence to Offence on Trade Strategy

Author: Editorial Board, East Asia Forum

Image result for Trump declares a trade war  Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross with his Boss,President Donald Trump


The trade architecture in East Asia — the most dynamic region in the global economy — is up for grabs. The very system on which regional arrangements are built is under threat.

US President Donald Trump’s withdrawing the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), his ‘America First’ agenda and his declaration last week of the first shots in a global trade war undermine the WTO and the global rules-based economic system that it underpins. Asia and the global community, including the United States, have relied upon and benefitted from that system for over 70 years.

Can East Asia put aside its differences and define a set of arrangements that protect its own economic security interests absent the United States? US leadership put this system in place and drove its expansion throughout the post-war years. Now the United States is generating the headwinds that threaten to unravel it. Just last week Trump announced the first salvo in what could be a trade war with a 25 per cent tariff on all steel imports and 10 per cent tariff on aluminium imports. The temptation for other countries is to retaliate with their own self-harm policies.

What’s at stake?

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The multilateral trade regime provides the cement and ballast that makes it easier to manage tricky rivalries and conflictual relationships of the kind that abound in Asia but around which large-scale economic interdependence and prosperity have been built. The ‘America First’ challenge threatens the collapse of that system and a descent into beggar-thy-neighbour protectionism and political conflict reminiscent of the lead-up to World War II.

How leaders in Asia respond to this challenge and the arrangements that the region settles on will matter for three important reasons. It will substantially affect the welfare of individual countries and the communities within them. It will affect the atmosphere for both economic and political cooperation in the region. And, given the size of the Asian economy, it will matter for whether the global rules-based economic system withstands the assault upon it.

No single country  acting on its own can lead a response to the vacuum that United States is daily creating in global governance. This US-sized hole in the Asia Pacific will have to be filled with leadership from the rest of the region as a whole.

Asian and Pacific nations have responded definitively so far. And leadership has come from one of the most unexpected places: Japan, traditionally shy to step out in front.

Once Trump declared that the United States was getting out of the TPP, Japan led the remaining 11 members towards the agreement’s conclusion without the United States. That deal is expected to be signed in Chile this week. The awkwardly named Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), otherwise known as TPP-11, would not have happened were it not for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s leadership. Australia’s also played a major role, but Japan (the Partnership’s largest economy absent the United States) was the decisive player.

As Shiro Armstrong explains in this week’s lead essay, ‘conclusion of the CPTPP does not deliver the big strategic goal of keeping the United States entrenched in Asia. Instead, it sends to Mr Trump a strong message of the region’s commitment to openness. Holding the line and pushing back against growing protectionist sentiment keeps the pressure up, with market opening and reform on which US businesses and consumers miss out’.

Most surprised about Japanese leadership are the Japanese themselves. As Armstrong says, Japan ‘has found itself in an unusual position. Japan has often relied on external pressure, usually from the United States, to advance its diplomatic goals and even to push domestic reforms’.

Asia cannot count on Japanese leadership alone, nor can it count on Japan’s continuing in this manner. In saving what’s left of the TPP, Mr Abe saw an opportunity to hedge ‘against the uncertainties that Trump has generated in regional and global trade policy, strengthening ties with other partners like Australia and India and laying the groundwork for improving relations with China’.

Australia almost single-handedly led the push back against Trump’s team  tearing up multilateralism as APEC’s central tenet at the summit in Vietnam last November.

With Australia having held the line in APEC and moved forward on the TPP, what is needed now is for the other powers in Asia to join Australia and Japan in preserving and protecting the global system.

The CPTPP, even if it expands membership to include other middle powers in East Asia, is not systemically important enough to do the job. With the United States in the agreement, the TPP would have accounted for 38 per cent of the global economy but without it the agreement accounts for only 13 per cent.

In East Asia, there is fortunately another vehicle that has the weight to do the job. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which is currently being negotiated, involves the 10 ASEAN members plus Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. That grouping accounts for 31 per cent of global economy.

RCEP (perhaps the second-worst acronym in Asia after the CPTPP) is as important as it is difficult to realise with the required ambition. Including the major economies of Indonesia, India and China makes a tall order out of large and credible commitments to economic opening . The anxiety to get a deal done quickly could compromise the quality of the arrangement and therefore its impact. A hastily concluded RCEP deal that is not credible in its ambition would be a mistake and a huge lost opportunity, risking more harm than good. India is still playing its familiar role of spoiler by dragging the agreement down and other leaders have yet to expend political capital that they need to on RCEP.

There is no clear leader in RCEP. The Partnership is not China-led as is often wrongly claimed: ASEAN is the hub and inspiration, and the major powers, including China, are the spokes. The only leadership that China can show that Australia, Japan, India and others can accept is one where it commits to reforms and opening up its economy. That will benefit both China and the global economy.

RCEP is the best chance at an agreement that is inclusive of China and locks it into reforms. The CPTPP may be easier for countries to join than the original TPP since it has frozen ‘some of the more egregious provisions of TPP — especially the US-pushed intellectual property protections that were likely to benefit big business in the United States at the expense of consumers in the region’, as Armstrong explains. But expanding CPTPP membership to China is unlikely since it would close the door to any possibility that the United States might rejoin at some time in the future.

There is little chance of the United States rejoining the TPP under Mr Trump or even the president after him. Piecing together political leadership on trade in Washington will be difficult without making progress on an agenda for dealing with the issues that have led to the current problems: stagnant middle-class incomes, wider distribution of the gains from trade and a properly functioning social safety net. The US Congress is unlikely to agree to join an existing deal, even though the United States was the driving force of the original TPP. The United States’ joining a deal that China is party to any time soon is inconceivable.

If East Asia does not hold the line on corrosion of the global trade regime and protectionism, no one else is likely to.Crafting regional trade architecture without the constructive participation of the United States is the immediate challenge and will remain the challenge for the foreseeable future. Australia and Japan have led the initial charge, but China, India and Indonesia will need to step up.

Asian powers may not be ready for the sort of leadership that is needed, but the threat to their interests in the global system will not wait until they are.

The EAF Editorial Board is located in the Crawford School of Public Policy, College of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University.


Modi’s Gulf Diplomacy: Signs of a changing world

February 26, 2018

Modi’s Gulf Diplomacy: Signs of a changing world

by  Balbur Puni

Modi’s upholding of the two-nation solution in Palestine was timely not only to rebalance India’s  diplomacy in the most turbulent region of the world but also to silence his critics back home

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While the national media is naturally focused on banking scams adding to thousands of crores, a major development with far reaching consequences for the country has passed unnoticed. Laying of a foundation stone for a Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi at the hands of visiting Prime Minister Narendra Modi signals that the winds of change are beginning to blow even in the arid region of the Gulf. This event  in the Islam’s conservative cauldron has more than a symbolic value both for the hosts and the distinguished guest.

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Prime Minister Modi and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu

Consider also the other highlights of Modi’s recent Gulf foray. One, it comes right against the background of his rolling out the red carpet for  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu —one of the most die-hard Jew whom the world perceives as the obdurate obstructionist in the  establishment of an enduring peace in the region.

Despite the impression this red carpet carried for the international community, Modi was in Palestine soon after reinforcing the Indian stand all these years that the two state arrangement is the only enduring solution to the Palestine problem-the soaring  gangrene of the Gulf.

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The Indian Prime Minister’s upholding of the two nation theory in Palestine was timely not only to rebalance India’s  diplomacy in the most turbulent region in the world but also to demonstrate to his critics back home, that their Prime Minister is a deft player in international diplomacy in dealing with a tough Isareli counterpart or in assuaging wounded pride of the Islamic two third of the Gulf and even in winning and retaining their confidence in him as much as in gaining new military and industrial ties with Israel.  Not just the Jewish nation but the upholders of Islam’s dominance of the region are also counting on India’s growing role in adding to the peace process there.

On two counts Modi’s diplomacy has placed India in a beneficial position in the region. One is in supporting Israel as a growth agent of the area that needs the great talent of technology that the Jewish nation has which is so vital for a whole region that will now have to address itself to a de-cremental role of its most major source of wealth and well being-that is the oil.

It is obvious that oil is losing it’s pre-eminent position as a major source of energy in the world. There is emerging a shift from dependence on oil and gas as source of energy to solar based energy. There are clear signals of this shift the world over, including India.

Modi’s commitment of his Government to this shift in domestic energy policies, in modernising a traditional society into the digital era is also a point of criticism for his domestic opponents. But by standing abreast with global leaders in reversing climate change, in taking big strides in using solar energy and in awakening his own people to pollution whether in dealing with human waste to becoming a people aligned to digital transformation, there is this leadership role closely working with each change agent as a do or die transformation.

The Prime Minister’s Gulf tour was also well timed and well-paying for his country. The way he was received and country after country from Jordan to Iran have sought and got a wide ranging Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) from him must have silenced his domestic critics now made to eat their words questioning the “chaiwala’s” diplomatic capability.

The Gulf tour comes also in the wake of an ASEAN Summit held in New Delhi where South-east Asian nations were not hesitant to express their apprehensions about China’s growing hegemonic rule.  Their determination to resist such hegemony whether in the South China Sea or in Indian Ocean island countries was evident as the Malé political crisis broke out as the world perceived China as using economic leverage gained through large scale “loosening of its purse” as diplomatic correspondents put it in Malé or Pakistan to push forward its policy of encircling India.

Communalism was an old theme. It got a boost when his Government backed the apex court taking up the issue of human rights in the battle it launched against the Muslim practice of triple talaq.  But wherever elections were held Muslim women appeared to back the Government rather than the orthodox mullahs who sought to give a religious backing to a simple  human rights violation issue. That even as Narendra Modi touched several Muslim majority countries no one mentioned the campaign against triple talaq as anti-Islamic.

In these very countries there other signs of change. Like in Saudi Arabia women being given the privilege of driving the family car and relaxation is the rigid stand in the name of religion that women cannot go out without being accompanied by a male close relative.

Behind the curtain of black cloth women in Islamic majority countries might have read Modi’s campaign against triple talaq as a word of hope for them though there may not have been any opening for them to give expression to their feeling. Within the country itself more and more signs are there of Muslim women breaking the barriers and asserting their rights. For instance, in Kerala Muslim women are attending Friday prayers and here and there even asserting their right to lead them.

At the same time the threat to world peace from the violence breathing Islamic States (IS) and terrorism spewing Pakistan are getting isolated day by day. If Pakistan had assumed that by playing Beijing’s puppet it would corner India, Modi has by getting Oman to voluntarily give India access to Oman port of  Duqm for  military purposes also with this port within sight of the Iranian port Chabahar on the Iranian coast developed by India with a clear security angle for Indian access to Afghanistan and central Asia

What is mystery in this great diplomatic achievement is not so much India’s quiet diplomatic triumph in now having a naval presence at the mouth of the Red Sea and the vital maritime route from Indian Ocean to Mediterranean through the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea but also big blow to China’s move to encircle India by infiltrating into Maldives’ political  power structure. The mystery is why the Indian Press failed to highlight this diplomatic triumph of Narendra Modi in an area of bitter inter-Islam conflict and IS influence.

(The writer is a political commentator and a former BJP Rajya Sabha MP) 

Shashi Tharoor’s Inglorious Empire (What the British did to India)

February 6, 2018

Book Review Shashi Tharoor’s Inglorious Empire (What the British did to India)

Reviewed by Cyril Pereira

Image result for Shashi Tharoor's Inglorious Empire

The backstory is the Oxford Union Debate of July 2015, on whether Britain should pay reparations to its former colonies. Shashi Tharoor’s team won handily, arguing that Britain should. The YouTube segment of his speech went viral, downloaded a stunning three million times. Hence the book Inglorious Empire: What the British did to India, published in 2017.

Asia Society Talk

Tharoor took the lectern at the Asia Society in Hong Kong on Dec. 2, not fully recovered from mobilizing relief in Kerala forr victims of Cyclone Ockhi. Beset by coughing fits, his practiced recitation of the ruination of India by the East India Company and the British Crown was matter-of-fact. He spoke without notes.

The result is a bitter indictment of colonialism and an argument that the UK gained far more from India than India ever gained from colonialism. Narratives of British rule in India, he said, rarely dwell on the rapacity of the 80-90 percent tax levied on farmers, the substitution of food crops by opium for export to China, the massacre of 1,800 unarmed civilians by General Dyer in Amritsar, or the systematic wrecking of then world-class native steel, ship-building and textile industries.

Choking Local Industry

Indian swords were forged from a special high-carbon crucible technique developed in south India in the 3d Century BC. Seaborne trade with the Middle East exported this knowledge, where it gained fame as the “Damascus Sword.” British troops were known to retrieve the superior sabers of the Indian warriors they shot in battle, Tharoor writes.

The Raj closed India’s iron and steel furnaces on the grounds that they constituted a threat of armed native revolt, Tharoor said. The techniques and the knowhow flowed into British steelmaking which boosted the Industrial Revolution. There is a repetitive pattern of appropriation of Indian techniques, while suppressing the local crafts and trade.

The textile cottage industry spun fine fabrics which were the rage even of the fashionable ladies of the ancient Roman Empire. As the industrial looms began to roll in England, Indian hand looms were smashed and in one tragic case, the thumbs of the master weavers were sliced off – recorded by a Dutch observer. Indians had to purchase Lancaster cloth imported tax free, while stiff tariffs were imposed on Indian textiles.

Indian teak and the tar derived from burning it, along with jointing techniques, outlasted European ships constructed from oak by at least five times seaworthy life, the former diplomat charges. Alexander the Great commissioned Indian ships to ferry his retreating army to Greece. Ma Huan, interpreter on Ming Admiral Zheng He’s voyages of the 15th Century, studied boat construction in Bengal. Historically, Indian shipbuilding was globally recognized.

In 1675, the East India Company built a shipyard in Bombay to use Indian teak. The British Navy commissioned hundreds of ships for its fleet. Indian ships, Indian loot, Bengal saltpeter (gunpowder), piracy, the slave trade from Africa, opium dealing in China, and the sugar canes of the Caribbean, enabled Britain to rule the waves.

When the industrial era of steamships began, punitive tariffs were imposed on Indian shipbuilding. Investment in modern development was blocked by British shipbuilders and the colonial government. The shipbuilding industry was forcibly strangled too. Eliminating competition to monopolize trade was standard colonial policy.

It is sometimes suggested that India would have fallen behind anyway, even without the destructive British policies, overtaken by the industrial revolution. To that, Tharoor asked: Why do you think Indian merchants experienced in international trade of textiles, steel and shipbuilding, wouldn’t invest in and adopt modern techniques from anywhere?

Rich Archives

The compulsive shopkeeper habit of the British, afforded a ready reference of dates, events, imports and exports. About 300 source documents are annotated in the book. “The task of validation was straightforward as the British maintained detailed records of policy, trade statistics, and parliamentary debates,” Tharoor said.

When the East India Company arrived in the 1600s, India’s global GDP share was 25 percent while Britain’s stood at 1.8 percent. Over 350 years of the Company and 200 years of the British Raj, Indian revenues financed the Industrial Revolution and critical maritime supremacy. By the middle of the 20th Century, the British GDP share had risen to 10 percent while India’s shrank to 3 percent.

Image result for Robert Clive of IndiaSir Robert Clive of India


Tharoor dismisses the hagiography and apologia of historians like Niall Ferguson (2003), Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World; Lawrence James (1997), Raj: The Making and Unmaking of British India; and Andrew Roberts (2006), A History of the English Speaking Peoples since 1900. He exposes the  vile larcency of colonial rule.

Alex von Tunzelmann’s 2007 book Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire, has this passage: “In the beginning, there were two nations. One was a vast, mighty and magnificent empire, brilliantly organized and culturally unified, which dominated a massive swath of the earth. The other was an undeveloped, semi-feudal realm, riven by religious factionalism and barely able to feed its illiterate, diseased and stinking masses. The first nation was India. The second was England.”

Vexed Legacy?

There are widely held positive appraisals of the legacies of British rule: the railway network, the civil service, the rule of law and a free press. Tharoor concedes these with ambivalence. Through his lens, these were incidental residuals of the Raj imperative to stamp efficient colonial rule – not gifts from a benevolent monarch.

Railway investors were guaranteed a minimum 5 percent return by the Indian taxpayer. In its first two decades, each mile of Indian rail cost nine times that of the UK & the United States. Public exposure of that scam lowered the cost to five times. The railways extracted raw material from the hinterland, and deployed soldiers inland to maintain order.

The civil service was a classic formula of British ingenuity: the clerical bookkeeping, stock tally and labor supervision were left to English-educated Indians, while policy direction and enforcement rested with British sahibs. The education system, supplemented by mission schools, supplied local recruits for the administration.

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Law and order was imposed to further East India Company operations and for the greater glory of the British Raj. Laws were framed to ensure compliance to rules and regulations for opium cultivation, plantation management, land tax collection and to enforce subservience of all subjects to the British Crown. It was a tool of colonial oppression.

The press (in English) grew in the port cities as commercial information vehicles to facilitate trade. When indigenous newspapers sprouted in response to rising nationalism after WWI, repressive sedition laws were used to detain editors and ban publications. Pro-establishment English press flourished. Press licensing tightened media control.

‘Let them starve’

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On the historic scale of mass murderers, where Stalin ranks at 20 million, Mao at 15 million and Hitler at 6 million. Tharoor reckons British colonial rule killed 35 million Indians over recurring famines. He is particularly scathing of Winston Churchill, who misappropriated food grain during the infamous Bengal famine of 1943, causing five million deaths. Churchill scribbled in the margin of his cabinet papers, “Why hasn’t Gandhi died yet?”

Tharoor attributes such callousness to three factors: the ‘free trade’ principle, the Malthusian sustainable-population theory, and the rigid colonial practice of disallowing humanitarian assistance as fiscal prudence. Mercy shown could be misinterpreted as weakness, and such indulgence would make the natives lazy anyway.

Tharoor, a former UN Under-Secretary General, author of four fiction and 12 non-fiction books, Member of Parliament and Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs, roasts British colonial rule to counter the contrived amnesia and disinformation, about what the experience really meant for India and Indians.

Should Britain pay reparations? Tharoor suggests, tongue-in-cheek, a token One British pound sterling per year over the next two hundred years, plus an apology. He urges colonial history be taught in British schools honestly. Colonialists vamp noble narratives about their mission, mostly fake.

Cyril Pereira is a regular contributor to Asia Sentinel

Post-Davos Depression

February 4, 2018

Post-Davos Depression

by Dr. Joseph E. Stiglitz@www.project-syndicate. org

The CEOs of Davos were euphoric this year about the return to growth, strong profits, and soaring executive compensation. Economists reminded them that this growth is not sustainable, and has never been inclusive; but in a world where greed is always good, such arguments have little impact

..,the lessons of history are clear. Trickle-down economics doesn’t work. And one of the key reasons why our environment is in such a precarious condition is that corporations have not, on their own, lived up to their social responsibilities. Without effective regulations and a real price to pay for polluting, there is no reason whatsoever to believe that they will behave differently than they have..–Joseph E. Stigltz

DAVOS – I’ve been attending the World Economic Forum’s annual conference in Davos, Switzerland – where the so-called global elite convenes to discuss the world’s problems – since 1995. Never have I come away more dispirited than I have this year.

Image result for The Economic Elites at Davos 2018Demonstrators in Zurich this week. While many are poised to recoil at President Trump’s arrival in Davos this week, much of the moneyed elite there are willing to overlook what they portray as the president’s rhetorical foibles in favor of the additional wealth he has delivered to their coffers. Credit Ennio Leanza/European Pressphoto Agency.


The world is plagued by almost intractable problems. Inequality is surging, especially in the advanced economies. The digital revolution, despite its potential, also carries serious risks for privacy, security, jobs, and democracy – challenges that are compounded by the rising monopoly power of a few American and Chinese data giants, including Facebook and Google. Climate change amounts to an existential threat to the entire global economy as we know it.

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Perhaps more disheartening than such problems, however, are the responses. To be sure, here at Davos, CEOs from around the world begin most of their speeches by affirming the importance of values. Their activities, they proclaim, are aimed not just at maximizing profits for shareholders, but also at creating a better future for their workers, the communities in which they work, and the world more generally. They may even pay lip service to the risks posed by climate change and inequality.

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But, by the end of their speeches this year, any remaining illusion about the values motivating Davos CEOs was shattered. The risk that these CEOs seemed most concerned about is the populist backlash against the kind of globalization that they have shaped – and from which they have benefited immensely.

Not surprisingly, these economic elites barely grasp the extent to which this system has failed large swaths of the population in Europe and the United States, leaving most households’ real incomes stagnant and causing labor’s share of income to decline substantially. In the US, life expectancy has declined for the second year in a row; among those with only a high school education, the decline has been underway for much longer.

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Justin Trudeau of Canada and Narendra Modi of India–The Globaists at Davos 2018 who together with Germany’s Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macton of France and China’s Xi Jinping will make America First’s Donald Trump irrelevant.

Not one of the US CEOs whose speech I heard (or heard about) mentioned the bigotry, misogyny, or racism of US President Donald Trump, who was present at the event. Not one mentioned the relentless stream of ignorant statements, outright lies, and impetuous actions that have eroded the standing of the US president – and thus of the US – in the world. None mentioned the abandonment of systems for ascertaining truth, and of truth itself.

Indeed, none of America’s corporate titans mentioned the administration’s reductions in funding for science, so important for strengthening the US economy’s comparative advantage and supporting gains in Americans’ standard of living. None mentioned the Trump administration’s rejection of international institutions, either, or the attacks on the domestic media and judiciary – which amounts to an assault on the system of checks and balances that underpins US democracy.

No, the CEOs at Davos were licking their lips at the tax legislation that Trump and congressional Republicans recently pushed through, which will deliver hundreds of billions of dollars to large corporations and the wealthy people who own and run them – people like Trump himself. They are unperturbed by the fact that the same legislation will, when it is fully implemented, lead to an increase in taxes for the majority of the middle class – a group whose fortunes have been in decline for the last 30 years or so.

Even in their narrowly materialistic world, where growth matters above all else, the Trump tax legislation should not be celebrated. After all, it lowers taxes on real-estate speculation – an activity that has produced sustainable prosperity nowhere, but has contributed to rising inequality everywhere.

The legislation also imposes a tax on universities like Harvard and Princeton – sources of numerous important ideas and innovations – and will lead to lower local-level public expenditure in parts of the country that have thrived, precisely because they have made public investments in education and infrastructure. The Trump administration is clearly willing to ignore the obvious fact that, in the twenty-first century, success actually demands more investment in education

For the CEOs of Davos, it seems that tax cuts for the rich and their corporations, along with deregulation, is the answer to every country’s problems. Trickle-down economics, they claim, will ensure that, ultimately, the entire population benefits economically. And the CEOs’ good hearts are apparently all that is needed to ensure that the environment is protected, even without relevant regulations.

Yet the lessons of history are clear. Trickle-down economics doesn’t work. And one of the key reasons why our environment is in such a precarious condition is that corporations have not, on their own, lived up to their social responsibilities. Without effective regulations and a real price to pay for polluting, there is no reason whatsoever to believe that they will behave differently than they have.

The Davos CEOs were euphoric about the return to growth, about their soaring profits and compensation. Economists reminded them that this growth is not sustainable, and has never been inclusive. But such arguments have little impact in a world where materialism is king.

So forget the platitudes about values that CEOs recite in the opening paragraphs of their speeches. They may lack the candor of Michael Douglas’s character in the 1987 movie Wall Street, but the message hasn’t changed: “Greed is good.” What depresses me is that, though the message is obviously false, so many in power believe it to be true.

Get the Big Picture – Making of a failed state and the LG Elections: Lessons for Najib’s Malaysia?

January 25, 2018

Get the Big Picture – Making of a failed state and the LG Elections: Lessons for Najib’s Malaysia?

by Sarath Bulathsinghala

 Sri Lanka was drifting towards China. This was obvious in the aftermath of Sri Lanka successfully concluding a terrorist war that was aided and abetted by the Christian West and India. What would the Christian West and India do?

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China is slowly and steadily progressing to become the dominant trading power of the world. Their modus operandi are different from those of others or of days gone by. Their policy towards the Third World is not Gunboat Diplomacy or its modern variants but one of accommodation and mutual benefit with little or no conditions attached. It was more co-existence than sheer dominance and all that entails. In this enterprise China is promoting new trade routes, called the new Silk Road. This is happening through land routes as well as through sea lanes.

Even before the end of the Tamil Racist War called Eelam War, the Rajapakse Adminstration embarked on major infrastructure improvement projects. These involved building of major road networks followed by the development of sea ports and airports. Would foreign countries come to build infrastructure projects in other countries out of generosity? It is the duty of individual countries to invest on such projects. Then only it becomes feasible for investors – foreign and local to pitch-in and engage in commerce, trade and industry.

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Hambantota Sea Port is leased to China for non-military purposes by Sri Lanka

One of the main items in the Chain of Pearls Project of China is the Hambantota Sea Port and the Mattala Airport. Although most of these projects were in the drawing boards for decades, funds were in short supply as well as the political will and courage to embark on such large ventures. Finally, funds came flowing from China and these projects became a reality. Sri Lanka was ready to ‘take off’ reaching Middle Income Earning Country status.

It is obvious that these achievements were and are being viewed with jaundiced eyes by India as well as by US and their US led allies in the Christian West. Situation in Sri Lanka didn’t fit in with their vision of the Third World in the new Millennium where the new normal is CHAOS – a la Tunesia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq Afghanistan and a myriad other big and small!

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This airport contract may be given to India as part of Sri Lanka’s Balancing Strategy between China and India.

India has Great Power ambitions in South Asia and in the Indian Ocean Region and then in the world. One of their unrealized dreams was to have Sri Lanka as one of their provinces.  Failing their ambition is to have a weak government in Sri Lanka which can be easily cajoled to fall in line. One of India’s ambitions is to have the deep water harbor of Trincomalee as their southern most naval post. It is in this connection that they were contemplating projects such as Sethu Samudra Sea Lanes, Power Project in Sampur and the Road from Mannar to Trinco as well as bridge or tunnel to connect Sri Lanka to mainland India. It is with this picture in the background that one must visualize the Indian manipulations in Sri Lanka at present. Eelam Project which is still alive and the sizeable Indian Community in the hill country constitute political as well as manipulative assets that can be commandeered to do their bidding.

As for the Eelam Project which was earlier financed and executed partly from India, there is not much appetite in India to give power to the Tamils per se. They know very well if Eelam comes into being that it will be US and her allies who will have sway and influence over them. This can one day lead to the balkanization of India through a series of ‘color revolutions across India. Unlike China which is a more a monolith than other and power well consolidated through the Communist Party of China, India is for all purposes and intents still remain a political construct of the British Empire – largely made up of extremely diverse and at times adverse groups of nationalities.  Their geography being what is bestowed to them by the British is not an easy task to manage the centripetal forces that tend to explode India from within. Only way India can bring about a reverse force that can keep India intact is to conjure up external threats from her neighbors.  Pakistan, Bangladesh and China and Nepal and Sri Lanka provide this excuse to India. It is only the external threats that bring up Indian-ness in Indians. At all other times Tamilians,  Maratis, Bengalis, North Indians and Punjabis on the one hand and Hindus and Muslims not to mention the tiny but influential Christian minority are constantly trying to undermine each other in a social fabric that is still enmeshed in caste based discrimination and dominance.  This is why Tamil Nadu adding up Eelam to make up greater Tamil Nadu is a big No No for India. India’s only ambition at present is to have Sri Lanka as a weak vassal state kept forever destabilized doing their bidding when required, same as Nepal and Bhutan!

 Western Christian Powers led by the US too invested on the Eelam project with an eye on Trincomalee as their next Sea Base after Diego Garcia. They are more interested in sea lanes and maintenance of global dominance. Though the powers of the Western Christian nations are in the wane they are not yet ready to give in without a fight. Therefore, their power and influence though residual and intimidatory, cannot be wished away. They still exercise power over and above their ability as movers and shakers of the world! Soon they will realize that theirs is not the only game in town!

It is with this picture in the background India, US and her allies invested on a project to depose the powerful Rajapakse Administration. Given the background of Sri Lankan politics and the mentality of the Sri Lankans it was an easier project than the other Colour Revolutions” elsewhere in the world. All what was required was massive disinformation campaign on the ground through the mobile phones, internet, so called ‘civil society’ well financed with dollars and willing knaves who could betray party, friends and the nation.

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Rajapakses were depicted as utterly corrupt and incorrigible. They made use of some of the already disgruntled and left aside politicians of the SLFP to switch sides at appropriate times to bring about regime change. First to persuade was Maithreepala Sirisena, the most disgruntled of the lack luster politicians of the lot.  It is no secret Mahinda Rajapakse by passed most of these inefficient and party hangers-on to get through most of the important jobs mainly the infrastructure projects. He placed implicit trust on those who could be trusted and his very capable brothers came in very handy. He even ‘imported’ some ‘go getter’ politicians from the UNP for these purposes.

Let us look at the voting pattern, those who voted for Sarath Fonseka in 2010  and those who voted for Maithreepala Sirisena in 2015. Did people personally vote for Sirisena – No.

It was a repetition of 2010 when sizeable number of the population voted for Sarath Fonseka seeking CHANGE not to Fonseka per se. However, in 2015 the disinformation exercise was in high gear favored by excesses of some of the high-handed work of the Rajapakse Second Term. That too was buttressed by the fiat votes of the Tamils and Muslims who vote en-block on the dictates of their leaders. These leaders frequently change allegiances to bring about regime change in line with their race base or faith base politics. While Racist Tamils are working towards dismemberment of Sri Lanka and carving out a separate state for themselves, the Muslims are working towards total domination through population increase, land acquisition and economic dominance!

Sarath Fonseka who polled nearly 4.5 million in the 2010 Presidential Elections polled less than 10,000 island wide when he contested elections in 2015 on his own steam. In the case of Sirisena he was not a Presidential aspirant 3 months prior to the election and it was not even in his wildest dreams he could be President of Sri Lanka. His only wish was to become Prime Minister succeeding D M Jayaratne before retiring from politics. What happened was a political coup masterminded by the Christian West aided and abetted by the Indians. They failed in 2010 but succeeded in 2015. The script of the coup is very clear and obvious; it is Made in USA!

When one looks at the Big Picture it is easy to surmise that the plot was hatched by the same think tanks in the US that plotted the overthrow of former Yugoslavia, Tunesia, Libya, Egypt and now trying hard on Syria. They were assisted by RAW operations from India. On their own admission US had spent over US$500 Million to destabilize Sri Lanka and Burma and India’s RAW may have used unknown Millions for the same purpose each to their own ends!

With 8th January 2015 Presidential Election the so called Yahapalana Administration came into being. The foreign agenda for Sri Lanka ran as follows:

  • Topple Rajapakse Administration – done
  • Appoint Ranil Wickramasinghe as PM – brings the Central Bank under his command – done
  • Change of Constitution – Out goes 18th and incomes the 19th reducing Presidential powers and increasing Prime Ministerial powers – done
  • Rob the Central Bank to find finances for fund depleted UNP reserves, finance next parliamentary elections, wreck Sri Lanka’s economy – done
  • Stop Rice Farming and destroy food security – done
  • Stop Fertilizer subsidies to Rice Farmers – done
  • Deny promised prices for Tea, Rubber, Coconut and Pepper Farmers – done
  • Increase taxes – done
  • Depreciate the Sri Lanka Rupee – done
  • Sell state assets – in progress
  • Destroy Sri Lanka’s Buddhist Establishment – in progress
  • Move armed forces from the North and East paving way to re-emergence of terrorism – in progress 75% complete
  • Bring Geneva threats against Sri Lanka and denounce War Heroes as war criminals to satisfy the Diaspora Racist Tamils – done
  • Revamp the entire Constitution of Sri Lanka to suit meddling by the Christian West as a means to balkanize Sri Lanka. This they are depicting as a measure to bring reconciliation among the communities in Sri Lanka and other groups in the shadows such as the LGBTQ. Whether separation of communities and coming out of the closet for the LGBTQ will bring about reconciliation is entirely a different subject! – in progress

After 3 years of Yahapalana Administration, most of the above have come to pass or are earmarked for implementation and Sri Lanka is on the way to be another Failed State. This is where the importance of the coming Local Government Elections become obvious.

All political parties aligned with the ruling cabal – the UNP, SLFP (Sirisena Clique), the JVP, Muslim and Tamil political parties, who were not interested in having Local Government Elections in a hurry could not keep the façade of a democratic regime any longer. After nearly 3 years of constantly postponing Local Government Elections finally there will be elections on 10 Feb 2018. The rulers have suddenly realized that they need  Local Government bodies to bring about development, despite !

They have seen the popular adulation for the ‘defeated’ Mahinda Rajapakse  with the Nugegoda Rally – not long after the ‘change’ of 8 Jan 2105 – Mahinda Handa and now later Pohottuwa, the ruling cabal is very afraid!

People have seen what the Change in 8 January 2015 has brought about. Though the older generations have been fooled before by the likes of Rice from the Moon and Dharmista Samajayak , but now even the younger generations whose dreams are more cyber than real have had a chance to see the reality of chasing after mirages. The promises of Saadharana Samajaya, Wasa wisa thora ratak, Dooshanayen thora Ratak have evaporated like the morning dew. Their proponents – one dead and the other no where to be seen!

They have a chance to show their pleasure or displeasure on the way the Yahapalana has succeeded in bringing about CHANGE”! Ranil- Sirisena joint enterprise is for all purposes and intents gone for good. Only reason it keeps going is self preservation for the incumbent keeping  all the strappings of political  power intact. They say that the country is now stabilized economically and diplomatically abroad and they are now ready to take on developing the villages, towns and cities. They are  promising, they will do the same thing they have done to the Country on a Macro Scale to the villages on a micro scale. It would be good to see if the population be they – Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim or other will have a taste and an appetite for more of the same of Yahapalanaya after a dismall 3 years in power. The nation must see that what remains is only complete subjugation to external forces as a Failed State.

There is no political establishment that is totally squeaky clean. We have seen what has become of Mr Clean. We simply have to choose the party that is less corrupt – just because we are human! Just because we need leaders to rule a country and we need who are capable, experienced and confident. Would South Korea be what they are today if they had Yahapalanaya? Would Samsung, Hyundai, Daiwoo, LG and others would be where they are today if there was no political patronage? Only thing a country can do is to keep it all that is bad to a minimum and within acceptable and economically manageable limits.

It is now up to the people of Sri Lanka to take into consideration all what has happened during the last 3 years and give their verdict on 10 Feb 2018. This is not about getting things done at village, town and city and municipality level. This should be vote on how Yahapalanaya have performed during the last 3 years, how they have kept their promises to the people and on a bigger scale of what is to become of Sri Lanka under the proposed change of Constitution and secret and not so secret dealings with foreign countries.

Go out early on 10 February and vote. See that your vote count. Don’t stay at home unconcerned. We are talking about the future of our sons and daughters. See that you stand to be counted among those who love our Motherland – Sri Lanka! Not a FAILED STATE and a dismembered land continuously at war!

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