Monday, October 6, 2014
Modi Bites the American Bullet
|Melkulangara BHADRAKUMAR | 29.09.2014 | 11:17|
Compared to the challenging enterprise Prime Minister Narendra Modi undertook last week in steering through shark-infested waters the visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to India, his own 5-day trip to the United States, which began Friday, is safely assured of being smooth as velvet.
The US, like China, is eager to engage Modi who has a reputation for being decisive and “business-friendly”. But unlike in the case with China, there are no detractors or snipers in the Indian strategic community or the corporate media who would play the spoiler’s role. Modi will be in his elements in the US, enjoying the universal adulation he receives there.
Indiais in many ways a strange country. The Indians themselves call it ‘Incredible India’ on their tourist brochures. Not a single Indian pundit has posed that single tough question to Modi: what he hopes to achieve and, specifically, what the US President Barack Obama can be expected to do for India.
What the pundits ask instead is what Modi can do for Obama’s America. They want Modi to hasten the purchase of more arms from the US and “tweak” Indian nuclear liability law so that the Westinghouse could export nuclear reactors to India.
They wish Modi would undo the “negative narrative” causing heavy damage to America’s trading interests by giving the green signal on the Trade Facilitation Agreement of the WTO.
They clamor that Modi should “go the extra mile” by taking at least a “minor role” in the US-led coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
But no one demands that Modi should expect in return a review of the US policy to accommodate the Taliban in Afghanistan or abandon its double standards on cross-border terrorism threatening India.
Indeed, no one is demanding that Obama should commit to selling significant amounts of shale gas to India or at the very least give up its dog-in-the-manger attitude toward the Iranian gas pipeline project.
Would Obama give a timeline regarding India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and other technology control regimes and the UN Security Council? Not a chance.
Would Obama match Xi’s commitment to invest $20 billion in India’s economy (which is expected to generate 100000 jobs)? No, please, don’t ask embarrassing questions.
Will Obama accommodate, finally, the decade-old request made by the previous BJP government that the Indian professionals on short-term employment in the US be allowed to repatriate their social security tax payments once they return to India – $1 billion annually? No, that too is not on the cards because the blocked funds belong to America.
Indeed, the pundits are not giving Modi an opportunity to test the US’s overt enthusiasm for him. The consensus among Indian pundits even before Modi set out is that no “deliverables” need be expected from Obama’s side, and the curious part is that no one seems to mind it.
However, Modi himself has chosen to project certain benchmarks for his visit and it will be interesting to see how far they get fulfilled.
No doubt, Modi is eager to open a new chapter in India’s ties with the US. But he also has an extraordinary genius to let his political instincts to guide him in such defining moments. It needs to be understood that in the ultimate analysis, Modi’s audience is at home in India, and his real focus is inevitably on himself, in nurturing the political aura of his charisma and his needs in Indian politics the tricky period that lies ahead for the consolidation of his leadership of government.
Virtually everything that Modi says and does serves that objective. Therefore, he has intuitively worked out how the US visit should serve his political agenda.
From this perspective, the grand public reception by his party’s supporters at Madison Square Garden in New York on Sunday, beamed live to India, clearly overshadows everything else on the itinerary of the visit and guarantees that back home the visit will already be deemed an outstanding success even before Modi even he headed for Washington on Monday to meet Obama.
Not an ally but a partner
While leaving Delhi for the US, Modi made a statement, in which he devoted less than one-third attention span to his official engagement with Obama. The statement carefully avoided using the famous coinage by Modi’s predecessor A. B. Vajpayee (who lead the first BJP government during 1999-2004) that India and the US were “natural allies.”
Instead, Modi was content with a modest formulation – US being a “vital partner” of India. The statement said, “I see the United States as a vital partner for our national development, drawing especially on the rich possibilities of partnership in education, skills, research, technology and innovation – and, above all, a shared commitment to human values.”
Modi also made a major speech in Delhi on Thursday on the eve of his departure for New York, where he formally launched his ‘Make in India’ global initiative, outlining his government’s determination to create a business-friendly environment. But woven into the global initiative was a two-pronged message that he strove to convey to the investors in the US as well as the Obama administration.
One, Modi underscored that “global industries” should not consider India to be “just a market” but their investments should be such that “opportunities for employment will have to be made available.”
Modi kept harping that his government’s priority lies in the sort of investment, which creates job opportunities, especially for the youth – “on the one hand, manufacturing growth is to be promoted, at the same time we need to ensure that direct benefit goes to the youngsters of India. He should get employment so that there is improvement in the economic situation of even the poorest family.”
Modi didn’t mention China or cite that country’s offer to invest in the manufacturing and infrastructure sectors, but the implication was clear.
Asia’s mouth-watering market
Equally, Modi made an acerbic remark, “There is a talk in the entire world, quite a mouth watering one, that India is a huge market.” He could have been referring to media reports that the US Chamber of Commerce and over a dozen other trade bodies in the US have petitioned Obama to pressurize Modi to open up the Indian market for American exports.
A second point Modi made was that he does not regard India’s partnership with Asian partners (read China) and the West (read the United States) in zero sum terms. He was explicit: “Look-East is on one side and Link-West on the other hand – we are linking these both from the middle. We can establish our economic structure on a new platform from here. Whatever is the best in the world, why should we not have it? This should be the mood of the nation.”
Apart from the departure statement Modi also wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal titled “An Invitation to Make in India”. The article also underscored that creating employment and unleashing the energy of 800 million Indians under the age of 35 will be “my government’s biggest mission” and, therefore, “Make in India is our commitment… to turn India into a new global manufacturing hub. We will do what it takes to make it a reality.”
Clearly, from the American viewpoint, as an interlocutor, Modi is going to be a vastly different from Manmohan Singh. Modi is not carrying any goodies in his briefcase by way of defence contracts, etc. to please the Americans; nor is he wasting time indulging in the rhetoric of India-US partnership. Above all, he is demanding and expects the Americans to live up to his expectations.
The main yardstick will be how America can be useful for his development agenda. The Wall Street Journal article was completely deluded of political issues.
In sum, Modi has a highly focused three-fold agenda during this visit – one, develop a personal equation with Obama – as far as it is possible with that famously aloof statesman; two, kick start the India-US relationship, which has been at a standstill in the most recent years, and inject dynamism into it, the objective realities of the transformed world since the financial crisis and the Great Recession of 2008 notwithstanding; and, three, explore what is on offer from America, civil and military, that can lead to job creation in India and facilitate technology upgrade – in short, consciously opt for a transactional relationship that meets India’s vital interests at this point in time on its development trajectory.
Europe Awaits a Bitter Winter’s Tale
|Finian CUNNINGHAM | 06.10.2014 | 00:00|
Napoleon learnt it in 1812, and Hitler likewise in 1941. Will the European Union oligarchy learn the same harsh lesson in 2014? The lesson being that belligerence toward the Russian bear comes with a devastating price, especially when the belligerents appear to be marching ever-so blindly ahead of sound reason and judgment.
Last week the EU leadership in Brussels decided against lifting trade sanctions it had previously imposed on Russia. The sanctions were imposed after Crimea’s referendum in March this year led to the reunification of the Ukrainian southern peninsula with Russia.
Like Washington, Brussels has accused Russia of aggression in Ukraine and of annexing Crimea, ignoring the fact that the people there cast an overwhelming majority vote for accession to the Russian Federation, in protest at the fascist junta that the EU and Washington had levered into power through an illegal coup in Kiev the previous month.
Last week the Brussels bureaucratic elite justified their decision to keep sanctions in place because it said that Russia was not doing enough to implement a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine. Earlier in the week, German chancellor Angela Merkele reportedly said that «there was no way of lifting sanctions» due to the continued sporadic fighting between Kiev’s military forces and ethnic Russian self-defence militia.
Brussels and Washington, and their military alliance NATO, accuse Russia of subverting eastern Ukraine by covertly supplying weapons and soldiers. NATO commanders alleged that they had irrefutable proof that there were thousands of Russian military personnel infiltrated inside Ukraine, helping the rebels in the Donetsk and Luhansk self-declared republics in their fight against Kiev’s forces.
Moscow has repeatedly denied that it is sending munitions or troops into Ukraine. Demands for NATO to present its «irrefutable proof» have not been reciprocated with verifiable evidence.
Again, the EU is making judgements based on the most flimsy and negative prejudices, namely that conflict and chaos in Ukraine must be due to Russian malfeasance. There can be no other explanation, according to Brussels. So, like the Crimea referendum, the people of Donetsk and Luhansk cannot possibly be defying the illegal coup regime in Kiev; the people must be falling prey to Moscow’s mischievous manipulation, so the EU reasoning goes.
Against this tenuous logic is the fact that the recent ceasefire in eastern Ukraine was brokered largely under the personal aegis of Russian Vladimir Putin, who proposed a seven-point peace plan to the Contact Group in Minsk on September 5.
More than 3,200 people have been killed in eastern Ukraine since the Kiev regime launched its «anti-terror operation» in April against the dissident population. That crackdown has had the tacit backing of Washington and Brussels.
That the proposed ceasefire remains a shaky truce is not because of Russia’s ongoing covert interference or due primarily to breaches by the Donetsk or Luhansk anti-Kiev militia. The ceasefire is under threat from continued military offensive by the Western-backed Kiev forces.
The city of Donetsk has come under constant shelling from the Kiev regime’s forces since September 5 and in spite of an agreement by the Contact Group in Minsk to implement a 30-kilometre «buffer zone» on September 20. The buffer zone was meant to withdraw artillery from the conflict lines. However, Donetsk city has incurred countless barrages from Kiev’s forces besieging the city.
The latest violations include the shelling of a school this week and a bus-stop in the city centre, which resulted in at least 11 fatalities. In a separate attack, an aid worker was killed when a shell hit the office of the International Committee of the Red Cross. On the same day, Thursday, an apartment block was hit with artillery fire in the east of the city.
Previously, on September 28, the city’s Kuibyshevsky district was shelled. And on September 24, another apartment block was struck with artillery, resulting in two dead. The Associated Press reported, somewhat ambiguously, that the attack was due to residents being «caught in cross-fire».
But the inescapable and damning fact is that the Western-backed Kiev regime should not be firing at civilian areas, and especially under a ceasefire which specifies a buffer zone of 30 km. The retaking of Donetsk airport by the self-defence militia last weekend should put an end to the shelling of the city because most of the firing over the past month was emanating from that location.
The Kiev President Petro Poroshenko declares that forces supposedly under his control are adhering to the ceasefire in contravention of the facts. While his Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk was inspecting new forces that are being assigned to the east of Ukraine for further combat operations. These forces were reportedly fitted out with new Armoured Personnel Carriers and winter combat clothing, as Yatsenyuk bade them farewell at a Kiev base.
Yet, in light of all this, the EU makes the irrational judgment that Russia should be punished for breaches of the ceasefire.
Vladimir Putin described the EU sanctions as «utter folly». Speaking to various Russian businessmen in Moscow, Putin said: «It is utter foolishness from those governments who are limiting their business, preventing it working, reducing its competitiveness, freeing up niches for competitors on as promising a market as Russia».
Utter folly indeed. European sanctions have been met with counter-sanctions from Russia, which have in turn banned a wide range of agricultural produce. Already, Brussels is having to find hundreds of millions of dollars-worth of compensation for fruit, vegetable, meat and dairy farmers who have been locked out of Russia’s import market, valued at nearly $16 billion in 2013.
Europe’s budget deficit crisis is going to scream as winter proceeds, with crops left rotting in fields and some 10 million farmers marooned without income. Already, French farmers have dumped cargos of idle produce on to the streets and have even torched government building in Brittany in protest at the Russian sanctions threatening their livelihoods.
Russia is reportedly sourcing agricultural imports from alternative markets in South America and Asia. As Putin intimated, the EU bureaucracy will be the loser, and even more so when its farmers in cold mid-winter fully digest the idiocy of its decision-making.
Then there is the vital issue of natural gas supplies. EU energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger has made the crassly naive comment that Russia should not «politicise gas supplies». So, let’s get this straight Herr Oettinger, it’s perfectly acceptable for the EU so slap on unwarranted financial and industrial sanctions on Russia, but it is, in your view, completely unacceptable for Russia to cut off gas supplies to Europe?
To be fair to Russia, it has not threatened to carry out such a measure, owing to the fact that millions of households across Europe will freeze without the supply of Russian gas for heating and cooking.
But what if Russia is forced into such a drastic move. Last week, state-owned Gazprom concluded an investigation which found that EU member states Poland, Slovakia and Hungary were subverting Russian policy of suspending gas supplies to Ukraine. Moscow was obliged to halt supplies earlier this summer to Ukraine because the Kiev regime refuses to pay up on its gas bill of over $5.3 billion.
Now it turns out that EU states are pirating Russian gas by selling it back to Ukraine. In that case, Russia has every right to retaliate by cutting off gas exports to certain EU states. Given that the EU is dependent on Russia for 50 per cent of its fuel consumption that crunch will lead to massive social disruption and anger.
The worst bit is that all of this confrontation, human suffering and financial mayhem is unnecessary. It is the EU leadership that has politicised and poisoned relations with Russia, based on ideological prejudices and woeful misinformation.
Washington and its fascist Kiev ideologues may be gloating at the deepening crisis, but what about the 500 million ordinary EU citizens, who will suffer this winter because of idiotic decision-making?
European citizens are already deeply disillusioned with Brussels and its out — of-control supranational bureaucracy. Record unemployment and relentless economic austerity policies, while a tiny financial oligarchy grows ever-richer, are factors for why anti-EU political parties and separatism are on the rise right across the continent.
The EU debacle of antagonising Russia over spurious, irrelevant concerns is setting the scene for a winter of discontent and massive revolt.
Like past imperial Svengali figures who tangled with the Russian bear, the Brussels elite will likewise find themselves fatally overstretched and in cataclysmic retreat when winter sets in.
Shamus Cooke (WC) : Sometimes bad ideas die slowly. It was only one year ago that Obama announced he would bomb the Syrian government, only to change his mind at the last minute. Now the same fetid war talk is sprouting fresh roots in the ever-fertile U.S. military. Various media outlets reported that the U.S. military might “enforce a no fly zone in Syria to protect civilians from the Syrian government.”
This, just weeks after the U.S. public was told that ISIS was the reason the U.S. military was now in Syria. The 2014 media sound bites mimic the 2013 scare tactics, copying the “humanitarian motives” behind the push towards war with the Syrian government. For example, in 2013 The New York Times blandly discussed the “no fly zone” option:
“To establish buffer zones to protect parts of Turkey or Jordan to provide safe havens for Syrian rebels and a base for delivering humanitarian assistance would require imposing a limited no-fly zone and deploying thousands of American ground forces.”
Fast forward to September 27th 2014, where The New York Times published an article called, “U.S. Considers No Fly Zone to Protect Civilians,” where we read:
“The Obama administration has not ruled out establishing a no-fly zone over northeastern Syria to protect civilians from airstrikes by the Syrian government…Creating a buffer, or no-fly zone, would require warplanes to disable the Syrian government’s air defense system through airstrikes.”
A no-fly zone would also require that the U.S. prevent the Syrian air force from flying over Syrian airspace by destroying Syrian fighter jets, i.e., full scale war with the Syrian government and possibly its allies. This last part is always left out, so as to not anger the American public.
Under international law no country has any legal right to carve out a “buffer zone” within another country, even if the no-fly zone was actually well intended. For example, even Canada cannot legally create a buffer zone in Ferguson, Missouri to protect civilians from police violence.
The Syrian government is not bombing random civilians near the Turkish border; they are attacking ISIS and its ideological cousins. These are the same groups that Obama says that he’s waging a war on.
Do civilians die when Syria attacks with bombs? Yes, which is one reason that a lot of popular anger is channeled towards the government in these areas, the same way anger that anger is now mounting against the U.S. bombings for killing civilians in Syria.
If Obama truly wanted to target ISIS he would have included Syria, Iran, and Russia in his anti-ISIS “coalition.” These nations were excluded because Obama’s coalition is the exact same one that only months before was a U.S.-led coalition against the Syrian government. The grouping maintains its original purpose but puts on a new shirt to fool a media that’s content with surface explanations.
But as soon as the newly dressed U.S. coalition started bombing ISIS, various “partners” announced, unsurprisingly, that Assad was “the real problem.” Obama’s Gulf state monarchy partners never had the stomach to fight ISIS, because they and the U.S. are primarily responsible for its growth, as countries like Qatar dumped money and extremist fighters into the arms of ISIS. Qatar recently reiterated that the Syrian government was the “main problem,” not ISIS.
When Obama announced his strategy to fight ISIS, he snuck in a plan to further invest in the Syrian rebels, whom politicians claimed would be used against ISIS. But these rebels are rebelling against the Syrian government, not ISIS.
Obama even discussed his intent at the UN to use the Syrian rebels against the government:
“…America is training and equipping the Syrian opposition to be a counterweight to the terrorists of ISIL and the brutality of the Assad regime.”
The public talk of a no-fly zone is accompanied by no explanation as to the possible repercussions, including the real possibility of an even larger regional war that would likely kill an additional hundreds of thousands and create millions more refugees.
Any U.S. attack on the Syrian government would likely happen sooner than later. The “coalition” of Arab monarchies has lost its patience. The members of this coalition blindly followed Obama into attacking Syria a year ago and were enraged that the president backed out. Saudi Arabia protested by refusing a seat at the UN Security Council.
Obama’s regional follower-allies have invested in an expensive war for three years and have taken on millions of Syrian refugees, creating a destabilizing effect across the region among nations already politically fragile. These shaky regimes cannot support — and would not survive — another three years of war as they wait for Obama to deliver the Syrian deathblow. They demand decisive action, and soon.
History is already condemning the U.S.-led destruction of multiple civilizations in the Middle East, reducing the once-functioning and modern nations of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria to dysfunction and chaos, where millions of people flee violence and lose their dignity to the hopelessness of a refugee camp. Funding rebels or imposing no fly zones in already-demolished region will inevitably create more war and backlash, when the overwhelming population among the nations involved would prefer a peaceful solution instead.
Shamus Cooke, Workers Compass