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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Agreement to Reach An Agreement

The Agreement Was Finally a Minimum Common Denominator

There was at least an agreement to reach an agreement on cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. China and India are keeping their powder dry, one hopes. US caved in in the last minute, after, apparently, assurances it got from developing countries that they would cut emissions too! And finally the hypocritical EU, which apparently took the lead in the talks, agree to cut, again. I'm sure they'll keep their promise, just like last time. Apparently there will be transfer of green technology from industrialized countries to developing ones. And the ever bureaucratic India inserted language that someone is going to monitor the transfer - one more ploy for blame game when the time comes? EU tried the usual nonsense of shoving the global agreement through, as it tried during the trade, Kyoto, and any number of global agreements, with the help of its friends - China, with the milder India backing it, put a stop to it with a "This is a conspiracy" charge. There were no specific standards mentioned.

I'm sure the polar bears sitting outside Bali conference (they must be glad it was cooler there at this time - although Bali is right on the equator) apparently will go back to North Pole happy! The ever more increasing ice shield of the Antarctic will probably not be happy because reversing green house gases will stop expanding glaciers at the South Pole if emission are cut - same correlation, in reverse, applies?

Climate policy analyst Eliot Diringer, of Washington's Pew center, looked on the positive side.

"It puts no one on the hook right now for emissions reductions," he said. "What's important, though, is that it lets no one off the hook either."

Now the U.N. will embark on at least two years of talks to fashion a more effective and widely accepted successor to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The process could determine for years to come how well the world will cut emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

The roadmap is intended to lead to a more inclusive, effective successor to Kyoto, which commits 37 industrialized nations to cut greenhouse gases by an average of 5 percent between 2008 and 2012.[Yahoo News - AP]

What AP doesn't say is what happened to Kyoto that EU bulldozed through and US and Australia are usually blamed for derailing. First, Kyoto went into effect in 2005 (not 2008 as the AP report says) and was supposed to reduce green house gases to 5% below 1990 levels by 2012! Number of countries ratified the treaty but no one reduced green house gases. In fact they are actually going up. The only countries that reduced emissions, for a period of time, were the east European countries and Russia. These countries, which were still under Soviet Union in 1990, lost their industrial base in the early to mid-90s, post-USSR collapse, with emissions coming down rapidly. But now their economies are growing and so are green house gas emissions, as expected. The rest of EU countries increased, not decrease to pre-1990 levels, their emissions by 2-10% depending on the country! And the much maligned US actually reduced its emissions 2% while keeping its economy growing. Talk about European hypocrisy.

In any case, in the next two years, during negotiations, Bharat should hold to its per-capita based emission standards line. If industrialized countries can cut to 1/12 their current energy consumption - level of current Bharatiya per-capita consumption, fine, India will join in to cut energy consumption. Else green emissions or not, energy usage will sky rocket in the few decades catching up with rich nations. And there is still no cheap energy alternative to coal, oil, and gas on a mass scale, without massive subsidies from the tax payers. Meanwhile, Bharat better get used to managing it's vast coast line, flooding, and irrigation facilities to deal with impact of increasing warming - man-made or not.

Right Strategic Decision on Agni IV

The man who delivered anti-ballistic missile shield, if not the shield, at least the precursor technology, V.K. Saraswat, is strategically accurate when he says ICBM is not a capability we should focus on.

To a question, he said: “The ICBM is not our priority. India doesn’t need to build an ICBM to defend herself based on the current threat perception.”

He said Agni-IV was in the design stage. “Agni-IV is better than Agni-III in terms of performance envelop.”

He, however, declined to mention the range or the time frame for the first flight trial. He said two more flight tests for Agni-III would be conducted. [India not in the race for making ICBMs: Saraswat - The Hindu]

While Agni III, which was tested in April 2007, can reach most of China, the enhanced version, Agni IV, will cover the extreme northeast portion of Chinese territory where it has significant long-distance missile assets located. While most Chinese ICBMs, in the 10s, according to American analysts, are pointed towards US, they can easily be re-targeted. China considers US a strategic adversary, just like US does it.

Bharat, on the other hand, has no global ambitions, and without any animosity towards US and Russia, would rather get along with the rest of the world. Neither of these countries have animosity towards Bharat but they have deployed ICBMs that can be re-targeted easily. EU nations capability is degrading rapidly while Latin America countries are mostly second/third tier powers.

While deployed Agni IV will act to deter Chinese policy makers, stopping deployment after Agni IV by just having ICBM capabilities should suffice at this moment of Bharatiya's power project. If the world changes radically in the future, having ICBM capability would be sufficient for geopolitic power play until actual deployment, if needed.

Humour: Funny Political Comebacks

Chris Lamb lists political comebacks - mostly related to US politicians, in WaPo. Some are extremely funny!

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill is said to have been drinking at a party when he bumped into Bessie Braddock, a prudish political opponent. "Mr. Churchill, you are drunk," Braddock said.

"And Bessie, you are ugly," Churchill said. And then, after a pause, he added: "I'll be sober in the morning."

There's also the story about Churchill's encounter with Lady Nancy Astor, who told him: "If you were my husband, I would poison your coffee."

"If you were my wife," Churchill replied, "I would drink it."

When Huey Long was governor of Louisiana, he supposedly told then-Texas Governor James "Pa" Ferguson: "If there had been a back door at the Alamo, there wouldn't have been a Texas."

"But there there was a back door -- and that's why there's a Louisiana," Ferguson said.

If an explanation is needed here - Alamo is a town, in Texas, where some Americans stood their ground against the mighty Mexican Army, when they tried to capture it, until American military come to rescue, in the late 19th century. Hence the reference to back door leading to Louisiana.

Sen. Henry Clay of Kentucky and Sen. Daniel Webster of Massachusetts were sitting outside a Washington hotel when, according to legend, a man walked by with a pack of mules. "Clay, there goes a number of your Kentucky constituents," Webster said.

"Yes," Clay replied, "they must be on their way to Massachusetts to teach school."

Friday, December 07, 2007

It's Muddled Capitalism

Every Way But The Right Way?

UPA finally, after four years in power, has a plan to generate employment opportunities, apparently based on markets, instead of on subsidies and brainless government run employment schemes that only promote corruption and political patronage. The plan is not to simply de-reserve the existing 114 SSIs and allow existing SSIs to seek capital to expand to generate economic growth and employment opportunities, but to allow large companies compete with the existing SSIs!

Explaining its implications, Nath said: “This is important because we have got to modernise our SSIs. It is not that some reservations that are there would go away. Excise and other benefits will remain. The SSI sector needs foreign equity.” “If today someone wants to set up an SSI unit and ancillary units, they cannot fund it because it is not allowed. Now there is no limit. They can own an SSI. FDI would be allowed, but it will be governed by the investment policy. So if a large industry is allowed 51 per cent in that sector, then they will also be allowed 51 per cent in SSIs as well.” [To open up small scale industry, Govt set to remove restrictive law - IE]

If this is not a muddled way of doing things, I don't know what is? While competition is a great thing - the competition should be on a level playing field.

The reserved list of 114 items for SSIs still remains. Now larger, much better capitalized companies, will open shop to under cut the existing SSIs and send them out of business within a few years! Soon the large cap companies will have a monopoly in these 114 reserved industries, will enjoy the excise tax breaks, and they can do little for generating employment in these reserved industries, because they can't grow as the industries have to be SSIs!

What a mess. This is not crony or free market capitalism - it's muddled capitalism. The ultimate beneficiary will be shifted with this policy - now it will be new, but large, companies, where as de-reservation would have allowed the existing small companies a fighting chance. The losers will be the unemployed, as is currently, but also the existing industries which can't compete with the big dogs. Smart SSIs will sell to interested large companies, at the earliest, and get out of those industries. The not-so smart ones will be out of business soon enough, probably bankrupt. The government again is picking the winners, with little to gain in terms of employment opportunities, with its muddled policy instead of allowing the market to sort it out and in the process actually generate much needed employment.

This Was a True Interceptor Test

First Worked, But This Test is a Technology Breakthrough

The first test, in November 2006, was, rightly, rigged. The interceptor was programmed with the incoming missile trajectory and the interceptor did its job. And test validated preliminary technology demonstration of missile interception capability.

However, the second test, on December 6, 2007, was the actual thing. It is a technology demonstration of an actual missile interception. There was no rigging. An actual seeker on the interceptor, Advanced Air Defence - AAD 02, determined the trajectory of the incoming missile, a modified Prithvi, and maneuvered into position to destroy the incoming missile at hypersonic speed, about 15km above sea level. Now that is extremely complex.

Source: The Hindu

And DRDO should truly be proud of what it achieved in such as short period with, as usual, limited budget, when compared to other nations pursuing missile interceptor technology.

The target missile, a modified, single-stage Prithvi missile called ‘TGT-04,’ lifted off from Chandipur-on-Sea, Orissa, at 11a.m. Five minutes later, the interceptor missile, named ‘AAD-02’ (Advanced Air Defence), roared off from a mobile launcher at Wheeler Island, about 70 km across the sea from Chandipur.

As the target missile climbed to an altitude of 110 km and had a free fall at a speed of 2.5 to 3 Mach, the AAD-02, speeding at 4.5 Mach, performed intricate manoeuvres and homed in on the target in a head-on collision. The interception took place 25 seconds after the AAD-02 took off. [Interceptor missile test-fired - The Hindu]

And the next test, scheduled for April 2008, is even more complex. Two interceptors, one exo- and one endo-, are to track and intercept the same incoming missile, so that if the exo- misses, endo- can finish the job.

In April next, the DRDO would launch two interceptor missiles to intercept a single incoming target missile in both exo-atmosphere (above 40 km altitude) and endo-atmosphere (below 30 km altitude). However, there would be no endo-atmospheric interception if the exo-atmospheric test achieved a kill. [Interceptor missile scores ‘direct hit’ - The Hindu]

But, beyound exo- and endo-, the ultimate and most complex test scenario would be detecting dumb missiles, or decoys, from real ones to concentrate on the real ones to destroy. If DRDL's Advance Systems Lab can achieve that capability, it would be a truly world beating organization when it comes to missile and anti-missile technology and capability. Now, however, it's kudos to DRDO for a significant achievement.

As has been said before, capabilities matter more in geopolitics then actual deployment. It's a significant geopolitical achievement vis-a-vis our enemies. We can except the Chinese to acquire the technology, by what ever means, soon and deliver it to its all weather friend to the west.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Wither Pakistan's Economy?

Side Effect of Moving Back to Democracy of The Old

Two things led to the boom in the Land of Pure's economy, which has grown at 6-7% plus with decent FX reserves, in recent years - monetary support from US (along with funds skimmed off, ostensibly, given to fight terrorists) and the vibrancy of Pakistan's most important trade city, Karachi.

Currently, there are increasing calls in US about the lack of effectiveness of US funded Pakistan's anti-terror operations and calls for more accountability on how the money is used by the Pakistanis. I think the gentle Pakistanis, post-Musharraf's dictatorship, will talk US out of the accountability hurdles and the country will continue to receive monetary support with few strings attached, even under a new US president.

But, with Gen. Musharraf's regime coming to an end, peace in Karachi may also be sunsetting - along with it, the prime source of recent LoP's economic dynamism. Wall Street Journal had an interesting article about one source of support for Gen. Musharraf's dictatorship over the past eight years, or at least since Sept 11 above turn of the General, under US pressure. While the article gives historic background on MQM party that control politics and trade in urban areas in the state of Sindh, especially Karachi, it also talks about the peace and pro-business years in Karachi during the past five to six years. Gen. Musharraf, himself being a Muhajir, did not continue the virtual civil war of the country against the Muhajirs, migrants from pre-partitioned Bharat, which started under former PM Zulfikar Bhutto's anti-Muhajirs discriminatory policies and pursued with gusto under Benazir's and Nawaz Sharif's regimes using the police and army against Muhajirs at various times.

Source: Economist

The lull in fight against Muhajirs, and their party, MQM, helped MQM come above ground and allow Karachi, a historically important trade and port city, to take off. While the rest of LoP was increasing coming under Islamic and Sharia influence, economically and socially, the booming Karachi remained secular and prospered, along with the country itself - the city accounts for 68% of the economy.

All that may be about to change, with the chief patron going away from the scene, and the old players and ways, including civil war in Karachi streets, probably making a come back. One of last paragraphs in the WSJ article gives a quote:

MQM is "a terrorist group that has a political wing, and then a military wing, which it uses to win elections," scoffs Taj Haider, a senior offical in Karachi with Ms. Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party and a former senator.[WSJ]

Democracy in Land of Pure may be a good thing for most secular people in the country, except for the Muhajirs and their Karachi, and may be for Pakistan's economy.

Monday, December 03, 2007

A Better Official Statement on Malaysian Tyranny

Here is what foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee said in the parliament as report in IE:

Making a suo motu statement regarding the Hindraf—Hindu Rights Action Force— demonstration in Malaysia, Mukherjee said the “Government remains deeply solicitous for the welfare of people of Indian origin living abroad”. He added, “As members are aware, there is a large community of people of Indian origin in Malaysia who are citizens of that country. We have friendly relations with Malaysia and we are in touch with the authorities there in the related matter.” [Govt in touch with Malaysia: Pranab - IE]

After this Malaysian foreign minister threw it back at Indian government saying that it's an internal matter of Malaysia.

Here is a clear and, not a half-way, statement:

"We are concerned about the way demonstrations by Hindu minority asking for greater freedoms were put down in Malaysia. We are concerned not only because the people whose demonstrations were put down by massive force are people of Indian Origin and Hindus, but because of humanitarian reasons.

While we know it is surely an internal matter of Malaysia and it should act according to its own sovereign laws, it matters to all nations concerned how Malaysia, being a major modern Muslim nation, treats its minority populations. Malaysia has a proud history of tolerance and on the forefront on promoting inter-religious dialogue and understanding. Malaysian actions will not only be an example Islamic nations around the global, but also to other nations that dealing with similar issues, such as India itself.

We take pride in our friendship with Malaysia and hope Malaysia would set an example of inclusiveness and become a model to the rest of the world."

This message, probably, delivered by MEA spokesperson would have been far more effective than Mukherjee's. And then MEA can work in the background to change the ways of Malaysian government when it dealing with minority rights.

Update - Dec 7: Dr. V. Suryanarayan writes, in The Hindu, an excellent primer on the miserable state of People of Indian Origin (PIOs) - here, people from subcontinent - since Malaysian independence from Britain.

As a leading member of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Malaysian government has sharply criticised many governments for pursuing policies that have adversely affected the Muslim communities. UMNO and PAS, the two leading Malay parties, have on several occasions since independence criticised the policies of the Thai government, which has led to the alienation of the Malay minority in southern Thailand. Malay leaders have also criticised the government of Singapore for pursuing allegedly discriminatory policies against the Malay minority in the island. Malaysian official criticism of India, for intruding into its internal affairs, certainly sounds strange.[Malaysian Indians: a disadvantaged community - The Hindu]

Strange but not unique to Malaysian Islamic rulers. It's part of Islamic one way dialouge with other civilizations - we tell you what's right but don't tell us what's right, because we are Islamic and what we do is God approved and always right.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Guha's Book in His Own Words

Because I am slow reading, and read every word, unlike some fast readers, I am still slogging with India After Gandhi, a Ramachandra Guha's self-proclaimed opus. I am getting close to finishing it. Despite it's draw backs, more than nit-picks, it's a really good book on Bharatiya history since independence. It's more than a summary - it is a very well written, extremely compact - if not it, probably, would have been 1500 pages or longer - flows really well, and most people will probably finish it in a week or two.

In any case, here is Guha's take on his book followed by Q&A (the women who introduced him took forever herself). The event was at a small Indian Arts Gallery in New York City, I think.

(Unfortunately, an rtsp embedded link from RealPlayer doesn't work in blogspot.)