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Monday, March 24, 2008

You Take Hawaii East, We'll Take Hawaii West

US Navy Adm. Timothy Keating describes a glib comment by a Chinese military official during the Admiral visit to China after assuming command of Pacific Command:

With a straight face, Chinese officer said, “As we develop our aircraft carriers,” — a remark Keating said he found interesting in itself — “why don’t we reach an agreement, you and I?”

Then came the Chinese proposal: “You take Hawaii east. We’ll take Hawaii west. We’ll share information, and we’ll save you all the trouble of deploying your naval forces west of Hawaii.”[FIDSNS]

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Justice Jagmohan Sinha, Dead at Age 87

Few men braved the assault on Bharatiya democracy by Congress party and its Indira Gandhi. Indian Express's Sri Ramnath Goenka is the most prominent. Another is Justice Jagmohan Lal Sinha. There is Shanti Bushan on Justice Sinha.

His judgment was an act of great courage. This courage was in line with the courage shown later by Justice H R Khanna of the Supreme Court who also died recently. The courage of these two great judges was in clear contrast to the judgment of other judges of the Supreme Court in the ADM Jabalpur case in which four judges of the Supreme Court except Justice Khanna declared that during the Emergency there was no right to life of liberty and even if people were shot illegally, the courts could not intervene.

It was not that those otherwise able judges really believed that what they said in their judgment was indeed the law. The fact was that fear had overtaken them — and their courage had failed...

Long after Mrs Gandhi’s case had been decided by the Supreme Court, he narrated an incident to us at the golf course.

Justice D S Mathur was the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court in 1975 when arguments were heard by Justice Sinha in Mrs Gandhi’s case. Justice Mathur belonged to the Indian Civil Service before he became a judge of the High Court. Many ICS judges were on visiting terms only with other ICS judges. Justice Mathur had never visited Justice Sinha’s house earlier.

However, one day when arguments in Mrs Gandhi’s case were at an advanced stage, Justice Sinha was surprised to be visited by Chief Justice Mathur and his wife. It was a social visit. Justice Mathur was closely related to one Doctor Mathur in Delhi who was the personal physician of the Prime Minister. During this visit, Justice Mathur told Justice Sinha in confidence that Justice Sinha’s name had been considered for the Supreme Court and as soon as the judgment had been delivered, he would get appointed to the Supreme Court. Of course, Justice Sinha maintained a discreet silence. [A great judge departs- IE]

Unsurprising corruption of Indira shows up, this time, in the form of Chief Justice of Supreme Court! At least Justice Sinha and I have one thing in common!

Justice Sinha was a keen golfer and was possessed of a great sense of humour.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Aussie-Chinese Mineral-Appeasement Love Affair in Trouble, Already?

The new PM of Australia, Kevin Rudd, who apparently can speak Mandarin, but don't really understand how Chinese work, began with appeasing the Chinese and ignoring other Asia/Pacific powers such Japan, India, and, less so, the US.

Within a month of taking power, his foreign minister announced in Beijing itself, minutes after talks with the Chinese, that he'll cancel the next Quad-quasi-alliance meeting - no more consultations, on the periphery of Asian security forum, or joint exercises, which the Chinese protested and issued demarches several times. Mr. Rudd's wants to do anything and everything to keep the Chinese happy. Our MEA was indignant because it came soon after Australia's refusal to supply uranium to India, even if Indo-US deal was sealed along with IAEA buy-in.

Compared to our own appeasement of the Chinese - Manmohan ignoring Tawang when visiting Arunachal Pradesh; not censuring army chief for blaming us for Chinese incursions into Arunachal; and the current tyranny on Tibetan Buddhists living in Dharamasala to keep the Chinese happy, MEA has no basis for being indignant with the Aussies.

Australian analysts have portrayed Kevin Rudd's Chinese appeasement as a non-issue when it comes to Indo-Australia, what was thought to be a budding strategic, relationship. It's a hard case to make. Other than joint consultations on Quad-quasi-alliance, which the former PM John Howard was enthusiastic about, and the uranium purchase interest, there is nothing going between India and Australia on the strategic front, beyond cricket matches.

With the current Japanese PM Yasuo Fukuda being weak even in Japan - he can't even get his central bank chief appointed, and a lame duck President Bush, and utterly incompetent Manmohan, one would have expected mineral-purchase for appeasement love affair between Kevin Rudd and Beijing would have blossomed for at least a few more years. When Robert Gates, US defence secretary, visited Australia few weeks ago, Mr. Rudd told off the Americans, essentially asking them to learn Chinese and start appeasing Beijing. The Americans politely nodded.

But now the Aussies are learning the pitfalls of Chinese minerals-for-appeasement fast.

AUSTRALIA'S mining giants have been blackballed from selling iron ore into the lucrative Chinese daily spot market, in a dramatic escalation of their battle to extract more value from the world's most powerful steel industry.

The boycott is being orchestrated by industry arms of the Chinese Government. It may have already cost Australia as much as $300 million in export profits, Australian mining sources say.

"Neither BHP Billiton nor Rio Tinto have been able to send a single spot shipment into China since January 1," an executive from one of Australia's two mining giants said. "Each time we sign a deal with a Chinese mill they get rejected."

It is understood that no other companies have been blacklisted. Spot market shipments continue to flow in from India, Iran and even Australia's OneSteel.

"This is a shot across our bow," a source from the other large Australian mining company said.

China's steel association told the Herald there was no official directive, as steel companies were acting on their own accord.[China locks out BHP and Rio ore - SMH]

Bharat is well served to learn one would gain nothing by appeasing China.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Would Bush React to Chavez's Conspiracy?

Giving more details on Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez's, a left-wing thug, plans to undermine Columbian democracy using the usually progressive liberal apologists, in Europe and in US, as his pawns to sympathize with Columbian narco-terrorist group, FARC, Washington Post's Jackson Diehl asks what would Bush do now, if anything.

The revelations made by Columbian military, obtained from the laptop captured from recent raid in Ecuador, are stunning. Chavez working hand-in-glove with FARC using his other left-wing pals from Ecuador, Bolivia, and Nicaragua, apparently was directing a conspiracy to install FARC as the legitimate government in Columbia. Apparently we haven't seen anything yet when it comes nacro-drug supply to world markets.

The first e-mail, dated Feb. 8, discusses the money: It says that Chávez, whom they call "angel," "has the first 50 [million] available and has a plan to get us the remaining 200 in the course of the year." Chávez proposed sending the first "packet" of money "through the black market in order to avoid problems." He said more could be arranged by giving the FARC a quota of petroleum to sell abroad or gasoline to retail in Colombia or Venezuela.

Chávez then got to the plans that most interested him. He wanted the FARC to propose collecting all of its hostages in the open, possibly in Venezuela, for a proposed exchange for 500 FARC prisoners in Colombian jails. Chávez said he would travel to the area for a meeting with the FARC's top leader, Manuel Marulanda, and said the presidents of Ecuador, Nicaragua and Bolivia would accompany him. Meanwhile, Chávez said he would set up a new diplomatic group, composed of those countries and the FARC, plus Mexico, Brazil and Argentina, for the purpose of recognizing the FARC as a legitimate "belligerent" in Colombia and forcing Uribe into releasing its prisoners.

In "the early morning hours," the FARC envoys recounted in a Feb. 9 e-mail, Chávez reached the subject of whether the release of Ingrid Betancourt, a former Colombian presidential candidate who is the FARC's best-known hostage, would complicate his plan to back a pro-FARC alternative to Uribe. "He invites the FARC to participate in a few sessions of analysis he has laid out for following the Colombian political situation," the e-mail concluded.

Jackson then asks if Bush would do anything about a head of state promoting terror groups - apparently Bush's test of announced policy against terror sponsors.

If the president decides to ignore clear evidence that Venezuela has funded and conspired with an officially designated terrorist organization, he will flout what has been his first principle since Sept. 11, 2001.[The FARC's Guardian Angel - WaPo]

Isn't there a precedence to this? Bush has been playing second fiddle to continued terror sponsored by General Musharraf in India, and in J&K, for more than six years, giving the general all sorts of praise and funding to continue his activities. Then, it was the General's promise of going after Taliban and al-Qaida. Now, in case of Chavez, it would be continued oil supply by Petróleos de Venezuela and Citgo, one of the largest supplier of oil to US. And because Chavez already has a number of U.S. Congressmen in his pocket by supplying their constituents oil below market price, about 50 million gallons in total. Hugo Chavez knows how to play the game - he is going nowhere.

Why Microloans Are No Panacea

With Mohammad Yunus getting the 2006 Nobel Peace prize for his microlending idea, implementation (mainly in Bangladesh), and global promotion, the practice of microlending reached a high point. There have been some complains about microlending - the main complaint is the almost astronomical interest rates that this type of lending charges - 25-50%, or more, annualized. Some of it can be explained away as risk premium. But Yunus claims a repayment rate of 99-98%, mainly due to peer-pressure of the community. Based on the default rates claimed and possible risk, the interest rates still are very high.

Another main grouse against microlending is that it's not a substitute for good goverance, free economic policies, and social spending by government. James Surowiecki, writes in the New Yorker, that there may be something to this.

The fundamental flaw in microlending promoters is the assumption that all people are entrepreneurs - i.e., a poor women running a family can buy that cow, or chickens, or rotating mobile phone to increase or complement sustenance income and very soon the family would move into lower middle class. It works for many people. But most people are not entrepreneurs. Most people want a steady sustainable income. For that, small to medium size businesses (SMBs), many of which require no- or low-skill, have to be promoted with wise economic policies and good governance - low taxes, ease of setting up business, and having access to cheap credit. Microlending can do none of that.

Surowiecki uses a study by Karol Boudreaux and Tyler Cowen to write that for poor society to become well off, promoting small and medium businesses (SMBs) is the key.

What poor countries need most, then, is not more microbusinesses. They need more small-to-medium-sized enterprises, the kind that are bigger than a fruit stand but smaller than a Fortune 1000 corporation. In high-income countries, these companies create more than sixty per cent of all jobs, but in the developing world they’re relatively rare, thanks to a lack of institutions able to provide them with the capital they need. It’s easy for really big companies in poor countries to tap the markets for funding, and now, because of microfinance, it’s possible for really small enterprises to get money, too. But the companies in between find it hard. It’s a phenomenon that has been dubbed the “missing middle.”[What Microloans Miss - New Yorker]

A condensed version of the article at IE.

Although Surowiecki talks of angels and venture capitalists, the key to nurturing SMBs is bureaucratic reform such as easing business hurdles - reducing time and money needed to form SMBs and labour reforms that gives SMBs hiring flexibility. The key indicators for ease of doing business are in the annual "Doing Business" publication by World Bank. Unfortunately Bharat is always in the bottom quartile, along with most poor-income, high unemployment countries. The UPA government has done nothing to ease the burden of promoting SMBs in the past four years with all indicators decreasing or static for 2007 and 2008 (presumably for years 2006 and 2007), except for credit and cross trade profile. Over all Bharat is still categorized under "difficult."

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Pitamah, But No Ratna

Manmohan Singh seems to have realized, after dealing with unyielding fair-weather collation political partners and having to deal with an aggressive Narendra Modi, that live was better when former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee was leading BJP. After dissing and shutting out Vajpayee and Advani soon after coming to power in 2004, unlike his predecessor who conferred with Sonia, as leader of opposition, and Manmohan Singh, as senior leader and leader of Rajya Sabha, on most foreign policy and security related issues, Manmohan Singh and Congress I is coming around. Their brothers in left-wing politics, communists of all colours, have taken them for a ride for the past four years essentially allowing nothing to happen on major economic or security policy fronts other than increasing subsidies and creating more deficit inducing and corruption enhancing welfare schemes and living of off NDA era economic policies that came to fruition in the past few years after NDA left office.

Compared to what NDA era, under Vajpayee, achieved, UPA, under Manmohan/Sonia, has nothing to show for. And their term is almost ending with big whimper. Manmohan seems to have realized that and seems to have a new found respect for Vajpayee.

“The Bhishma Pitamah of Indian politics Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee should listen to his conscience and let national interest prevail upon narrow politics,” Dr. Singh said in the Rajya Sabha [The Hindu]

But don't ask for a Bharat Ratna for the pitamah.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Kiren Rijiju, MP of Arunachal Pradesh, Tries to Wake A Sleepy Nation

In a far ranging interview Kiren Rijiju, 36 year-old MP from Arunachal, speaks up on what the Chinese are doing on Arunachal's border and how the government and specially, the Army, covers it up:

The Chinese (intrusions) are happening in a slow, creeping manner. Inch by inch, the Chinese station their army personnel and bring equipment.

Is it the army or grazers?

Grazers are basically a camouflage because the terrain is very difficult. I am speaking of areas from eastern Arunachal (Walong) to the western part (Tawang). The public (and the government) only know of Chinese incursions if it happens in known places like Tawang. When incidents happen in more remote places, it does not come to the notice of the general public. The army keeps it secret. They won't let the people know what actually happened....

By not going [Manmohan Singh did not visit Tawang, the city claimed by Chinese, during his visit to Arunachal, soon after returning from an official visit to China], he has given some leverage to the Chinese who can say 'he has not gone to Tawang, because it is a disputed territory'. It is an acknowledgement that it is disputed, while in fact it is not. The PM's decision gives justification to Chinese claims and encourages them.[Rediff]

It's increasingly becoming apparent that Manmohan Singh was testing Bharatiya water - reaction of people to his action, by going to the state and not visiting Tawang. I wonder which idiots give advice to Manmohan on national security matters at MEA or National Security Advisory, but not much has changed since the utterly incompetent Nehru's defeat. Singh's actions are dangerous.

Shri Rijiju explains why Chinese actions are getting more notice by Bharatiya people, even as MEA itself is still very much obsessed with playing nice with US and attaining parity with Pakistan:

As a Member of Parliament, I have done enough, I have tried everything, but the response is not enough. Before I came to Parliament, my predecessors were silent. As you know Parliament is a very noisy place.

Usually people from the northeast are calm, gentle, but I am of a different breed. I speak, shout, come down to the well (of the House), I make my point. Now people know about Arunachal, but what the government does is another thing. They are too busy with political problems, which are not national problems. It is eating the mind of the leaders and the real issues remain unsolved, unattended.[Rediff]

General Musharraf Memoir Is, Apparently, Not Unique

In US, beyond the primary session and Obama fawning (okay, love-fest) by the American media, is news of fake memoirs - a Jewish girl living with a pack of wolves after her parents were killed by Nazis and a dope peddled life from South Central LA apparently are fake, but wait, they are reality to memoir writers!!

Pack of lies: It's been a bad week for memoirists, as two women who published accounts of incredible lives turned out to have lied. Misha Defonseca is not a Holocaust survivor raised by wolves but is actually Monique De Wael, a Belgian Catholic whose parents were indeed murdered by the Nazis. And Margaret Jones—er, Seltzer—did not spend her youth running drugs in South Central but at a private school in the well-off San Fernando Valley.[Slate]

General Musharraf is not alone in peddling his fictional memoir as fact to everyone - it's the latest "in" thing. While Nitin catagorized General Musharraf's memoir in fiction, here is something to ponder on where to put the fake, but real-to-me (won't that be surreal) memoirs:

Alex at the Museum of Hoaxes rolls his eyes at Defonseca's dud apologia that "This story is mine. It is not actually reality, but my reality, my way of surviving." Alex says: "This excuse is used so often that bookstores might soon have to start separating books into a third category: fiction, non-fiction, and non-fiction in a metaphorical sense."[Slate]