DAVOS MAN ?

Davos: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Swiss President Alain Berset and World Economic Forum (WEF) Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab at World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Jan 23, 2018. (Photo: IANS/MEA)[/caption] No similar problem for our PM, Modi. While wearing million rupee aichkins, he can also boast of more inequality than any other country. There are reputedly more billionaires in India than in China and more poor than any other country or perhaps equal to the whole of the rest of the world. What could be a more perfect claim to membership at Davos. However, McDonnell’s speech may trigger something. The Brits are good at universalising their issues. Inequality and poverty are big in British politics. If Momentum, the openly secret organisation behind Corbyn, takes it on board, DAVOS would become toxic. It could become a place to avoid rather than gather for champagne and dance around a wish list. McDonnell may have touched a nerve. In his few words he has laid bare the hypocrisy that international institutions and gatherings adorn themselves with. It might meet the same fate as the ‘gentlemen’s circus’ of corporate board leaders who talk big on gender equality at work but gather at the Presidents Club to grope women. [caption id="attachment_24603" align="alignleft" width="336"] Labour Party’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell (Xinhua/Han Yan/IANS)[/caption] Inequality cannot be ended by a bunch of people who drooled at Trump because he let them create an even bigger gap in inequality than before.  It has to be a mass movement that arises from democracies around the world and who push the State to have better governance and distribution of its resources. The British Labour party has made it its central plank. If it wins next time, DAVOS may never be the same. So while the perfect DAVOS  man 2018 was the unpredictable President Donald Trump who gave them an almost perfect speech, he may unwittingly have sunk the institution that he hated so much last year but seemed to love this year. And it may be McDonnell, the shadow chancellor in UK,  who may end up having a lasting effect on the future of DAVOS. Sometimes it takes only one person to tell the Emperor that he no clothes.   // ]]>

Steve Bannon the New Ideologue

WHAT FUTURE FOR THE USA

Donald Trump, daily Tweets.(Xinhua/Yin Bogu/IANS)[/caption] He rose from almost nowhere to take on one of the most sophisticated political establishments and win hands down. He keeps on outwitting it by creating  new fields and new rules of the game that not only are the established competitors unable to keep up with but are so disgusted by it that they are unwilling to participate. The ‘establishment’ keeps on hoping that either the Russia enquiry or something else will crush Trump and lead to impeachment. Other are willing to sit it out by the next election and hope Americans will be sensible enough to kick him out. Chances are that his ability to distract may make that unlikely. Trump however has unleashed deep divisions within America. Race is a big issue now. The black population is not only fast moving away from the administration but is feeling the heat of rising racism from what is called the Trump Base. Racism is now  tolerated with impunity. It is isolating the most affected minorities in USA. More than race, there is now growing fissures between liberal America and the white extreme right wing America. Both are essentially ‘white’. Their division is becoming irreconcilable and pathological. An America which shaped and led the liberal western world, feels under threat by nineteenth century minded Americans who hated blacks, Latinos, Chinese and anyone who didn’t fit their sense of own superiority. It is this which could start to divide the once very powerful USA irrevocably. With the west coast, California largely liberal and East Coast largely cosmopolitan, it is mid America and the Southern States that are shaping the new United States. The Bannon – Trump splat is likely to push the ‘Base’ even more to the right. No doubt Bannon is going to try and influence this new empowered America with more extreme rhetoric and blaming Trump to have let them down. Meanwhile Trump is likely to compete with Bannon with equally crazy policies to keep the Base happy. Bannon is an intellectual and an ideologue, however unsavoury his ideology is. He appears to be a man happier to see his ideas take power and form than actually take over the reigns of power. In that he will be satisfied if Trump walks into his trap and in anger ends up introducing the policies that Bannon actually wants to see in public. The public spat will ironically take away attention from the Russia investigation and Trump’s other destructive ripples to a battle for the Base. The spat is likely to go on and become daily entertainment while the ideas that Bannon wants will insidiously become the administration’s policies without much public scrutiny. It is likely that differences over policies between Trump administration and Democrats might end up taking second stage to the public spats between Trump faction and Bannon faction in the Base. If Trump lasts another year and this ingenious distraction continues, chances are that this shifting wave to the right will exasperate liberal America so much that it may take extreme steps. Unable to unseat Trump and take back control of the centre of power, it cannot be ruled out that the fissures will become so geographically deep that they may lay the foundations of a break up of the United States in future. [caption id="attachment_23903" align="alignnone" width="959"] (171214) — MOSCOW, Dec. 14, 2017 (Xinhua) — Russian President Vladimir Putin  in control[/caption] An eventual break up of USA is not so fanciful an idea given the unbelievable series of events that have rocked the world in the last three years. No one expected the Brits to go for Brexit, not even the Brexiters. No one thought that Assad will eventually become stronger. No one dreamt that Mugabe will actually fall. The world has been undergoing a bit of an overhaul, a bit of change from its status quo of ideas. A possible division of America is not such a wild prediction given the depth to which that the fissures have become entrenched within one year of Trump presidency. Nothing will please Putin more, but it is quite possible that even more than Bannon, it is Putin who is the puppet master. // ]]>

Trump and Modi friends?

COLD WAR AT INDIA’S DOORSTEPS

Glowing mention in an official document personally announced by the president of the world’s most powerful nation can be tempting to engage in self-importance. Sections of Indian analysts and media appear to have gone overboard on US President Donald Trump’s references to India in the National Security Strategy (NSS). But there is need for caution for many reasons. Skepticism about NSS does arise the way Trump conducts his foreign policy. This is essentially American viewpoint which is being contested by some in America itself. Many think Trump has ignored essential issues, climate change for one, in this vision statement. Many in the West, not to talk of those criticized in the document, think it is best ignored for a variety of reasons but mainly, because their worldview does not resonate with Trump’s. America’s past record in comprehending issues and acting upon them has not been too reassuring. It keeps changing its friends and foes – it’s risky being either completely. And finally, producing the document is a legal requirement in the US since 1986. Abiding by it is not. The NSS underscores the ‘America First’ principle means in terms of Washington’s foreign policy and delineates friends, foes and ‘frenemies’. It refuses to acknowledge America’s declining power in the international arena. The way Trump all but caved in to China when he met Xi Jinping and has, amidst loud humming and hawing accepted the latter’s inability/unwillingness to restrain North Korea does not match with the strong words the NSS has used.   Undoubtedly, the document has several positives for New Delhi. Given the current ‘nationalist’ mood generated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government (that has come in for a special, positive mention), the Indians are thrilled on two counts: that India has been recognised as an emerging global power, and that the role of India’s two adversaries, China and Pakistan, has been criticized in explicit terms. Trump administration states that it will ‘deepen’ its strategic partnership and ‘support’ India’s leadership role in maintaining security in the Indo-Pacific. It sees India as “a balancing power” in the region. New Delhi has responded with ‘appreciation’ but remains cautious, which is good. India is a priority area for the US which deserves support for “its leadership role in Indian Ocean security and throughout the broader region.” The US views India as a very reliable partner in Afghanistan. The unstated part is that it sees India doing the ‘soft’ job of helping Kabul’s economic development, while the US does the ‘hard’ job of fighting. Only, some of the ‘hard’ part should not be expected of India. Good words that throw a clutch of opportunities at India but with many ‘ifs’. They also demand whether India has the stomach to play global politics and bear the resultant losses in men and material, if, when and where required. Besides ability and intent, the equally big demand from India is on its willingness to join what is clearly a new phase of the Cold War – did it really end with the last century? In the intervening two decades, India has moved cautiously, from what was a bi-polar world to a multi-polar one, from non-alignment to multi-alignment and nurturing relations with powers big and small, as it took economic strides. All along, it has been working to preserve its strategic autonomy, mindful of the pitfalls that invite it if it joins any particular alliance. This is a well-nigh difficult demand. But strategy and diplomacy cannot remain static. India cannot be unmindful of its geographic proximity and geopolitical adversity to China and the emerging China-Pakistan alliance. China, the fast-emerging superpower has spread its money-muscled tentacles all around in Asia and India is particularly surrounded by China whose quest to reach the Indian Ocean has now been fulfilled thanks to Pakistan. China has spread its economic embrace across Indian Ocean region that is bound to get tighter with its Border and Roads Initiative (BRI). India has chosen not to join it, but all around it, smaller neighbours are walking into the Chinese-laid debt trap. Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are borrowing more than they can repay in decades to come. Even the little Maldives feels comfortable in signing a trade pact with China, even stoking anti-India sentiments. What has been the “Indian orbit” is seriously intruded by China. The NSS needs to be viewed in this context, but not with Trump’s America as the savior. India cannot be like Pakistan that has gone into the Chinese embrace with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) for one, to get even with India and secondly, to push away a recalcitrant America that is making constant demands to “do more” against terrorism, something Islamabad is unwilling to do to guard its own perceived national interests. This is Asia’s biggest switch-over that India can scarcely ignore.    The US’ limitations in coercing a nation into doing its bid are starkly visible in the way Pakistan’s inability/unwillingness to take on the outfits that target the Americans in Afghanistan. This is despite American threats and reminders of Pakistan’s latter’s ‘obligations’. The short point is that if America cannot effectively coerce Pakistan, a nation that is in political turmoil and whose economy requires a bail-out to survive, then how can it be of any help in India’s fight against terrorism? Among the foes of the Trump administration are Russia and Iran. India has good relations with them. With Russia it remains ‘special’ when it comes to defence hardware. With Iran, the ancient ties survived years of Western sanctions and besides oil, the new factor is Chabahar port, the India-Iran-Afghanistan project. It can help the US, but only if it were to shed its blind hostility to Iran, partly compelled by its anxiety to balance the Saudis and Israelis. India has just exercised its strategic choice by voting at the United Nations against the US on recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. This is despite its burgeoning ties with the US and Israel, now a major military ware supplier. It’s a plus point in Modi-led diplomacy.  Just like its ties with Russia and Iran, India cannot and should not permanently jeopardize its ties with China and Pakistan despite serious problems and hostility. India, no doubt, had the 73-day Doklam standoff with China accompanied by extraordinary Chinese belligerence. The NSS observes that China built its power through compromise of sovereignty of other nations. But do these ‘other’ nations feel that way? The US cannot be the arbiter of other nations’ sovereignty, nor decide on their being “less free” and “less democratic.” This is return of the Cold War at doorsteps. The bottom line for India, now and later, is to cautiously and deftly navigate its boat of diplomacy through turbulent waters, keeping its own interests in mind – and without getting swept off by words of praise. The “global power” status has to be earned, not conferred by any country, grouping or alliance.  // ]]>

Trump move on Jerusalem faces worldwide criticism

 US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital triggered global flak, including from some of America’s closest allies, amid fears it could strengthen extremists and destroy the region’s faltering peace process.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Trump’s decision on Wednesday had made for a “historic day” and was “an important step towards peace”. But furious Palestinians condemned it and warned that had diminished Washington’s role as a peace mediator. Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas called the decision “deplorable” and said it will not change Jerusalem’s status as the “eternal capital of the State of Palestine”. Palestinians took to the streets in Gaza and the West Bank. The hardline Hamas called for a “day of rage” on Friday and said the decision would “open the doors of hell” on US interests in the region. In a landmark speech in Washington, Trump reversed decades of US policy in defiance of warnings that recognizing Jerusalem as the capital will derail the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and create further unrest in the Middle East. Trump, fulfilling his campaign promise, said he had “judged this course of action to be in the best interests of the US and the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians”. He said he would tell the State Department to begin preparations to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Trump said the US still supported a two-state solution to the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, if approved by both sides. Several past US Presidents insisted that the status of Jerusalem — home to sites holy to the Jewish, Muslim and Christian religions — must be decided in negotiations between the two sides. The UN Security Council will discuss the issue on Friday after eight of the 15 nations called for an emergency session. The Arab League will meet on Saturday. The Arab and the wider Muslim world, including a number of US allies, condemned Trump’s announcement. The Saudi Royal Court warned of serious consequences of such an “irresponsible and unwarranted step”. The United Arab Emirates expressed “deep concern” about the repercussions of the decision, WAM news agency reported. Lebanon’s pro-Hezbollah al-Akhbar newspaper declared “Death to America” on its front page on Thursday. President Hassan Rouhani said Iran “will not tolerate a violation of Islamic sanctities. Muslims must stand united against this major plot”. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the US decision was not only a violation of international law but also a severe blow to the conscience of humanity. Demonstrations erupted outside the US consulate in Istanbul. Kuwait and Qatar, besides China and Pakistan, also came out against the US move. India declined to comment, saying its position on Palestine “is independent and consistent”. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said it was “a moment of great anxiety”. He said “there is no alternative to the two-state solution”. Pope Francis called for the city’s “status quo” to be respected, saying new tensions in the Middle East would further inflame world conflicts. British leader Theresa May disagreed with the US decision, which was “unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region”. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron both said their countries did not support the move. Canada said its embassy won’t move to Jerusalem. EU chief diplomat Federica Mogherini voiced “serious concern”. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak called on Muslims worldwide to “make it clear that we strongly oppose” the US move. Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo too slammed the US decision. The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, and according to the 1993 Israel-Palestinian peace accords, its final status is meant to be discussed in the latter stages of peace talks.
  (Reproduced tweets do not reflect Lokmarg editorial policy)
(IANS) // ]]>