August 20, 2011

Indian navy pumps up eastern muscle

By Sudha Ramachandran

BANGALORE - The Indian Navy is pumping up the muscle of its eastern command. Force levels along India's eastern seaboard are being built up slowly but steadily.

For decades, the navy's eastern command played second fiddle to the western command, which is headquartered at Mumbai. Long considered the navy's "sword arm" the western command cornered most of the resources and attention of strategic planners.

That appears to be changing now. Strategists are assigning an increasingly larger role for the eastern command in India's naval

strategy and foreign policy.

The enhanced attention being paid to the eastern command is prompted in part by apprehensions over China's looming naval presence in the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. But it is part of India's two decades-long effort to focus its diplomatic, economic and military energies eastward as part of its "Look East" policy. Besides, the navy's new eastward orientation is also aimed at enabling India to emerge a significant player in the emerging Asia-Pacific security architecture.

The Indian Navy is the world's fifth largest. It has three commands - the western, southern and eastern commands. The eastern command, which is headquartered at Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh, is home to the Indian Navy's submarine arm. A tri-services command was set up in 2001 at Port Blair in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The eastern naval command has grown remarkably in recent years. In 2005, it had 30 warships under its command. Six years later, that number has grown to 50 - roughly a third of the Indian Navy's entire fleet strength. It is poised to expand further.

India's only aircraft carrier INS (Indian Naval Ship) Viraat is to be assigned to the eastern command after the refurbished Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov (renamed INS Vikramaditya) joins the western fleet. All five Rajput-class guided-missile destroyers (modified versions of Soviet Kashin class destroyers), which were with the western command have joined the eastern fleet.

The Indian Navy's only ship to be acquired from the Americans, the amphibious USS Trenton, now renamed INS Jalashwa, has been put under the eastern command. It will be joined soon by the indigenously manufactured stealth frigates INS Shivalik, INS Satpura and INS Sahyadri as well as the US-manufactured P-8I Poseidon long-range maritime patrol aircraft and the Italy-made new fleet tanker, INS Shakti.

It will be the eastern command that will take charge of India's nuclear submarines. INS Arihant, which is undergoing sea trials was constructed at Visakhapatnam. Two other nuclear submarines are reportedly under development here.

The eastern command has bases at Visakhapatnam and Kolkata. It will soon have a forward base at Tuticorin and an operational turnaround base at Paradeep. In addition to naval air stations at Dega and Rajali, the eastern command has got a new one, INS Parundu at Uchipuli, where UAVs are being deployed.

Reports in the media have hinted at a nuclear submarine naval base somewhere near Visakhapatnam. Codenamed Varsha, the project is under wraps.

The gap between the western and eastern commands appears to be narrowing. In the wake of the eastern command's rising profile and strength, the Indian navy recently upgraded the post of the eastern command's chief of staff to three-star rank, ie the same as that of his counterpart at the western naval command.

India's east coast faces six littorals - Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia - across the Bay of Bengal. Its Andaman and Nicobar Islands are scattered midway between its east coast and the Straits of Malacca.

China, though not a Bay of Bengal or Indian Ocean littoral, has been able to secure for itself a presence in these waters by building strong political, economic and defense relationships with several littoral states, including building commercial/naval port infrastructure there that have dual civilian and military use.

Besides Gwadar in Pakistan, which sits on the Arabian Sea, China is building ports at Hambantota in Sri Lanka and at Chittagong in Bangladesh. In Myanmar it has upgraded several ports including those at Sittwe, Kyaukpyu, Bassein, Mergui and Yangon and is building radar, refit and refuel facilities at its naval bases at Hainggyi, Akyab, Zadetkyi and Mergui.

China's presence in these ports may be presently benign. However, Indian analysts warn that Beijing could seek to use these ports for military or strategic purposes. Given its substantial influence in these countries, its demands could well be conceded, they say.

That would bring the Chinese navy into the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. While analysts believe that China is still several years, if not decades away from having the capability of supporting sustained naval deployment in the Indian Ocean, it is this looming possibility that India is preparing for by beefing up its eastern naval command.

Besides, building force levels of the eastern command to prepare for this contingency, the Indian navy has also been building ties through port calls and joint exercises with other Asia-Pacific navies, many of whom are China-wary.

While joint naval exercises are aimed at developing naval interoperability among the participating fleets, those between India and other China-wary navies carried out in the Bay of Bengal are also aimed at sending out a message to the Chinese navy that its possible future presence in the Indian Ocean will not go unchallenged, analysts have said.

The eastern command's participation in high profile bilateral and multilateral naval exercises has grown over the decades. Several of these have taken place in the Bay of Bengal. The Indian navy has exercised with the navies of Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia since the early 1990s.

The Milan naval exercises in the Bay of Bengal include several Asia-Pacific countries. In September 2007, for the first time ever, the Indo-US Malabar exercises, which are usually held in the Arabian Sea, were held in India's eastern seaboard and included Singapore, Japan and Australia too. The Indian navy has forayed into the South China Sea, which China describes as a ‘core national interest' as well as the Pacific Ocean on port visits and for joint exercises.

However, India has denied that its joint exercises are directed at any country. In fact, it has exercised with the Chinese navy too for some years now. Indeed viewing the eastern command's growing importance only in terms of the ‘China threat' is a flawed and limited understanding of India's outlook and ambitions.

The eastern naval command's rising profile has paralleled the evolution of India's "Look East" policy. This has come a long way since its start in the early 1990s. Its geographic scope has expanded beyond Southeast Asia to include East Asia and the Pacific. Simultaneously, its content has grown beyond commerce and trade to include engagement on security and strategic issues too.

In the process, India's trade with Southeast Asia as well as East Asia has grown manifold but also its security-related engagement is increasing not only with countries like Singapore and Vietnam but also with Japan, Korea, Australia, etc. The navy has played an important role in achieving this expansion. If in the 1990s, the navy remained confined largely west of the Malacca Straits, the past decade has seen it make forays into the Pacific too. Increasingly it is engaging in multilateral exercises in waters off Northeast Asia and its vessels have ventured up to Vladivostok.

India has shown increasing capability to impact the Asia-Pacific security architecture. While still not a key player in the region, neither is it marginal. Its enhanced attention to the eastern command is aimed at providing muscle to its effort to become a major player in shaping the emerging Asian order.

But what kind of a player does it want to be? One that allows itself to be a tool in the hands of others to contain China, thereby endorsing the rivalry and balance of power-obsessed present order? Or one that pushes for a co-operative Asian security architecture that puts Asia's concerns ahead of the interests of outsiders?

Much of the global discourse on the evolving Asian security architecture has focussed on maritime rivalry and containment of China. But there is scope for co-operation given shared threats that countries face from pirates and terrorists to sea lanes and choke points. The seas provide a potential area of collaboration among Asia's naval powers. This can be used to begin building a new co-operative Asian order.

Sudha Ramachandran is an independent journalist/researcher based in Bangalore. She can be reached at

(Copyright 2011 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

BALOCHISTAN, GENOCIDE CONTINUES: Eight more bullet-riddled bodies found

Eight more bullet-riddled bodies found in Balochistan

By Saleem Shahid | From the Newspaper

QUETTA: Eight more bullet-riddled bodies were recovered from Pasni, Hub and Mastung areas of Balochistan on Thursday and Friday.

Sources said that Levies Force was informed by people on Friday that two bodies were lying near the coastal highway.

The force personnel went to the area and took the bodies to the Pasni district hospital.

The deceased were identified as Sajid Baloch and Khalid Baloch, who were missing for the last few weeks.

Baloch National Movement sources claimed that both the men were members of their central committee.

The bodies were handed over to relatives after completing legal formalities.

The BNM has called a strike in Makran for Saturday.

Two bullet-riddled bodies were recovered on the outskirts of industrial town of Hub. Police took the bodies to the Hub civil hospital.

They were identified as those of Khalil Ahmed Mengal and Abdul Ghani Mengal of the Balochistan National Party (Mengal). The bodies were handed over to families.

Four bullet-riddled bodies were recovered from Mangi Doori area of Mastung on Thursday evening. They were identified as that of Mehmood Nasir, Hamid, Latif and Tariq Baloch.Levies Force sources said that Mehmood and Tariq were missing for the last two weeks and the two others were missing for some time. All the bodies bore bullet marks on the head and chest.

A spokesman for the Baloch Students Organisation (Azad) said that three of the four persons were its members while the fourth belonged to the Baloch Republican Party. All the four persons were buried in Mastung.

Sher Mohammad Bugti, a spokesman for the Baloch Republican Party condemned the killing of Baloch youth and alleged that the Baloch were being subjected to a genocide.

Dragon tries to slay US military

By Sreeram Chaulia

The high-voltage drama played in the United States over the indebtedness of the world's biggest economy produced fission of a wholly different kind from its biggest creditor, as China expressed anxiety by treading on territory more strategically sensitive than routine calls for America to shoot down its ballooning deficit.

Shortly after Standard and Poor's downgraded the United States credit rating from a much coveted AAA status, China's state-owned media took aim at US military spending, contending that downsizing that part of the national accounts ledger absolutely necessary for Washington to put its fiscal house back in order. The Xinhua news network spearheaded this line of attack with the obvious imprimatur of the Chinese Community Party bigwigs who

dictate its editorial contents.

One of its commentaries accused the US of overspending on its military "to meddle everywhere in international affairs, advancing hegemonism, and paying no heed to whether the economy can support this".

It went on to recommend that the debt woes presented "the right time" for Washington to reflect on the economic hardships of its people and "change its policies of interference abroad". The US and Europe should cease "incessant messing around over selfish interests" in order to stabilize the global economy, Reuters cited the People's Daily as saying last week.

The message was point-blank - China should not be expected to finance the US military and Beijing has the right to exert greater leverage over the Pentagon's humungous budgetary allocations (currently at $649 billion per annum). The new assertiveness on the part of China over US military spending is more radical that any spending-cuts proposal from the deficit-phobic Republican Party, as the former takes a stab at the core of American hard power and might in the world.

Since the earliest days of the Cold War, liberal discourse has maintained a biblical faith in a robust and globally dominant US military as necessary for protecting trade, commerce, democracy, and capitalism itself. This article of faith received a new fillip in the last two decades, as economic globalization was believed to be bookended by the US military's hegemonic presence and control of spaces around the world.

Thomas Friedman, the columnist for The New York Times, succinctly summarized this link between economic freedom and the overwhelming might of the American military by contending that "McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the F-15". Several other champions of a colossus-like US military have opined that it is the only armed force providing global public goods such as tranquility of the sea lanes and protection of democracy and human rights.

Despite being joined at the hip with the US through the $2 trillion in Treasury bonds and the $400 billion worth of annual bilateral trade flows, Chinese strategic thinking after the collapse of the Soviet Union has not accepted the logic of desiring a hulking US military.

China does not limit its attention to threats posed by the US military in the East Asian and Southeast Asian theatres. Lin Zhiyuan, a scholar at the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Academy of Military Sciences set the tone by denouncing the new US Africa Command (AFRICOM) in 2007 as a blatant move to "step up military infiltration in Africa". Chinese strategists are almost unanimous in seeing US military bases, naval exercises and aerial surveillance operations around the world, including in China's own backyard, as unwelcome and unwarranted.

The support system for authoritarian regimes generated by US military presence in numerous countries also belies the liberal claim on moral grounds that the American marine or GI Joe is the best bet for international peace and security. Chinese opinion does not tread this path because China is hardly a paragon of virtues in promoting human rights or democracy. Yet, Chinese media have frequently gloated at the fact that AFRICOM has not yet managed to find African states that are willing to host it.

The debt ceiling and sovereign downgrade episodes in the US offer China a stick with which to beat Washington for military profligacy. They enable Beijing to rebut frequent American allegations that China's own military spending is opaque and growing at a dizzying pace. With undisguisedschadenfreude, China is implying that no state has the authority to keep on multiplying its military arsenal when its national debt has hit the roof. With healthy budget surpluses and record foreign exchange reserves, China thinks that it has every right to keep modernizing and beefing up its military, unlike the debt-plagued US.

Can China's criticism of the Pentagon's extravagant spending actually yield the outcome Beijing wants; a US military no longer able to project power globally and incapable of dictating political and economic outcomes through gunboats and apaches? Supporters of American global leadership, such as the liberal scholar Joseph Nye, have not responded directly to Beijing's agenda of forcing a steep cut in the Pentagon's budget, but are essentially echoing similar sentiments that the US must "move from exporting fear to inspiring optimism and hope".

The push from the far right Tea Party movement to cut US spending even in the sacrosanct terrain of the military is also adding to the chorus to at least pare down costly, non-essential military equipment procurement and deployment. The only difference between China and the anti-spending forces within the US is in intention.

The likes of Nye and the non-traditional Republicans want the US to move to a smarter but still preponderant position in the world order, where the military's footprint is reduced but only optimally. China prefers a much more drastic weakening of the US military in pursuit of its oft-stated objective of a "multipolar world".

The new US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has launched a major publicity exercise to stop the axe from falling on the military budget. China's attempts to link this issue with the value of the dollar and safety of its dollar-denominated assets could play into the hands of advocates within the US defense establishment for more and more investment into an awesome military to stay several notches above China in military matters.

Beijing will be well advised to draw back its sword on explicitly pressing for substantial cuts in the Pentagon's budget and to allow the domestic consensus on debt reduction within the US to move in the direction of showing the military industrial complex its place in the overall economy. The last thing anti-militarist movements in the US would want is the risk of being painted as stooges of a Chinese blueprint.

The extent to which China has been successful in converting its economic advantages in bilateral relationships into political and strategic gains varies from one dyad of countries to the other. Market analysts in the West note that China has no exit option from the US Treasuries market, irrespective of S&P's recent harsh medicine.

The extrapolation is that Beijing can whine as much as it wants about excess US military spending and growth, but it will still finance them in the end by parking its reserves in the only safe haven when the globally economy tumbles - the dollar.

However, an unlikely coalescing of interests between anti-war activists and the anti-big government lobbies in US domestic politics might upend such smug calculations, as President Barack Obama could be pushed into extreme re-election tactics amidst the sullen economy. The Pentagon might not shrink under Chinese pressure, but it can be tamed by the American people.

Sreeram Chaulia is Professor and Vice Dean of the Jindal School of International Affairs in Sonipat, India, and the author of the new book, International Organizations and Civilian Protection: Power, Ideas and Humanitarian Aid in Conflict Zones, (IB Tauris, London)



“It has to be admitted that there is considerable public support for Anna Hazare’s proposed fast because large sections of the public are not convinced of the sincerity of the Government’s proclaimed determination to end corruption. The executive responsibility of the Government to maintain law and order has not been matched by an exercise of its moral responsibility to convince the public of the sincerity of its determination to end corruption.It is important for the Prime Minister even at this last moment to address the public on the issue of corruption through the electronic media and through a press conference devoted exclusively to public concerns over corruption. An over-focus on the executive dimensions of the problem while neglecting the moral dimensions of it will maintain and exacerbate the existing tensions on this issue. “

---Extract from my article of August 14,2011, titled “ANNA HAZARE’S PROTEST AGAINST CORRUPTION”at


With the Government and Team Anna Hazare reaching a reasonable compromise on Anna Hazare’s right to protest through a public fast on the need for a strong Jan Lok Pal Bill, the venue of the fast is expected to shift on August 19 from inside Tihar Jail, where Anna is presently fasting, to the Ramlila grounds.

2.The issue of the right to protest on which the public debate and concern had been concentrated since the unwise arrest and detention of Anna in the Tihar jail on August 16 has thus been sorted out with the Government conceding that while no right is absolute no curbs can be arbitrary.The issue of the Jan Lok Pal Bill will now regain prominence in the public debate in the days to come as Anna fasts in public. The focus of the public attention and concern will shift to the substantive issue of setting up a strong institutional mechanism to deal with the investigation and prosecution of complaints of corruption.

3. The debate on this substantive issue has till now been handled by the Government and the Congress (I) with a worrisome lack of finesse in thinking, an insensitivity to the public mood----particularly to the mood of the youth--- on this subject and an inadequate Prime Ministerial leadership and initiative in responding to the mood and expectations of the public.

4.All initiatives---often negative--- have so far come from individual Ministers of the Cabinet such as ShriP.Chidambaram and ShriKapilSibal, with the Prime Minister hardly visible, articulate and leading the debate.The result: A totally negative mood in the country and a spreading disenchantment with the Government due to an impression that it is not serious on the substantive issue.

5. The large public support for Anna is an outcome of this negative mood and disenchantment. Meaningful and effective action against corruption is not just a political issue involving only the political class and the law-makers in the Parliament. It has become an important moral issue with the involvement of growing sections of the public in the debate and in the movement for action against corruption here and now spearheaded by Anna and his team. It is not the media, but public activism which has given strength to Anna and made him a contemporary icon.

6. This moral issue cannot be and should not be handled by purely smart and cunning tactics. A moral issue calls for a moral leadership, moral arguments, a moral perspective and a moral courage to take note of public expectations and respond to them to the extent possible.

7. The longer the Government and the Prime Minister give the impression of dragging their feet, the worse the issue and the atmosphere in the country is going to become. It is time for the Prime Minister to shed his reticence and fear of assuming leadership and take over the responsibility for responding to public expectations.

8. The atmosphere in the country, which is depressingly negative, has to be converted into positive.One cannot do so unless one starts looking upon those calling for action against corruption not as political adversaries acting at the behest of the ill-wishers of the Government, but as moral allies in the campaign to rid the country of this evil.

9. There is need for a new strategy, which will have a judicious mix of the political and the moral. This strategy should make an immediate impact on the minds of Team Anna and the sections of the public supporting it and restore the political and moral initiative to the Prime Minister.

10. For this purpose, it is important for the Prime Minister to announce the withdrawal from the Parliament of the Jan Lok Pal Bill submitted by the Government in view of the dissatisfaction with it by large sections of the public and the initiation of renewed consultations with Team Anna as well as others in order to find ways of accommodating their demands to the extent possible and reasonable.

11. The Prime Minister should also announce that this will be a time-bound exercise to produce results satisfactory to the public and not delayingtactics to continue to avoid action. Since the Parliament is now in the midst of its monsoon session, the Prime Minister cannot make this announcement in public. He has to do so before the Parliament.

12. Even while taking these initiatives, the Prime Minister should have a post-mortem of the mishandling of the issue of the right to protest which has undoubtedly caused a loss of face for the Government. The post-mortem will most probably bring out that the various options available to the Government in the face of the determination of Anna to go on fast and their legal, political and moral implications were not examined in detail by the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs and the Secretaries Committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary. The whole issue was handled in a shockingly casual and lackadaisical manner resulting in the present loss of face for the Government.

13.The lessons drawn from the post-mortem should be accepted without reservation and care taken to ensure that similar mistakes are not committed in future. The present style of political management has been marked by a lack of transparency and wide consultations and a reluctance to share with the public the Government’s perceptions and views on issues of national importance.It is also characterised by a distrust of the media.

14. This style has to change and this distrust has to be discarded. All these call for bold decisions from the Prime Minister. ( 19-8-11)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: . Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )

August 17, 2011

Gaming Mumbai's Security

A ship floats in undetected one moonless night and grounds itself on
Juhu Beach. It is not an empty shell but filled with a small and
lethal army that sweeps inland and takes over strategic locations
including the Stock Exchange, the Mantralaya and the various defence
installations in the city.

Once the key spots are secured, ships waiting offshore disembark
several thousand additional troops. By the time the city wakes, it is
too late; its disorganized defenders can do nothing.

Nor can the Indian military; they have overwhelming force, but to use
it would be to destroy the city and cause catastrophic loss of life.
New Delhi realizes that it is helpless and must do what the invaders

This can’t happen, you say.
It’s just a nightmare gaming scenario.

Not necessarily.

Imagine that the global financial crisis has led to collapse of all
the major economies. China is a roiling cauldron of disaffection and
is no longer an inviting place for foreign investors. Africa and Latin
America have small markets and inadequate infrastructure. Europe and
the United States are sunk in negative growth. The sheikdoms of the
Gulf are back in the bad old days of oil at $3 a
barrel. The only bright spot in the world is India, where internal
demand and cheap commodities make the economy hum. It is where
investors in powerful countries want to bring their money, but the
Indian government insists on observing environmental, social and other
norms before greenlighting foreign investment. With Mumbai hostage, it
will no longer be able to insist; a powerful foreign elite will call
the shots.

That scenario is a 21st Century replication of all the times in our
history that foreign adventurers have looked at India and seen it ripe
for the plucking. And anticipating it might not be all that unreal.

Since 2006, some 42 undetected ships have grounded or sunk the
Mumbai-Gujarat coast. The recent spate of junk ships floating into
Mumbai was preceded by what can be seen as aggressive probes of
Mumbai’s defence and response capacities.

** In March 2010, the stationary Indian Coast Guard Ship Vivek was
rammed and sunk by MV Global Purity.

** In August the same year the MCS Chitra was rammed by the MV
Khalifa, causing it to sink in the main navigation channel of Mumbai

** In January 2011 the Indian Naval Ship Vindhyagiri was rammed by
the MV Nordlake causing it to sink after docking.

All three foreign vessels were flying flags of convenience, their real
owners hidden behind corporate shields of anonymity.

It is astonishing that in reporting the recent junks that have sunk or
grounded near Mumbai none of our newspapers recalled the more
aggressive events over the preceding 12 months. It is surprising that
in reporting the recent sea trials of China’s first aircraft carrier,
there has been no talk of its implications for India. If the aggressor
in the scenario envisaged above is Chinese – fronting for investors in
developed countries – the presence of a supportive aircraft carrier in
the Indian Ocean would be game, set and match for the invaders.

The point of gaming these possibilities is not only to create a
framework within which the city's defenders can envisage their
roles; it is also to get civilians to prepare for all eventualities.
What will they do if there is a general disaster? What will they need?
What can they do to defend the city, to ensure its survival?

Only when we get into this frame of mind can we be really prepared;
and unless we are ready for any eventuality, it might be necessary in
the future to fight for political independence all over again.

August 14, 2011

A Parasite On The World

By Paul Craig Roberts

August 12, 2011 "Information Clearing House" --If Russian prime minister Putin’s recent description of America as “a parasite on the world” was reported by the US media, little doubt but that most Americans were infuriated. We are the virtuous people. Without us good guys to police the world there would be mayhem and wars everywhere, not merely the ones we started in the Middle East, Asia, and North Africa. Without the American white hats people everywhere would be starving and dying from natural disasters. It is us chosen ones who provide the rescue operations and good deeds. How dare the former KGB monster to slander our country!

Is it merely a coincidence that on August 11 the Swiss announced that they were discarding their monetary constitution that has prevented inflation in Switzerland and that has made their currency a safe haven for people everywhere who desired to protect their wealth, both small and large, from the predatory inflation practices of their own governments? Or is the Swiss announcement a result of America’s financial irresponsibility, the behavior of a parasite?

The Swiss said that they are forced to violate their monetary constitution, because the irresponsible practices of the United States and European Union monetary authorities are driving so many dollars and euros into Swiss francs that the franc has appreciated to astronomical heights and is threatening Switzerland with the collapse of their export markets and Gross Domestic Product.

The EU says it has no choice but to bail out its private banks as that is the policy of Washington, DC, and that it must print euros in order to bail out the banks. This policy is in violation of the charter of the European Central Bank, but what do rules and laws mean in today’s world? Nothing whatsoever.

Obviously, Washington is threatening the world not merely with war but also with inflation.

After announcing a massive printing of Swiss francs to absorb the inflow of dollars and euros so that the exchange value of the franc would not rise further, the Swiss government announced that it would peg its franc to the euro. That means that the Swiss will defend the pegged rate of exchange by printing enough francs to offset the inflows of euros. I think that the Swiss chose the euro as the peg over the US dollar because the majority of Swiss exports are to Europe rather than to the US.

Years ago China pegged its yuan to the US dollar, not to protect its currency from rising as a result of flight from the dollar, but in order to demonstrate that the money of what was seen as a questionable communist currency was “as good as the US dollar.”

Not long ago China was forced off the fixed peg by the amount of Chinese money creation necessary to maintain the peg. China substituted a “moving peg” that allows the Chinese currency to slowly appreciate against the dollar. The Chinese currency is rising as the dollar falls, but the “floating peg” is behind events. Consequently, China’s currency is under-valued with regard to the “superpower” dollar, and China is importing inflation by having to create yuan in order to maintain the floating peg as the dollar is declining faster than the peg.

Oil producing countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar have their currencies in a fixed peg to the dollar. If the dollar depreciates too much in currency markets, the price of oil tends to go up. In other words, oil producers can compensate for US dollar devaluation by hiking the oil price of their main export.

So, we can begin to see what Putin means. If the Americans are irresponsible with their monetary policy, if American banks have loans and credit default swaps to threatened European banks that require bailouts from the European Central Bank in order to protect the US banks as well as the solvency of the European private banks, if the price of oil, which is priced in dollars, goes up to the rest of the world because of US monetary irresponsibility, the entire world suffers from the Americans’ inability or unwillingness to put their house in order.

If anything, Putin understated the burden that America is on the world.

How much longer will the world put up with “the virtuous nation?”

Dr. Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration and associate editor and columnist at the Wall Street Journal.

India identifies with US-Saudi stance on Syria

The account of the telephone conversation between Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and his counterpart in Damascus Walid Muallem throw light on Moscow’s thinking on the “situation in and around Syria.”. There is noticeable absence of direct criticism of the Syrian regime. Russia urges the regime to accelerate reforms but the MFA account makes it a point also to take note of the processes initiated in this direction by president Bashar al-Assad. Again, there is urgent need of holding “broad and constructive national dialogue”, but then, this should be an exclusively Syrian affair “without any outside interference”. The reference to “outside interference” is significant.

Equally, Moscow suggests that the role of the international community should be to “put pressure” on the opposition to “respond to the authorities’ invitation for dialogue”, implying the clout of external parties over the Syrian opposition and the opposition’s recalcitrant attitude. The most interesting aspect, however, is the MFA harking back to radical opposition’s calibrated attempt to repeat the “Libya scenario” in Syria. On balance, Russia empathises with the Syrian regime while acknowledging the imperative need of political reforms in that country. The contrast couldn’t be sharper with the recent remarks by president Dmitry Medvedev who all but writes off Assad. Moscow seems moving on two tracks.

Of course, the Indian position more or less identifies with the US-led cabal, as was apparent during EAM Krishna’s conversation with the visiting Syrian DFM Faisal Mekdad. Krishna was harsh on the Syrian regime and completely ignored the complexities of the situation. His one-dimensional perspective would have surely sounded music to Saudi (and Israeli) ears. The Saudis enjoy special relations with Congress Party and its ally the Muslim League, and with the UP elections approaching, the nexus gains importance. Incidentally, India keeps mum on the NATO atrocities in Libya or the Saudi-led repression in Bahrain.

The stage is being set for India to join the western bandwagon on Syria after making the pretense of an independent stance such as the visit by a Special Envoy to Damascus as reported by Associated Press. (MEA hasn’t yet divulged the details of the SE’s visit.) Later today, the UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon is submitting to the security council his report on Syria. Ban can never overlook an American wish and there is no need to second-guess what his report would contain. How India, which presides over the security council through August,handles Ban’s report and is willing to be a junior partner, will be under close American scrutiny.

Posted in Diplomacy.

Tagged with Ban Ki-Moon, Bashar al-Assad, Faisal Mekdad, Russia-India, S.M.Krishna, Syria, US-India.

By M K Bhadrakumar – August 11, 2011



The announced plans of Anna Hazare, the social activist, to go on a fast unto death from August 15 in support of the demand of the anti-corruption movement headed by him for a stronger Jan Lok Pal Bill than the one introduced by the Government in the Parliament pose an executive and moral dilemma to the Government of Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh.

2. The executive dilemma arises from the fact that an attempt to commit a suicide for whatever purpose is a criminal offence under the Indian Penal Code and the Government is legally bound to act against the threatened fast, if necessary by arresting Anna Hazare either before or during his fast in order to save his life and to prevent a public disorder. The executive dilemma is enhanced by the danger that the act of saving his life might be interpreted as a violation of his right to protest and might lead to an even greater public disorder.

3. The moral dilemma arises from the fact that afast unto death as a form of protest has been an accepted weapon since the days of Mahatma Gandhi. He used the threat of fast unto death on some occasions against the British rulers because he was left with no other way of expressing his protest over the failure of the British to concede his demands.It was a unique non-violent weapon used by Mahatma Gandhi under unique circumstances when India was under foreign rulers and did not have a democratic set-up which permitted dissenters to adopt various forms of ventilating grievances in a democratic manner without resorting to the ultimate weapon of a fast unto death.

4.AnnaHazare and his followers have been carrying on their protest in an independent and democratic India where various forms of democratic mobilisation and advocacy are available to them. They have been making use of these forms in order to educate the public on their demands and to bring moral pressure on the Government to accept the legitimacy of their demands.If the Government has not accepted the legitimacy of some of their demands, it is because it thinks that it will not be in the national interest to accept them and that those demands could be counter-productive.

5. A democratically-elected Government has the right to decide what is workable and what is not and what is in the national interest and what is not. If one is not in agreement with the views of the Government, one has the right to continue with the campaign of mobilisation and advocacy in the hope that the Government might be made to relent in its stand.

6. But one does not have the right to intimidate the Government into conceding one’s demands by threatening to use a weapon which might have been morally justifiable under the then existing circumstances during the British rule, but is no longer so under an independent and democratic dispensation. The Government has a legal obligation to prevent any attempt to commit a suicide and this obligation cannot be diluted because of the moral force of the demands of Anna Hazare and his followers for stronger action against corruption. Even a morally justifiable demand cannot be sought to be achieved through legally impermissible means.

7. Under our Constitution and our laws, every citizen has a right to protest, but not by adopting any means. While protesting, the existing laws have to be observed and any attempt at seeming intimidation avoided. The Government has to exercise its legal responsibility by preventing Anna Hazare from carrying out his threat to die through fasting.Whether that obligation should be exercised by arresting him before he starts his fast or by allowing him to fast for some time to satisfy his conscience and then arrest him is a matter for the Government to decide on the basis of its judgement regarding likely dangers to public order under different options.

8. It has to be admitted that there is considerable public support for Anna Hazare’s proposed fast because large sections of the public are not convinced of the sincerity of the Government’s proclaimed determination to end corruption. The executive responsibility of the Government to maintain law and order has not been matched by an exercise of its moral responsibility to convince the public of the sincerity of its determination to end corruption.

9.It is important for the Prime Minister even at this last moment to address the public on the issue of corruption through the electronic media and through a press conference devoted exclusively to public concerns over corruption.

10. An over-focus on the executive dimensions of the problem while neglecting the moral dimensions of it will maintain and exacerbate the existing tensions on this issue. ( 14-8-11)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and , presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: . Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )