Monday, November 17, 2014

Trade and Republican Anger

As Japanese Economy slides into recession and German Economy barely avoids a recession, the World Economy would not have got these trade deals at any better time. You got China-USA Hi-Tech Trade deal, followed by a crack opening in the blockade by India at WTO, followed by significant enlargement of China Australia trade. (Meanwhile hopefully President Obama holds his line on Net Neutrality to avoid any kind of robber baron style road blocks in Digital Economy.)

All this means Republican Congress should get its act together and work hard for the Trans Pacific Trade Deal in coming months and quickly facilitate IMF restructuring. The later can come in the Lame Duck session else G20 may go a different route to overcome USA. The world has waited long for the Republican non-sense in these matters and clearly Republican opposition obviously hurts America's national interest by forcing China to embark upon Financial Aid Diplomacy outside of IMF. 

In general, Republicans are likely to get tripped over in their anger to President Obama's Executive actions on Immigration and that rage is likely to hurt America's interests. (That does not mean President Obama should stop his executive actions on Immigration, he is already late and it is bound to be a boost to American Economy.) But I suppose Republican Politics hurting America is nothing new and it is unlikely to stop so long as American voters are simply accepting policy abuse by Republicans as business as usual.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Obama and Xi

Chinese President Xi and President Obama are meeting after an interval with some changed context. President Obama is going into APEC meeting clearly as a diminished leader domestically and in last 2 years of his second term with a clear focus of leaving behind a workable strategy with China for his successor. On the other hand, President Xi has consolidated power in not so authentic manner domestically - by jailing his political opponents in arbitrary application of anti-corruption fight rather than undertaking long term, sustainable, institutional political reforms. (Xi is improving Chinese Legal System, but those reforms have just started and will be a while before anything concrete comes out.) President Xi has presided an economy which is not in any pink of health whereas President Obama continues to ride a reasonably recovering economy despite American Voters reluctance to consider otherwise. 

The questions these two leaders will deal now are not much different than any earlier ones; primarily how to manage a peaceful growth of a new global power without resulting into any armed conflicts. Given stock of their respective domestic political capital, it seems that President Xi will be looking to continue his 'assertive' stance as far as claiming Chinese hegomoney in South China Sea whereas President Obama will be looking to find avenues where he can leave behind something useful for the next President to build upon.

Pundits talk about co-operation on Environment. That is all good and great from global perspective, but with American Politics having decisively moved with GOP, one is doubtful what lasting change can be achieved in dealing with China and rest of the world. President Obama did his EPA thing and it needs to be seen whether it can withstand corrupt courts of America. So this is all known by rest of the world. In essence, the world knows what President Obama can deliver on this front which is to say not much. Then why waste time and energy in engaging with vaporware? It will be prudent for President Obama to be circumspect in this regard, not to raise expectations and not promise anything which he cannot inherently deliver in next two years.

If at all Obama Administration wants to spend any capital (whatever it has) in working with Congress, the best it can do is to help Congress move on in changing IMF contributions so that China's gets bigger responsibility. That is the most sensible course of action as it will reduce incentive of China in going independent for a global developmental banker role as it gets that influence via IMF itself. Rest of the countries in Asia will be as well more willing to work with IMF rather than Chinese incarnation of ADB which is in essence Japan's financial power projection vehicle. Again, the trick for President Obama is to 'cast' Republican Opposition to IMF restructuring as a response which compromises America's national security.

The other area where the Congress might be more easy to work with will be in arming Vietnam which is asking for advanced weapons in order to prepare itself in a possible armed conflict with China. America's strategy should be to seek co-operation with China but not let go any opportunity to strengthen regional players. Working and deepening security alliances with as many players as possible around China, is one sure way of convincing China that raw power projections based on military might alone would not bring much benefits.

The same alliance strategy would be equally effective in entering into Free Trade Agreement with large number of Asian and South American countries without China. As most observers say, with a Republican Congress, Obama Administration should find it easy to move forward in this regard. In general coordinated actions in security and financial sectors will keep America's aggressive posture viable while extending the hand of co-operation to China. That is the standard 'sticks and carrots' policy President Obama has to execute in his last critical engagements with China.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

American Politics - Dems Lost

President Obama got his second shellacking as Senate is lost for Democrats. Democratic ground game did not hold up and late breaking of public vote towards Republicans basically turned into GOP wave almost as good as Tea Party win 2010. When Sen. Mark Warner is in trouble and Colorado flips, we know that President Obama's unpopularity is weighing down heavily.

President Obama has been busy spending his political capital, but he never grasped the importance of carrying political popularity. Without some popular support, it is pretty difficult to enact any consequential changes. President Obama is not the party man. He never endorsed anyone of consequence before entering Oval Office nor he did effective campaigning for other candidates. He wanted to wage the politics of policy as a rebuke to Washington Politicians, but he never did an effective job of keeping a sustained and coherent agenda on national political discourse.

In absence of popularity and sustained coherent policy framework; administrative competence and execution became important in evaluating Obama Presidency in the Second Term. In that regards, there are serious mistakes which are costing Democrats lot. Lukewarm domestic economy still weighs most. Here, part of the problem is with American Public. They seem not to understand what obstructionist role GOP played as well as how wrong GOP prescription of 'austerity and tax cuts for rich' is in this context. Voters seem to have voted anything opposing Obama, regardless whether it is beneficial to them or not. 

But Obama mistakes continued on foreign front. When American forces left Iraq, Obama Administration did not make it loud and clear the dangers of Maliki's practices and dangers of falling Iraq into the current chaos. Agreed that Iraqi's did not want American residual force in Iraq, but warning on possible dangers was required. Americans see their commander-in-chief fulfilling public wish of winding down wars; but they wonder in the process if President Obama is leaving us in more dangerous world. It is a valid suspicion and ground for criticism, from which President Obama has not recovered.

Equally he made a mess of his Syrian response. Turning to Congress did not turn out any smarter and the entire process essentially exposed White House as a non-resolute power. Despite the smart and effective move of cleaning out chemical weapons in Syria; Administration squandered that victory. Same for America's Ukraine policy - it is effective and smart; but Obama Administration does not get any credit for the same.

Some other decisions are inherently more difficult; for example the case of an executive action on immigration. Clearly doing so would have helped in Colorado while dragging candidates in Southern states. In the end however everything is lost with no benefits of waiting for this decision till elections. But one can argue that in the summer of 2014, the decision of holding off executive actions on immigration looked as like a necessary step given the state of affairs at that time. What should have been avoided was building the mountain of expectations pre-maturely. Again, the impression is 'over promising and under delivering' White House. Possibly turning back on immigration execution action will be remembered as the true bad call which broke Democrats in 2014.

President Obama will pay the price of not having Democratic Senate and remaining two years of his presidency will be essentially an exercise in 'selling the liberal policy silver' piece by piece. He may choose to fight considering politics of confronting pro-rich agenda is the minimum service he can do for Democratic Party; the party which believed in him so much.

On Republican side, if a quick contender for 2016 emerges; he (yes, they all are men) should be able to 'build' on the momentum of 2014 election results. But likelihood of that happening is low. Success of 2014 will rather attract large swath of contenders, each out gunning each other. In other words, it is  possible that Republican Party will learn nothing from 2012 nomination charade. Egos and ambitions of messers Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie are large enough. Rand Paul has some policy baggage, but seems to be the smartest mind on GOP side.

For Democrats, the best bet will be Clinton-Warren ticket after Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton declare some kind of a 'policy pact' as their agenda statement considering that Clintons are cozy with Big Corp. Capitalism whereas Warren wants to fight Big Corp. Capitalism. Elizabeth Warren has said no to presidential primary and after having un-experienced politician in White House for last 8 years it is doubtful that Americans will be ready for another green shoot. That is where Clinton is expected to bring the cover. Elizabeth Warren is on the right side of policy path this country needs. She carries younger and liberal voter base and unless and until it is united with an experienced hand like Clinton; Democrats would suddenly experience a harsher electoral environment. Results of 2014 are bound to send shiver down the spine of Democrats, they are on much, much weaker wicket. 

(It will be interesting to see if ObamaCare can be saved. If GOP is smart, it will attempt to undercut the law in a protracted, relentless manner. That will be the test of President Obama in remaining two years.)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Indian National Congress Party

As PM Modi's 'Congress Mukt Bharat' (India free from Congress); gathers momentum, a quiet revolution seems to be taking within India. It is the gradual and so far certain demise of India's Grand Old Party - Congress. 

Normal run down in electoral fortunes of a political party prompts resignations of leadership, perceptible turns in policy postures and ascension of new leadership. None of that is happening and very unlikely to happen in case of Indian National Congress Party. So far as the question of leadership goes, clearly neither Sonia / Rahul Gandhi want to relinquish the hold nor rank party members are sure whether they will stick together if there is no Nehru-Gandhi person at the helm. 

By and large there are two reasons for Congress Party to exist - one to enjoy spoils of being in power (corruption) and the other reason of having a secular regime which does not try to ignite the specter of religion based sectarian conflicts. As possibilities of gaining any power back at Central or important State level start receding, rank and file party members will start exploring corruption avenues with other parties. Possibly over years, in general most body politics of India will go away from direct corruption and as a result 'entering politics' with the aim of 'making money' might not remain a viable business model. Definitely Narendra Modi's persona, his policies as well as rise of anti-corruption parties like Aam Adami Party; all point in that direction.

Narendra Modi ruled Gujrath for over a decade without any religion based riots after infamous Godhara. As he fashions a soft cultural Hindu Nationalism without hard edges of violence and without abuses of human rights, crying need of Secular Political Options decreases. It is not only Congress which has suffered due to diminishing need of asserting Secularism, decline of Left Parties also confirms that. Primary selling point of these Left parties had been Secularism. Indian Public tolerated administrative incompetence, myopic socialistic policies and corruption of Congress and Left; all for reasons of literally getting saved from religious bigots. As Modi brand of Politics reduces religion based bigoted politics, Indian voters are getting viable choices and the fertile ground for 'Congress Mukt Bharat' is prepared.[1]

Victory of MIM in Maharashtra Assembly shows that Muslim voters in India no longer have to hitch their wagon to the secularism of Congress. Established alternatives like Samajwadi Party and upcoming choices like MIM (who are vitriolic but with shades of authentic nationalism) are very much reducing need to depend on Congress.

Given all this, survival of Congress Party comes down to Sonia and Rahul Gandi. In my lifetime, I remember Congress was 'written off' 3 times but it came back - first when Indira Gandhi was kicked out after Emergency in 1977 and then she romped back in 1980. Subsequently Rajiv Gadhi lost power, then was killed and India came on the brink of bankruptcy due to Mandal Masjid Mayehm; again Congress came back. More recently after the NDA rule, Sonia and Dr. Manmohan Singh again brought Congress back to the power. Increasing tendency of Indian voters to deliver 'decisive mandate' is at play also. Knowing this history, it is understandable that no Congressman is going to come forward and rebel against Nehru-Gandhi Family. That is not how Congress works and it is a recipe of disasters for individual political ambitions of a Congressman given the internal power dynamics. In other words, more are electoral losses for Congress party; more loyal coterie encircles the leadership of Nehru-Gandhi Family.

So then are we talking here Titanic going all the way to the bottom? Once upon time there was a party called Hindu Mahasabha. Jan Sangh and subsequent mutant BJP came out it and Hindu Mahasabha essentially died. Are we looking at some such possibilities with Congress? This is because Rahul Gandhi is simply not showing any leadership here, Sonia Gandhi is more interested in protecting him and none of them have any willingness to hand over party reigns to many other capable leaders (P. Chidambaram, AK Antony, etc.).On Policy front, Congress is simply not getting the message that its brand of Government led Development is not working nor it is realizing how much hunger is there in India for administrative competence as well as corruption free State. Besides, Congress may be too late to turn to anti-corruption politics as there is AAP already claiming that mantle. However, Congress will have to submit for corruption free politics as a necessity. One is not sure whether Rahul Gandhi gets all this. In absence of that, we are looking at a real possibility of demise of Indian National Congress because in the end Gandhi-Nehru Family decides to let it die. 

What is heartening is, not just because of Narendra Modi; but in general today's Indian body Politics is for sure strong enough to withstand the demise of Indian National Congress Party.

[1] One of the weakest links of PM Modi's promise of reform has been the division of Center-State power in contemporary India. For all the talk of reforming India, Indian constitution awards primacy to State when it comes to land holding, water management, education, policing population, legal system and energy distribution (not literally but because how the system evolved). What that means is unless and until Modi Government in Center finds friendly State Governments, his agenda of true reform and economic growth would not go anywhere. PM Modi needs Narendra Modi in State Houses and hence his  national success necessitates Congress Mukta Bharat.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Angela Merkel - Subdued Style with Subdued Results?

German Chancellor Angela Merkel overshadows American President Barack Obama who tends to 'over promise under deliver' in her eyes. Having assumed chancellery 3 years earlier than Barack Obama and definitely outlasting him in office as well, Angela Merkel is a powerful politician on planet earth; one of the most powerful. That is why it matters what she does and she does not.

During the early years of 2008 recession, she only gave in partially by allowing limited bank guarantees collectively. Contrary to advise of many Keynesians for Debt Relief, she remained unenthusiastic for such prospects. On the strength of American Economy, Global Financial Markets bought into a belief that worst is over for Europe.

But worst is not over for Europe. We do not know how much structural reforms of consequence, countries in Europe have adopted. With persistent high unemployment, France and Italy; rightly so; are on the verge of busting deficit band allowed by EU. With continued economic contraction, Europe is on the verge of 3rd recession in last six years. Needless to say Europe has done badly.

When the right prescription for getting out of this funk is both QE as well as stimulus by government / EU; Angela Merkel is precisely resisting and triangulating the policy of substantive economic intervention by Government. Neither she has taken pains to expend her political capital in educating German voters nor she has given free hand to Euro wide policy makers. At the heart of it is the same thing as what Rick Santelli purported at the dawn of Tea Party in USA - resentment in giving anyone free hand. Germans are acutely vigilant about anyone trying to ride on their success as they naturally feel it is all 'earned by them' and by their discipline. There is some truth in that, but one cannot ignore the downward draft exerted by non-German economies on Euro exchange rate which essentially benefits German Export. In other words, poor Spanish and Italian economies keep Euro down which makes BMW and Audis cheap enough in China in turn soaring the German Export. Those export gains translate to welfare of German workers (all credit to German system) at the expense of essentially Italian or Spanish workers.  All this, of course Angela Merkel, wants to forget conveniently. 

That is why one wonders what judgement History would render - a feckless, over promising American President having delivered, having used all his political capital or an immensely popular German Chancellor having been at the heart of European power allowing Rome to burn while she plays the fiddle of keeping intact ideological misunderstanding of her voter base? 

There are forces in German which are unsettled with this prospect and there are political forces which are pulling Germany towards extreme policy positions. Essentially German equivalent of Tea Party is campaigning further right of Merkel by demanding introduction of Duesche Mark in liue of Euro. May be Germany should indeed get out of Euro. That way not only the fantasy of AfD will be exposed but failure of Merkle regime will be exposed too while liberating Spaniards and Italians of Europe to pursue a sensible economic policy along with French. In that sense, a failed regime of Barack Obama is far positively consequential in the longer term than 'sooth talking', ideologically driven Merkel era in Europe.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Ebola

As the case of second Ebola infection comes to light, suspicion in minds of Americans grow - that bulky, expensive American Health Care System is 'not' geared to handle spreading Ebola cases, that we are getting empty promises from public officials, that these officials and elected representatives are actively misleading Americans when they claim everything is under control. Very likely American system will not be immune from the usual problem of lack of co-ordination among various local, state and federal agencies. When officials insist that 'the system has worked', that seems like a joke when in reality the second patient was not even on the watch list in Texas! The infected health worker was undertaking self-monitoring and reported possible infection on her own. Given this, it is clear that:
- procedures used by American health worker are not full proof and
- CDC directed procedure of identifying possibly impacted patients and monitoring them, that all seem inadequate as well.

The Texas Hospital already lost the credibility when first it blamed its computer system to hide the incompetence of its staff. Now more details are coming about how the first patient was treated for sinus while completely ignoring possibilities of Ebola early on! This is a poster symbol of 'stupidity of American Health System'.

But it might not remain only about incompetence of American Health System when serious allegations are hurled about knowing negligence of the first patient because of his skin color or African origins. If this 'meme' gets hold; it can quickly become a ugly political football given that we are in the last stretches of mid-term elections.

Already racial tensions are showing up in America. When you have a tone deaf white police officer wearing 'I am Darren Wilson' bracelet in support of the policemen who killed the African American in Saint Louis, when another African American is killed there after; we have a charged environment.

Given this background, President Obama and White House need to show alertness in being pro-active. Already President Obama has been criticized being indecisive and the danger is real that President Obama remains passive and his Administration would exhibit dereliction of duties. His order for more federal help is a start, but he needs to keep the focus on sustained basis, have his cabinet sectaries take follow on actions and more importantly keep Americans informed with facts. We need leadership which will neither hide lack of competencies nor spare anyone from holding accountable.

Longer term, America needs explanation in terms of why it is taking time to develop vaccine for this disease and how it will not be caught in racketeering by American Pharmaceutical companies. Creating vaccine is one thing, but putting in place a system which distributes it quickly and in affordable manner to masses is another. (Hopefully, Americans will not be held at ransom for such medicines when other nations successfully force American Pharma to sale drugs at affordable prices.)

Americans also need to be politically educated to understand the importance of helping other countries battling Ebola since in the end it comes to our shores. Inspection of Airline passengers is one response (why did it take so long and why did it not start at many ports simultaneously?); but helping those affected countries earlier and effectively should have been America's response.

In a globalized world America cannot be an isolated island and educating Americans about that is the job of our political leadership. American public will trust our leadership only when the leadership is alert and is effective in executing the job it is expected to do - protecting Americans. So far Ebola saga in Texas is anything but that. 

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Hong Kong and People's Republic of China

Typically a closed authoritative political system like China changes when it gets sympathetic top leaders. Mikhail Gorbachev comes to mind. But the Chinese boss Xi Jinping is in no mood to entertain any kind of political reforms. Under the name of 'fighting corruption' (which is good) Xi seems to be very busy in removing his political opposition without much legitimate, coherent ideas about how to advance China further and make China at ease and at peace in comity of nations. There is a real danger, now that his honeymoon period is over, that he simply becomes a tool of a powerful faction of PLA and in some sense 'keeper' of vested interests of Chinese Crony Capitalism - the businessmen enriching themselves on the largesse of State or hyper nationalists who preserve their own fiefdom / profit sources under the veneer of Nationalism. Given all that, political freedom of any kind will be the last thing on his mind regardless of what Beijing spin masters say.

Now, it is true that everyone knows what happened after Gorbachev undertook perestroika. Soviet Union joined History Books and suddenly you got more sovereign states in former USSR. Xi Jinping does not want to preside People's Republic of China (PRC) as the man who allowed Uighur to become independent. Of the 3 immediate 'centrifugal forces'  vibrating in Chinese System - Uighur separatism, Tibet resistance and unfinished business of peaceful assimilation of Hong Kong - only the Uighur problem is serious one (and Beijing is not on a right track there). The province of Xinjiang has substantial native Uyghur population - around 40+% - which mostly are Sunni Islamic. Ethnic identity among Uyghur is strong with checkered history of independence. Given that background, it is a right question among Communist Party Leaders in Beijing that what kind of autonomy would establish a political equilibrium? So from a Communist point of view, any concession in political freedom will be a slippery path culminating in dangers of Xinjing or parts of it sleeping away from PRC. And that is the danger Communists in Beijing do not want to feed into, whether it Uighur or Tibet or Hong Kong.

But the problems of Tibet and Hong Kong are different. With Tibet, Dalai Lama has maintained to work within the framework of PRC Sovereignty (even though his own people might not be with him at times as well as PRC would not be buying his argument). It is more the question of retaining autonomy, cultural identity and most important demographic balance within Tibet. What PRC is failing is to find a viable path here, the necessary step of which is to engage with Dalai Lama and his cohort and avoid chauvinistic Sinicization of Tibet

The problem of Hong Kong is even more clear. PRC absorbed Hong Kong on the basis of an international accord where PRC signed that it will allow universal suffrage. China and Xi Jinping are simply reneging on their legal commitments here. To blame protesters being non-patriotic and anti-China is simply Mao-style propaganda. Nethier the argument that Hong Kong never had full democracy under British rule nor Hong Kong needs to wait until entire PRC gets universal suffrage; are valid arguments. Why not Hong Kong be the leading light in bringing true democracy to entire China? Clearly Xi Jinping is too busy to entertain any such thoughts. (*)

The question for protesters is what can they do to change this situation? They have shown clearly that they can bring millions of Hong Kong residents on streets. But this will not be sustainable. As it starts damaging local economy, sympathy among Hong Kong mainstream residents (parents of kids on street) will dry up. That is exactly Hong Kong's current rulers and Beijing want. Given that, these protesters have to find a rhythm in keep bringing crowd on the street at regular interval while minimally disrupting livelihood of Hong Kong People. Every resistance movement needs to find creative ways in keeping the political pressure because the very nature of such conflicts is asymmetric - there are no channelized ways to register the opposition in authoritative closed political systems and the whole point of such resistance is to change the very system suppressing people's freedom. On this background advice from veterans 'to take break' is appropriate; least it ferments social tensions and violence.

Equally, these Hong Kong protesters need to become more cohesive from an organizational perspective given that their fight is for a long haul. Xi Jinping and Beijing Bosses are with thick skin and a stick (and with a gun and a tank as Tienanmen Square incident demonstrates vividly). No political movement can achieve substance unless structurally it is organized coherently and tightly, especially against such a behemoth adversary. There are many in Beijing who are in glee looking at this Hong Kong protest as they see how Hong Kong pulls itself down in its economic interests (and as a result opens door for Shangahi to further itself as the premium global financial center; though many argue that the real winner will be Singapore). So Hong Kong protesters need to navigate their longer term resistance in a manner which is not perceived as detrimental to Hong Kong's business. Some price these businesses have to pay (and those with weak heart may indeed flee Hong Kong too); but these protesters will have to be mindful of these bread and butter issues.

The more these protests portray how Beijing is subverting an international treaty, more are chances that rest of the world (and Taiwan in particular) becomes more vigilant in dealing with PRC. That is the price which these protesters can make Beijing to pay (unless Xi Jinping adopts the dirty and cheap path of Vladimir Putin - hell with international laws). May be when the price becomes sufficiently high, Xi Jinping would come around and may open the path of political freedom for Hong Kong residents.  Till then a smart and sustained resistance is what these protesters have to undertake.


* - One argument nationalists are forwarding is what is wrong in insisting vetting of candidates by Beijing before hand, after all Beijing intends good for Hong Kong? But similarly any freedom loving person can argue that why Beijing needs to have then any such insecurities? If a freely elected Hong Kong chief does not behave in accordance to PRC's national interest, PRC can simply prosecute the chief on charges of treason and even remove that chief in extreme situations in the name of national security. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

What is Consequential for India?

India celebrated enthusiastically the success of India's maiden satellite mission to Mars. Taking pride in this achievement is understandable and ISRO clearly deserves this praise. It also means globally as how SW outsourcing started to change global Computer Industry around year 2000, this is a shot by India in Space Industry also. India is brandishing her potential to bring down costs of Space Engineering in demonstrable manner. Any Space Mission where substantial Engineering is involved, those Engineering hours can be bought at much substantial lower price from India. What 'outsourcing' did to Global SW Engineering, we are looking at similar potential in Space Engineering. 

Having cheap and capable engineering talent is one thing but translating that advantage and capabilities into a successful industry is another issue. Component manufacturing, network of whole sleuth of private sector enterprises providing necessary products & services and stronger capabilities in rocket technology; all these things will need to happen before Indian Space Industry can take off on its own. In general, liberalized trade will be overall prerequisite for all this to happen (contrary to what Indian government stalled at WTO)

It might be easy to compare ISRO costs with NASA costs; but within USA itself, there are companies like SpaceX which have been making tremendous headway in rocket technology and space exploration. Company like SpaceX has built rocket technology on backs of less than 4000 engineers within a decade what armies of engineers for decades  can barely come up with in many countries, India included. NASA has taken notice of these private sector abilities and is actively vacating areas for private enterprise. Obama Administration and American Congress both are actively looking to lower costs and increase the participation of private enterprises. In some sense, NASA being the global pioneering organization, it always had to share the burden of costs in paving ways for new technologies (even though clearly American engineering hours cost way more to NASA than ISRO).

Given all this, though Mangalyaan is a nice breakthrough for Indian Space Technology and Engineering abilities; the overall journey is a long way. Indian's are likely to overrate this achievement while ignoring the stupendous achievement what it's Legal System attained this week - convicting Tamil Nadu Supremo Jayalalitha on corruption charges. In my mind, neither Mangalyaan, nor Modi's proposed rock star like performance tomorrow at Madison Square Garden would have as much long term impact as what this conviction of a political boss after around 2 decades of legal fight portends for India. 

It shows a nation which is finally summoning 'the will' to correct what has been fundamentally ailing India all along - her Politicians without accountability and not subjected to rule of law. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Bombing IS in Syria

"A terrorist preoccupied with his own survival has less bandwidth to threaten yours.
...
It is true that there exists no strategy for victory, and no definition of victory.
...
This struggle is now owned by the United States."


Apart from bringing on few significant Arab Allies, what struck to me is timing - President Obama did not hesitate for this bombing when he is taking a center stage at UN. In a way, he has not hesitated to assert American Leadership role in today's chaotic world. Good or bad, successful or not; seems like some American role in world affairs is better than complete withdrawal; least because no other nations want to have anything to do with this mess. (America contributed to the mess, but there is more to that than simply blaming America here.)

Having thrown cobwebs of 'rudderless leadership', question is how skillfully and in sophisticated manner this administration brings some real progress. In my view, progress will be determined to what an extend 'skin in the game' is increased for Turkey and to what an extent America stands behind Kurds while continuing to strengthen Federal Government of Iraq. 

Setting expectations for a long haul is critical. Administration has started on that, but they will still have to continue this policy of 'having feet on ground'. Prof. Drezner rightly characterizes that the'initial air attack' is generally the high water mark of America's power projection and there after it is all downhill. He also thinks that chances are more that things on ground will not change in next 3 to 4 months.

Again 'price of not doing anything is high' and having started to do something does not mean America would be firmly on the path for victory. The least what President Obama can do is to continue to be honest with Americans about all this (apart from keep whacking any other bad guys intending to harm America). There is a chance that Americans would understand all that.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

United Kingdom

With Scotland voting No for independence, UK remains a single country. Many Western Capitals in the world would have sighed, I am sure Washington definitely. UK is the stalwart, indispensable component of the Western Alliance and it remaining united and together is vital from NATO, EU to UNSC. 

As many in the losing side have said, Scotland and UK have changed for ever after this referendum. Yes voting edging past No in a last week's poll was a wake up call for London Power brokers. The old guard of Labor Party - Gordon Brown - helped deliver the No vote. In the end though, people thought about the unanswered questions as JK Rowling explained eloquently in her post.

What next? Interesting question will be whether UK Politicians think about a truly Federal System where Scotland is helped to stand on it's own while keeping strong UK on the world stage as well as overshadowing of Scottish MPs in English affairs is rolled back in fair manner. UK needs to undertake constitutional reforms and to gear its political structure to a truly Federal structure so as it can draw strengths both from a federal structure as well as decentralized polity. Hopefully win for 'better together' argument moves UK in that direction.