Saturday, 14 April 2018

Message for Indians

We, the Indians are prone to manipulation. From ancient to modern and now contemporary politics, I see so many instances where we are led to believe the complete opposite of the truth. I agree that the truth has many facets and nobody has a complete monopoly over it. But a fact closest to the truth is better than a construction of reality based on half-baked facts. I have been struggling to find the reason behind our vulnerability to fall in this game of manipulation. I too may have been a prey to it & probably I am currently prey to it too. I cannot equate this vulnerability as innocence but it appears to be quite close to a slothful character who is fatigued from his/her daily chores and finds solace in quenching his/her thirst of scepticism by blaming it on the environment around him/her (society & politics). This slothful character is reeling under the fatigue of daily life and has no interest or energy to juxtapose reality with fiction. He/She has decided to arrive at a conclusion before searching for the facts. Should we blame his/her fatigue? I don’t know. On top of that, unverifiable facts are presented by the shrewd vultures to harden his/her notion of reality which is inspired by his/her scepticism about life. He/She trusts anything that is in consonance with his/her pessimistic view of the world. It makes me sad to think that our quest for knowledge and ultimate truth has dwindled with the passing time and we are vulnerable to ulterior motives of the shrewd vultures. We opened our economy in 1991 but may be failed to open and widen our ability to think. An optimist in me finds solace in the argument that with the growing economy, this fallacy of pessimistic world would collapse and our ancient tradition of knowledge seeking behaviour would re-emerge to make our country and our people more prosperous than ever before.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Decrypting the fortunes of theocracy

Post-Uri terrorist attack, the media glares were focused on what the most powerful man of India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi would say on Pakistan. Albeit, he chose a political rally to convey his displeasure to “Terroristan” (An analogy shared by noted author Chetan Bhagat for Pakistan), but the message was disseminated proportionately to satisfy the thirst of hawks on both sides of ‘Line of Control’, the self-proclaimed liberals, rationality bearers, non-ideological citizens as well as international stakeholders.

Amidst the conspicuous glow of tensions surrounding the decades old adversaries, a larger question remains unanswered. “Why do the nations born with a religious premise are far more unstable and volatile than the nations born with secularism as their core value?”
To understand this fundamental question, we shall take a look at what exactly we mean by a ‘nation’?

In The Ethnic Origins of Nations (1986), Anthony Smith presents the ‘primordialist view’ which states that the nations are historically embedded; they are rooted in a common cultural heritage and language that may long predate the achievement of statehood or even the national independence.

Does this cultural heritage necessarily mean religious homogeneity? How far has it been successful? It has been observed in post-colonial era that the nations which derive the legitimacy of their authority on religious foundation often found themselves trapped into the quagmire of a deep moral conflict.

The diagnosis of the problem does not require vigorous crystal ball gazing but a narrow understanding of history. Various reasons can be attributed to the issue, such as: -

Firstly, as the foundation of the State is based on the spirit of intolerance, hence the breeding of sleazy animosity and fissures within the society is easy with no diverse ideological and philosophical apparatus to neutralize such threats.

Secondly, these inbuilt theocratic impulses offer resistance to change within the society, which in turn renders intellectual development, modernity, innovation and spiritual growth ineffective.

Thirdly, it is easy to radicalize and manipulate the population because of lack of alternative source of opinions. This further ignites the fire of distrust and disharmony in the homogeneous society.

Fourthly, the debate regarding material economic progress is impounded by the forces of irrationality and religious orthodoxy claiming monopoly over decision making. Moreover, the State in such societies is mostly subservient to the dictates of the latter pressure groups, pushing the ‘Base and Superstructure’ theory of Karl Marx into obsoleteness.

Fifthly, the spirit of homogeneity of society makes it difficult to adapt the opportunities of globalization and liberalization which propagate the heterogeneous structures of society in an interconnected world. The results of such disconnect is evident from the emerging violence in the developed world, allegedly carried out by the alienated communities.

Sixth, as the religious sphere cycles through the phases of downfall and precipitation due to the inevitable circling of the clock, the State too gets deformed because of lack of availability of alternative forces of unification which are either unrepresented or underdeveloped in such societies.

Seventh, due to the prevalence of radical nobility, the fundamental rights of liberty, equality and fraternity are impaired with irrational theocratic discourses, which ultimately paralyses the dialectical progress that germinates diversity of opinions and synthesis of such opinions in consistently changing social dynamics. The acceptance of diversity of opinion broadens intellectual horizon and facilitates conflict resolution through multiple fashions. But its absence due to the homogeneous structure of society consequently submerges such States under the tides of anarchy.

Last, but not the least, the dominance of religious orthodoxy also impairs the accountability of the State towards the populace and any question of impropriety is settled with the deliberations of maintaining religious status-quo under the garb of threat to the religion. Hence, it proves that democracy and theocracy are non-complementary and the existence of such political associations could be a farce.

The forces of partition ignited the idea of States based on religion. On one side, the belligerence which established Pakistan celebrated the idea of ‘Islamic Republicanism’. The other side, albeit pressured by the hawks of religious supremacy, adopted for a sovereign, socialist, secular and democratic republic guided by the ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity to secure social, economic and political justice for all irrespective of belief, faith and worship.

As the Prime Minister today spoke to the belligerent hawks of Pakistan, “If you want to fight a war, we accept the challenge. Let us fight against poverty, unemployment, undernourishment, injustice, griminess and diseases. Let us see who wins the war first.”

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Brexit: Demise of liberalism?

United Kingdom voted to leave the EU in a referendum today

With an imminent release of United Kingdom from the EU, the eastern world ‘woke up’ today with the emergence of a threat signal looming in the political circles, averted successively by all to accommodate democratic liberalism. Simultaneously, the western world ‘slept' with the same thought after celebrating the success of departure from status quo. What is this ‘threat signal’? Some people call it the rise of extremism but euphemistically speaking, it is the rise of ‘populism’, partly blamed on globalization. Right wing populism is a rejection of political liberalism and left wing populism is a rejection of economic liberalism. Either way, it is the liberalism whose dying groans we have witnessed today.
When the harbingers of liberalism outvoted the liberalism itself to pave the way for self-constructed irrationalism or ‘illiberalism’, we could sense how the future political trends would look like, say in the next decade. Sarcastically speaking, a ‘nation state’ which colonized more than 2/3rd of the world in 18th-19th century moaned due to xenophobia and called 23rd June as their ‘Independence Day’. Certainly the torch of liberalism that Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and John Stuart Mill ignited, failed to brighten up the dusk of 21st century hence the civilization of civility sparked off ‘utilitarianism’ (of Jeremy Bentham) to quench their thirsts.
Often people say that the history repeats itself yet they fail to substantiate their claims. But recall the immediate post war time period (both in 1919 and 1945) when the unsuccessful parties were negotiating with the victorious ones for ‘Treaty of Versailles’ and ‘Paris Accords’ respectively. The next British Prime Minister would have to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty for a similar set of negotiations for the process of a respectable departure albeit not due to an apparent war. It would be interesting to see if the sole party would negotiate free trade agreements on the lines of WTO or special concessions could be offered to them. Unilateral concessions would be difficult to anticipate as the EU also needs to circumscribe further secessionism from the bloc. A Norwegian model can be ruled out too because the premise of the ‘leave’ vote was anti-immigration rhetoric and a delusive supremacy of the 19th century world order.
European Union fears that the ‘Pig’s Philosophy’ of Jeremy Bentham might soon travel all the way from the English Channel to spread its stink in France, Germany, Netherlands, Austria, Italy, Hungary and other members (domino effect) where the neo-right wing has gained ground. They collectively tried to demonize the Kremlin to acquire public support even to the extent of blaming President Putin for fuelling neo-Nazis in Germany, Poland and Austria and right wing political dispensations like FNF in France, UKIP in UK, PEGIDA in Germany among others. It is difficult to cut through their claims but certainly the likes of Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen, Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan must be rejoicing upon the prospects of a disunited Europe. But considering the trust deficit among the members of European Union, it was destined to doom. The ‘Supranational Union’ was built on a marshy land without strong pillars of trust and was fractured by mutual suspicion and extra-territorial ambitions. EU is an oversized transnational unit suffering from a perennial 'democratic deficit'.
The grandiosities that followed the final results today called it ‘revolutionary’. The revolutions are never civilized; they merely trigger off using rationalism as a shield but ultimately desire de jure conquest of power. But contemporary outbursts are not revolutions; rather they are fuelled by the rebels without a cause. We shall not turn a blind eye to it because these are the resistances created against the system of democracy. Apparently democracy is on a downslide, after reaching its saturation point post-disintegration of USSR. A careful examination of this noble system requires collective effort through multilateral institutions like the United Nations, which itself lacks democratic character and 21st century representation. A reformative step in this direction would go a long way in securing the cherished ideals of our forefathers who amalgamated the liberal and social character in the system of democracy to fulfill the aspirations of our citizenry.

Democracy is the pipe in which the liberal values flow like water. If the neo-liberals are to be believed, over the time the pipes have run dry and are clogged up. There is an apparent departure from the traditional centrist politics which is paving the way for the rise of nation state, populism, irrationalism and rather ‘illiberalism’. Interestingly, the whole world is stuck in a limbo between past/present which is broken beyond repair and the future which is uncertain. The populists, whether right/left wing would not have any solutions for it because they are merely movements, good only in opposition but unfit to rule. Democracy without liberal values is only a couple of years away from the trend of tyranny of majority or ‘ballotocracy’ i.e. Utilitarianism. We shall decide it today whether we want to uphold the ideals of rationalism, liberalism, globalization and humanism or we shall let the emerging trends of irrationalism, populism, state welfare through border controls and R2P to supersede modern politics. It was our decision yesterday, it will be our decision today, but remember, a decision not taken in due course of time is itself a decision.

Friday, 6 May 2016

India throws ultra dynamic diplomatic card on the Chinese table

India issued visa to multiple Chinese dissidents like Dolkun Isa, Lu Jinguha, Ray Wong to attend the 'World Uyghur Congress' in Dharamsala with the Tibetan exiled leader 'HH Dalai Lama' among others. The controversy surrounding the sudden ultra offensive stance by India against China in terms of reversing the policy on internal non-interference evoked nationalist muscularities. But the delight was short-lived with India cancelling the issued visas on technical grounds. This on-and-off relationship evoked strong criticism from the puerile as well as nationalist ranks. Indian media as usual started reading between the lines from the writings on the wall to assimilate their little understanding of the issue by playing rhetorical series to invoke ultra nationalism. But does it really mean that India itself co-opted a 'planned embarrassment'?
Prudential diplomacy requires understanding the weather patterns before the clouds start to rain. The identification of the characteristics of the clouds on the basis of amount of moisture it contains, capability to create 'thunderstorms' and understanding the 'white-wool like structure' requires abandonment of foolish consistencies. India judiciously applied the 'paradox of value' of Adam Smith in political terms by trading the opportunity of China's veto to Masood Azhar's banishment (being water in Smith's value paradox) with the border agreement with China (being diamond in Smith's value paradox). But how? India cunningly created panic among the Chinese policy makers by signalling a policy shift to accommodate pro-democracy and Uyghur activists from the volatile Xinjiang province under its umbrella. But the sweetness of the deal lies in the fact that they were not allowed to touch the soil, thereby keeping the Chinese to anticipate the possible ramifications of India's future contingency plans like this. Like virginity, a card once played loses its value. Hence, the subtlety dictates keeping the cards closed and keep the foe guessing.
As ends justify the means, the result of such diplomatic overtures can be judged victorious if we happen to secure some legitimate long-term interests vis-à-vis China. A long pending approval to negotiate border agreement, trade disputes and strategic interests should have been secured on the basis of reciprocity of such a generous gesture from our side. The controversy came amidst the visit of our National Security Advisor 'KC Ajit Doval', who is also the plenipotentiary of the Prime Minister on the bilateral negotiations on the border agreement. It is not hard to understand who, how and why dictated such an act of a 'planned embarrassment' and pushed the Ministry of External Affairs in fire-fighting, probably after securing overdue long term interests. A short-term 'perceived embarrassment' may sometimes become inevitable to secure long-term gains. But a cautious approach advises India to keep the Chinese dissidents in close confidence and exploit the opportunities available through them optimistically.Dynamics of diplomacy are surely hard to understand and the usual writings on the wall may not secure legitimate interests due to the ever-changing potentialities of the adversaries and the allies alike. Albert Einstein says 'insanity' is doing one thing again and again and expecting different results every time. Therefore, to quote Mr Doval, “India has a mentality to punch below its weight. We should not punch below our weight or above our weight, but improve our weight and punch proportionately.”

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Focus on Iran-Israel relations for a stable West Asia

From the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 until the Iranian Revolution and the fall of the Pahlavi dynasty in 1979, Israel and Iran maintained close ties. Actually Iran was the second Muslim-majority country to recognize Israel, as a sovereign state after Turkey. Israel too viewed Iran as a natural ally and a non-Arab power on the edge of the Arab world, in accordance with David Ben Gurion’s concept of an alliance of the periphery. After the ‘Six-Day’ war of 1967, Iran supplied Israel with a significant portion of its oil needs and Iranian oil was shipped to European markets via the Israeli-Iranian pipeline.

The Iranian revolution of 1979 to overthrow the regime of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi became the point of conflict where Iranian revolutionists took a hard stance of anti-Zionism. Even post Iranian revolution, Israel helped Iran with logistical and military support during the Iran-Iraq war of 1980, despite Ayatollah Khomeini’s declaration of Israel as the ‘enemy of Islam’ and the ‘Little Satan’ (US being the ‘Great Satan’). Israel even convinced the Ronald Reagan administration to allow Israel to channel arms of US origin with it to support Iran against the barbaric attacks of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Israel also destroyed the Osirak nuclear reactor near Baghdad, giving a strategic advantage to Iran over Iraq.

The relations started to turn sour with the statements by the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini and his decisive anti-Zionist stance and by his successor Khamenei to consolidate domestic support which is otherwise on wane. The same goes for the other democratically elected authorities in Iran like the President, especially during the President Mahmud Ahmedinijiad’s term. He discontinued the velvet glove policy of former President Mohammad Khatami and instead adopted an offensive stance against Israel with openly nurturing Shia-Islamist group and political party in Lebanon, HEZBOLLAH. This infuriated Israel and the previously warm relations turned hostile with both sides attacking each other since then (Beunos Aires blasts on Israeli Embassy in 1992, 2006 Lebanese war, successive Gaza wars, 2010 assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists, 2010 Stuxnet worming in Iran’s Natanz enrichment plant, 2012 Bulgarian bombings by Hezbollah militants to the latest 2015 explosions in Jarmana, near Damascus). Since decades, Israel has been accusing Iran for supporting Hezbollah and Syrian Government to perpetuate anti-Zionist propaganda and war to threaten the peaceful existence of Israel, whereas Khamenei has accused Israel of supporting JUNDALLAH in Balochistan (West Pakistan), a Sunni militant group targeting Iran.

The bonhomie relationship which turned to a ‘fire and sword’ hostility for each other needs to cool down for a peaceful West Asian future. The responsibility of the same lies with the immediate governments, to blend the public mood and extinguish the fire of suspicion to bloom the flower of peace between the two old friends. The world must realize that the deep mistrust between these two rivals is fueling the fire in the West Asian region and allowing the other non-stakeholders to take disproportionate advantage of the conflict to strengthen their illegitimate power structure. Wahhabism emanating from West Asia is a major global threat which is riding on the wave of conflict between Iran-Israel. US President Barack Obama made a good start with Iran through the nuclear deal, which was opposed by Israel and Saudi Arabia alike. But to my Israeli friends, I must suggest that they should exploit the opportunity of improving the relations with Iran during the term of moderate Government of President Hassan Rouhani in Iran. They should understand that Ariel Sharon believed it was important to "leave a small window open" to the possibility of good relations with Iran in the future. Simultaneously, it is the duty of the Rouhani Government to ensure peace with Israel by exploiting the huge public mandate acquired by his political party in the recent general election in Iran, by keeping the radical forces at bay.

Stemming of confrontation and unilateralism to accommodate compromise, negotiation and collaboration (especially between Iran and Israel) is the need of the hour for the West Asian political conflicts. Suspicion and deep hostilities amongst the rivals have already burnt the entire West Asian subcontinent from the last few decades. This opportunity to accommodate conflicting views and dispatching of medieval confrontations might lead to a peaceful coexistence of people in the West Asia. Shall India be the plank to bridge the gap between the two rivals? If yes, then how?