Iran-Israel – What Just Happened

Iran-Israel – What Just Happened

Iran’s drone and missile retaliation for Israel bombing its Embassy in Lebanon has pushed Israel into a political maze with no clear exit in sight. That is the ingenious strategy of the Iranian Mullahs if they can pull it off. Israel’s position appears to be weakened. If it retaliates, many of its ‘friends’ or partners in the international community will be extremely unhappy; some will turn against it. Moreover, Iran will probably escalate it to a full war, which the world wants to avoid. If it does not retaliate, Israel will look weak and the regional challengers to it will become more confident.

Militarily, Israel is the superior of the two countries. Its arms technology is highly advanced and its famous Iron Dome defence systems have won the admiration of the most advanced military powers. It also has the added advantage of having a nuclear capability that may have been a powerful deterrence to any ambitious powers in the neighbourhood. It prides in a highly efficient army. Most importantly its second deterrence has been its willingness to strike back harder and mercilessly.

Israel has laid waste to Gaza and killed over 33,000 Palestinians in response to the October 7 attacks by Hamas. The ferocity has shocked not only the Palestinians but rest of the world too. Israel has a history of ‘taking out’ military commanders and scientists of its adversaries, particularly Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas. Under its current foreign policy and defence policies, it cannot simply sit back and let the Iranian attack unanswered. Its prestige, its deterrence factor and its own concept of security are at stake. It is caught between a reckless reaction or limited reaction to appease its own population.

How did it come to this? The Iranian leadership, it has to be said, is capable of extraordinary intrigue and strategy. In the second Iraq war, Iran was a major instigator behind the scenes to push the United States to attack Iraq and hence rid Iran of its arch enemy, the Saddam regime. Iran did not achieve that by any direct or indirect diplomacy with US.

Iran had nurtured four secret agents and put them close to the Saddam regime. These people probably didn’t know each other. Each of them then defected to different agencies of the USA. Each of them had a similar base story but a different ending. They told the FBI, CIA, and State Department that Saddam was indeed developing nuclear and chemical weapons. They even identified underground locations where this was allegedly happening. Each of them had a different ‘intelligence’ to give on the stage of the development of the weapons of mass destruction.

United States agencies were very competitive at that time and didn’t like to disclose their ‘source’ to the other agency. So each agency was pushing the narrative that they had absolute confirmation that Saddam was developing nuclear weapons but neither would disclose their ‘source’. The narrative appeared convincing as each defector gave incremental time span for final development of the nuclear bomb.

The US under Bush was looking for any excuse to attack Iraq after 9/11. Justifying it by the WMD story, it attacked Iraq and got rid of Saddam for Iran without realising what it was doing, until quite late when it tried to instal Chalabi as Vice President and discovered that he was in fact a suspected Iranian agent!

Now too, Iran has woven a spider’s web and choreographed the event and responses. It engaged in loudspeaker strategy of its intentions. It alerted Israel and all its partners about what it was about to do and what weapons it will use.

The first principle of any attack is meant to be the ‘surprise’ to catch the enemy asleep. Here Iran was declaring everything so that the ‘enemy’ and its partners had enough time to put up appropriate defence. And so they did. According to Israel, UK and USA, 99% of the drones and missiles were brought down before they reached their target. The coalition declared that Iran’s 301 drones and missiles had failed!

However, some missiles did reach targets despite the Iron Dome, advanced American and British counter drone-missile technology and an almost week’s warning to prepare.

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Iran, it seemed, was reckoning on all its drones and missiles being neutralised. It did not want any civilian casualties. And it was not really declaring war. It was a much announced megaphone warning to Israel and its partners that it will retaliate and that it has more advanced technology in wait if it comes to war.

That a few of the missiles hit targets has shown that if Iran were to mount 500 or more drones and missiles of the same calibre, it could hit a few targets with devastating damage. Secondly, it has also indicated that it has even more advanced technology to overcome the defensive systems of its ‘enemies’.

The most important outcome of the Iranian action is that it has politically incapacitated Israel and punctured its ‘invincibility’ factor in the Middle East. Again it has used its ‘enemy’ to supress its other ‘enemy’, Israel.

Iran has told USA that it will attack American targets if USA gets involved further. Its proxy, the Houthis, have already cornered British capabilities. The Americans know that Iran could damage many of its oil interests in the Middle East, which will send oil prices rocketing and the economy downhill.

Both USA and UK have leant on Israel to back off from further action. Israel is also fearful that it may not be able to rely on American and European support. It cannot be sure whether it can damage Iran without causing considerable damage to itself in destruction and human life. Israelis won’t forgive their government for this. Israel may triumph in the beginning, but in the long term it will be a shell of its current self.

The invincibility factor is disappearing. All that is left is a regime high on inflamed octane wanting to reassert its fierce factor in the region without knowing what to do. If Israel does something, it will backfire. If it doesn’t do anything, the Netanyahu regime’s bubble will be burst. The Nuclear deterrent won’t work for the simple reason that the whole world will turn against it. Iran may even pull in Russian or North Koreans nuclear arsenal in the conflict. A nuclear strike on Israel will decimate it considerably. America didn’t use a single nuclear weapon in any of the wars it was losing since Second World War.

Biden did try to explain to Netanyahu to learn from the American experience in Iraq and Afghanistan which significantly deflated American power and allowed its competitors to rise in the world of power. Netanyahu didn’t listen, but chose to bombard Gaza relentlessly.

Iran, it needs to be understood, is an ancient power with long history of strategic abilities. Just because regimes change, doesn’t mean wisdoms and experience are lost. The training of an Iranian Mullah is not just the Quran. They spend three years in the study of the Quran, a year in western philosophy, a year in other philosophies such as Hinduism, Confucian etc. A year studying basic science and international relations and a year in critical thinking. It’s a seven-year course to match any PhD in the world. They are not simple priests that one encounters in many developing world.

The future for the current Israel regime is uncertain. Perhaps the best way forward is for Israel to come to terms with its limitations, change its leadership and seek coexistence within Middle East rather than surviving on the‘fearful factor’. Through this very difficult crisis, it needs a change of direction, just as the USA did after humiliations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ironically, Iran can be a key to its conflict with Hamas and the door to a peaceful future. Israel needs a leadership that can engage through diplomacy and chart a different future for it.

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Understanding the MSP Issue, India and WTO

One of the farmer leaders called for India to exit the World Trade Organisation. India is engaged in tactical bargaining at WTO to retain minimum support price (MSP). The WTO is desperate to reach outstanding issues of the current Agreement on Agriculture while many ordinary supporters of farmers are accusing the Indian Government of siding with corporates. In this article we explore the facts and how each is stuck in a complex muddy field from which there are few ways out.

Let us start with MSP, or Minimum Support Price. A simple fact of agriculture is that farming is no longer a subsistence occupation. Subsistence farming used natural fertilisers such as manure and farmers practised crop rotation, keeping the soil healthy. Farmers mostly produced for themselves and sold some in the market.

However, as population and life spans grew in India, traditional farming could not meet the growing demand. India had to go to international markets to buy staple foods such as grain and rice to feed its population. Often, India didn’t have enough money and borrowed it or went with a begging bowl for cheaper grain. It was ridiculed and was open to pressure by donor countries. An empty stomach is at the mercy of the provider.

The Green Revolution was a kick-start to move towards food security and self-sufficiency. The prerogative was to produce enough basic foods to feed all of India and keep enough in store for difficult times and even export. India was willing to subsidise this juggernaut of self-sufficiency drive. It changed small farmers to become small commercial farmers.

Farmers now use nitrogen-based fertilisers, all year supply of water with ever deeper mechanised wells (tube wells), and seasonal labour. Now they farm to sell rather than just feed the family. They have mostly abandoned rotation farming, growing 2-3 crops a year on the same plot of land, almost sucking life out of the land.

The inputs such as water, diesel, electricity, labourers, seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, hiring tractors or owning one on hire purchase etc all amount to considerable expense. India’s farms are small, with about 86% of farms ranging from 1-3 acres. They are family owned.

There are about 125 million farmers in India. About 58% of the Indian population depends directly or indirectly on farming sector with jobs ranging from farmer, farm labourers, traders, labour for traders, truck drivers, assistants and so on.

The Government provides many support structures and incentives, such as a well-developed procurement system called the mandi system. The Government buys the grain from farmers and ensure a minimum price so farmers can make profit. This is called Minimum Support Price or MSP. Usually it is direct input costs, called A2 and others such as unpaid family time, labelled as F1 plus 50% to 85% top up, depending on the crop, to make farming viable for the family. There was meant to be another factor called C2 which is unpaid rental and interest on fixed capital of the land. This has not been instituted. Farmers still find it difficult to make a reasonable living.

ALSO READ: Understanding the Mandi System in India

In theory, MSP is given to 22 crops products listed as essential commodities. But in reality only a few products get it and not all states provide it. It is mainly Punjab, Haryana and some parts of Himachal Pradesh. Rice and wheat are among leading crops that the Government pays for.

The road to food security is expensive but the country has become self-sufficient. It no longer goes with the begging bowl for basic foods such as rice and grain. In fact it has the capacity to export them.

The alternative is to buy basic foods in the international market from countries like Canada, Australia, United States and some other countries. Farms in these countries are an average 400 acres and in Australia can be as large as 25,000 acres. By economies of scale, these farms can buy fertilisers cheaper, have few labourers per acre of land and much fewer machinery per acre. Only a few tractors are needed for a 400 acre farm, whereas in India every 3 acre farm has to hire a tractor, wait their turn to hire or buy a tractor for their small farm.

It is not difficult to understand why cash crops can be produced cheaper by these countries with larger farms. The farms are bigger partly because these are the new worlds where land was plenty. In India and Africa, farming has been in families for centuries if not thousands of years.

If India buys on the open market and stops subsidising its farming, it will be open to the uncertainties of international politics. Other countries could demand more than money in return for selling cheaper wheat. The recent Ukraine conflict has shown how African countries dependent on Ukrainian wheat nearly faced starvation until Russia stepped in.

The other alternative is for India to go the way of some western countries and drive small farmers out in favour of large corporate Agri Business as USA did. Subsidies can be smaller and production can be cheaper with overheads spread over large area. However, that also means over a 100 million of not more farmers thrown into the job market without any jobs available. And another 300 to 600 million people dependent on the farm sector being made jobless. Politically, it will be suicide for any party to go down this route and nationally there could be unrest with nearly 50% of the population unemployed. MSP supported farming can be considered to be a form of indirect social security for farmers in return for ensuring food sovereignty.


However, India faces another pressure, the World Trade Organisation or WTO. It took over from GATT, the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs, in January 1995. WTO is market orientated and concerned about ensuring international trade being conducted fairly and competitively. It does not like subsidies which it calls market distortion. And it also negotiates and sets limits on tariffs which are taxes on imports.

Distortions occur if two countries, A and B manufacture the same product, for instance a ceramic plate. If production costs in country A is ₹10 a plate and in country B it is ₹8 a plate, then country B is likely to be able to sell more of it. However, country A may decide to subsidise every plate by ₹5 and thus enable the manufacturer to sell for ₹5 on the international market, undermining country B. This is distorting the market with a subsidy.

On the other hand, country A may decide that any plates imported from country B will be taxed ₹5. This pushes the price of country B plate ₹to 13. This will ensure that people in country A will buy the plates made by their own country at ₹10 rather than ₹13 a plate from country B. This is called protective measures and also distorting the market.

The Agreement on Agriculture (AOA) first came into force on 1st January 1995. It sought to put limits on subsidies. The AOA has three categories of subsidies. Green subsidies are permitted in fields such as training for farmers, which does not distort the market. Amber Box subsidies are market distorting subsidies. It was agreed that developed countries such as Canada, USA etc can give up to 5% subsidy. Developing countries such as India, China and most of the South can give up to 10% subsidy. The Blue box subsidy is where State subsidises to prevent over production and thus stop market distortion. This could be putting limits on production or giving money for uncultivated land set aside for environmental purposes.

The 5% subsidy for developed countries is a lot of money for a farmer with 400 acres. However 10% subsidy for a farmer with 3 acres of land does not make farming viable. India has been defying this by giving 50% to 85% subsidies. Clearly, WTO is not happy. Or rather some countries in WTO are not happy.

A group of 17 countries, known as the CAIRNS group, want WTO to impose these subsidy limits on countries like India. Leading them are Canada, Australia and USA. Australia brought a case against India on its 85% sugarcane subsidy. India lost that.

USA, Canada and Australia particularly want to bring a case on wheat subsidy in India. These countries know that the agriculture sector could collapse in India and India may be forced to buy wheat from them. They want to penetrate the big Indian market.


Under Dr Manmohan Singh and now Narendra Modi, India has resisted this pressure. India wants WTO to allow it to continue with high subsidies. Its food sovereignty depends on that. The Modi government has been withholding consent on some other agreements until these concessions are agreed, particularly on tariffs for e-commerce. In the current 2024 round at Abu Dhabi, Piyush Goyal, the Industry and Commerce minister, scuppered any agreement on fishing stocks as India cannot afford not to give subsidies to fishermen and farmers.


There has to be 100% consent for a WTO agreement to become binding. India will no doubt continue to resist any pressure to reduce subsidies. One way forward is for the Agreement on Agriculture to come out of WTO and be handed to UNCTAD, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. WTO is not obliged to be cognisant of human rights, sustainable development goals, right to family life, right to education etc as it is not a UN body. But UNCTAD is a UN body and its policies and agreements have to align with those conventions.


Some farmers are arguing that there should be MSP for all crops. This is not feasible and is not really part of a food sovereignty approach. The Government is mindful of the impact on environment and water. Farmers and Indian government need to work together internally to achieve sensible policies and internationally to force changes at WTO or take Agreement on Agriculture out of WTO.

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Could Hamas-Israel War Implode After 12th?

The Israel-Hamas conflict could take on an unexpected turn after the 13th of December when COP 28 finally ends. This may have been the silent influencer in the Israel -Hamas war that few have paid attention to. Once the UAE is free from COP, and any possibility of disrupting its great moment passes, it is likely that attention will swiftly transfer to Israel -Hamas was and positions will begin to harden.

COP 28 is a very important event for UAE. With 80000 people attending, major decisions being made, all the world’s States represented and World Leaders dropping in, UAE could not afford to risk the Palestinian conflict spreading out and threaten the event.

Most of the Middle East countries cooperated in this situation. UAE didn’t want a security threat stopping the COP. Hence Arab States and Iran have been a bit restrained. 

However COP ends, the mood may change. Iran may feel it is no longer obliged to hold back. Some of the other Middle Eastern countries have also been under immense pressure from their populations to assist the Palestinians.

Israel must be fully aware of this. It is no coincidence that Netanyahu has tried to take advantage of this gap and pounded Palestine remorselessly. Israel’s ferocious attacks appear to be a desperation trying to meet deadlines. Netanyahu gives the impression of a man in a hurry.

The public narrative is that Netanyahu is trying to achieve as much as possible before public opinion within Israel and international opinion generally forces Israel to a ceasefire. However the reality may be that Israel may be aware that the atmosphere of refrain by Muslims countries is likely to change after 12th December, the final day of COP.

The current Israel strategy has done it a great deal of damage. Israel and the Jews in general have benefitted from the sympathy poured by the world after the Holocaust. The Holocaust stands out as an unimaginable crime in world history and the world in general feels a sense of guilt,  understanding and kindness for Jews. Despite antisemitic stories, many countries have enacted antisemitic laws and pursued policies against antisemitism.

However the fury of the Israel State has shocked the world. The October 7 attacks are not endorsed by anyone and rightly condemned almost universally. However the way Israel has responded by killing nearly 20000 Palestine civilians, destroying the Palestine infrastructure, houses and hospitals has numbed this sympathy in many places. Whatever Israel says in its defence, the public narrative hasn’t helped it. Some of the responses by its spokespersons have been arrogant and lacking empathy for the civilian victims of the onslaught.

ALSO READ: Israel-Palestine Conflict – The Never Ending War

The world had expected Israel to show the ‘wisdom’ of the victim, the scars and emotional trauma of the holocaust. The world expects Israel to be kind and benevolent. The images that have gone around the world, show another side.

Of course Israel has the right to defend itself. Israel’s history has been traumatic for thousands of years. It remains insecure with surrounding countries once attempting to remove it out of existence. This fear has hardened Israel’s resolve to survive at any cost and crush external enemies hard. However, what may be militarily right is not always strategically right in the long run.

The October 7 attacks not only shocked and alarmed the Israel public but offended people around the world. Nevertheless, the response has now turned world opinion the other way. The unsuccessful UN Security Council resolution calling for ceasefire is an example. All members except USA were for it. It is likely that in the General Assembly, Israel will have very few friends, if any.

Strategically this may not bode well for Israel. It will isolate the country for a long time. More importantly, antisemitism has now arisen exponentially despite the laws and media gags. This is not a state that Jews generally wish to see. A people scarred by the events of second world war, may find  the rising antagonism very difficult to bear.

Israel needs to act quickly. It needs to accept a ceasefire and appeal to Arab countries to isolate Hamas. It needs to seek a solution and a guarantee for its survival by asking its neighbours for understanding and intervention.

Israel now has only a few days before the Muslim anger against it comes out in the open, becomes entrenched and unshakeable. President Putin has visited UAE. It was surely not a ‘friendly’ visit nor because he had nowhere else to go. He must have offered support for any Arab response to Israel. A general war in Middle East will drag the United States and put it squarely on the other side. US will be forced to ditch Ukraine and lose once staunch allies in the Middle East.

If the revenge offensive against Israel starts, there will also be little sympathy for it around the world, given the imagery that has challenged people’s sentiments. It may be a mistake to think that Arab countries are restrained out of fear around taking on Israel. It may just be that they are letting UAE enjoy its hour of glory around COP 28 and then let rip. Putin’s visit is ominous.

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The Never Ending War

The Never Ending War

It will be misguided to think that the current bloody war in Middle East started on 7th October. It also didn’t start in 1948 when the modern State of Israel was set up. These are just battles in a long war, perhaps the longest war in history of the world.

The Jews have had a very complex history since the first lot of exiled Jews in some 770 BC from the Kingdom of Israel and later Kingdom of Judea. Most of Jewish history and narratives have been of exile, persecutions and yearning for a return to a peaceful land of Israel. Israel is the land promised to Abraham by God.

Palestinians are also descendants of people who lived in these lands. Over the centuries there have been migrations into and out of the land. Palestinians became Muslims under Islamic rule but were of Christian, Jewish and other indigenous faiths before then. There are still a lot of Christian Palestinians.

Christians also believe in the idea of the Promised Land and Paul is considered to have said that the Land was promised to Abraham for the seed of God, meaning followers of Christ.

And then there is Jerusalem, a small piece of earth holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims. The holiest of land in there is only about 3000 feet (900 m) quadrangle in each direction. In there is the Western Wailing Wall, the Al Aqsa Mosque, the Dome of The mount, the Temple Mount and the Church of Holy Sepulchre. There is also the oldest Armenian settlement with parts of this small real estate divided into Jewish Quarter, Christian Quarter and Armenian Quarter as well as of course the Muslim part.

Without going into the history of bloody conflicts between the three religions for control of this small piece of earth and why it is important to each of them and the reasons for the wars over the larger Promised land, it is not difficult to see why the war has been going on for well over two and a half thousand years.

Since the exiles, of which there have been a few, the Jews have also maintained their cohesion through a vision of taking back the Promised Land. Sometimes they went back, only to be pushed out again.

ALSO READ: Israel-Hamas Conflict And How India Is Impacted

Christians have waged crusades to take back the land where Jesus grew up and Muslims have defeated the Crusaders to regain control over the area where Prophet Mohammed rose to heaven.

When Israel was formed in 1948, it was land of hope and peace for Jews who had just suffered the worst form of European antisemitism at the hands of Germans, the holocaust. Israel was carved out of land where Palestinians lived. The Botching British as usual were behind this and just as everywhere else the British have carved States without regard to regional communities, they didn’t consult Palestinians, but left a legacy of bitterness and conflict. India and Pakistan are still not reconciled to their borders and neither are many tribes in ex colonial States in Africa to their countries. Not surprising, Israel and Palestinians are not the best of neighbours either.

The rhetoric on both sides is unrealistic when transposed on the longest tapestry of history. Jerusalem is more than 5,000 years old! The Promised Land is also one of the oldest narrative over which conflicts and more conflicts have influenced people.

Efforts to eliminate one or other, of depriving one or other of access to this land and of destroying ‘forever’ one movement or other have just been pendulating from one side to the other. Even today, Christian Evangelists in USA dream of retaking the land, but first letting Jews take it all and then either to make a pact with them or some think, drive them out.

When Netanyahu and members of his Government and some western countries say that Hamas must be destroyed and eliminated, neither history nor reality is on their side. Hamas is an idea of resistance against what it perceives as Israel oppression and deprivation of its land. It can be called terrorist etc, but the idea will carry on.

When Hamas and its backers say that Israel must be wiped from the land, they too are talking nonsense. A yearning, a hope and a vision  that has been deeply embedded in the religious, cultural and national narrative of Jews for thousands of years, isn’t going to rest or be ‘wiped out’ if it hasn’t so far.

Currently both are pawns in power games of others. The United States is desperate to show a win after disastrous ventures in Iraq, Afghanistan and Ukraine. A win in Israel-Hamas conflict, even if diplomatic, will be seen by it as a road to regaining its posture in the world. Obviously America does not want to expend much resources, as it considers a looming conflict with China could be very draining. Moreover it is already stretched in Ukraine and seeking an end to that conflict.

On the other side is Iran which is seeking dominance in the Muslim world. It is often shunned by many Sunni Arab countries both for being non Arab and being Shia. Iran sees Israel a major obstacle and exploits Israel’s unpopularity among Muslims as a leverage to dominate the Israel-Arab relations.

Almost all Arab States are dictators or Monarchies. They don’t have any appetite for wars as long as they are comfortable in their Kingdoms and not under threat from Israel. But their populations are unhappy with Israel, so they have to show anger and support for Palestinians.

Ultimately, just as it is up to Indians and Pakistanis to find peace with each other to escape enslavement to the narrative left for them by the British, it is for wiser Israeli Jews and Palestinians to sit and find areas of compromise and settlement.

Otherwise this is an ever ending war. In the short run, Israel can indeed push all Palestinians out, given its colossal firepower. However Hamas has learnt a lot from previous conflicts and is trained by Iran. It will weaken Israel if not resist it altogether. So far Iran has been deft at winning conflicts through very clever manoeuvrings and tactics.

A weakened Israel can face great danger. Judaism is not a proselytising religion as Christianity or Islam is. The Jews are surrounded by millions and millions of Muslims with huge resources. If Muslims rise en masse, the history of exile and conflicts will return. Let not history repeat itself. This is an opportunity to find long lasting peace. That is the only desirable final solution. There are no other final solutions that have worked in history.

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Bharat, India or Hindustan?

PM Modi wants to use the word Bharat for India. It is a progressive step. But will India become Bharat? When the British left India in 1947, they called it ‘Transfer of Power’. Nehru called it Independence. But virtually nothing changed on that day except the white man left and the brown man took office. All else, the Constitution’s framework, the police force, the ethos of the Army and its institution, the Justice system and most importantly the Indian Civil Service was intact, not only for a short period, but 75 years later, it is still intact as if in a time warp. The Indian intellect didn’t change.  Even the name India remains. Top white officials in the services were phased out and Indians taught by them were phased in.

This is what happens in the USA. When one administration or President loses, the winner doesn’t just walk into the White House but replaces the top brass in many departments. The new President appoints new heads of civil service etc.

Prime Ministers came and Prime Ministers went but the system is essentially British India without the white British. India has effectively been promoting western civilisation in one way or other, adopting its ethics, human rights, democratic system, judicial system curried with a bit of Indian mentality of Indian ethics, cronyism and corruption where it can work, etc etc. This was Lord McCauley’s intention. He dismissed indigenous knowledge, literature and philosophies as worthless, ‘not worth a shelf of European Books’ and set about setting up an education system to train the Indian to be English in temperament and Indian in colour, forever to serve ‘us’.

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Under Modi, there is growing awareness of this dilemma. ‘Whence independence’? When did India, if ever it did, become independent. Gandhi’s rhetoric was, ‘we need to get rid of this ‘foreign culture’ and recover our wisdoms. 75 years later, there is no evidence of it.

India was a British creation and Nehru’s inheritance from them. In his autobiography, he says, ‘what they can do, we can do better, why do they think we are uncivilised!’ His and the Congress party started post 1947 with a great sense of inferiority complex and worshipping the superiority of western civilisation. India was to remain India in the image of the British of 1947 and proceed in Nehru’s world to show the west, Indians can reach the levels of ‘civilisation’ that the west had.

I have written before asking why ‘India’. Its genesis is European. It was finally stamped on the region by the British. The word has all the baggage of colonialism. Why not free the chains and first call yourself with the name that you have always been known indigenously to get on the road to true freedom from colonialism.

The choice of course is between Hindustan and Bharat. Hindustan is a name that is packaged with the history of Mughal rule. It is they who coined the word. The word Hindu, despite many ‘Hindus’ stretching etymology with convoluted explanations about evolution from Sindhu etc, is essentially gifted by Arabs and then the Afghani and Persian rulers. It became a ‘stan’ of Hindus and thus Hindustan. Hardly a statement of self discovery.

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So at last, the BJP is moving towards recovery of self-confidence, self-respect and dignity by officially adopting the name Bharat. Bharat is as indigenous as it will get.

Bharat is not perfect but it is a better statement of self identity than Hindustan (Mughal) or India (British). Bharat was a middle sized Kingdom in the past, but it is a name that has long pedigree, emotional sentiment and intricately weaved into the region’s literature, political history and indigenous languages.

Prime Minister Modi’s official renaming of India as Bharat on the world stage will be one of the far reaching statement of post-colonial self-assertion. But a name isn’t enough if the content or character doesn’t also change.

If Nehru embarked on one of the biggest social engineering projects in history by trying to change 5,000 years of civilisation into a European secular imitation and failed, the BJP is no less a villain. It reworked the 1920s European nationalism projects mimicking France, Germany and other nationalisms to create a land of Hindus and Hindutva, one nation idea. That too is failing.

France has an interesting idea of civilisation. It is secularism, French and One France. It went about marginalising all religions, decimating all regional languages and then crushing all indigenous ethnic nationalities under the banner of ‘one nation, one identity’ It maintains this with perpetual blood-letting every two to five years with riots.

The nation is not an idea from the old wisdoms of South Asia. It is a European idea borne after the Westphalian Treaty of 1648. After many bloody wars over ethnic dominances, Europe has finally started to become pluralist like ancient South Asia. The BJP ironically has taken the regressive route, taking the country towards an ideology that was developed and now discarded by Europe. Where is the originality in that, one asks BJP. Where is Bharat in that?

ALSO READ: India’s Fissiparous Politics In Today’s Worldview

The BJP is destroying the most valuable asset and contribution of South Asian civilisation, that of plurality and coexistence. It is also in fact choking the essence of Bharat and taking out the uniqueness of ancient Bharat which followed the Vedas, ekaṁ sad viprā bahudhā vadanti ‘ (Truth is one but the learned know it by many ways or names) . This doesn’t just mean diversity in traditional belief systems but also coexistence with Muslims, Christians, Sikhs etc.

Most people in the country wont mind being called Bharatiya Shivaite, Bharatiya Vishnuite, Bharatiya Bengali, Bharatiya Muslim, Bharatiya Christian etc and be able to maintain their cultural, civilisational and regionally evolved identities.

PM Modi needs to be applauded for taking the initiative to rename India as Bharat, but he needs to go further and convince his party that it needs to return to the long held indigenous concepts of coexistence, pluralism, multinational and multi-cultural rule that was Bharat. Only then the name Bharat will truly resonate with its contextual meaning.

The BJP has already distorted the meaning of the word Rashtra to mean nation in a European context instead of country or State. It should not completely fulfill McCauley’s dream by changing the context of Bharat to mean one nation one people.

The question to BJP is, ‘Name Bharat is fine but whence Bharat?’

Ukraine – A Dangerous Military Rehearsal

History has shown that liberal democracies tend to be the most dangerous in wars, using weapons that others hesitate from deploying. It was the United States that first used nuclear weapons in the Second World War in Hiroshima and, egged on by the British, a second one was lobbed at Nagasaki. There was no call for a second atrocity of that level.

The United States used napalm, Agent Orange, phosphorous and similar agents in Vietnam. It also used cluster bombs in Laos and some other countries. These are still being cleared. However, both Russia and Ukraine have used them. Cluster bombs are considered to kill more civilians than enemy soldiers.

That the USA is now sending these bombs to Ukraine may be a sign of the fatigue setting in United States or a realisation that Russia won’t be defeated. This war has essentially been a war for defending American global hegemony and, on the part of Russia-China, to push it back now and move on to a new world order.

That it is ultimately about the new world order rather than Ukraine, is evident from the constant usage of the words ‘challenge to world order’ or international rule based order. No one seems to be defining what this international rule based order is or what world order is being challenged. Words are used carefully to leave impressions without exposing what they are really meant to be.

The current world order is Pax Americana which seems to be weakening at the moment. Pax means peace. It is peace on America’s terms. The rule based order simply means that the rules of international relations, nation states etc are made by USA, UK and to some extent EU. They decide whose borders can change when and who can get independence etc.

There are other undercurrents that are at play in Ukraine. Eastern Europe and Russia were not involved in colonialism of the type the occidental world engaged in. These countries are less inclined to be evangelist about ideology.

EU and NATO on the other hand still have colonial mentality and seek to change the world into democracies of the kind they prefer. NATO has managed to recruit some of the Eastern European countries to this but is now pushing Ukraine to bring down Russia a peg or two to maintain belief in liberal democracy as a better system.

The difference between the Occident and Russia is that the Occident gains territory by converting rather than annexing it. It annexes it ideologically and makes it its foot soldier as it has done with Poland and much of Eastern Europe and now seeking to do with Ukraine. Russia and China gain territory by occupying and installing governments controlled by it. Ukraine thus is simply a pawn in this game. The average Ukrainian is a helpless victim in a global game of hegemony and being pushed by its own Ukrainian leaders to risk their lives in this. A lot of Ukrainian hierarchy have benefitted financially from this. The United States itself has admitted that corruption is widespread in Ukraine. The US can throw a lot of money at the opportunists in Ukraine who force their countrymen to join the war.

ALSO READ: Theatre of War Horrors in Ukraine

However, the USA seems to be getting a bit stretched by the resources on another yet wasteful war. It lost enough in Afghanistan and now is seeing Ukraine falling apart. In desperation, it is willing to use hideous weapons.

Moreover, there are a number of US and British personnel now stationed in command centres in Ukraine training and directing the war. They probably run into thousands; Russia has hinted to USA that it will attack the command centres in a clear message that it will kill American and British officers if F-16 aircraft are handed to Ukraine.

The war therefore is being run by USA with NATO, but with Ukrainians as the soldiers. It is not surprising then that Zelensky gets frustrated quite often. He is quite aware that he is but a pawn. He angrily asks for more weapons so that he can ‘finish’ the job for USA. Ukrainian politicians are habitually saying that they are fighting for the survival of the West. They don’t say survival of Ukraine.

Ukraine was never under threat. All it had to do was accept autonomy for the Donbass as UK has done for Scotland and Northern Ireland. It could have retained its territorial integrity. However, as a few American politicians and Generals have said, Ukraine cannot decide without the USA agreeing to it. In effect Ukraine has become a vassal State for NATO under USA, and Russia is now seeking to break it to control parts of it.

Russia too has been quite brutal in this war. It is considered to have blown the Nova Kakhovka dam to sabotage the Ukraine counteroffensive. However, Russia has also been a bit naïve in some ways. It could have gone in all guns blazing at the start and taken over Kiev. It chose to send in forces to scare Ukraine and gain its agreement to its terms.

An agreement was reached with Ukraine to talk about mutually acceptable terms and Russia withdrew. But Ukraine under instructions from USA, then reneged on this. Russia has still been reluctant to use some of its most dangerous weapons. It is fighting an old-style territorial war with Ukraine. There may be many reasons for this.

As a senior NATO officer has said, Ukraine is also an experimental ground for both sides on how wars will be fought in future as well as real testing ground for some of the weapons. The USA has been handing out some experimental weapons and testing them in Ukraine. NATO and Israel have also tested their missile defence equipment against some of the most advanced Russian aircraft. Where they have been shown to be defective, lessons have been learnt.

Russia too has been doing that. Both have also increased the sale of their weapons worldwide. It is one thing to see missiles and fighter jets in an Arms show, but quite another when they are tested against sophisticated defence equipment. Britain’s Himars and American Patriot defence systems have both been show-cased here. Russia claims to have learnt a lot about sabotaging them while NATO is learning what needs to be re-engineered.

It has been surprising why Russia did not resort to the form of warfare that United States deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan. In both, America went in with the hammer, conquered everything and destroyed the defences. Russia could have destroyed all Ukrainian infrastructure such as railway lines, roads, airports etc. This could have made it difficult for any equipment to come into Ukraine. Russia however chose to destroy a few as warning and permitted an endless supply of weapons to Ukraine. The possible reason must be that both Russia and USA now see the war as a training ground for a future war.

There is another lesson that Russia may have learnt from American excursions in the last five decades. The USA goes in heavy but then gets stuck in a quicksand taking years to extricate itself from the trap. It eventually lost in Vietnam, in Iraq and in Afghanistan among other places. Russia has avoided that prospect and has perhaps been hoping for a shorter war lasting two to three years in which all will be decided.

The other dimension to this war may be the American establishment trying to take its revenge on Putin for having installed Trump in USA as President. It made the Pentagon and USA establishment a laughing stock. Putin was able to manipulate the American system and place a President at the highest office amenable to him. The American establishment want to send a clear message to Russia. Prigozhin revolt could have been an American stunt without the later knowing that he was a pawn. Putin has been more resilient.

The war will end sooner or later with Russia getting most of what it wants and rest of Ukraine becoming part of the ‘West’. There are however two other rogue elements. Poland is greedily eyeing parts of Ukraine and hopes the western part of Ukraine falls to it. So does Hungary which is looking at the Southwestern regions of Ukraine. Both countries are hoping that Ukraine will fall apart. Putin appears quite OK with this. In fact he hinted at this at the beginning of the attack on Ukraine.

One feels extremely sorry for Ukrainians. Ukraine has become the Afghanistan of the Balkan region. It is sought by great powers, not for resources but to entrench their own hegemony and power in the world. Afghanistan has been constantly on the menu of Pakistan and Iran who had hoped that it would disintegrate with each taking parts of it. Afghanistan has survived. Will Ukraine survive the great powers and their games and the opportunist designs of Uktraine’s neighbours?

The Political Alternative

The Political Alternative

With BJP’s almost invincible hold on the electorate and power in India, opposition politicians and political pundits are raking their minds on how to create an effective opposition in India’s democracy. Two alternatives have done the rounds. A revived Congress party or the Third Front. But neither appears to have life or sustainability. Perhaps it is time to look at a radical alternative.

The BJP’s appeal to the country is not its economic success or its welfare programmes lifting people out of poverty or its projected power in the world. Its main appeal is that it has given the common person in India an ‘identity’. It is not surprising that it continues to target Muslims, in order to consolidate Hindu identity, its main electoral base.

While economics, jobs and development are essential part of any delivery for electoral success, one of the vacuums at the heart of independent India since 1947 has been the question: What or who is an Indian? Is it an identity that has evolved over centuries or is it an identity created by the British on a map with half Punjabis, mostly Muslims, in Pakistan and half in India; Half Bengalis, mostly Muslims, in Bangladesh and half in India in Bengal. Most of Sindhis in Pakistan but some in India. And a significant number of Kashmiris in India and many in Pakistan. These geographic communities have been fragmented by an arbitrary line. Some became Indian and some Pakistanis.

What went to India was at least 25 or more ethnic dominant regions or Kingdoms that had a long history of their own, their language, their culture, their cuisine, their religious preference etc. Different regions had different favourite gods and belief systems that dominated their historical development. They had different folk heroes, folk dances and even customs.

There was no ‘natural’ India in 1947 except in the minds of the post-colonial elite. The first thing Nehru’s Congress did was to try and forge an identity to keep the ‘nation’ together. He tried the idea of European secularism and gave the Indian an identity of secular nationalism as opposed to the religious nationalism of Pakistan. Pakistan was built on the idea of a Muslim nation. India was to be on the idea of a country for all within its territory. There was some reconstruction of Indian history to justify ‘secularism’.

The experiment didn’t work. In 1984, in her desperation to win vote, Indira Gandhi targeted the Sikhs as the ‘other’ and went about on a killing spree, invoking latent Hinduism’s desire for identity and unity. It backfired on her and her party.

I said in a BBC interview in 1984, that metaphorically the State has taken on the Church and it is not so called Sikh fundamentalism that the Indian state has to worry but the next phase in this will be rise of Hindu fundamentalism. Hindu nationalism has tasted blood and was bound to grow bigger. The BJP was the natural inheritor that fed this appetite. It was clever enough not to target Sikhs but Muslims instead.

So there is the country, still desperately needing an identity, focusing on trying to find one, refusing to face a simple reality, that there is no natural Indian but an accident of post-colonial history. It is a passport identity. Most people in the State are still Gujaratis, Bengalis, Punjabis, Marathis, Tamils etc. They don’t identify first as Indian. The result is that a great deal of politics, rhetoric and energy goes to sustain the post-colonial identity, at the expense of much wanted attention to reduce poverty, create jobs and harmony among its people.

ALSO READ: India’s Fall From Democracy To Electoral Autocracy

Ironically, India has become like Pakistan, a country identified by a ‘religion’, rather than a secular entity. It appears that the founders of Pakistan were right in the idea of two nations.

Time is not going to go back. Congress’s ideology of the secular Indian is now a lost cause. Even its leader, Rahul Gandhi, is role playing as some sort of a Hindu Sadhu, knowing that the majority Indians want a ‘Hindu’ leader and not a secular leader. But politically the Congress has not come with an alternative version of a plural Hinduism. It is still tied to secularism. Moreover it is a family feudal outfit.

The other alternative, as anti-BJP coalition, is one that has no positive ideological message except anti-Modi or anti-Hindutva. That is not an ideology. It is negative politics.

The Third Front is what it is, a patched up coalition of wannabe leaders who cannot otherwise hope to become leaders of India. As coalitions without an ideological base, they will fall into internecine struggles as they did before.

The coalition does not offer Indians an identity since most of the partners run states along regional identities. The Bengali regional party of Mamata won the state on Bengali nationalism and not Indian national identity. The Punjab political parties win on Punjabi identity and not a pan Indian identity or even a secular agenda for the state. Hence the Nitish Kumar campaign to create a third front is a non-starter.

Even in development and economy, each of the regional parties champion their own state. What will be decided on the national level? Hence Modi with his large national party machine that offers a significant electorate a pan Indian identity of ‘Hindu Rashtra’ and a united structure, remains the uncontested leader standing.

There is another alternative. It is to face history, the nature of societies in the post-colonial State called India and then develop a pan Indian political movement based on that. There is a need for a new political alternative that builds on strong federalism, on strong regional identities and accept that the natural identity of most people in India is the region they belong to. They can be Indian as a collective identifier but still be Gujarati, or Bengali etc as a nationality.

The alternative needs to be coalition of regional parties that set its agenda to strongly federalise India, reduce the powers and remits of the Centre and give the regions back their national identities. Some of it happened with the Manmohan Singh reforms on liberalising economic development when he gave the regions much greater say and freedom to develop their own economies.

Now it needs a second step to give the regions freedom to strengthen their own cultural identities their own political systems and their own economic prerogatives.

This model has worked in Europe. Europe now works as a superstate but as a coalition of nations. Most European nations have their own political systems but they agreed on some common principles of human rights and ‘democracy’ that remain their glue. They have freedom of movement, of economic activity, foreign policy and defence.

Of course, India does not have to go all the way as Europe. After all European Union was formed from existing distinct countries coming together. India on the other hand is a State already inherited from a colonial era as a common administrative unit.

Such a coalition will strengthen India. It will encourage fierce inter-state competition for development. The regional states will want to ensure peace within their boundaries by adopting inclusivity instead of divisiveness. Gujaratis can remain Gujaratis as Hindu and Muslim Gujaratis, proud of their state while Bengalis can remain Bengalis as Hindu and Muslims and other denominational Bengalis. Neither will be prey to a national party trying to forge a ‘national identity’ bigger than them.

A party committed to something like this will have a structure of leadership instead of a patchwork sewn together when a wannabe leader does not get a place in a ministerial post in BJP. It will even be better if the party was to declare itself as a federal party that will not compete in the regions for regional power.

Currently, both the Congress and the BJP try to win in the states and then win the states on a national level. A party that restricts itself to fighting only on a national level will appeal to the regions more as they won’t see it as a threat to their own bases of power.

If such a party does emerge, it could unleash a tremendous amount of energy and developmental potential. It will be a model that many other post-colonial countries can adopt. Most problems in post-colonial countries are similar to the problems that India inherited. They have tribes and nations forced into a territory that is seeking an identity of its own, stamping on the long evolved identities and languages of the regions. It is a common issue across commonwealth and even French post-colonial countries.

One just has to look at the neighbour Pakistan. Despite ‘Islam’ being the national identity, regional identities continue to struggle, whether they be Sindh, Baloch, Pathan etc.

As for the fear of the Indian Babu that such an experiment will lead to fragmentation, there is no justification in it. It is a fear inherited from the British administrative system. It is a psychosis that the Indian Administrative Service, seems to have failed to challenge in their training manuals. There is a common interest in the states working together for common defence, economic policy, foreign policy and common interests. The days of small States has gone.

A real alternative to the two monoliths, BJP and the defunct Congress, is a new bold, radical and imaginative political party that builds on what worked for South Asia for thousands of years. A party and State of nations rather than a hybrid nation, still struggling to find an identity.

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Sunak Delhi's Akshardham Temple

Rishi Sunak – 100 Days And More

Powerful personalities have been washed away from the seat of political power in Britain by events, intrigues and opinion polls. Out of the chaos came Rishi Sunak to rise to the highest seat of power in United Kingdom, 10 Downing Street. It took most people by surprise. With an Indian background, it was an extraordinary ascent to power.

Sunak overcame many challenges and defied cynics. Many are predicting that he won’t be in Downing Street after next elections and some that he will fall before that. The big political beasts who were ousted are at his heels, trying for a comeback.

In the hundred days plus, Sunak has also surprised many with his skills. When he took office, the United Kingsom had become a laughing stock of the world. It appeared to be a country out of control with those at the helm staking its future on stormy waters and untested economic theories. The economy went on a downward slide. Interest rates were climbing up steeply. Prices were breaking records. The money markets were beginning to take their money elsewhere.

Within two weeks of his taking office, the financial markets calmed down. Inflation stabilised. Interest rates began to flatten off. The money markets started to look back and confidence returned in UK plc. Rishi Sunak came with a background in finance, albeit hedge fund management. He was trusted by the market. Restoring financial stability has been one of his greatest achievement so far.

The country had also gone down a sink hole of £60 billion debt within a few weeks. Sunak started the recovery with higher taxes. It is quite a feat to have put up taxes as a Tory Prime Minister in Britain. The Conservative Party is meant to believe in small government, low taxes and business friendly. Although calls for tax cuts are often heard, respect and support for the Sunak policy is strong in the business and financial sector.

Sunak also defused tensions with Europe which one of his predecessors was a deft hand at stoking. Boris Johnson never let an opportunity pass to have a dig at European Union and announce policy statements that annoyed Europe. Trust was lost between the UK and the EU. By breaking an agreement on Northern Ireland with Europe that Boris himself had constructed, any remaining hope of normalising relations with Europe had faded. Sunak however has restored the bridge and the trust. Europeans find him reliable, discreet and sensible, avoiding rhetoric.

It is in the Northern Ireland protocol that the working relations between the UK and the EU are showing dividends. The Northern Ireland protocol is one of the trickiest issues in British politics.

Northern Ireland is part of United Kingdom. Southern Ireland is an independent country called Ireland. The border between the two countries was heavily fortified once when there was a bloody war going on between the Catholic minority and the Protestant majority in Northern Ireland. In April 1998 an agreement was finally thrashed out between the two brokered by the United States. The Border between Northern Ireland and Ireland was abolished. It was a security border rather than a custom border.

ALSO READ: Financial Markets And British Sovereignty

However, when Britain came out of Europe, the open border was no longer consistent with Britain’s Brexit. By coming out of Europe, Britain was expected to pay custom duty as any third country would have to do, to trade with EU. EU feared that manufacturers could send goods to Northern Ireland and then pass them to Ireland, which is part of EU, and then into Europe, without paying custom duty. The options were either to put up a customs border between the two Irelands or check every item going from UK to Northern Ireland.

United States and most Irish do not want a border between Northern Ireland and Irland. So UK had to agree to let Northern Ireland be part of EU and traders had to go through considerable bureaucracy and delays to send shipments from mainland Britain to its province in Northern Ireland.

Boris Johnson exploited this by saying that Europe was dividing UK.  However he didn’t come up with any solutions except saying, ‘we are British, trust us’. Europe wasn’t impressed.

Rishi Sunak on the other hand has been negotiating with Europe and the Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland without megaphone rhetorical statements. He is on the verge of an agreement that had defied all British Prime Ministers since Brexit. Boris Johnson isn’t keen for Rishi to walk away with a deal.

If Rish Sunak does pull off the Northern Ireland agreement on customs, maintain the status quo on the border which means no border and keep Europe and the Protestants in Northern Ireland happy, he will have pulled a rabbit out of the hat.

But all is not a smooth run for Rishi Sunak. Britain is plagued with strikes for higher wages. Sunak says the economy cannot afford to pay higher wages. Inflation on the other hand means that most people are at least 15% worse off than before the pandemic. Wages haven’t kept pace with rising inflation and rising interest rates.

Train drivers, University lecturers, teachers, civil servants, postmen, ambulance workers, nurses and even doctors are among some of the British working sectors taking turns to strike. Sunak’s position has been made worse by the fact that he permitted Finance managers to make as much money as they can, letting private sector raise the wages of bosses while restricting the pay for ordinary workers. The inability to stop strikes is making him look incompetent.

Sunak’s other weakness is that there have been a number of allegations against a number of his cabinet colleagues of bullying, breaking ministerial codes and failure to maintain security. He has not been able to remove them from office. He has sacked one minister who was chairperson of the Conservative Party. But he is reluctant to sack any more, for fear of losing their support. Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, the two previous ousted Prime Ministers are busy circling Sunak with their colleagues, waiting to jump as soon as his support weakens. He is in a precarious position. There are one or two other Conservative figures waiting for him to fall.

Perhaps Sunak’s greatest weakness is his ethnicity. As he came into office, Britain looked a very mature country that had overcome racism. It appears to be a country that is willing to put an immigrant’s son at the helm of power.

But things are not what they appear to be. Sunak was not put to the popular vote even in his party. Members of Parliament voted him in. There is a general feeling that a great deal of pressure from the Money Markets persuaded MPs to back him. The average Tory Party member was not happy to see him as Prime Minister. He is after all not White and does not have a pedigree in Britain.

Racism shows itself in many forms in Britain. Currently it is vented against illegal immigrants. To appear on the side of majority prejudice, the few high-ranking ministers of ethnic origin are making the right noises to pander to this constituency. However, the general feeling is that come elections, they will also fall prey to the ‘racists’.  The Conservative Party is aware of this. Quite a few MPs are aware that even if Sunak sorts out the strikes, brings inflation down, gets a Northern Ireland agreement, many British people feel uncomfortable with the idea of a Prime Minister who is not White British.

The opposition party, Labour, is way ahead in the opinion polls. There is a 21% lead and it is obvious to many Conservative MPs. Some have announced plans to retire at the next elections.

But Rishi Sunak seems to be a lucky man, being the right person at the right place and the right time. Fortune may still favour him and he may win the next election to be returned as Prime Minister by popular vote. He is efficient, gets on with the work and has so far shown that he delivers. He also makes good choices in appointments. People are being won over and many British are beginning to accept him.

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Biased Media

Propaganda War: Ukraine Through Facts & Fictions

News media like to put out that they are objective, balanced, unbiased and free from interference. This is particularly claimed by liberal left leaning press in the West and some State-owned media groups on both sides. But some critical evaluation of their articles and editorials exposes them to be as unabashedly propagandist as the most unapologetic biased news media. They just do it subtly as evident in the coverage of the Ukraine conflict. Through the fog of misinformation, disinformation and censorship, it is difficult to know which side to believe and which media to trust.

Within a week of the attack by Russia, the general theme in almost every western media was that Russia’s attempts to conquer Ukraine had failed and the war is proving to be longer than expected! This line was promoted in countries that unsuccessfully spent a good 20 years to ‘conquer’ Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. How a week in war translates into ‘failure’ and 20 years as ‘near success’ is a logic that only the media can twist as fact.

Ukraine was part of the USSR and if anyone knew the number of weapons and fighting skills of Ukrainians, especially after three years of engagement in Donbas, it was the Russians. They seemed prepared for a longer war, possibly a year, given the number of troops they had assigned and the supply lines created as well as preparations for sanctions. But a lot more has been censored and disinformation is ripe on both sides.

Before the attack, some of the liberal Press in the West had also carried article and newsbriefs of Nazi type units, called Azos including in respected sites such as Bllingcat, who allegedly had infiltrated and taken over a lot of institutions in Ukraine. Since the conflict, there is almost no mention of Azos or Nazi-type groups dominating the decision making bodies in Ukraine and in fact media like BBC have been accused of whitewashing Ukrainian Azov contradicting their own previous reports.

Equally interesting is that there is very little journalist reports of Ukrainian men paying human traffickers to get out of Ukraine to escape being forced to join the defence. On the other hand, narratives of Russian men escaping Russia to dodge conscription make headlines in most western Press even when Russia lets them leave. Most Press gives the impression that the recruits in Russian Army have been forced to fight against their will while the average able bodied Ukrainian young man has rushed to the defence of motherland or fatherland. But some rare media has covered stories of Ukrainian men being forced at gunpoint to fight against their will. Why is the male human trafficking trade in Ukraine doing so well, if young men are queuing up to fight?

Take another bit of reporting. Every week, the media has reported deaths of Russian Generals, commanders etc. But no Ukrainian officer seems to have died in this 10-month old war. Amazing. It appears Ukrainian officers are invincible or simply sending the young men to slaughter while themselves staying safe in command centres in Kyiv.

Or another fact that is standing out as a sore thumb. Without evidence western commentators are pushing the line that Russia wants to revive the USSR and we are led to believe that Russia has lost this war. At the beginning, Russia spelt out its aims. It was going to ‘free’ Donbas’ and reduce Ukraine’s military capability. It has taken Donbas. It has now almost wiped out Ukraine’s arsenal. Ukraine is now dependent on weapons from the West. How long will the west ‘donate’ its own supplies?

Facts and fictions are not amiss on the other side either. Russia has been stating that this was a ‘special operation’ and not a war. Some of its media say that at end of every article. With thousands of their own soldiers dead and significant part of the enemy territory taken with daily casualties running into thousands, it is difficult to understand when a war is and when a special operation is. A Special Operation normally lasts a few weeks, is swift with very few casualties. To call this ‘special operation’ after 10 months of fighting and hundreds of thousands dead, is fictional absurdity if not denial.

Russia has claimed that it has broken the will of Ukrainians. Has it? Russian media also latches onto stories of men escaping conscription in Ukraine, suggesting Ukrainian are fighting unwillingly. Ten months later, it continues to be challenged on all fronts. Weapons alone do not win wars, unless armies are willing to fight. Ukrainians have shown true grit in the face of a formidable army. Russia is now using some brutal and indiscriminate tactics.

Russian news media also trots daily victories with few exceptions where it says that its forces have performed a tactical withdrawal. Given the number of claimed victories, Russia should have taken all of Ukraine by now. In fact, tactical retreats mean Russians have been forced out or lost in those towns. Russians who question the ‘victories’ end up silenced or in prisons. The truth is as the Government wants it, not what it is. Allegedly quite a few high-profile Russians also seem to be falling from windows especially when they have been critical of Government policy in Ukraine.

Russia goes on about de-Nazification of Ukraine. There is no evidence that the majority of Ukrainians are racists or ‘Nazi’ like. Moreover, there are plenty of extreme Right wing nationalist groups in Russia who have links with similar groups in the West.

Through the mirrors of fiction being promoted facts can be obscure but quite simple. Russia had reached an understanding with major western powers after collapse of USSR that NATO would not expand into ex-USSR countries. NATO did expand and had come close on the doors of Russia by encouraging Ukraine to join. Professor Mearsheimer’s talk is the most concise analysis of this conflict. There were also agreements about installing missiles in Ukraine. The Ukraine Army was being trained to act as a first shield against Russia. To protect itself, Russia had started insurgency in Donbas. It took Crimea in 2014 to stop its base being taken away in the Black Sea.

To convince its own side about the necessity of invasion, Russia raised the fighting in Ukraine Donbass region as ethnic cleansing of Russian speaking Slavs. It was a narrative that fired Russians. Russia also raised spectre of chemical weapons factories in Ukraine near its borders. The attack was legitimised in the eyes of ordinary Russians.

Russia prepared for a longer war with strategies to deal with sanctions and weaponization of financial institutions against it. Russia weaponised gas and oil in retaliation. Its economy has in fact grown.

ALSO READ: Ukraine War – A Diplomatic Opportunity For India

On the other side, the war is actually a proxy war for USA and the UK in an attempt to weaken Russia. The Ukrainians are victims who have been forced into a fight in support of American foreign policy. The US has a number of experts and senior army officers in Ukraine. There were chemical and bio labs even admitted by a US assistant Secretary of State as well as cautioned by WHO. It makes no sense for the US to have sent senior secret service personnel to shut down what it calls ordinary labs testing for chlamydia and strep bacteria.

Both sides are pushing propaganda narratives. The West continues to promote the narrative that Russia is losing the conflict as it failed to take Ukraine in the first week. It also promotes the narrative that Putin and his circle want to restore the USSR. Western media hardly ever mentions the agreement not to expand NATO. But some pragmatists such as Kissinger are calling for negotiations.

Russia on the other hand continues to promote the story that Ukraine has been taken over by Nazis and is an existential threat to Russia as well as trying to annihilate Russian-speaking Ukrainians.

Through all this maze of fiction on both sides when even reputable media have compromised, the only reliable analysis is to look at what has been achieved and look at social media from both sides. But freedom loving west has blocked many of Russian media as has Russia in retaliation. Truth is the first casualty of war and is being killed on both sides.

British Economy Rishi Sunak

Financial Markets and British Sovereignty

It would appear that Rishi Sunak’s rise to the Prime Minister’s office is a remarkable triumph of multicultural, multi ethnic, liberal Britain over its past as a racist country. However this may be a distracting gloss. A more sinister and fundamental shift may have taken place and United Kingdom may have unwittingly walked into a political status that most British may be uncomfortable with. Britain’s post Brexit sovereignty may now just be in name but not real.

In the race for the top job, Rishi Sunak won with the backing of the MPs but without a single public vote. It is worth asking what made confident mavericks like Johnson and nationalists like Penny Mordaunt to back down, particularly as either of them had greater chance of winning the members vote.

The unedifying fact is that Liz Truss was ousted by the markets, not by the people. But more worrying is that the new Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has been imposed on the British by the unelected bosses of Financial Institutions, by arm twisting MPs to back him.

Rishi Sunak is there to do a job, to steady Britain’s economic status and reinstate London’s fertile ground for the financial markets. The ‘market’ didn’t like policies introduced by Liz Truss, who wanted to reduce personal and corporate taxes to put more money in the hands of people and corporations for them to invest.

Liz Truss’s economic policy was the final move of the thinktanks that led the battle for Brexit. It was built on the platform of a self assuming restored sovereignty free from EU constraints. Its theory is simple, appears logical and attractive.

Release more money into the hands of people who are more likely to invest and then wait for unbridled growth. As innovation and industry flourishes, the tax base increases because more people are employed both generally and in the high wage bracket. Moreover the high earners will earn more which means their tax contribution increases although the percentage tax to income remains same.

Further a corporate sector with spare cash will have more money to invest and more investment also means more companies, bigger turnovers, more exports, and so, more tax contribution. The country’s debt will decrease and its GDP will mushroom.

Reality is not so simple. This approach was tried by Reagan in USA, but it didn’t work. During Reagan period, overall debt increased 186% from $907 Billion to $2.6 Trillion! Economic ‘growth’ was the least in his period. Kennedy and Clinton achieved greater growth. Industry and manufacturing didn’t move any further. The same happened in United Kingdom. After cutting tax from 30% in 2007 to 19% in 2018, the UK had the lowest rate of private investment as proportion of GDP in G7 countries. Academic research across many countries finds strong evidence that cutting taxes on the rich increases inequality but has no effect on growth or unemployment.

Secondly, manufacturing as part of economic activity has gradually decreased. In 1950 it was 30% of Britain’s GDP.  Now it is a mere 10%. During the Thatcher era, UK manufacturing was deliberately allowed to fail in changing times as it could not compete with modern technology and cheaper labour elsewhere without State investment in skills and support for change to new technologies. Thatcher felt the way forward was to strengthen the financial and the service sector. Manufacturing in Britain now is either small scale or is less about making things and more about integrating supply chains and assembling parts made elsewhere.

Other countries such as Germany and China invested in existing companies and helped them to modernise as well as setting up technology institutions to improve the skill base. In an international index study, manufacturing forms 27% of China’s economy, 23% of German, 16% of India’s while only 10% of UK economy.

ALSO READ: ‘Queen is Dead, Long Live The King’

So even if some people with a lot of cash or access to loans wanted to invest in the Truss’s Growth, Growth Growth Brexit Britain vision, there was inadequate infrastructure, lack of skilled workforce and shortage of a base to work from. It makes more sense to invest in countries that have skilled workforce and modernised technology in manufacturing.

In contrast, the financial sector in UK has been given many incentives in the last five decades. Taxes for the high earners were reduced from 83% to 40% during the Thatcher era. Investments by financial sector were tax exempt. Thatcher gave many incentives to the financial sector, making London attractive for the world’s money market. Labour Government’s Brown made it even more attractive by the infamous ‘light touch’ approach that refrained from imposing rigid rules such as high liquidity and stringent checks on trustees. The World’s banks and financial institutions flocked to London. Then the 2008 crash came and calls for making rules a little tighter started but still not as rigid as in many other countries. Britain is still a leader in some sectors of the financial markets, such as Foreign Exchange and debt. Currently, some £75 trillion pass through the UK foreign exchange market. The London Stock exchange is still among world leaders. UK Bank Balances are some 4.5% the size of national income.

Relatively, the financial sector is a non-productive part of the economy. Despite all this money sloshing around, nearly 80% of the Bank lending in Britain is inter-bank lending, that is banks’ lending to each other! Only 3.4% of all business lending by UK Banks goes to manufacturing. The financial sector relatively contributes only 8.3% to the UK economy, about £183.7 billion and only £28.8 billion in taxes.

It is difficult to see where growth was going to come from. It would take many years for infrastructure and skill development for a manufacturing revival and a change of attitude within the banks to lend more to industry.

On the other hand, the international financial markets see London as their own territory with little trickle down money going to the country relative to the money transiting. The city is the Heathrow of world money. Money comes in and money goes out.

Another fact being ignored by the low tax lobby is that most high earners are professionals and small businesses. They are not multi-millionaires but earn enough to be in the 45% tax bracket. This class of rich persons isn’t going to put its money in risky investments that Truss wanted. Instead the person is more likely to go on more expensive holidays, buy a second home or send the kids to a private school. Not quite the economic stimulus for growth.

The people who do earn millions and would potentially have a few hundred thousand pounds spare if tax is lowered, do not pay enough tax in the first place to benefit from this. With the help of expensive accountants they either have non-domicile status, thus evading high income tax, or hide their earnings in offshore accounts through shell companies.

They also make a lot of money in the financial sector through asset stripping or take over high tech companies that they sell off. None of this activity aids growth and most investments in these can avoid tax.

This lucrative money making industry that produces almost nothing and has no interest in UK growth wants a stable background for it to take risks. The industry is like a teenager who wants to rebel but seeks stable family to spring back to. Hedge funds are a gambling industry by another name, but as they gamble their money, they want a financially stable country to work from.

That’s where Liz Truss and co went wrong. Her tax reduction policy was going to create a £60 billion deficit in the budget. She hadn’t announced any reductions in spending. She was convinced she would fill this hole with ‘growth’.

The financial markets were in no mood to give her a chance. Government debt has to be bought by the market. It wasn’t interested or demanded high yield, thus pushing debt further. The markets want a fiscally sound country to work from. They didn’t want to wait to see if the Truss experiment would lead to £60 billion. They weren’t going to fill that gap by risking their own money. Nor did they want to see a country with unrest as Government would be forced to make cuts in welfare. There is no room for two gamblers in town.

So the financial markets went all guns blazing, ousted her and made the deals behind doors for Rishi Sunak to be put in place to stabilise the economy. He is one of them, understands how the sector works as he himself worked in the least productive sector, the hedge funds.

The disturbing fact about all this is that while Great Britain tried to go it alone and shed off the minor constraints of fellow European countries, it has walked into a much bigger pit where it has sovereignty almost only in name but not in reality. The financial beast that Thatcher nurtured has become a big parasite. It’s the market that now owns Great Britain. It will be a long time, if ever, for Britain to regain any sovereignty.

It is now the money men in China, Australia, USA, South America, Ghana etc who run UK plc.  Rishi will be out and a new leader installed when markets feel the ground is safe, unless the natives rebel. There are lessons here for other countries.

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