|Tuesday 06th of April 2021
In 1929, President Herbert Hoover assured the country that things were already “back to normal,” Liaquat Ahamed writes in Lords of Finance
Five months later, in March 1930, Hoover said the worst would be over “during the next 60 days.”
When that period ended, he said, “We have passed the worst.”
Eventually, Ahamed writes, “when the facts refused to obey Hoover’s forecasts, he started to make them up.”
Government agencies were pressed to issue false data. Officials resigned rather than do so, including the chief of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
And we all know how that turned out: The Great Depression.
“April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain.” T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land H/T @HerveGogo
“You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;
“They called me the hyacinth girl.”
—Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,
Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.
Oed’ und leer das Meer.
“Ours is the most cryptic of Centuries, it’s true Nature a Dark Secret” @SalmanRushdie
I was speaking with H.E Johan Borgstam and he said ‘’But Aly- Khan everything started with MH370.’’
“We are not witnessing the flow of information so much as pure spectacle, or information made sacred, ritually unreadable. The small monitors of the office, home and car become a kind of idolatry here, where crowds might gather in astonishment.’’
And indeed since 2014 The World has become increasingly cryptic and like Salman Rushdie wrote
“Ours is the most cryptic of Centuries, it’s true Nature a Dark Secret”
@narendramodi is everything apart from what he seems @prospect_uk @Andrew_Adonis
Law & Politics
Hologram and holy man, sectarian and seer, the Indian prime minister is a trick of the light
You don’t get to lead a democracy, let alone get re-elected by a landslide, without a mandate to save your country.
What distinguishes the Indian prime minister Narendra Modi is that he is a cult salvationist—yet, after seven years leading the world’s biggest democracy, he has little to show beyond the accumulation of votes.
As an outsider distilling the avalanche of controversy, hagiography and verbiage, I am struck most by Modi’s congenital ambivalence.
This is a thoroughly 21st-century party leader beamed as a 3D hologram into thousands of election meetings and rallies, fiercely partisan and constantly accusing his opponents of disloyalty to India.
Yet he is also a man who decamps to a cave mid-campaign (cameras in tow) to contemplate the meaning of life and impart spiritual wisdom. While earning rapt adoration, of course.
This ethereal hologram—brutal modern politician as prophet and guru—has won two successive election landslides across a vast, extraordinarily diverse country of 1.3bn people. But who is the real Modi?
In trying to find out, I kept coming back to three key questions.
Which country does he see himself as leading: India or Hindu India?
Is he saving Indian democracy or is he subverting it?
And is he, as he insists, a true economic moderniser—or a fanatical religious nationalist for whom modernisation is a tool to assert supremacy, with reforms proposed, chopped and changed for sectarian advantage?
I have come to the view that these questions can’t be resolved, unless he lurches to extremity thereafter, because chronic ambiguity is Narendra Modi.
A fervent Hindu militant in his teens, he now operates within a quasi-western political framework he half accepts and half rejects but has not sought—or at least has not yet been able—to fundamentally change.
Ambiguity is in India’s DNA. Since its refoundation as an independent state in 1947, its prime ministers have been a mix of “strong men”—plus one strong woman—and weak caretakers.
They have ruled a just-about democracy characterised by multi-party elections and formal constitutional liberalism but equally by extreme instability and endemic political violence—including regular assassinations—all flowing from two bitter centuries of British imperialism.
Modi’s western admirers call him the Thatcher of India, and claim he is reversing 70 years of state regulation.
This is risible given his paltry and contradictory economic record, starting in 2016 with the chaos of a botched demonetisation: removing 86 per cent of cash from the economy overnight, for no good reason.
He also claims to be founding a “second republic,” replacing the one forged by the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.
Yet while Modi has defeated the latest gilded Gandhi—Rahul—twice, and may have ended the family’s political ambitions, I am struck by his resemblance to Rahul’s grandmother Indira.
Prime minister for most of the two decades (1966-1984) between Modi’s formative 16th and 34th years, Indira was similarly contradictory on both democracy and reform.
She lurched in crisis to an “emergency” dictatorship in 1975-1977, then drew back and ultimately sustained her father Jawaharlal Nehru’s democratic edifice.
“At just 17, Modi effectively dissolved his arranged marriage, unconsummated. He has been celibate ever since”
In his mid-twenties, Modi was an underground runner in the resistance to her “emergency.” Ironically, his rule since 2014 has itself been called an “undeclared emergency.”
This is inaccurate: he hasn’t resorted to the draconian repression and mass imprisonment of opponents of Indira’s 21-month dictatorship.
But the constitution has been pushed to the limit and manipulated, as under Indira and her son Rajiv, from the blocking of social media to the arrest of journalists and even a comedian, through to localised violence with a nod and a wink from Modi’s minions, and the suborning of the Supreme Court, the state media and the Electoral Commission.
Then there are Modi’s peremptory “modernisations,” accompanied by alternating aggression and retreat: the latest is an increasingly botched “big bang” deregulation of agriculture, India’s largest industry.
Again this is eerily reminiscent of Indira, whose pièce de résistance was a mass forced sterilisation campaign spearheaded by her other son, Sanjay, carried out in the name of modernisation.
Modi’s India, like Indira’s, is in many ways a continuation of the republic founded by Nehru 74 years ago.
It has all the tensions and contradictions embodied in Nehru himself, a Harrow- and Cambridge-educated barrister turned freedom fighter and authoritarian ruler.
This republic is in parts socialist, elitist, democratic, secular and Hindu, nurturing a dynamic and sophisticated middle class, yet perpetuating massive inequality and divisions.
But in defining himself against what came before, Modi offers two populist twists—abandoning the inclusive language of secularism to rally the religious majority against India’s huge minorities, and rallying anyone feeling downtrodden against the old elite, and most especially the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.
Breaking from hereditary rule sounds like progress, but whether it turns out to be will depend on how Modi organises his eventual succession, and whether he hands over to one of the more extreme Hindu nationalists in his political “family,” like his right-hand rottweiler Amit Shah, home affairs minister.
On the spectrum of contemporary populists, Modi is more proletarian, professional and indeed popular than Erdoğan of Turkey and Bolsonaro of Brazil, and leagues more so than Trump.
He is a vigorous 70-year-old whose tenure has no end in sight. Rahul Gandhi resigned the leadership of the opposition Congress Party 20 months ago with many of its members, nationally and in state assemblies, having in effect defected to Modi’s party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
.@narendramodi is everything apart from what he seems @prospect_uk @Andrew_Adonis [continued]
Modi’s brand of populism is described by Arvind Rajagopal of New York University as a simulacrum:
“a media artefact regarded as more true than any amount of information and, in fact, capable of correcting that information. Modi is the leader who will drag the country out of its trouble and propel it to greatness: accepting this basic premise amounts to political realism today.”
Or as Neelanjan Sircar of Ashoka University puts it: “The murkier the data, the easier it is for him to control the narrative.”
But three artefacts of the Modi phenomenon are truly solid. First, his journey from poverty to power. His rise from the bottom half of Indian society is unique in a country historically ruled by moguls, princes and—for the first half-century of independence—largely through one family.
In India’s labyrinthine caste gradations, Modi is an OBC (“Other Backward Caste”): a sort of lower middle class.
His dad was a chaiwala (tea vendor) with a stall on the station platform in small-town Vadnagar, sustaining a family of eight in a three-room house without windows or running water but able to get his children a decent education.
In Indian terms, Modi’s background is similar to Joe Biden’s, another son of a struggling lower middle-class small-town salesman (of cars). At school both had a love of debating, argumentation and, say contemporaries, a propelling stubbornness.
Secondly, Modi’s mission is power, not money or dynasty. Although he courts and is courted by the Hindu mega-rich who fund his party at home and abroad, especially in Britain and the US, he does not enrich himself or his relatives.
“I am single: who will I be corrupt for?” is one of his lines.
An arranged marriage was effectively dissolved by him, unconsummated, when the ascetic teenager abruptly departed Vadnagar, aged 17, on the first of several nomadic nationwide quests.
He has been celibate ever since. As monk-leader, implacable yet worldly-wise, he reminds me of both Archbishop Makarios, priest-founder of independent Cyprus, and Lee Kuan Yew, authoritarian guru-founder of Singapore.
“Dynasty or democracy,” one of his 2014 slogans, successfully branded Rahul Gandhi a “prince” (shahzada).
Another saying of his was “I am proud I sold tea, I never sold the nation,” which struck home.
Thirdly, Modi has an electoral Midas touch. No one else in history has won a total of nearly half a billion votes in fairly free multi-party elections—and he isn’t done yet.
His BJP is the world’s largest political party, claiming 100m members: twice the size of the Chinese Communist Party.
Two huge national victories since 2014 followed three equally sweeping elections as chief minister of his native Gujarat, a state bigger than England on India’s northwest coast.
In 2014, he nearly trebled the BJP’s tally in the directly elected Lok Sabha (lower house) of the Indian parliament, giving the party, which everyone had assumed was fated to remain a perpetually minority party, its first ever overall majority.
It was also the first single-party government of any party in India since the 1980s.
The BJP has now become Modi’s party in the way that New Labour was Blair’s and Germany’s CDU became Merkel’s—only much more so.
But it is important to understand that Modi is not a De Gaulle or even a Macron who summoned his own political force into being: his rise came through a movement which had deep historic and cultural roots, even if he has transformed its appeal.
Like so many of the world’s election winners, Modi has been a professional politician since his twenties. He started as an apprentice in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a religious nationalist movement which believes in the essential Hinduness of India—an ideology known as “Hindutva”—and went on to join the BJP, founded as the movement’s modern political wing in 1980.
He started in the army of RSS volunteers before becoming an organiser, after which he was drafted to become chief minister of Gujarat amid a leadership crisis in the local BJP.
Modi knows India, socially and geographically, better than perhaps any other Indian alive, and from the bottom up.
He has mastered modern democratic arts and his ubiquitous social media presence includes a Modi app, flashing up every speech, event and opinion to millions with a professionalism that leaves Trump in the gutter.
“India saved itself with a timely lockdown, travel restrictions, shows recent study. Read more here!” runs the latest notification on my phone, the fourth of today.
“Speaking in Hindi, Modi is the finest speaker I have ever heard; his oratory is mesmerising,” one opponent who does not wish to be named tells me.
To my surprise, given his dictatorial reputation, he is a considerable parliamentarian, capable of graceful tributes to opponents, albeit only when they are retiring or have been defeated.
“We stand for those who trusted us and also those whose trust we have to win over,” he declared after his 2019 landslide.
His bitterest political critics typically pay tribute to his skill and crave his attention even as they attack him.
Each day features another socially distanced mass Modi event, typically in a different state.
Whether launching a toy festival in Delhi or a railway scheme in West Bengal, the white-bearded sage declaims an impassioned homily combining a political message with spiritual guidance and lifestyle advice.
Addressing newly graduating doctors, after thanking them for their efforts in the pandemic, he urges them to “keep a sense of humour, do yoga, meditation, running, cycling and some fitness regime that helps your own wellbeing,” and invokes Hindu saint Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa’s mantra that “serving people is the same as serving God.”
“In your long careers, grow professionally and at the same time, never forget your own growth. Rise above self-interest. Doing so will make you fearless,” he preaches.
“Modernisation not westernisation” is another Modi slogan—he has a slogan for everything—yet his political packaging, including that hologram, is done with the help of slick BJP professionals trained in Britain and the US.
He plays the west, using the right language and commandeering the wealthy and influential Hindu diaspora like an army.
Britain’s populist Home Secretary Priti Patel, a fellow Gujarati, jokes with her friend “Narendra” in Gujarati.
He calls virtually every western leader “my friend,” and they reciprocate.
Whatever their concerns about sectarianism, western leaders desperately want the Indian leader onside.
After his inauguration, Biden called Modi before Xi Jinping: escalating crises in Myanmar, Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the South China Sea give the prime minister leverage, which he shrewdly exploits.
.@narendramodi is everything apart from what he seems @prospect_uk @Andrew_Adonis [continued]
Law & Politics
But is Modi within or beyond the pale? In his personal language generally within—although under his rule an anti-Muslim and anti-secular culture war has been stoked, amplified by Amit Shah and BJP activists.
Yogi Adityanath, a Hindu priest cloaked in saffron robes and the BJP chief minister of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, infamously proclaimed: “If Muslims kill one Hindu man, then we will kill 100 Muslim men.”
Modi himself doesn’t go there: modernisation and Hindu ancestor worship are his public rhetoric, and he rarely attacks opponents for much more than being divisive and unpatriotic, which is pretty much what British Tories have been doing for two centuries.
And yet, in front of parliament in February, Modi called the farmers encamped in Delhi protesting the new laws “people who cannot live without protests,” and—more chillingly—“parasites.”
The BJP culture war is increasingly vicious, seeking to erase India’s Mughal past and repress Muslims in the present by renaming towns and cities, rewriting and “saffronising” Indian history, and asserting cultural, religious and legal ascendancy, including through beef and alcohol bans.
In the Hindutva mind, “their” India has been invaded twice, by the Muslims and then by the British, and both invasions need to be repelled.
A defining event was the BJP-inspired 1992 attack on the Mughal-era Babri mosque in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh.
Demonstrators razed it to the ground and attempted to erect a Hindu temple to Rama, an event which radicalised the whole Hindutva movement.
This is the backdrop to Modi’s discriminatory social and cultural policies—in 2019, the Supreme Court ordered the site of the demolished mosque be handed over to Hindus to build a new temple—as well as his symbolic gestures, like his scheme to rebuild Lutyens’ colonial complex in New Delhi.
The big question, though, is whether Modi is not only sectarian, but also an outright inciter of violence and underminer of the constitution.
Here four charges are laid. First, that in early 2002, shortly after becoming chief minister of Gujarat, he stoked a Hindu-on-Muslim pogrom in reaction to the murderous attack by a largely Muslim mob on a train passing through Godhra, in Gujarat, conveying Hindu pilgrims from Ayodhya.
Second, there is the 2019 imposition of direct rule from Delhi onto the country’s one Muslim-majority state, Jammu and Kashmir, which neighbours Pakistan.
Third, a new citizenship law, also introduced in 2019 shortly after his re-election, giving Hindu but not Muslim immigrants a fast track to Indian citizenship.
And fourth, the current farm reforms, which have anti-Sikh overtones because they particularly affect Punjab, “the breadbasket of India.”
Poring over accounts of these four cases, my verdict—surprise, surprise—is that Modi’s responsibility for bloodshed and excesses is ambiguous.
It is what happened in his penumbra, rather than by his explicit or overt direction, which is so murky.
During the 2002 Gujarat riots, more than a thousand were killed, mostly Muslims, with 200,000 people displaced and 230 historic Islamic sites vandalised or destroyed.
No national official inquiry indicted Modi, even though his opponents were running the government in Delhi, and there was no repetition in the next 12 years of his chief ministership.
But it was on his watch, and some of his associates were implicated and prosecuted.
In Jammu and Kashmir, communal strife long predates Modi. Nehru unilaterally asserted sovereignty over most of the briefly independent state in the 1950s, before partitioning it jointly with Pakistan.
The 2019 imposition of direct rule, a BJP manifesto pledge, followed decades of endemic instability and paramilitary outrages on both sides, akin to Northern Ireland during the Troubles.
Nor has democracy been entirely suspended there. Multi-party elections in the region continue, including ones announced for a new Jammu and Kashmir legislative assembly.
Of the four charges, the anti-Muslim citizenship reform is the most partisan, and entirely of his own making.
It is targeted mainly at Bangladeshi immigrants, but lies within the ambit of democratic decision-making.
It is a less sweeping alteration to immigration than Trump’s anti-Mexican measures and far less than the UK government’s abolition of free movement of people to and from the European Union, even if the religious sectarianism is obviously a distinct aspect.
Modi’s farm reforms are ambiguous for a different reason. There is no disputing their legitimacy in principle.
Independent observers and modernising politicians, including Modi’s Congress Party predecessor Manmohan Singh, the Oxbridge-educated Sikh economist who made his name as a deregulating finance minister in the 1990s, have long urged and periodically attempted the liberalisation of India’s command-and-control economy, including its agriculture.
Reforming an ossified regime of “minimum support prices” and state “agricultural produce marketing committees,” or introducing private agri-purchasing companies, is not wrong or inherently partisan.
There are accusations that BJP-supporting middlemen will reap fortunes and screw over the farmers, and the handling of the farmers’ protests in Delhi has been terrible.
However, as journalist Shekhar Gupta puts it, the first-order issue isn’t the legitimacy of the reforms—“at various points in time, most major political parties and leaders have wanted these changes”—but rather the executive incompetence that means they have been so mishandled, watered down and delayed that they will probably make little impact.
“The Modi government has lost the battle for these farm laws,” he writes. “These laws are… dead in the water.”
The chaos is par for the course for Modi’s “modernisation.” The disastrous 2016 demonetisation, a populist but unjustified attack on “black markets,” was followed by a new goods and services tax (GST), forcing small businesses to digitise their payment systems, despite chronically poor preparation and support.
Four years later, medium-sized and small businesses, the backbone of the Indian economy, are still struggling.
India’s unemployment rate was 3.4 per cent when the GST was introduced in July 2017. It is currently over 8 per cent; even before Covid-19, growth had stalled.
As for Thatcherite-style privatisation, it might be controversial if it had actually happened but, wary of opposition and loss of patronage, Modi’s biggest privatisations are announced and re-announced but don’t take place.
The next ones are supposedly of Air India, hardly a good post-Covid prospect, and of as yet unnamed public-sector banks.
It is the same story—namely the lack of any consistent story—with international trade.
The seminal moment was in November 2019, when at the last minute Modi pulled out of a trade deal with the 15 Asian members of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, leaving China supreme in the organisation.
Ditto with industrial policy, which oscillates between liberalisation and protection. The latest incoherence is two trillion rupees ($27bn) in “production-linked incentives” to assorted domestic and foreign firms for a period of five years.
Asian economic commentary is no longer about the (always disputed) “Gujarat miracle” that Modi was going to transplant from one state to the whole country.
Gone is the talk of a delayed continuation of Manmohan Singh’s modestly deregulatory 1991 budget with its grand paraphrase of Victor Hugo: “No power on earth can stop an idea whose time has come… the emergence of India as a major economic power in the world happens to be one such idea.”
The discussion now is about post-Covid China again accelerating away from India economically, when the per capita income of this colossal neighbour is already several times higher.
And about the consolidation of “crony capitalism” as business backers of Modi’s—like India’s wealthiest man Mukesh Ambani and fellow billionaire Gautam Adani—get richer while nothing changes for ordinary Indians.
Even the campaign to “sanitise India,” ending open defecation in rural areas, has stalled.
The god Rama is the ultimate Hindu embodiment of the supreme values of love, compassion and justice. Modi claims to stand for a new “Rama Rajya,” invoking Mahatma Gandhi.
But the Mahatma, before he was assassinated by an RSS militant, wrote: “By Rama Rajya I do not mean a Hindu state. What I mean is the rule of God,” where the weakest would secure justice. He was unambiguous about that: not a hologram.
Mukesh Ambani bomb scare brings Mumbai’s dirty politics into the open @FT
Law & Politics
The dusty, army-green SUV, parked on a leafy street a few hundred metres from the Mumbai skyscraper that houses India’s richest man, did not look like much.
Inside, however, police made an alarming discovery: a number of explosives and a letter that local media said warned Mukesh Ambani, the billionaire chair of conglomerate Reliance Industries, that this was just a “trailer” for what was to come.
The twists and turns that followed the bomb scare in late February have escalated into one of India’s most dramatic scandals.
The man to whom the SUV was linked was found dead, floating in a creek.
A policeman said to have political ties — and an allegedly violent past — was arrested. Mumbai’s police chief was ousted and went on to accuse the state home minister of running an elaborate extortion racket in the city.
The metropolis of Mumbai has long held a reputation as a city of extremes, its gleaming offices and film studios built atop a notorious underbelly of brass-knuckled politics and gangsterism.
But analysts said there was little precedent for the way in which the latest controversy had brought the messy inner workings of India’s financial capital and the behind-the-scenes dealings that bind politics, police and crime across much of the country out of the shadows.
This is a quintessential Bombay story. There’s as much masala as you can put into a typical Bollywood script Mumbai journalist
“The real takeaway is the gross decay of the institutions,” said Suhas Palshikar, a political scientist formerly of Savitribai Phule Pune University.
“It doesn’t remain merely a story of administrative decay. It also means there’s a complete failure of politics . . . The dramatic aspect is new but all the elements have always been there.” After Mansukh Hiren, the small-time suburban businessman to whom police had linked the SUV — and who had reported the vehicle missing — was found dead,
investigators arrested police official Sachin Vaze for his alleged role in the bomb plot.
Vaze said in court that he was “a scapegoat”, according to a lawyer representing him, and was not involved in the crime.
The scandal might have died down were it not for the intervention of Param Bir Singh, Mumbai’s former police commissioner, who was transferred from his post days after Vaze’s arrest.
Singh alleged in a widely circulated letter that the home minister for Maharashtra, the state that is home to Mumbai, wanted Vaze to help collect Rs1bn ($14m) a month in payments from businesses such as restaurants and bars.
A lawyer for Singh confirmed the authenticity of the letter. A case filed by Singh, demanding a central government probe into his allegations, is being heard in the Bombay High Court.
Anil Deshmukh, the home minister of Maharashtra, responded in a letter posted on Twitter that Singh’s allegations were “absolutely false and baseless”.
He called it part of “a conspiracy” to deflect attention from the bomb case and undermine the state government.
Among the many questions that remain unanswered is what, if anything, those behind the bomb plot wanted from Ambani.
Reliance declined to comment but previously said it was confident police would “complete their thorough investigation quickly”.
The scandal could also have broader political ramifications. Maharashtra is run by a coalition led by the rightwing nationalist Shiv Sena party, which broke with prime minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party after state elections in 2019.
The events have revived memories of 1990s-era Mumbai — previously known as Bombay — when the city’s underworld was at its height.
Larger-than-life police officials with a reputation for ruthless tactics, including extrajudicial killings of suspected criminals, were lauded as heroes and enjoyed political support.
Vaze, according to media reports, was reputed to be one of them. Of his alleged victims, he reportedly told the Guardian in 2011: “I don’t think about it ever. Every one of them deserved to go and they went.”
Vaze was suspended from the force in 2004 for his alleged role in a custodial death, though he called it a “false case”, according to his lawyer.
But he subsequently joined Shiv Sena and was reinstated to the police last year, according to media reports. Vaze could not be reached for comment.
“This is a quintessential Bombay story,” said a journalist in the city. “It’s a typical Bollywood masala thriller. There’s as much masala as you can put into a typical Bollywood script.”
Former police officers said the scandal underscored the need to curb the politicisation of law enforcement, which allows politicians to decide appointments and transfers, leaving police beholden to ruling parties.
“In a way, it is good that it has brought out the alleged nexus between police and politicians [into the open], though an inquiry is required to prove the charges,” said Meeran Chadha Borwankar, who previously held high-level positions in the Maharashtra and national police forces.
“Political parties in power generally expect police to toe their line and act for them in grey and sometimes totally illegal black areas, as alleged in the said letter of the former commissioner,” she added.
“We should pursue an independent police organisation instead of the current system where we are at the mercy of politicians.”
The grim affair could have national implications if it upsets the balance of power in Maharashtra, considered one of the country’s biggest political prizes for its size and economic heft.
The BJP has maintained a fierce rivalry with the Shiv Sena-led government, and has decried its alleged conduct.
Political analysts said this could ultimately give Modi’s party another shot at power in the state if the coalition was sufficiently weakened.
“For the BJP, this is a tailor-made political opportunity,” said Milan Vaishnav, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think-tank.
“Even if they don’t get back to power, they can go to the bank on this when elections come around.”
With Hong Kong subdued, Xi’s gaze turns to defiant Taiwan @thetimes
Law & Politics
China is ratcheting up military pressure on Taiwan, probing the air defences of the self-governed island on a near-daily basis amid fears of impending conflict.
According to Taiwan’s ministry of national defence, Chinese planes, sometimes in large numbers, entered the zone at least 18 times last month, 17 times in February and 27 times in January.
In the latest incident on Tuesday, a Chinese transport aircraft entered its airspace, prompting the Taiwanese military to scramble a civil air patrol aircraft, issue radio warnings and deploy air defence missile systems.
China’s constant flexing of its military muscle around the island is part of an intensifying five-year campaign under President Xi, who has vowed to annex Taiwan, if necessary by force, by 2050.
It considers Taiwan — which broke from the mainland in 1949 when it became home to nationalist forces fleeing the victorious communists — as part of its rightful territory.
Under Xi, the campaign to return it to the fold has moved beyond rhetoric and is a tenet of his leadership.
In 2019 China broke a tacit agreement not to cross over the median line in the Taiwan Strait. Now the Chinese air force routinely flies military planes into Taiwan’s air defence zone.
As well as trying to sap Taiwan’s appetite for a fight, the incursions are a message to the United States.
Washington is obliged to equip Taiwan militarily under a defence pact but whether an American president would send US forces to defend the island has always been uncertain.
It is an ambiguity that in the past has helped to serve as a deterrent to Chinese aggression. Xi appears willing to test this.
On January 23 and 24, just after President Biden was sworn in, the Chinese air force sent dozens of aircraft, including bombers and fighter jets, into the area, prompting the new US administration to pledge its “rock-solid” support to the island.
Last Friday the Chinese military conducted a large drill near the island, with 20 warplanes entering Taiwan’s air defence identification zone.
Then, a group of bombers and an anti-submarine warfare aircraft flew to the island’s east side, demonstrating China’s abilities to surround the island and potentially block foreign intervention from the east.
The frequent air incursions have raised worries that Taiwan’s military, with its pilots and planes ready to scramble at any time, will eventually become exhausted. Valuable training and maintenance may be sacrificed.
For China, looking to wear down Taipei by endlessly dispatching combat-ready patrols into Taiwan’s airspace is a strategy that would be recognisable to the ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu, said Lin Cheng-yi, an expert on national security policy at the Academia Sinica research institution in Taipei.
“A militarily capable China does not mean it will certainly attack Taiwan,” he said. Beijing is, for the time being, exploring how far it can subdue a foe without fighting.
Since 2016, when Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party was elected Taiwan’s president and refused to acknowledge the “one China” principle — the basis for peaceful reunification with Beijing — the patrols have stepped up. What China refers to as routine drills Taipei calls act of pressure and provocation.
The Taiwanese public, however, are generally sanguine about the threat. Many have grown up with it.
They may look uncomfortably at Hong Kong, which is losing its autonomy and civil freedoms under Beijing’s rule but did not have its own army.
“We are used to living with the threat from China but that doesn’t mean we are relaxed,” said Yu Bing-rong, a 21-year-old student in Taipei.
“We can’t say that our army would win against China’s but it’s not bad when you compare it to the world in general. It’s not that we’re too weak, it’s that our enemy is too strong.”
On paper, it’s a David-and-Goliath mismatch. Taiwan’s military is 290,000-strong, dwarfed by China’s army of 2.3 million.
Its annual defence budget is $10.5 billion compared with China’s $228 billion.
The island has fewer than 800 warplanes, outnumbered by Beijing’s fleet of more than 4,000.
It has 67 warships; China has at least 335. It does not have an aircraft carrier, while China’s rapidly expanding navy has two, with more on the way.
Yet Taiwan is no easy military target and Beijing would prefer to subdue the island — which is separated from the mainland by at least 100 miles of fast-running strait — without firing a bullet.
In the face of the growing threats, and the uncertainty of US military support, Taiwan is actively building up its defences.
For its size, the Taiwan’s military is comparatively powerful, on a par with those of far bigger nations such as Canada and Poland. It has the world’s 22nd most powerful force, according to the Global Firepower index.
It may be no match for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the world’s third most powerful military force after the US and Russia, so the island has developed a strategy to give it a fighting chance.
Lee Hsi-min, a retired admiral and former chief of staff of Taiwan’s armed forces between 2017 and 2019, has laid out the approach, which he said must maximise the island’s advantages but exploit vulnerabilities of the Chinese forces.
While Taiwan will still build up conventional weapon systems, Lee said in a co-written piece in The Diplomat, it will look to develop “asymmetric weapon systems”, which are “small, mobile, lethal and numerous for strategic dispersion”.
That entails building up what a recent Pentagon report identified as expertise in electronic warfare as well as “high-speed stealth vessels, shore-based mobile missiles, rapid mining and minesweeping, unmanned aerial systems and critical infrastructure protection”.
Lu Li-shih, a former instructor at the Taiwanese Naval Academy, believes that the mainland will be wary of a conventional amphibious landing.
Too many deaths and the Chinese government will face a backlash at home, he said.
“Therefore, the PLA is preparing for operations to bring about the fewest casualties, which is to say the use of drones, ballistic missiles and cruise missiles,” he said.
“Although Taiwan is equipped with American Patriot II/III surface-to-air missiles and Stinger air defence missiles, in terms of quantity this is still a drop in the ocean when it faces the threat of the People’s Liberation Army.”
Taiwan was insufficiently prepared in terms of the training of soldiers and reserves and there was a lack of long-term investment in developing homegrown military technology to keep up with the enemy, Lu said.
Yet he estimated that the Chinese military was still at least five years away from completing its preparations to seize Taiwan by force.
Then there is a powerful third party to the cross-strait rivalry: the US, which is committed to equipping Taiwan with military hardware and sees it as a democratic bulwark against a more assertive China, whose ideology clashes with its values and threatens to disrupt the world order.
Experts generally agree that Beijing would not attack the island unless it was prepared to take on Washington.
Some believe that that moment may be approaching, as China’s military grows ever stronger and its economy looks better able to survive sanctions from the West.
Taiwan, though, is not relying on US troops turning up in the event of an attack. “If Chinese leaders should decide to attack Taiwan, Taiwan at most can foil the PLA actions,” said Lu, who believed that there would be only losers from a military clash.
“Even if the PLA cannot achieve its goal, Taiwan would only barely survive, for the war would take place in the strait and on Taiwan’s soil, and Taiwan will suffer casualties and see its economic growth wiped out.”
Many believe that the more immediate worry is that Beijing will exert more economic pressure on Taiwan.
China is Taiwan’s largest trading partner, accounting for nearly 30 per cent of the island’s total trade, worth about $150 billion a year.
When Beijing halted pineapple imports from the island in February, it triggered a furore on the island, which shipped the vast majority of its export crop to the mainland last year.
In an editorial, the Global Times, a party-run mainland newspaper, warned of what would follow.
If Taiwan’s rulers refused to engage with China, Beijing would be forced to act on the island’s economy. Taiwan should be ready for “a series of nightmares” that would make the pineapple ban look trivial.
U.S.-China Cold War Will Have More Than Two Sides @bopinion Pankaj Mishra
Law & Politics
The cold war is back — or at least its rhetoric. U.S. President Joe Biden wants to forge an “alliance of democracies” against the world’s “autocracies.”
The New York Times isn’t alone in thinking that “the world is increasingly dividing into distinct if not purely ideological camps, with both China and the United States hoping to lure supporters.”
This would be a profoundly disturbing development if true. The real danger ahead, however, is not so much a new cold war as binary modes of thinking that see stark divisions and antagonisms where none exist.
Politicians and journalists might find it useful to define the world through oppositions; doing so might even appear to help a polarized society such as the U.S. unite against a perceived enemy.
But, as in the U.S.-Soviet rivalry, such either-or thinking can cause a fatal disconnection with reality.
The old cold war, it might be remembered, accelerated with the help of a widespread hysteria in the late 1940s over “losing” China to communism.
Of course, China was never America’s to lose. Nevertheless, fear of a “domino effect” hardened the U.S. resolve, eventually costing hundreds of thousands of lives, that Vietnam should not be similarly lost.
Many books have been written about how Washington’s best and brightest were deceived by this powerfully self-perpetuating fixation.
Around what President Dwight Eisenhower called the “military-industrial complex” grew a supporting intellectual-industrial complex that specialized in dividing the world into irreconcilable “blocs.”
Those positing stark oppositions between the free and the unfree world consistently failed to see that China and Vietnam were part of a larger and irreversible Asian and African drive toward decolonization, self-determination and nation-building.
In this process, rendered extremely fraught by the volatility of domestic and international politics, no developing nation could afford permanent friends or enemies.
This was confirmed repeatedly by events. A military confrontation with his Soviet friends and betrayal by his chosen successor made Mao Zedong play host to President Richard Nixon in Beijing.
A few years later, China was invading its former communist ally Vietnam with American approbation. More recently, Vietnam has moved toward becoming a U.S. partner.
Many of the calamitous hot wars of the cold war could have been avoided had the then-leading superpower recognized the pragmatic self-interest of smaller nations — the imperatives of self-strengthening that made Ho Chi Minh reach out to U.S. diplomats early in his career as a nation-builder.
Instead, cold warriors such as U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and CIA director Allen Dulles made the world a more dangerous place with their stubborn bloc-thinking.
In one notorious and fateful act, the U.S. canceled promised aid to Egypt’s Aswan Dam at the last minute, humiliating Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser (a persecutor of communists, incidentally) and forcing him to turn to the Soviet Union for help.
The Dulles brothers also convinced themselves that India, self-avowedly neutral, was in the Soviet camp.
“Dull, Duller, Dulles,” as Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru dubbed the brothers, could not see that India, like all developing nations, was focused on pursuing its own vital interests.
This often meant playing off one superpower against another. India managed to secure Soviet military assistance and U.S. development aid at the same time as it tirelessly advocated, as a leader of the Non-Aligned Movement, decolonization in Asia and Africa.
Pakistan achieved the more remarkable feat of joining U.S.-led security treaties against communism while developing fraternal relations with communist China.
There is no question that today, forced to choose between allying oneself to a democracy or an autocracy, most countries would again choose both. They can hardly act otherwise.
Countries such as Indonesia and Vietnam surely welcome the U.S. presence in Asia as a counterweight to China. But their economies are too dependent on the latter to make an effective break with Beijing.
In fact, a fresh bonanza awaits many commodity-rich countries if the U.S. embarks on a massive infrastructure-building program. Peru and Australia will no doubt seek to sell copper to both China and the U.S.
What could violently disrupt this interplay of material interests is bloc-thinking and strategizing.
Indeed, the urgent question today is not whether there will be a new cold war.
It is whether modes of thought developed during the previous one, and disastrously unfit for the purpose even back then, will again dominate political and intellectual life.
Certainly, the world has changed beyond recognition since the time when think-tanks parroted theories about the “domino effect.”
Communist-ruled China today purports to be an exponent of free trade, while an increasingly tariff-friendly U.S. seeks to match China’s industrial policies.
The crude division between democracy and autocracy won’t help us grasp such a topsy-turvy world. Though comfortingly simple, such cold war ideologies can never truly replace our messy reality.
Covid nightmare: Vaccine panic as NEW Brazil variant 'alters itself to defeat antibodies'
Mutations at both the receptor-binding domain (RBD) and the amino (N)-terminal domain (NTD) of the SARS-CoV-2 Spike (S) glycoprotein can alter its antigenicity and promote immune escape.
We identified that SARS-CoV-2 lineages circulating in Brazil with mutations of concern in the RBD independently acquired convergent deletions and insertions in the NTD of the S protein, which altered the NTD antigenic-supersite and other predicted epitopes at this region.
These findings support that the ongoing widespread transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in Brazil is generating new viral lineages that might be more resistant to neutralization than parental variants of concern.
September 1, 1939 W. H. Auden
I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.
Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.
Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.
Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
And the international wrong.
Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.
The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.
From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
"I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,"
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?
All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.
Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.
Ethiopia’s Tigray War: A Deadly, Dangerous Stalemate @CrisisGroup
An entrenched Tigrayan resistance combined with Ethiopian and Eritrean authorities’ determination to keep Tigray’s fugitive leaders from power mean that the conflict could evolve into a protracted war.
That would further devastate Tigray and greatly harm Ethiopia, the linchpin state in the Horn of Africa.
With a decisive battlefield win for either side a remote prospect, parties should consider a cessation of hostilities that allows for expanded humanitarian aid access.
The Tigrayan leadership, though driven from power in Mekelle, the region’s capital, has rallied under the banner of the Tigray Defence Forces, an armed resistance group.
It is led by the removed Tigrayan leaders and commanded by former high-ranking Ethiopian National Defence Force officers.
It currently operates primarily from rural areas in central and southern Tigray, while federal troops control the main roads and urban areas.
Eritrean soldiers have their heaviest presence in northern Tigray and Amhara forces patrol western Tigray and the far south.
All sides are fixated on securing a military victory. None appears capable of achieving one in the near term.
If war persists, it would pose a serious threat to Ethiopia’s overall stability and potentially to that of the entire Horn of Africa.
A concern Crisis Group highlighted at the conflict’s outset was that it could exacerbate problems in Ethiopia, such as mounting intercommunal killings in Benishangul-Gumuz region, bordering Sudan in the west, simmering discontent in the country’s largest region of Oromia, and national fault lines.
Growing hostilities with Sudan complicate the picture further.
For now, the authorities seem to have sufficient control in most areas outside Tigray, but they could lose it.
In Oromia, home to a burgeoning insurgency, political discontent is high, though the opposition is relatively fragmented.
If fighting intensifies in Tigray – and clashes with Sudan escalate – Addis Ababa’s opponents in this region may feel emboldened as the 5 June election approaches.
The election could deepen fault lines, particularly given that the main opposition parties in Oromia are boycotting it, citing state repression.
Thus, while Abiy still commands domestic support for the intervention in Tigray, protracted conflict there nonetheless risks sparking unrest elsewhere.
The war in Tigray has become a grinding stalemate. Neither side appears poised to achieve a definitive victory, despite the federal government’s success in pushing Tigray’s leadership out of Mekelle.
@PMEthiopia has launched an unwinnable War on Tigray Province.
Ethiopia which was once the Poster child of the African Renaissance now has a Nobel Prize Winner whom I am reliably informed
PM Abiy His inner war cabinet includes Evangelicals who are counseling him he is "doing Christ's work"; that his faith is being "tested". @RAbdiAnalyst
@PMEthiopia has launched an unwinnable War on Tigray Province.
All contracts signed since 2014 — 38 of the 100 — contained far-reaching confidentiality clauses that make it hard for other creditors to ascertain the true financial position of the borrower @FT
Chinese lenders have used legal contracts to give them a hidden advantage over other creditors when lending to low-income countries, in a trend which threatens to undermine global debt relief efforts, according to research.
Many of the contract terms were unusually strict and gave Chinese loans priority for repayment while prohibiting borrowers from restructuring their Chinese debts in co-ordination with other creditors, the report published on Wednesday said.
It was drawn up by analysts at research lab AidData at the College of William & Mary in the US, along with the Center for Global Development, the Kiel Institute for the World Economy and the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
They analysed 100 contracts between lenders such as the China Export-Import Bank and the China Development Bank and 24 developing countries including Argentina, Ecuador and Venezuela, all of which have defaulted in recent years, and several countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
All contracts signed since 2014 — 38 of the 100 — contained far-reaching confidentiality clauses that make it hard for other creditors to ascertain the true financial position of the borrower.
This means that “citizens in lending and borrowing countries alike cannot hold their governments accountable for secret debts”, the researchers warned.
Several contracts exerted influence over borrower countries’ domestic and foreign policies.
These included cross-default clauses triggered by any action seen as adverse to the interests of “a People’s Republic of China entity”, and others that entitled the lender to immediate repayment if a debtor country’s diplomatic relations with China were terminated.
While creditors jockey for position among themselves, the damage is concentrated in a country [Zambia] that is already distressed and in the weakest position to do anything about it
Anna Gelpern, report lead authorThe research comes at a critical moment for indebted emerging economies, as the IMF and other leading multilateral institutions such as the UN warn about the impending threat of a debt crisis.
China has been criticised for its role in recent sovereign restructurings such as Zambia, where some bondholders resisted a reduction in their interest payments because they suspected the savings would be used to service the country’s Chinese debts.
“While creditors jockey for position among themselves, the damage is concentrated in a country that is already distressed and is in the weakest position to do anything about it,” said Anna Gelpern, a lead author of the report, professor of law at Georgetown University and senior fellow at PIIE.
Of the 100 contracts analysed, which covered loan commitments totalling $36.6bn between 2000 and 2020, 30 per cent required the sovereign borrower to maintain a special bank account as security for debt repayments, usually with a bank “acceptable to the lender”.
“In no-recourse project finance, that might be a normal thing to do . . . but in a full-recourse sovereign development loan, it’s not normal. It’s a questionable proposition,” Gelpern said.
Close to three-quarters of the contracts contain what the report terms “no Paris Club” clauses, which expressly commit the borrower to exclude the debt from restructuring by the Paris Club of official bilateral creditors.
China is not a member of the Paris Club. However, last year it signed up to two initiatives by the G20 group of the world’s largest economies to address developing countries’ mounting debt piles.
The initiatives are run jointly by the Paris Club, the IMF and the World Bank, using Paris Club conventions including equality of treatment for all creditors.
Scott Morris, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, said the report’s findings were “clearly at odds” with China’s commitments under the G20 agreements.
However, John Lipsky, former first deputy managing director of the IMF and a member of the board of directors at the CGD, said China’s commitment would be tested in practice in coming months.
“The proof will be in the execution,” he said.
The research is the result of a multiyear effort by researchers at AidData to obtain electronic copies of loan contracts from debt management systems, official registers and gazettes, and parliamentary websites.
19-APR-2020 :: The End of Vanity China Africa Win Win
"The red rising sun will light up the road ahead."
Interestingly, At that 2018 FOCAC Meeting Xi Jinping also delivered a thinly veiled warning
China's Xi says funds for Africa not for 'vanity projects' Reuters #FOCAC2018
Our African Leaders did not take notes and that Warning was missed.
“China had a singular and positive influence on Africa. It rebalanced the demand side for Africa’s commodities and also bought those commodities on a long-term basis. It was this which triggered the African recovery some two decades ago.
However, since then a freewheeling China has favourited elites, has facilitated large-scale looting via inflated infrastructure, some of which were white elephants and has lumped the African citizen with the tab.
How this plays out is now the key to Sino-African relations going forward. A Hambantota scenario would be problematic,” referring to the Sri Lankan port which has been leased to China for 99 years.
A Lot of these Loans are not on the Official Register.
The Hambantota Moment has arrived
18-JUN-2018 :: So the first overarching Point, is that creditors are not Santa Claus and miscues will exact a very heavy price, Countries will be "Hambantota-ed"
This is a symptom of the SSA disease.
Basically China has an Option to buy in SSA Assets at fire-sale Prices.
In an interview, The World Bank’s Malpass cited liens against Angola’s oil revenues associated with Chinese debt that were hidden by non-disclosure agreements, convenient for politicians and contractors.
“Let the people of the country see what the terms of the debt are as their government makes commitments,” Malpass said.
The Terms of these debts are hidden precisely because they are so egregious.
Total Kenya reports FY 2020 EPS +30.02% Earnings here
N.S.E Equities - Industrial & Allied
Par Value: 5/-
Closing Price: 23.50
Total Shares Issued: 175028706.00
Market Capitalization: 4,113,174,591
Leading multinational energy company.
Total reports FY 2020 Earnings through 31st Dec 2020 versus 31st Dec 2019
FY Gross Sales 97.351821b versus 143.990455b
FY Net Sales 65.431178b versus 111.876926b
FY Cost of Sales [56.374062b] versus [103.266119b]
FY Gross Profit 9.057116b versus 8.610807b
FY Other Income 1.902801b versus 1.496356b
FY Operating Expenses [6.179802b] versus [6.181277b]
FY Profit before tax 4.784574b versus 3.881368b
FY Profit after Tax 3.296532b versus 2.534532b
FY EPS 5.24 versus 4.03
FY Cash and Cash Equivalents 9.591950b versus 3.532961b
Final Dividend 1.57 versus 1.30 +20.769%
business environment faced extremely challenging circumstances in 2020 resulting from COVID19 pandemic
Oter income increased to 1.903b mainly resulting from the continued investments in Shop Food and Services