NSA Talks: No point talking

Instead of running around in circles, raising expectations all around and wasting precious time, Modi sarkar should stick to the latest decision on Pakistan – no talks as long as terror is there.

Few facts are indisputable

  1. Pakistan has no interest in helping India deal with terror from its soil, even if you suspend credulity and believe that it is purely caused by non-state actors without any official patronage. The recent denial of Gurdaspur terrorist’s citizenship is clear proof, if any is needed.
  2. Pakistan has been fooling, lying to and killing Americans in Afghanistan even after taking $20-$30 billions of American money, despite overwhelming military superiority of Uncle. There is no way it is going to do anything different with India, a much weaker power threatened by its stolen nukes.
  3. Although it has been taking action against some terror groups, these have ALL been groups threatening the regime directly. Or threatening the west without any collateral benefits to the Pakistani military. It has done zilch against Afghan facing terrorists, and will do absolutely nothing against India specific terror groups. No amount of talks or surrender is going to change that. Pro Pakistan commentators in India making big noise over ‘change of heart’ should start reading the news.

So what should India do?

We are obviously not suggesting war. We dont have sufficient information to do so. What we do suggest is

  1. Just stop talking about talks. No point wasting time with six monthly gestures that lead to nothing.
  2. Beef up internal security. This will blunt effect of any terror attack, minimise casualties and reduce frequency of attacks. More than money, clever strategy and execution is the key. Crowd sourcing some of the steps can work wonders.
  3. Work on Pakistan’s friends and benefactors. Keep pointing out to them increasing cost of their rearing snakes.
  4. Focus on economy.
  5. Focus on covert options – Exploit internal fault lines of Pakistan in Balochistan and elsewhere.
  6. Don’t let media circus distract from above goals.
  7. Slowly build capacity in every respect.
  8. War proof economy as far as practicable, build civil defence capabilities.

If all this is done, India can pick and choose when to take the battle to Pakistan’s heartland. It will have to be done one day.

 

 

 

Parliament logjam – blessing in disguise?

What’s the bottom line?

It’s official. The monsoon session is washed out. GST Bill will not be passed, barring miracles. What’s the bottom line here for the Modi Sarkar?

  1. We totally agree with R. Jagannathan of Firstpost – disrupting Parliament suits Congress. Like any kidnapper, It will simply up its ante and engage in further blackmail if its current demand is conceded. Whether Congress strategy will lead to electoral gains for that party is a different question we will tackle separately. It’s ridiculous opposition to the Naga peace accord gives ample proof this negative attitude and the scorched earth policy adopted by prodigal son Rahul.
  2. So it is wise for Modi to assume that for the foreseeable future, passing bills would be impossible, no matter how much it bends, bows or scrapes. Other than money bills that don’t need RS nod of course. This picture may not change much even by 2017, even if NDA were to win Bihar and do well in UP.

Is this a big disaster? Did India elect Modi to break records in passing bills? Is scarcity of legislation holding up Indian economy? Going by the feverish pace at which earlier Parliament sessions did so, one suspects that is what BJP seems to be thinking. Does India need another 500 bills to add to the mountain of court cases, backlog, bureaucracy, harassment, red tape and sloth? No, of course not!

Obviously, there are crucial bills pending. GST Bill for one, having hard time thinking up another, to be frank. This is not good news, in theory, but is not an unmanageable disaster. As far as other ‘reform’ bills go, BJP will face pressure from a variety of forces, including its own SJM/RSS/BMS dinosaurs. As the land bill fiasco proved, it is better not to start a battle without knowing victory is guaranteed. A defeat not merely takes you back to square one, it puts you lot behind.

That’s why we strongly feel this logjam is nothing but a blessing in disguise for PM Modi. Simply take the case to the ‘people’s court’, slam Congress for blocking progress and pass all blame for failures to that obstruction. And do other things at double speed.

The Plan B for PM Modi and BJP government

1. Get BJP/NDA states to make GST redundant through legislative and administrative measures

This is very much feasible. Something along these lines was debated in Europe too, when faster progress was held back by recalcitrant states.

After all, what is GST? It is a system of taxation that allows credit for input so that the final consumer pays tax on entire value added, without cascading effect of tax on tax. This means producers can manufacture where it makes sense.  Paper work is simplified, goods move without too many checks, harassment, bribes and delays.

There is nothing that prevents friendly NDA ruled states boosting inter state commerce by liberalizing their own local sales tax laws and rules. Reciprocal arrangements can be made to mimic GST.  Maharashtra can input credit to anything made in Gujarat, if same benefit is given to its manufacturers. Given the fact that large, contiguous parts of India are ruled by BJP and NDA, barring a few holdouts this will as good as ensure entire India is covered in no time.

Combined with intelligent administrative reforms (see 2 below), this can neatly sidestep Congress sponsored anarchy and have their CMs begging for a ticket on the economic gravy train.

2. Wind down red tape through administrative steps, without changing laws

We often hear that businessmen have to fill up dozens of forms, queue up at multiple government offices and beg numerous babus to get any simple work done. The standard cookie cutter response to this mayhem has been to try cut down procedures. This brings another problem – need to amend laws, giving an impression that workers safeguards and environmental protection is diluted and so on.

This is not the only way. After all, starting a restaurant (to give an example) in USA or any advanced society will also involve multiple approvals – food safety, fire protection, labor laws and working conditions, parking and other zonal restrictions, water and drainage connections, disposal of food waste and so on.

The big difference in these countries is that (A) these regulations are transparent and fairly applied and more importantly (B) it gets approved as fast as possible, without bribes and delays.

Now, doing exactly the same thing, is neither rocket science nor does it require revising any law. Just make the system move faster using same set of rules, and laws. Just amend rules here and there where needed, for which powers are available even today.

For example, instead of diluting factory safety laws and creating a huge hullaballoo, just get inspectors to behave. Clarify rules. In fact, this is exactly what AAP is trying to do in Delhi – by allowing bar owners pay up renewal fees yearly and get their licenses auto-renewed.

You get the drift. Hope Narendra Modi sarkar gets it too!

3. Focus on visible, tangible steps that benefits, touches each voter one way or other

The key is identifying groups of voters, preferably not by caste or religion but by other factors. It could be profession or vocation, place of residence and so on. Ask yourself, “Why did they vote for me? What is the ONE thing, cheap and effective, I can do for them that improves their lives, makes them vote again, come 2019?”

To give a simple example, let us take the case of construction workers. They are huge in number and have numerous problems. Simply giving them something – say accident cover, training vouchers, subsidized safety gear, toilet facilities at workplace (sad to see them defecating openly at or near their construction site because neither the builder nor the owner care a damn.), loans for educating children etc. could make them hugely grateful to Modi. They would never think of voting anyone else, whatever be their caste or religion. None of the steps listed here should cost a bomb.

Given its data gathering powers and technological wizardry at its disposal BJP can easily do a scientific study on such groups and come out with schemes targeting them, without throwing money in a bottomless pit like MNREGA. Which incidentally did not help re-elect the Sonia dynasty.

4. Find innovative ways to get around land acquisition issues

We keep hearing, from fairly knowledgeable commentators that land acquisition is not the biggest stumbling block. Exhibit A. If true, that’s good news. Although one may question why Modi wasted one year on the land bill. That’s water under the bridge, so let us skip that.

The point is, government has to publicly list all the big pending projects, current status along with reasons for their lack of progress and steps that are being taken. This puts pressure on everyone in the chain of command – local babus, banks, industrialists themselves, state governments and so on. It also brings land acquisition issues into sharper focus, leading to innovative and smart solutions – if that’s indeed the culprit. If the employment potential of each project is listed along side, it also puts enormous pressure on those holding them up – to explain their case to the jobless youth – be they foreign funded NGOs or opposition parties.

Moving projects to and surplus areas through intelligently targeted subsidies and incentives will also lead to saner choices made by those obstructing progress. Competition between states and districts will totally eliminate need for a two year fight on legislation that gets you nowhere.

Sadly such marketing and communication efforts are totally absent. In its place we have lots of airy fairy noise and equally vague criticism full of catch phrases and empty words.

5. Milk the commodity price crash for all its worth

It puts enormous funds, extra funds that UPA never had at its disposal, at the command of the regime. We are talking US$10-20 billion, each year. If used well, it can do wonders for 2019 that MNREGA could never do for Congress.

Quick win projects that create rural jobs, puts money and cash flow in the hands of large sections of populace and fuels demand for various consumer goods creating a ripple effect on rest of economy. That should be the goal.

Here, the government appears to be on the right track, focus on road building, infrastructure, railways etc. which tick various boxes in the list. Key then in execution and efficiency in delivery. Thankfully  it has competent ministers running the show.

Summary

It is clear. Narendra Modi can spend the next four years fighting meaningless battles with anarchist opposition and jammed up Parliament or simply bypass them and build a new India. The choice will decide who hoists the flag come Independence Day 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taliban leadership change – victory for Pakistan?

As reported, Taliban as well as Afghan Govt announced the death of Mullah Omar and the appointment of Mullah Akhtar Mansour as his successor. There have also been reports of dissents, walkouts by rival groups in the meeting to (s)elect him. As if all this is not confusing enough, we also hear Haqqani Sr, leader of the so-called Haqqani network has also died.

The timing and location of the deaths of these two leaders have been disputed. But it seems to be widely acknowledged that announcements were made or initiated by Pakistan. In addition to controversy and confusion, these two events have also resulted in delay to the Afghan-Pak (Taliban) talks monitored by China and US.

What’s going on?! Why would Pakistan release this news at this point in time?

Let us assume for the moment that Pakistan has finally given up on using its terror proxies in Afghanistan and is now pushing peace aggressively. This could be because they found that strategy harming them more, or due to pressure from USA and China or whatever. This also doesn’t mean that strategy has been given up vis-a-vis India where the pressure from USA is rather mild and that from China or Saudi Arabia, Pakistan’s other main sponsors, is non existent. It is also entirely possible the ‘strategic depth’ policy has been merely mothballed for better days in the future.

The question now is, why would Pakistan release (or plant) this news now, knowing it will throw monkey wrench into their ‘peace’ plans, at least temporarily? That too barely days after planting another fake statement from Mullah Omar blessing these talks?

Pakistan had no choice

We can only conclude that Pakistan did not have much choice. The charade has been going on for too long, too many people knew or were getting to know the truth. And ISIS had already openly challenged Taliban cadre to prove Mullah Omar’s existence or join their group. “Caliph” Baghdadi even attacked Omar as demented, “ignorant prince of war” (1) His boast that ISIS achieved in two years what Taliban couldn’t in 10 has lot of truth, whether we like the results or not.

Indeed, Mohd. Taqi, writing for Huffington Post seems to think Pakistan’s hand was forced by Afghanistan to either deliver him or his support for the talks. (3)

Ideally, Pakistan would have preferred to keep the news in cold storage for a few more months, until talks produce some desirable results, get “Omar” to bless the package and then conveniently die. This also tells us, the talks are going nowhere. Or highly unlikely to produce the results Taliban and/or Pakistan wants in the near term.  Despite advances in the battle field, Afghan army is not looking at closing shop and surrendering anytime soon and Uncle Sam is waiting in the wings, ready to restore balance with drone or air strikes, should that scenario become more likely.

Just as it did with Karzai, Pakistan may have misread President Ashraf Ghani. While he may seek peace with Pakistan and see it as the main facilitator, he has and is also strengthening direct links with Pakistan’s handlers in China and USA. His strategy to rope in US and China is more likely part of plan to keep Pakistan’s ambitions in check. This gives the generals a little bit less room to play their games. Again, here Pakistan’s ideal scenario would be a weakened Afghanistan, militarily staring at defeat or retreat, led by a regime disliked by Americans and Chinese, loved only by India, crawling on all fours to Rawalpindi. Clearly President Ghani is not going to get there anytime soon though Karzai ticked many of those boxes.

Where do we go from here?

Clearly, the recent admission of Mullah Omar’s demise would stun the cadre even though they may have suspected it or even known it. It only reinforces Pakistan’s “reputation” for double speak and treachery among the battle hardened foot soldiers many of whom have no love lost for their main backer. After all, a steady stream of fake press releases from ISI HQ purportedly by Omar kept them fooled all this while.

While several analysts in the West and in India see this as yet another triumph for Pakistan, the fact is Taliban don’t trust them any more than the average Afghan does. They’ll have one less reason to do so with this news. Furthermore, the pull of ISIS, seen as more pure green, and more successful, will be irresistible to some. To the few that get tired of all this and want to go back to peaceful life, Afghan government, funded by the West will be a more attractive proposition.  Pakistan will still be in their memory as an exploiter not to be trusted. Even Mullah Omar was quoted as having said its better to go to USA than trust Pakistan! (2)

All this means Pakistan is less likely to be in a  position to achieve its strategic goals after years of poisoning itself trying to control Afghanistan, and using that, control events in Kashmir and seek leverage against India.

Whichever way events turn out, Pakistan is likely to find itself at loser’s end. A strong Taliban would give it headache in the west, make it global pariah and drag it to 8th century Arabia, a weak, faction ridden Taliban running in all directions will rob it of the sole value it can provide to Afghanistan and the West. If you are not running the show, why talk to you?! A Taliban defeated or incapacitated will not be good news for Pakistan either. In that scenario, Afghanistan can go ahead with internal reconstruction leaving Pakistan to deal with the toxic side effects of its 40 year old great game.

As we mentioned earlier in another article, India has to merely get a large bowl of popcorn and watch the show, not fret about being unable to do much about the unfolding game. They’re doing quite fine without our muddling anyway!

 

1. http://www.iraqinews.com/iraq-war/isis-leader-al-baghdadi-describes-taliban-leader-demented-ignorant-prince-war/

2. http://www.newsweek.com/mullah-omar-dead-taliban-afghanistan-pakistan-358247

3. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mohammad-taqi/mullah-omar-death-break-taliban_b_7912678.html?ir=India&adsSiteOverride=in