1. India’s role in a disordered world
New Delhi can play an important role in shaping a new, more democratic, world order
Western nations want to throw Russia out of the G-20. China has opposed them. India will be chair of the G-20 from December 1, 2022. The world is greatly disordered. What should India stand for?
Institutions of global governance have failed to unite the world. Summit after summit has produced mostly hot air in trying to resolve the global climate crisis. Vaccines were hoarded by rich countries in the COVID-19 pandemic: poor countries starved. The World Trade Organization (WTO) was already in the intensive care unit before the novel coronavirus pandemic, with rich and poor countries unable to agree on equitable rules, when COVID-19 froze global supply chains. The war in Ukraine in February 2022 has put the final nail in the coffin of the boundary-less global economy that seemed to be emerging with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Millions of civilians died in the Second World War. European cities were razed by carpet bombing. The war ended with two nuclear bombs to terrorise the Japanese government into submission, erasing two Japanese cities and killing thousands of civilians. Never again, the victors vowed.
New institutions for global governance were established — the United Nations and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), and the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to provide finance to build the economies of all countries to eliminate poverty. However, the victors retained their veto power within the United Nations Security Council to determine when force can be used to keep the world in order, and to prevent the proliferation of nuclear power outside their small circle because they could not trust other countries to use it wisely! They also control the World Bank, the IMF, and the WTO.
The UN General Assembly meets every year — now 193 nations strong. It passes many resolutions to address global problems — hunger, poverty, women’s rights, terrorism, climate change, etc. However, “might is right”: members of the Security Council retain their right to deny the democratic will of the Assembly when it does not suit them. Global governance is not democratic. If the leader of any member country overrules resolutions of its own parliament, he would be branded an undemocratic dictator. Armed interventions and sanctions imposed on countries, authorised by the Security Council to restore democracy in other countries, make a mockery of global democracy.
The United States, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Japan, West Germany and Canada formed the G7 in 1976 ‘so that the noncommunist powers could come together to discuss economic concerns, which at the time included inflation and recession following the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) oil embargo’. The European Union was invited to attend in 1977. Russia joined in 1998 — and ‘its inclusion was meant as a signal of cooperation between East and West after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991’. However, Russia was thrown out in 2014 when it invaded the Crimea. China was never a member.
The rapid spread of global finance and trade after the victory of the Washington Consensus in 1991, created instabilities in developing countries. After the Asian financial crisis, the G20 was formed in 1999 with the aim of discussing policies in order to achieve international financial stability. Russia and China are members. Now western nations want to throw Russia out of the G-20. China has opposed them. India will be chair of the G-20 from December 2022, or will it be G-19 then? Meanwhile, India is being hectored by officials from the U.S. and the U.K. to support their sanctions on Russia. India has so far refused to be cowed down.
Inequalities have only risen
The belief that unfettered flows of finance and trade across national borders will lift people in all poor countries out of poverty and make the world flatter in terms of inequality has failed. Inequalities have increased within countries and amongst them too. Citizens are reacting everywhere. Even in democratic countries such as the U.S., demands are increasing for more “socialism” and less unbounded capitalism. Strong leaders who put the interests of their own countries first are gaining power through elections — in Turkey, Hungary, Poland, Russia, and even India. Donald Trump had once too.
Free market capitalism is not ideologically compatible with a genuine democracy. Capitalist institutions are governed by the fundamental principle of ‘property rights’: decision rights in capitalist enterprises are allocated in proportion to property owned. Whereas, genuine democracies are founded on the principle of equal human rights. All western electoral systems — in Britain, the U.S., and Europe, began centuries ago with rights to vote limited to property owners only. Universal adult franchise, wherein all humans have equal votes whether they are billionaires or paupers, is a more recent development in the West. In many western countries, women and racial minorities were given even de jure equal voting rights only in the last century, and continue their struggles for de facto equality in their societies.
The rules of governance of capitalist and democratic institutions have always been in tension within societies. Capitalist institutions want to be unfettered by democratic regulations to make it easier to do business. Democratic institutions want to rein in the competitive animal spirits, red in tooth and claw, of capitalism to create a more compassionate capitalism that improves the world for everyone, not only for financial investors. The simultaneous imposition of free markets and elections in countries “liberated” from communism or socialism by the U.S. has invariably increased inequalities and increased social tensions and sectarian conflicts, which more elections cannot resolve democratically.
This is the story of Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia, and even Chile, which was once the showcase of the western model of liberal capitalism. When social tensions increase too much, elections often produce populist socialists such as Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, or capitalist autocrats such as Vladimir Putin in Russia. The West does not like either sort when they stand up against the Washington-controlled “North Atlantic” hegemony of the world. Though capitalist dictators such as Augusto Pinochet in Chile, and the monarchies of the Gulf/West Asia can be their good friends. Even Chinese communists were tolerated so long as they were not a threat to U.S. power.
Redistribution of power
Power accumulates in societies by the principle of “cumulative causation”. Those who already have more power, from greater wealth or more education, will use their power to not only improve the rules of the game — ostensibly to improve the world for everyone — but also to ensure they remain in power. Redistribution of de facto power within a society must often precede the redistribution of assets of wealth and education that are the sources of power. Those who have power will resist losing it. That is the natural order. Violent internal revolutions and anti-colonial movements are the means of changing power equations, as are armed wars even between rich countries in Europe.
All violence must stop. To prevent violence, it is essential that global governance becomes genuinely democratic. Countries must not attack each other. But they must be given the freedom to evolve their own democracies and economies and not be dictated to by others. The hypocrisy of undemocratic global dictators using their financial powers to impose sanctions (which are weapons of mass destruction that harm innocent civilians), to bring down their opponents, must stop. Calling on a democratic country such as India, to take their side, must also end.
Arun Maira is the author of ‘A Billion Fireflies: Critical Conversations to Shape a New Post-pandemic World’
2. The no-confidence vote in Pakistan
Why was the strictly stipulated Assembly session delayed? What lies ahead for the neighbouring country?
The National Assembly Secretariat of Pakistan has accepted nomination papers of the joint Opposition candidate Shehbaz Sharif, and that of PTI’s Shah Mahmood Qureshi. Voting is set to begin on Monday at 2 p.m.
Now ousted PM Imran Khan maintains that there is a “regime change operation” underway against him at the behest of the United States. The U.S. has categorically denied these claims. 174 votes were cast against Mr. Khan in a no-confidence vote in the Assembly on April 10.
Mr. Shehbaz Sharif and his son Hamza Sharif are due to appear before a special court on Monday in a case of money laundering brought against them by the federal authorities in 2019. Both he and his son had been arrested in the case, and are now out on bail.
The story so far: For the fourth time in a week, Pakistan will awake to the possibility of a new Prime Minister being chosen by the National Assembly, after surprise moves by now-ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan and his party the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), ensured delay after delay in the process of the no-confidence motion against him. The election of the new PM originally scheduled for April 3, then stipulated under a Supreme Court order to have been held on April 9, is now due to be taken up on Monday. According to state-run media, the National Assembly Secretariat has accepted nomination papers of Shehbaz Sharif, the joint Opposition candidate of Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) and that of Shah Mahmood Qureshi, PTI Vice Chairman and Mr. Khan’s Foreign Minister, to be voted on Monday at 2 p.m.
Why didn’t the vote for the new PM take place over the weekend?
Despite very specific stipulations by the Supreme Court on convening the Assembly no-confidence motion vote against Khan no later than 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, the Assembly speaker Asad Qaiser first allowed a lengthy debate on the “foreign conspiracy” allegations levelled by Mr. Khan. In a national address on April 3, Mr. Khan alleged that there was a “regime change operation” underway against him at the behest of the United States. He even named U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu for threatening Pakistan’s Ambassador to the U.S. with consequences for Pakistan if Mr. Khan was allowed to win the confidence vote. In the Assembly, Mr. Qureshi claimed that U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan also called Pakistan National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf, to tell him to stop Mr. Khan from visiting Russia on February 24.
The U.S. has categorically denied the claims. As the day wore on, with no end to the lengthy speeches, it seemed the PTI government would not allow the vote, and rumours went rife through Pakistan’s capital, including one that Mr. Khan was dismissing the Army Chief, and another that the Army was gathering forces to take Mr. Khan out forcibly.
Neither proved true however, and minutes before the Supreme Court-laid midnight deadline, the Speaker announced the no-confidence vote. In all, 174 votes were cast against Mr. Khan, two more than the majority mark in the 342-seat Assembly. Speaker Asad Qaider then stepped down, and it wasn’t until Sunday that nominations could be called for and scrutinised by the Assembly secretariat.
Does the Opposition have the numbers?
Not since former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassination have the two main Opposition parties, which have ruled Pakistan at different times — the PML-N and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) —formed a government together. After 2008, when the party leaders Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari fell apart, they attempted to form the Pakistan Democracy Movement (PDM) with a number of other parties, but Mr. Zardari soon walked out of that. This time around, the PPP and the PML-N are joined in the effort to oust Mr. Khan with religious parties as well as more secular and regional parties from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. Greeting the Assembly after the no-confidence vote, Mr. Zardari’s son Bilawal Bhutto took a dig at Mr. Khan’s promise of a “Naya Pakistan”, which often translated into rejecting and criticising Pakistan’s older and more established leaders. “Welcome back to Purana (Old) Pakistan,” he said. In a new government under Shehbaz Sharif, all eyes will be on whether Mr. Bhutto will be in the cabinet, with some even speculating a stint in the Foreign Office, even as the new Prime Minister deals with the mammoth challenges, of managing such a massive coalition of parties.
How has Imran Khan reacted to the defeat?
Mr. Khan, who had walked out of the Assembly with his party members before the confidence vote on Saturday, surfaced for party meetings on Sunday. In a tweet, he indicated that he planned to return to the streets to protest what he still maintains is a “foreign conspiracy of regime change”. “Pakistan became an independent state in 1947; but the freedom struggle begins again today,” Mr. Khan wrote.
Meanwhile PTI senior leader and former Information Minister Fawad Chaudhary indicated that the entire party would resign from the Assembly on Monday, and it remains to be seen if that threat is carried out. The new government elected would, in the absence of any other legal and political hurdles, remain in office for more than a year, with the current Assembly set to be dissolved on or before August 13, 2023, and general elections held by October 2023.
What other challenges would Shehbaz Sharif, if elected, face?
In a strange coincidence, Mr. Shehbaz Sharif and his son Hamza Sharif, who is in the running as the next Chief Minister of Punjab, are also due to appear before a special court for indictment on Monday, the same day he expects to be elected in the National Assembly.
Mr. Sharif and his son have rejected the allegations in the case that was brought against them by federal authorities in 2019 for “money laundering” — an amount totalling PKR 14 billion ($75 million). Mr. Shehbaz Sharif called the “money laundering case” registered in the U.K. a political conspiracy by Mr. Khan. Both he and his son had been arrested in the case, and are now out on bail. Significantly, within hours of Mr. Khan losing the vote, the chief investigating officer in the case went on leave, anticipating a “certain transfer” if the government were to change. While the case itself may not pose much of a problem for Mr. Sharif, there are a number of other challenges any new government must face in terms of stemming the losses in the Pakistani economy, dealing with the situation in Afghanistan, terrorism domestically, and rebuilding ties with countries like India and the U.S., which have been in a state of disrepair during Mr. Khan’s tenure.
3. Ukraine crisis to headline India-U.S. ‘2+2’ meet
Defence, science and technology, climate and public health, building supply chains are high on agenda
India and the U.S. will hold their fourth annual “2+2” Defence and Foreign Ministry dialogue in Washington on Monday, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine looming over the discussions and occupying a prominent place on the agenda.
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, who arrived in Washington on Saturday night, and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, scheduled to arrive on Sunday, will meet their counterparts, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, in the first such dialogue of the Biden administration.
The last meeting in this format was in October 2020.
The agenda for discussion is broad, reflecting the breadth of the “Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership” between the two countries. The two sides will discuss defence, science and technology (particularly emerging technology), climate and public health (particularly cooperation on managing the COVID-19 pandemic), fortifying and building supply chains, as well as people-to-people ties, as per the readouts of the talks from the U.S. State and Defence Departments.
India and the U.S. will continue their “close consultations on the consequences of President Putin’s brutal war against Ukraine and mitigating the impact by addressing energy and food prices”, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday. India has raised the issue of commodity price impacts of the war, including at the United Nations. It has also purchased oil at a discounted price from Moscow — a move that has ruffled feathers in the Biden administration. The U.S. has said it is willing to help provide alternatives to India’s sourcing of oil from Moscow — which accounts for 1–2% of its energy imports. This is likely to feature in the week’s discussions.
In addition to meeting in the “2+2” format, the Defence and Foreign Ministry principals will hold bilateral meeting with their own counterparts on Monday.
Several big-ticket defence deals are in the pipeline, especially for the Navy. The purchase of 30 Predator armed drones for the three Services is in advanced stages but has been delayed pending approval from the Defence Acquisition Council.
Another major deal is a Navy tender for around 26 deck-based fighter aircraft for its existing INSVikramaditya and the indigenous aircraft carrier Vikrant, which is scheduled to be commissioned in August.
A deal for six more P-8I maritime patrol aircraft is in the works, while the Navy will start receiving the first batch of three MH-60R multi-role helicopters in June, contracted as part of a deal for 24 helicopters.
While the U.S. Congress is in recess, Mr. Jaishankar is expected to meet officials in the executive branch of the U.S. government, specifically members of the Biden Cabinet. India’s U.S. Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu and his team have been reaching out to U.S. officials and Members of Congress to explain and manage differences in the relative positions the two countries have on the Russia–Ukraine conflict, Mr. Jaishankar is expected to build on these efforts during these talks.
On this list of Cabinet meetings is United States Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai — who has led the U.S. side as India and the U.S. relaunched their Trade Policy Forum after four years last November to progress the bilateral trade relationship.
Also on the cards is a meeting between Mr. Jaishankar and U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.
In addition to interactions at think tanks, a visit by Mr. Jaishankar to Howard University in DC is on the schedule, a U.S. government source indicated to The Hindu. The university is a “Historically Black College and University (HBCU)”, an organisation that educated African American students prior to 1964 , during the segregation era. It is also the alma mater of powerful Washington residents, notably Vice-President Kamala Harris and Gregory Meeks. The Hindu has learnt that a meeting between the External Affairs Minister and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan is also in the works.
4. Bengal coast faces most erosion
About 34% of Indian coastline is under varying degrees of the threat: Ministry
The Ministry of Earth Sciences, in a response to a question, informed the Lok Sabha earlier this week that of the 6,907.18-km-long coastline of the Indian mainland, about 34% is under varying degrees of erosion, while 26% is of an accretional nature and the remaining 40% is in a stable state.
“The National Centre for Coastal Research (NCCR), Chennai, an attached office of the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), is monitoring shoreline erosion since 1990 using remote sensing data and GIS mapping techniques. About 6,907.18 km long Indian coastline of mainland has been analysed from 1990 to 2018,” the Ministry said in response to a question from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP from Bhubaneswar, Aparajita Sarangi, on April 6.
In terms of percentage, West Bengal, located on the eastern coast of the country, with a 534.35-km-long coastline, suffered erosion along about 60.5% of the coast (323.07 km) over the period from 1990 to 2018. This is followed by Kerala on the west coast, which has 592.96 km of coastline and 46.4% of it (275.33 km) faced erosion. Tamil Nadu, with a long coastline of 991.47 km, recorded erosion along 42.7% of it (422.94 km). Gujarat, with the longest coastline of 1,945.6 km, recorded erosion along 27.06% (537.5 km) of it. In the Union Territory of Puducherry, with a 41.66-km-long coastline, about 56.2% of its coast (23.42 km) recorded erosion.
Another organisation under the Ministry, the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) has prepared and published an atlas of Coastal Vulnerability Index (CVI) maps for the entire coastline of India at a 1:100000 scale, the Ministry informed Parliament.
Policy on displacement
The Ministry stated that the 15th Finance Commission had recommended the creation of a National Disaster Risk Management Fund (NDRMF) and State Disaster Risk Management Fund (SDRMF) comprising a mitigation fund at the national and State levels (NDMF/SDMF), and a response fund at the national and state levels for the award period from 2021-22 to 2022-26.
“The Commission has also made specific recommendations for ‘Mitigation Measures to Prevent Erosion’ under NDMF and ‘Resettlement of Displaced People Affected by Erosion’ under NDRF,” the response pointed out.