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Realpolitik lessons from Donald Trump and Sasikala Natarajan

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] W [/yt_dropcap] hat is the meaning of REALPOLITIK? The Oxford Dictionary defines it as a system of politics or principles based on practical rather than moral or ideological considerations. Rulers, diplomats and intellectuals/scholars who have spoken about or/and practiced it include Thucydides, Kautilya, Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes, Otto von Bismark, Henry Kissinger and many more.

The list just gets too long. If the list itself is this long, then one can imagine what it would take to read the works/lives of all these people and understand them.

However, nature has been kind. The world churns up circumstances from which some realpolitik lessons can be extracted. Of late, by studying simply the political lives of two politicians namely Donald Trump and Sasikala Natarajan, a few lessons can be learnt. Before that a brief introduction about the two personalities is necessary. For Sasikala Natarajan, it might be valid. However, if someone thinks that it is difficult to believe that someone would not have heard of Donald Trump, then he/she can be looked upon with empathy!!! Still an introduction ought to be given.

Donald Trump was the fourth child of New York real estate tycoon Fred Trump. While assisting his father, he realised that there were aspects that he did not like about his father’s job like rent-collection, physical labour. It was at this point of time that he decided to get involved in real-estate, but at a much higher scale than his father had ever been. He studied at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Gradually, he became a real estate tycoon and his assets include the famous Trump towers on Manhattan’s fifth Avenue, 555 California Street (which is San Fransisco’s second tallest building), Trump Building which is a 71 storey skyscraper in New York etc. After a failed attempt to run for the US presidency for the 2000 elections, on June 16 2015, Donald J Trump announced that he would be running for the Presidency on a Republican ticket. The rest, as they say, is history.

Sasikala Natarajan, on the other hand, hails from Mannargudi which is a town in Tiruvarur district of the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. She was a video shop owner in the 1980s. She was introduced to Jayalalitha by her husband Natarajan through Chandralekha, the then District Collector of Cuddalore. Immediately she caught the attention of Jayalalitha. Consequently, she moved in to the Jayalalitha residence at Poes Garden. She had been living with Jayalalitha ever since. When Jayalalitha first became the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu in 1991, she ruled the roost from the background. Subsequently, this led to more controversies than rewards. After Jayalalitha passed away on December 5, she was instrumental in installing O Paneer Selvam (OPS) as the Chief Minister of the state.

Lesson # 1 – The perils of Secrecy

Donald Trump’s biggest asset, many believe, is he speaks his mind. He does not have one thing in the mind and speak an entirely different thing. That is the reason why even his objectionable remarks about Mexicans, Muslims, Women etc which would have been labelled ‘atrocious’ and the person would have been censured heavily were they uttered by any other person, were tolerated. In spite of these and many other highly controversial remarks, people voted for him. Many who voted for Trump believed that when compared to the Washington establishment which forever had masks up on their faces, Trump was a welcome change.

In contrast, Sasikala Natarajan is said to be extremely secretive. No one in the public domain has even heard her speak. However, she possessed an enormous clout in the party affairs of the AIADMK. Party men lined up in queues to meet her and get her support in order to get the election tickets. As a result of this secrecy, she found the going to be really tough. When Jayalalitha was admitted in the hospital, no proper updates were given about her health for most of the time. No videos or photographs were released which would have gone a long way in stabilising the chaos that prevailed. This might create some obstacles in her political career.

Hence Lesson # 1 – ‘It does not pay to be too secretive in politics’

Lesson # 2 – The three laws of earning money

Everyone wants to become rich. The only people who do not want to become rich are the people who are lying about it by saying that they are happily poor. There are three ways to earn money. The first law to make money is to flex the government rules and regulations and thus make/save the hard-earned buck. The second is to become utterly dishonest, corrupt and earn the money without caring about the means by which it is earned. Taking the example of Donald Trump, there are rumours that he has not paid taxes. Donald Trump has done nothing refute this. But there is also a theory that he might have taken advantage of tax-code provisions that allow him to report negative incomes. If he has done that, legal experts say that there is nothing illegal about that. But whether he has done that or not can only be known by looking at his income tax returns which he has not done till date.

About Sasikala, one of the cases that are still pending against her is the disproportionate assets case that took 18 years to complete. The contents of the case state that Jayalalitha, as Chief Minister between 1991 and 1996, acquired over Rs 63 crore in wealth disproportionate to her known sources of income. Sasikala and her family members Ilavarasi and Sudhakaran, were accused of being part of the conspiracy. While Jayalalitha has passed away, the law is very much applicable to the other three. The accusations against Sasikala belong to the second route to earn money.

Hence Lesson # 2 – ‘If you want to earn money, do it through the first law of earning money rather than the second law of earning money’

By the way, since the third law of earning money has not been mentioned, here it is ‘Stick to being honest and stay poor’. After all, honesty comes about only because one lacks the opportunity to be dishonest…..

Lesson # 3 – The speed of action

Trump’s pace in filling up his cabinet has been impressive. He made his first cabinet appointment Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions for Attorney General on November 18, earlier than most recent ex-presidents. President Obama’s first pick was officially announced on November 24. Bill Clinton’s first appointment came 37 days later. According to a count by the Washington Post, since 1980, only two of the 70 cabinet announcements by five newly elected presidents had been made by November 17. Both these picks were by George H W Bush. Donald Trump has impressed many with his speed in filling up his cabinet till now.

Here Sasikala too comes up to the mark? When the news of Jayalalitha passing away at around 23.30 hrs was announced, Sasikala proved that she was an able mediator and ensured that a consensus was reached among all the Members of Legislative Assemblies (MLAs). Thus O Paneerselvam took oath as Chief Minister at around 01.15 hrs on December 6. She also ensured that by continuing the status quo in regards to the appointments of ministers, there was no scope for fresh rounds of confusion.

Thus comes Lesson # 3 – “At times, it is important to act quickly and decisively”

Harish Venugopalan is a Research Assistant with the Observer Research Foundation. He has done his Masters in International Relations from the Dublin City University (DCU) in 2011-2012. His current research interest is ‘Conflict Management in Africa’.

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South Asia

Yaum-e-Takbeer: Recounting Perceptions, Ideas and Resources

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Enwrapped in a whirlpool of desire and compulsion, to achieve the ideals, is a key determinant in security perceptions of the two major powers of South Asia. One limited itself to history and conflicted with the present and the other’s compulsions dictated its forward-looking consistency and adaptability to change in policy formulation. In Indo-Pak rivalry India desired and Pakistan was compelled…one acted and the other reacted. The words of Alberuni“ we believe in nothing in which they{Hinduism} believe. Their {Hindus}fanaticism is directed against all foreigners. They call them impure and forbid having any connection with them” is truer today with ever growing Hindutva wave.

Recounting the political history of the Sub-continent in the post-World War II era, India’s size and strength, population and problems, location and ambitions, all helped her earn a place in the arena of regional and international politics. Professedly a democratic and a secular state in the times of Nehru and his personal role of a moderator between the Super Powers in 1950s while condemning the use of force, was either a sincere effort for AHIMSA (peaceful co-existence) and non-alignment or using the ploy of pacifism due to inefficient military abilities, particularly vis a vis China. The Indian defeat in 1962 war against China was nonetheless, well comprehended.

On the other hand, the pace of development ensured by science and technology, particularly nuclear, to build its harbours, water reservoirs, dams and electricity projects were either well-nigh impossible or of probative cost for a newly independent India. Nehru, in his speech at Lok Sabha on May 10, 1954, said, “Atomic energy for peaceful purposes is far more important for a country like India, where power resources are limited, than for a country like France, an industrially developed country.”One gram of uranium was equivalent to 3 tons of coal or 12 barrels of oil.

The developing world missed the industrial revolution but didn’t want to miss the bus once again by distancing from the nuclear world despite seeing the harrowing effects in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In fact, by then nuclear weapons had already become the status symbol of power. They were a reality of legitimacy in terms of deterrence and potential use in the industrialized world. Further on, the radioactive isotopes and radiation was already being used successfully in the fields of agriculture, industry, medicine and natural resources worldwide during 1950s.

India was fortunate to have inherited the prerequisites of developing a nuclear programme with a broad base of scientists, engineers and technologists. Its sound industrial infrastructure was also sufficiently supportive with adequate thorium reserves. Thorium has a tremendous capacity of conversion to energy and fertile to U-233. Though handicapped, yet the uranium reserves were at 60%, gold at 40%, 98% of global diamond supply and rich oil reserves and India’s geo-strategic configuration, all provided reassurance to its leaders to follow discreet power politics for manipulation.

At the same time, the scientific research which had started in the Bose Institute, set up by J.C.Bose in 1917, provided an adequate ground work. Further on, setting up of the TATA Institute for Fundamental Research by Homi J. Bhabha, the father of India’s nuclear programme in 1944, with a belief that “there is no form of power as expensive as no power,” became a cornerstone of its aggressive nuclear development strategy in three phases:

I.The development of natural uranium heavy water reactors.

II.To make Fast Breeder Reactors (FBR)

III.To produce Thermal Breeder Reactors

In order to acquire self-reliance in nuclear technology with a minimum loss of time, the policy of ‘leap-frogging’ was adopted. Divided on four phases; from 1947-1956, from 1956-1966, from 1966-1970 and 1970- 1980, India was able to demonstrate its nuclear explosive ability in 1974 through an underground explosion. It made India the first amongst the developing world to join the nuclear club.

This gate crashing nuclear explosion under the garb of “Smiling Budha” left the region with three major options;

•Scare of India’s bomb in the South Asian region and its nuclearization. It however encouraged nuclear proliferation in a development starved and poverty stricken South Asian region.

•In reaction Pakistan developed its nuclear programme in order to ensure its security. It however encouraged nuclear proliferation in a development starved and poverty stricken South Asian region.

•And the third one was for its own nuclear programme since the supply of nuclear aid from Canada and America was suspended, but temporarily.

Though set up in 1972, by the initiative of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, after the breakup of East Pakistan with Indian subversive support (this was confessed by the Indian Prime Minister Modi himself in an intimate swipe  with the Bangladesh’s Prime Minister), the Indian explosion gave a new momentum to Pakistan’s nuclear programme. By the coming of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan in 1975, and under his direction, Pakistan also employed an extensive network in order to obtain the necessary materials and technology for its developing uranium enrichment capabilities.

In 1985, Pakistan crossed the threshold of weapons-grade uranium production, and by 1986 it is thought to have produced enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon. Pakistan continued advancing its uranium enrichment program, and according to Pakistani sources, the nation acquired the ability to carry out a nuclear explosion in 1987.

Known as Pokhran –II, India once again brought the two warring nations of South Asia, at the brink of nuclear competition by conducting the nuclear tests involving five detonations in May 1998. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee declared India a full and openly a nuclear state. He even challenged Pakistan’s control of parts of Kashmir. This invited a compulsive response from Pakistan. On May 28, 1998 Pakistan announced a successful detonation of five nuclear tests with a seismic signal of 5.0 on the Richter scale. The total yield of the bomb was up to 40 KT (equivalent TNT). According to Dr. A.Q. Khan one device was a boosted fission device and the other four were sub-kiloton nuclear devices.

On May 30, 1998 Pakistan tested one more nuclear warhead with a reported yield of 12 kilotons. The tests were conducted at Balochistan, bringing the total number of claimed tests to six. It has also been claimed by Pakistani sources that at least one additional device, initially planned for detonation on 30 May 1998, remained emplaced underground ready for detonation.

Both the countries had to face international denunciation. The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution condemning the tests and renewed efforts to pressure the two countries to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). In fact, the United States tried to dissuade Pakistan and urged Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif not to react. Several nations reacted with their own sanctions and condemnation.

The nuclear programme of both India and Pakistan supported by their successfully designed scientific auxiliary nuclear delivery systems and nuclear doctrines and recounted with the hostile and xenophobic political history has maintained the required equilibrium, yet has a clear tendency to debilitate any peace effort. History has proven that pacifism, secularism, democracy and non-alignment was conveniently but deceptively postured by India. This has kept the world guessing while keeping the world-wide opposition unfortunately, to its minimum. It is being repeated in Kashmir once again. India has folded the issue into immeasurable and innumerable asymmetrical steps of state terrorism by sabotaging its constitutional right given in Article 370 while keeping the world conjecturing once again.

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South Asia

Youm-e-Takbeer: When A Responsible Nuclear Power Was Born

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Youm-e-Takbeer is a day of greatness when Pakistan already a responsible country was transformed into a strategically mature regional power. It sensibly understood the management and liability of having nuclear weapons for security. Ever since independence, Pakistan is neighbor to a hostile state – India, ruled by extremist Hindutva ideology that has threatened Pakistan’s sovereignty and existence. In 1948, India forcefully occupied Kashmir, Hyderabad, and Junagadh areas by massacring people who did not want to annex with India.

In 1971, Indian subverting and destabilizing activities resulted in disintegration of East Pakistan. India till today is covertly sponsoring terrorism through its agents in Iran and bases in Afghanistan to weaken Pakistan. In 1998, India tested nuclear weapons while openly threatening to sabotage Pakistan. Therefore, on 28 May 1998 Pakistan as a direct response also tested nuclear weapons to deter Indian aggression at any cost. Pakistan annually commemorates this day as the National Science Day and also as a reminder of the struggle and great odds it faced in order to defuse Indian threat.

“If India had not exploded the bomb, Pakistan would not have done so. Once New Delhi did so, we had no choice because of public pressure” – Former Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif.

Acquisition of nuclear deterrence capability was also necessary to project Pakistan’s self-sufficiency in defense against any territorial threat. Pakistan’s nuclear tests made it clear that when it comes to national honor and survival, Pakistan would maintain a balance of power against its adversaries. Indian acquisition of nuclear weapons compelled Pakistan to build its nuclear muscle for improving national security, otherwise it had no intentions to do so. India’s covert pursuit of weapons of mass destruction had drastically heightened the security perception of Pakistan.

South Asian strategic dynamics were changed forever with the advent of nuclear weapons. Former Indian Home Minister L.K. Advani warned Pakistan that it should “realize the change in the geo-strategic situation in the region and the world” and Pakistan must submit to Indian dictation otherwise “will be futile and costly for Pakistan.” So, the hostile hegemonic plan of India had to be neutralized by Pakistan through reciprocating nuclear tests. Since then, nuclear dissuasion has played a critical role in political security and strategic stability of South Asia. It is pertinent to note that Pakistan has always been hesitant to engage in the nuclear weapons race in South Asia.

It is quite obvious that Pakistan’s decision makers are well aware of repercussions of military conflict and escalation as well as nuclear arms race in the region. Pakistan on numerous occasions has bilaterally proposed India to limit the manufacturing or acquisition of nuclear weapons in order to strengthen arms control and disarmament in the region. India, though, has always declined to sign any disarmament or restraint agreement with Pakistan.

So, it is India, which is to be blame for triggering the nuclear arms race in the region. For instance, following are the occasions when Pakistan proposed restraint solutions to India:

1974 – The establishment of a nuclear weapons free zone in south Asia.

1978 – A joint Indo-Pakistan declaration renouncing the acquisition and manufacture of nuclear weapons.

1979 – Mutual inspections of nuclear facilities.

1979 – Simultaneous adherence to the NPT.

1979 – Simultaneous acceptance of full-scope IAEA safeguards.

1987 – An agreement on a bilateral or regional nuclear test ban treaty.

1991 – Commencement of a multilateral conference on the nuclear proliferation in south Asia.

1993 – Creation of a missile-free zone in south Asia.

1998 – A strategic restraint regime aimed at ensuring a nuclear restraint, establishing a conventional balance, and resolution of all disputes between the two countries.

2004 – A joint agreement to reduce the threat of nuclear war and a missile race.

2006 – A prohibition on development of missile defense systems, and restraint in deployment of nuclear weapons and missiles.

2011 – Again a Strategic Nuclear Restraint Regime (SNRR) pertain to Missile Restraint, Peaceful Resolution of Conflict and Conventional Balance.

2016 – A bilateral arrangement on non-testing of nuclear weapons.

These propositions, however, were met with cold feet by India, which not only decreased nuclear weapons control possibilities in the region, but also pressured Pakistan to enter the nuclear arms race. Unlike India, Pakistan has no offensive strategic approach or aggressive hegemonic design rather, its nuclear capability is purely defensive. A nuclear conscious Pakistan has a strong understanding of the sensitivities involved in military adventurism.

Youm-e-Takbeer has helped Pakistani leaders in making wise decisions to consistently support nuclear nonproliferation. Pakistani scientists and engineers have employed research and development of nuclear technology for peaceful uses. For instance, power generation, agriculture, medicine, and environment. Pakistan believes in peaceful coexistence and as a responsible nuclear country, it has put serious efforts to settle longstanding disputes. If the international community would force India to follow the same, South Asia could not go into nuclear brinkmanship.

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The U.S Lauded Pakistan’s Assistance in Fighting COVID-19

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The United States has thanked Pakistan for its donation of protective gear and surgical masks to support the fight against coronavirus. In a Tweet, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appreciated Pakistan’s goodwill donation of surgical masks and protective suits to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He said this delivery is a symbol of Pak-US solidarity in the fight against COVID-19 and termed it a “partnership for the prosperity of the two countries.”

Meanwhile, the US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Alice Wells, in her tweet, also expressed gratitude to Pakistan for the goodwill donation. She said our countries’ health partnership and the coordinated response would help defeat this virus and rebuild our prosperity.

Earlier, the consignment of Personal Protective Equipment from Pakistan via a C-130 flight from Islamabad landed at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland. The equipment was also handed over to the US Federal Emergency Management Agency for onward delivery to the US armed forces.

Pakistan values its Seven Decades-long friendship with the US.  Although, it is meager Medical Supplies, yet as a token of friendships values a lot. Pakistan is also facing a huge challenge of the outbreak, and the rapid growth is alarming in Pakistan. Nevertheless, Pakistan is a responsible nation and always willing to share its part of responsibility in any part of the World. Either it is a natural disaster or warlike disaster, Pakistan always played its role on the front line as a volunteer. Pakistan is a country with the highest number of philanthropists per million population.

The US was one of the few first countries that recognized Pakistan in 1947 after getting independence from British rule. Pakistan was a close ally with the US in the cold war era and the Afghan War. Pakistan was a frontline ally with the US in its War on terror. Pakistan enjoyed non-NATO close ally status. Definitely, Pakistan was also beneficiary of US AID and assistance. Either it was on Economic front, or S&T, Defense or Education, Military or civilian, Agriculture or Industry, almost all areas witnessed the US assistance in the past. The US is a major trading partner with Pakistan too.

Pakistan has no objection if the US changed its priorities and aligned itself with India. The US is aiming to strengthen India to counter China, but India used all of the American assistance to counter Pakistan. The US may keep balance and restrict its assistance to India to a condition not to use against Pakistan. There can be designed a monitoring and tracking system to check that American assistance is not used against Pakistan directly or indirectly. A close monitoring system may be deployed on India and verifiable by any third party. I believe “there is the way if there is a will.”

Prime Minister Imran Khan is a visionary leader and peace-loving in nature. His declared-policy  to be a partner in peace with any country in any part of the World is well appreciated widely. Pakistan was a victim of the Afghan War for the last four decades and learned a bitter lesson. War means disaster; War means a net loss of human lives and economy; War means no victory for either side. Pakistan will be no longer partner wth any one in War with any country.

Pakistan’s strategic location, where it connects almost half of the World and at the major trade route – Middle-East to rest of the World, is vital for maintaining peace and stability of this region as well as the whole World. Pakistan is a nation of 220 Million, with its 70% population of youth under the age of 40 years. Pakistan is a resilient nation and can survive under any circumstances.

Pakistan wanted to keep traditional friendship with the US and strongly wish an early resumption. Pakistan wanted to contribute its potential to global peace and stability. In the past, especially in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, Pakistan kept close alliance with the US while maintaining its strategic relations with China. I hope the US may not object to Pakistan’s strategic interest with China or Russia while restoring traditional friendship with Pakistan.

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