[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”
What to do with Pakistani militant Hafez Saeed? Pakistan and China grope for ambiguity
Recent remarks by several senior Pakistani officials suggest that Pakistan and China are groping with how to deal with globally designated Pakistani militant Hafez Saeed as the South Asian nation gears up for elections expected in July and risks being next month put on an international terrorism finance and money laundering watchlist.
The Pakistani-Chinese dilemma stems from a China-backed Pakistani refusal to fully implement designations of Hafez Saeed by the United Nations Security Council and the US Treasury.
The United States has put a $10 million bounty on the head of Mr. Saeed, who is believed to lead the outlawed militant group, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) as well as Jamaat-ud-Dawa, an alleged LeT front, and is suspected of being the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks in which 166 people were killed.
Pakistan has repeatedly put Mr. Saaed under house arrest, only to release him on court orders that asserted that there was insufficient evidence against him. The government has half-heartedly sought to seize Jamaat-ud-Dawa assets and prevent it from collecting donations through its charity arm, Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation.
Pakistan’s election commission has so far refused to register a political party established by Jamaat-ud-Dawa in advance of the elections. The refusal would not prevent party members from running as independents.
To reduce focus on Mr. Saaed, a senior aide to Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that Chinese President Xi Jinping had asked Mr. Abbasi during a meeting on the side lines of last month’s Boao Forum to explore relocating Mr. Saaed to a Middle Eastern country.
“At a 35-minute meeting, at least 10 minutes of the discussion dealt with Saeed. The Chinese President was keen on pressing the Prime Minister to find an early solution to keep Saeed away from the limelight,” The Hindu quoted the aide as saying.
In separate remarks, Major General Asif Ghafoor, a spokesman for Pakistan’s intelligence service, Inter Services Intelligence, told Indian Express that “anything (Mr. Saeed) does, other than violence, is good. There is a process in Pakistan for anyone to participate in politics. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has its rules and laws. If he (Mr. Saeed) fulfils all those requirements that is for the ECP to decide.”
The divergent proposals to either remove Mr. Saeed from the limelight or mainstream him by integrating him into the political process are unlikely to satisfy either the United Nations or the United States.
They are also unlikely to prevent the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global financial watchdog that monitors the funding of political violence and money laundering, from next month putting Pakistan on its watchlist.
The FATF action could negatively affect the Pakistan economy. Pakistan risks downgrading by multilateral lenders such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) as well as by international credit rating agencies Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch.
Mr. Xi’s suggestion to Mr. Abbasi reflects Chinese ambivalence towards those Pakistani militants that both Islamabad and Beijing see as useful tools to keep India off balance. China protected Mr. Saeed from UN designation prior to the Mumbai attacks and has since prevented another Pakistani militant, Masood Azhar, from being designated by the Security Council.
At the same time, China refrained in February from shielding Pakistan from censorship by FATF.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson nonetheless argued at the time that “in recent years, Pakistan has made important progress in actively strengthening financial regulations to combat terror financing… China highly recognises that and hopes all relevant parties of the international community could arrive at an objective and fair conclusion on that.”
Implementing Mr. Xi’s proposal to remove Mr. Saeed from the limelight is easier said than done. Its hard to see what Middle Eastern nation would risk international criticism by granting Mr. Saeed asylum without tacit approval by the United States and/or the United Nations. By the same token, its unlikely that either would agree to the scheme.
Similarly, neither the UN nor the United States are likely to be persuaded by a belief within the Pakistani military that the best way of blunting militancy that has over the decades been woven into the fabric of significant segments of the armed forces, intelligence and society is by mainstreaming militants and integrating them into the political process.
Ousted Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif kicked up a storm when he earlier this month appeared to confirm the pervasiveness of militancy by suggesting that the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks had been supported by Pakistan.
“Militant organisations are active. Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai? Explain it to me. Why can’t we complete the trial? It’s unacceptable. This is exactly what we are struggling for. President Putin has said it. President Xi has said it. We could have already been at seven per cent growth (in GDP), but we are not,” Mr. Sharif said.
The remarks by the Pakistani officials suggest that both Pakistan and China are attempting to square circles.
Pakistan needs to be seen as cracking down on militancy while considering the domestic influence of ultra-conservative religious groups as well as seemingly misguided beliefs that support for anti-Indian militants serves its purpose.
For its part, China’s justification of its hardhanded crackdown in the north-western province of Xinjiang as a bid to counter jihadism and nationalism among, Uighurs, a Turkic people, is weakened by its reluctance to be equally firm in countering militants in Pakistan.
The problem for both countries is that 1 + 1 = 2, whichever way one looks at it.
How the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal affects India
Authors: Tridivesh Singh Maini & Sandeep Sachdeva*
While India was guarded in it’s response to the withdrawal of US from the Iran Nuclear Deal, it surely realizes the implications of the US withdrawal. Iran is India’s third largest source of crude oil (after Iraq and Saudi Arabia) . Between April 2017 and January 2018, New Delhi imported well over 18 million tonnes of crude oil.
New Delhi has also invested in the development of the Chabahar Port Project, which will provide India, access to Afghanistan and Central Asia. This project is extremely important for India, since it will help in bypassing Pakistan, which has continuously kept India out of the Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA). During Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s Iran visit in May 2016, India had signed an agreement, committing 500 Million USD for the development of Chabahar. During Modi’s visit, a trilateral transport and transit partnership was also signed between India, Afghanistan and Iran.
In February 2018, during Iranian President Rouhani’s visit to India, a lease agreement was signed between India and Iran. The lease agreement gave operational control of Phase 1 of Chabahar Port (Shahid Beheshti port) to India. The Modi, Hassan Rouhani Joint statement mentioned the need for making Chabahar part of INSTC project and PM Modi further emphasised that “We will support the construction of the Chabahar-Zahedan rail link, so that Chabahar gateway’s potential could be fully utilised.”
Here it would be pertinent to point out, that to enhance connectivity with Afghanistan, India has also set up an India Afghan Air Corridor, two flights are currently operational; one connecting Mumbai with Kabul, and another which connects Delhi with Kabul.
For the time being, New Delhi has rested its hopes on the fact, that European countries are trying to keep the deal intact, and US will also not impose sanctions on allies, including India, for engaging with Iran. Defence Secretary James Mattis in a Congressional hearing held by the Senate Armed Services Committee, had categorically stated, that the US should be careful with regard to imposing sanctions against allies, under Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
Mattis said, that allies like India should be provided a national security waiver, against imposition of sanctions for the purchase of S-400 air defence missile system from Russia.
A number of US Congressmen and Senators too have echoed Mattis’ views saying that India is valuable ally and should be exempted from sanctions
What India needs to be cautious about
While India does have time to react to the sanctions re-imposed, and the fact that European countries are keen to keep the deal alive are important. Recent statements by the US National Security Advisor, John Bolton saying that Europe will not be immune from sanctions, and would ultimately fall in line needs to be closely watched.
Said Bolton in an interview with ABC’sThis Week:“Europeans are going to face the effective US sanctions — already are, really — because much of what they would like to sell to Iran involves US technology, for which the licenses will not be available.”
Bolton also stated, that these countries will ultimately realise that it is in their interest to go along with the US.
Earlier US Ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell advised Germany to re-consider business ties with Iran:‘German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately”.
New Delhi needs to strike a balancing act between Iran and US, but it also needs to have a clear plan of action to deal with US sanctions against Iran. In the past few years, India has successfully managed to balance relations between Iran and US, and Iran and Israel. Given the recent sanctions and the hawkish approach of the Trump Administration, it may be tough.
In the meanwhile, New Delhi would be well advised to follow closely China’s reaction to the withdrawal of US from JCPOA. Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited three important countries Russia, China and Europe to save the JCPOA. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said “it was hard-earned deal, and China will take an objective, fair and responsible attitude, keep communication and cooperation with all parties concerned, and continue to work to maintain the deal”.
The China factor doesn’t end here for India. Off late, ties between India and China have witnessed an improvement, during PM Modi’s recent China visit, it was decided. that both countries will undertake a joint project in Afghanistan. In recent months, there seem to be some indicators of lowering of tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad as well. Could, Beijing get New Delhi and Islamabad to discuss the issue of transit trade to Afghanistan? An opinion piece, ‘Pakistan’s military reaches out to India’, published in RUSI (Royal United Services Institute) discusses the willingness of Pakistan to discuss this issue, but India had turned down the offer in October 2017. Maybe New Delhi, could explore this option, and Beijing could support such an effort.
In conclusion, New Delhi will need to handle the current situation with great dexterity, while US is an important strategic partner, India has also got an opportunity to send an unequivocal message to Washington, that its own interests are paramount, and it will not blindly follow any one camp. In spite of all the challenges and upheavals likely to result from Trump’s decision, this also provides a golden opportunity for re-shaping the narrative within South Asia.
*Sandeep Sachdeva, Independent Foreign Policy Analyst
Ex-Pakistani Prime Minister puts Pakistani military and China on the spot
Ousted Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif kicked up a storm when he earlier this month seemingly admitted that Pakistan had supported militants who attacked multiple targets in Mumbai in 2008, killing 166 people.
Mr. Sharif’s admission, which he has since tried to walk back, put a finger on Pakistan’s controversial policy of selective support of militant groups at a sensitive time. Pakistan is gearing up for elections that would secure its third consecutive handover of civilian political power.
Mr. Sharif’s remarks, moreover, stirred up a hornet’s nest because Pakistan is likely to next month be put on a watch list by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global financial watchdog that monitors the funding of political violence and money laundering worldwide.
The remarks also put China in a difficult position. China has been pressuring Pakistan to crack down on militants, particularly in the troubled province of Balochistan, the crown jewel in its Belt and Road-related $50 billion plus infrastructure investment in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Yet, at the same time, China has at Pakistan’s behest prevented the United Nations Security Council from declaring Masood Azhar, believed to have been responsible for an attack in 2016 on India’s Pathankot Air Force Station, as a globally designated terrorist.
The militants, dressed in Indian military uniforms fought a 14-hour battle against Indian security forces that only ended when the last attacker was killed. Mr. Azhar was briefly detained after the attack and has since gone underground.
Mr. Sharif’s made his remarks as China was building up its military infrastructure in Pakistan. The build-up is occurring against the backdrop of Pakistan risking being involuntarily sucked into potential attempts to destabilize Iran if Saudi Arabia/and or the United States were to use Balochistan as a staging ground.
In line with a standard practice in Pakistan that has repeatedly seen groups that are outlawed resurrecting themselves under new names, Lashkar-e-Taibe (LeT), the banned group believed to be responsible for the Mumbai attacks, and Jamaat-ud-Dawa, widely believed to be an LeT front, are rebranding under a new name and as a political party, Milli Muslim League, that would compete in the forthcoming election.
The League is headed by Hafez Saaed, a former LeT leader, who was last year released from house arrest despite having been declared a designated global terrorist by the Security Council and the US Treasury, which put a $10 billion bounty on his head. China vetoed Mr. Saeed’s designation by the UN prior to the Mumbai attacks.
Activists, even though the party was last month designated by the US Treasury, are likely to run as independents in the election if the government maintains its rejection of the party’s registration.
So are operatives of Ahl-e-Sunnat-Wal-Jamaat, a front for Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, a banned, virulently anti-Shiite group that long enjoyed support from Saudi Arabia and operates multiple militant madrassas or religious seminaries in Balochistan that have witnessed an injection of funds from the kingdom in the last two years.
“Militant organisations are active. Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai? Explain it to me. Why can’t we complete the trial? It’s absolutely unacceptable. This is exactly what we are struggling for. President Putin has said it. President Xi has said it. We could have already been at seven per cent growth (in GDP), but we are not,” Mr. Sharif said, referring to stalled Mumbai attacks-related trials in a Rawalpindi anti-terrorism court.
Taking Mr. Sharif’s comments a step further, prominent journalist and author Ahmed Rashid asserted that “the deep state of Pakistan is supporting the banned outfits as it has done in the past. This game should be stopped, and the government should show its commitment and sincerity in disarming these groups and not to allow them to enter into politics.”
Former Pakistani strongman General Pervez Musharraf, in an apparent manifestation of links between the circles close to the military and hardliners, said prior to the designation by the US announced that he was discussing an alliance with Mr. Saeed’s league.
Speaking on Pakistani television, Mr. Musharraf pronounced himself “the greatest supporter of LeT… Because I have always been in favour of action in Kashmir and I have always been in favour of pressuring the Indian army in Kashmir,” Mr. Musharraf said.
Pakistan’s military and intelligence service are believed to favour integration of militants into the political process as a way of reducing violence and militancy in a country in which religious ultra-conservatism and intolerance has been woven into the fabric of branches of the state and significant segments of society.
Critics charge that integration is likely to fail in Pakistan. “Incorporating radical Islamist movements into formal political systems may have some benefits in theory… But the structural limitations in some Muslim countries with prominent radical groups make it unlikely that these groups will adopt such reforms, at least not anytime soon… While Islamabad wants to combat jihadist insurgents in Pakistan, it also wants to maintain influence over groups that are engaged in India and Afghanistan,” said Kamran Bokhari, a well-known scholar of violent extremism.
Citing the example of a militant Egyptian group that formed a political party to participate in elections, Mr. Bokhari argued that “though such groups remain opposed to democracy in theory, they are willing to participate in electoral politics to enhance their influence over the state. Extremist groups thus become incorporated into existing institutions and try to push radical changes from within the system.”
Chinese ambiguity about Pakistani policy goes beyond shielding Mr. Azhar from being designated. A Chinese-Pakistani draft plan last year identified as risks to CPEC “Pakistani politics, such as competing parties, religion, tribes, terrorists, and Western intervention” as well as security. “The security situation is the worst in recent years,” the plan said.
Security has since improved substantially in significant parts of Pakistan. The question, however, is whether integration of militants into the political process would stabilize Pakistani politics in the absence of a concerted effort to counter mounting ultra-conservative religious fervour in the country. It may be too early to judge, but so far the answer has to be no.
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