2ndlook

Film Industry: American Muscle To Chinese Skeleton

Posted in China, Desert Bloc, Film Reviews, Pax Americana, Propaganda by Anuraag Sanghi on May 27, 2012

US and China gang-up to save their film industries.

Piracy by China on IP rights of Hollywood. Cartoonist Clay Bennett takes a swipe at China and Hollywood. Sourece & courtesy - claybennett.com  |  Click for source.

Piracy by China on IP rights of Hollywood. Cartoonist Clay Bennett takes a swipe at China and Hollywood. Sourece & courtesy – claybennett.com | Click for source.

Davids & Goliaths

The two biggest economies in the world, US and China have at least one ‘threat’ in common. And the threat is actually from much smaller economies.

US and China have allied to ensure that the threat is ‘managed’.

The Chinese and the US film industry have no answer for old warhorse Bollywood and the upstart Nollywood.

Between Bollywood and Nollywood, they occupy the Top-2 positions in the world film industry. Bollywood with little support from mainstream banks, and Nollywood with no support at all have left Hollywood and the Chinese trailing far behind.

Boom Time In China

Even though

Cinema in China is booming. In 2010 box-office revenues grew by 64% to just over 10 billion yuan.  |  Image source & courtesy -  economist.com  |  Click for image source.

Cinema in China is booming. In 2010 box-office revenues grew by 64% to just over 10 billion yuan. | Image source & courtesy – economist.com | Click for image source.

Cinema in China is booming (see chart). In 2010 box-office revenues grew by 64% to just over 10 billion yuan. More than 520 films were made—about as many as in America. Only India produces more. (via China’s film industry: Kung fu propaganda | The Economist).

What The Economist does not mention is that India alone produces as many as China and US together. And that Nollywood comes in at No.2 position.

Globalized and organized Hollywood is finding that Bollywood and Nollywood is increasing their leadership in viewer and production numbers – without the advantages that Hollywood has.

The only relief that Hollywood has, is from China.

Hollywood is already doing well in China. Blockbusters like Avatar have been hugely popular and foreign films – usually big-budget Hollywood fare – account for about half of the country’s box office takings.

For the past decade, China has only permitted 20 foreign films to be shown in cinemas. A new deal agreed last month allows a further 14 movies to be shown in cinemas, provided they are in Imax or 3D formats.

China is certainly rich in potential. Box office takings surged 29% to $2.1bn (£1.3bn) in 2011 and are expected to see similar growth in 2012. While that’s only a fraction of the $10.2bn taken at the US box office, US ticket sales are declining. (via BBC News – Hollywood plays China card as audiences dwindle at home).

In the last ten years, mainland China has promoted its domestic industry – and taken control of it. Using various front companies, the Chinese Government has bought out and put up studios that will increase production along Party lines.

Along the way, Chinese actors and directors have found traction in Hollywood. And Hollywood blockbusters have gained significant market share in China.

Where the Japanese have gone before

In turn China, with its bulging foreign exchange reserves has decided to take a stake in Hollywood. Much like the Japanese bought in Hollywood back in the 1990s. Sony into Columbia Tristar (1989) and Matsushita (in 1990, Matsushita Electric bought MCA+Universal Studios for $6.5 billion)

BEIJING — Hollywood studios, facing steep challenges in the North American movie market, are taking more interest in China.

The Walt Disney Company and Marvel Studios, a division of Disney’s Marvel Entertainment subsidiary, are producing “Iron Man 3” in China. An agreement with Chinese authorities will allow more American companies to distribute more movies and reap a greater share of the box office in China, the world’s fastest-growing economy.

But at least one billionaire businessman is betting that the American movie market is still the ticket to international success. And he is Chinese.

Wang Jianlin, a rags-to-riches tycoon, is taking over AMC Entertainment, North America’s second-largest movie theater chain behind Regal Entertainment. And he is promising to integrate it into a new, made in China, global brand called the Wanda Group.

Wanda is a private company in a nation dominated by state-owned enterprises. But the AMC deal is closely aligned with the Chinese government’s priorities, which include encouraging Chinese companies to “go global,” pushing an overhaul of Chinese media and entertainment properties and placing greater emphasis on consumer spending. Policy makers in Beijing also want to bolster China’s “soft power” capabilities to extend its cultural influence internationally, and the film industry is considered one of the most promising avenues for doing so.

Which raises the question: Why invest in the United States cinema market at a time of weakness, when box office receipts are sluggish and American film producers are looking to China?

Some analysts have suggested that Mr. Wang’s acquisition of AMC was political, an effort to curry favor with Chinese leaders, who are pushing their nation to enhance its influence by exporting cultural products. Others contend that Mr. Wang is eager to establish himself as China’s first global corporate chief.

But to pull off the deal, Wanda needed plenty of that: more than $3 billion in cash, including $500 million it has promised to invest in AMC in North America. In the end, much of the cash came from China’s big, state-controlled banks. (via China Tycoon Places Risky Bet on U.S. Movie Market – NYTimes.com).

Soft Power – China?

China’s expected rise as a global soft-power has been beset with unexpected difficulties and slower if not zero growth. From the time that Joseph Nye coined the term soft-power, China has been positioned, by Western media as the challenger to American (& Western) soft-power. To Western media, India, seemed like an unlikely candidate as Emerging Soft-Power, has been ranked highest among emerging economies.

But curiously, the more China tries to become a soft-power, the more incapable it finds itself. Most recently, the Chinese President, Hu Jin Tao, lamented the lack of Chinese soft-power – and cautioned the Chinese nation of the dangers from Western culture.

To add heft to China’s quest for soft-power, the Chinese film industry has been significantly supported by the Party and Chinese banks. Investments into construction of film exhibition theatres, studios, animation labs, have been liberal and copious. At the same time, severe restrictions have been on import of films – to twenty in a year, from all sources.

On left y-axis read the zero at top as 100. On the right y-axis, percenetages are based on 2005 as base year with 1 deal.

On left y-axis read the zero at top as 100. On the right y-axis, percentages are based on 2005 as base year with 1 deal.

In 2009, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television promulgated the Interim Provisions on the Qualification Access for Operating Film Enterprises, Interim Provisions on the Administration of Chinese-foreign Equity and Contractual Joint Ventures of Radio and Television Program Production and other policies in succession. In the capital operation process, Chinese film industry ushered in the market reform, mitigating the problem of capital shortage and vitalizing the market.

There has been a continuous increase in the number of Chinese home-made films since 2003. In 2009, the number hit 456, up 12.32% on a year-on-year basis. The year 2009 has been a banner year in the output of home-made films since 2006. In certain sense, the year 2009 was a critical period of development for Chinese film industry. In the very year, the gross revenue of the Chinese film market reached RMB10.67B, up 26.47% compared with RMB8.43B in 2008.

Huayi Brothers Media Group and Beijing Polybona Film Distribution Co., Ltd. (Polybona Films) are the leading private film bodies. Take Huayi Brothers Media Group as an example, under the flagship of Huayi Brothers Media Group, Huayi Brothers Pictures Co., Ltd. realized the complete industrial chain system from screenwriting, direction, filmmaking and marketing to distribution.

The films, including the Rabe’s Diary and The Message, which Huayi Brothers Media Group invested in and participated in the operation in 2009, acquired good box-office takings in succession. Furthermore, the film, such as Tangshan Earthquake and You Are the One 2, which Huayi Brothers Media Group invested in 2010, are expected to obtain the good box-office takings and worth waiting for.

On Oct. 30, 2009, Huayi Brothers Media Group listed on Shenzhen’s ChiNext Board. The rapid development of the private film bodies, including Huayi Brothers Media Group, Orange Sky Entertainment Group (International) Holdings Ltd. and Polybona Films, not only aggravated the market competition between state-owned film enterprises and private film bodies but also vitalized Chinese small-and-medium-budget film-making market.

The Chinese film-making market showed a sound development gradually. PE/VC took a wait-and-see attitude towards the Chinese film-making market in general. According to the latest China Film-making Industry Investment Research Report 2010 issued by Zero2IPO Research Center, there were 28 investment deals in Chinese film industry from 2005 to 2009, including 26 deals whose investment amount was disclosed with a total investment of US$256.00M and US$9.85M in average. There were nine investment deals in Chinese film industry in 2009, which has reached the peak since 2005. (via Investment in Chinese Film Market Strong in Words but Weak in Action – PEdaily.cn – Zero2IPO Group).

Since 2004, the number of Chinese animation production enterprises has been on the rise, with the number of enterprises engaged in the production of TV cartoons rising to 200 in 2010 from 15 in 2004. Meanwhile, a host of registered animation film production institutions have emerged, with the figure increasing to 68 in 2010 from 25 in 2008.  |  Caption & image via researchinchina.com

Since 2004, the number of Chinese animation production enterprises has been on the rise, with the number of enterprises engaged in the production of TV cartoons rising to 200 in 2010 from 15 in 2004. Meanwhile, a host of registered animation film production institutions have emerged, with the figure increasing to 68 in 2010 from 25 in 2008. | Caption & image via Global and China Animation Industry Report, 2011 – ResearchInChina.

Echoes from Japan

Interestingly, animation films in China have been a big success – unlike India. Vastly different from the traditional lines of Chinese films.

Keep in mind, that Japan is a big consumer of anime, gaming, cartoons. 

Kung Fu Panda, a 2008 American computer-animated action comedy film is enough proof of this.

“Kung Fu Panda,” the animated movie about a bear named Po with a passion for martial arts is a huge hit in China.

The film, from DreamWorks Animation and Paramount Pictures, has already grossed more than $12 million after less than two weeks in release.

Globally, the movie has brought in $275 million (via ‘Kung Fu Panda’ is a success at the box office in China – The New York Times).

Was the success of Kung Fu Panda and its sequel, in China a flash in the pan?

Kung Fu Panda and its sequel are arguably the most successful Chinese-themed Hollywood movies to date, and the movie’s screenwriter, Glenn Berger, says Hollywood’s China infatuation is not necessarily a passing fad. (via BBC News – Hollywood plays China card as audiences dwindle at home).

Quiet Flows Buddhism

For long the Chinese needed and used Buddhist story props and ideas in Chinese films – especially made by the centurion Shaw Brothers – Run-Run and Run-Me. Based out of Hong Kong and later Singapore, the Shaw Brothers was the global face of Chinese cinema from 1950-2000. Devout Buddhists, their story-lines incorporated Japanese colonialism, Buddhist monks, great belief in the Chinese identity. Some Chinese dynasties like the Manchu, Ching and Mongol Yuan dynasty of the 14th century was a favorite target.

But in the last 10-15 years, the Buddhist monk has disappeared. Instead gangsters and underworld have become dominant themes in Chinese films.

The pre-occupation of Hollywood with death, war, violence, crime is well-known. Is that the way Chinese will ‘progress’?


How Muscular Is India’s Foreign Policy

Posted in America, British Raj, China, Current Affairs, India, Indo Pak Relations, politics by Anuraag Sanghi on November 2, 2011

Does India have a foreign policy at all? What does it seek to achieve? How has it changed over the decades.

No party has won a majority on merit after Indira's Gandhi's 1980 poll victory. 30 years of disconnect with the Indian voter. (Cartoon by RK Laxman; Image source and courtesy - outlookindia.com) Click for source image.

No party has won a majority on merit after Indira's Gandhi's 1980 poll victory. 30 years of disconnect with the Indian voter. (Cartoon by RK Laxman; Image source and courtesy - outlookindia.com) Click for source image.

Does India have a Foreign Policy

As India stabilized from a rickety, post-colonial economy to an emerging power in the last 60 years, Indian Foreign Policy has seen little analysis from context and utility standpoint.

Most critics of Indian Foreign Policy have used a flavor-of-the-season approach – and failed to present the evolution of the policy over the last 60 odd years.

And the challenges.

The last 30 years

The last thirty years has been a difficult period for Indian polity – and development of Indian foreign policy doctrine.

Of the first 40 years (1950-1990), two Prime Ministers (JL Nehru and Indira Gandhi) ruled for 31 of the 40 years. The next 20 years saw just three prime ministers (PVN, ABV, MMS) last for more than 4 years in power – from seven Prime Ministers in all. No Indian political party has been able to win an absolute majority on merit, now for 30 years after Indira Gandhi’s win in 1980. Rajiv Gandhi’s electoral victory after 1984 assassination of Indira Gandhi was ‘tainted’ with a sympathy vote for Congress.

Thirty years without a positive mandate for any political party is a tough commentary on Indian polity – and its inability to connect to the Indian Voter.

War on three fronts

Sun Tzu or Clausewitz.

Every military strategist has warned against opening war on two fronts. But, two fronts were assured against Pakistan itself – on the eastern front in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) and against mainland Pakistan (then West Pakistan) on the west.

To that was a real risk of China joining in with a third front. During the 1965 and the 1971 Bangladesh War, India had to factor a third front that could be opened by China against India. Thundering in the parliament, Pakistan’s foreign minister at that time, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto assured the Pakistani nation of China’s support.

In the event of war, Pakistan would not be alone. Pakistan would be helped by the most powerful nation in Asia. War between India and Pakistan involves the territorial integrity and security of the largest State in Asia. (Z.A. Bhutto, Foreign Minister, Pakistan, in the National Assembly; July 17, 1963).

At least the US tried very hard to ensure that China supported Pakistan with more than lip service. In the 1965 India-Pakistan War, Indian diplomacy had ensured Chinese neutrality – and China did not move an inch.

On the diplomatic front, China had been checkmated to paralysis – a position that China adopted in 1971 Bangladesh War also.

Prison camp: Thousands of Mau Mau 'suspected' freedom fighters were rounded up during Kenya's fight for independence. (Image source and courtesy - dailymail.co.uk). Click for larger image.

Prison camp: Thousands of Mau Mau 'suspected' freedom fighters were rounded up during Kenya's fight for independence. (Image source and courtesy - dailymail.co.uk). Click for larger image.

Without guns, food and money

After India’s independence, colonialism was not dead. USA was trying to take over Western colonies by installing proxy rulers in colonies.

Britain and France attempted to re-establish control over strategic positions in the world. The Suez Crisis was the high point of trying to roll back history.

Indonesia kept its freedom (1949), when Indian Govt. threatened to shoot down Dutch aircraft. Kenya (independence-12 December 1963) and Malaysia (independence-31 August 1957) paid a heavy price during their fight to throw off colonial rulers. US armies were killing millions across Asia – in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Korea. India’s own independence hung by a thread. Harold Macmillan’s ‘wind of change’ was yet only words – and no action.

In such a situation Nehru’s foreign policy put an economically and militarily strong West on the defensive – against a militarily weak India.

Nehruvian foreign policy

Nehruvian foreign policy, India FP-One, based on anti-colonial agenda, pro-democracy, global agenda, relevant during the 1950-1970 period, saw Europe lose its colonies. Remarkably insensitive to India’s self-interest, Nehruvian foreign policy instead projected India onto global stage, as an anti-imperialism crusader.

Under FP-One, India could be pro-US also. Nehru unleashed anti-Soviet rhetoric along with the Eisenhower administration during the Hungarian Uprising – and anti-Europe during the Suez crisis. The Non Aligned Movement while making noise, posed no military threat. All the Super-powers paid attention to NAM positions and criticism.

Having made its mark on the world stage, FP-One succeeded entirely on powers of suasion and reason. Post-colonial India, without any military rank or an economic power, could yet make world powers listen to FP-One. Nehru’s own charisma had much to do with success of FP-One.

Nehru’s era saw a marked deterioration in relationships with major neighbouring countries – Pakistan and China. Nehru’s unpreparedness resulted in a disastrous confrontation with China – and the loss of Tibet. Stalin had little time for India during India FP-One.

Except for one agreement, which saw large Soviet imports of Indian cinematic content that made Indian actors household names in Soviet Union.

After Nehru? Who, What, How …

For most of the world, The India Question was – After Nehru, what?

Division is the essence of Indian polity. The fierce noise of linguistic riots in Bombay and elsewhere is heard from afar. Mr.Nehru should not equate the authority of his person with any fundamental cohesion in his country. In the absence of his cementing figure, these divisions are bound to enlarge. (Pakistan Times, Lahore, November 25, 1955).

No coincidence that Pakistani planned its 1965 assault soon after Nehru’s death. Pakistan tested Indian resolve in 1965, after the 1962 border conflict with China, which by most accounts went against India. India’s official rendition of the 1962 encounter with China remains classified.

Nehru and thoughtful colleagues, SK Patil, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Morarji Desai, Govind Ballabh Pant and Krishna Menon. Mao and Zhou Enlai watch over the border-fence the embarrassed Indian leaders who do not know how to react. (Shankar / Shankar's Weekly / November 20, 1960). Image source and courtesy - friendsoftibet.org. Click for source image.

Nehru and thoughtful colleagues, SK Patil, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Morarji Desai, Govind Ballabh Pant and Krishna Menon. Mao and Zhou Enlai watch over the border-fence the embarrassed Indian leaders who do not know how to react. (Shankar / Shankar's Weekly / November 20, 1960). Image source and courtesy - friendsoftibet.org. Click for source image.

LB Shastri, India’s combative Prime Minister after Nehru, with none of Nehru’s oratorical skills, was able to surprisingly unite and galvanize morale with his Jai Jawan and Jai Kisan strategy – aligning the ‘trinity’ of government, army and people (in terms of Clausewitz Theory).

India, battling food shortages, after the colonial destruction of Indian agricultural system, was still in a feeble recovery stage.

Indian army working with WWII vintage arms and ammunition was ill-prepared to confront Pakistan, an American–armed-and-aided CENTO alliance partner. After the 1962 debacle against China, India made creditable, though slender, territorial gains. India had retaken territory in Kashmir, with Indian armies in sniffing distance of Lahore.

Chinese inaction during the 1965 War is a less analyzed factor of the 1965 War. India’s relationship with the Soviets had not yet reached the levels of the 1970s. What and who stopped China from joining Pakistan in its assault on India?

Was China’s support for Pakistan in the 1965 War limited to lip sympathy?

Troubled Times

In such a precarious situation, India fended off Pakistan – with the Soviet Union and the USA pushing for a quick ceasefire. The Soviet Union followed up with peace talks offer at Tashkent – the template that the US followed during the many Camp David talks.

Indian contingent landed up in Tashkent with Shastri in the lead – and Pakistan contingent with General Mohammed Ayub Khan. Shastri returned home to India – in a coffin, after a cardiac arrest. For the next two decades, Shastri’s death was fodder for conspiracy theories, hinting at plot by Indira Gandhi-Soviet Union, as the main players.

A New Alliance is Sealed

The development of FP2 started soon after India-Pakistan War of 1965 during LB Shastri’s regime, even as FP-One was no longer effective without Nehru.

After Tashkent, India decided to reject all outside interventions and involvement in bilateral matters. All UN resolutions on India-Pakistan conflicts started getting treated as ‘history’. Super-power offers for mediation are no longer welcome or entertained by India.

Solid Bedrock

The other major outcome after the 1965 War was India-Soviet Union alliance, under Brezhnev. Built on the pillars of

  • Russian oil for India, priced, paid, and designated in Indian rupees. Big win for both countries, as both had forex problems.
  • Soviet armaments for India, again in Indian rupees, to balance Indian exports of Indian tobacco, tea, engineering goods, consumer products, all in the era of shortages of consumer goods in USSR
  • Russian veto in UN in exchange for a Non Aligned commitment to give unbiased hearing to Soviet positions

it was a win-win agreement.

Soviet Union won respectability in global forums – and India was no longer dependent on the West for crucial imports like oil and heavy industry technology (nuclear, tyres, oil exploration, etc.). This foreign policy direction was a marked evolution from Nehruvian foreign policy (India FP-One).

India’s decade of muscular diplomacy

Looking back, FP2 survived an ordeal by fire with the first decade itself. Three events prove that it was a remarkable decade which shaped Indian foreign policy (FP2) for the next thirty years.

1971 – BanglaDesh War

In the 1965 India-Pakistan War, Indian diplomacy had ensured Chinese neutrality – and China did not move an inch. On the diplomatic front, China had been checkmated to paralysis – a position that China adopted in 1971 Bangladesh War also.

What made the Chinese so careful in 1971?

Before the 1971 Bangladesh War, the punishment that the Chinese received in the Zhenbao-Damanskii Island border (1969) conflict at the hands of the Soviets made the Chinese very careful. The Russians were even considering a nuclear attack on China. Aware of Soviet support to India, in the India-Bangladesh War – the Chinese adopted a complete hands-off attitude.

A younger Leonid Brezhnev with LB Shastri. Kosygin, Brezhnev's deputy, presided over Tashkent talks. 11:21 09/09/2009; © RIA Novosti. Yuryi Abramochkin

A younger Leonid Brezhnev with LB Shastri. Kosygin, Brezhnev's deputy, presided over Tashkent talks. 11:21 09/09/2009; © RIA Novosti. Yuryi Abramochkin

Staring down the West

The India-Soviet alliance also enabled India to counter the Chinese atomic bomb threat with its own Pokhran explosion in 1974.

In October 1961, a British journalist reported an estimate by Nehru that India could produce an atomic weapon in 2 years.

A reiteration of Nehru’s 1958 statement, what probably held back India from 1958-1974, was military and economic unpreparedness, to withstand sanctions by the West, that would follow an atomic test. The Indo-Soviet alliance also gave India the comfort of a Soviet veto in UN Security Council.

The first nuclear test by a non-P5 (USA, Soviet Union, China, UK, France) nation, India was in a precarious position. Assured of a Soviet veto on the Indian side, with Indian agriculture making a stunning comeback in the 70’s, buffered by Soviet Oil supplies and Bombay High, India was able to stare down Western disapproval of Pokhran atomic explosion for the next 25 years.

Compared to a ‘soft State’ like India, more ‘hard-line’ countries like apartheid South Africa and Israel, that counted Western nations as close allies, could not take the final step of an open, atomic bomb explosion.

MNCs – Go Home

The third major foreign policy initiative was an economic policy that severely impacted Western multinationals. In a decade when CIA /MNCs made and unmade Governments across the world, like in Iran, Latin America, Africa, this was a case where principle won over prudence. The Janata Party Government that come to power for the first time in 1977, pushed for dilution of foreign ownership in Indian subsidiaries of MNCs.

This evoked a storm of protest – and some companies like IBM and Coke, US icons in the 70s, walked out of India.

Under Nehru's Foreign Policy, India's voice was heard by super-powers, on the global stage. Even though India was militarily and economically weak. This cartoon from a British magazine shows Nehru's position on Suez rankled in Britain. Kashmir was a part of India - and Suez was NOT a part of Britain, but a part of Egypt. (Nehru - on Kasmir - On Suez; artist: Ronald Searle. Published in Punch Magazine 23 January 1957. Cartoon source and courtesy - punchcartoons.com; ). Click for source image.

Under Nehru's Foreign Policy, India's voice was heard by super-powers, on the global stage. Even though India was militarily and economically weak. This cartoon from a British magazine shows Nehru's position on Suez rankled in Britain. Kashmir was a part of India - and Suez was NOT a part of Britain, but a part of Egypt. (Nehru - on Kasmir - On Suez; artist: Ronald Searle. Published in Punch Magazine 23 January 1957. Cartoon source and courtesy - punchcartoons.com; ). Click for source image.

Soviet Union collapses

FP-One outlived its utility after decolonization of Africa and South East Asia.

The end of FP2 started with the meltdown of oil and gold prices during the 1990-2000 period.

This meltdown saw the Soviet Union bankrupted. Saddled with subsidies and aid to allies in Eastern Europe, Africa, Latin America saw Soviet Union slither into an economic morass.

Rapid and ineffectual leadership changes  after Brezhnev’s death (Yuri Andropov, Konstantin Chernenko and finally Gorbachev) saw a directionless and geriatric Communist Party, at the head of the Soviet Empire.

Foreign Policy On The Brink

By the year 2000, India FP2 was in crisis. Yanked out of its comfort zone of India-Soviet axis, after the USSR’s collapse, India FP2 was buffeted by the din of a ‘uni-polar’ world. India’s increasing imports of Western technology and products, that started with a trickle during Indira Gandhi regime of 1980-1984, soon gained pace. Deregulation of Indian auto sector saw increasing oil imports – with stagnant India’s oil production.

During the last 10 years, one can see signs of India FP-III taking shape. What are the features of India FP-III?

FP-III Takes Shape

One major fallout from the crash of FP2 was armament imports. Under FP2, India imported major armament systems from Soviet Union. India’s import of Jaguar, Mirage jet fighters and Bofors howitzers happened in the dying stages of FP2. With Soviet armament production systems in disarray and bankrupted, India needed alternatives – and fast. Dependence on the US-armaments was seen as an unreliable alternative.

Israel come in

In such a situation, India went for Israeli imports.

Designating Israel as an armaments vendor, freed FP-III from influence of external policy guide-lines. This gave India access of armaments from a vendor, which was also a significant user of the same armaments. Israeli armaments were also designed for low-intensity conflict – similar to Indian usage profile.

In parallel, India went ahead and signed armament co-development deals with the Russia. Brahmos missile is the first success from FP-III. The 5th Generation fighter aircraft being jointly developed is the next major step. The new aircraft carrier is the other major initiative.

The Indo-US Nuclear Deal may not deliver all that has been promised in the future. Yet, in the immediate now, it has delivered a resounding approval of FP-III. The 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) approved a differential status for India – equivalent to a Nuclear Power.

Without signing the CTBT or the NPT, FP-III’s ability to achieve global consensus on the nuclear issue, is an important milestone.

Western racism became a mainstream topic by the time of FP2. Western media started open introspection. (Never understood why Pakistanis don't got on with their Indian neighbours back home. They're all human beings... Sorry. No coloureds'. Punch Magazine Cartoon by David Langdon; Published - 1965.09.15.) Click for source image.

Western racism became a mainstream topic by the time of FP2. Western media started open introspection. (Never understood why Pakistanis don't got on with their Indian neighbours back home. They're all human beings... Sorry. No coloureds'. Punch Magazine Cartoon by David Langdon; Published - 1965.09.15.) Click for source image.

In the neighbourhood

India’s ability to get a foot inside Afghanistan, in spite of much opposition from Pakistan, may see India reap significant dividends with Central Asian oil and raw material resources. The turnaround in Bangladesh, after the new dispensation has come to power, breaks fresh ground in Bangladesh. Bangladesh has taken some significant actions against anti-India forces in Bangladesh – a sign of comfort for FP-III. Myanmar’s flirtation with China, according to some, maybe cooling off.

FP-III has also seen a change in handling Pakistan. From a rhetorical, tit-for-tat approach, Indian response to Pakistan has seen a change. The recent trade push with Pakistan may see an important Pakistani constituency root for a better India-Pakistan relationship. While Pakistan is being pushed to deliver on the anti-terrorism front, there is sense in seeing the changing Pakistani calculus.

Sizing Up China in South China Sea

An interesting development in FP-III was confronting China in South China Sea. Instead of precipitating a conflict situation in Indian border areas, is to take the battle to China in South China Sea. On the eve of delivery of Admiral Gorshkov, Indian Navy’s latest aircraft carrier, Indian Navy has better symmetry with Chinese Navy – that is struggling with scaling up.

Any confrontation in the South China Sea, between China on one side, against an India-Vietnam opposition, will see China friendless, in international diplomacy. With an appreciating yuan, and slowdown in Chinese economy imminent, the Chinese are likely to be circumspect – and the Indian hand will only get stronger.

How has India FP-III shaped up in the last 10 years.

Measuring FP-III

Many of FP-III initiatives may take a few decades to pay off – and will take persistence from India’s foreign policy apparatus. However, if the contours of a FP-III can take shape in this period of flux in Indian polity, an optimistic outlook can be deemed as realistic.

Much like the various mantras of American foreign policy are evoked, in the modern Indian context, homage is paid to the idea of NAM. But clearly, it is seen as an idea whose time has gone. Its effectiveness can be gauged from the strong reactions that it elicited from Nixon.

The table below presents a matrix to map outcomes, objectives, alliances and policies that Indian foreign policy has used in the last 60 years. As can be seen, Indian FP-One, FP2 and FP-III were rooted in the global realities of that time – and based on Indian needs and requirements of that time.

FP-One (1950-1970)

FP2 (1970-2000)

FP-III (2000-Now)

Leverage
  • Nehru’s charisma
  • Indo-Soviet Alliance
  • Indian economic power
Key Achievements
  • Decolonization
  • Third World dialogue
  • India heard at world forums
  • Defence production gathers steam
  • Soviet technology used for oil exploration
  • 1971 Bangladesh War
  • FP not influenced by armament purchases
  • Armament vendors instead of alliances
  • Un-committed to any super-power
Key Failures
  • Defence unpreparedness
  • Relationship with neighbours deteriorate
  • Tibet lost to China
  • UN interventions
  • Foreign policy influenced by Soviet line
  • Economic interests neglected
  • Limited access to Western technology, economy, finance
  • China, Pakistan relations not stable
  • Over engagement with West
  • Global initiatives (like NAM) impaired.
Key Features
  • Indian interests secondary
  • Global situation in focus
  • No Super-power tilt
  • Indo-Soviet alliance stitched
  • NAM acquires traction
  • Indian interests acquire importance
  • Super-power interventions rejected.
  • Indian interests paramount
  • FP-III depends less on Super-power coat-tails
  • Issue based engagement with P5
Key Persona
  • JL Nehru
  • Indira Gandhi
  • AB Vajpayee in Janata Party govt (1977-1979).
  • Rajiv Gandhi
  • AB Vajpayee
  • Manmohan Singh
Key events
  • Nehru-Eisenhower dynamics
  • Hungarian Uprising
  • Suez Crisis
  • 1971 Bangladesh War
  • Pokhran Atomic blast
  • MNCs brought to heel; IBM, Coke thrown out
  • Indo-US Nuclear deal
  • India Vietnam alliance in South China Sea
  • G20 inclusion

foreign minister at that time, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto

China’s solution to corruption

Posted in China, Current Affairs, History, India, Media, politics by Anuraag Sanghi on June 15, 2011
Two birds with one stone - Underpaid government employee of the past; and glib rejection of corruption charges. (Cartoon by RK Laxman). Click for larger image.

Two birds with one stone - Underpaid government employee of the past; and glib rejection of corruption charges. (Cartoon by RK Laxman). Click for larger image.

China believes it is a corrupt nation

China has a big ‘corruption’ problem. Apart from Western media reports, China’s own media confirms,

Corruption has long haunted the ruling Communist Party of China. The Party’s General Secretary, Hu Jintao, once said that “determined punishment and effective prevention of corruption concerns… the existence of the Party”. (via Former official executed by lethal injection).

A report carried by Time magazine, says that

The current level of corruption in China is systematic and widespread. It is so entrenched that honest officials are now part of a minority that risks being left behind. It is a system where corruption is the rule rather than the exception. According to the Chinese professor Hu Xing Do, 99% of the corrupt officials will never be caught. The few who do get caught are simply considered unlucky, and even if their punishment is typically heavy, the dissuasive effect remains minimal.

They have an answer

The Chinese answer to corruption has been death penalty. Liberally, widely, explicitly. A bullet in the head. Finito. Finito. Fini. Ände. Revestimento. Vuoden. Eind. Ende. final de la muerte. отделка . Τέλος.

That is the Chinese answer. To further ram home the point (in case the bullet does not do the trick), these executions are photographed, televised, published in newspapers, covered by the media.

Cant miss it.

Everyone must get equal opportunity at corruption. (Cartoon by Kirish Bhatt; courtesy - bamulahija.blogspot.com). Click for larger image.

Everyone must get equal opportunity at corruption. (Cartoon by Kirish Bhatt; courtesy - bamulahija.blogspot.com). Click for larger image.

Strike Hard

In 1983, Deng Xiaoping initiated what were called ‘Strike-Hard’ campaigns. Based on traditional imperial Chinese attitudes and wisdom, apparent from

traditional sayings like “a life for a life,” “killing one to warn a hundred,” “killing a chicken to warn a monkey” are embodiments of these retributive and deterrent beliefs.

Deng, who initiated the strike-hard campaigns in light of the rampant crimes, commented that the authorities could not be soft on crime, and the death sentence was “a necessary educative tool”

This thinking continues in China

The notion of “returning like for like” is rooted in China. The majority of the public could not accept that some murderers could go free after 10 years’ imprisonment.

It is believed in modern China that,

death penalty does have a strong deterrent effect. Studies do suggest that one execution deters five to 18 potential murderers from committing the ultimate crime. Though there is no detailed study on the death penalty’s deterrent effect on corruption cases, it can be expected to play a similar role. If corruption is struck off the capital punishment list in such a situation, there is a fear that all hell would break loose. (via Opinion: Corruption has to stay capital crime).

From the Deng’s initial ‘Strike-Hard’ campaign in 1983, crimes that qualify for death penalty has increased from 32 to 68 – ranging from corruption to embezzlement, smuggling and tax evasion.

The State has simply public appetite for vengeance, killings and torture. (Cartoon from chinadaily.com.cn/).

The State has simply public appetite for vengeance, killings and torture. (Cartoon from chinadaily.com.cn/).

Simply lovin’ it

What do the Chinese people think of these killings, shootings and executions?

Public opinion in China is rooted in the eye-for-an-eye and a tooth-for-a-tooth idea of justice. Efforts by the Chinese authorities to reduce categories of crimes for which death penalty can be awarded, sparked suspicions that ‘abolishing the death penalty for economic-related and non-violent offences (was) a tool to help privileged officials involved in corruption crimes escape capital punishment’ (text in parentheses supplied).

Chinese public opinion and reactions borders on being vengeful. Pictures on the Chinese internet, of the execution of Wang Shouxin, a woman government official from northern province of Heilongjiang scored more than a million hits. In another case,

Hearing the news of Wen’s execution, some local residents lit firecrackers or held banners that read “Wen’s execution, Chongqing’s stability” at the gates of the Municipal High People’s Court and the municipal Communist Party Committee. (via Former official executed by lethal injection).

Time magazine reports of the Chinese ‘appetite’ for such killings and executions. Even as China tops the world in the number of executions and killings, there is

endless “public demand” for this kind of punishment and (by) the surging popular anger, it would seem that there is actually not enough of it. Of all the criminal cases in China, those involving corrupt officials sentenced to death arouse the greatest interest. The morbid examples abound: from the public cheering for the recent death sentences. People in China viscerally hate corruption and are reluctant to see the death penalty dropped. (text in parentheses supplied).

Was China always like this.

During the time when Buddhism at its peak in China, in early Tang dynasty (618 AD – 907 AD), ‘death penalty was abolished for a time during the reign of Tai Zong emperor (627-650), one of the Tang dynasty’s most admired rulers.’

Chinese plans and measures

The Chinese do understand, that these killings and executions are not the answer.

If cutting hands, legs, heads, was the solution, every Islamic shariat-country would have been free of crime. China has been killing people since 1983, for nearly 30 years, now. Chinese corruption should have reduced. With the largest prisoner-population in the world, with the biggest secret-service, police force, the US should have been crime-free. After a sustained levels of executions at a historic-high, China still believes, it has a corruption problem.

In fact, Time magazine goes further and announces, ‘China is the global leader for the number of corrupt officials who are sentenced to death, and actually executed each year- carrying out 90% of (the executions) worldwide. Though another report by Time Magazine gives a varying estimate that China ‘puts to death more people than the rest of the world combined — about 70% of the global total in 2008.’ In 2001, Amnesty International recorded and confirmed ‘more than 4,000 death sentences and nearly 2,500 executions in China.’ Chinese authorities do not release execution statistics, ‘but rights groups estimate that they number from about 5,000 to 12,000 annually.’

Is the Chinese Government happy with these killings and executions? Using Western models, ideas and thinking, the Chinese look to the West for solutions.

For the first time in 30 years, China’s top legislature proposed this week to reduce the number of crimes punishable by execution. The proposal, largely symbolic, has drawn renewed attention to China’s controversial death-penalty policy, under which 68 crimes are punishable by death.

13 nonviolent economic crimes — ranging from smuggling relics and endangered animals to faking VAT receipts — have been dropped in a pending amendment to China’s capital-punishment law. Convicts above the age of 75 will also be eligible for the exemption. If passed, the revised law could slash the total number of capital crimes in the country by up to 20%. (via China Reviews Death Penalty for Nonviolent Crimes – TIME).

For one, Chinese authorities seem quite amenable to adopting the Western labels of developing country and increased ‘supervision’ as the models to go with.

“As a developing country, China’s current food and drug safety situation is not very satisfactory because supervision of food and drug safety started late. Its foundation is weak so the supervision of food and drug safety is not easy,” (via Former SFDA chief executed for corruption).

Another senior government official echoed similar sentiments

“As for the death penalty, different countries have different situations and different cultural backgrounds,” (said) Gan Yisheng, head of the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

“We still execute people who have committed serious economic crimes on consideration of China’s national condition and cultural background.” (via Execution defended as graft trial nears – The Standard).

After 30 years of sustained, public executions, all that the Chinese Government seems to have done is created a public appetite for more such killings and executions.

Justice that seems to have death and killings as its sole weapon. (Cartoon by Clay Bennett; courtesy - claybennett.com). Click for larger image.

Justice that seems to have death and killings as its sole weapon. (Cartoon by Clay Bennett; courtesy - claybennett.com). Click for larger image.

An end in sight?

How do the Chines see a solution to this situation?

There is considerable disbelief in ‘political re-education’ – a hall-mark of Maoist system of criminal ‘reform’.

If political education is the answer to rampant corruption, then all the propaganda courses we are constantly exposed to would have solved the problem by now. While so many people are “beheaded,” executives at all levels are still determined to brave death by trying to (benefit from) corruption (via Blood, Justice and Corruption: Why the Chinese Love Their Death Penalty – TIME).

Press, elections, democracy?

More Western ideas are more acceptable in China.

It is thus obvious that the reason for corruption lies elsewhere, in the fact that there isn’t enough control and supervision over public power, and in the lack of democratic elections and freedom of the press. (via Blood, Justice and Corruption: Why the Chinese Love Their Death Penalty – TIME).

Some of China’s commentators believe that

It is also time to rope the mass media into this war. The Zhejiang provincial committee of the Communist Party has made a good start by expressly empowering its local media to scrutinize and keep an eye on public officials.

Educational ads should be telecast on TV, broadcast on the radio and published in newspapers, something that Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption has been doing for a long time. (via Opinion: Corruption has to stay capital crime).

If democracy and free press were the answers, why is corruption so rampant in India. Not to mention the West?

People caught up between the State and gangs protected by the State. (Cartoon by Morparia). Click for larger image.

People caught up between the State and gangs protected by the State. (Cartoon by Morparia). Click for larger image.

Echoes from India

China-style killing-and shooting has some admirers of in India. If the Chinese were successful at curbing corruption, it would be worth studying their approach. Have the Chines succeeded?

Anna Hazare, Baba Ramdev have captured the media’s attention – and possibly a significant part of ‘middle-India’ also. What Anna-Baba are proposing to impose is a ‘Hindu’ shariat in India. Cut of hands, legs, heads. Flog people. Nail them and jail them. The works. How can India remain backward?

Chetan Bhagat, an admirer of Chinese style anti-corruption campaign, and another darling of ‘middle-India’ has become a Hindu Shariat supporter. Since powerful politicians cannot be ‘embossed’ or ‘tattooed’, Chetan Bhagat wrote on his forearm – मेरा नेता चोर है mera neta chor hai (My leader is a thief). He writes,

Contrast (India) with China where the punishment for the corrupt can be death by firing squad. Not only that, the family of the convict gets a bill for the bullets, just to emphasise the point that no one steals the nation’s money. (via Of Ravages And Kings – Times Of India).

(Cartoonist - Kirk Anderson on the Enron Case). Click for larger image.

(Cartoonist - Kirk Anderson on the Enron Case). Click for larger image.

Root of corruption

The source of corruption is power. Raw, unbridled power. That the modern State enjoys. More laws, more corruption, more crime. More police, more crime.

Any steps (like the Lok Pal) that empowers the State with more power will increase corruption. Reducing powers of the State reduces corruption. By eliminating monopoly, the Indian telecom sector saw a massive decrease in corruption. The opaque Indian railway ticketing system of the past encouraged corruption. That has been eliminated by bringing in transparency, through computerization. Like this Chinese commentator says

To tackle corruption at the roots, prevention is more important than punishment. China needs to thoroughly review its institutional system for preventing and combating corruption and for identifying and plugging loopholes. Corruption in many cases has been the result of power abuse. So we have to think of ways to curb such powers. (via Opinion: Corruption has to stay capital crime).

The three main areas where the State comes in is in land, wealth (as in gold), and people-to-people interaction. By injecting itself in the middle, the State creates abuse of power opportunities – leading to corruption. By arrogating the power of law and justice to itself, the State creates injustice. The end of corruption will be systemic change. End of Desert Bloc ideas. भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra has delivered corruption free regimes for centuries – and can do it again.

People get ready. Time for भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra.

The War on Drugs – A 2ndlook

Posted in Business, China, Current Affairs, European History, India, Media, politics by Anuraag Sanghi on June 9, 2011
On one side the government promotes drug use - and on the other wages a 'war' on drugs. Click for larger image.

On one side the government promotes drug use - and on the other wages a 'war' on drugs. Click for larger image.

The drug surge

With 2 crore (20 million) drug users in the USA, prisons overflowing with more than 20 lakh (2 million) prisoners, the American policy establishment is stuck for answers.

In the past 40 years, the U.S. government has spent over $2.5 trillion dollars fighting the War on Drugs. Despite the ad campaigns, increased incarceration rates and a crackdown on smuggling, the number of illicit drug users in America has risen over the years and now sits at 19.9 million Americans. (via The War on Drugs).

In modern times

The 2 crore (20 million) figure is more than 16% of the working-age, labour population of the USA – which stands at 16 crores (160 million). The use of opium, heroin, morphine by armies created a core group of addicts, from where opium addiction increased. Used extensively during the Civil War, by 1900, the US had more than a 10 lakh (1 million addicts) – compared to nearly 2 crore (20 million) narcotic-users now.

The current wave of drug usage possibly started after the Vietnam War. It is estimated that as many as 40% of US soldiers, in Vietnam, were heroin users.

Although the U.S. government has battled drugs for decades — President Eisenhower assembled a 5-member Cabinet committee to “stamp out narcotic addiction” in 1954 — the term “War on Drugs” was not widely used until President Nixon created the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in 1973 to announce “an all-out global war on the drug menace.” (via The War on Drugs).

Earlier, in the 19th century, the Opium trade with China siphoned out vast amounts of silver, under the logic of ‘free trade’, giving rise to some of the biggest Western fortunes (of the Roosevelts, for instance). Or the remarkable story of David Sassoon.

Indian labourers processing opium for the British Raj. (Image source - Wellcome Library; Image courtesy - bbc.co.uk). Click for a larger image.

Indian labourers processing opium for the British Raj. (Image source - Wellcome Library; Image courtesy - bbc.co.uk). Click for a larger image.

The Sassoon opium saga

A Jewish trader, David Sassoon originally Daud ibn Sassoon, was born in Baghdad 1792 and died in Pune, 1864. The Jewish synagogue in Pune, Lal Deval, was set by up the Sassoon family; the Sassoon Library in Mumbai also, and above all the huge Sassoon Docks, from which their ships carried China’s destruction – opium from India.

Son of Sheikh Saleh ben Sassoon (1750–1830), David Sassoon came to Mumbai in 1832, after his father’s death in Bushehr, in modern Iran. His father, a rich Jew, well connected to the Ottomans rulers, chose Sassoon as the family name. This choice was possibly linked to the Persian royal origin, Sassan, grandfather of Ardashir-I, founder of the Persian-Zoroastrian Sassanian dynasty. Interestingly, Sason in Hebrew means joy, similar to the ancient Sumerian word for opium, hul gil.

David shifted from Baghdad-to-Persia-to-Bombay, after the Sassoon family fell out of favour with some powerful business interests in Baghdad. Meanwhile, the British branch of Sassoons cultivated the rising power – British royalty. Ferdinand Sassoon, Arthur and Philip Sassoon, hosted Prince Edwards, the future king and also Queen Victoria. Reuben Sassoon (1835-1905), part of the British branch of Sassoons, was especially close to the future king of England, Edward – to become ‘perhaps the Prince of Wales’s closest friend’. Not only British royalty, even big-name families in the USA, like

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s fortune was inherited from his maternal grandfather Warren Delano. In 1830 he was a senior partner of Russell & Company whose merchant fleet carried Sassoon’s opium to China.

Vietnam War created heroin addicts. (Book extract from - Drugs and society  By Glen R. Hanson, Peter J. Venturelli, Annette E. Fleckenstein; page 256). Click to go to source.

Vietnam War created heroin addicts. (Book extract from - Drugs and society By Glen R. Hanson, Peter J. Venturelli, Annette E. Fleckenstein; page 256). Click to go to source.

British opium trading companies like Jardine Matheson, David Sassoon & Company and sundry traders set up The Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation for facilitating this misery.

Karl Marx’s commentary on the opium trade, written some 150 years ago, makes interesting reading even today. Much loved by the capitalists of his time, Karl Marx analyzed opium trade well.

What’s common in the Golden Crescent & the Golden Triangle

After WWII, traditional opium supplies from (Greater) China, by Government granted opium monopolies of Yugoslavia and Italy, were replaced by Iran, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Mexico. It was the Golden Triangle and the Golden Crescent which dominated opium supplies from 1960s, after the start of Vietnam War.

For some time during the Vietnam War, the French intelligence also used drug money to funds its own operation. Like its British and American counterparts, French Government identified its intelligence agencies to manage drug trade.

After abolition of the French Indochina opium monopoly in 1950, SDECE imposed centralized, covert controls over the illicit drug traffic that linked the Hmong poppy fields of Laos with the opium dens operating in Saigon. This generated profits that funded French covert operations in their Vietnam war.

With the advent of the Fifth Republic, and through 1962, the SDECE was used as a strategic intelligence service by the prime minister Michel Debre, and was particularly efficient in the struggle against the rebellion in Algeria. (via DGSE – General Directorate for External Security – Direction Generale de la Securite Exterieure – French Intelligence Agencies).

Drug flows from these new supply sources coincided with America’s Asian Wars in Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Korea, etc. These wars were justified under Eisenhower’s Domino Theory – which made Communism an enemy ‘under-your-bed’. The subject of much research, many Hollywood films and significant evidence confirm that American armed forces and the CIA were behind drugs import into USA. The so-called Phoenix operation was run by CIA with some 200 Green Berets – whose major activity apart from killings, assassinations and torture, was narcotics.

Some 75 years later Jardine Matheson-David Sassoon’s bank for opium, CIA too set up banks in the Bahamas, like the Mercantile Bank and Trust and Castle Bank and Nugan Hand Bank (incorporated in Cayman Islands and operating from Australia) to handle heroin trade out of the Golden triangle.

While the Oil and Terror linkage is much talked about, the role of Saudi Arabian funding much discussed, the global footprint of the drug trade is overlooked. As controls on gold sparked a global crime wave, the war on drugs is sparking another crime wave – a wave of terror. When the West wanted they imposed Opium Trade in the name of open markets. When the West wanted they declared a war on drugs.

Either way, someone else is paying.

The world pays for the US war on drugs!

The world pays for the US war on drugs!

The Indian enigma

Some things strike me as interesting: -

  • All the major drugs in the world came from India – opium is afeem, khus-khus, पोस्त; cannabis is charas, ganja, marijuana, hashish. Heroin is a derivative of opium.
  • The Sanskrit word for opium is अहिफेनः, अहिफेनम् ahi-fenam – which also means venom. The Arabic word afeem, Chinese word ya-pien, come from this. Though modern history believes that Arabs introduced opium to India, it seems improbable.
  • Most of the world’s drug production (based on opium and cannabis) still happens in India and neighbouring countries – Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia. In recent times, Indian gold smuggling was funded by carriage and export of drugs.
  • Why has drugs never become a big problem in India. Even, as Indians are significant producers, Indians themselves are not high on consumption lists – or have significantly profited from it.
  • Unlike in China, or in Medieval Middle East (when drug crazed criminals called hashishis became assassins). Or the West in the last 100 years.
  • Till the 80′s, these substances were available in India, through ‘licensed’ outlets.

Nail them, jail them

The police actions against drug cartels have given little benefit. The heavy-handed legal approach of criminalizing possession of drugs too has yielded no results either.

in the past 40 years, the U.S. government has spent over $2.5 trillion dollars fighting the War on Drugs. Despite the ad campaigns, increased incarceration rates and a crackdown on smuggling, the number of illicit drug users in America has risen over the years and now sits at 19.9 million Americans.

Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair declare(d) last week that the Mexican government had lost control of its own territory. President Felipe Calderón responded by pointing out that his nation shared a border with “the biggest consumer of drugs in the world and the largest supplier of weapons in the world.” (via The War on Drugs).

Gold and drugs .. and India

The world pays for the US war on drugs!

A major effect of US restrictions on gold ownership, sparked a global crime wave – in which drugs played a major part. The opening of the gold trade across the world during 1973-1993 (especially in India) damped down the power of the Indian Underworld. The other leg on which the Indian underworld stands, is drug trade.

Indian belief in gold is not a recent - but a centuries of trust and habit. Cartoon courtesy - indiauploads.wordpresscom. Click for larger image.

Indian belief in gold is not a recent - but a centuries of trust and habit. Cartoon courtesy - indiauploads.wordpresscom. Click for larger image.

The first effect of restrictions on gold imports in India was on prices. Indian gold prices, on an average, were 30%-40% higher than international prices. The other thing that happened was that gold imports went underground. Gold imports (illegal), called smuggling, spawned the biggest criminals that India has seen.

The common threads in this were, of course, America, drugs, underworld, war, corruption, warlords – but what made all this possible was Indian appetite for gold.

All this was made possible by the Indian hawala system of money exchange. Hawala made money transfers safe, instantaneous, at a low-cost. Traditional Indian ships from a thousand ports in Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat sailed with this contraband and brought back gold.

The countries comprising these Golden Triangle /Crescent are India’s neighbours. The Indian underworld transported drugs through India. These drug shipments originated, were acquired, grown and traded from the Golden Crescent and the Golden Triangle.

The tobacco parallel

The complicity of governments is very similar to tobacco monopolies across the world. Or the modern expansion in prostitution – especially in the West.

Six companies and sundry State monopolies drive global cigarette consumption. These six companies derive more than US$100 billion dollars in revenues, globally. For many years they were advertising industries largest customers.These six companies are headquartered at former European imperial powers (UK, France, Spain), USA and Japan. These six companies work at an arm’s length from the State, giving the State a luxury of ‘plausible deniability’.

After creating appetites and markets for narcotics, the State wants to control the same appetite.

During a 1984 appearance at an Oakland, Calif. school, then-First Lady Nancy Reagan was asked by 10-year-old Angel Wiltz what to do if someone offered her drugs. “Just say no,” replied Reagan. Within a year, 5,000 “Just Say No” clubs had formed around the country, with Soleli Moon Frye, (Punky Brewster) as honorary chairperson. The Los Angeles Police Department’s 1983 Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) school lecture program, grew into a national phenomenon that, by 2003, cost $230 million and involved 50,000 police officers. (via The War on Drugs).

British Cartoon on Opium (Source - Drugs and society  By Glen R. Hanson, Peter J. Venturelli, Annette E. Fleckenstein; Page 253). Click to go to the source book.

British Cartoon on Opium (Source - Drugs and society By Glen R. Hanson, Peter J. Venturelli, Annette E. Fleckenstein; Page 253). Click to go to the source book.

Chinese State Tobacco monopoly

Or how China has replaced Western powers pushing opium in China in the nineteenth century.With a national tobacco monopoly.

Not expected after the opium experience of the Chinese, when Western trading houses, under State protection, using the garb of ‘free trade’, made China into the largest consumer of opium.

The Chinese Govt. has replaced opium with tobacco. In the 19th century, China became the largest grower of opium to stop the drain of wealth from Chinese addiction to opium. The Chinese opium crop of 1906, of more than 35,000 tons, remains the largest ever in recorded history. Compared to that the current crop in Afghanistan has varied between 5000-10000 tons at its peak.

The second secret of the tobacco business is to be dominant in purchasing and cornering tobacco stock. For cornering tobacco stocks, Big Tobacco depends on Central Banks’ support – aka State support. For instance, ITC (and other major global tobacco purchasers) in India has a major presence in Guntur, where Indian tobacco trade is headquartered. ITC’s over-sized chequebook buys it market dominance.

In India, such State policy on drugs and crime was a feat by Mughals and the British. Post-independence Indian State has partly patterned itself on Desert Bloc lines. Will it become a drug dealer?

Will the Indian government ‘learn’ from its counterparts?

Meshing and gnashing – The Clash of civilizations

Posted in Current Affairs, European History, History, India, Islamic Demonization, Media, politics, Religion by Anuraag Sanghi on February 16, 2011
Huntington's book gave pseudo-intellectual justification started the Western campaign of Islamic demonization. (Image source - http://www.bayesianinvestor.com/books; artist attribution not available at image source)

Huntington

Mercenary logic

Samuel P . Huntington’s 1993 book, Clash of Civilizations, has a historical ring to it – a hint of something grand. An influential book, it ostensibly examined ‘conflicts between Western and non-Western cultures’ – and brought the phrase, Clash of Civilizations into limelight.

In the post-Soviet World, the book marked the launch of a new Western campaign – Islamic demonization. This book, released some four years after Rushdie-fatwa, provided pseudo-intellectual justification for West’s anti-Islamic campaign.

The America+NATO sponsored ‘ethnic cleansing’ campaign in Bosnia was underway, since 1992. Saturation media coverage of Monica Lewinsky and cigars effectively drowned President Clinton’s role in the initiation of the anti-Islamic campaign – and the news coming out of the Balkans. Deliberate diversionary tactics?

India’s co-option too, into this campaign was planned in significant detail – and successfully executed. 9/11 (September 11, 2001) was still 8 years in the future. The verbal trickery behind Huntington’s Clash of civilizations ‘package-deal’ has gone by without challenge or de-construction in India. This post will cover some Trojan concepts Huntington  smuggled into the mainstream.

A Basic Stance

For one, the definition of civilizations has to be beyond race, ruins and region. Instead, a definition  around differentiated structures – political, social, economic and ethical structures makes comparative analysis possible.

Civilizations tend to repeat political, social, economic and ethical structures. In the last five thousand years, only three civilizational models can be identified and substantially differentiated.

Desert Bloc

The world’s dominant model today, it has been able to nearly erase competing systems from the collective minds of the ruling elites in the world.

Signs of the Desert Bloc’s birth were first evidenced in the Assyrian Empire – its first laws codified by Hammurabi. Dating is contested, and best estimates are that the Assyrian Empire collapsed around c.600 BC. Seven of history’s largest empires used the Assyrian Empire, as a springboard.

The Desert Bloc extends from west of India, across Middle East, West Asia, extending to Central Asia and Eastern Europe – with its core in a region of 1000 miles radius of Palestine. Inventors of religion, world’s three important religions, (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) were born within 1000 miles radius of Palestine, in the deserts of Middle East. Each of these religions were, so to say, ‘backward compatible’. Islam recognizes Christianity, which uses Judeo-Mosaic texts for its foundations.

Anti-feminist, none of the three religions have female goddesses – unlike the two other civilizations specified below. Western Christian world gave women the right to vote, mostly between 1920-1950. Low levels of marital success are institutionalized – and instead prostitution levels are high.

The Desert Bloc depends on extreme competitiveness between its own factions to gain leadership – extending the analogy of survival of the fittest. Some of its defining struggles in the last 1000 years were Islam vs Christianity; Spain vs Portugal; England vs France; USA vs USSR.

Such factions spring up around deified leaders based on a sharp identity – race, tribe, language, region, religion. Significant leadership struggles have broken out between even intra-religious sects – like Catholics and Protestants, Shias vs Sunnis.

A significant marker of the Desert Bloc is concentration of wealth, power and land in the hands of these deified leaders and their inner circle. Unlike the two other civilizational groups, as we will see. This allows Desert Bloc factions to indulge in extremism. Over 90% of the world’s bloodiest wars, genocides, massacres, annihilations, are to the Desert Bloc account.

The Desert Bloc is differentiated by extensive use of slavery, rule by elites, conspicuous consumption (show piece buildings, spectacular technology) et al.

Driven by ‘at-any-cost’ approach, in the Desert Bloc, everything and everyone is expendable to attain leadership position. Driven more by accelerated creation and destruction, Desert Bloc sub-groups have short life spans (Achaemenid Iran, Greece, Rome, Mongol Empire). Greece, Rome, the Ummayyads, Abbasids, Mongolian Empire, Colonial Spain and Britain best represent the Desert Bloc.

Can different factions of the Desert Bloc, like the Christian West and Islam collaborate? The Islāmic Ottoman Empire and the Christian European powers could not get around to colluding with each other. Even the collusion between the Christian European colonizers was  difficult.  Unless it was over carving the spoils, dividing areas for exploitation – like Papal Bulls (between Spain and Portugal) or the Berlin Conference which triggered the ‘scramble for Africa.’

The  Afro Group

Apart from the Indic System, the only other civilization, the Afro Group could resist the Desert Bloc onslaught in the last 1000 years. The Afro Group successfully kept its identity, at a great cost, unlike Native Americans or Australian aborigines.

An iconic photograph of the Soweto uprising. (Image courtesy - le-regent.net; photographer attribution absent at source).

An iconic photograph of the Soweto uprising. (Image courtesy - le-regent.net; photographer attribution absent at source).

They successfully engaged with the Desert Bloc in Haiti, at Battle of Isandlwana (22 January 1879), by the Mau Mau in Kenya.

Monica Schulyer, an assistant professor of history at Wanye State University, (thinks) the name Mau Mau was itself a British invention and means nothing in Kenyan. Members of the independence movement called them selves the Land and Freedom Army.

In modern South Africa, on July 16, 1976, the ‘day began with a march by 10,000 students carrying banners and slogans, saying “Down with Afrikaans” and “Viva Azania” (the name given to South Africa by black nationalists)’. Soon the number swelled to ‘fifteen thousand school children involved in the protests (Tuttle 1)’, rose against imposition of Afrikaans language by White Apartheid rule. Known to the world as Soweto Uprisings, it is without parallel in the annals of history. In the very heart of the modern Desert Bloc – the USA, after centuries of slavery and discrimination, the Afro Group was able to roll back excesses.

Their robust ‘native’ intelligence best describes how Desert Bloc works. In Jomo Kenyatta words,

“When the Missionaries arrived, the Africans had the Land and the Missionaries had the Bible. They taught how to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible.”

Another unit from the Afro Group, Cuba, far from its base in Africa, after breaking from slavery,  successfully resisted coming under political bondage of the Desert Bloc, for the last 100 years. In the ancient world, Carthage checked the spread of Desert Bloc, represented by Greece. Carthage allied with Rome to destroy Greece.

Before that, Nubians brought the Egyptian Empire to heel. The 25th dynasty from Nubia or Kush, south of Egypt (modern Sudan), ruled over Egypt for at least 75 years. Piye, earlier”Piankhy”the Nubian king invaded Egypt (ca. 746 BC) – and started the 25th Dynasty, that probably continued till 650 BC. He was succeeded by Shabaqo (ca. 716-702 BC) and his successors Shebitqo (ca. 702-690 BC) and Taharqa (690-664 BC).

Traditional African structures had diffused land and wealth ownership – unlike the Desert Bloc. There is little proof of concentration of wealth in African structures.

Both, the Afro Group and the Indic System have a much superior record of minimal environmental degradation. The Big 5 in animals – elephant, tiger /leopard, lion, wild bull, rhino exist only in the these two core geographies. Big Game hunters in Africa (from the Desert Bloc, where else) described 5 animals as the Big 5 – elephants, lion, buffalo, leopard and the rhino as the Big Five. These were animals that were difficult to hunt and kill (for pleasure, if you thought otherwise).

This ‘pleasure’ was the operating principle. As a result of this ‘pleasure’, there are only two parts of the world where such Big Five exist. India and Africa. China, the Middle East and of course Europe and America, have wiped entire continents of all these animals.

Modern history, under a Hegelian spell has ignored Afro Group history. Bereft of spectacular structures, visible ‘leaders’ or the recent decline in fortunes, the study of African history has been decided as unimportant.

Indic systems

Based on भारत-तंत्र Bharattantra platform. Indic systems focus on four freedoms – काम kaam (desire, including sexual) अर्थ arth (wealth), मोक्ष moksh(liberty)and धर्मं dharma (justice), and stipulates unrestricted access to ज़र zar (gold), जन jan (people) and ज़मीन jameen (land).

Originating in India, based on platform of anti-slavery, distribution of power and diversity, this was the dominant ideology in the world till about 8th century. In Tibet, Songtsen Gampa, the 33rd king, became the first dharma-raja in 7th century – a follower of भारत-तंत्र Bharattantra . The Indic system has been in sharp retreat for the last 500 years – especially after Mughal rule in India. Inspite of sharp reversals in the last 500 years, half the world is still significantly influenced by Indic systems.

Militarily impregnable till about 17th century, Mughal rule established the first beachhead for the Desert Bloc in India.

Strong population growth based on widespread marital occurrence, strong and extensive family structures, are features that have sustained Indic systems in the society, even though some rulers defected to the Desert Bloc.

Indians worship every item of God's creation - not just cows. (Image source - Sri U.Ve. Prasanna Venkatachariar Chaturvedi Swamin)

Indians worship every item of God's creation - not just cows. (Image source - Sri U.Ve. Prasanna Venkatachariar Chaturvedi Swamin)

With diverse liturgical, beatification, sacramental practices, graded pantheism (local deities, semi-divine gods and goddesses with a top layer of the Holy Trinity), faith and belief do not occupy the space or importance that religion has in the Desert Bloc. These are within the realm of individual choice with scattered efforts at proselytization

The Indic system still has significant following in China and most of ASEAN region – notably Indonesia, Tibet, Cambodia, Thailand, Sri Lanka. The modern proof of this was the India Independence League (IIL) headed by Subhash Chandra Bose.

In recent times

Each of these megaliths have traditional spheres of influence.

Post-WWII world has been been seriously influenced by the Desert Bloc. The Desert Bloc split into two factions. The liberal-progressive, democratic, Judeo-Christian faction led by America. Significant parts of the world has moved to the Desert Bloc orbit, and adopted the religion of Westernization.

An interesting study is the post-WWII behaviour of the Euro-American faction. After WWII, as British, French and Dutch colonialists were being thrown out of Asia, in country after country, the West was in real danger of losing markets and raw material sources.

To make war palatable, Desert Bloc invented religion. (Image source - loonpond.com; artist attribution not available at image source)

To make war palatable, Desert Bloc invented religion. (Image source - loonpond.com; artist attribution not available at image source)

A new power, fueled by a growing migrant population, USA, took the place of tired, old powers – Britain, France and the Dutch. Instead of the openly-exploitative system of European powers directly running colonial governments in these Asian countries, the US installed an opaque system – which is equally exploitative. To impose its writ on the newly independent Asian countries, the US simply destroyed their  economies by war. The USA, then instituted the innovative USCAP Program and ‘helped’ these countries. These countries (Taiwan, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, et al) were now ruled by overtly independent regimes – but covertly, client states of the USA.

US multinationals and home-grown oligarchs (keiretsus, chaebols, etc.) took over the economy – and sidelined British, French and Dutch companies. To impose this economic model, US armies, using nearly 1 million troops, killed 50 lakh Asians. The takeover of European colonial possessions by the USA was handled over 3 regimes of Eisenhower-Kennedy-Johnson seamlessly.

Islamic units

The second faction is the Islamic faction. After the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, by the West, after WWI, new renegade groups supported by the West, sprang up. These renegade groups are using extremist  Islam to meld the Islamic faction into a more powerful factor in the global power equation.

Some of these Islamic regimes installed and supported by Western powers have been slowly drifting away from the West – like Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Iran, etc. Some other regimes are longer able to call the shots – like the Saud family, or the Iraqi regime.

The other aspect of the Islamic faction is the geographical spread. The primary Islamic region is the Arab region, centred around Middle East /West Asia region. The secondary Islamic region is the Central Asia – earlier a part of the Mongol Empire. Walled in by China and Japan on the East, by Russia on the West and diverse countries in the South, it is a shadow of its former self.

The region with the largest Islamic population is South and South East Asia – concentrated across India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Malaysia. The South and South East Asia Islamic region has a moderate and non-imperial history.

Hence these three regions (Middle-East region, Central Asian region and South /SE Asian) have evolved differently and have little in common. Hence, the image of the Islamic ‘world’ as a monolithic unit is misleading.

Big trouble in Little China

The other puzzle is classifying China. China under Confucian State model was solidly in the Desert Bloc. After the advent of Buddhism, as the Chinese people became landholders, as they obtained rights to own silver and gold, they moved to Indic system. Marriage and family systems became the norm – instead of exception.

After and under Mongols, for instance the Kublai Khan restricted silver and gold rights – and issued fiat currency. The Chinese State has mostly been Desert Bloc in its tendency. But the Chinese people have great faith in their Buddhist teachers. Will China become a staunch Desert Bloc member like Iran in the past, is still possibly an open question.

Even stevens!

The Assyrian thread

With Niniveh, (also called Asshur) as its capital, the Assyrian Empire, ended in 600 BC. The Assyrian Empire passed through many hands – recreating and renewing itself in the same mould. The name, Assyrian Empire was a Roman modification of Asuristan - the area of current Iraq.

The  Achaemenid Empire (c. 550–330 BC) were the first successor power to preside over the Assyrian Empire, from their capital in Perspolis. Many wealthy Jews were envied for their vast slave holdings. Alexander ousted the Achaemenids to rule over the Assyrian Empire – effectively after the Battle at Gaugemela (331 BC). Daidochi Wars after Alexander’s death and attacks by Rome-Carthage alliance  led to the disintegration of Macedonian rule. Romans, added Western Europe, and ruled over the Assyrian Empire for the next 350 years (60 BC-285 AD), with its capital in Rome.

Rome formally lost the Assyrian Empire when Diocletian was forced to split Roman Empire in 285 AD. Eastern Roman Empire, well-known for its premier city, Byzantium (a cognate of Indian Vyjayanti) mostly had its capital in Constantinople (modern Istanbul) continued to gain power and wealth over the next 400 years.

Various Islamic dynasties (c.700-1300) ruled over large parts of the Assyrian Empire, with capitals mostly in Damascus, Baghdad, till they were deposed by Genghis Khan’s Mongols. After adding China, Mongol factions ruled over the Assyrian Empire for varying periods, between 1300-1600 AD over different parts of the Assyrian Empire.

It was the Mongols who helped in the rise of the West. First, was the trade in millions of slaves from Eastern Europe (the Slavs, hence slaves) by Venetian and Florentine traders, which funelled vast monies into European economies from Egyptian and Byzantine slave-buyers. This wealth from slave trade was the stuff of which tales are told. Shakespeare wrote of Merchant of Venice, Comedy of Errors, Gentlemen of Verona. Leonardo da Vinci,  architect Bramante, sculptor Donatello, Michelangelo, Titian and other famous artists found patrons with the earlier Visconti, powerful Medicis, notorious Borgias, lesser known Sforza (Milan), Pazzi and the Albizzi families. It was this slave-trade that fuelled Renaissance art and culture. Florence, Venice, Milan became major banking centres. Double-entry book keeping became standard, under which any kind of financial picture can be created. Quite unlike the Indian single-entry system.

Mongols brought to the West two major technologies. One, was the Indian decimal system and Indian saltpetre for gunpowder, was the other. Indian mathematics (initially outlawed by European rulers) is the foundation of Western science and technology. Indian gunpowder was their ticket to military power. Wealth from trade in African slaves, conquest, loot, annihilation of Native Americans, using gunpowder, fuelled a 500 year technology boom in the West.

The last significant dynasties that ruled over the ancient Assyrian Empire were Islamic Ottomans and the Christian Austro-Hungarian Empire. These two empires were dismantled after WW1 (1920) by Western allies.

Slavery rarely finds mention in Indian media. Much less is any discussion or understanding about the role of slavery in the rise of the West. A rare Indian columnist with awareness of the slavery factor. Even this discussion about clash of civilizations does not work.

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