2ndlook

Currency in Takshashila

Posted in Gold Reserves, History, India, politics by Anuraag Sanghi on September 14, 2011
Guilds in Takshashila (Taxiles/a in Greek)- Extract from A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century  By Upinder Singh (Pages 405-406). Source and courtesy - books.google.com. Click on the image to go to source.

Guilds in Takshashila (Taxiles/a in Greek) - Extract from A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century By Upinder Singh (Pages 405-406). Source and courtesy - books.google.com. Click on the image to go to source.

Docile Indians …

Till August 15th, 1947, no king or ruler was able to impose any kind of currency monopoly by fiat in India. A unique aspect in economic history.

A by-product of भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra, India has the largest private reserves of gold in the world – totalling to nearly 20% of global gold holdings.

Absence of fiat currency was one of the cornerstones of भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra– the classical system of polity, by which India was governed. भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra worked on four freedoms – धर्म (dharma – justice), अर्थ (arth – wealth and means), काम (kaam – human desires) मोक्ष (moksha – liberty) and three rights – ज़र (jar – gold), जन (jan – human ties) and जमीन (jameen – property) for all.

This multiple-currency system passed into common parlance with idioms – like in Hindi, उसका सिक्का चलता है ‘uska sikka chalta hai’. Meaning ‘abc’s coinage is commonly accepted’. This idiom is now used to indicate a man of position, authority and standing in local community.

Thus coinage and currency, which play such an important technical role in historical research, becomes less than important in India.

Crossroads of the world

Takshashila, (Taxiles/a in Greek) at the cross-roads of the उत्तरपथ Uttarapath (known today as the Silk Route) and दक्षिणपथ Dakshinapath, was crucial to world economy. Takshashila’s system of guild-banking, hundis, deposits, currencies, corpus kept the world economy oiled and moving. Takshashila, close to the ancient cities of Mohenjodaro and Harappa, also possibly retained the knowledge of alloying, maybe even extracting, nickel – which ‘modern’ science achieved in 1751.

But that is yet another puzzle in history.

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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.

Af-Pak – The Coming Oil Bottleneck

Posted in Business, Current Affairs, politics by Anuraag Sanghi on June 9, 2011

The Top 10 Global Crude Oil Producers in 2009 | Source - Euromonitor International from BP Statistical Review of World Energy | Image Source - topforeignstocks.com | Click for larger image.

FUD

There is an old, effective sales technique, attributed to IBM called FUD – create Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. The IBM salesman, was taught how to create Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt in the buyer’s mind – against competitors. For this post, it will be good idea to remember FUD.

Big Oil

The second important thing that is the key to this post is oil.

There is a great deal of concentration in the world oil industry: just ten companies control 68 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves. Nine of the ten biggest oil reserve holders are state-owned National Oil Companies (NOCs). Many of these were formerly private sector companies that were nationalized in the 1970s. Eight of the ten largest oil producers in the world are NOCs. The others are large integrated private sector energy companies. (via Energy Sector: Energy Sources: Petroleum Products and Crude Oil Prices: How World Oil Markets Work).

World's Top 10 Crude Oil Reserve Holders (Image Source - Natural Resources Canada| Data Source - Oil and Gas Journal, 2006). Click for larger image.

Fig.2 World’s Top 10 Crude Oil Reserve Holders (Image Source – Natural Resources Canada| Data Source – Oil and Gas Journal, 2006). Click for larger image.

Oil trends

Saudi Arabia is expected to remain a top producer and exporter of oil in the foreseeable future. Canada is an interesting candidate. Based on current production, Canada ranks at No.6 but with the second largest proven reserves, Canada will be an important oil producer in the future. Russia is expected to remain a major producer-exporter.

US and China are interesting anomalies. Both are large oil producers, and also large importers of oil too. US-China are likely to remain large producer-importers for some more time.

Japan, Germany, South Korea, India, France will remain large importers.

Big Story – Caspian Oil

Most plans till early part of this decade involved Central Asian Oil and gas landing at Turkey for shipment to EU and USA. However, as the accompanying charts indicate, the real consumers for Central Asian gas and oil were going to be India and China. For instance US oil consumption between 1973-2010 has grown from 17 mpd to 19 mpd – with some peak and collapses.

US oil demand in the last 40 years has been stagnant - with a major collapse in 1980-1983. Click for a larger image.

Fig.3 US oil demand in the last 40 years has been stagnant – with a major collapse in 1980-1983. Click for a larger image.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the world energy industry began drooling over the newly formed Central Asian republics and the Caspian Sea. Exploration quickly found what appeared to be enormous, untapped fields of oil and natural gas.

Prior to 1991, the only countries bordering the sea were the Soviet Union and Iran. These two countries were bound by the 1921 and 1940 bilateral treaties, which stated that Caspian resources were to be owned jointly. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union and emergence of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan, there have been numerous disputes about resources in the Caspian Sea. Disputes came to a head in July 2001, when Iranian gunboats confronted a British Petroleum research vessel and ordered it out of waters to which Iran lays claim.(via The Forging of ‘Pipelineistan’ – Oil, Gas Pipelines High Priority for US in Central Asian Military Campaigns).

The Tale of Two Pipelines. This map is indicative, as no final pipeline path has been sealed. There are variations on this exact direction of these pipelines. Click for a larger image.

Fig.4 The Tale of Two Pipelines. This map is indicative, as no final pipeline path has been sealed. There are variations on this exact direction of these pipelines. Click for a larger image.

How Pakistan fits in

Most of current oil reserves, crude production and refining capacities are tied to current demand. Hence, growth from India and China, can possibly be met from Central Asia only.

To meet the additional demand from India and China, without disrupting the market, means Central Asian oil – transported through transnational oil pipelines.

A direct deal between Iran and India, bypassing Central Asia, Pakistan, USA would jeopardise Big Oil interests. Many major US politicians like ex-Vice President Dick Cheney (with Halliburton), Condoleeza Rice (on Chevron board) are advisors to Big Oil and their Central Asian clients. Recently releases from Sarah Palin’s email records, ‘offer insights into … her decision to allow oil exploration in previously protected areas of Alaska’ and refer ‘intriguingly to “a meeting with staffer for Vice-President Cheney about gas pipeline and meetings with representatives of Alaska communities about Endangered Species Act”.’

There has been ongoing speculation that, more than the Pakistani State, both 9/11 and 26/11 are the handiwork of these oil interests – using mercenary jihadists. To push the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India deal – or stop the Iran-India pipeline deal, through Pakistan.

An undersea variant (see Fig.5) of the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline is likely to more expensive. Hence Pakistan is likely to be the gatekeeper of oil and gas to India from Central Asia to India.

Starting with the army in Pakistan

‘Every country has an army, Pakistan’s army has a country’.

Instead of the one-party ‘dictatorship’ of China or a ‘two-party’ democracy in the West, there are many more Pakistan’ players – each jockeying for power, differently. In a very messy manner.

The various political factions in Pakistan are competing to assume power for a bargaining position with Big Oil – and India. This trade is expected to cross trillions, over the next few years. From this US$trillion-dollar opportunity, no political player in Pakistan, wants his cut to be diluted.

To this oil opportunity, add narcotics trade. The Golden Crescent (Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan) and Golden Triangle (Thailand, Laos, Cambodia) are the largest producers of drugs – and expect massive returns on drug trade. This drug traffic is now passing through Pakistan. The Taliban have extensive experience with opium trade in Afghanistan.

IPI Pipeline Route Proposals: To limit probable supply disruptions, India has proposed bypassing Pakistan completely. Image courtesy - energytribune.com.

IPI Pipeline Route Proposals: To limit probable supply disruptions, India has proposed bypassing Pakistan completely. Image courtesy – energytribune.com.

How anti-India is the aam-Pakistani?

There seems to be a belief in India that the ordinary Pakistani is anti-India. A sampling of some recent evidence, may make a case for alternative reading.

The most interesting was the Pakistani interest in Indian pauranik serials, especially in Pakistani-Punjab.

For another, we forget that Indian Muslims from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan did not vote for Pakistan or Jinnah. It was a small minority, of less than 5 lakhs who voted for the Muslim League, carefully selected by the British, which was designated as representative of Muslim interests, that voted for Pakistan. From the nearly 10 crore Muslims. A fact we would do well to remember.

The combative former foreign minister of Pakistan, Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri believes, that fundamentalist Pakistani political ‘parties which gathered 50,000 people in Karachi over the blasphemy law recently wouldn’t gather 500 people if they declared war on India.’

I assume he knows.

Two cats go to a monkey for justice and lose everything. Old Jataka tale. Can there be a 'honest' broker?

Fig. 6 Two cats go to a monkey for justice and lose everything. Old Jataka tale. Can there be a ‘honest’ broker?

The US wants to be an honest broker

What will be US role, if India and Pakistan were to sit down and resolve their issues. It is in US interest for instance, to create false stereotypes of Pakistanis. Let us examine some common notions about Pakistan.

Note how many multiples of Americans die each year from guns, than in Pakistan.

Yet English media selectively emphasizes the Pakistani deaths. Is the world likely to allow NATO and US, a free run of Af-Pak region, if it was declared that Pakistan suffered from tribal violence – on a scale smaller than gangsta and ghetto violence in USA.

Why does China and US renew their loyalty and friendship vows with Pakistan every week?

Nuclear nightmare, anyone?

US and its many think tanks have raised global consciousness on the dangers of Pakistani nukes falling in terrorist hands. Pakistan however sees it differently.

Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are probably quite secure from terrorists — the nukes are its crown jewels. The army cares about them in ways that it does not about bin Laden’s whereabouts or fighting the Haqqani network.

The nuclear issue looks different from Pakistan. For most of the world, the question is, can terrorists steal the nuclear weapons? In Islamabad it’s, can the United States or India steal them?

Kamran Khan, on his nightly Geo TV talk show, asked provocatively: “We had the belief that our defense was impenetrable but look what has happened. Such a massive intrusion, and it went undetected. … What is the guarantee that our strategic assets and security installations are safe?”

He was not wondering whether the nuclear weapons are safe from terrorists but from the U.S. (via Opinion: Beware decline in Pakistani relations – Toby Dalton and George Perkovich – POLITICO.com).

The Taliban spokesman to Wall Street Journal had an even more interesting take on this issue.

The Taliban has no plans to attack Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, its spokesman declared; The Taliban’s spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, dismissed those concerns Wednesday as America’s “excuse” to pressure Pakistan’s government into fighting the Taliban, who he portrayed as the country’s true protectors.

“Pakistan is the only Muslim nuclear-power state,” Mr. Ehsan said in a telephone interview, adding that the Taliban had no intention of changing that fact. The Taliban, after all, aim to take over Pakistan and its weapons.

Mr. Ehsan’s remarks appeared tailored to appeal to that increasingly nationalist mainstream, where conspiracy theories flourish about American, Indian and Israeli plots to deprive Pakistan of its atomic arsenal. Pakistan’s nuclear capability is cherished here as the guarantor of safety from India’s far larger conventional military.

The Pakistan Taliban, an offshoot of the Afghan insurgent movement, have repeatedly tried to win public support by presenting themselves as a defender of Pakistan, though their attacks have killed thousands of Pakistanis. (via Taliban Say They Won’t Target Pakistan’s Nuclear Arsenal – WSJ.com).

How important is Islam?

The other question that bothers Indians is the anti-India, anti-Hindu, fundamentalist, radical Islamic Pakistani mindset? Whew. Did I miss anything?

Which raid-and-ravage regime would like to proclaim that their objective is raid-and-ravage? 60 years after being expelled from India, 200 years of loot on a historic scale, does Britain admit that they were here to loot and plunder India? Does Spain admit that they went to the New World to loot and enslave? All these looters needed a fig leaf to cover their raid-and-ravage operations. Religion was their cover.

Why expect Islamic raiders-and-looters to be different?

Moreover, for a raid-and-ravage party, to mislead the victim is a logical tactic. To hide a loot-agenda under a religious garb makes eminent sense for the looter. Does it make sense for us to accept their religious declaration at face value? Like we can see in the many raid-and ravage attempts.

Timurlane did not come here to convert Indians to Islam. After the raid-and-ravage attacks, Mahmud of Ghazni, Mohammed Ghori, Timur Lame, Nadir Shah did not stay behind to control their ‘conquests’. So too, in modern Pakistan. Jinnah used religion to get a Pakistan for himself – though he himself was completely irreligious. The Pakistani Army also uses religion – but is itself irreligious.

Similarly the Spanish did not go to America for Christianity – but for gold. Simple. The Spanish king told his conquistadores, ‘Get gold, humanely if possible, but at all hazards, get gold.” (1511, King Ferdinand).

The East India Company made piously declarations on how ‘the banner of Christ should wave triumphant from one end of India to the other’. But the real reason for the East India Company was raid-and-ravage.

Like Alexander boasted of his conquest of India, many of these Islamic ‘conquerors’, also exaggerated.

Of course, Desert Bloc invented religion to create divisions, build a fifth column, in the ‘conquered’ people. Finally and initially, religion was the tool to use, many times the fig leaf too – but not the real cause for these rape-and-ravage adventures.

A 2ndlook at Pakistan

Pakistan is what Pakistan does.

Pakistan’s ability to keep its super-power allies on their toes is a remarkable diplomatic achievement. To remain a nuclear power, after near-universal condemnation and pressure reconfirms its diplomatic prowress. Pakistani leadership, from Jinnah onwards, have used the State and its institutions, for keeping a grip on power. That will continue.

What might change is the way power is shared. The Taliban may become a part of the Pakistani ruling class. How that will happen remains to be seen. A coup? Local elections, maybe. Electoral alliance? Pakistani power-equations are changing. How these equations work out, may surprise us.

Is India prepared? Ready?

Recent 2ndlook at Oil+Af-Pak

Af-Pak: Is Something Big Cooking?

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?

The inn-keeper of Babylon

Posted in European History, History, India by Anuraag Sanghi on May 12, 2011
5th century Indian innkeeper in Kish, Babylon (from The shape of ancient thought: comparative studies in Greek and Indian ...  By Thomas McEvilley; page 11).

5th century Indian innkeeper in Kish, Babylon (from The shape of ancient thought: comparative studies in Greek and Indian ... By Thomas McEvilley; page 11). Click to go to books.google.com

This figurine is a small (18 cm tall) bronze rein-ring, constructed as a decoration for a four-wheeled chariot. Collected in 1928 on a joint Field Museum of Natural History/Oxford University expedition, it dates to the late Early Dynastic I period - c. 2800-2750 BC. (Data Source - Darren Naish; Picture courtesy - scienceblogs.com). Click for larger picture.

This figurine is a small (18 cm tall) bronze rein-ring, constructed as a decoration for a four-wheeled chariot. Collected in 1928 on a joint Field Museum of Natural History/Oxford University expedition, it dates to the late Early Dynastic I period - c. 2800-2750 BC. (Data Source - Darren Naish; Picture courtesy - scienceblogs.com). Click for larger picture.

Indian confetti over the world

A 5th century cuneiform clay tablet, dating probably from the reign of Darius the Great) was found at Kish (near modern town of Al-Hillah, Babil province of modern Iraq). Kish, about 100km south of Baghdad, was one of the important cities in the Babylonian cluster – along with Babylon, Sippar, Seleucia and Borsippa.

Unlike the popular image, of ‘static’ Indians, we have some free-ranging Indians roaming the world. With elephants, expert horsemen – and a probable case of a Siwalik giraffid.

Siwalik giraffid

Kish was the site of another intriguing find. A bronze chariot rein ring, which probably seems related to the African giraffe or a species of deer from Iran. Called Sivathere of Kish, it has been object of many studies  – an unknown hoofed mammal of the Middle East. Initially thought to be related to the Sivatherium – a large, short-necked giraffid, originally described for S. giganteus from the Siwalik Hills of India.

So, apart from the deep links in astronomy, there are other intriguing such confetti sprayed around Babylon – which the Americans have pounded with tons of explosions.

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