Food Fight–Part Deux–USA vs India

The food fight between President Bush and India is showing no signs of dampening. Pradeep Mehta, the Secretary General of CUTS (Center for International Trade, Economics and Environment), a private economic research organization called Americans to slim down and eat less so that the poorest of the poor can eat marginally better has further aggravated the war of words. Jairam Ramesh, with the Indian Commerce Ministry, told members of Indian Press that President Bush

has never been known for his knowledge of economics,” and the remarks proved again how “comprehensively wrong” he is.

Mr. Bush and U.S. Secretary of State, Condi Rice are being thoroughly lambasted in the Asian Press for their grossly misleading statements. The graphic from the New York Times that roundly discredits Mr. Bush and Ms. Rice. Here compare for yourself, the average American Citizen chowed down 93 pounds of beef and 99 pounds of chicken in 2006, whereas in India the average consumption was 3 and 4 pounds respectively. Wow, no wonder the price of food is going up because…you know what it is obvious to me that Indians are eating more…hmmm….hmmmmm! Can’t the people in State Department learn to read statistics before they make uninformed statements.

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Making the Cut–Top 100 Public Intellectuals from South Asia

Foreign Policy Magazine is conducting a survey of top 100 public intellectuals. This list consists of 10 South Asians and 5 Indians from various walks of life, including two Nobel Laureates —Amartya Sen and Muhammad Yunus. Undoubtedly, South Asia, particularly India has come punching out or say breaking the glass-ceiling of the world of high-powered intellectual community.

This list speaks to my overall point that India is no longer a mere outsourcing and off-shoring outpost, merely servicing the needs of its colonial masters. It can and it has significantly contributed the outgrowth of ideas. India has genuine home-grown high-quality intellectual pioneers, these individuals are seriously altering the structure of the intellectual make-up of the global policy making.

South Asians in the Foreign Policy Top100 List

• Ashis Nandy, India, Political Psychologist
• Amartya Sen, India, Economist (Nobel Prize in Economics)
• Sunita Narain, India, Environmentalist
• V.S. Ramachandran, India, Neuroscientist
• Ramachandra Guha, India, Historian
• Salman Rusdhie, India via Britain, Novelist (Knighted in Britain)
• Fareed Zakaria, India via United States
• Mahmood Mamdani, India via Uganda
• Aitzaz Ahsan, Pakistan, Lawyer, Politician
• Muhammad Yunus, Bangladesh, Microfinance, Activist (Nobel Peace Prize)

Here are some Indians, who are not included in the list:

• Jagdish Bhagwati, India via United States, International Trade Economist
• C.K. Prahalad, India, Business Strategist
• Vandana Shiva, India, Environmental Activist
• Sashi Tharoor, India, International Diplomat, Novelist
• Partha Chatterjee, India, Historian
• Jumpa Lahri, Novelist,
• Mira Nair, Film-maker, Essayist

Elections, America, and the World

We have been actively involved in following riveting race for the White House as a consequence it seems America’s attention on International Politics has gradually declined.  The war in Iraq does not seem to evoke as much passion or tension as it did few months back, but the killings and suicide bombings continue unabated in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The intensity has been particularly high in Iraq; a recent car bombing killed 23 people in Baghdad. Few days back a pair of female suicide bombers wrecked untold misery on innocent weekend shoppers.  The United States has called upon NATO to play a larger role in Afghanistan and warned of potential disaster if greater effort is not devoted towards maintaining peace and stability.  Meanwhile, a major election is due up on Feb 18 in Pakistan.  This particular election is pivotal because it will determine the future of Pakistani politics at a time of growing militancy in the Northwest Frontier Province (NWPF), growing unpopularity of President Musharaff both within and outside Pakistan, and the reverberating impact of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination during the last week of December 2007.  We won’t even mention the consequences of economic blockade on Gaza enforced by Israel and the massive chaos that erupted on the borders with Egypt.  As Americans look internally and closely inspect their presidential candidates, it is also important to look outward see what is happening in rest of the world and specifically ask ourselves the question what is America’s role in world politics.  Importantly, we should ask our presidential candidates in what way or manner can they bring about a change in the world of international politics.

Sudanese Intransigence, Unabated Genocide, UN Impotence, and American Silence

A beacon of human rights in the world, obviously I am talking about the Islamic Republic of Sudan, which has arrested a mild-mannered British schoolteacher, Ms. Gillian Gibbons. Her blasphemous sin was that she created a class exercise in which young children came up with a favorite name for a teddy bear. Collectively everyone came up with the name Mohammed. Viola! Wow! You have seriously committed a sin. Because, you see god needs to be protected by us human beings. The Sudanese government pounced on this hapless schoolteacher and charged her with defaming the prophet and inciting religious hatred. She now faces 6 months jail sentence, 40 lashes, and a substantial fine.

Now, this bizarre move is particularly concerning when the Sudanese are demonstrating extraordinary intransigence in allowing the United Nations Security Council sanctioned 26,000 peacekeepers into Darfur to prevent the further extermination of the Fur people and other non-Arab minorities. Sudan has already eliminated Scandinavian countries, particularly Netherlands from the list, for their role in publishing the high controversial cartoons depicting Islam in a poor light. The various efforts made by Sudan to block the non-African countries from actively participating the peace mission is a complete reversal of the agreement that Sudan made with the UN Secretary-General earlier this year.

Obviously, Sudan is making every effort to block the scheduled start of the UN Peacekeeping on Jan 1, 2008. Maybe they can wipe out few thousand more in the interim.

It is really galling about the whole thing is that the United States and the United Nations are dancing to the highly unpredictable beats of the Sudanese government; they are dilly-dallying by making vacuous and empty threats. Where are the F-16s, F-18s, and F-22s when we need them most? What Sudan badly needs is some serious Shock and Awe or a kick in the shins. Unfortunately, gutless Washington politicians seem to be stuck in Groundhog Day mentality and the toothless UN does not have the moral courage or the necessary authority to stop the ongoing genocide.

And for the record, the United States official deemed what is happening in Sudan as “Acts of Genocide,” according to the statement made by US President on Sept. 9th, 2004.

Political Transition in Pakistan Goes Kaput

Folks, I have been mired in grading endless stream of papers.  Whew, at last here is some time to catch-up with the blog and world news before the next round of papers hit me around Thanksgiving time, which is only two weeks.  I don’t want to think about it now.

Anyway, the biggest news in town is President Pervez Musharraf declaring Martial Law in Pakistan, effectively shutting down all the opposition parties, closing media outlets, quarantining the judiciary, and suspending the Constitution (for whatever it is worth).  Do Constitutions really matter in countries such as Pakistan, where it is amended at the whim of the rulers? Well, that is a question for another day.  It did not stop there, the Pakistani Police raided the homes of opposition party leaders and arrested activists and other party members by the hundreds.  According to the Pakistani Prime Minister, Shaukat Aziz, the proposed Parliamentary elections could be postponed at least a year, if not longer.  Now, all of these actions have been taken presumably in the hopes of staunching the increasing volatile terrorist threat.  Importantly, the declaration of emergency or martial law will allow Musharaff to stay in office indefinitely.  After all, that is what the United States wants, right?  So that Musharaff can contain terrorism and restore stability and order, and bring peace and prosperity to the region.  However, the irony of the whole thing is that Musharaff has been in power for nearly ten years now.  One is not sure what the imposition of martial law can achieve now, i.e., in terms of restoring law and order?  What has Musharaff been up to all these years?  For sure this move is to ensure that Musharaff stays another five-year term in office.  Bye Bye elections, bye bye opposition.

Pakistan has been consistently ranked as one of the most dangerous nations in world, where a combustible mix of terror, drug trade, lawlessness, religion, militarization, nuclear weapons, and authoritarian rule has come to co-exsit since its existence.  The bigger question is Pakistan really a country or a nation-state in the true sense of the word?  Some argue that Pakistan is a failed British fantasy about the fabrication of a nation-state.  In other words, it is a failing state held together by the figment of military might, threat of nuclear weapons, and jihadi culture.

The question for the Pakistani People and the United States is: what does the future hold for Pakistan.  Is the American Foreign Policy going to be Musharaff might be a SOB, but at least he is our SOB?  As long he does our bidding it is fine.Is there is a possibility of genuine democracy ever taking root in Pakistan?

Watch out for answers in this space, the situation seems to evolving as we speak.