Friday, November 20, 2009

Climate Change: Privatising The Atmosphere

Market solutions in the form of emissions trading do the opposite of the environmental principle that the polluter should pay. Through emissions, trading private polluters are getting more rights and more control over the atmosphere which rightfully belongs to all life on the planet. Indeed, emissions trading “solutions” actually pay the polluter, argues Vandana Shiva

The Unite Nations climate change conference at Copenhagen next month is meant to further the goals of a global environmental treaty — the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In 1988, a resolution of the UN General Assembly considered the climate change matter as a “common concern for mankind”, and the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change was created. On May 9, 1992, the UNFCCC was adopted in New York and opened for signing in June 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio. It came into effect on March 21, 1994.

The goal of the Convention, according to Article 2, is to “stabilise the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at a level that prevents all dangerous anthropogenic disturbance of the climate system”. Since the historic polluters were the rich, industrialised countries, the Convention required that by 2000 they stabilise their greenhouse gas emissions at their 1990 level.

Under the Convention, the Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Kyoto on December 11, 1997. The Kyoto Protocol set binding targets on industrialised countries for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions to an average of five per cent against the 1990 levels over a five year period, 2008 to 2012.

However, in 2007, America’s greenhouse gas levels were 16 per cent higher than their 1990 levels. The much-announced Waxman Markey “American Clean Energy and Security Act” commits the US to 17 per cent emissions reduction below 2005 levels by 2020. However, this is a mere four per cent below their 1990 levels.

Further, the emissions trading or offsets, in fact, are a mechanism to not reduce emissions at all. As the Breakthrough Institute in United States, “a small think tank with big ideas”, states “If fully utilised, the emissions ‘offset’ in the American Clean Energy and Security Act would allow continued business as usual growth in the US greenhouse gas emissions until 2030, leading one to wonder: where’s the ‘cap’ in the ‘cap and trade’.”

The Kyoto Protocol allows industrialised countries to trade their allocation of carbon emissions among themselves (Article 17). It also allows an investor in an industrialised country (industry or government) to invest in an eligible carbon mitigation project in a developing country and be credited with Certified Emission Reduction Units that can be used by investors to meet their obligation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is referred to as the Clean Development Mechanism under Article 12 of the Kyoto Protocol.

The Kyoto Protocol gave 38 industrialised countries, that were the worst historical polluters, emissions rights. The European Union Emissions Trading Scheme rewarded 11,428 industrial installations with carbon dioxide emissions rights.

Through emissions trading, Larry Lohmann, the co-author of Carbon Trading: A Critical Conversation on Climate Change, Privatisation and Power, observes, “Rights to the earth’s carbon cycling capacity are gravitating into the hands of those who have the most power to appropriate them and the most financial interest to do so.”

That such schemes are more about privatising the atmosphere than preventing climate change is made clear by the fact that emissions rights given away in the Kyoto Protocol were several times higher than the levels needed to prevent a two-degree-Celsius rise in global temperatures.

Just as patents generate super profits for pharmaceutical and seed corporations, emissions rights generate super profits for polluters. The Emissions Trading Scheme granted allowances of 10 per cent more than 2005 emission levels; this translated to 150 million tonnes of surplus carbon credits which, with the 2005 average price of $7.23 per ton, translates to over $1 billion of free money.

The UK’s allocations for the British industry added up to 736 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over three years, which implied no reduction commitments. Since no restrictions are being put on northern industrial polluters, they will continue to pollute and there will be no reduction in CO2 emissions.

Market solutions in the form of emissions trading are thus doing the opposite of the environmental principle that the polluter should pay. Through emissions, trading private polluters are getting more rights and more control over the atmosphere which rightfully belongs to all life on the planet. Emissions trading “solutions” pay the polluter.

Carbon trading is based on inequality because it privatised the commons. It is also based on inequality because it uses the resources of poorer people and poorer regions as “offsets”. It is considered to be 50 to 200 times cheaper to plant trees in poorer countries to absorb CO2 than reducing it at source. The Stern Review states, “Emissions trading schemes can deliver least cost emissions reductions by allowing reductions to occur wherever they are cheapest.”

In other words, the burden of “clean up” falls on the poor. In a market calculus, this might appear efficient. In an ecological calculus, it would be far more effective to reduce emissions at source. And in an energy justice perspective, it is perverse to burden the poor twice — first with the externality of impacts of CO2 pollution in the form of climate disasters and then with the burden of remediating the pollution of the rich and powerful.

It is because of this failure of the rich countries to cut back on emissions that the global climate negotiations are not moving forward. When secretary of state Hillary Clinton visited India in April 2009 and tried to apply pressure on India to cut back on emissions, Indian environment minister Jairam Ramesh responded: “Even with eight-nine per cent GDP annual growth for the next decade or two, our per capita emissions will be well below developed country averages. There is simply no case for the pressure we face to reduce emissions.”

When Clinton stated that the per capital argument “loses force as developing countries rapidly become the biggest emitters”, Mr Ramesh replied that India’s position on per capita emissions is “not a debating strategy” because it is enshrined in international agreements. “We look upon you suspiciously because you have not fulfilled what developed countries pledged to fulfilled”, he said candidly. The failure of the rich countries to fulfil their climate obligations has created a “crisis of credibility”.

The US is leading the dismantling of the UNFCCC. At the Bangkok negotiations, the lead negotiator of the US said: “We are not going to be part of an agreement that we cannot meet. We say a new agreement has to be signed by all countries. We cannot be stuck with an agreement that is 20 years old. We want action from all countries.”

The proposal of the US is to get out of the legally-binding UNFCC, to set targets nationally which could be noted down in a new international agreement, without it being legally binding internationally and without a people compliance mechanism.

Copenhagen is supposed to evolve new commitments for Annexure I countries for the post-Kyoto period. The science of climate change tells us the five per cent reduction commitments of Kyoto are too small, 80 to 90 per cent reduction is needed to keep air pollution at 350ppm and temperature increase within 2°C to avoid catastrophic climate change. Instead of taking on their legally-binding commitments and deepening cuts, the rich countries want to abandon UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol.

The press release of October 9, 2009, from the G-77 and China categorically stated: “This is simply unacceptable. It would betray the trust of the world public that is demanding a major step forward and not a major step backwards, in developed countries commitments and actions. We will also consider the Copenhagen COP meeting to be a disastrous failure if there is no outcome for the commitments period of the Kyoto Protocol”.

The UNFCCC is the only international agreement we have in the context of climate change. The challenge at Copenhagen is to prevent its dismantling. The global environmental movement needs to throw its weight behind the countries of the South who are trying their best to uphold the climate treaty.

Courtesy: The Asian Age

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Climate Change: Copenhagen Meet Will Be Nothing More Than A Talk Shop

As with everything else, Barack Obama’s policy on climate change differs little from that of his predecessor George W Bush

In the course of his current trip to Asia, US President Barack Obama has ensured that the upcoming United Nations Climate Conference, due to take place in Copenhagen December 7-18, will be nothing more than a talk shop.

An estimated 40 world leaders and representatives of 190 nations are due to take part in the Copenhagen conference, which has the task of producing a new agenda for tackling global warming to replace the Kyoto Protocol of 1997.

On November 15, Obama gave his consent to a plan worked out at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Singapore that delays any binding agreements on climate change until next year at the earliest. The deal was supported by many of the world’s leading greenhouse gas emitters, including the United States, China, Russia, Japan, Indonesia and South Korea.

According to figures published by the International Energy Agency, China was the leading emitter of carbon dioxide in 2007, closely followed by the US. When it comes to carbon dioxide emission per head of the population, however, the US is far ahead of any other country, with 19.1 tons, dwarfing China’s 4.6 tons.

As was the case with the Kyoto Protocol—which expires in 2012 and was never ratified by the American government—the US is playing the main role in undermining any binding agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Obama has adopted the Bush administration’s policy of demanding that China accept binding targets before the US takes any measures.

The hypocrisy of Obama when it comes to the issue of climate change is brazen. In September, Obama addressed a United Nations conference, proclaiming “the historic recognition on behalf of the American people and their government [that] we understand the gravity of the climate threat.” Aside from a change in rhetoric, however, Obama’s policy differs little from that of his predecessor, on climate change as with everything else.

After his talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao, Obama declared that the United States and China were seeking a deal at the Copenhagen summit that would “rally the world.” The agreement struck in Copenhagen should have “immediate operational effect,” he added.

In fact, just one day previously Obama had struck a deal with the Chinese president at the APEC meeting that robs the Copenhagen summit of any substance. This is how the US administration seeks to “rally the world.” Obama has still not confirmed whether he will attend the conference in Copenhagen.

While leading industrial nations pointedly refuse to undertake measures to tackle climate change, environmental experts and scientists are warning of the grave consequences of a failure to curb greenhouse emissions.

At an international climate change conference held in Oxford, England at the end of September, the German climatologist, Stefan Rahmstorf, declared that a one-meter rise in sea levels was likely this century. If world governments do not arrive at effective agreements to halt global warming, the rise in sea levels will be even more dramatic.

A sea level change of just one meter will have an enormously disruptive impact on a large portion of the world’s population that resides in coastal areas. Low-lying coasts and islands will be submerged, dispossessing tens of millions of people. A two-metre sea rise will flood or submerge entire cities.

Rising temperatures and the associated disruption of weather patterns will have devastating consequences for agricultural production, water distribution and disease management worldwide. As always, the poor will feel the effects most acutely.
The inability of the major capitalist powers to agree to any effective countermeasures is rooted in two factors, both inherent in the capitalist system.

First, though climate change is a global problem that requires a global solution, international cooperation is prevented by the conflicting interests of different nation-states. These conflicts have been intensified by the economic crisis.

Despite the efforts by Obama to put a positive gloss on his talks this week with President Hu, the differences between the two countries are considerable and continue to mount. China is Washington’s leading creditor, as America’s budget deficit soars to a record $1.42 trillion.

The US and Chinese administrations accuse one another of maintaining cheap currencies to further their interests, and both countries are involved in tit-for-tat punitive trade sanctions.

Similar rivalries are growing between other leading world economies. Every major power fears that any concession with regard to environmental protection could disadvantage its domestic business interests in the furious struggle for the domination of world markets.

Second, a rational, scientific response to climate change is blocked by the subordination of every aspect of economic and social life to the principle of private profit and the interests of the corporate and financial elite.

In a report dealing with the issue of developing vitally needed renewable non-toxic energy sources, the UN estimated that governments worldwide would need to invest $500-600 billion per year. While this sum is large, it is still a fraction of the funds made available by the US government to bail out its banks (as much as $23 trillion by one account). Across the globe, capitalist governments, following the lead of the US, have made clear that their priority is profit returns for big business and the banks, not a healthy planet.

The option favoured by Obama himself is a free market approach to global warming, involving “cap and trade” measures, whereby the government would provide huge incentives to corporations to modestly reduce carbon emissions, while turning pollution into a tradeable commodity.

The failure of major capitalist nations to undertake any serious measures to combat growing environmental dangers is an indictment of the capitalist system. It is also a blow to all those environmentalists and “Greens” who argue that it is possible to pressure capitalist governments to undertake “environmentally friendly” policies.

Climate change and other pressing environmental problems can be solved only through the utilisation of mankind’s intellectual, productive and financial resources as part of a rationally organised, democratic effort carried out on an international scale. This requires the socialist reorganisation of society.

Stefan Steinberg

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Manmohan Singh In Bottom Half Of 'Most Powerful' List; Pips Osama bin Laden To Claim #36 Spot

IT'S OFFICIAL. Manmohan Singh is indeed the weakest prime minister India has ever had.

No, I've not crossed over to the BJP. My information comes from a source much valued by the Prime Minister himself – the business magazine Forbes.

Forbes' first ever list of the World's Most Powerful People has only 67 slots - one for every 100 million people on the planet. And Manmohan Singh, at #36, is in the bottom half of the list. (In the NAM era, the Indian Prime Minister was ALWAYS at the top of the heap.)

Indeed, he ranks way below sundry central bankers, software developers, investment bankers, CEOs of Wal-Mart, GE, Berkshire, ExxonMobil and Toyota, Wall Street brokers, a football club owner, a telecom mogul, Rupert Murdoch, the mayor of New York, and even the propaganda chief of the Communist Party of China!

Saving India the blushes, Manmohan Singh has fortunately managed to beat Osama bin Laden, who's just one step behind him, by a whisker. (Imagine the fun if the rankings were the other way round!) Indeed, it's a telling comment from the oracles at Forbes that Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and Tenzin Gyato, aka the Dalai Lama, are snapping at Bin Laden's heels at numbers 38 and 39.

And, hey, at #50, Dawood Ibrahim, described as the CEO of D-Company Inc. (you have to be a CEO in ANY Forbes' List) hasn't done too badly either. In fact, he's ahead of Laxmi Mittal AND Ratan Tata!

Nevertheless, along with Mukesh Ambani, Laxmi Mittal and Ratan Tata, South Asia has done reasonably well. So what if the “most powerful” are actually feeding on crumbs.

The criterion for selection, according to the oracles at Forbes was quite straightforward.

“First, we asked, does the person have influence over lots of other people?... Then we assessed the financial resources controlled by these individuals. Are they relatively large compared with their peers? For heads of state we used GDP, while for CEOs, we looked at a composite ranking of market capitalization, profits, assets and revenues...Next we determined if they are powerful in multiple spheres... Lastly, we insisted that our choices actively use their power...

There are only 67 slots on our list - one for every 100 million people on the planet - so being powerful in just one area is not enough to guarantee a spot. Our picks project their influence in myriad ways...

To calculate the final rankings, five Forbes senior editors ranked all of our candidates in each of these four dimensions of power. Those individual rankings were averaged into a composite score, which determined who placed above (or below) whom...”

Well, the oracles have spoken. And here's why these worthies from South Asia made it to the coveted List.

#36 Manmohan Singh: Has nuclear arsenal at disposal.

#37 Osama bin Laden: Casus belli of two US-lead wars costing over $1 trillion.

#38 Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani: (Though) less powerful than bin Laden - can't find him in his own country - still has keys to Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.

#39 Tenzin Gyatso aka Dalai Lama: Tibetan exile keeps China honest.

#44 Mukesh Ambani: Busy building world's first $1 billion home.

#50 Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar: As boss of Mumbai-based organized crime syndicate D-Company, reputedly oversees international drug trafficking, counterfeiting, weapons smuggling.

#55 Laxmi Mittal: Romance with former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair exposed in 2002 'Garbagegate', when Mittal reportedly sought Blair's help in cash-for-influence bid for Romanian state steel mills.

#59 Ratan Tata: Calls Nano "The People's Car"; in nation of a billion, environmentalists call it eco-disaster.

Then there's an India List (total 7, i.e. one for every 150 million) compiled by Forbes India editor Indrajit Gupta listing the Most Powerful Indians. Sorry, No 'Paa', SRK, Tendulkar, Katz, Mayawati, Advani, Pawar etc.

Here are the 'Magnificent Seven' and why they matter

#1 Sonia Gandhi: The most powerful Indian is an enigmatic woman of Italian origin. Her command over the Congress, India's ruling party, is total.

#2 Manmohan Singh: Indians trust (him) to do the right thing - whether it's economic reforms or the trade-off between development and social equity.

# 3 Nandan Nilekani: UID has fired the public imagination and drawn volunteers from all walks of life.

#4 Ratan Tata: Is India Inc's best brand ambassador.

#5 Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Offers (Art of Living) practitioners a tool to deal with urban angst.

#6 KG Balakrishnan: (The Chief Justice) ruled political parties cannot call for strikes that disrupt public life.

#7 Aamir Khan: (Surprise, surprise) As an actor and a filmmaker (he) has consistently demonstrated it is possible to break new ground in a business driven by clichés.

The Complete List

Barack Obama
Hu Jintao
Vladimir Putin
Ben S. Bernanke
Sergey Brin and Larry Page
Carlos Slim Helu
Rupert Murdoch
Michael T. Duke
Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al Saud
William Gates III
Pope Benedict XVI
Silvio Berlusconi
Jeffrey R. Immelt
Warren Buffett
Angela Merkel
Laurence D. Fink
Hillary Clinton
Lloyd C. Blankfein
Li Changchun
Michael Bloomberg
Timothy Geithner
Rex W. Tillerson
Li Ka-shing
Kim Jong Il
Jean-Claude Trichet
Masaaki Shirakawa
Sheikh Ahmed bin Zayed al Nahyan
Akio Toyoda
Gordon Brown
James S. Dimon
Bill Clinton
William H. Gross
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva
Lou Jiwei
Yukio Hatoyama
Manmohan Singh
Osama bin Laden
Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani
Tenzin Gyatso
Ali Hoseini-Khamenei
Joaquin Guzman
Igor Sechin
Dmitry Medvedev
Mukesh Ambani
Oprah Winfrey
Benjamin Netanyahu
Dominique Strauss-Kahn
Zhou Xiaochuan
John Roberts Jr.
Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar
William Keller
Bernard Arnault
Joseph S. Blatter
Wadah Khanfar
Lakshmi Mittal
Nicolas Sarkozy
Steve Jobs
Fujio Mitarai
Ratan Tata
Jacques Rogge
Li Rongrong
Blairo Maggi
Robert B. Zoellick
Antonio Guterres
Mark John Thompson
Klaus Schwab
Hugo Chavez

Monday, November 9, 2009

Maoism In India: Left Sectarianism Is Anti-Worker & Anti-Peasant

There has been a spate of growing murder and violence in certain areas of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and West Bengal by armed persons acting on behalf of the 'CPI (Maoist)'.

The vicious violence unleashed by these death squads in various parts of the country must be condemned. In West Bengal alone these death squads have targetted the CPI(M) and have killed more than 60
members and supporters of the Party in the past few months.

Their use of the name of Mao Zedong, a widely respected figure, while carrying out the acts of carnage and killing, is reprehensible.

Such acts can also in no way be justified in the name of a war against the State. While every conscious citizen opposes acts of oppression committed by members of the exploiting classes or individuals in the State apparatus, the self-styled Maoists by their violent acts of vendetta, torture and gruesome killings, are gravely damaging the cause of the popular democratic movement. Indeed, they are in fact working against the interests of the workers and peasants.

In order to isolate the self-styled Maoists politically, it is important that the Indian State do all that is necessary to restore its presence and credibility in tribal areas whose interests it has largely been ignoring. The Manmohan Singh government should review its neo-liberal policies that have pauperised the tribal people and help the state governments to meet their developmental challenges in these areas.

Counter insurgency vigilante groups (such as Salwa Judum) have proved to be counter productive. Harassment and killing of innocent local people should be avoided while tackling the violence, and those responsible for such acts in the name of fighting the "Maoists" should be punished. A genuine dialogue should be started with those "Maoists" who are ready to give up the path of armed struggle.

Watch this video in which CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat at a public meeting explains how the self-styled Maoists are working against the interests of the workers and peasants.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Fort Hood: US Suffers Collateral Damage From Iraq And Afghan Wars

The impact of Washington's neo-colonial wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the moral impact of the enormous gulf between the “official story” and harsh reality, must find expression within sections of the US military itself. To fight an unpopular war against a hostile population is a demoralising and inevitably brutalising experience.

The mayhem at Fort Hood in Texas on Thursday, which has left 13 men and women dead and 30 injured, is a by-product of the brutal wars in the Middle East and Central Asia. It is a form of “collateral damage” for which the American political and military establishment is ultimately responsible.

The US interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan have now lasted a combined 14 and a half years Not only is there no end in sight in either case, there is the prospect of the wars’ expansion into Pakistan, with bloodier and more disastrous consequences. The invasions have already led to the devastation of Iraqi and Afghan society, the deaths of as many as a million Iraqis alone, and thousands of Americans killed, or maimed.

The wars are not about democracy, overthrowing tyrants, or protecting the American people from terrorism. The US ruling elite is waging these interventions to seize control of critical energy supplies, to strengthen its position vis à vis its rivals in Europe and Asia, to gain global hegemony through its military superiority.

The impact of these neo-colonial wars, including the moral impact of the enormous gulf between the “official story” and harsh reality, must find expression within sections of the US military itself. To fight an unpopular war against a hostile population is a demoralising and inevitably brutalising experience.

The alleged perpetrator at Fort Hood, Maj. Nidal M. Hasan, the son of Palestinian immigrant parents now both dead, spent most of his Army medical career at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, DC. For six years, from 2003 until last summer, he worked as a liaison between wounded soldiers and the hospital’s psychiatric staff.

In that capacity, he dealt with severely wounded military personnel. His aunt told the Washington Post that on the rare occasions “when he spoke of his work in any detail … Hasan told her of soldiers wracked by what they had seen. One patient had suffered burns to his face so intense ‘that his face had nearly melted,’ she said. ‘He told us how upsetting that was to him.’” An op-ed piece in the Baltimore Sun by a Vietnam veteran and psychiatrist asks, only half-facetiously, “Is post-traumatic stress disorder something you can catch from your patients like a virus?”

Hasan, a devout Muslim, apparently developed a fierce opposition to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Promoted to the rank of major in May, he subsequently learned he was going to be deployed to Afghanistan. He had hired a military lawyer and had been attempting to avoid being sent overseas and to leave the Army since September. Hasan’s aunt told the Post that the military “would not let him leave even after he offered to repay” the cost of his medical training.

His cousin commented to the media that Hasan was deeply traumatised about seeing wartime service. “We’ve known for the last five years that that was probably his worst nightmare. He would tell us how he hears horrific things [from the wounded] … that was probably affecting him psychologically.”

Many factors combine to produce the sort of breakdown that Hasan obviously underwent, including the overall social and political atmosphere in the country. A co-worker told reporters that Hasan was angry about American involvement in the ongoing wars, and that he “was hoping Obama would pull troops out and that things would settle down, and when things were not going that way, he became more agitated and frustrated with the conflicts over there.” The imperviousness of the existing political system to the sentiments of the population, along with the resulting feelings of alienation and powerlessness, is no small contributor to apparently “senseless” violence.

Personal mental instability is undoubtedly an element. Unmarried and without a girlfriend, a “bookish loner,” increasingly devoted to religion, Hasan had told relatives that “the military was his life.” Bitter disappointment and a sense of betrayal as he discovered the true character of the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and horror over the possibility of being compelled to participate in those wars, may well have pushed a psychologically vulnerable individual over the edge.

The media is already harping on one of its favourite themes whenever a mass shooting takes place in America: how did the authorities miss the “warning signs”? Indeed, there seem to have been numerous such signs in this case, including Hasan’s alleged web site postings in defence of suicide bombers, and his frantic anxiety about deployment to Afghanistan.

On the one hand, the Army’s apparent indifference to Hasan’s state of mind gives some indication of the value the military command places on the work of its psychiatric staff, overworked and overwhelmed in any event as a result of the volume of mentally damaged Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans thrust into the system.
On the other, how is the military to pick out signs of a potential individual collapse, when there are so many indications of mass, collective breakdown?

The Wall Street Journal reported November 3, two days before the Fort Hood killings, that 16 US soldiers killed themselves in October, “an unusually high monthly toll that is fuelling concerns about the mental health of the nation’s military personnel after more than eight years of continuous warfare.”

The Journal notes that 134 active-duty soldiers had taken their lives so far in 2009, putting “the Army on pace to break last year’s record of 140. … The number of Army suicides has risen by 37% since 2006, and last year, the suicide rate surpassed that of the US population for the first time.” More soldiers killed themselves in 2008 than at any time since the Pentagon began keeping track nearly three decades ago.

In late October, a National Guard soldier, who had served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, home on a 15-day leave, shot himself in the head in a Muncie, Indiana movie theatre. In July a 30-year-old soldier was shot and killed by a fellow soldier at a party at Fort Hood, and in September a soldier shot and killed a lieutenant at the base, before killing himself (Fort Hood, the largest military installation in the world, has suffered more than 500 combat deaths and 75 suicides since 2001). In Baghdad earlier this year, an Army sergeant walked into a combat stress centre and opened fire, killing five of his fellow soldiers.

Ten members of a single military unit at Fort Carson, Colorado, were charged with murder, attempted murder, or manslaughter from 2006 through the fall of 2008.

An article in the September 2009 issue of Management Science notes that the tempo of deployment cycles in Iraq is higher than for any war since World War II and that survey data suggests that the rate of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder among Iraq war veterans may be as high as 35 percent.

Endless war is wreaking havoc on American society. The Fort Hood shootings emerge almost inevitably out of this horror and confusion.

David Walsh

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Great Spectrum Robbery: More Skeletons Tumble Out Of Manmohan Singh's Cupboard

Even after the Spectrum Scam came to light, the UPA government made no move to stop this open loot of the public exchequer

The telecom spectrum scam is now back in the news with CBI raiding the Department of Telecom (DoT), reportedly at the request of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC). The CVC had earlier written to the Department of Telecom on this issue and had made clear that it was not satisfied at the explanation given by DoT.

Why A Raja of the DMK (the minister concerned), who has self-admittedly been the key figure in this entire exercise, should be outside the investigations of the CBI is the key question?

Is it merely an exercise to find some lowly scapegoats and thereby divert attention from the real figures? If the minister continues to be in charge, he will obviously try and thwart the investigations. Even the prime minister has already given a clean chit to the minister, making CBI investigations even more difficult.

To recapitulate the spectrum swindle, the all-India license and the spectrum for additional cellular operators (2G operators) was given away on a first-come-first-served basis at 2001 prices. TRAI, experts within and outside the government, had all stated then that there was no justification for using 2001 prices when there were barely 4 million mobile subscribers as against 300 million subscribers in 2007.

Soon after this sale, the parties who had secured the licenses sold it at about 6-7 times the price they had paid without doing any development at all. The difference between what the companies paid - a total of Rs 9,000 crore - and what the market price of these licenses were - anything between Rs 60,000 to 100,000 crore - is the scam, making it by far the biggest scam ever in this country.

Who were the companies that benefited from this award of licenses?

There were nine corporate entities who secured 120 licenses, which benefited from this under-valuation of the license fees -- Unitech Builders, Venugopal Dhoot’s Videocon, Swan Telecom, Loop Telecom (reportedly owned by Ruias), S Tel, an unknown company owned by a shadowy entity Telecom Investments (Mauritius) Ltd and older players such as Shyam Telelink,, Idea Cellular, Spice and Tatas. Only a few of these were telecom companies or had any real interest in telecom.

The deals struck soon after between UAE’s telecom operator Etisalat and Swan Telecom, and that between Unitech and Talenor (of Norway), brought out the magnitude of the under-valuation. Swan Telecom sold 45 per cent of its stake to Etisalat for $900 million, taking its book value to $ 2 billion (Rs 10,000 crore).
This is without putting up any infrastructure, let alone actually starting operations.

The Unitech-Talenor (of Norway) deal was no different: it sold 60 per cent of its stake to Talenor for Rs 6,120 crore while paying only Rs 1,651 crore as license fee. Thus, the new entrants secured licenses for Rs 1,651 that were being valued in excess of Rs 10,000 crore by the market within a few months of their securing the licenses!

A Raja, the minister concerned, has provided two defences to the charge that his actions led to a huge loss to the exchequer. One is the argument that he had no alternative as first-come-first-served was some kind of internal law that all telecom ministers had to obey and all his predecessors had also followed. He has not referred to any document or policy which suggests that all new licenses had to be given only on a first-come-first-served basis.

Both the TRAI and officials in the Department of Telecom had in fact suggested a bidding procedure for award of licenses. The second argument that Raja has advanced is that the license fee of Rs 1,651 crore was somehow written in stone by TRAI, a contention that TRAI has since denied.

Let us look at this absurd first-come-first-served argument. The minister has referred to National Telecom Policy (NTP) 99 and the TRAI recommendations of 2003 to justify his first-come-first-served principle. The simple fact is that after NTP 99, there was an auction in 2001 for the 4th GSM license and therefore referring to NTP 99 for justifying this principle does not hold water.

In fact, the DoT had referred this matter to TRAI and TRAI had recommended in June 23, 2000 that a multi-stage bidding process be followed with auctioning for the license fee, which is what was finally followed. Secondly, the 2003 TRAI recommendations regarding first-come-first-served principle that Raja talks about, referred to those parties who had secured licenses and were awaiting spectrum and not to issuance of new licenses.

What the minister is deliberately obfuscating here is that in India, we have bundled the spectrum with the license and not auctioned them separately. So giving spectrum on a first-come-first-served basis to parties that have already secured licenses is quite different from that of award of new licenses and spectrum on a first-come-first-served basis.

The then TRAI chairman Nripen Mishra had had rebutted the minister’s claim that TRAI had recommended first-come-first-served with 2001 pieces and clarified their recommendations had asked that new entrants be brought in through a multi stage bidding process. The  TRAI’s recommendations in “Review of License Terms and Conditions and Number of Access Providers” dated August 28, 2008, in para 2.73, had made clear:

The allocation of spectrum is after the payment of entry fee and the grant of license. The entry fee as it exists today is in fact price discovered through a market based mechanism applicable for the grant to the 4th cellular operator. In today’s dynamism and unprecedented growth of the telecom sector, the entry fee determined then is not the realistic price for obtaining a license.

On both counts then, Raja’s defence that he was merely following what TRAI had told him or earlier ministers had done bears no credibility.

But this is not all. There was a detailed note prepared in 2007 by the secretary telecom, DS Mathur, which had evaluated three options regarding award of licenses. It had considered first-come-first-served with 2001 license fee, and two different ways of auctioning the licenses/spectrum.

The note also made clear that the first-come-first-served basis with an old license fee was not the best way of giving out licenses and made no reference to this so-called iron rule of giving licenses on a first-come-first-served basis that Raja keeps talking about. It is interesting to note that as long as DS Mathur was the secretary, no licenses were issued and only after his retirement in December 2007, were the new licenses issued.

Raja has also made another claim in his defence. This is that he broke the cartel of telecom operators. If this were so, then the consumer should have seen his telecom bills drop. This has not happened. What Raja has achieved is that he has enlarged the telecom cartel with his favourite companies.

The claim that he has broken the telecom cartel has also another problem. If his defence is that he was only following existing policy and TRAI recommendations, he cannot take credit for his actions – according to him, he had no other choice. So he is either responsible for taking a decision to break the telecom cartel, and therefore also directly responsible for the loss to the exchequer or he is responsible for merely following existing procedures. He cannot have it both ways.

The other element of the scam is the license terms and conditions. If there was indeed a genuine desire to keep license fees low and thereby benefit the ultimate customer, there should have been strict clauses locking-in share-holding and sale of licenses. Not only was this not done, the Merger and Acquisition Guidelines issued by DoT on 22 April, 2008 superseding its earlier guidelines, deliberately omitted all mention of acquisitions and only talked of mergers.

The ministry seems to have gone out of its way to facilitate the immediate selling of these licenses for speculative gains. Without any lock-in measures, the gross undervaluation of the spectrum could only lead to windfall profits for the new licensees.

The first-come-first-served policy for award of licenses was further compounded by entirely arbitrary operation of even this principle. The cut off dates for submission of applications were announced with only a 72 hour notice; an entirely new date for capping the applicants were chosen without any basis; and the awards of licenses were made in a free-for-all melee, in which the parties depositing the cheques earlier were given preference.

Media reports then talked of CEOs of companies, who were in the know of this capricious principle, coming to Sanchar Bhavan with bouncers to elbow out other competitors and jumping the queue. Never before have we seen such an unedifying spectacle in the award of licenses in the telecom sector. The entire exercise was one of playing favourites and not awarding licenses in an open and transparent manner.

Even after the scam had come to light, the UPA government had made no move to stop this open loot of the public exchequer.

The CPI(M) had demanded a set of immediate measures by which licenses given at such low prices should be locked-in for a specified period. It had also asked that windfall tax should be levied on all such sale of licenses. On both these counts, the UPA government then took the position that this was a corporate issue and the government had no role to play, never mind the fact that they were the ones who had issued licenses at such ridiculously low prices.

It is time that the minister concerned and the government take note that their defence on the spectrum issue has no takers. Raja must go if this government is even half-way serious of addressing the issue of probity in public life.

Prabir Purkayastha

Monday, October 26, 2009

Climate Change: Creating The Climate For An About Turn In Copenhagen

THE minister of environment and forestry, Jairam Ramesh has circulated a discussion note on climate change which is a significant departure from India’s basic positions on this issue and aligning it with that advocated by the US.

A careful reading of his discussion note makes clear that this is not “some flexibility in India’s stance” as he has argued in his press statement on this issue within India’s national consensus but an about turn. If the Indian government takes this position, it will not only be a complete betrayal of the people of this country but indeed of the entire developing world.

The argument that India should be with the G20 and not G77 has nothing to do with climate change negotiations – India emits only 1.2 tons carbon dioxide per capita as against the figures of the US 21 and 10 tons for the EU.

India is not on the same side as the club of the rich and any attempts to side with the rich countries will not signify any independent position but a capitulation to their continuing grab of the global carbon space. Even if India cuts all its emissions in the future, it will make no difference – its emissions are less than 5 per cent of total global emissions with 17 per cent of the world's population. Contrast this with the US - 22 per cent of all global emissions with about 4 per cent of the world's population.

Right To Development At Stake
The past record of the rich countries has shown that without concerted global pressure, they will refuse to take binding cuts and continue to endanger the globe. Yes, the emerging countries have some role in the solution to the global climate crisis even though they have not created the problem. But breaking the unity of the developing countries before Copenhagen will rank with India's about-turn accepting that Intellectual Property be introduced into the GATT negotiations of 1989.

The consequence has been the imposition of TRIPS and the iniquitous WTO order with its enormous adverse impact on the global poor. The climate change negotiations is not just about the environment but about India and the developing countries right to development. This is what is at stake here.

Let us look at what Jairam Ramesh suggests. His major points are that India should take a per capita plus approach and give up per capita convergence principle. It is important here to understand the difference between the continued emission of countries – the flow of emissions -- and the historically accumulated emissions of countries or the existing stock of emissions.

As CO2 decays very slowly, it is the stock of emissions emitted by the rich industrialised countries that today constitutes the major problem of the developing countries for their development. If we want to limit the rise of temperature to 2 degrees C with a 50 per cent probability, then out of the total 640 Gigatonnes (GtC) of the carbon budget available from 1800 till 2050, already 330 GtC been emitted and the rest 310 GtC will also be spent within the next 20-25 years at the current rate of emissions.

Out of this, the Annex 1 countries (or the rich industrialised countries) have already grabbed more than 77 per cent of the current stock of greenhouse gases, with a share of population that is less than 15 per cent of the world. The rest, including India and China have more than 85 per cent of the global population and have contributed only 23 per cent to the existing stock of GHG gases.

If we accept a per capita plus and not a even a per capita convergence approach, it means not only forgetting that the rich countries have already hogged most of the carbon budget, but also allowing them to grab the major part of what is left as well: allowing them a much higher carbon space from the future share of the developing countries.

If we want to take a more conservative figure, reducing the risk of a 2 deg C change to be within 75 per cent probability, our carbon budget for the future is only 190 GtC instead of 310 GtC taken above and we will run out of this very quickly indeed. The issue of future carbon space would become even more critical then.

Kowtowing To The US
What is the implication of asking everybody to reduce and not taking a per capita convergence approach? It simply means that while the rich countries continue on a high carbon path to meet their luxury consumption, we will have to immediately go in for a low carbon emitting path to meet even our subsistence needs. If they do not vacate some carbon space by drastically reducing their emissions, every developing country will have to pay a very heavy price to save the globe.

Just to put some numbers. A coal based plant can be put up for Rs 5 crore per MW and will produce electricity with a 80 per cent plant load factor. Using a low carbon - - solar route - the capital cost will be around Rs 20-25 crore per MW. But that is not all. Since the PLF is about 25 per cent for solar plants, we will have to install about 3-4 times as much – the capital cost for producing the same amount of electricity is about 12-15 times that using the coal route or a high carbon route! So choosing a low carbon per capita plus approach that allows the rich countries to continue with higher emissions will impose huge costs on the developing countries. That is why the fight for every bit of carbon space in the global negotiations.

Though the minister has now clarified that India’s per capita plus approach should be achieved through domestic legislation, arguing for accepting the Australian proposal of putting such domestic undertakings in a schedule is nothing but bringing binding obligations on both the developed and the developing countries. It is moving away from the Annexe 1 and Non-Annex 1 countries distinction and would effectively dilute the Kyoto and Bali consensus.

It is obvious that this is a move to placate the US, the only hold out amongst the rich countries from Kyoto. We cannot abandon positions agreed after decades of global negotiations merely to please the US. The argument in this context given in Jairam Ramesh’s discussions note that India should sign a climate change agreement with the US during the prime minister’s November visit and before Copenhagen will be a completely  wrong message to the global community. The world will see this for what it is – India’s shift from a leader of the non-aligned movement and the G77 to a subordinate ally of the US.

Based on per capita entitlements, the rich countries owe the developing countries a huge carbon debt. This is not just a notional figure, but the actual additional burden that they will have to shoulder because of a lack of carbon space and the rich countries already hogging most of it. The demand that the rich countries make financial and technology transfers to developing countries is only a small reparation for this huge carbon debt. Unfortunately, Jairam’s discussion note’s argument for a more “nuanced position” on this may only end up by allowing the rich countries to renege on this debt.

We have no quarrel with the minister’s argument that India should work out a comprehensive climate mitigation plan and enact domestic legislation for this. The minister's advocacy of domestic action without linking it to the global negotiations would have some merit if all his suggestions were not in line with what the rich countries have been demanding from India – cut your emissions and take binding commitments.

The one domestic initiative that India can and should take does not figure in his list. This is enacting domestic legislation that any technology, which helps climate change mitigation can be compulsorily licensed similar to the provision for life saving drugs. This would make India (and the developing countries) transition to a low carbon path easier and would remove the double burden that the developing countries are being asked to pay. On one hand, we have to adopt high cost technologies for reducing emissions, on the other we have to pay monopoly prices to global MNC's to buy such technologies.

A Departure From The National Consensus
The problem with India's climate change negotiations is on par with its other negotiations – keep people in the dark and make major moves without transparency. Major decisions have been taken which already constitute a departure from the national consensus.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Heiligendamm had agreed that India's per capita emissions will never be more than that of the industrialised countries. This means that we will adjust our future flows only to their future flows and without any reference to their already very large stock in the atmosphere.

In Aquila, again, India in the G20 discussions agreed that it will remove all fossil fuel subsidies. Kerosene subsidy, the issue in question, is for a section of the population that produces hardly any emission. All this have been done without any national discussion. The minister's letter therefore should not be seen in isolation but as a part of a continuing strategy that India is following in its foreign policy – a steady drift towards the US.

The US has offered no concessions as yet in the global negotiations. They are arguing that the world must tear up all its previous agreements and simply accept what the US wants to do. In this scheme, there is no global compact called Kyoto, no common but differentiated responsibility and no historical emissions.

They have the lions' share of current stock of emissions and must continue to retain this share as the world cuts down future global emissions. Bringing the US into global negotiations on these terms would be nothing but an abject surrender to the US.

The minister's note also implies that since climate change will affect India more, we should take unilateral action. The experience of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty shows that one sided agreements generate no pressure on the rich and the powerful. Unless the world stands up and says that the US and the club of the rich cut their emissions drastically, the world cannot be saved.

Unilateral action by India with its low level of emissions without linking it to binding emission cuts for developed countries would in no way solve the problem. Even a Nick Stern has talked of India and developing countries putting conditionalities on the developed world and forcing them to change their ways. A Jeffry Sachs talks about the need to lift all Intellectual Property Rights for climate mitigation technologies. It is indeed strange Indian ministers and officials speak in a completely different voice.

India’s climate policy must be founded on the development needs of the majority of its population and the needs of India’s future development. The minister's proposals in their current form are only a thinly veiled proposal to barter India’s energy and developmental future for a seat at the high table curtsy the US. This we must reject.
Prabir Purkayastha

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Indo-US Nuclear Deal: An Overrated Initiative

On the first anniversary of its coming to fruition, the much-trumpeted Indo-U.S. nuclear deal stands out as an overrated initiative whose conclusion through patent political partisanship holds sobering lessons for India, writes Brahma Chellaney

For United States President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the nuclear deal was a prized legacy-building issue. Mr. Bush ensured the deal wasn’t a divisive subject at home by forging an impressive bipartisan consensus.

By contrast, Dr. Singh’s polarising single-mindedness on the ballyhooed deal and refusal to permit parliamentary scrutiny injected intense partisan rancour into the debate. Given that India may have to assume new international legal obligations on other fronts too — from climate change to the Doha Round of world-trade talks — the noxious precedent set by the deal must be corrected in national interest.

The deal indeed was a milestone, symbolising the deepening ties between the world’s oldest democracy and largest democracy. But on the first anniversary of its coming to fruition, the deal stands out as an overvalued venture whose larger benefits remain distant for India, including an end to dual-use technology controls and greater U.S. support in regional and global matters.

The deal offers more tangible benefits to the U.S. While significantly advancing U.S. non-proliferation interests, the deal — embedded in a larger strategic framework — fashions an instrumentality to help co-opt India in a “soft alliance.” It also carries attractive commercial benefits for the U.S. in sectors extending from commercial nuclear power to arms trade.

To be sure, the deal-making was a tortuous, three-year process, involving multiple stages and difficult-to-achieve compromises. At its core, the deal-making centred on India’s resolve to safeguard its nuclear military autonomy and America’s insistence on imposing stringent non-proliferation conditions, including a quantifiable cap on Indian weapons-related capabilities.

Eventually, a deal was sealed that gave India the semblance of autonomy and America some Indian commitments to flaunt, best epitomised by the decision to shut down Cirus — one of India’s two research reactors producing weapons-grade plutonium. No sooner had Congress ratified the deal package than the White House made clear the deal was predicated on India not testing again, with “serious consequences” to follow a breach of that understanding.

The more recent G-8 action barring the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) equipment or technology to non-NPT signatories even under safeguards is a fresh reminder that while New Delhi is taking on legally irrevocable obligations that tie the hands of future Indian generations, America’s own obligations under the deal are unequivocally anchored in the primacy of its domestic law and thus mutable.

If there were any doubts on that score, they were set at rest by the American ratification legislation that gave effect to the deal, the U.S.-India Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Non-Proliferation Enhancement Act of 2008, or NCANEA. This Hyde Act-plus legislation unabashedly declares that the bilateral 123 Agreement is subservient to existing U.S. law and “ any other applicable United States law” enacted henceforth.

That the U.S. has used the G-8 mechanism to deny India the “full” cooperation it bilaterally pledged shouldn’t come as a surprise because the NCANEA obligates Washington to spearhead a Nuclear Suppliers Group ban on ENR transfers. Having formally proposed such a ban in the NSG, Washington got the G-8 to act first — a move that puts pressure on the NSG to follow suit and, more importantly, brings on board in advance all potential ENR-technology suppliers to India.

Even on the unrelated and unresolved issue of granting India an operational right to reprocess U.S.-origin spent fuel, the U.S. government has notified Congress that such permission, while subject to congressional approval, would be revocable.

For years to come, the deal will generate eclectic controversies because it is rife with unsettled issues, ambiguities and the avowed supremacy of one party’s variable domestic law.

To help the beleaguered Indian government save face, some issues — ranging from a test prohibition to the political nature of fuel-supply assurances — were spelled out not in the bilateral 123 Agreement but in the subsequent U.S. presidential statements and NCANEA. As a result, the final deal gives America specific rights while saddling India with onerous obligations.

Politically, the deal was oversold as the centrepiece, if not the touchstone, of the new Indo-U.S. partnership to the extent that, a year later, New Delhi seems genuinely concerned about India’s declining profile in American policy. Clearly, New Delhi had over-expectations about what the deal would deliver.

Still, there are some key lessons New Delhi must draw from the way it handled the deal. The first is the importance of building political bipartisanship on critical national matters. Had the Prime Minister done what he repeatedly promised — “build a broad national consensus” — India would have strengthened its negotiating leverage and forestalled political acrimony.

Dr. Singh’s approach was to play his cards close to his chest and rely on a few chosen bureaucrats. Not a single all-party meeting was called. Consequently, the government presented itself as deal-desperate on whom additional conditions could be thrust.

A second lesson relates to Parliament’s role. Even if there is a lacuna in the Indian Constitution that allows the executive branch to sign and ratify an international agreement without any legislative scrutiny, a forward-looking course would be to plug that gap by introducing a constitutional amendment in Parliament, rather than seek to exploit that weakness.

Sadly, the government chose not to place the final deal before Parliament even for a no-vote debate before it rushed to sign the 123 Agreement on September 10, 2008, just two days after Mr. Bush signed NCANEA into law. This extraordinary haste occurred despite Dr. Singh’s July 22, 2008 assurance in the Lok Sabha that after the entire process was complete, he would bring the final deal to Parliament and “abide” by its decision.

But no sooner had the process been over than the government proceeded to sign the 123 Agreement without involving Parliament, although the deal imposes external inspections in perpetuity and leaves no leeway for succeeding governments. A year later, Dr. Singh has yet to make a single statement in Parliament on the terms of the concluded deal, lest he face questions on the promises he couldn’t keep, including the elaborate benchmarks he had defined on August 17, 2006.

In the future, Parliament must not be reduced to being a mere spectator on India’s accession to another international agreement, even as the same pact is subject to rigorous legislative examination elsewhere. In fact, when the government tables the nuclear-accident liability bill, Parliament ought to seize that opportunity to examine the nuclear deal and its subsidiary arrangements.

The bill — intended to provide cover mainly to American firms, which, unlike France’s Areva and Russia’s Atomstroyexport, are in the private sector — seeks to cap foreign vendors’ maximum accident liability to a mere $62 million, although each nuclear power station is to cost several billion dollars.

Yet another lesson is to stem the creeping politicisation of top scientists. This trend has drawn encouragement from two successive governments’ short-sighted use of topmost scientists for political purpose. Such politicisation was on full display during the nuclear deal process. The top atomic leadership made scripted political statements in support of deal-related moves, only to be rewarded with special post-superannuation extensions beyond established norms.

The current unsavoury controversy among scientists over India’s sole thermonuclear test in 1998 — and the atomic establishment’s frustration over the attention dissenting views are receiving — is a reflection of the damage to official scientific credibility wrought by the deal politics. All this only underscores the need to bring the cosseted nuclear programme under oversight.

If truth be told, national institutions have been the main losers from the partisan approach and divisive politics that the deal came to embody. The deal divided the country like no other strategic issue since Indian independence, with the deteriorating national discourse reaching a new low. Such divisiveness, in turn, seriously weakened India’s hand in the deal-related diplomacy. A new brand of post-partisan politics must define India’s approach in Copenhagen and the Doha Round.

A final sobering lesson: Key national decisions must flow from professional inputs and institutional deliberations, not from gut opinions in which near-term considerations or personal feelings and predilections of those in office prevail over the long view of national interest. The lodestar to avoid disconnect between perception and reality is to ensure that any agreement bears the imprint of institutional thinking, not personal fancy.

(Brahma Chellaney is Professor of Strategic Studies at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi.)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Demise Of The Dollar

The Independent (published from London) in its front-page article on Tuesday (October 6) headlined The Demise of the Dollar, by its legendary Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk exposing a secret plot by international central banks to topple the US dollar, has rocked the world.

In the report Fisk says secret talks have been taking place between Arab states and China, France, Japan and Russia, to stop using the US currency for oil trading and to move to a basket of currencies.

The proposed new basket supposedly includes the Japanese yen and Chinese yuan, the euro, gold and a new, unified currency planned for the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (comprising Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE).

Finance ministers and central bank governors in Russia, China, Japan and Brazil have been working on the scheme, says Fisk, adding, the talks “may help to explain the sudden rise in gold prices, but it also augurs an extraordinary transition from dollar markets within nine years”.

He adds: “The Americans, who are aware the meetings have taken place — although they have not discovered the details — are sure to fight this international cabal which will include hitherto loyal allies Japan and the Gulf Arabs.”
Denials have been coming out thick and fast from all the central banks involved, especially Saudi Arabia. But given Fisk's formidable reputation, the report moved markets declined against 14 of its 16 major counterparts, Bloomberg reported.

As the Financial Times (of London) stressed: “The article in The Independent becomes quite serious in that The Independent has not been given to such rumours in the past. This is not The Sun, nor the NY Post. The Independent is a reasonably credible news source and we suspect that the leaks made to the newspaper are to be taken quite seriously. Certainly the markets are taking it as such, and we should also.”

Not surprisingly, the Financial Times is distressed. “This is not new news of course, for such a change from dollar pricing to some other methodology has been discussed, rumoured, tossed about for months, but this time we note that Japan and France are involved in the meetings and that changes the tenor of the rumours entirely. Too, the addition of the Saudis and the Emirates AND Kuwait to the meetings adds further importance and seriousness to the threats.”

FT is not alone. A rather alarmed Dennis Gartman of the Gartman Letter wrote: “IT IS UNANIMOUS: “THEY” HATE THE US DOLLAR and it appears that a fully fledged attack is being made upon the US currency this morning (October 6), with money flowing anywhere and everywhere… but particularly to the non-US dollars, the Canadian, the Aussie and the New Zealand dollars. Fears of problems in the Middle East; fears that the world is turning away from the US dollar as the policies being followed by the left-of-centre Obama Administration; fears of fears.. it makes no difference at this point. The rout is on, and it is not a pretty sight to behold.”

BNY Mellon, meanwhile, did not make much of the central bank denials: “Given the enormity of events these past two years, it is entirely understandable that investors took to the sidelines ahead of meetings of the G20 and G7 whose contingent were seemingly armed with a greater will to effect change. Yet given that these meetings appear to have actually contributed to a reinforcement of the status quo, then there seems little reason to believe that investors will not resume their prior activities. As such, this continues to bode ill for the USD.”

The idea of replacing the dollar for oil trading is not new. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has been seeking Arab support for a proposed oil-backed currency for some time now. In fact another report today in TOI says: “UN countries should agree on the creation of a global reserve bank to issue the currency and to monitor the national exchange rates of its members, the Geneva-based UN Conference on Trade and Development said on Tuesday in a report.”

But as Fisk wryly concludes: “Bankers remember, of course, what happened to the last Middle East oil producer to sell its oil in euros rather than dollars. A few months after Saddam Hussein trumpeted his decision, the Americans and British invaded Iraq.”

Roger Alexander

Friday, September 11, 2009

Jet Airways Strike: The Right To Form A Trade Union

One of the main issues that has got sidetracked in the Jet Airways versus its own pilots controversy is whether pilots of Jet Airways have a right to form a trade union. 

In the Hindustan Times of date, Mr. Naresh Goyal the Jet Airways chief likened his pilots' actions to terrorists "who are holding the country, the passengers and the airline hostage". Surely Mr. Goyal, forming a trade union and insisting on collective bargaining are not akin to the acts of a terrorist!

This Jet Airways confrontation will be a litmus test for corporate India's campaign to water down the labour laws of the land and to ensure that workers have no collective bargaining rights in a 'globalised' world. Jet Airways have been surreptitiously shedding staff in many other departments during 2009, despite Mr. Goyal's tears of retribution during Diwali 2008, after his airline with one fell swoop made hundreds of cabin crew redundant. 

Airline pilots in India are probably the only group of individuals who have the might to confront the unbridled corporate and governmental reach of the Jet airways management. These pilots, scions of political bigwigs, have the economic wherewithal to sit-out a lock out as well as the political network to counter the political machinations of Naresh Goyal. 

The result of this battle will define the future of industrial relations in 'modern and globalised' India. If Naresh Goyal wins, then it will be difficult for any economically weaker section of employees to obtain the right to form a trade union and if necessary to go on strike. If the pilots win, then it will only be a minor reprieve for this well off section of workers. What will follow will be a furore in the Indian media, led by the pink newspapers, to improve the Indian labour markets so that Indian companies can get a 'global edge' (read weakening of labour laws).

You have been warned. Workers of India, you have nothing to gain except more working hours and less rights to industrial action.

Girish Menon/CounterCurrents.org

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Why Does Life In The Middle East Remain Rooted In The Middle Ages?

Robert Fisk, a journalist I admire greatly, has covered West Asia for more than three decades. This excellent piece he argues the Arabs – or, outside the Arab world, the Iranians or the Afghans – will not produce the eco-loving, gender-equal, happy-clappy democracies that we would like to see. But freed from "our" tutelage, they might develop their societies to the advantage of the people who live in them. Maybe the Arabs would even come to believe that they owned their own countries

Why is the Arab world – let us speak with terrible sharpness – so backward? Why so many dictators, so few human rights, so much state security and torture, so terrible a literacy rate?

Why does this wretched place, so rich in oil, have to produce, even in the age of the computer, a population so poorly educated, so undernourished, so corrupt? Yes, I know the history of Western colonialism, the dark conspiracies of the West, the Arab argument that you cannot upset the sheikhs and the kings and the autocrats, the imams and the emirs when the "enemy is at the gates". There is some truth to that. But, not enough truth.

Once more the United Nations Development Program has popped up with yet one more, its fifth, report that catalogues – via Arab analysts and academics mark you – the retarded state of much of the Middle East. It talks of "the fragility of the region's political, social, economic and environmental structures... its vulnerability to outside intervention". But does this account for desertification, for illiteracy – especially among women – and the Arab state which, as the report admits, is often turned "into a threat to human security, instead of its chief support"?

As Arab journalist Rami Khouri stated bleakly last week: "How we tackle the underlying causes of our mediocrity and bring about real change anchored in solid citizenship, productive economies and stable statehood, remains the riddle that has defied three generations of Arabs."

Real GDP per capita in the region – one of the statistics which truly shocked Khouri – grew by only 6.4 per cent between 1980 and 2004. That's just 0.5 per cent annually, a rate which 198 of 217 countries analysed by the CIA World Factbook bettered in 2008. Yet the Arab population – which stood at 150 million in 1980 – will reach 400 million in 2015.

I notice much of this myself. When I first came to the Middle East in 1976, it was crowded enough. Cairo's steaming, fetid streets were already jam-packed, night and day, with up to a million homeless living in the great Ottoman cemeteries. Arab homes are spotlessly clean but their streets are often repulsive, dirt and ordure spilling on to the pavements.

Even in beautiful Lebanon, where a kind of democracy does exist and whose people are among the most educated and cultured in the Middle East, you find a similar phenomenon. In the rough hill villages of the south, the same cleanliness exists in every home. But why are the streets and the hills so dirty?

I suspect that a real problem exists in the mind of Arabs; they do not feel that they own their countries. Constantly coaxed into effusions of enthusiasm for Arab or national "unity", I think they do not feel that sense of belonging which Westerners feel. Unable, for the most part, to elect real representatives – even in Lebanon, outside the tribal or sectarian context – they feel "ruled over".

The street, the country as a physical entity, belongs to someone else. And of course, the moment a movement comes along and – even worse – becomes popular, emergency laws are introduced to make these movements illegal or "terrorist". Thus it is always someone else's responsibility to look after the gardens and the hills and the streets.

And those who work within the state system – who work directly for the state and its corrupt autarchies – also feel that their existence depends on the same corruption upon which the state itself thrives. The people become part of the corruption. I shall always remember an Arab landlord, many years ago, bemoaning an anti-corruption drive by his government. "In the old days, I paid bribes and we got the phone mended and the water pipes mended and the electricity restored," he complained. "But what can I do now, Mr, Robert? I can't bribe anyone – so nothing gets done!"

Even the first UNDP report, back in 2002, was deeply depressing. It identified three cardinal obstacles to human development in the Arab world: the widening "deficit" in freedom, women's rights and knowledge. George W Bush – he of enduring freedom, democracy, etc etc. amid the slaughter of Iraq – drew attention to this.

Understandably miffed at being lectured to by the man who gave "terror" a new name, even Hosni Mubarak of Egypt (he of the constantly more than 90 per cent electoral success rate), told Tony Blair in 2004 that modernization had to stem from, "the traditions and culture of the region".

Will a solution to the Arab-Israeli war resolve all this? Some of it, perhaps. Without the constant challenge of crisis, it would be much more difficult to constantly renew emergency laws, to avoid constitutionality, to distract populations who might otherwise demand overwhelming political change. Yet I sometimes fear that the problems have sunk too deep, that like a persistently leaking sewer, the ground beneath Arab feet has become too saturated to build on.

I was delighted some months ago, while speaking at Cairo University – yes, the same academy which Barack Obama used to play softball with the Muslim world – to find how bright its students were, how many female students crowded the classes and how, compared to previous visits, well-educated they were. Yet far too many wanted to move to the West. The Koran may be an invaluable document – but so is a Green Card. And who can blame them when Cairo is awash with PhD engineering graduates who have to drive taxis?

And on balance, yes, a serious peace between Palestinians and Israelis would help redress the appalling imbalances that plague Arab society. If you can no longer bellyache about the outrageous injustice that this war represents, then perhaps there are other injustices to be addressed. One of them is domestic violence, which – despite the evident love of family which all Arabs demonstrate – is far more prevalent in the Arab world than Westerners might realize (or Arabs want to admit).

But I also think that, militarily, we have got to abandon the Middle East. By all means, send the Arabs our teachers, our economists, our agronomists. But bring our soldiers home. They do not defend us. They spread the same chaos that breeds the injustice upon which the al-Qa'idas of this world feed.

No, the Arabs – or, outside the Arab world, the Iranians or the Afghans – will not produce the eco-loving, gender-equal, happy-clappy democracies that we would like to see. But freed from "our" tutelage, they might develop their societies to the advantage of the people who live in them. Maybe the Arabs would even come to believe that they owned their own countries.(The Independent)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Sleeping With The Enemy: Getting Screwed And Loving It!

We are seeing the contours of a new road map on strategic and security issues, quietly being implemented by the government, surreptitiously, stealthily, without public debate, and finally to confront the nation with a fait accompli

In the past week or so, three or four changes in Government of India's stand in various international forums have briefly been reported. They appear seemingly unrelated; however there is a clear possibility that there may be a strong inter-connection.

At L'Aquila in Italy, where the G8 summit took place last week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was one of the few non-member invitees who participated in this annual meeting of the heads of eight developed countries. In the joint declaration of G8, apparently India has agreed on a formulation on 'climate change', essentially agreeing to a two-degree rise cap on global temperatures from the pre-industrial era. G8 leaders also issued a statement, while Singh was still at the venue, linking the supply of nuclear fuel to power plants to the issue of joining the NPT/CTBT regime.

About the same time, the commerce ministry announced that the final preparatory meeting for the Doha Round of trade negotiations under the auspices of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) will be held in India, with a significant statement that India will ensure that finally an agreement will be reached at this conference.

A few days later, at the NAM Summit in Cairo, India and Pakistan, at the highest executive levels, apparently formally delinked terrorism from an all-encompassing bilateral dialogue. All of above appear quite independent of each other but can one see the elements of a grand plan, a change in India's basic strategic position?

It almost appears as though the new government has decided to restate its policy position on national and international issues, without notice or debate, even as Parliament is in session in India. Take the Doha Round of WTO negotiations. India, along with leading developing countries, like Brazil and China have strongly articulated positions on a number of issues, especially Trade in Agriculture.

Considering the critical importance of the agricultural rural economy to India, there has been extreme caution in the past about supporting initiatives to liberalise trade in agriculture. Our classic position over two decades now has been, rightly, that US and Europe should first significantly roll down the massive subsidies that they provide to their domestic farmers before the question of trade in agriculture can be seriously discussed.

The US and EU have staunchly refused to consider this, while trying to bind developing countries to a new discipline. Making India host of the next round of discussions is a clever tactical move by the developed countries to mute the Indian opposition; besides India has also agreed to 'find a solution'!

Have we changed our policies overnight, even without a discussion? Is there a connection between the departure of Kamal Nath as commerce minister to a relatively less prestigious assignment and his replacement by Anand Sharma, to ensure that India will play ball?

Very similar is the Indian acquiescence to the cap in global warming without any consideration to the differential contribution to climate change by USA and the developed countries on the one hand and the developing countries on the other. Our consistent posture in the past has been that India can look to join any regime provided USA and the rest, who have been the major polluting culprits till now, take major steps in controlling their emissions.

Indeed, USA has not even subscribed to the Kyoto declaration on climate change. Yet the recent joint communication from Italy which makes no distinction between developed and developing countries comes as a total surprise. One has not seen any debate or recent discussions preceding this massive change in posture, in the Parliament or elsewhere.

Equally puzzling is the recent Cairo communiqué, tacitly dropping any prior condition relating to addressing the terror issue, before an all-encompassing bilateral dialogue between India and Pakistan. Is there a connection between this and the week-long visit of the US secretary of state to India?

For the first time, a high US dignitary has visited India and bypassed Pakistan. Is this the quid pro quo? What has India received, in giving up so much negotiating room? We need some clarity on these bizarre developments of last week.

A mention also needs to be made of the new conditions imposed by the West on supply of nuclear fuel, linking it with international treaties on the subject. Clearly there is an apparent conflict between these new conditions and the interpretation of the Indo-US nuclear deal as rendered to Parliament by the Indian leadership. Hillary Clinton's clear agenda is to open up the Indian market for US exports, particularly on technology areas; witness the proposal for two nuclear power plants during this visit. All of these do not appear to add up.

Are we seeing the contours of a new road map on strategic and security issues, quietly being implemented by the government, surreptitiously, stealthily, without public debate, and finally to confront the nation with a fait accompli?

By TSR Subramanian. The writer is a former Cabinet Secretary, Government of India. Having been privy to State secrets at the highest level of decision making, he knows what he's talking about.

Courtesy: DNA/Mumbai

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Manmohan Singh's Perfidy Exposed Yet Again!

Brahma Chellaney, professor of strategic studies at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, never tires exposing Manmohan Singh's perfidy in foreign policy. One of the first scholars to come out against the Indo-US Nuclear Deal, Chellaney has resolutely opposed Manmohan Singh's pro-US tilt that has bound India hand and foot to US interests in the region. Here's his take on the End Use Monitoring Agreement (EUMA) that has the both the defence and political establishment up in arms:


The US had been pressing India to sign three agreements related to defence cooperation:

1. End Use Monitoring Agreement (EUMA).
2. Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CIS MoA).
3. Mutual Logistic Support Agreement (MLSA).

All these agreements contain a series of restrictive clauses.

On the eve of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's July 2009 New Delhi visit, the newly appointed US assistant secretary of state for public affairs, Philip J Crowley, had linked EUMA to the nuclear deal. He told the media in Washington on July 17 that EUMA was “part of the fulfilment of an important initiative that India and the US have signed in the area of nuclear cooperation.”

“We are working with India on an end-use agreement,” said Crowley, the State Department spokesperson. “But clearly, this is part of the fulfilment of an important initiative that India and the United States have signed in the area of nuclear cooperation.” Crowley went on to say that he was “sure” there will be “substantial discussion” during Clinton's visit on “fulfilling the initiative and its various components.”

Contrast this with what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told the Lok Sabha on July 22, 2008: “Some people are spreading the rumours that there are some secret or hidden agreements over and above the documents made public. I wish to state categorically that there are no secret or hidden documents other than the 123 Agreement, the Separation Plan and the draft of the safeguards agreement with the IAEA.”

Earlier, on August 4, 2005, he told the Rajya Sabha: “Sir, what are the commitments that I have taken? I am very clear in my mind and I can assure the House that there is no secret appendage or secret agreement. Everything that I discussed with the President (Bush) is faithfully stated. There is nothing more to our agreement than what is stated in this Joint Statement.”

EUMA Clauses
All these three agreements were designed by the US Congress for ensuring American oversight, right-of-access and on-site inspection in client States - States that are under the US security and nuclear umbrella. For example, there are 32 countries under the US nuclear and security umbrella today.

In addition, there are States like Pakistan that are officially classified by Washington as Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA) - a conferred status that gives the US virtually the same rights over them as it has vis-a-vis States formally under the American military umbrella.
The special rights the US has with client States are understandable because America is responsible for their security and it thus seeks to underpin its own obligations and those of its allies through such agreements.

But India is not a client State, but a strategic partner of the United States. Unlike an ally who has to follow the alliance leader, a strategic partnership is built on the principle of equality. Thus, a strategic partner is an equal, at least in theory.

Yet, the US has succeeded in imposing the End Use Monitoring Agreement (EUMA) on India.

The Pentagon is in charge of implementation of EUMA, known in U.S. parlance as the “Golden Sentry” program, with the mission to “monitor the use of defence articles and services provided to foreign customers or international organizations through government-to-government programs.” The Pentagon says the Golden Sentry’s main objective is to “minimize security risks through compliance with arms-transfer provisions supporting U.S. national security and foreign-policy objectives.”

The legal basis of EUMA — or Golden Sentry — is a 1996 amendment to the US Arms Export Control Act (AEC). Section 40A of the AECA on end-use monitoring of defence articles and defence services calls for “reasonable assurance” of compliance of US laws and regulations by recipient states. This is just one example of how the United States seeks to give extra-territorial jurisdiction to its laws and regulations.

The Pentagon’s Golden Sentry rules apply to government-to-government defence contracts and impose “cradle-to-grave” obligations, starting from shipment of a defence article to its use and final disposition. By contrast, the State Department-run “Blue Lantern” program focuses on Direct Commercial Sales (DCS)/Export Licensing (USML articles).

“Blue Lectern” end-use checks cover direct military sales and are conducted by US mission personnel abroad or personnel from the State Department’s Directorate of Defence Trade Controls (DDTC) to verify the destination and specific end-use and end-users of U.S. commercial defence exports. The “Golden Sentry,” in contrast, requires a comprehensive end-use monitoring program for arms transfers authorized by the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) and the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA), as amended.

Negotiated with New Delhi over a three-year period, the Indo-US EUMA is controversial.

Some of its clauses may not be a subject of concern, such as prohibitions on second-hand sales without approval of the United States. Its contentious clauses impose restrictions on what India may do with the equipment it buys from the USA.

EUMA will allow the US to periodically carry out an inspection and inventory of all articles transferred to India. In the negotiations, India strenuously objected to physical inspection and instead sought an inspection of the records and other measures in place.

In the end, the Americans had their way, but it was agreed that the physical inspection would be done at a time and place granted by India. Supplying-State officials, in any case, would need visas and other assistance from the recipient State, including about the location of the equipment, to carry out an inspection.

The US will have the right to check that India is using any purchased weapon for the purpose for which it was intended.

EUMA restricts what the purchasing country, India, can do with the US-origin defence equipment, even within its own borders.

Under the terms of EUMA, India cannot modify the purchased defence article or system in any form.

Also, to prevent the buyer country from freeing itself from dependency on the United States for maintenance, EUMA restricts India from getting US-origin defence equipment serviced by any another country without prior American permission. Even spare parts need to be sourced only from the United States.

These “cradle-to-grave” restrictions arm Washington with continuing leverage over the recipient country. After all, any equipment or system needs maintenance. Such leverage, in turn, can help ensure that the recipient country cooperates with Washington on larger political matters.

The Agreed Text
A key element of Clinton's India trip was the announcement that the two sides had reached an accord on the EUMA. The Joint Statement issued at the end of her visit recorded: “External Affairs Minister Krishna announced that both sides had reached agreement on End-Use Monitoring for US defence articles.”

The agreed text of the EUMA was exchanged by External Affairs Minister Krishna and Clinton on July 20, 2009. It, however, was not formally signed because it takes the form of agreed language to be included in contracts for all future US defence sales to India.

Although the agreed language deviates in some aspects from the standard EUMA text applicable to client States, the United States managed to get India to accept the core conditions.

The United States already has been including end-use monitoring rights for itself in the sale of all defence equipment to India. Such end-use monitoring rights have been incorporated in the Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) relating to every defence contract with India in recent years, including the contracts for:

1. The USS Trenton -- a 1971-vintage amphibious transport ship, bought by India in 2007 for $50 million and renamed INS Jalashwa.
2. The $2.2 billion deal with Boeing for eight P-8I maritime patrol aircraft.
3. Six C130-J Hercules military transport aircraft worth more than $1 billion.
4. Three VVIP jets.

The US right to end-use monitoring is also incorporated in the export contracts of US high-term items to India, starting with the Cray X-MP-14 supercomputer in the late 1980s. But EUMA relates to defence-equipment transfers and contains detailed and elaborate restrictions.

Now the EUMA language agreed to between India and the US will become the standard in all future Indo-US defence contracts. “We have agreed on the end-use monitoring arrangements that will henceforth be referred to in letters of acceptance for Indian procurement of US defence technology and equipment,” External Affairs Minister Krishna told Parliament on July 21, 2009. “This systematises ad hoc arrangements for individual defence procurements from the USA entered into by previous governments.”

EUMA comes as a major boost to American arms companies like Lockheed Martin Corp, Boeing Co and Northrop Grumman Corp eyeing mega deals in India, one of the world's largest importers of conventional weapons.

Indeed, EUMA opens the path for the US and India to agree to the terms of the Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CIS MoA), which is still under negotiation. As its name suggests, that agreement seeks to promote interoperable tactical communications (“comms”) systems, including Spread Spectrum comms systems, and to institute secure comms interoperability between the two sides through the U.S. supply of Communications Security (COMSEC) equipment and services.

Official Concern In India
The Indian government has embraced EUMA despite concerns expressed within the official establishment over its restrictive and invasive clauses.

For example, (former) Navy chief Admiral Suresh Mehta had publicly described EUMA as “intrusive.” Speaking at an April 2008 conference organised by the London-based International Strategic Studies Institute in New Delhi, Admiral Mehta said: “There are certain things we can't agree to. As a sovereign nation, we can't accept intrusiveness into our system, so there is some fundamental difficulty.”

He added: “The US may have this kind of (end user) agreements with everyone. I don't believe in that. We pay for something and we get some technology. What I do with it, is my thing.”

In fact, India's Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in a March 2008 report criticized the end-use monitoring clauses in the contract for the USS Trenton/INS Jalashwa. (No sooner the US had transferred that transport ship to India than a gas leak killed an Indian officer and five sailors on board.)

The CAG report stated: “Restrictive clauses raise doubts about the real advantages from this deal... For example, (there are) restrictions on the offensive deployment of the ship and permission to the (US) government to conduct an inspection and inventory of all articles transferred under the end-use monitoring clause of the LOA (Letter of Offer and Acceptance issued by the US government).”

Note that the contract contains even “restrictions on the offensive deployment of the ship.”

Against this background, the Indian government ought to have taken Parliament into confidence on the EUMA rather than place on record just the two sentences on the agreement found in Krishna's statement on Clinton's visit.

While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government fights shy to reveal the terms of the agreement to Parliament and to answer specific concerns, State Department has called the EUMA with India “a landmark event,” with spokesman Robert Wood going on to say: “We’re very proud, and we believe that this agreement between the US and India is important in our overall global nonproliferation efforts, and we believe that this agreement has brought India into the nuclear nonproliferation mainstream.”

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

India Well On Way Of Becoming Client State Of US

Just two months in office and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh just cannot wait to make India a client state of the United States. And even though it won just 206 of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha, he thinks he has the license mortgage India's sovereignty to the United States.

The latest in a series of sell-outs is the End-Use Monitoring Agreement under which US inspectors would be given the right to enter Indian military bases to inspect American military systems in service with the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force.

India does not have such an agreement with any other country.

The EUMA agreement is a part of a pattern — the virtual shelving of the India-Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline, indications of India supporting the US rather than the developing countries in the Doha Round, the climbdown on climate change at the G8+G5 summit in Italy, and the abdication of India's position on Pak-sponsored terrorism on the sidelines of the NAM summit in Egypt – of Manmohan Singh compromising India's economic and political sovereignty.

India's best defence correspondent Josy Joseph reports spin doctors from within the establishment are trying to project the agreement as a huge victory for them, saying there is no direct reference to “physical onsite inspection” but military sources who have studied the American agreement - better known as Golden Sentry programme - say that “physical verification” is integral to it.

The Golden Sentry programme is a cradle-to-grave inspection mechanism governed by the US department of defence (DOD) to monitor all military equipment sold to foreign countries. The aim of the mission, according to Pentagon, is to “minimise security risks” and to satisfy its “foreign policy objectives.”

The Golden Sentry inspections are done by “Tigers”, specialised teams of the Pentagon, at random on defence articles and services provided to foreign customers through government-to-government sales called FMS (foreign military sales). All sensitive military systems are sold by the US through FMS.

The agreement also means the US inspectors have to regularly “evaluate” and “plan” India's military capabilities. According to Pentagon officials, while normally the end use monitoring agreement “presupposes a trusted partner” if the circumstances prove different they could take actions ranging from demarche to sanctions.

“These (EUMA) are designed to ensure America has leverage over the recipient country. These are designed for client states not for India which is a strategic partner,’’ says strategic affairs analyst Brahma Chellaney, adding, “the US wants a big slice of India’s arms market. India does not have such clauses with any other supplier.”

“The whole idea is essentially meant for formal allies. It is strange for India to sign it because we have a whole bunch of hardware from other countries,’’ wonders Bharat Karnad, a security expert at the Centre for Policy Research. Indeed, it is no secret that the Indian military and also the defence establishment has for long been opposed to the EUMA

Not surprisingly, the Indo-US joint statement issued after Hillary Clinton's visit bluntly seeks to deepen the strategic alliance between the two countries. Despite the high sounding phrases about transforming the relationship to “enhance global prosperity and stability in the 21st century,” the contents and the agreements arrived at demonstrate that India is now virtually a client state of the US.

This growing military collaboration with India is the key US interest. Washington wants India to buy billions of dollars of military equipment. Recall that on the eve of Hillary Clinton's visit to India, US Assistant Secretary of State Philip J. Crowley had gloated that the EUMA “is part of the fulfilment of an important initiative that India and the US have signed in the area of nuclear co-operation.”

Those opposed to the Indo-US Nuclear Deal, including this writer, have repeatedly pointed out that the deal was a quid pro quo for India becoming a military ally of the US. But even on the nuclear deal, the US is again seeking to shift the goalposts. Washington is moving quickly to deny India access to enrichment and reprocessing technology. This is what the recent G-8 decision amounts to. Uncle Sam now wants to bring the Indo-US nuclear deal within the global non-proliferation architecture.

It is clear that the EUMA is just a trailer. The joint statement issued at the conclusion of Clinton's “hugely successful” visit (from the US viewpoint) underlines that US business interests will have priority in Indian policy making. This is going to be formalised with the bilateral investment treaty and the pursuit of the Indo-US Joint CEO Forum. Manmohan Singh will be pushing for more FDI in insurance, banking, higher education and other sectors in line with these lobbying forums.

Moreover, by reiterating the earlier Bush-Manmohan Singh commitment to promote “democracy” on a global scale, the Congress-led government has shown itself willing to go along with this ideological enterprise of the US. That is why India has adopted a hostile stand towards Iran and shelved the IPI gas pipeline deal besides voting against Tehran in the IAEA, diluted its stand on agriculture and investment related matters in the Doha round of talks on WTO, and given in to the US demand on climate change talks which requires India to cut carbon emissions without serious steps being taken by the developed countries to do so.

And now that India is well on its way to become a client state of the US, voices are already being heard that American English is the way to go.

Get the drift?