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Posts Tagged ‘Cooperation’

The Presidential Nobel

October 14, 2009 2 comments

After President Obama was conferred the Nobel peace prize last week, I have received several emails asking my opinion and particularly if I thought that it was necessary for him to be given this prestigious prize. Apart from considering such questions far beyond my capacity to answer or reason, I believe that such an award being conferred on someone such as President Obama has concrete reasons of validity far beyond the wave of change that ensured his election as the American Chief Executive. And this most certainly hasn’t much of Afro-American empathy alone to go with it, I must say, not to mention the seeming soft-placating of the Nobel committee that many see as an act of quickly estimating a player even before the game is over.

For starters, Obama’s commitment to an all inclusive American social structure complimenting world demographics was well known before his election to the Presidential Office, as a community organizer and a civil rights attorney in Chicago. One would, at this point in time, want to recall his efforts, in 1992, involved in registration of a hundred and fifty thousand African-Americans in Illinois, which came to be known as Project Vote and became a highly successful campaign prompting him to be named Crain’s Chicago Business’s 1993 list of “40 under Forty” powers to be! Would one not like to attribute this to a socio-culture gap being bridged in a modern society that has still deep rooted racial instances running inside of it?

As a Senator, he voted in favour of the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act, an immigration reform bill introduced by then Senators John McCain and Ted Kennedy, calling for incorporating guest worker programs among other things while focusing on issues such as human trafficking and border control, the economic impact of such happenings having long bickered the United States. Only here, there was an instance of showcasing of humaneness, which the President to-be endorsed through this piece of legislation that he chose to favor! Surely, that does come under the ambit of cooperation between peoples?

Following his election to the executive office, he began with a pledge to extend a hand of friendship to the Muslim world, which continues to be vehemently despised for supporting the scourge of terrorism, which has in its grip many a nation and people! Turning a hand of friendship and a possibility of working upon a broken relationship, he offered Iran what no American president has in the recent past made good. With a marked departure in the manner in which Iran and its socio-political establishment is viewed, Obama pledged to re-look the American association with Iran, an action which surely requires commendation of a very high order. North Korea has been no different in Obama’s agenda, having been given a high degree of importance aimed at repairing a long faltered association with a thrust of focus on disengaging nuclear weapons.

His administration’s commitment to ensure closure of Guantanamo Bay and the ensuing torture practices there may not have earned him applause from within and outside the American union, but wouldn’t one not seek to view this in the light of a person’s characteristic to condemn inhuman practices such as the infamous waterboarding techniques endorsed and furthered by the previous administration?

Transparency in functioning has also been an area of paramount importance in the current administration. By reducing the amount of secrecy associated with presidential records and effecting changes in procedures and policies to promote disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, Obama has demonstrated his administration’s pledge to dispel ambiguity in the manner in which the current White House operates.

His commitment to reduce production of nuclear weapons and thereafter systematically, through meaningful partnerships, ensure their eradication may appear fictional to many geo-political observers, however, such a commitment could surely help the world rid itself of dangerous precincts in the times to come, would you not agree?

Talking about results, one must understand and take cognizance of the fact that an offer made needs a reciprocal for it to come into being. Such is the case presently when one reviews the American association with the world at large. It is certainly possible that the current administration’s policies and procedures give way for a new beginning as is envisaged by Obama himself. It takes an epoch in the measure of time if one must insist on seeing actions being translated into results, and that by no means is the only qualifier for being recognized for the efforts that have been so diligently made!

And since the Nobel peace prize was accorded to him “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” I would concur that it has been done so, in recognition of the serious efforts that have been made by a man who has committed himself and his administration to realize a vision, which he believes can redefine the manner in which his country interacts with the world – by a measure of change!

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Hillary Clinton's visit – An Analysis

July 21, 2009 2 comments

Hillary Clinton’s love for India is not the same that is echoed by the U.S. State Department. No irony here, only reality! A number of media addresses, emphasis on education, interaction with the captains of industry and shopping expeditions later, one questions the progress of Indo-American relations given the hawkish view of the State Department and the perpetual threat of terrorism emanating from an ever turbulent Pakistan, something that hasn’t been addressed the way India would have liked the United States to have!

The Indian media made a huge fanfare of the visit and went long miles to please the visiting dignitary. The weekend newspapers were emblazoned with pictures and snippets of the Secretary while the delegation was given a warm welcome and treated to soulful Indian curries by the platter, even as news media channels staged live debates and analysis of this visit, as if it were a second-coming of the Lord himself! But, make no mistake, for Secretary Clinton came calling in warm terms as a ‘friend of India’ to which the Indian machinery found themselves swinging in musical pleasure!

I do not intend to negate or in any manner undermine the relationship Clinton shares with India, particularly in the light of her founding the India caucus in the upper house of the U.S. Congress, following her election as the senator from New York. A whole lot more has happened to cause particular warmth between her person and our nation, undoubtedly. But this visit was different and needed to be looked at differently, considering her position and Obama administration’s commitment to the world to aid ‘democratic nations’ in the war against terror.

While the State Department has sometimes, coming under some diplomatic pressure, echoed Secretary Clinton’s India bonhomie, it is common knowledge that their inclination lies oriented towards Pakistan, something which has been a happenstance for many many decades now. This attitude needs to change to bring about some level of credibility towards the statements that have been made warranting the need for increased cooperation and bilateral ties between both nations.

And then, there is the issue of terrorism originating from Pakistan, which has been proved a number of times of having the backing and complicity of state actors. This needs to be viewed very seriously. That Pakistan is an ally of the United States in the War on Terror, automatically makes it mandatory for it to shun any support for terror directed towards the Indian sovereign, something that it has repeatedly failed to adhere to as was seen even during the 26/11 episode. The United States, particularly the State Department needs to understand that a conducive environment is needed for solving issues that have long been kept at bay and state sponsored terrorism, such as that orchestrated by Pakistan, cannot help achieve such a climate.

Pakistan is fast becoming the breeding ground for global jihad and Washington needs to take cognizance of this fact and shape policies towards countering terrorist activists. While Hillary’s statement that “both nations have suffered at the hands of terrorists. And the breeding ground of this threat is India’s neighbour, Pakistan. Thus, when South Asia, described as the world’s most dangerous place and where India, Pakistan and Afghanistan are situated, is boiling, who can be the stabilizer? It can only be India which has a Muslim population that is almost five times that of Afghanistan and almost equals Pakistan’s” echoes the reality that is faced by India, it is also important to understand that anti-state elements in Pakistan were a creation of Pakistan itself and not the handiwork of an external force or element!

Terrorism is only one of the many issues that is an area of concern, apart from which there are areas such as trade, outsourcing, climate change, education and so on needing attention.

After this much publicized whirlwind trip, one really wonders about the possible outcome. Is the reality going to change? Will Indo-US relations scale new heights or is this just an eyewash that has been made to make India ‘feel good’ ahead of an impending statement in the not so distant future, which as seen in the past, will favour Pakistan and ignore the ground reality?

Also, what guarantee has the United States received that a next terror attack on its soil will not be aided by Pakistan or as they say ‘elements from within?’

Decoding L'Aquila

It seems Obama’s misreported bottomgate affair hogged the limelight more than the proceedings of the G8, which this time too failed to arrive at a much needed consensus on important issues such as climate change. As before, leaders of the group of eight, along with invitees, once again came together to put their thoughts on issues such as nuclear energy, dialogue with emerging countries, achievement of millennium development goals, negotiations on climate change, development of Africa in the areas of education, water, food and agriculture, health and peace support, intellectual property, outreach and expansion.

Not surprisingly the debate on climate change has brought forward no significant or tangible solution, with member nations not focusing on emission cuts and most importantly the Kyoto Protocol. While some question the relevance of the G8 in the face of a modernized global scenario, some others argue that it serves as an important platform for world leaders to wrangle on important issues that concern one another and the world at large. However, that ‘world at large’ is yet to see some tangible results as a measure of outcome from this gathering! Take for instance the posture on climate change which has hardly changed from before. While industrialized nations continue to play footsie with the issue, they have long been pressurizing some invitee nations to adopt a more stringent set of protocols that call for reduced emissions, something that seems more of hypocrisy! One may also ask about the provisions of the Kyoto Protocol, which is refused to be addressed.

Although Africa has been on the agenda for a long time now, there is no reflection of any constructive activity in the ground level. Take for instance the scale of poverty, issues pertaining to health, clean water, basic sanitation requirements and education programs that exist only as plans on paper and remain a distant dream. Mere agreements to sort out these issues by addressing them at forums is not enough. Implementation at various levels is the requirement.

Nations such as Sudan continue to be plagued in civil war with little or no assistance from the outside world. People continue to die at alarming rates and turn into fast statistics that are forgotten in a matter of days. Mere echoes of UN Security council resolutions will not address the problem. Why are nations not looking at establishing a military task force such as the KFor or the ISAF within Sudan, Darfur in particular? Is it the cost factor that is a deterrent or the knowledge of the non-existence of any rich pickings from these poor nations that is putting off the G8 from arriving at a policy of cooperation within themselves to assist impoverished countries, such as mentioned in their agenda?

For once, the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi spoke intellectual when he remarked that the framework of the G8 needs to be modified to include the larger G14! His statement that “we saw that G8 is no longer a suitable format to show a global economic way of doing. Instead, a consolidated G14 representing 80% of the world economy could help create a real dialogue. We want to see if the G14 is the best solution for debates which will bring to us unique results,” echoed the G8’s attitude in taking cognizance of emerging nations such as India and China in the global forum, something that cannot be ignored as was in the past! I would certainly accord a great deal of credit to the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh for having paved the way to such a landmark consensus as is witnessed today, when two years ago in a predecessor G8 summit at Heiligendamm in Germany, he stated the need for India to participate in the get-togethers of the rich as a partner rather than a petitioner.

It does not take a lot of brain racking to understand and conclude rightly that evolved partnerships are the key to success especially on a regional front which seems expanding and holding significance more than ever! Bilateral trade, cultural ties, combating terrorism, educational and outreach programs, disease control and a lot more can be significantly and systematically addressed in a much efficient manner with an expanded framework as in the case of the G14, which has rightly been envisioned and supported.

Fresh perspectives from developing nations with regards to plaguing problems can bring to the table a great deal of change, inclusive at that. However, one needs to wait and watch how the proceedings of this meeting of the G8 are to be implemented to attain measurable outcomes rather than being fizzled out as existent only on paper!

And maybe the press too can be a lot more mature to highlight issues and call for increased cooperation rather than misreport the roving eyes of a head of state!

Two to Tango – Russia & America

President Obama’s first visit to Russia as Commander-in-Chief of the United States is very significant. There’s a lot of mending of fences to do and a relook at strengthening bilateral relations that needs to be done on a serious footing. That apart, the two countries need to underscore the need to work together very closely in areas such as combating terror, which is a growing threat to many nations and their people. Their first meeting ahead of the G20 summit in London, held earlier this year, will certainly help them bond well and one hopes for it to be that way considering the extensive areas of cooperation their nations need to engage in.

The Bush administration viewed its Russian counterparts as hawkish and chose to remain wary in their interactions with Moscow, an action that fueled a number of cold war type instances that may have come to be, thankfully not, given the maturity with with each side has handled the other in particular.

The American pull-out from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty of 1972 is not so distant in the past to be forgotten, but even fresh is the Russo-Georgian conflict which was dragged into the purview of the NATO of which Georgia is a member nation. The summer of 2007 also saw some tense moments with the United States announcing plans of building an anti-ballistic missile system in Poland and a radar architecture in the Czech Republic, both nations being former Warsaw Pact members. While United States cited this as a protectionist measure from any nuclear attack that may originate from the soils of Iran or North Korea, Russia rebutted the explanation and tested a long range intercontinental ballistic missile, the RS-24 and backed it up with a serious view that it could position its missiles towards Poland and the Czech Republic in the event of an American go-ahead of the stated plan.

Although President Putin’s warnings that American actions could turn Europe into a “powder keg” did not come true, for good reasons, a war of words between both heavyweights ensued with each side choosing to articulate its right of stand in the backdrop of a tense situation that could have lead to some deadlock among them signalling the beginning of a new arms race and power play, the least of which the world wanted at the time.

Vladimir Putin’s Iranian visit aimed at discussions of Russia’s aid to Iran’s nuclear power program in the backdrop of an American call for military action against Iran which Russia firmly opposed, prompted Bush to state a direct message to Putin that “if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.” A sharp witted Putin retorted comparing American plans to put up a missile defense system near Russia’s border as analogous to when the Soviet Union deployed missiles in Cuba, prompting the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Just as the missile defence plans were getting each nation into a tirade of words with each other, Russia intervened in Georgia, when Georgia invaded South Ossetia. It did not help that senior Georgian officials acknowledged to have started the war in the region which prompted a certain Russian response. Georgia being part of NATO was viewed as a significant standpoint in the now faltering Russo-American relationship. While NATO members howled at one of their member nations being attacked, Russia staved away any attempt to stall the invasion by an external force and firmly drew the Georgian misadventure to a close within a remarkably short period of time.

More recently the joint naval exercises between Russia and Venezuela have fumed the White House and the State Department owing to their regard of the latter as a nation not aligned with the interests of the United States. The recently concluded missile tests by North Korea has brought the United States and Russia together in their condemnation of the act which both view as a cause for any nuclear engagement that may take place.

With all this as part of a turbulent background, both leaders clearly have to do a lot to work their way towards warming one another in arriving at a consensus regarding many issues that form part of their cooperation agenda. For starters, their views on North Korea are encouraging, but this is just the beginning. There is a simmering Pakistan aided by the United States in the War on Terror, an exercise that seems to be headed nowhere with no clear agenda in place. Iran continues to be a serious issue which still needs a lot of sitting-down-to-talk! The issue of jointly eliminating pirates in Somali waters is also in the backdrop and requires ongoing commitment and participation from both sides.

On the economic front, a lot needs to be done to arrive at an agreement in many spheres aimed at staving off the effects of the global recession which has affected the world at large. General Motors which last year setup a plant in St. Petersburg is now in hot water back at home. Its is believed that American investment has been growing at a rate of fifty percent a year and two-way trade between Russia and the United States now exceeds $26 billion, and two-way investment is approaching $20 billion, all of which is good news.

Caviar, wine and curry later, both leaders must aim significantly at laying the framework to improving two-way cooperation that will foster good relations with each other, paving way for partnerships like never before. That in place, Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea football club and governor of Chukotka, can focus on making rich pickings off his £80m investments in the world’s largest drilling exercise aimed at creating a tunnel between Russia and the United States, a Tsarist vision lying unattended to since the early 20th century! It makes better sense not to build a real bridge between the two nations as desired by the current Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.