Read The Hindu Notes of 27th December 2018 for UPSC Civil Service Examination, State Civil Service Examination and other competitive Examination

The Hindu Notes for 27th December 2018
  • Topic Discussed: The Hindu Notes of 27th December 2018
  • Being a good neighbour

    India must shed its zero-sum style foreign policy-making, and work towards South Asian integration

  • If South Asia is one of the world’s least integrated regions, India is one of the world’s least regionally-integrated major powers. While there indeed are structural impediments (posed by both India and its neighbours) in fostering regional integration, the most significant handicap is New Delhi’s ideational disinclination towards its neighbourhood. Successive regimes have considered the neighbourhood as an irritant and challenge, not an opportunity. Seldom have India’s policies displayed a sense of belonging to the region or a desire to work with the neighbourhood for greater integration and cooperation. Today, we have become even more transactional, impatient and small-minded towards our neighbourhood which has, as a result, restricted our space for manoeuvre in the regional geopolitical scheme of things.
  • At a critical juncture

  • Whichever way one looks at it, India’s neighbourhood policy is at a critical juncture: while its past policies have ensured a steady decline in its influence and goodwill in the region, the persistent absence of a coherent and well-planned regional policy will most definitely ensure that it eventually slips out of India’s sphere of influence. India’s foreign policy planners therefore need to reimagine the country’s neighbourhood policy before it is too late.
  • The Narendra Modi government’s neighbourhood policy began exceptionally well with Mr. Modi reaching out to the regional capitals and making grand foreign policy commitments. But almost immediately, it seemed to lose a sense of diplomatic balance, for instance, when it tried to interfere with the Constitution-making process in Nepal and was accused of trying to influence electoral outcomes in Sri Lanka. While India’s refugee policy went against its own traditional practices, it was found severely wanting on the Rohingya question, and seemed clueless on how to deal with the political crisis in the Maldives. Despite their characteristic bravado and grandstanding, the BJP government’s foreign policy mandarins looked out of their depth.
  • While it is true that 2018 seems to have brought some good news from the regional capitals, it has less to do with our diplomatic finesse than the natural course of events there. The arrival of an India-friendly Ibrahim Mohamed Solih regime in Male has brought much cheer, and the return of Ranil Wickremesinghe as Sri Lankan Prime Minister is to India’s advantage too. Nepal has reached out to India to put an end to the acrimony that persisted through 2015 to 2017. Bhutan, Myanmar and Bangladesh are also positively disposed towards India, though the relationship with Pakistan continues to be testy and directionless. What this then means is that New Delhi has a real opportunity today to recalibrate its neighbourhood relations.
  • Lessons from the past

  • First, let’s briefly examine what should not be done in dealing with a sensitive neighbourhood. For one, India must shed its aggression and deal with tricky situations with far more diplomatic subtlety and finesse. The manner in which it weighed down on Nepal in 2015 during the Constitution-making process is an example of how not to influence outcomes. The ability of diplomacy lies in subtly persuading the smaller neighbour to accept an argument rather than forcing it to, which is bound to backfire.
  • Second, it must be kept in mind that meddling in the domestic politics of neighbour countries is a recipe for disaster, even when invited to do so by one political faction or another. Preferring one faction or regime over another is unwise in the longer term. Take the example of incumbent Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena. There was a great deal of cheer in New Delhi when he took office in January 2015 (with some saying India helped him cobble together a winnable coalition) after defeating Mahinda Rajapaksa, considered less well disposed toward India. However, Mr. Sirisena’s political transformation was quick, as were India’s fortunes in Colombo, at least temporarily.
  • Third, New Delhi must not fail to follow up on its promises to its neighbours. It has a terrible track record in this regard.
  • Fourth, there is no point in competing with China where China is at an advantage vis-à-vis India. This is especially true of regional infrastructure projects. India simply does not have the political, material or financial wherewithal to outdo China in building infrastructure. Hence India must invest where China falls short, especially at the level of institution-building and the use of soft power. However, even in those areas China seems to be forging ahead. India must therefore invest a great deal more in soft power promotion (and not the Hindutva kind of outreach). To begin with, India could expand the scope and work of the South Asian University (SAU), including by providing a proper campus (instead of allowing it to function out of a hotel building) and ensuring that its students get research visas to India without much hassle. If properly utilised, the SAU can become a point for regional integration.
  • Looking for convergence

  • Finally, while reimagining its neighbourhood policy, New Delhi must also look for convergence of interests with China in the Southern Asian region spanning from Afghanistan to Nepal to Sri Lanka. There are several possible areas of convergence, including counter terrorism, regional trade and infrastructure development. China and India’s engagement of the South Asian region needn’t be based on zero-sum calculations. For example, any non-military infrastructure constructed by China in the region can also be beneficial to India while it trades with those countries. A road or a rail line built by China in Bangladesh or Nepal can be used by India in trading with those countries.
  • Going forward, New Delhi must invest in three major policy areas. There needs to be better regional trading arrangements. The reason why South Asia is the least integrated region in the world is because the economic linkages are shockingly weak among the countries of the region. The lead to correct this must be taken by India even if this means offering better terms of trade for the smaller neighbours. While it is true that long ‘sensitive lists’ maintained by South Asian countries are a major impediment in the implementation of SAFTA, or the South Asian Free Trade Area, India could do a lot more to persuade them to reduce the items on such lists. Second, several of India’s border States have the capacity to engage in trading arrangements with neighbouring counties. This should be made easier by the government by way of constructing border infrastructure and easing restrictions on such border trade.
  • Resurrect SAARC

  • Second, India prefers bilateral engagements in the region rather than deal with neighbours on multilateral forums. However, there is only so much that can be gained from bilateral arrangements, and there should be more attempts at forging multilateral arrangements, including by resurrecting the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
  • Third, India must have a coherent and long-term vision for the neighbourhood devoid of empty rhetoric and spectacular visits without follow up. We must ask ourselves, as the biggest country in the South Asian neighbourhood, what kind of a region do we want to be situated in, and work towards enabling that.
  • Happymon Jacob is an associate professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University and the author of ‘The Line of Control: Travelling with the Indian and Pakistani Armies’
  • Abandoned on the battlefield

    The U.S. has a moral obligation to keep the Syrian Kurds safe, instead of giving Turkey a free run

  • U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent decision to pull American troops out of Syria is a body blow to the Syrian Kurds, the unsung heroes of the war against the Islamic State (IS). The U.S. began bombing the IS in September 2014 after the jihadist group announced a new Caliphate with territories spread across the Iraqi-Syrian border. But the bombing campaign remained largely ineffective till the U.S. found a partner on the ground to take on IS positions.
  • The decline of the IS actually began in Kobane, a largely Kurdish-populated Syrian town on the Turkish border, in January 2015. At that time, the group was fast-expanding from eastern Syria, where it established its de facto capital in Raqqah, to the border towns in the northeast. The Turkish-Syrian border remained porous, allowing the IS to transport militants in and out of Syria freely. It was the height of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-declared Caliph’s bloodbath campaign. It laid siege to the city of Kobane. After a six-month-long battle, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the militia of the Syrian Kurdistan, recaptured the battered city and ousted the IS. The U.S. provided air cover. It was after the battle for Kobane that then U.S. President Barack Obama realised the real strategic potential of the Kurdish rebels.
  • The Kobane experience was repeated in nearby towns. The YPG freed Tal Abyad in July and moved to oust the IS from the Syria-Turkish border region. After these initial victories, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of Kurdish, Arab and Assyrian militias and led by the YPG, was formed in 2015 with the blessings of the U.S. It has since become the official defence force of the Syrian Kurdistan (commonly known as Rojava). The U.S. doesn’t have a major troops presence in the region. Since Mr. Obama sent some 50 commandos to advise the Kurds in 2015, the number of American troops has grown to at least 2,000. But in the territories east of the Euphrates that are part of the Rojava, the U.S. has built massive military infrastructure — it has at least a dozen military bases, including four airfields.
  • Success story

  • This American-Kurdish partnership has been a success story. Within three years of its formation, the SDF has defeated the IS in most of the territories the group held. After capturing the (Kurdish) border areas, the SDF moved to Arab-populated towns in the east such as Raqqah and Deir ez-Zor and freed them one after the other. The IS, which once claimed territories as big as the United Kingdom, has now been confined to some narrow pockets on the Iraqi-Syrian border. But the U.S.’s support for the Kurds and their military victories has irked another country in the region — Turkey, a NATO member and an American ally. The YPG (the main component of the SDF) has close ties with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the Kurdish militant group on the Turkish side which is seen as a terrorist organisation by both Ankara and Washington. Abdullah Öcalan, one of the founding leaders of the PKK who has been imprisoned in Turkey since 1999, is revered in Rojava as well. So Turkey fears the military mobilisation of the Rojava would embolden the PKK. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (left, in picture) has also been upset that the U.S. has been backing the Kurdish rebels, who he often refers to as terrorists.
  • Turkey’s attack on Afrin, a predominantly Kurdish town on the Syrian side, in January this year was born out of this security concern. Mr. Erdoğan wants to create a buffer between the Turkish border and the Rojava. The plan is to capture the border region from Kurdish militants and hand it over to pro-Turkey rebel groups — there are Turkmen and Arab rebels in Syria who get aid from Turkey. And if Turkey occupies parts of Syria on the border — Turkish-backed militants operate in Idlib, a rebel-held territory — it will also give Turkey a seat on the high table to find a solution to the Syria crisis. But a major impediment to execute this plan has been the continuing U.S. presence in Rojava. The Afrin attack was limited in scale. Since then, Mr. Erdoğan has on several occasions made empty threats to send troops to other areas, including Manbij, where U.S. troops are present. With the U.S. pulling out of Syria, it’s a green light to Mr. Erdoğan to make his moves freely.
  • Support and betrayal

  • The U.S. has a history of supporting and betraying the Kurds. After the First World War, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson backed the idea of autonomy for non-Turkish minorities of the Ottoman Empire. But the Allied Powers never pushed for it. When the post-Ottoman boundaries were redrawn, the Kurds were split among four countries — Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. In all these countries, they have been a persecuted minority. The example of the Iraqi Kurds is telling.
  • Unfortunately, the Syrian Kurds face the same fate. Syrian Kurdistan is not a constitutionally recognised autonomous entity like Iraqi Kurdistan. They are surrounded by enemies, the remnants of the IS, a vengeful, insecure Turkish military and the blood-soaked Syrian regime. In theory, the U.S. pulling out of an illegal war is fine — the American intervention has neither congressional approval nor the UN Security Council’s nod. But in practice, since the U.S. intervention has already started shaping the reality on the ground, the pull-out should have been an orderly one. The U.S. has the moral obligation to ensure the safety of the Syrian Kurds. It could have used the pull-out as a bargaining chip to get concessions both from Ankara and Damascus. Instead, Mr. Trump’s abrupt decision leaves the Kurds twisting in the whirlwind.
  • No lessons learnt

    The Meghalaya mining disaster exposes a series of administrative lapses

  • The disaster that struck a coal mine at Ksan in Meghalaya’s Jaintia Hills district on December 13, trapping at least 13 workers, is a shocking reminder that a fast-growing economy such as India continues to allow Dickensian mining practices. India being home to some of the worst mine disasters, such as Chasnala near Dhanbad in 1975 in which more than 370 people were killed, the full spectrum of mining activity should be tightly regulated. Yet, the Ksan mine, referred to as a rat hole, was allowed to function in violation of not just safety norms but a complete prohibition issued by the National Green Tribunal. Clearly, the administration did not act to stop unscrupulous operators of the illegal mine from exploiting desperate workers, some of them from Assam, who were willing to work the rat hole tunnels because that is the most remunerative employment available to them. Unscientific mining led to a collapse of the chamber and deadly flooding followed. After disaster struck, it was incumbent on the Meghalaya government to launch an immediate rescue effort. But it did not possess the equipment to dewater the stricken mine quickly, and did not show any urgency in requisitioning it from elsewhere, in spite of the involvement of the National Disaster Response Force. The families of the workers are now left hoping for a miracle. Meghalaya has no excuse for not closing down such dangerous mines. What it can and should do now, jointly with the Assam government where needed, is to offer adequate compensation and jobs for the next of kin of the workers without delay.
  • Official inquiries into flooding disasters at approved mines, including Chasnala, have shown serious shortcomings in safety management. Two years ago, a landslip at an open cast mine in Goda, Jharkhand, killed 23 people, raising questions about the rigour of the technical assessment done prior to expansion of extraction activity. A study on three big flooding accidents published in 2016 by the IIT-Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad, concluded that the official approach of fixing responsibility on human error was flawed, since it did not try to identify the root cause. There is little evidence to show that pre-mining surveys and safety protocols are incorporating such advice. The case of illegal mines falls in a different category. Unapproved work, which appears to have led to the Meghalaya accident, cannot continue, and employment should be provided to those who are displaced. Illegal mining has been highlighted by activists, but they have become targets of violence by those operating the mines. In the glare of national attention, Chief Minister Conrad Sangma has acknowledged that illegal mining does take place. His government has been remiss as it failed to act on the NGT’s directions. It must bear responsibility for what has happened at Ksan, and work to prevent such tragedies.
  • Winter bear hug

    Stocks everywhere show signs of weakness as central banks tighten monetary policy

  • U.S. President Donald Trump probably did not have his best Christmas this year. American stocks suffered their worst Christmas-eve loss in market history with the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing a massive 650 points on Monday, a drop of almost 3% within a single trading session. Mr. Trump has been keen on projecting the stock market’s performance as a gauge of how well the U.S. economy is doing under his presidency. While U.S. and global stocks performed extremely well in the first year of Mr. Trump’s presidency, they haven’t lived up to his expectations this year. The Dow Jones, now down almost 19% from its peak in early October, is clearly teetering near bear market territory. The index is down about 12% since the beginning of the year. The S&P 500 is already more than 20% down from its intra-day peak during the year, thus meeting the common definition of a bear market. And the Japanese Nikkei index dropped 5% on Christmas day. The Christmas-eve slump in the U.S. came after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s statement on Sunday announcing the convening of the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets, colloquially known as the Plunge Protection Team, that last met in 2008 in the midst of the global financial crisis. Investors interpreted the statement as a sign of possible trouble brewing within the financial system, thus contributing to at least some of the panic in the markets on Monday.
  • It is no surprise that stocks in the U.S. and around the world have shown signs of weakness just around the time the Federal Reserve and other major Western central banks have been keen on ending the era of easy money by tightening monetary policy. Many major indices have either broken their short-term uptrend or struggled to go past their most recent highs. Mr. Trump has expectedly been public about his criticism of Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, who has surprised many by sticking to his plan of gradual rate hikes despite U.S. inflation being comfortably below the Fed’s target rate of 2%. He fears that rising interest rates could derail economic growth that has been quite robust in recent times and affect his popularity. Historically, politicians have generally favoured easy money policies represented by low interest rates while central bankers have insisted on sticking to their primary mandate of controlling price inflation. So the battle between the President and the Federal Reserve Chairman is not completely surprising, except for Mr. Trump’s criticism of the Fed. What is important to observe is how markets, which have now clearly begun to price in the effects of tighter monetary policy around the world, will fare in the era of more normalised interest rates.
  • The shape of growth matters

    Some recommendations in NITI Aayog’s ‘Strategy for New India @ 75’ are a cause for concern

  • While there are many refreshing improvements in NITI Aayog’s ‘Strategy for New India @ 75’ from the erstwhile Planning Commission’s plans, there are also concerns about some of the strategies recommended.
  • The intent to change the approach to planning from preparations of plans and budgets to the creation of a mass movement for development in which “every Indian recognises her role and experiences the tangible benefits” is laudable. The strategy affirms that “policymaking will have to be rooted in ground realities” rather than economic abstractions. It says that stakeholders have been consulted widely in preparing the strategy, which is also something that the erstwhile Planning Commission said. However, what matters is the quality of consultations. It will be worthwhile for NITI Aayog to get feedback from stakeholders on whether it has improved the process of consultation substantially or not.
  • The strategy emphasises the need to improve implementation of policies and service delivery on the ground, which is what matters to citizens. Its resurrection of the 15 reports of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission and recommendation that they must be implemented vigorously are welcome. The previous government had taken its eye off the ball. It did not put its weight behind the implementation of these well-thought-out recommendations, which had the endorsement of all political parties, by a Commission it had supported.
  • The meaning of growth

  • Employment and labour reforms, the second chapter in the strategy, have rightly been given the highest priority, which was not the case in the previous plans. Overall growth is also emphasised by NITI Aayog: “Besides having rapid growth, which reaches 9-10 per cent by 2022-23, it is also necessary to ensure that growth is inclusive, sustained, clean and formalised.” However, it is the shape of growth that matters more than size. The employment-generating capacity of the economy is what matters more to citizens than the overall GDP growth rate. There is no joy for citizens if India is the fastest-growing economy and yet does not provide jobs and incomes.
  • The growth of industry and manufacturing is essential to create more employment, and to provide bigger opportunities to Indians who have been too dependent on agriculture so far. Here, too, it is not the size of the manufacturing sector that matters but its shape. Labour-intensive industries are required for job creation. If the manufacturing sector is to grow from 16% to 25% of the GDP, which the strategy states as the goal, with more capital-intensive industries, it will not solve the employment problem. The strategy does say that labour-intensive industries must be promoted, but the overall goal remains the size of the sector. What one measures, one manages. Therefore, the goal must be clearly set in terms of employment, and policies and measurements of progress set accordingly. Indian statistical systems must be improved quickly to measure employment in various forms, formal as well as informal.
  • The strategy highlights the urgency of increasing the tax base to provide more resources for human development. It also says financial investments must be increased to strengthen India’s production base. Managing this trade-off will not be easy. If tax incentives must be given, they should favour employment creation, not more capital investment.
  • A big weakness in the Indian economy’s industrial infrastructure is that middle-level institutions are missing. Rather than formalising small enterprises excessively, clusters and associations of small enterprises should be formalised. Small enterprises cannot bear the burden of excessive formalisation — which the state and the banking system need to make the informal sector ‘legible’ to them. Professionally managed formal clusters will connect the informal side of the economy with its formal side, i.e. government and large enterprises’ supply chains. NITI Aayog’s plan for industrial growth has very rightly highlighted the need for strong clusters of small enterprises as a principal strategy for the growth of a more competitive industrial sector.
  • Reorienting labour laws

  • The strategy on labour laws appears pedestrian compared with the ambitious strategy of uplifting the lives of millions of Indians so that they share the fruits of economic growth. It recommends complete codification of central labour laws into four codes by 2019. While this will enable easier navigation for investors and employers through the Indian regulatory maze, what is required is a fundamental reorientation of the laws and regulations — they must fit emerging social and economic realities. First, the nature of work and employment is changing, even in more developed economies. It is moving towards more informal employment, through contract work and self-employment, even in formal enterprises. In such a scenario, social security systems must provide for all citizens, not only those in formal employment. Indeed, if employers want more flexibility to improve competitiveness of their enterprises, the state will have to provide citizens the fairness they expect from the economy. The NITI Aayog strategy suggests some contours of a universal social security system. These must be sharpened.
  • Second, in a world where workers are atomised as individuals, they must have associations to aggregate themselves to have more weight in the economic debate with owners of capital. Rather than weakening unions to give employers more flexibility, laws must strengthen unions to ensure more fairness. Indeed, many international studies point out that one of the principal causes of the vulgar inequalities that have emerged around the world is the weakening of unions. The NITI Aayog strategy mentions the need for social security for domestic workers too. This will not be enforceable unless domestic workers, scattered across millions of homes, have the means to collectively assert their rights.
  • Third, all employers in India should realise that workers must be their source of competitive advantage. India has an abundance of labour as a resource, whereas capital is relatively scarce. Human beings can learn new skills and be productive if employers invest in them. Employers must treat their workers — whether on their rolls or on contract — as assets and sources of competitive advantage, not as costs.
  • The shape of the development process matters more to people than the size of the GDP. Development must be by the people (more participative), of the people (health, education, skills), and for the people (growth of their incomes, well-being, and happiness). How well India is doing at 75 must be measured by the qualities of development, as experienced by its citizens, along these three dimensions. GDP growth will not be enough.
  • The music of Mozart

    How Titan picked a Western classical tune for the brand

  • Titan: Inside India's Most Successful Consumer Brand
  • Vinay Kamath
  • Hachette India
  • ₹599
  • Titan: Inside India’s Most Successful Consumer Brand is a story of innovation, out-of-the-box thinking, and fortitude. It narrates how the Tatas launched a quintessential Indian brand against all odds. Titan’s founding managing director, the late Xerxes Desai, had worked with ad agency Ogilvy & Mather (then OBM) to select the signature tune for the brand’s television commercials, which was a piece of Western classical music. This extract from the book by The Hindu BusinessLine’s Associate Editor recounts how the tune was chosen:
  • The next move by OBM was in television advertising. Xerxes Desai was a creative person with a keen eye for detail, language and aesthetics. He was a Western classical music and jazz aficionado, and in Suresh Mullick he found the perfect collaborator. Suresh, too, had a keen ear for music, both Western and Indian classical, as all his work revealed. He had made several landmark short films for Doordarshan in the 1980s such as Spread the Light of Freedom featuring the country’s top sportspersons running with a torch, and the famous Mile Sur Mera Tumhara featuring India’s top musicians. He was also the brain behind Cadbury Dairy Milk’s successful relaunch campaign in 1981 with the line “Sometimes Cadbury’s can say it better than words”. Best of all, Xerxes and Suresh shared a great rapport.
  • A range of choices

  • In order to derive maximum synergy, it was decided that the television ad would be an adaptation of the catalogue-styleprint ad. It was an easy decision to make the watch the hero and showcase Titan’s entire range. The big question was what soundtrack should accompany the visuals. A commonly used audio track was to offer a product description, but this was ruled as being too boring and likely to detract from the visual. The second most popularly used track was a jingle. But the success rate for jingles was under 5 per cent. Also, jingles needed to be translated owing to the linguistic and cultural differences across regions, and that made it a challenging task. No one had managed to do this effectively.
  • After much discussion, it was agreed that a catchy piece of instrumental music would work best. Here again there were many choices: Indian pop music or classical music were considered and dropped because they did not have universal appeal. That left Western pop or classical. Eventually, they decided upon a piece of Western classical music with mass appeal. Xerxes and Suresh were well placed to make the right choice, given their knowledge and affinity of Western classical music. Suresh zoomed in on Mozart’s 25th Symphony, and picked the track from the 1984 award-winning movie, Amadeus, on Mozart’s life. Jaideep Samarth had picked up the CD for him while holidaying in London. So confident was Suresh that he had a scratch television ad prepared and presented it to the Titan team as an almost finished product. Xerxes immediately liked what he heard of Mozart and decided this was it. He had made his choice. The campaign was proposed and approved in its entirety in one sitting.
  • The first television ad showed a series of watches one after another. As the second hand ticked, the watch face changed. The ad conveyed the message that you didn’t have to go abroad to buy a quartz watch any more; you could buy it in India. This television campaign was a seminal achievement that defined Titan for the next 30 years.
  • A world-class feel

  • It was unheard of in the mid-1980s to use Western classical music for an Indian brand aimed at an audience little exposed to that genre of music. But it struck a chord. Xerxes felt the music gave the brand a world-class feel. “Of all the symphonies of Mozart, this one has a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and spirit about it,” Xerxes would say. Titan’s signature tune would go on to entrench itself so deeply in the public mind that television audiences knew it was a Titan ad the moment the music came on even if they weren’t watching.
  • Subsequent ads used many variations including Indian musical instruments to essay the symphony. As Xerxes said with a chuckle, “I don’t know if Mozart will turn in his grave or get up and applaud with the kind of things we’ve done to his symphony using so many other instruments.” Mozart’s 25th Symphony remains Titan’s signature tune to date.
  • Extracted with permission from Hachette India
  • Bickering over a wall

    Why the U.S. government has partially shut down

  • How did it come about?
  • U.S. President Donald Trump and Congressional Democrats have not reached an agreement on his demand for $5.7 billion for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The Democrats were willing to back a $1.6 billion package for border security provided it did not include a wall. Mr. Trump has said he will veto any bills from Congress authorising budgetary extensions for various federal government departments that do not also provide for wall construction. Funding authorisation for parts of the federal government expired last Friday at midnight.
  • The House had passed a bill last Thursday night that included funding for the government until February 8 and an allocation of $5.7 billion for the wall. However, on Friday, the bill did not make it through a Senate vote as it required 60 votes, or the support of some Democrats who have 49 of 100 Senate seats. Negotiations through last weekend failed to produce a resolution.
  • What is the extent of the shutdown?
  • The shutdown has impacted several key departments, including Homeland Security, the Internal Revenue Service, the Interior and State Departments. Homeland Security has said border and customs agents will continue to work and the State Department has said it will continue to process passport applications. Some 380,000 employees will be furloughed and others, some 420,000 federal employees, will work without pay during the shutdown, according to a fact sheet released by Democrats of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
  • What are the stakes?
  • Mr. Trump has consistently characterised the Democrats as being weak on security and made a campaign promise to build a wall. A few weeks ago, he told the likely future Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer that he would be “proud” to shut the government down over the wall.
  • After showing some flexibility last week, Mr. Trump has dug his heels in, saying he will get his wall funded, cancelling Christmas at his Mar-a-Lago resort to stay in Washington to negotiate.
  • A resurgent Democratic party, which will take control of the House of Representatives soon, is keen to flex its muscle and stand up to the President on key issues. It has pinned the shutdown on the President, calling it a “Trump shutdown”.
  • When will it end?
  • It’s hard to say and depends on who blinks first. Earlier this week, Mr. Trump had said that he would pay for the wall from monies saved by the shutdown. The logic of this proposition is unclear as there will be no cost savings with the Senate having approved back pay for all furloughed employees and those working without pay. However, this could be a way for the President to save face with his base while reaching a settlement with Democrats, who have thus far stuck to their position.
  • With the Mueller probe closing in on his former associates, Defence Secretary Jim Mattis resigning, and the White House in turmoil with senior staffers leaving, Mr. Trump is under increasing pressure.
  • It looks like the impasse could carry over into 2019.
  • Imran’s distorted logic

    Instead of justifying the creation of Pakistan, Imran Khan owes Indian Muslims an apology on behalf of Jinnah

  • On Christmas, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted: “His [Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s] struggle for a separate nation for Muslims only started when he realised that Muslims would not be treated as equal citizens by the Hindu majority. Naya Pak is Quaid’s Pak & we will ensure that our minorities are treated as equal citizens, unlike what is happening in India.”
  • Mr. Khan has no reason to boast about Pakistan’s treatment of its minorities and advise India to take a lesson from it. Pakistan is denuded of most of its Hindu population. It threatens the life and livelihood of its small Christian minority through instruments such as the blasphemy law. India’s treatment of its minorities may be less than perfect, but for Mr. Khan to suggest that his country’s record in this arena is superior is an exercise in vulgarity.
  • Mr. Khan’s attempt to justify Jinnah’s “wisdom” in demanding Partition demonstrates his ignorance of the disastrous consequences of this act for Indian Muslims. Partition, by hiving off the Muslim majority areas, reduced the Muslim population of India from more than a quarter to 10%, thus enormously weakening their political clout in the country.
  • The position of Indian Muslims today would have been infinitely better had India not been divided. Hindu nationalists would have remained marginal in the politics of the country, as they had been before Partition. No one would have said “Go to Pakistan!” if someone expressed genuine concern about discrimination against Indian Muslims, as actor Naseeruddin Shah did.
  • The Muslim League was established in 1906 to protect the interests of Indian Muslims where they were most vulnerable, namely, the Muslim minority provinces. By demanding Partition, Jinnah distorted the very raison d’etre of the Muslim League by leaving Muslims in the minority provinces far more vulnerable, with their loyalty suspect, than they would have been in undivided India.
  • Jinnah’s two-nation theory should have been declared dead following the separation of Bangladesh, which was home to most of Pakistan’s population, from West Pakistan. The massacre of approximately 300,000 Bengalis, 90% of them Muslim, by the Muslim Pakistan army and its local Muslim allies in 1971 should have been enough to thoroughly discredit the theory that Muslims of the Indian subcontinent formed one nation distinct from the Hindus.
  • For Mr. Khan to justify the creation of Pakistan and the validity of Jinnah’s ill-conceived and self-serving theory with reference to the plight of India’s Muslims adds insult to the injury that Indian Muslims suffered owing to Partition. In fact, he owes Indian Muslims an apology on his behalf and on behalf of his Quaid-e-Azam for the division of India that rent asunder the Indian Muslim community.