All posts by shybu.khan

Born and raised in Mumbai, India, Shybu Khan is a writing-professional with a keen eye on geopolitical affairs and the world economy as a whole - especially on matters that affect India and the United States. Shybu holds a degree in journalism from Mumbai University and has an advanced diploma in multimedia from MET. Shybu has contributed articles to a variety of reputed media organizations on a variety of subject matters. He has been part of the U.S. financial scene as an editor with a U.S. Company based in Mumbai. Apart from being an avid blogger, he is a freewheeling social commentator who believes that concerted action and social activism are the main architects for change. Being a Keralite by descent, he is no alien to politics with this immediate family being active members. Shybu is convinced that the partnership between India and the United States will define international politics and world economics for some time to come, and is a firm believer of the adage that if you don’t have a view you don’t have a say in how the world shapes up around you.

Why is the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) still relevant?

Even before the XVIth Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement commenced in Tehran, there were fervent discussions and passionate discourses about the role, potency, and relevance of a movement crafted in a furnace so vehemently fueled by the Cold War. After the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the USSR, the naysayers’ upped their ante on the prediction of doom of gloom for this still nascent movement. The experts speculated and suggested that the Movement has outlived its usefulness; it lacked clear vision; ailed from tentative and confused leadership; has achieved very little by way of tangible and palpable results, and ran parallel to the ground realities of the present world.

In keeping with these stark notional judgments of the past and present, the build-up to the Summit in Tehran was also marred by claims that the Non-Aligned Movement could be hijacked by the Syrian crisis or the nuclear standoff between Iran and the UN et cetera. There were also apprehensions that the Summit would be used as a propaganda tool for the Iran regime to cement its position domestically while it presents the successful staging of the Summit as a show of defiance and strength to all its perceived adversaries.

Accusation also floated around that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wanted to use the Summit as a plank for showcasing to the world that Iran’s allies stood shoulder to shoulder with them–although reluctantly so –even as the world was on an apparent crusade to marginalize them. Supposedly, Iran also wanted to make it evident that its diplomatic machinery is in the pink of health, and that all those sanctions, bans and restriction haven’t broken Iran’s morale and spirit to achieve whatever goals it had set out for itself. Owing to these factors, the Non-Aligned Movement Summit was paraded as an exercise in futility and supporting rogue intents even before it started – and though it is too early to comment on how the Summit went – things were certainly stacked against it.

These notwithstanding, many contentions still pesters regarding whether a group constituting 120 nations that represents a major chunk of the human population should be brushed aside so nonchalantly and treated so indifferently. Should its raison d’etre be put in doubt because some nations in its midst are considered, “unstable or fragile” – and whether in a multi-aligned world, does one need to write-off one of the oldest and most peaceful gatherings of nations at a time when member nations within the Movement – supported by “the powers that be” – need to work together and sort out issues that it was confronted with?  The question also remained whether the Group’s past leanings and performance should be considered as a precursor to what it could achieve going forward? Wouldn’t it have been worthwhile to work with the Group to explore probable solutions by creating a sense of acceptance and camaraderie? No matter what the answer may be, it is certain that the Non-Aligned Movement is capable of and is poised to play a pivotal role within the political and economic sphere of the developing world. It holds great promise in encouraging world equality in every meaning of the word and the only question is when the dystopian theorists and pessimistic leaders realize it and make amends.

As a result of the tirade against the Summit, the early casualty of all the negative publicity was a certain nullification of the positives that the Movement had committed itself to and what formed the crux of its founding principles, which meant that the Summit made news for all the wrong reasons. The good intention of the Summit was in sharp contrast highlighted by the speech that India’ s Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh gave to the gathering of NAM leaders that spoke of global peace, all-round development, promoting democracy, pluralism; combatting terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; tackling the menace of maritime piracy, the threat of cyber security; pursuing ecologically sustainable development while ensuring energy, water and food security – which were in essence stymied by all the hype and hoopla surrounding the rampant negatives rants.

Throughout the history of NAM, many critics have pointed out that the Movement still has to overcome its colonial and polarized mentality – which analysts see as primarily anti-West and mainly targeted against the U.S. – and is one of the reasons the Group is seen as regressive and ineffective. This is where India comes into the picture. India has established strong relationships with some of the oldest and strongest groups/entities in the world as part of its, ‘multi-aligned,’ approach as stated by Shashi Tharoor in his book, Pax Indica: India and the World of the 21st Century. Today India is part of the G-77, G-20, G4, IBSA, BRICS, RIC, BASIC, WTO, NAM et cetera as part of India’s flourishing, “Look East” and “Look West” policy, which puts it in an ideal position to make the NAM work – maybe not in a leadership role but from more of a coercive facilitator perspective.

With the growth of India’s economy and its growing stature around the world, the world has become more welcoming and receptive to India’s active engagement, and has since encouraged India’s participation in resolving issues that are crucial to maintaining a peaceful and stable climate for every country to grow and flourish in. Thus far, India has been a reluctant leader, choosing not to meddle in external matters as long as it doesn’t affect it, but the fact remains that the world would much rather prefer India – which takes great pride in calling itself the largest democracy in the world and a pacifist nation– to an aggressive imposer with possible clandestine motives. India could be the link that brings NAM into the new age and break the clichés that has tarnished its image over the years.

Now, the partnership between India and the United States is also very crucial to bring the rest of the world together with NAM and make them work for the greater good of all. The flourishing Indo-US relationship and India’s current working relationship with Iran, its understanding with members states of NAM, along with its rapport with other countries around the world, could well prove to be the elixir that the, “all but doomed negotiation,” with Iran and the UN Security Council lead agencies – made worse by Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei slamming the ‘overt dictatorship’ of the UN Security Council – needs in order to get things back on track. Eminent states of the NAM, along with India, US, and the UN, can also play a constructive role in the deteriorating situation in Syria, and help in taking the stalled negotiation for a Palestine homeland forward in urgency among many other prospective area of collaboration.

India also attaches great strategic importance to a safe and flourishing Iran vis-à-vis India’s growing energy needs. India is safeguarding its interest in the region through the development of the Chabahar port in Iran to help facilitate Indian logistics through to Afghanistan and Central Asia — and in apropos – developing the infrastructure needed therein. All these unravel into nothing if any conflict arises that might destabilize things so close to India’s borders, which is a very real possibility as things stand now. India, along with key NAM nation, could play the role of an impartial friend who acts as a go-between in the negotiations concerning the Iranians and the Security Council; the Syrian government and its people; and be a voice of support for the Palestine people et cetera, which will turn out to be a win-win situation for all concerned parties. It will allow space for a foolproof plan to be implemented in due course as per the will of the masses. This will therefore bring long-term closure to disputes in an amicable and acceptable manner.

In closing and before making any calls on NAM’s future, we would perhaps do well to remember that nations within the Movement have a great stake in what transpires in the world and should be looked at as a facilitator rather than a hindrance. NAM can be the umbrella under which all the parties — in its area of influence — that currently don’t look eye to eye can work together. India’s political diversity and growing stature means that it has to take the most just and equitable stance – and with NAM, India, the US, UN and other eminent nations putting peaceful resolution first – the threat of a Israel versus Iran, Islamic versus non-Islamic, Sunnis versus Shias, republicans versus monarchy conflicts can be averted – which I think is ultimately the whole point of today’s diplomacy and defines world politics in its simplest form.

So, for those who are keen on downplaying the importance of NAM – there could still be some use for the Non-Aligned Movement yet.

Let the healing begin

The horrible shock and the stinging pain of the attack on the Gurudwara at Oak Creek, Wisconsin, will take time to subside, but the horrid memories of those directly impacted by the attack may never completely dissipate. If there is one thing that can go a long way towards the healing process to start is for the perpetrators of this heinous crime being brought to justice – thus providing a sense of closure for those affected which will help them reconcile with the gruesome incident that has transpired.

Bringing the perpetrators to justice also assumes prominence as it is realistic to assume that the deranged and disgraced army veteran had supporters and perhaps active accomplices who still pose credible threat to the community. These elements, if present, have to be dealt with and nullified for the rampant fear to ease and the trepidation to pass, not just within this tiny community but for the sake of all those vulnerable communities around the US. This will allow for life to get back to some semblance of normalcy and allow for the healing to begin after the trauma that was so mercilessly inflicted by a disturbed madman.

The attacker, identified as Wade Michael Page, has been called a neo-Nazi, a white supremacists among other things – and yet this notwithstanding, he has managed to find some sympathizers as pointed by some news reports. These points to the fact that there are others who feel the same way as he did and there are possible scourges that have to be monitored – and if needed – persecuted, although these agents of chaos are a big minority and are never likely to cause any real harm. However, even the possibility of an attack will strangle or impugn the principles of freedom and liberty that the great nation of USA has been built around and will singe the road to normalcy.

The champions of freedom and the upholders of the righteous must address this issue and protect the rights of its citizens to the best or risk losing leverage on the moral high ground it takes on international matters around the world. India is also expected to play its role as a facilitator and a concerned party to the cause owing to its large Sikh population with its actions largely being dictated by domestic compulsions. In this regard, regional Sikh entities like World Sikh Organization and the North American Punjabi Association (NAPA), along with prominent religious entity like the Akal Takht and all the other places of worship the world over will play crucial role in allowing the population to cope with the evil that has been perpetrated against them.

If there is to be a positive that comes out of the tragedy that played out on that unfortunate day in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, it will come from the incident proving to be a strong precursor towards a “real change” that addresses the core issues that culminated in such a horrible incident. There are many possible steps that are being contemplated by the forces of change, but any hasty or stopgap measures will be a real let down. It is important to explore the primary factors and causes that have manifested in this deplorable incident. Be it a hate crime or a case of mistaken identity or even just a senseless murderer on the rampage, every leads should be pursued and all possible angles and probabilities be probed in its entirety to its logical conclusion. It will help in establishing a credible and effective deterrent for miscreants and other anti-social elements to make sure that the vulnerable feel more secure and the weak feel protected.

Although condemnation, outrage, sympathies and protests have been flowing in from all quarters and everyone is standing solidly behind the bereaved community of Oak Creek and the larger Sikh community as a whole, it will only make tangible and lasting difference if concrete results are seen on the ground and impacts visibility felt. There have been talks of better gun control laws, installing security cameras, increasing police protection at Gurudwaras and other places of worship, which although promising, is only a start and more needs to be done to convince those impacted and threatened that the authorities are committed to their cause.

It is often said that it is at times of real adversity that real heroes come to the fore, and Satwant Singh Kaleka, the President of the Gurudwara, and Lt. Brian Murphy of the Oak Creek Police Department, have emerged as heroes who saved the lives of others by putting their own lives in danger. Their heroism should be used as a fillip that drives result-oriented actions that ultimately emerges out of the rhetoric and symbolism that is expected and does serve a purpose. It is an election year in the U.S. where tough decisions and sweeping changes would be difficult, but there are many in the United States and around the world who expect that the government and the security agencies to do its best to avoid a repeat of such an atrocity against any community, creed, race or religion, anywhere.

For anyone who has been lucky enough know the Sikh personally would vouch for their selflessness, undying spirit, their zeal for life, and the unrelenting patriotism that they exhibit no matter where they are. The Sikhs are known as a hardworking bunch of people who add to any cultural diaspora they are part of. They are an affluent and influential part of not only the Indian society but have made a name for themselves no matter where they reside. Renowned for their fierce bravery, kindness, strong religious belief, and unwavering loyalty, the Sikhs have made their presence felt in the field of business, agriculture, academics and medicine et cetera. Their sheer grit and steely resolve will allow them to overcome this awful episode, and if by any chance the preachers of hate and violence thought that they have the Sikh community intimidated, they will realize how wrong they were. They will soon bear testimony to the legendary gallantry and unmatched perseverance of the Sikhs as they venture on a long road towards recovery and healing.

The curious case of two Asian giants

The burgeoning interest in India-China relations from around the world is to be expected considering the two giants of Asia are the growth engines of not only the Asian economy, but they also form a crucial cog in the wheel that is driving the world economy forward. The two most populous nuclear neighbors with the fastest growing economies in the world are poised to be the key drivers of what promises to be an “Asian Century”.

The trade between China and India is expected to reach USD 100 billion by 2015, but economics and trade tend to occupy the back pages of the media, which for some reason, basks in the hype news around troop movement and test of ballistic missiles creates in both countries, not to mention the interest it stirs up across the world.

It has been seen more often than not that the media and analysts go into a real frenzy concerning any developments surrounding India and China. It seems to be in a delirious rush to fulfill the perennial appetite for news relating to countries that sustains approximately 40% of the world population – and surprisingly one of them, India, doesn’t even have a seat in the Security Council of the United Nations, which is a travesty in itself for some, and something that many Indians feel strongly about. They argue that it is not surprising that the Council is squabbling over what to do with Syria where there seems to be more vetoes than agreement, made all the worse by the fact that innocents are being killed every day.

However, in essence, and many media practitioners have made this point time and again, that the media isn’t wrong in its entirety as the relationship between the behemoths hasn’t been hunky-dory at the best of times with contentions ranging from respective country’s stance on Kashmir and Tibet; India’s claim to Aksai Chin, which is reciprocated by China’s claim on the whole of Arunachal Pradesh, that China prefers to call, South Tibet – much to the ire of India; India’s asylum to Tibetans and the Dalai Lama; China’s all-weather support to Pakistan; increasing competition in scouting for energy sources around the world, deep-rooted suspicions of expansionism, military coercion and strategic containment on both sides, apart from the stake that the two countries have on international politics and world affairs, which go off on a tangent on many issues, are only some of the factors that dominate proceedings as far as India-China relationship goes.

The latest disputation is arising from India’s presence in the disputed water of the South China Sea with China, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei being parties to the dispute. This dispute was the focal point at the recent ASEAN Summit 2012 held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, which unfortunately didn’t yield any tangible results. In fact things seems to have deteriorated recently with China clearly expressing its intention on the matter by sending troops to disputed islands in South China Sea, which gives credence to the thought of an armed skirmish in the region.

China also views the rise in arms sales to India by the U.S. is part of a larger plan to counteract its dominance in the region. China has also taken cognizance of the development of a powerful three-dimensional Navy by India to increase its capabilities in the Indian Ocean and beyond, which could also be used to protect its asset in the South China Sea which China lays claims to if such a situation becomes ineluctable.

The South China Sea dispute has the potential to morph into a major military flashpoint if current political powwow for a peaceful resolution doesn’t bear fruit soon, and India’s presence in the region hasn’t gone down well with the Chinese with repeated veiled warnings emanating from China’s official sources for foreign countries, particular India and the US, to stay away, with India refusing to budge as it strives to fulfill the needs of a power hungry nation that is largely depended on external sources to fuel its growth.

All these factors make the relationship between the two countries inordinately complicated and something that the next President of the United States has to carefully manage and no doubt will be one of his top priorities in the Oval Office. It will also be one of the fundamental criterions that will determine the success of his tenure as far as foreign affairs goes – and therefore the Presidential Election of 2012 attains all the more significance as it will determine the dynamics that will shape the future of the relationship between the three great nations. This leaves the role of the U.S. President rendered increasingly non-envious with the mistrust that China has for the U.S. which sees it as trying to position India as a credible alternative in a policy of perceived containment, all part of grand scheme under a geopolitical balancing act that aims to thwart its march to the top.

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney would do well to have a well thought out plan on how to manage its relationship with India, which is actually flourishing, while trudging a thin line vis-à-vis its delicate yet crucial relationship with China. The U.S. has to make sure that it doesn’t antagonize China and push it to the brink as we are in a world where we need partnerships and not one-upmanship. It will be a tightrope trick that the President of the United States will be expected to play to perfection as the world needs a strong and stable troika of the United States, China, and India.

As things stand now, it is difficult to predict what the future holds for the India-China relationship, but it won’t be surprising if these two countries with one of the oldest civilizations in the world and a shared history of thousands of years were to share a prospering history for a long time to come yet. You wouldn’t find many who will bet against that eventuality, and I for one definitely won’t, as a strong and prosperous neighbor does more good than harm, with Pakistan being a case in point.

India and the US: The partnership that could define our age

The US Presidential Election is right around the corner, and it is not surprising that the interest within India and amongst the Indian expats living in the U.S. and also right around the globe has seen a drastic upswing. This interest is expected to reach a crescendo by the time we get to the crucial final stages and everyone from school children to political bigwigs in India are following the race to the White House with doting eyes, and the curiosity and anxiety around being palpable indeed. The Indian media has given the election coverage its due space, voice, time, and ink, and has done a commendable job covering it thus far.

This heightened sense of anticipation comes as no surprise to many of the analysts who have often elucidated that the strength of this flourishing partnership between these two great countries is not just driven by political convenience and economic sense, but by popular consensus of its people, fuelled by a firm conviction that they share a common geopolitical destiny.

Many opinion-makers, along with other social and political commentators, have already christened the Indo-US partnership as one of the, if not, the partnership that will shape the world around us for years to come, with Democracy proving to be the mortar that binds it strongly together, seamlessly.

Although the result of the Presidential Election will be crucial as it will be the fulcrum around which all the policies and programs will be implemented with the result one way or the other having serious repercussions on how things will shape out for many, including us; the fact remains that be it Obama or Romney that ultimately prevail, it is not expected to dramatically impact the relation with India. The basic rationale behind this premonition is the fact that the fundamental reasoning and the practical logic behind the Indo-US friendship far outweigh the narrow sighted political concerns or compulsions that might sway things towards the negative and the deplorable.

Despite reports coming out of the U.S. relating to outsourcing and the recent statement on the investment climate and economic reforms in India, often hyped by the media covering the campaign, the grapevine in India suggests that no one is losing sleep over the issue and the popular sentiment in India is largely pragmatic as a strong America is considered best for India – and that outsourcing was always about making things efficient and ultimately better, wasn’t it? At least India still believes so, despite what the naysayers might say.

Obama is by and large still highly regarded in India and his visit to India is remembered fondly even today. However, in contrast, Mitt Romney remains a relative unknown in India, although his name has been associated with India; which unfortunately for him hasn’t been all that positive to say the least. Nevertheless, he does enjoy the backing of someone whose name many Indians might recognize – Bobby Jindal, Louisiana’s Indian-American governor who lambasted Obama in a tirade and labeled him the most incompetent president since Jimmy Carter. Having said that, the question still remains, does that speak to the majority of the Indian-American or for those having links with India? Probably not! But the jury is still out and many in India favor Romney to topple Obama with the majority expecting a close race too close to call just yet.

No matter what rhetoric gets thrown around, which is to be expected during the peak of campaign season, the underlying prognosis still leaves room for a guarded sense of optimism and excitement for the relationship’s future. This talks volumes to the speed at which the Indo-US relationship has developed, which has naturally attracted a lot of attention from nations with their own prejudices, biases, concerns, stake or involvement in this partnership.

India and U.S are seen as natural allies and have common values and ultimate goal, and the popular analogy used to describe the two has been that of a rising elephant and a slumbering giant, with both expected to thrive in the long-term, and more importantly, seen to be better off together. Both are all set to be key architects of change, not only for their own citizens, but for million and billions the world over who are counting on their leadership.

The partnership assumes even more significance under the economic environment that we live in today – a case in point being, “Dr. Doom”, the Economist Nouriel Roubini reiterating his predication for a, ‘perfect storm,’ among many others, and the world looking to the United States, the European Union, along with prominent countries like India and China, for a way through or over the dark clouds that loom on the horizon – too menacingly for comfort.

In India the United States has a partner it can rely on through the thick and thin, and the upcoming U.S. elections will be a significant milestone in a journey that although has many travails strewn across the anvil of time, but promises destined prosperity for both countries, its people, and the world therein. Although this partnership has had a checkered time thus far, I won’t be sullied for saying that the best is yet to come from the two greatest democracies on Earth.