Tuesday, August 20, 2019

'Character of the Happy Warrior' by William Wordsworth

Who is the happy Warrior? Who is he
That every man in arms should wish to be?

It is the generous Spirit, who, when brought
Among the tasks of real life, hath wrought
Upon the plan that pleased his boyish thought:
Whose high endeavours are an inward light
That makes the path before him always bright;
Who, with a natural instinct to discern
What knowledge can perform, is diligent to learn;
Abides by this resolve, and stops not there,
But makes his moral being his prime care;

Who, doomed to go in company with Pain,
And Fear, and Bloodshed, miserable train!
Turns his necessity to glorious gain;
In face of these doth exercise a power
Which is our human nature's highest dower:
Controls them and subdues, transmutes, bereaves
Of their bad influence, and their good receives:
By objects, which might force the soul to abate
Her feeling, rendered more compassionate;
Is placable—because occasions rise
So often that demand such sacrifice;
More skilful in self-knowledge, even more pure,
As tempted more; more able to endure,
As more exposed to suffering and distress;
Thence, also, more alive to tenderness.

—'Tis he whose law is reason; who depends
Upon that law as on the best of friends;
Whence, in a state where men are tempted still
To evil for a guard against worse ill,
And what in quality or act is best
Doth seldom on a right foundation rest,
He labours good on good to fix, and owes
To virtue every triumph that he knows:

—Who, if he rise to station of command,
Rises by open means; and there will stand
On honourable terms, or else retire,
And in himself possess his own desire;
Who comprehends his trust, and to the same
Keeps faithful with a singleness of aim;
And therefore does not stoop, nor lie in wait
For wealth, or honours, or for worldly state;
Whom they must follow; on whose head must fall,
Like showers of manna, if they come at all:
Whose powers shed round him in the common strife,
Or mild concerns of ordinary life,
A constant influence, a peculiar grace;

But who, if he be called upon to face
Some awful moment to which Heaven has joined
Great issues, good or bad for human kind,
Is happy as a Lover; and attired
With sudden brightness, like a Man inspired;
And, through the heat of conflict, keeps the law
In calmness made, and sees what he foresaw;
Or if an unexpected call succeed,
Come when it will, is equal to the need:

—He who, though thus endued as with a sense
And faculty for storm and turbulence,
Is yet a Soul whose master-bias leans
To homefelt pleasures and to gentle scenes;
Sweet images! which, wheresoe'er he be,
Are at his heart; and such fidelity
It is his darling passion to approve;
More brave for this, that he hath much to love:—
'Tis, finally, the Man, who, lifted high,
Conspicuous object in a Nation's eye,
Or left unthought-of in obscurity,—

Who, with a toward or untoward lot,
Prosperous or adverse, to his wish or not—
Plays, in the many games of life, that one
Where what he most doth value must be won:
Whom neither shape or danger can dismay,
Nor thought of tender happiness betray;

Who, not content that former worth stand fast,
Looks forward, persevering to the last,
From well to better, daily self-surpast:
Who, whether praise of him must walk the earth
For ever, and to noble deeds give birth,
Or he must fall, to sleep without his fame,
And leave a dead unprofitable name—
Finds comfort in himself and in his cause;
And, while the mortal mist is gathering, draws
His breath in confidence of Heaven's applause:
This is the happy Warrior; this is he
That every man in arms should wish to be.

 - William Wordsworth

'Desiderata' by Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
And remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
And listen to others,
Even to the dull and the ignorant;
They too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
They are vexatious to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
You may become vain or bitter,
For always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
It is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
For the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
Many persons strive for high ideals,
And everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
For in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
It is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
Gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars;
You have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you,
No doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
Whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
In the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,
It is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

- Max Ehrmann 1927

Monday, August 5, 2019

If by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!


- Rudyard Kipling

'Don't Quit' by John Greenleaf Whittier

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low but the debts are high,
And you want to smile but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit...
Rest if you must, but don't you quit!

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many failures turn about
When we might have won had we stuck it out.
Don't give up though the pace seems slow...
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor’s cup;
And he learned too late when the night came down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out...
And you can never tell how close you are
It may be near when it seems so far.
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

- John Greenleaf Whittier

Saturday, August 3, 2019

'How Did You Die?' by Edmund Vance Cooke

Did you tackle that trouble that came your way
With a resolute heart and cheerful?
Or hide your face from the light of day
With a craven soul and fearful?
Oh, a trouble's a ton, or a trouble's an ounce,
Or a trouble is what you make it,
And it isn't the fact that you're hurt that counts,
But only how did you take it?

You are beaten to earth? Well, well, what's that?
Come up with a smiling face.
It's nothing against you to fall down flat,
But to lie there -- that's disgrace.
The harder you're thrown, why the higher you bounce;
Be proud of your blackened eye!
It isn't the fact that you're licked that counts,
It's how did you fight --  and why?

And though you be done to the death, what then?
If you battled the best you could,
If you played your part in the world of men,
Why, the Critic will call it good.
Death comes with a crawl, or comes with a pounce,
And whether he's slow or spry,
It isn't the fact that you're dead that counts,
But only how did you die?


- Edmund Vance Cooke

Friday, August 2, 2019

Standing up to China: Vietnam going ahead with Oil Explorations in Vanguard Bank

Blue are Chinese Controlled and Green are under Vietnamese Control

Vietnam extended the operations of oil rig on Vanguard Bank to September. This is a direct challenge to Chinese position of owning everything within nine-dashed line (almost entire South China Sea). China already deployed a survey ship - Haiyang Dizhi 8(Marine Geology 8), and multiple coast guard ships to the area; apparently to disrupt the operations and force Vietnam to back down from its current stand.

World, especially South China Sea coastal states were (and still are) watching whether Hanoi will back down like in 2018 or go ahead with operations. Last year, Hanoi under tremendous pressure from China cancelled Repsol's contract. Four years before that, Chinese moved their own oil rig to the region, setting of anti-China riots in Vietnam. Later China withdrew that rig. Two years before that, in 2012, China took over Scarborough Shoal. Probably Vietnam learned lessons from past events and realized that, backing down is not going to help its claims in anyway. Interestingly this time, decision to extend the operations came right after US DoD released a statement backing Hanoi.

Vanguard bank is coming inside Chinese nine-dash line. But it is hard for anyone to back Chinese claims other than China. These pieces of uninhibited (mostly submerged) geographic features are energy rich and located around 200 nautical miles off Vietnams coast but more than three times of that distance from China. Nine dashed line runs as far as 2,000km (1,200 miles) from Chinese mainland to within a few hundred kilometers of the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam.



Vanguard Bank


History of Rig in Vanguard Bank

This rig is in a block which is part of 'Nam Con Son' project (developed by BP and ConocoPhillips in early 2000s) to carry gas by pipeline to mainland. Today, natural gas from Block 06-01’s Lan Do field provides approximately 10% of Vietnam’s total energy needs. Rosneft acquired TNK-BP in 2013 and they became block's operator. In May 2018, Rosneft contracted Hakuryu-5 to drill a new production well in 06-01 at a second gas field called Lan Do. Despite possibility of Chinese opposition, Rosneft went ahead with drilling at Lan Do and another field, Phong Lan Dai, in Block 06-01. In May 2019, Rosneft contracted the Hakuryu-5 to drill another well in 06-01.

CCGS Haijing 35111 - Dancing in Malaysian Oil fields

Since 2013, China maintains a near-constant coast guard presence around Luconia Shoals. Most areas of this geographic features are underwater at high tide but still claimed as islands by Beijing and Taipei.

Chinese coast guard ship (CCGS) Haijing 35111 started patrolling waters near Luconia Shoals. This area is near to coast of Malaysia’s Sarawak State. Haijing 35111's patrolling area (May 10 to 27 as per Automatic Identification Data - AIS) includes parts of oil and gas block SK308. This block is currently licensed to Sarawak Shell (subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell). Sapura Drilling recently won the contract for Sapura Esperanza rig to drill a series of new wells at natural gas field F14. This is one of three fields Sarawak Shell is developing in block SK308. As per Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative(AMTI), AIS signals showed that two Malaysian offshore supply vessels (OSV) - Executive Excellence and Executive Courage - apparently servicing the rig by travelling back and forth between the block and Sarawak coast. On May 21, Haijing 35111 circled provocatively close to vessels and came within 80m.

CCGS Haijing 35111 in Vanguard Bank

At the end of May, Haijing 35111 returned Hainan port for a few days before heading south again. Since June 16, it has been patrolling an area 190 nautical miles off the coast of South Eastern Vietnam. Patrols are centered on oil and gas Block 06-01, located northwest of Vanguard Bank on Vietnamese continental shelf.

On July 2, vessels which supplies Hakuryu-5 where leaving the rig when CCGS 35111 maneuvered between them at high speed, passing within 100 meters of each ship and less than half a nautical mile from the rig. After patrolling Block 06-01 for nearly a month, 35111 traveled to the Chinese outpost on Fiery Cross Reef from July 12 to 14, presumably to resupply, before returning to its post near the Hakuryu-5.

China rise stakes with Haiyang Dizhi 8(Marine Geology 8)

On July 3, Haiyang Dizhi 8, a survey vessel owned by China Geological Survey (CGS), began surveying a large area of seabed northeast of standoff at Block 06-01.

Haiyang Dizhi 8 is the one which undertook, oil and gas survey across two blocks - Riji 03 and Riji 27. In 2012 China declared these and seven other blocks off the coast of Vietnam open for foreign bidding. As expected, there were no takers.

This survey vessel is protected by other coast guard vessels. Haijing 37111 and two unidentified CCG ships have accompanied the Haiyang Dizhi 8 since July 3. Vietnam dispatched two Coast Guard Vessels - KN 468 and KN 472 - from Cam Ranh Bay. They are shadowing survey ship since July 4. AIS data shows that the survey ship continues to operate, surrounded by its CCG escort which boxed out Vietnamese vessels attempting to intervene.

Highly Dangerous Situation

Current situation is highly dangerous. What happens when one of the CCG ships, in its dangerous maneuvers, hit either Vietnamese Coast Guard ship or damage the rig itself. It might be an accident, but does any governments across the region will consider it as accident? Already reports of current confrontation is reaching Vietnamese public; this will only rise the anti-China sentiment further. Under such a situation it will be difficult for Hanoi to back down or give any concessions to China in any future discussions.

Dialogue is required

Solution for this perpetual tense situation in South China is constructive dialogues. However, ASEAN nations doesn't stand a chance if dealing with China one on one. As a group they have some power and can lead to meaningful discussions. Unfortunately, that is also not gaining steam. ASEAN is trying to come up with a Code of Conduct at South China sea; but pace is very slow. No one want to take the risk of upsetting China.

Current chair of ASEAN - Thailand - don't want to fast-track the negotiations. Bangkok is pushing the issue to next chair, which is interestingly Vietnam. Currently under ASEAN, it’s the responsibility of Philippines to coordinate dialogue between ASEAN and China. They will be in that role till 2021. China probably want the code of conduct in place when Philippines is still in that position. In this case China might have to stand down from its claim of entire sea and everything under it. A settlement based on UN laws on sea with minor adjustments might be a good idea for trade and bilateral relations. 

Something positive


One major change we can see is, countries are sending their white hulled Coast Guard Ships to support their claims, monitoring waters instead of more aggressive posturing with naval ships. Coast guard is more of a law and order policing agency and this change indicates less aggressiveness from participants side. Probably a sign that, South China sea costal states including China want to deescalate things.

Sajeev

What makes current standoff interesting is, the joint venture company's Russian partner is none other than Russian oil behemoth Rosneft. Will Russia make some adjustments especially after recently concluded joint patrol with China over disputed Korean administrated islands in Sea of japan? It may not happen as it will upset their relations with Vietnam. Moreover, Resneft is just an operator. If Rosneft refuses, then Vietnam might find a replacement. I think Rosneft will be there. 


References

1. The Diplomat.
2. Foreign Policy
3. Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative

Notes


1. Automatic Identification System (AIS) data. All oceangoing vessels over 300 tons are required to broadcast this data.
2. Vanguard bank is guarded by three operational rigs in DK1 cluster. DK1 rigs are complex structure of steal on sea, where there are facilities to host small detachment of soldiers.
3. Vanguard Bank
    U.S. Board of Geographic Names: Vanguard Bank
    China: Wan'an Tan, 万安滩
    Taiwan: Wan'an Tan, 萬安灘
    Vietnam: Bãi Tư Chính
    Occupied by: Vietnam
    Legal Status: Submerged
    GPS: 7° 30' 49" N, 109° 39' 58" E

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Dutch solution to flooding

This is a video Indian politicians, town planners, disaster experts, municipalities should watch. 

"The world's only water ambassador, appointed by the Netherlands, says damage from hurricanes could be lessened with the help of Dutch-innovated stormwater management".



US expelled Turkey from F-35 fighter jet program

S-400 Missile Systems
Expulsion of Turkey from F-35 jet program is a major crisis faced by NATO in this century, this also marks the lowest point in Washington-Ankara relations. If expulsion is going through and US imposes sanctions under CAATSA then relations between two counties are going to worse and not reversible in foreseeable future (in the absence of any major events).

Current state of affairs between Turkey and US is not simply due to purchase of S-400 system from Russia. It’s an outcome of a long series of events.

Here we need to consider four important points

1. Turkey's inability to buy US/EU missile defense systems.
2. American Alliance with Kurds in Syria and Iraq.
3. Insecurities of Erdogan.
4. Russian powerplay.

Let's see what happened over the years.

Turkey has the second largest standing army in NATO after US. She is also considered as a bulwark between chaos in the West Asia and Europe. Though she is not a member of European Union, Turkey is a member of NATO from 1952 onward.

First Gulf War

During the First Gulf War, Ankara requested for air missile defense systems from NATO to defend against possible SCUD attacks from Saddam Hussein's Iraq. United States, Germany and the Netherlands deployed their Patriot batteries under NATO. Though designed during cold war time, Patriot defense system become legendary during first gulf war. Later, whenever requirements came, Ankara requested US(Patriot)/European (Eurosam SAMP/T) systems.

Buying new Air Defense systems

Later Ankara wanted to have their own missile systems with technology transfer and options to manufacture locally. A competition was initiated between Patriot PAC 2, Europe systems, Russian, and Chinese systems. US was not ready to transfer missile defense related sensitive technologies even to a NATO partner. Raytheon and US Department of Defense (US DoD) started negotiations. After a while, Syrian civil war started, and Erdogan became personally involved in discussions. Stunning US and NATO members, Erdogan announced in 2013 that Ankara is going to buy Chinese FD-2000 missile system. Chinese allowed some licensed production. However, in 2014 Ankara dropped Chinese offer and started a new round of bids.

Russia in Syria; Kurds and IS (Islamic State)

In 2015 Russia landed in Syria to support her losing ally Bashir Assad. Turkey and US were not able to agree on how to handle Russians. At the same time, US had to ally with Kurds in Syria and Iraq to halt the whirlwind of IS conquest of vast regions in Syria and Iraq. Kurds and Turkey are not in good terms, Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) is a designated terrorist organization in Turkey and on low intensity conflict with Ankara in South East Turkey. While Washington saw Kurds as an ally against IS, Ankara viewed them as threat to Turkey. At the same time, Kurds were the only reliable Syrian force to operate on both Syria and Iraq which has the capability to halt IS advance.

During this time, US announced the withdrawal of Patriot (deployed in Turkey since 2013) to Germany for maintenance and training. Though US deployed additional F-15s, Turkey felt themselves as vulnerable to missile attacks and probably lost confidence with systems owned by other countries.

Shooting down Russian fighter plane

In November 2015, Turkey shot down a Russian plane which reportedly entered Turkish air space. This brought up the possibility of retaliatory strikes from Russia. May be due to possibility of a war with combined NATO power, or other reasons there were no retaliatory strikes.

Turkish Military Coup and Fethullah Gulen

This was a game changer. In 2016 part of Turkish military tried to overthrow Erdogan when he was not in the capital. Coup was crushed. What followed next was a massive purge in military, civil services, academics etc. Whoever having any known/unknown/suspected link to Fethullah Gulen (Erdogan's erstwhile ally) found themselves in prison. Erdogan declared Gulen as the master mind behind failed coup. Gulen lives in US and Washington denied Ankara's request for extradition; citing lack of evidence. From there onward relation between Ankara and Washington spiraled down rapidly.

When Enemies become friends

Putin made the right moves and suddenly Ankara got a new partner - Moscow. Erdogan even went to the extent of suggesting that it is due the fault of a Gulenist pilot, Ankara shot down Russian plane. Putin saw a chance to cement the relations further and offered S-400 missile system (one of the most advanced in the world) to Ankara in July 2017. Two months later in Sep 2017 Erdogan announced that Ankara would buy S-400.

It's a known fact that US will never allow integration of F-35 with Russian made S-400 systems. For long US officials maintained that, “Russian missile system’s high-end radar capabilities could collect intelligence on stealthy F-35 if the two were used by the same country” and they won't let it happen. When S-400 deliveries reached Turkey on July 12, US announced that Turkey will no longer be part of F-35 program. In addition to that, Turkish companies which currently supplies 900 parts to F35 program will be replaced soon. This is going to cost around $600mn to US.

CAATSA (Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act)

In addition to expulsion there is CAATSA to deal with. CAATSA sanctions will kick in when countries buy Russian made defense equipment’s. It is yet to see whether Trump will give a waiver (very unlikely) for Turkey. In case of any absence of waiver, there will be sanctions and Turkey will be moving closer to Russia.

Conclusion

Turkey is still a critical member in NATO and a long-standing US ally. Though geographically located close to West Asian and Middle East conflict zones Turkey doesn't have the influence matching its size. Though politically considered to be a European country, Turkey is not part of EU or any other European affairs. However, Turkey is aspiring to become a key player and want to recover the lost prestige of Ottoman empire. Apart from Syrian theatre Turkey didn't get a major role in other key issues. Turkey became a major player in Egypt when Muslim Brotherhood got power. However, the revival of military in Cairo (when Sisi got power) reversed it.

It might not be possible for Turkey to suppress Kurds who spread over four countries. Turkey might need Washington to have a meaningful dialogue with Kurds. To become a major player in Middle East and West-Asia Turkey has to deal with Iran and its Shiite crescent as well as Gulf monarchies and Wahhabi Islam. Neither Iran and not the Saudi Arabia is going to shed their role and without backing of Washington Turkey may not be able to reach there.

Economically also Turkey is not doing good. Adverse relations with Washington only created more problems in economy. In 4th quarter of last year, after currency crisis devalued lira (Turkish currency) by nearly 30% against USD, economy contracted 3%. It drove inflation to 15 year high, severely limited Turkish companies' ability to service foreign debt. Bad loans are creating problems in banking sector. As per Reuters poll, economy will contract 0.3 percent this year. Turkey requires IMF support in recapitalizing state banks and restructuring debt. Erdogan's ideas on interest rate policies are not helping the economy either.

A way forward

S-400 is already in Turkey, F35 integration with S-400 is politically impossible. However, Ankara and Washington can work out behind the scenes - probably an IMF package to alleviate Turkish difficulties and sale of some other weapon systems to Turkey. May be giving more say to Turkey on future of Syria; there are still options for Washington to work with. It may not be a good idea for Washington to turn its back on a long-term ally. Let's wait and watch.

Sajeev

Reference

1. Warontherocks
2. WSJ
3. National Interest

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

‘Man in the Arena’ - Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt was born sick with incapacitating asthma. However, he overcame his health complications by embracing an energetic lifestyle. When he ascended to the presidency of US at the age of 42, he became the youngest ever to reach that position. His personality, knowledge and extensive interests on numerous areas made him one the best presidents of US. He understood the importance of nature and established several national parks, forests, and monuments to preserve nature. He also initiated the construction of Panama Canal, which not only transformed Panama and Americas but also revolutionized world trade. His successful efforts in brokering the end of Russia-Japan War earned him Nobel Peace Prize in 1906. Roosevelt also led a two-year expedition to Amazon river basin where he nearly died of tropical disease.

After leaving office on 1909, Roosevelt went on a hunting expedition in East and Central Africa and started a tour of Northern Africa and Europe. He attended events across African and European Cities'. On April 23 of 1910 he gave one his most memorable, most quoted speech known as 'Citizenship in a Republic' at Sorbonne, Paris in front of two thousand strong audience which includes ministers, army and navy officers, nine hundred students.

The most widely quoted paragraph known as 'The Man in the Arena' from that speech is given below.

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

- Theodore Roosevelt


You can access the full speech here - https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Citizenship_in_a_Republic

Monday, July 29, 2019

New Russia-China Military Alliance in Asia-Pacific?

Russian Air Force A-50

South China Sea is crowded - with oil tankers, commercial ships, naval vessels, newly minted islands, fishing boats, white hulled coastguard ships carrying flags of different countries. Chinese policy of transforming entire South-China Sea to Chinese lake is going to make it crowder. During these times 'Sea of Japan' was relatively calm. However, coordinated patrol (probably first ever) of Russian and Chinese planes on July 22 suddenly made it a point of interest.

Beriev A-50 airborne warning and control aircraft launched from Russia's eastern military district, joined two Tu-95MS strategic bombers and met up with two H-6K long range bombers and a KJ-2000 battle management aircraft in Sea of Japan. During its combined patrol, A-50 flew close to South Korean controlled island - Dokdo (also claimed by Japan, they call the island ‘Takeshima’) - and crossed South Korean Airspace over the island twice. First while it was going to East China Sea and second time, when it was coming back. South Korea launched her fighters (18 F-15K Slam Eagle and KF-16 jet fighters) to intercept the joint patrol and fired warning shots in quick bursts. Russia deny all of this, as per them, South Korean actions are 'aerial hooliganism' and 'unprofessional maneuvers'.

Apart from A-50 which crossed South Korean airspace over the islands, other aircrafts in this group violated self-declared air defense identification zones (ADIZ) of both S.Korea and Japan. 'Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ)s' are different from sovereign air Space. ADIZ is beyond a country's national airspace - beyond 12 nautical miles from host country's shoreline - where identification of aircrafts is performed. This allows host country more time to respond to a hostile airplane. However, ADIZ is not defined or recognized by any international treaty/law.

Japan also scrambled her fighters in response to Russia-China joint patrol. As Japan is a party to island dispute, they condemned actions of all three - Moscow, Beijing and Seoul.
This incident revels some significant changes which may become very important in near future in South and East Asian theatres.

1. Institutionalized military relationship between Russia and China

Moscow’s relationship with Beijing is growing strong day by day. Earlier, the relation was based on economic necessities of both nations. Russia needed to diversify its petrochemical consumer base, they can't have all their gas and oil going to EU through Ukraine with whom Moscow has an adverse relationship. Hence, energy hungry China gave them some maneuvering room in case of a future US/EU sanctions due to any Russian adventurism in Eastern Europe. At the same time, China also need an alternate oil and gas supply route which doesn’t pass through Indian ocean (right under the nose of Indian and US navies) and then through geographical chokepoint known as Malacca Straight. It was a marriage of convenience. It won’t be wrong to say that Russia was a bit reluctant to go for a full Chinese embrace. Chinese also didn’t want to identify as twin brother of Russia.

On military side, Moscow withheld supply of fighter jet engines (fearing the duplicates popping up on next day). However, this changed later. Currently China is planning to buy 5th generation Su57E fighter jets. This is in addition to Su-35 fighter jets Beijing is already buying from Moscow. China got possession of first batch of S400 missile air defense regiment last year. Slowly, this marriage of convenience is going to the next level. Since 2012, both countries are conducting joint exercises and other consultations. Last year, Beijing participated in Vostok 2018 military exercises.

2. Freedom of Navigation in Air

US is frequently conducting Freedom of Navigation of Seas operations in South China sea. As none of the South China Sea nations has the power to stand up to China one on one basis; and in the absence of a regional military framework like NATO, China is free to do whatever they want to do. To protect her own and allies interest US led navigation operations are a problem for complete Chinese dominance. In addition to that, US military planes neither recognize nor identify on Chinese ADIZs.

Hence, joint patrol with Russia over a disputed island can be considered as a tit for tat action from Beijing. The question is, will this be a onetime event or going to be a new normal. This also depends on how far Russia is willing to go in upsetting her otherwise good relations S.Korea and Japan.

3. Russia boosting military assets in Russian Far East

Considered as a land based European power, Russia want to be known as a major player in Asian theatre as well. Strategically also, opening a new theatre in East Asia will take the heat away from its otherwise stalemate operations in Ukraine. For some time, Russia was boosting her military presence in Russian far east with deployment of new S-400 air defense systems and Bastion anti-ship missile systems.

4. Backfire on Russia

Inserting unnecessarily into conflicts against countries with which Russia has otherwise good relations is going to backfire. If Russia is sending signals that it is ready to accept political cost on behalf of China; then it is not going to go down well with Seoul or Tokyo. In addition to that, new military alliance will only push other countries further into US orbit. Chinese are more calculative and do in depth analysis before they get into something. I don't think, Chinese are going to back any Russian adventurism in Eastern or Central Europe. In the end only Russians will end up paying the price.

It is to be remembered here that, last year Moon became the first ever South Korean president to visit Russia, and both countries’ air forces established a hotline as well.

5. More problems for US

Infighting between Seoul and Japan over WWII War Crimes, forced labor and Comfort Woman cases already affecting the trade between two nations. These issues are driven by passion and nationalism which is not going to fade away any time soon. In addition to that, China brought Cambodia fully into her orbit. New Chinese naval base and Cambodia’s purchase of Chinese weaponry is going to enhance these relations. Philippines' president hardly says any word against China despite multiple issues in South China sea, where Philippines ended up victims. Other countries in the area has deep economic links with China and are heavily dependent on Chinese investment. Vietnam may an exception here.

In addition to that, Chinese are entrenching her position in South China sea by building and weaponizing new islands.

6. Indian Context

India need to consider new political equations in East Asia very seriously. For more than six decades Russia remained as a major ally and weapon systems provider. At the same time, we have a lot of outstanding border issues with China. In addition to that, China is an all-time friend of Pakistan. It is to be remembered here that China blocked Indian demand for UNSC declaring Masood Azhar as terrorist numerous times. China also blocked India's entry to NSG.

In this situation, a Moscow-Beijing military alignment is not good news for India. Russia's movement to Chinese orbit is only going to push India further away from Russia and more to US. Moreover, if Russia is going to sell the same equipment to China - which Russia is selling to India now - there is no point of buying more from Russia.

7. China-Korea Relations

After deployment of THAAD missile defense system by Moon's predecessor (Park Geun-hye) China-South Korea relations spiraled downward. This also led to street protests in China and caused an estimated $10bn loss to S.Korean business. It is believed that, later S.Korea under Moon conceded to Chinese demands - No further US Anti-Ballistic missile systems, No integration to US led regional missile systems and no trilateral military alliance with US and Japan. In this situation, why China made this move?

It is to be remembered here that; China generally don't act on impulsion. They always move with a well thought out strategy. If we take this into consideration, then Beijing might have assumed a calculated risk. Current Korean - Japanese relations are not in good shape. Hence, patrol over a disputed Korean administrated island - which Japan also claims – may be enough as a rebuttal for US freedom of navigation operations on sea but not enough to push Korea to the other end. We will see in coming days whether Chinese crossed the line, or they just pushed the line little further. US under current administration is passive on issues related to South East Asian security framework. Hence some adventurism may not invite any big push back.

Crossing boundaries and firing warning shorts is risky. It is to be remembered here that, a Korean Air Lines flight (from New York City to Seoul via Anchorage, Alaska) was shot down by Soviet Su-15 interceptor after Boeing 747 was deviated from its original planned route and flew through Soviet's prohibited airspace due to technical problem. All 269 people on board were killed in that incident. Hope that, all stake holders will careful enough not to cause any accidents.

Sajeev


Note 1:
As per Reuters report, "Japan regularly scrambles fighters to intercept Chinese and Russian aircraft that fly close to its territory, with 999 such intercepts in the twelve months that ended on March 31".

Note 2:
In order to avoid taking sides with either allies, US call this island - 'Liancourt Rocks'.

References

1. WSJ
2. SCMP
3. National Interest

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Invictus (Unconquered) by William Ernest Henley

Invictus was written by English poet ‘William Ernest Henley’ in 1875. Poem was initially published without a title. This apt title was added by ‘Arthur Quiller-Couch’ when he included this poem in ‘Oxford book of English verse’ in 1900. 

This poem’s last two lines became very famous, and often quoted by politicians, public speakers and major characters in multiple movies. Poem represents tragedies in author's life and how he went through it. When Henley was 16 years old, his left leg was amputated due to TB. Later he was told that same procedure is required for his other leg as well. He refused that option and travelled to Edenborough to meet famous English surgeon Sir Joseph Lister, who is a pioneer in antiseptic surgery. After multiple surgeries Lister was able to save Henley's leg. This poem was written by author when he was recovering from surgeries.

Invictus


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.


- William Ernest Henley

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Bangalore Lakes - Hesaraghatta

Once upon a time, as old times say, Bangalore was full of lakes. Numerous lakes were built by then administrators, to avoid water shortage in Bangalore. Irony is, under new administrators, those numerous wetlands gave way for residential and industrial layouts to match the demand for housing and industry in a rapidly expanding city.

Me and Jaseer were planning to visit some place within city on a weekend. An early morning trip to an old prestigious freshwater lake looked like an ideal candidate.

Hesaraghatta lake (famously known as Hesaraghatta grasslands) is not a natural lake (or khere as Kannadigas call it). This lake was created in 1894 across river Arkavathy to address water needs of then Bangalore city. Sir K Seshadri Iyer (then Dewan of Mysore) and M.C. Hutchins (then Chief Engineer of Mysore state) started a project called 'Chamarajendra Water Works' to build water storage - equivalent of Bangalore’s three year’s water demand.

River Arkavati originates from Nandi Hills and flow through Chikkaballapur, Kolar and Bangalore Rural to join Kaveri river at Kanakpura. Earth bund Hesaraghatta dam has a length of 1690m and height of 40.55m. At Full Reservoir Level (FLL), lake has a capacity of 997 MCft. This covers a surface area of 1100 acres. Water from this reservoir is taken initially to Soladevanahalli pumping station by gravity and then pumped to Combined Jewel Filters (CJF) plant at Malleswaram for treatment and supply.

There are two major dams across Arkavathy - 'Hesaraghatta' and 'Chamarajasagara'. Later is located at T.G.Halli. When Hesaraghatta Lake started drying up around 1925, T.G.Halli was built downstream. This dam has been enlarged from time to time to meet demand.

Hesaraghatta never saw water at its FRL for more than two decades. With disappearance of many other lakes in the city and shortage of other big water bodies led birds to this lake. If rain stays away from Bangalore and water demands increase further, then this lake will also become history.

We - me and Jaseer - planned to start very early in the morning. For visiting any places, I always found it very helpful to start early. One can drive through light traffic, enjoy cool air, watch beautiful sunrise on the way or at destination.

As Helmuth von Moltke the Elder told once, “No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy". Our plan to go early was also fell apart. We reached late at Domlur bridge – our starting point. For every deviation to a well laid plan, one need to pay the price – what cost us was sunrise. We didn’t reach lake before sunrise.

From Domlur, Hesaraghatta is some 40kms away. Traffic was light and we surged ahead. After Hebbal, we ride through NH 44 for a while and switched to Dodabellapur Road at Yalahanka. From Nagenahalli we left the comfort of wide roads and switched to narrow ones. After a while, we reached Hasaregatte lake.

In front of us, lays Hessaragatta lake or I would rather say lakebed. From road there was some space to get into flat lakebed. Bikers can go. Flat surface through which we are riding was under water once upon a time. Now to touch water, one need to drive some distance through lakebed. After a while we stopped and then started walking through lakebed. Some parts of surface were covered in grass. After a while dried surface gave way to bushes, small trees and wetlands. There were some birds in this area. We walked a little bit more and then went back to dam side. There was a narrow road going through top of dam and a small Durgamba Devi Temple in the middle. We walked till temple and then came back.

Nice way to spend morning in a weekend.





Sajeev

Friday, May 31, 2019

Fighting for future: US vs China

Huawei HQ in China
One thing which is very clear to those who follows US actions against Huawei is - it’s not about Huawei; it’s about future of supremacy in technology.

In past half century they faced this situation twice. First with USSR, which is now dubbed as space race era. With the end of towering USSR scientists Kirill Shchelkin, Yulii Khariton, Andrei Sakharov, Mstislav Keldysh, Boris Vannikov, Sergei Korolev etc USSR's technological challenge came to an end. After death of Sergei Korolev (which was accelerated by various Soviet programs), Soviets were not able to continue with their supremacy in space. Slowly but steadily leadership of USSR became more interested in political survival and maintaining military strength rather than funding huge S&T programs. With the disintegration of USSR that also came to an end.

Later it was Japan. Her supersonic cruise in all spheres of economy and technology seriously threatened US supremacy. However, Japan was US ally and their supersonic growth came to abrupt halt in early 90s. Though Japanese firms kept on investing in technology and maintained leading position they were never able to be the Japans of 80s.

Now decades after victory in space race, US is facing tough competition from anther rising Asian power - China. China became pragmatic and broke shackles of ideological dogma during Deng era and started sprinting. Unlike Soviets (who were able to remain as single country due to military might), Chinese are more coherent, focused, planned and certainly do not want to make repeat the mistakes of their erstwhile neighbor. It’s a different matter that in Xi era, China looks more like moving towards Soviet's way).

China is pushing hard in Space. In response, US recently created a new space command and pulled back NASA from its cash strapped, less ambitious vision. Focus also changed from Atlantic theatre to Indo-Pacific especially in South China sea. In both cases US has an upper hand. However, when it comes to technology (especially in Telecom, AI, Face recognition etc) it’s a different ball game. In fact, lot of patents in this area are with Chinese. In facial recognition and associated technologies, there are hardly anyone who can compete with Chinese.

US don't have any companies with the stature of Huawei in telecommunications sector. Sure, they have Cisco, but they are in a different field. Then Qualcomm, again in related but different area. ARM is British (or Japanese because of Softbank?). We hardly heard anything about AT&T Bell which pioneered a lot of earlier innovations for a while. Bell Labs are currently under Nokia which is a Finnish company. You may be remembering another company called Western Electric. They underwent many transformations (became Lucent in between) and now under Nokia's umbrella. Then there is Ericson. Hold on... Ericson is Swedish.

Looks like US also understand this. After all they blocked sale of Qualcomm to Singapore based Broadcom on national security grounds. Investments by any Chinese firms to US companies holding key technologies were also blocked citing national security reasons.

In fact, all major 5G, high end telecom gear manufactures are non-US companies - Huawei (with over 100bn USD in revenue), ZTE, Nokia, Samsung and Ericsson. Now, you may be thinking what so special about 5G. Why US is worried?

5G is a major variable in future technological landscape. It’s going to revolutionize Telecommunication networks, Internet, Industrial IoT, Control of remote and critical infrastructure, Entertainment and Multimedia, Smart Vehicles and driverless cars, Transportation, Low latency machine communications, Smart homes, Smart city development, Security and surveillance etc.

US may probably never been in this situation for at least two centuries. While US was pumping billions of dollars for non-winnable wars in Afghanistan, Iraq etc Chinese pumped many billions into research as well as for investing in key western companies. They made state champions and created alternatives for major western technology giants. It is another matter that, during this sprint they hardly cared about intellectual property rights and patents. What US saw when they took a break in fixing Afghanistan and trying to get out of Iraq was Chinese leading world's transition to 5G!!!

Panicked, they acted fast, targeting leading Chinese companies Huawei, ZTE. ZTE almost came to its knees before US relaxed sanctions. Huawei was added to sanctions list. Following that Google pulled Huawei’s Android license. This means, Huawei phones can't use Android OS (I think they can still use opensource part of Android) and google services including play store.
Was Chinse companies’ victims?

I don't think anyone describes Chinese companies as pure victims. Main accusation against Chinese giants are theft of trade secrets and surveillance for Chinese state. When US asked Canadians to arrest Huawei's CFO (Meng Wanzhou - daughter of founder Ren Zhengfei) charges were theft of trade secrets and violations of sanctions against Iran. As a matter of fact, company founder Ren’s resume includes working for 'Information Technology research unit' of PLA (Chinese Army).

A little History of Huawei


2003 - Networking firm Cisco accused Huawei of intellectual property theft. Cisco later dropped the suit.

2005 - RAND Corporation study, commissioned by US Airforce (USAF) - noted that, "Huawei maintains deep ties with the Chinese military, which serves a multi-faceted role as an important customer, as well as Huawei’s political patron and research and development partner."

2007- FBI interviewed Huawei’s founder, Ren in 2007 in relation to potential violations of US trade sanctions on Iran.

2008 - Companies efforts to buy 16% stake in 3Com (provider of anti-hacking software for US military) was blocked.

2010 Motorola filed a lawsuit accusing Huawei of corporate espionage, but later settles with the company

2014- T-Mobile sued Huawei. Later US telecom companies excluded Huawei from their contracts

Reuters reports that, "A major Iranian partner (Skycom, a private company registered in Hong Kong) of Huawei Technologies offered to sell at least 1.3 million euros worth of embargoed Hewlett-Packard computer equipment to Iran’s largest mobile-phone operator in late 2010". Problems is as per reports, Ren’s daughter, Meng Wanzhou, served on board of Hong Kong firm. This firm is also considered as front-end for Huawei.

As per the same report, “an Iranian job recruitment site (Irantalent.com) describes Skycom as “a leading telecom solution provider” and goes on to list details that are identical to the way Huawei describes itself on its U.S. website: employee-owned, selling “solutions” used by “45 of the world’s top 50 telecom operators” and serving “one-third of the world’s population. On LinkedIn.com, several telecom workers list having worked at “Huawei-skycom” on their resumes. A former Skycom employee said the two companies shared the same headquarters in China. And an Iranian telecom manager who has visited Skycom’s office in Tehran said, “Everybody carries Huawei badges.”

Iranian project was to double prepaid customer capacity of Iranian telecom operator from 20m to 40m. As per this proposal (marked as Huawei confidential) requires HP hardware - one server, 20 disk arrays, 22 switches and software - in Tehran and Shiraz as part of hardware design. Total project cost was around 19.9mn euro. Same report states that, "...China’s ZTE Corp, a Huawei competitor, had sold or agreed to sell millions of dollars’ worth of U.S. computer gear, including HP equipment, to Telecommunication Co of Iran, the country’s largest telecommunications firm, and a unit of the consortium that controls TCI."

As per US authorities, Huawei "...retained control of Skycom, using it to sell telecom equipment to Iran and move money out via the international banking system… banks unwittingly cleared hundreds of millions of dollars of transactions that potentially violated economic sanctions Washington had in place at the time".

Another allegation is, Canicula (allegedly linked to Huawei) had business operations in Syria, another country that has been subject to U.S. and European Union sanctions.

Financial transactions via Skycom came to light during an HSBC internal investigation. HSBC was trying to dismiss criminal charges filed by US Department of Justice for violation of U.S. sanctions.

Security Risk

US intelligence agencies also fear that, Huawei equipment could contain 'backdoors' for Chinese state espionage. Huawei vehemently denied these claims. However, Australia and New Zealand went ahead and banned Huawei from building their mobile phone networks. Austria is trying to reduce overwhelming Chinese influence in their country. British are yet to ban the company but expressed reservations. It’ hard for British to say no to Chinese money during and after Brexit process.

In fact, Chinese law require companies to assist in national intelligence work. Well, you may be thinking isn’t US companies cooperate with US government in their intelligence gathering. Well, it’s a good questions and we know the answer from Snowden papers.

Ownership of Huawei

Ownership of Huawei is one of the most interesting puzzles in the game. You might be thinking founder Ren Zhengfei is the owner of the company. Interestingly no. He owns around 1%. Huawei is not a publicly traded company and never sold shares to public in last three decades. As per records, Huawei Technologies is wholly owned by a holding company called Huawei Investment & Holding. This holding company has two shareholders, Ren and Huawei’s labor union (Union of Huawei Investment & Holding).

Interestingly Huawei shares are different from normal shares. These shares can't be transferred to another or owned by nonemployee. If an employee exit Huawei, then company buys all shares back. If employee have certain seniority, then they many not buy it back. Labor Union, elect members to Huawei’s Representatives’ Commission, which in turn elects’ members of the board of directors. Union doesn't have any control over the operations of company.
Accusation (which Huawei trying to discredit but so far unsuccessful) is that Chinese party, military or government has significant control over Huawei.

Why American's Act Now?

China is very different from all other US enemies who are a threat to US interests. For e.g. whatever Russians do, they don’t pose a significate threat to US outside old USSR sphere of influence (except in Arctic). Moreover, Russians are neither investing in future nor cared about anything in economy other than Petro-gas and selling military weapons.

Iranians are a threat to US allies in Middle East including Israel. However, Iran won’t directly attack Israel.  In addition to that, Iran's strength is Oil and gas and its geographical position and influence over insurgencies in neighboring countries. Though Iran has a powerful army, its decades behind in military technologies and halfway across the world. Even minor disruptions, in global crude supply might not affect US market as they already became a net exporter of Oil due to significant shell oil extraction over past decades.

North Korea, despite all its grand standing; and Afghanistan don't pose any threat to US technological supremacy. As far as Europe is concerned, most economies (other than Germany) are cash strapped and they themselves looking for foreign investment (yes, including Chinese). Germany is a close US ally.

Made in China 2015 – 2025 - 2049

Huawei P30 phone with triple lens


With China its different. Chinese strength is not coming from any Oil and Gas deposits. China is the factory of world. After decades of building duplicates, they are moving towards original manufacturing. Getting contracts across the world from road construction to 5G rollout.

China aspires to be world's leading technological power. They came up with a plan – which released in 2015 - aims for developments in 10 key sectors by 2025. They also plan to achieve 70% self-sufficiency by 2049. Many of these plans violates many WTO provisions. Crashing of solar panel industry is a case in point. We will discuss this in another article.

Another issue is market access. While western markets are open for Chinese export, she put in place serious restrictions on opening her own market (which is very huge) to non-Chinese companies.

For investing or doing business in China foreign companies must enter into joint ventures with local firms. These agreements also required foreign firms to share key intellectual property and advanced technologies. Some rules were related later.

China also happens to be leading exporter of rare-earth metals. These metals are critical for electronics and battery manufacturing.

What will be Chinese reaction?

I don’t think Chinese will make any hard decisions. They think a lot before taking decisions. After all its the land of Sun Tzu. They will even wait till Trump’s term is over.

Some Chinese may be arguing for banning Apple. Will they do it? Very less chance. Apple phones are as Chinese as any other Chinese phones. Out of 800 suppliers for Apple approximately half comes from mainland China.  Why should they shoot on their own foot. However, Chinese users may choose not to buy Apple phones.

Many policy analysts argue that Chinese may ban export of rare earth metals. If US pushed had it is possible that, they might reduce export of rare earth metals. However, complete ban may not happen. After all, why to create significant disruptions in global chain when Chinese sits at a very important position in it.

How it is going to affect others?

Rough Waters for Huawei

Exclusion from using Android may not create significant impact in home market. However, in other markets - say, India - they won't be able to sell phones without Android OS and Google Services. They will face dip is revenue from overseas operations and without US chips (HiSilicon might not be able to provide a replacement for ARM or Qualcomm in immediate future) it’s going to be a hard struggle. Chinese government may compensate Huawei in one way or other. China may also try to get some reprieve for Huawei by making it as a bargaining chip in future US – China trade talks.
Costlier Telecom equipment’s

Equipment’s form Ericson and other companies will be costlier. This will delay 5G rollout and make it costlier.

Trade War

Tit for tat taxes exports between US an China will be a step back for freedom of trade, liberalization and globalization.


Alternate pressure point

For a set back here, China can create problems for US and allies elsewhere. May be boosting North Korea a bit. Building some more artificial islands in South China Sea etc.

Middle- East, Eastern Europe and Iran

A significant event in Middle East or Eastern Europe may take all the focus away from current problem and negotiations may go on slowly behind the scenes.
US

China will try to reduce import of US agricultural produce which will create problems for US president in key agrarian states.  After all US presidents must worry about elections unlike their Chinese counterparts. It is even possible that, China may simply wait till current US administration changes.

Whatever happens we are going to see a new technological race between US and China in coming days. Though it disrupts global supply chain and make a dent to global growth rates, we will eventually see more investments by US and China in science and technology. We will see more space explorations and even colonization’s of moon and mars. Who knows we may even bring fuel from moon to power machines in earth?

Sajeev.


References.

1. https://in.reuters.com/article/huawei-iran/exclusive-new-documents-link-huawei-to-suspected-front-companies-in-iran-syria-idINKCN1P21MKhttps://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/26/hsbc-probe-helped-lead-to-us-charges-against-huawei-cfo.html
2. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/26/hsbc-probe-helped-lead-to-us-charges-against-huawei-cfo.html
3. https://qz.com/1535995/the-full-list-of-crimes-huawei-is-accused-of-committing-by-the-us/
4. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/05/29/huawei-could-be-part-of-china-deal-but-cant-work-with-iran-marc-short.html
5. https://qz.com/1627149/huaweis-journey-to-becoming-us-tech-enemy-no-1/

Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Sinking Philippine Cities: Not Climate Change; but Climate Disaster and threat to Humanity

Manila Bay @ Sunset: Wikipedia
Word climate change doesn’t convey its meaning. For ordinary people, who are not climate scientists or studied changes in climate pattern, these two words don’t represent the disaster it symbolizes. For them, climate change means, climate is slowly changing, earth is getting warmer by 1-2 degree. But this may happen over decades. So, what. What is the problem in having a two-degree hike in temperature? In a day itself, temperature varies more than that. If the selection of word is not enough to convey the message, then people often misunderstand the message.

Now let’s see what is happening in Philippines. Its cities are literally sinking. Her provinces Pampanga and Bulacan sunk around one meter since 2003. Just imagine what happens if a coastal area sunk by one meter. Sea water will come to land and ravage agriculture and drinking water sources, sea water results in corrosion of metals and other items, places will always be in a flooded state, residents will be forced to relocate to higher areas, slowly but steadily sea will claim those provinces.

This catastrophe is not limited to Philippines. Sea water levels are raising annually by 3mm as per UN estimates. You may be thinking 3mm doesn’t matter. But remember huge number of cities are in coastal areas and sea is on an inward march to claiming those cities.

In Philippines, main culprit for sinking provinces is heavy extraction of underground water. These provinces soil composition also doesn’t help. It is not that Mania didn't try to do something to stop it. They made moratorium on new wells in Greater Manila area in 2004. We all know what happens with these regulations. With just 100 staff - whose responsibility extends to entire country - failed to enforce the ban.

During this period, population exploded (almost doubled since 1985) and economy expanded (10 times since 1985) in good speed. Which of course added additional pressure on already sinking cities.

Philippines cities are not alone; Jakarta, Bangkok, Shanghai, coastal areas of Bangladesh, islands in Pacific are facing the same problem.

Roxas - Manila Bay


Never a Government Priority

People often failed to understand the gravity of climate change and heavy utilization natural resources. Hence it hardly ever became an election issue. Due to this, priorities became different and administrations ended up doing patch work to fix outcomes without fixing original problem.

This what happened in Manila too. To fix drinking water problem, government turned to one solution it now - massive dams. Duterte administration is in talk with China to build two new dams (which of course is controversial as location of these dams are in tribal areas.

I think China should think twice before funding new dams. They are already entangled in another controversial dam project in Myanmar and Chinese infra projects are not finding much favors in Malaysia, Srilanka and in many other counties. Can China, who dreams about a superpower status in future assume some more responsibility in funding these massive geology altering projects? Can they partner with Philippines and address these problems in a different way rather than simply pumping money to new dams? After all China's own dam building spree is now slowly becoming an environment disaster.

A better message

I don’t think governments across the world will address climate problems if people don't demand it. And people won't demand it unless they understand it properly. Here is where climate scientists come. They should convey their message to people in layman’s language, make them understand the gravity of situation rather than bombarding with heavy jargons and numbers. I don’t think sending press release like 1 or 2 digress increase in temperature is going to resonate with people. Make them understand what that 1 or 2 degree will do to their life.

Sajeev

References

1. Philippine towns are sinking even dead are drowning - SCMP

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Income Based Reservation - A Master stroke right before general elections

Narendra Modi led BJP government is known to take unexpected turns. De-monetization, buying Rafael off the shelf etc. are good examples for that. A couple of days back, government took another such decision which gives 10% reservation to economically weaker sections of Indian society regardless of their caste or religion. Everything happened so fast and 124th constitution amendment bill was bulldozed through both houses of parliament with hardly any discussion (or in any select committee or in any other committee for that matter).

124th amendment bill made modifications to fundamental rights in Article 15 and 16. As the constitution doesn’t provide provision for reservation based on economic condition/income these changes were essential.

1. Bill amends Article 15 to permit government to provide for the advancement of “economically weaker sections”.  Further, up to 10% of seats may be reserved for such sections for admission in educational institutions.  Such reservations will not apply to minority educational institutions.

2. Amendments to Article 16 to permit the government to reserve up to 10% of all posts for the “economically weaker sections” of citizens.

3. Reservation of up to 10% for “economically weaker sections” in educational institutions and public employment will be in addition to the existing reservation.

4. Central government will notify the “economically weaker sections” of citizens on the basis of family income and other indicators of economic disadvantage.

In order to qualify for this reservation, a family should,

1. Have an annual income of less than Rs.8 lakhs, or
2. Own less than five acres of farmland, or
3. Have a house lesser than 1,000 sq. feet in a town (or 100 sq. yard in a notified municipal area).

The efficiency with which the bill went through both houses of parliament is something which even then the private sector can only dream.

I would rather prefer huge government investment in education sector, rather than reservations in jobs. I believe education is one of the few sectors where government should own the institutions.
However, I don’t have much objections to reservations for economically backward sections. After all, it’s far better blindly following caste-based reservations. Caste-based reservation indeed changed so many things in India. This affirmative action brought new section of people to the front line of Indian society. However, it hardly made a dent in the social system.

Now you might give me examples for places where backward untouchable people raised from ashes and reached the vanguard of society. Well, it’s true; but if we take it in full context, rather than reservations it’s the powerful social upheaval of the time led by visionary leaders which made the changes. Sri Narayana Guru and Chattambi Swamy led social movements in Kerala is one such glaring example.

Even though voices are raiscenturies-old old system is still prevailing in huge swaths of Hindi belt. Neither more than seven-decade old reservation system nor conventional education was able to eradicate that.

Irony is, to get reservations numerous otherwise forward communities in Gujrat, Rajasthan, Haryana, Maharashtra etc. at the forefront of multiple strikes.

Government’s decision was indeed a masterstroke. Hardly anyone expected this one; more than that hardly any party could object this policy change in public. Well, the government had to do some populist item before general elections. Previously everyone tried farm loan waiver. Now it became a new normal. Everyone now a days expect a farm loan waiver right before state and general elections. It lost its novelty. Less than expected GST income, fiscal responsibility rules, controversy in shifting RBI reserves, huge NPAs in the banking sector created other barriers for a general farm loan waiver.

What I find distressing in 124th amendment for reservations to economically backward section is,

1. The speed with which it went through both houses of parliament. This amendment involves changes to some of the basic rights of Indian citizens. It should have debated properly. Is debate on bills in parliament is slowly becoming a memory?

2. 10% reservation to economically backward sections will break supreme court rule which prohibits overall reservation above 50%.

3. Income required to qualify for this reservation is pretty much higher. Even after demonetization (which increased formalization of the economy), a good percentage of Indian economy operates outside government lens. Who will decide who is eligible for reservation? On paper everyone can show an income under 8 lakhs (expect those who gets income only through salary from organized sector).

4. Its going to open a pandora's box. If the amendment went through SC then most powerful communities Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana, Rajasthan etc. may become more vocal in their demands. After all, the sacred limit of 50% will be broken. As the old saying goes, once you crossed the Rubicon there is no turning back.

Let’s wait and watch whether 124th amendment will go through SC.

Sajeev