Given that there is no dearth of bad news, I was not paying attention to the steadily rising din of the China-India conflict in the Himalayas. I surmised - and remain of the same opinion - that the skirmishes wouldn't come to much. China has enough on its plate, with its trade war with America and unrest in Hong Kong, to start yet another conflict. And, while the current regime in India loves a little war, but taking on China is a completely different thing compared to needling a weak Pakistan. My expectations, therefore, were that both sides would play for the gallery a bit and then step back from the brink as they have always done in the past.
But blood has been spilled! The news that Indian (and possibly Chinese) soldiers were killed in the skirmish yesterday changes things. Indeed, I would still expect that the cooler heads will prevail and the Army commanders will be able to de-escalate the situation, but a new line has been crossed. It is in everyone's interest that these deaths were in vain, as no final settlement is ever possible in China-India border disputes. But we are all in a dangerous place right now, as soldiers' deaths always make it difficult for the governments to row back from aggressive postures. This is making me think again - is it possible that China and India may walk into a hot war?
It is indeed extremely unlikely. Given that the both states possess nuclear weapons, this is a war neither can win, or at least, can win without significant loss of life. Both economies are in fragile state - India's more than China's, but still - and there will be no winners in such a dispute. As far as the borders are concerned, they are never going to be 'settled' and both countries are better off accepting status quo and living flexibly in the border regions. This is what they have been doing for a while: Patrolling without guns! And, yet, we are dealing with deaths of personnel and an increasingly serious crisis, which makes it prudent to speculate what may make such a war plausible.
The uncomfortable truth is that it is far more plausible now than it ever was. We are in the middle of a geopolitical transition, with an America under Trump in full retreat from its global engagements and the post-war 'western consensus' in tatters. Bombast is not policy and Trump, a flawed man, is in a very weak position to face off determined adversories, let alone a major nation like China or India. The United States, while it may still have overwhelming power on the sea, may have little influence when the conflict moves inland. Whether or not one believes the overlordship of a dominant power is key to world peace, it is easy to recognise that the periods of transition, from a dominant overlordship to regional power balances, are particularly prone to conflict.
It is also the theatre of this current escalation that makes it more likely. China is strategically trying to shift the centre of gravity of the world economy, pinning its future on the stabilisation and regeneration of the ancient Silk Route. India has been a road block, as it recognised China's strategic ambitions may cut it off from the Asian hinterland. India has played its hand, perhaps unintentionally, by creating in Ladakh a Buddhist majority state, which changed the status quo. If China wanted to teach India a little lesson and establish, once and for all, its overlordship on the Silk Route, this summer is its time. It's a risky strategy, but one balanced by risks of a restive Tibet which Americans may try to foster next. A similar rationale prompted China into the 1962 war - and it may make sense again.
For India, a summer conflict makes no sense. This makes it vulnerable from a two-front war, just in case Pakistan wants to settle the Kashmir issue as the Chinese bites into Ladakh. The Indian government has gambled along the ideological lines in Kashmir by removing its special status last year, which has altered the status quo. Pakistan, battered as it is with its internal crisis and its government's lack of legitimacy, could do very little. But the China-India cnflict may offer it an opportunity to make some gains, both internally and externally. And, yet, the Indian government, weaker than it ever was, may see the conflict as an opportunity. Depends on who you believe, India is either looking at a prolonged recession or a mini-collapse of its economy as it emerges from Corona Virus, perhaps being the worst hit country of all. All the different crisis - jobs crisis, banking crisis, supply chain crisis - are about to form a perfect storm. Just as Mao used in 1962 conflict to save himself in the middle of the chaos of cultural revolution, a conflict, if it could be contained, might come handy for Mr Modi in the middle of his own cultural revolution.
But, as we know from history, governments struggling with legitimacy are portents of geopolitical conflicts and we have plenty of them in the region now. No one is fooled by President Xi's ambition or Prime Minister Modi's rhetoric; they both were long on rhetoric and short on delivery, and the Corona Virus crisis has exposed them. Prime Minister Khan of Pakistan, who serves at the pleasure of the Armed Forces, is also at a very difficult spot. They may all mistake a war as salvation, their little opportunities for oneupmanship, political brownie points or even a legacy. Each one may want to settle the Himalaya once and for all; each one may be crazy or desperate enough to think that's possible. Mr Modi has made the first move last year by changing the status quo; the others may try to take advantage of it now.
I am full of foreboding, therefore. It may be crazy that China and India, two still poor and rising powers, would want to fight one another, which will harm them and given nuclear deterrance, would be inconclusive. But then, countries don't fight wars as often as interests do, and we may have a case here when even a futile and costly conflict may help some people.
Finally, it may seem the Americans may benefit - given that this will curb China and its arms suppliers will find more willing buyers - but that's only in Donald Trump's twisted imagination: As the guarantor and chief beneficiary of the current world order, the United States hardly benefits from the breaking of it. Corona Virus has exposed Trump as a weak leader who doesn't know what he is doing and it's unlikely that he would be able to do anything to contain the crisis. Churchill may have said that the Americans could be counted on to do the right thing after all options have been exhausted, but it's doubtful if Mr Trump knows his options.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
Nations are ideas. We try to fashion them as territories. But how can a river, a mountain ridge or sometimes an imaginary line in the middle of a field can explain the wide division in the lives, thoughts and futures of the people who live on different sides? Nations are not the people too. Indeed, people build nations and become its body. But the soul of the nation is an idea: People come together on an idea to build a nation. While that's what a modern nation is - an idea - and that way exceptionalism is not an American exception, very few nations are as completely defined by an idea as Pakistan. There was hardly any political, geographic or military rationale of Pakistan other than the idea of an Islamic homeland in South Asia. [In that way, the ideological brother of Pakistan in the family of nations is Israel] This, abated by the short term political calculations of some backroom colonialists, created a modern state which must be solely sustained on that singular idea. Reli
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
There is no other city like Kolkata for me: It is Home. The only city where I don't have to find a reason to go to, or to love. It is one city hardwired into my identity, and despite being away for a decade, that refuses to go away. People stay away from their homeland for a variety of reasons. But, as I have come to feel, no one can be completely happy to be away. One may find fame or fortune, love and learning, in another land, but they always live an incomplete life. They bring home broken bits of their homeland into their awkward daily existence, a cushion somewhere, a broken conversation in mother tongue some other time, always rediscovering the land they left behind for that brief moment of wanting to be themselves. The cruelest punishment, therefore, for a man who lives abroad is when his love for his land is denied. It is indeed often denied, because the pursuit of work, knowledge or love seemed to have gotten priority over the attraction of the land. This is particularly
India's employment data is sobering ( see here ). The pandemic has wrecked havoc and the structural problems of the economy - service sector dependence, uneven regional development and health and education challenges - are more evident than ever. Something needs to happen, and fast. To its credit, the government acknowledges the education challenge. Belatedly - it took more than 30 years - India has come up with a new National Education Policy. It is a comprehensive policy, which covers the whole spectrum of education and perhaps overcompensates the previous neglect by advocating radical change. As I commented elsewhere on this blog, it shows a curious mixture of aspirations, cultural revival and global competitiveness put under the same hood. However, despite its radical aspirations, the policy document often betrays same-old thinking. One of these is India's approach to foreign universities. The NEP makes the case for allowing foreign universities to set up operations in Ind
The story of British influence on Indian Education, to which Macaulay's Minutes of 1835 belong, has been told in six distinct phases. Syed Nurullah and J P Naik's very popular and influential History of Indian Education calls these 'six acts' of the drama: From the beginning of Eighteenth Century to 1813 The British East India Company received its charter in 1600 but its activities did not include any Educational engagement till the Charter Act of 1698, which required the Company to maintain priests and schools, for its own staff and their children. And, so it was until the renewal of its charter in 1813, when the evangelical influence led to insistence of expansion of educational activities and allowing priests back into company territory. From 1813 to Wood's Education Despatch of 1854 The renewal of Charter in 1813 re-opened the debate, which seemed to have been settled in the early years of the company administration, between the Orientalis
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.