ஜெர்மனியில் உள்ள கொலோன் பல்கலைக்கழகத்தின் தமிழ்த் துறை தொடர்ந்து இயங்கிட, தமிழ்நாடு முதல்வர் மு.க.ஸ்டாலின் ரூ.1 கோடியே 25 லட்சம் வழங்க உத்தரவிட்டுள்ளது பாராட்டுக்குரியது. நிதிப் பற்றாக்குறையின் காரணமாக அங்கு செயல்பட்டுவரும் தமிழ்த் துறையை செப்டம்பரில் மூடுவதற்கு நிர்வாகம் முடிவெடுத்திருப்பதாக ‘இந்து தமிழ் திசை’ கவனப்படுத்தியதை அடுத்து, தமிழ்நாடு முதல்வர் விரைந்து இந்நடவடிக்கையை எடுத்துள்ளார். திமுக எதிர்க்கட்சியாக இருந்தபோதே ஹார்வர்டு தமிழ் இருக்கைக்காக ரூ.1 கோடியும் டொரொண்டோ தமிழ் இருக்கைக்காக ரூ.10 லட்சமும் வழங்கியது குறிப்பிடத்தக்கது. இவ்விரண்டு பல்கலைக்கழகங்களிலும் தமிழ் இருக்கையின் அவசியத்தை வலியுறுத்தி, தொடர் கட்டுரைகளையும் செய்திகளையும் ‘இந்து தமிழ் திசை’ வெளியிட்டுவந்தது நினைவிருக்கலாம். உலகின் முதன்மையான பல்கலைக்கழகங்களில் தமிழுக்கான ஆய்விருக்கைகள் நிறுவுவதற்கான முயற்சிகள் முன்னெடுக்கப்படும்போதெல்லாம் அவற்றை ‘இந்து தமிழ் திசை’ ஒரு மக்கள் இயக்கமாகவே மாற்றியிருக்கிறது.
தமிழுக்கெனத் தனி ஆய்விருக்கை, தென்னாசிய மொழித் துறையில் ஒரு பகுதி என இந்தியாவுக்கு வெளியிலும் பல்வேறு பல்கலைக்கழகங்கள் மற்றும் ஆய்வு மையங்களில் தமிழ் ஆய்வுகளும் மொழிப் பாடங்களும் நடத்தப்பட்டுவருகின்றன. உலகளாவிய அளவில் தமிழ் ஆய்வுகள் தொடர்ந்து நடத்தப்படும்போதிலும் அவற்றுக்கிடையில் இன்னும் முழுமையான ஒருங்கிணைப்பு உருவாகவில்லை. குறிப்பாக, வெளிநாடுகளில் நடத்தப்பட்டுவரும் ஆய்வுகள் குறித்துத் தமிழ்நாட்டு ஆய்வாளர்களுக்கும் தமிழ்நாட்டில் நடந்துவரும் ஆய்வுகள் குறித்து அயல்நாட்டு ஆய்வாளர்களுக்கும் கருத்துப் பரிமாற்றம் உருவாகவில்லை என்பதையும் கவனத்தில் கொள்ள வேண்டியிருக்கிறது. சர்வதேச அளவிலான ஆய்விதழ்களின் வழியாகவே பொதுவில் இத்தகைய கருத்துப் பரிமாற்றங்கள் நிகழ்வது வழக்கம். ஆனால், தமிழ்நாட்டில் மேற்கொள்ளப்படும் தமிழியல் ஆய்வுகள், ஆங்கிலம் உள்ளிட்ட மற்ற மொழிகளுக்குச் சென்றுசேர்வதிலும், வெளிநாடுகளில் நடக்கும் ஆய்வுகள் தமிழுக்கு வந்துசேர்வதிலும் தேக்க நிலை நிலவுகிறது. இது உடனடியாகக் களையப்பட வேண்டும்.--Source: hindutamil.in
‘சாம்ராஜ்ஜியங்களின் மயான பூமி’ என்கிற அடைமொழி ஆப்கானிஸ்தானுக்கு உண்டு. ஆப்கானிஸ்தானிலிருந்து தனது படைகளை திரும்பப் பெறுவது என்கிற அமெரிக்காவின் முடிவு, ஆப்கன் தேசிய அரசை மட்டுமல்ல, ஒட்டுமொத்த உலகத்தையுமே அச்சத்தில் ஆழ்த்தியிருக்கிறது.
கடந்த எட்டு ஆண்டுகளாக தலிபான்களுக்கு எதிரான தேசிய அரசை வலுப்படுத்தவும், எல்லாவிதத் தாக்குதல்களையும் சமாளிக்க முடியும் என்கிற நிலைமையை ஏற்படுத்தவும் பல முயற்சிகள் மேற்கொள்ளப்பட்டன. ஆப்கானியா்களின் தலைமையில்தான் தலிபான்களை வீழ்த்தி ஆட்சி அமைய வேண்டும் என்று மேற்கொள்ளப்பட்ட முயற்சிகள் இப்போது வீணாகிவிடுமோ என்கிற கவலையை எழுப்புகிறது அமெரிக்காவின் சுயநல முடிவு.
பிற நாடுகளில் அமெரிக்கா தலையிட்ட போதெல்லாம் தனது இலக்கை அடையாமல் தோல்வியுடன் திரும்பியது என்பதுதான் வரலாறு. வியத்நாமிலும் சரி, அதன் பிறகு இராக்கிலும் சரி அமெரிக்கா முன்மொழிந்த ராணுவ முயற்சிகள் அரைகுறையாக முடிந்தன என்பதை உலகறியும். இதற்கு முன்னால் இராக்கில் சதாம் உசேன் ஆட்சியைக் கவிழ்ப்பதில் காட்டிய முனைப்பை இராக்கில் அமைதியை ஏற்படுத்துவதிலும், அங்கு நல்லாட்சியை நிறுவுவதிலும் அமெரிக்கா காட்டவில்லை. அதன் விளைவாக ஐஎஸ் பயங்கரவாத அமைப்பு பூதாகரமாக வளா்ந்து, இப்போது உலகத்தையே பயமுறுத்திக் கொண்டிருக்கிறது.
ஆப்கானிஸ்தானில் இதற்கு முன்னால் நடந்த சோவியத் யூனியனின் ராணுவத் தலையீடும் தோல்வியில்தான் முடிந்தது. அதற்கு அமெரிக்காவும் முக்கியமான காரணம்.
வியத்நாம், இராக் பிரச்னைகளில் அமெரிக்கா தனது நோக்கத்தை நிறைவேற்றிவிட்டு பின்வாங்கியது என்றால், ஆப்கானிஸ்தானில் தலிபான் பயங்கரவாதிகளிடம் மண்டியிட்டு சரணடைந்திருக்கிறது. எந்தவித பின்புலமோ, ஆட்சி அதிகாரமோ இல்லாத பயங்கரவாதிகளிடம் அடிபணிவது என்பது அமெரிக்கா போன்ற வல்லரசு நாடுகளுக்கு ஏற்படும் மிகப் பெரிய அவமானம். அல்கொய்தாவுக்கும் அதன் தலைவா் ஒசாமா பின்லேடனுக்கும் முடிவு கட்டியது மட்டும்தான் அமெரிக்கா அடைந்த லாபம்.
ஆப்கானிஸ்தானில், ஆப்கான் தேசிய ராணுவமும், காவல்துறையும் மிகத் துணிவுடன் கடந்த 20 ஆண்டுகளாக தலிபான்களை எதிா்கொள்கின்றன. ஏறத்தாழ மூன்று லட்சம் வீரா்கள் கொண்ட அந்தப் படைகள் ஆண்டொன்றுக்கு சராசரியாக 8,000 உயிரிழப்புகளை எதிா்கொண்ட நிலையிலும், தலிபான்களுக்கு எதிரான நிலைப்பாட்டிலிருந்து தளராமல் இருந்திருக்கின்றன. ஆப்கன் தேசிய அரசின் அங்கத்தினா்களும் உயிரையும் பொருட்படுத்தாது துணிந்து நின்றாா்கள். அவா்களுக்கு நம்பிக்கை மோசம் செய்திருக்கிறது அமெரிக்கா.
ஆப்கன் தேசிய ராணுவத்தை அமெரிக்கா நம்பவில்லை. தனது ராணுவத்தை ஆப்கானிஸ்தானில் நிலைநிறுத்தி பாதுகாப்பு வழங்க முற்பட்டதே தவிர, ஆப்கன் ராணுவத்துக்கு போதுமான தளவாடங்களை வழங்குவதிலோ, அவா்களுக்குப் போா் பயிற்சி வழங்குவதிலோ ஆா்வம் காட்டவில்லை. அவா்களிடம் நவீன ஆயுதங்களை வழங்கினால் அவை தலிபான்கள் கையில் சிக்கிவிடுமோ என்கிற அச்சத்துடன் செயல்பட்டதால் இப்போது ஆப்கன் ராணுவம் செயலிழந்து நிற்கிறது.
அமெரிக்காவைப் போலல்லாமல், ஆப்கான் ராணுவ அதிகாரிகளுக்கும் வீரா்களுக்கும் இந்திய ராணுவம் பயிற்சி அளித்திருக்கிறது. தளவாடங்களையும் தந்து உதவியிருக்கிறது. ராணுவத்துடன் மட்டுமல்லாமல், ஆப்கன் மக்கள் மத்தியிலும் தனது வளா்ச்சிப் பணிகளாலும் உதவிகளாலும் நன்மதிப்பை பெற்றிருக்கிறது. அதே நேரத்தில், புத்திசாலித்தனமாக தனது ராணுவத்தை இந்தியா அனுப்பவில்லை.
ஆப்கானிஸ்தானில் இந்தியா மேற்கொண்டிருக்கும் வளா்ச்சிப் பணிகளுக்காக ஏறத்தாழ மூன்று பில்லியன் டாலா் (சுமாா் ரூ. 22,359 கோடி) முதலீடு செய்யப்பட்டிருக்கிறது. ஆப்கானிஸ்தானின் 34 மாகாணங்களிலும் இந்தியா முன்னெடுத்திருக்கும் வளா்ச்சித் திட்டங்கள் செயல்படுகின்றன. பள்ளிக்கூடங்கள், சாலைகள், 60-க்கும் மேற்பட்ட சமுதாய வளா்ச்சித் திட்டங்கள் என்று இந்தியா முன்னெடுத்திருக்கும் பணிகள் ஏராளம்.
ஆப்கன் நாடாளுமன்றக் கட்டடம், ஸ்டோா் அரண்மனை புதுப்பித்தல், காபூல் நதியில் ஷாடூட் அணை, சிம்தாலா மின்நிலையம், சல்மா அணை, தேசிய வேளாண் தொழில்நுட்பக் கல்லூரி, சாலைப் பணிகள் என்று இந்தியா ஆப்கானிஸ்தானின் வளா்ச்சிக்கு செய்திருக்கும் பங்களிப்புகள் ஏராளம். ஆட்சி மாற்றம் ஏற்பட்டால் இந்தியாவின் முதலீடுகள் என்னவாகும், பங்களிப்பு அங்கீகரிக்கப்படுமா என்கிற கேள்விகளுக்கெல்லாம் இப்போதே பதில் கிடைக்காது.
அமெரிக்கா நினைப்பதுபோல தனது படைகளின் வெளியேற்றம் தலிபான்களுக்கும் அஷ்ரஃப் கனி தலைமையிலான ஆப்கன் அரசுக்கும் இடையில் உடன்பாடு ஏற்படுத்தும் என்கிற எதிா்பாா்ப்பு வெறும் மாயை. அமெரிக்க முன்னாள் அதிபா் பராக் ஒபாமா, அமெரிக்கப் படைகளின் எண்ணிக்கையைக் குறைக்கத் தொடங்கியபோதே தலிபான்கள் விழித்துக் கொண்டுவிட்டனா்.
ஆப்கானிஸ்தானின் 120 மாவட்டங்களில் தலிபான்களுக்கும், பொதுமக்களின் ஆதரவுள்ள ஆப்கான் படைகளுக்கும் இடையே உள்நாட்டுப் போா் நடந்து கொண்டிருக்கிறது. ஒவ்வொரு மாவட்டத்திலிருந்தும் அகதிகளாக மக்கள் காபூலை நோக்கி நகரத் தொடங்கியிருக்கிறாா்கள். மிகப் பெரிய குழப்பம் ஏற்பட்டு, ஆட்சி நடத்த முடியாமல் அஷ்ரஃப் கனி உள்ளிட்டோா் ஆப்கானிஸ்தானிலிருந்து ஓடிவிடுவாா்கள் என்று எதிா்பாா்க்கின்றனா் தலிபான் பயங்கரவாதிகள்.
ஆப்கனில் வெற்றிடம் ஏற்படுவதை எதிா்நோக்கிக் காத்திருக்கிறது சீனா. பாகிஸ்தானுக்கும், ஈரானுக்கும் அடுத்தபடியாக தனது வலையில் ஆப்கானிஸ்தானையும் வீழ்த்தக் காத்திருக்கிறது!--Source: dinamani.com
Any analysis of the upcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, in 2022, needs to begin with a note of humility. In all the last three elections in the State (2017, 2012, 2007), most reporters and analysts were incorrect in predicting a tantalisingly close fight. The results, on the other hand, revealed a clear single-party majority each time, including the biggest wave in almost four decades in the last election.
At the outset, we must account for this repeated failure to foresee emerging trends in Uttar Pradesh politics. A large part of the blame can be laid on the obsessive focus on caste arithmetic, heuristic categories frozen from the 1990s, that often blurs the larger picture. The big lesson from the last 15 years is that the State of Uttar Pradesh has moved from a rigid identity politics of caste and community to a focus on identity plus governance. A large floating voter population has gradually emerged, spanning across demography, which is fiercely calculative, and driven by aspirations for a better life.
This has powered the transition of Uttar Pradesh, from the messy fragmentation of the coalition era of the 1990s and early 2000s, to the era of stable, single party majorities. Although caste and community identities remain important, Uttar Pradesh voters, like elsewhere, have little patience for misgovernance — they have thrown out every incumbent government since 1989.
But the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has reasons to be confident of bucking the trend. The sheer scale of its victory in 2017 provides it with a formidable cushion. It received a vote share of almost 40% in the last election, with an average constituency-level winning margin of an incredible 15%.
It is quite conceivable for the party to lose a significant chunk of its vote in the next elections, and still emerge with a majority. In comparison, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP) received a majority, with 30% and 29% of the vote share, respectively.
Factors behind the mandates
There are two ways of reading the massive 2017 mandate of the BJP. The first is to read it as a historical break where the BJP’s ideological triumph fundamentally re-configured the caste-community voting patterns of the State. The second is to read it in the context of the last 15 years, where a large floating voter population, frustrated with the incumbent, flocked behind the clearest alternative. In this framework, just as the 2007 and 2012 majorities did not reflect a long-term realignment in favour of Bahujan (or ‘sarvajan’) politics or Lohiaite socialism, the enormous mandate received by the BJP in 2017 was also not exclusively a function of Hindutva.
In all three cases, the success of the social engineering or ideological messaging crafted by the eventual winner was contingent on their party becoming the vehicle for the electorate’s accumulated resentments and aspirations, shaped by the specific failures of the incumbent. Under the rubric of Hindu identity, and the leadership of Narendra Modi, the BJP became the vehicle for an electorate angry with the crime, corruption and Yadav favouritism under the Samajwadi Party government. The backdrop of communal riots and the increased presence of Muslims in the local power elite, added to this glue of this Hindu consolidation.
However, as the ascension of BJP from 1991-98 in the State, and the subsequent decline for two decades demonstrated, Hindu consolidation in a State like Uttar Pradesh could be an ephemeral phenomenon.
Incumbent and prospects
If the underpinnings of the BJP mandate of 2017 were indeed contextual rather than absolute, the BJP can indeed be dislodged from power in the State, provided there are two conditions: one, the presence of strong anti-incumbency; and two, the emergence of a clear alternative that transforms the election from a multi-polar to a largely bi-polar contest.
Let us come to the first question: is there a high level of anti-incumbency against the Yogi Adityanath government that can hurt its prospects?
In choosing Mr. Adityanath, a relative lightweight outside of his bastion in Gorakhpur, to lead the State government, the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah team made two bets, informed by the party’s previous experience in the State.
First, only hardline Hindutva could contain caste contradictions and lead to a durable Hindu coalition. In the wake of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, the BJP had assembled a powerful coalition of upper castes, upwardly mobile castes such as Jats and Gujjars, and Other Backward Classes (OBC) such as Kurmis and Lodhs. This Hindutva coalition, however, soon came apart from internal strife between the upper caste and the OBC factions, culminating in the expulsion of the OBC Kalyan Singh from the party in 1999.
Second, only an authoritative style of leadership could maintain Hindu unity and also create a governance constituency. The largely collective leadership of the 1990s and early 2000s — in which the BJP installed three different Chief Ministers — had provided a confused and disunited front, and consequently failed to compete with Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Both of these bets, have, arguably, not paid off for the BJP. One, as a political outsider to Lucknow, the first thing Mr. Adityanath did was build his own political support base on his Thakur identity. Much like previous leaders, Mr. Adityanath filled State institutions, be it zilla parishads, civil servants or station house officers, with his own caste men to wield direct power over the administration. The frequent allegations of ‘Thakurvaad’ or Thakur domination against his administration suggests that Mr. Adityanath has not so far proved to be a leader with a pan-Hindu appeal in the mould of Mr. Modi.
Two, the authoritative style of governance has provided indifferent results. While Mr. Adityanath does possess some governance appeal — having a relatively clean and ‘tough on crime’ image — he has largely been unable to associate himself with either a social welfare constituency or marquee developmental projects. On top of it, the novel coronavirus pandemic has severely diminished his governance credentials; any improvement in the ease of business index pales in comparison to images of bodies floating in the Ganga. The dramatic State failure during the second wave of the pandemic also threatens to become a coalescing point for all the material anxieties persisting under the surface, such as unemployment, sluggish growth and farmer distress.
The aspirations of the floating voters who deserted Ms. Mayawati in 2012, and Akhilesh Yadav in 2017, has, arguably, remained unfulfilled under Mr. Adityanath’s regime.
Where the Opposition stands
This brings us to the second question: is there a clear alternative that transforms the election from a multi-polar to a largely bi-polar contest?
A quick scan of the Opposition ranks indicates that only the SP presently possesses the strength to challenge the BJP.
The BSP under Ms. Mayawati has been in constant decline in the State from 2012. The party has lost touch with its roots in political activism for a long time now, and its organisation has withered away under an insular leadership. The steady desertion of leaders gives further evidence of a party in a death spiral. Similarly, there are little signs of a Congress revival, the latest indications being its disastrous returns in the panchayat elections.
All of this plays well into the SP’s strategy of making this electoral contest into a largely bipolar race. A perception of a straight fight between the SP and the BJP might well consolidate local elites, and a disgruntled electorate, behind the party symbol. But there are reasonable grounds to doubt whether the SP can defeat the BJP in a bipolar race. For one, the party has never crossed the 30% vote share mark in State elections.
In order to defeat the BJP, the SP party would need to go well beyond plebeian caste consolidation and minority insecurity, and court floating voters with a broad-based, positive message of development. In this regard, Akhilesh Yadav can borrow from his own template of 2012, where he ran a successful campaign focused on employment, electricity and education.
The choice of Mr. Adityanath was essentially informed more through the lenses of ideologically cementing the Hindu vote rather than the fulfilment of the governance aspirations of the floating voter. If the BJP manages to fritter away its enormous mandate, it would derive from the same source of hubris that felled previous incumbents: overly reading into the mandate its own ingenious social engineering or sweeping ideological triumph rather than the contextual aspirations and resentments that underlay it.
Asim Ali is a Research Associate with
the Centre for Policy Research, Delhi
InA New Cold War: Henry Kissinger and the Rise of China, edited by Sanjaya Baru and Rahul Sharma, academic and diplomat Kishore Mahbubani explains America’s place in the world in his essay ‘Evil Liberalism versus Moral Pragmatism’. He asserts that by abandoning Kissinger’s realist pragmatism, the U.S. has become “severely weakened both domestically and externally”. An excerpt:
The year 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of Henry Kissinger’s famous visit to China in July 1971. It also marks, more or less, the 30th anniversary of the end of the Cold War. With some risk of being accused of over-simplification, one can say in the 20 years after Kissinger’s visit to China, U.S. foreign policy was guided by the philosophy of realist pragmatism. By contrast, in the 30 years after the end of the Cold War, it was guided by the philosophy of liberal idealism. The results are clear. Realist pragmatism delivered the greatest victory of American foreign policy: a victory over the mighty Soviet Union without the U.S. firing a shot at Soviet armed forces. By contrast, the past 30 years have generated a lot of evil.
Between 2004 and 2019, the U.S. Air Force dropped 175,842 bombs on several countries, according to the U.S. Air Forces Central Command. Bombs dropped from the air are often not accurate. Hence, many innocent people were killed. The Brown University Watsons Institute’s Cost of War Project estimates the total casualties from all post-9/11 wars at 770,000 to 801,000 casualties. The results are clear: when ethical do-gooders take over the U.S. foreign policy, evil is generated: $5.1 trillion wasted; almost 800,000 lives lost.
Yet, the biggest damage done by the abandonment of Kissingerian realist pragmatism is that the U.S. has become severely weakened both domestically and externally. Internally, the 30-year period of liberal-idealist domination of the U.S. foreign policy has coincided with a 30-year period of stagnation of working class incomes. Externally, the U.S. literally fell asleep at the wheel while China rose dramatically. In 1980, in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms, China’s gross national product (GNP) was 10% of that of the U.S. By 2014, it had become bigger. Now there is no doubt that the biggest foreign policy challenge the U.S. faces in the next three decades is China.
So, how should the U.S. manage China? The main argument of this essay is that the U.S. needs to engage in deep reflection on what went drastically wrong. The U.S. made a major mistake in abandoning realist pragmatism and switching to liberal idealism. A return to Kissingerian realist pragmatism would be the best way to manage a rising China.
Kissinger’s celebrated ‘secret’ visit to Beijing in July 1971 is widely and justifiably regarded as a major move that swung the ‘correlation of forces’ in America’s favour and led to the ultimate victory over the Soviet Union. What was remarkable about the widespread applause that this visit received, including fromThe New York TimesandThe Washington Post, is that so few Americans mentioned that the U.S. was embracing a regime in China led by Mao Zedong, which had only recently created havoc in the country, leading to enormous human pain and suffering through the disastrous policies of the Great Leap Forward (1958-61) and the Cultural Revolution (1966-76).
In short, human rights were a secondary consideration when realist pragmatism reigned. Indeed, at the International Conference on Kampuchea of July 13-17,1981, the U.S. delegation, led by Alexander Haig, actually supported China against the ASEAN countries, when China said that the Khmer Rouge should be allowed to return to power in Phnom Penh after the Vietnamese withdrawal. I was personally present and shocked when this happened. Yet the same Reagan administration, in a more ‘liberal’ move, supported the removal of the dictator [Ferdinand] Marcos from the Philippines. In short, even in the realist-pragmatic era, there were liberal elements.
Kissinger wasn’t the only major figure advocating realist pragmatism. Other major thinkers of that era did so, including George Kennan and Zbigniew Brzezinski. While Kennan is often associated with the harsh policy of ‘containment’ of the Soviet Union, John Mearsheimer reminds us that Kennan was a shrewd and sophisticated thinker. Firstly, he emphasised that the outcome of the Cold War would not be determined by the size of their respective armed forces. Instead, it would depend on the ‘spiritual vitality’ of their domestic societies. This is what he had said: ‘It is rather a question of the degree to which the U.S. can create among the peoples of the world generally the impression of a country which knows what it wants, which is coping successfully with the problems of its internal life and with the responsibilities of a World Power, and which has a spiritual vitality capable of holding its own among the major ideological currents of the time.’ He also called for ‘greater humility in our national outlook.’ According to Mearsheimer, his call for humility was in response to a strong claim made by then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in February 1998, when she had said, ‘If we have to use force, it is because we are America; we are the indispensable nation. We stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future, and we see the danger here to all of us.’
Kennan lived to the ripe old age of 101 and died in 2005. Hence, he lived through the first 15 years of the post-Cold War era. Significantly, he also disapproved of the many key moves when the U.S. switched from realist pragmatism to liberal idealism. He disapproved of the expansion of NATO into the former Soviet bloc. Kennan also disapproved of the invasion of Iraq.
‘Delusions of superiority’
Dick Cheney confidently asserted that U.S. troops would be welcomed in Iraq. He said, ‘I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators.’ Mearsheimer observes that in contrast to such beliefs that the U.S. was morally superior, Kennan did not believe that the U.S. was more virtuous in any meaningful way. Indeed, Kennan observed that Americans were suffering from ‘delusions of superiority’. Kennan strongly argued against the U.S. taking a ‘paternalistic responsibility to anyone, be it even in the form of military occupation’.
Many of the points raised here will be disputed. Yet, there is no doubt that the policies of restraint and pragmatism, advocated by people like Kissinger and Kennan in the Cold War era, contrast significantly with the liberal idealism of the post-Cold War era, as demonstrated by the statement of Democrats like Albright and Republicans like George W. Bush. These contrasting approaches also explain American success of the Cold War era and the failures of the post-Cold War era.
Excerpted with permission from HarperCollins
Most schools in India have been closed since the national lockdown started in March 2020. What are the costs of keeping schools closed? How do these costs compare against the risks of school reopening? We delve into these questions, as concerned parents with school-age children, as experienced teachers, and also as practising scientists who have followed data and publications on this topic over the last 15 months.
Interestingly, various regions around the world which have been worse hit by the novel coronavirus pandemic than India, have kept their schools, especially primary schools, mostly open. This includes various European countries such as Portugal, France, the Netherlands, etc. The State of Florida (United States) opened schools for in-person classes in late September 2020, and they stayed open through their second wave. On the other hand in India, schools have mostly been shut even as other businesses have opened.
Impact of school closure
The costs of school closure are immense. People make considerable investments in their childrens’ education, as a way toward a better future and a better living standard. Even prior to the pandemic, there was a huge attainment gap across students, especially in higher grades. The bottom half of children passing Class 10 are about two years behind in terms of skills. Prolonged school closure has already widened this gap. What will this do to their future? Does it not push the next generation deeper into poverty? Ironically, the poorest families living in dense urban slums, who bore the brunt of the first wave, and are now largely immune from the virus itself (as shown by serosurveys), are the ones suffering the most from school closures.
A survey (https://bit.ly/3xzZ7mx) across 10 States in India in November 2020 estimated that nearly two-thirds of children in rural India may drop out of school, a staggering statistic which is likely to have worsened with continuing closure. Haryana has reported (https://bit.ly/3r64dV5) a 42% drop in student enrolment in private schools. Prolonged school shutdown has severely set back India’s fight against ills such as child labour (https://bit.ly/3e9H7HE) and child marriage (https://bit.ly/36AevTK). Due to the shutdown of schools, mid-day meal schemes have been disrupted; even as early as June 2020, it was estimated (https://bit.ly/3r2AfkG) that about 800,000 additional children would face underweight and wasting.
Health, well-being concerns
Even in well-off urban India and in developed nations, extended school closure is having a severe impact on children’s mental health. In Las Vegas, U.S., a surge of student suicides (https://nyti.ms/2UIjYpb) forced schools to reopen in January 2021. The United Kingdom reported (https://bit.ly/3r2Ftx3) a 40% rise in the number of children taking antidepressants.
Surely, life is more important than education. But as examples above show, schools are not merely about education. Given the costs of prolonged school shutdown, we must probe deeper into the risks of opening schools in the context of COVID-19.
Assessing the risk factor
First, we must realise, and be grateful that the risk of COVID-19 for children is much lower than for adults, and is also much lower than other (already small) risks children face in daily life anyway. Based on a study of 137 million school-age children in the U.S. and Europe, Prof. Raj S. Bhopal (University of Edinburgh, U.K.) has observed ((https://bit.ly/3wzt3h6) that COVID-19 in this age group is less than half as risky as seasonal influenza, and over 20 times less risky than death by “unintentional injury”.
A study (https://bit.ly/2Vq94oa) among the nearly two million children in Sweden (where schools have been open throughout), found that there was not a single child death due to COVID-19. As per Mumbai’s dashboard data, the COVID-19 IFR (Infection Fatality Rate) for under-19 is minuscule: about 0.003% . In comparison, the infant mortality rate in India is about 3% (1,000 times greater) and the infant mortality rate in Japan (one of the lowest) is 0.18% (60 times greater). In other words, school-age children are at a negligibly lower risk from COVID-19 when compared to other threats which we consider normal.
There has been a concern that a possible third wave involving newer variants could affect children. But a careful look at the data (https://bit.ly/3xEm73Q) tells that the age-profiles of those affected in the second and first waves are similar. There is no scientific basis for this fear. Further, Public Health England’s June 2021 report (https://bit.ly/3B3ALnp) shows that the newer variant Delta is much less dangerous (case fatality rate 0.1%) than the original (case fatality rate 1.9%), which is the expected evolutionary path of a virus.
Teachers as ‘essential’ staff
The next question is: are teachers and parents at higher risk of catching COVID-19 if schools reopen? Over the last year there have been several careful scientific studies (https://bit.ly/3kdibTA) across various regions in Europe/U.S., measuring the role of in-person classes in COVID-19 spread. The overwhelming conclusion is that the risk of COVID-19 spread in schools is minimal compared to other locations. To further reduce the concern among teachers, the Government must treat them on a par with essential workers, and offer them prioritised vaccination.
Despite this, it is likely that a “one-size-fits-all” approach may not be suitable, as each individual’s risk-benefit analysis could be different. For children who lack the resources, whose parents have to go out to work every day, in-person schooling is paramount. Parents who can afford to work from home have sufficient resources for their children and may choose to continue with partially or fully online classes for a few more months. It is high time to implement such differentiated options.
Vaccines for children
There has recently been talk about tying school reopening to vaccines for children. Any medical intervention, especially for children, must be based on a careful risk-benefit analysis. It is pertinent to note that there are growing concerns (https://cnn.it/3r8MnAH) in the U.S. of a potential link between heart inflammation and the mRNA vaccine, among adolescents. Further, scientists writing inTheBritish Medical Journal(May 2021) note (https://bit.ly/36xCpPP): “the rarity of severe Covid-19 outcomes for children means that trials cannot demonstrate that the balance of the benefits of vaccination against the potential adverse effects are favourable...”. It will likely take several years to establish such a balance. We cannot let our children suffer for that long, by further prolonging school closures.
More than the virus, fear stands between our children and their education and normal life. Policymakers must make evidence-based decisions toward school reopening. This is the least the working class and the children of India deserve.
Bhaskaran Raman and Om Damani are faculty members at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, IIT Bombay. The views expressed are personal
There have been a lot of deliberations on Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat’s speech on July 5 during a book launch function in Ghaziabad. The speech carries many firsts and sends a message to both Hindus and Muslims. Discussions in the media and in social and political groups may be taking place on the content of the speech, but there is no denying that it has ushered in a ray of hope for harmony.
A bold speech
Mr. Bhagwat stressed on two major issues, peaceful coexistence and initiating a dialogue for a composite culture, to be attained by safeguarding and following our own religious practices, cultures, and attire. Nothing is left for a tussle when the two communities share a motherland, culture, and ancestors.
Mr. Bhagwat’s speech has to be viewed in its entirety. The time has come for a new beginning. His bold outreach needs to be reciprocated. There may be issues, concerns, and even irritants during this journey but we have to overcome all this. Treading a peaceful path is the need of the hour.
There are many points in Mr. Bhagwat’s speech which we have to agree with without discussion. India is the motherland for both the communities. He has shunned the apprehension regarding his remarks — there is no need for confrontation. The fact that such a statement comes from the RSS chief itself denotes that Muslims should not live with any fear psychosis. When Mr. Bhagwat said that the DNA of Hindus and Muslims is the same and they have the same ancestors, it shows that proving one’s Muslim identity does not hold much ground.
It is true that incidents of mob lynching of Muslims are a matter of concern as they have endangered the life and security of the community. Mr. Bhagwat categorically condemned all such lynching incidents. He said that those who indulge in lynching are against Hindutva. The law should take its own course against such people without any partiality.
Mr. Bhagwat said Muslims should not live in a cycle of fear. This could instill confidence in the community. It is a fact that there is fear and apprehension in the community. There is no space for firebrand sloganeering that Islam is in danger, Muslims will be evicted, etc. Mr. Bhagwat himself candidly admitted that he can become popular with such rhetoric speeches but Hindus will themselves not support him.
The message from Mr. Bhagwat’s speech is also for the majority community. The fringe elements need to learn lessons from it. The sensationalisation of statements, such as ‘no Muslims will live here’, may get space in the media, but the majority community does not approve of such an attitude. The RSS chief has highlighted the fact that there may have been some mistakes and excesses in the past, but we have to move forward. He has also drawn a line for the political situation in the country. Unity emanates from camaraderie, not from politics. It will come from the continuous efforts of enlightened people, not through politics.
Not long before Mr. Bhagwat’s speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered an important speech to the Muslim community at the centenary celebrations of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in 2020. His speech was appreciated in India and abroad for emphasising unity while achieving common national goals such as Aatmanirbharta, women’s education, preservation of cultural heritage and equality of opportunity, while de-emphasising political and ideological differences.
It is within this framework that the speeches of both Mr. Modi and Mr. Bhagwat have to be appreciated. These are genuine attempts to engage with the community. More importantly, it is crucial that this be reciprocated by the Muslim community through dialogue. AMU can play an important role in facilitating this dialogue. Section 5(2)(b) of the AMU Act confers the university with the mission to promote the study of the religions, culture and civilisation of India. Towards this, the AMU, in its centenary year, established the Dara Shikoh Centre for Interfaith Dialogue. Dara Shikoh, a Mughal prince, was the founder of the academic movement for Hindu-Muslim dialogue.
For centuries, the two communities have lived in unity sharing a motherland, culture, and ancestors. Throughout the course of history, our rulers were different, but the country has remained one. This is what makes our Bharat unique. This is the message from this ancient land to the entire world. Any dialogue must take lessons from the past, live in the present and chart a peaceful path for the future. Let us move ahead with open hearts and minds.
Tariq Mansoor is Vice-Chancellor, Aligarh Muslim University
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed believes he is a man of destiny. As a child, his mother had prophesied that her son would become a great ruler one day. The Prosperity Party the former intelligence officer launched, disbanding the multi-party coalition that brought him to power, is said to derive its name from an evangelical faith. Whatever his predilections, the Ethiopian leader has, since being catapulted to premiership in April 2018, stumbled from one crisis to another, imperilling the country’s recent economic record.
Use of force
When Mr. Abiy commanded a military offensive in November in retaliation against a Tigray rebel attack on federal army barracks, his reputation as a reformer and peacemaker already lay in ruins. He dismissed opposition to the use of force, insisting that the law-and-order operation would be wound up within weeks. For months, he denied the involvement of neighbouring Eritrean forces in the conflict. In March, Mr. Abiy likened Tigrayan fighters to “flour dispersed by the wind.”
But events on the ground tell another story. Thousands of civilians have been killed by Ethiopian and Eritrean forces and Tigrayan militias. Addis Ababa stands accused by the United Nations and Amnesty International of war crimes, ethnic cleansing and the resort to rape and hunger as weapons of war.
The unilateral ceasefire Mr. Abiy declared on June 28, purportedly on humanitarian grounds, carries little credibility, as Tigray continues to remain crippled by a blockade of essential supplies and communication and electricity blackouts. The U.S., Ethiopia’s long-standing military ally, has imposed sanctions on several top officials and the European Union has suspended millions of dollars in aid.
Meanwhile, after recapturing the regional capital Mekelle in late June, the rebel Tigray Defense Forces have taken thousands of Ethiopian troops as prisoners of war. They have demanded the withdrawal of all federal forces loyal to Mr. Abiy, besides an independent investigation into Ethiopian and Eritrean atrocities. The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the dominant party in the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF)’s autocratic rule until 2018, is resurgent. The organisation, which Mr. Abiy has dubbed a “criminal clique,” has stayed outside his Prosperity Party.
Debretsion Gebremichael, the President of TPLF, has raised the spectre of the territory asserting its right to self-determination under the 1995 constitution in view of its deepening distrust with Addis Ababa. Mr. Debretsion has also not ruled out TPLF retaliation against Eritrean atrocities in the ongoing conflict. Eritrea’s strongman President Isaias Afwerki, who signed the landmark 2018 peace deal with Mr. Abiy, has now allied with him, possibly to avenge his country’s bloody defeat against a TPLF-led Ethiopian government in the 1998-2000 border war.
The volatile atmosphere is a far cry from the euphoria in 2018 when Mr. Abiy released political prisoners, lifted the ban on opposition parties and welcomed exiles home. An Oromo, the ethnic community that constitutes more than a third of Ethiopia’s population, Mr. Abiy ’s elevation symbolised the redressal of the country’s political imbalance. Tigrayans, who form less than 10% of the populace, had wielded power disproportionate to their strength for 28 years under the EPRDF coalition. In the event, the Oromos’ enthusiasm to assert their new-found freedom proved unsustainable and the Tigrayans began to resent the erosion of political influence.
Matters reached a head when Tigray held provincial polls in September 2020, defying Addis Ababa’s decision to defer general elections nationally in view of the pandemic. The ballot was eventually held on June 21, but not in at least 100 constituencies. Although Mr. Abiy has predictably won the election, the second most populated nation in Africa is at a crossroads.
Garimella Subramaniam is Director - Strategic Initiatives, AgnoShin Tecchnologies Pvt Ltd
Using Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal as measuring sticks to assess one’s tennis credentials is a harsh and, ultimately, a futile exercise. That Novak Djokovic comes through this most searing of examinations with flying colours is a testament to his genius. On Sunday, the Serb laid down the most definitive marker yet of his dazzling brilliance by pulling level with the celebrated duo on 20 Grand Slam singles titles. A tense four-set victory over Italy’s Matteo Berrettini also gave Djokovic his third straight title at the All England club (sixth overall) and helped complete the French Open-Wimbledon double, one of sport’s toughest achievements. Djokovic’s record-equalling feat had seemed improbable as recently as the summer of 2018. As a 31-year-old, he entered that year’s Wimbledon as the 12th seed after having spent two years on the fringes. Federer and Nadal, gaining second winds, had swept the previous six Slams and were already on 20 and 17 respectively. But Djokovic rediscovered his mojo and has since won eight of 12 Majors, the most dominant streak of his career. He has conquered Federer on grass and Nadal on clay, and snuffed out rebellions from the game’s ‘Next Gen’ of Dominic Thiem, Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Berrettini, beating them for his last four Slam trophies. So much so that he now feels the “most complete” he has ever been as a player.
The accomplishments have inevitably reignited the debate on who the greatest men’s player of all time is. While comparisons between eras are often limited and come with caveats — think the great Pancho Gonzales being denied chances to compete in Majors in the 1950s because he had turned professional — Djokovic is without doubt the best of his generation. This week will be his record 329th as World No.1 and he is the only man to have won all four Slams, all nine ATP Masters 1000s and the year-ending ATP Finals, twice. No other statistic better represents his relentless pursuit of excellence, across surfaces, continents and seasons. At the US Open starting next month, he has a shot at sporting immortality, as he can become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win all four Majors in a single year. Ashleigh Barty may be a long way from such monumental successes, but like Djokovic, she has proved adept at mastering the game’s natural surfaces by adding the Wimbledon crown to the French title she won in 2019. The 25-year-old Aussie’s craft and guile was fully on display as she felled opponents as chalk and cheese as Angelique Kerber (counter-puncher) and Karolina Pliskova (all-out attacker). With modesty in her bones, she oozes an enviably understated elegance, something the tennis world is sure to see more and more of.
The Supreme Court of India’s verdict last week, upholding the authority of a committee of the Delhi Assembly to summon a senior official of Facebook, is an extremely nuanced recognition of the extent of powers of State Assemblies in matters regulated by an Act of Parliament. The question mark about the powers arose in the first place because Facebook, whose India vice-president Ajit Mohan was repeatedly summoned by Delhi Assembly’s Committee on Peace and Harmony on the subject of the Delhi riots of 2020, argued before the Supreme Court that this was a case of overreach; and that Delhi’s law and order came under the central government. This was also the position taken by the central government, which argued that the Delhi Assembly had no jurisdiction in this matter. The social media platform also pointed out that it was governed by the IT Act of Parliament, and this is not therefore something that any State government can be concerned with. The Court, in upholding the summons, did not go merely by the legislative powers of a House. It rightly said, “The Assembly does not only perform the function of legislating; there are many other aspects of governance which can form part of the essential functions of the Legislative Assembly and consequently the committee.” Its point was that the “inquisitorial” and “recommendatory” powers of a House can be used for better governance. But it also cautioned the committee from “transgressing into any fields reserved for the Union Government”.
Significantly, the verdict comes amid a long phase of discordance over legislative turf between the central government and the Delhi government, something that the Bench led by Justice S.K. Kaul did note amid discussions about the spirit of federalism. Not just that. It also comes at a time when social media intermediaries are legally fighting some aspects of the new IT rules that govern them. Their responsibility toward the many legislatures will only become more heightened because of this verdict. The Court refused to buy the argument that social media intermediaries are “merely a platform for exchange of ideas without performing any significant role themselves”. It then linked what happens in these platforms to the real world. Misinformation on social media, the Court said, has had “a direct impact on vast areas of subject matter which ultimately affect the governance of States”. Given the constraints of the powers of the Delhi Assemblyvis-à-vislaw and order, the very fact that the Court found that its committee still could summon the Facebook India official without encroaching upon the turf of the Centre now opens the gates for scrutiny of social media platforms by other States, which however have significantly more powers with respect to law and order. The stage is set for more scrutiny.
The Defence and External Affairs Ministers to-day [New Delhi, July 12] spoke reassuringly in Parliament about India’s preparedness on both the western and eastern fronts to meet any Pakistani threat, while deploring strongly the continued supply of U.S. arms to the military rulers of Pakistan. The Defence Minister, Mr. Jagjivan Ram, assured the Lok Sabha, in the course of his reply to the seven-hour debate on the budget demands for the defence forces, that despite Pakistan’s frantic efforts to augment its military strength, India still retained a decisive edge in almost every sphere. In his reply to the calling attention motion of the supply of American arms to Pakistan, the External Affairs Minister, Mr. Swaran Singh, disclosed that in addition to numerous verbal representations made at the highest level, India had also protested in writing on June 27 to the U.S. Government against the dangerous implications of this action. He told the Lok Sabha that the Government of India felt that the “the supply of arms to Pakistan by any country in the present context amounts to condonation of the genocide in Bangla Desh and encouragement to the continuation of the atrocities by the Military rulers of Pakistan.”