The Ukraine Safari

I don’t usually write about cultural products from my own country, but I must make an exception for Slovenian filmmaker Miran Zupanič’s new documentary Sarajevo Safari, which details one of the most bizarre and pathological episodes of the 1992-96 siege


How The U.S. War on Taiwanese Semiconductors Might Benefit Japan


On May 15, 2023, Berkshire Hathaway reported in a Form 13F filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it had completed the sale of its $4 billion stake in Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC). This sale completed a process that began in February 2023, when Berkshire Hathaway announced that it sold 86 percent of its holdings in TSMC. In April, Berkshire Hathaway’s leader Warren Buffett told Nikkei that the geopolitical tension between the United States and China was “certainly a consideration” in his decision to divest from TSMC. TSMC told Nikkei, is a “well-managed company” but that Berkshire Hathaway would find other places for its capital. At his May 6 morning meeting, Buffett said that TSMC “is one of the best-managed companies and important companies in the world, and you’ll be able to say the same thing five, ten or twenty years from now. I don’t like its location and reevaluated that.” By “location,” Buffett meant Taiwan, in the context of the threats made by the United States against China. He decided to wind down his investment in TSMC “in the light of certain things that were going on.” Buffett announced that he would move some of this capital towards the building of a fledgling U.S. domestic semiconductor industry.

TSMC, based in Hsinchu, Taiwan,, is the world’s largest semiconductor manufacturer. In 2022, it accounted for 56 percent of the share of the global market and over 90 percent of advanced chip manufacturing. Warren Buffett’s investment in TSMC was based on the Taiwanese company’s immense grip on the world semiconductor market. In August 2022, U.S. President Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act into law, which will provide $280 billion to fund semiconductor manufacturing inside the United States. On December 6, 2022, Biden joined TSMC’s Chairman Dr. Mark Liu at the $40 billion expansion of TSMC’s semiconductor factories in North Phoenix, Arizona. Dr. Liu said at the project’s announcement that the second TSMC factory is “a testimony that TSMC is also taking a giant step forward to help build a vibrant semiconductor ecosystem in the United States.”

The first TSMC plant will open in 2024 and the second, which was announced in December, will open in 2026. On February 22, 2023, the New York Times ran a long article (“Inside Taiwanese Chip Giant, a U.S. Expansion Stokes Tensions”), which pointed out—based on interviews with TSMC employees—that “high costs and managerial challenges” show “how difficult it is to transplant one of the most complicated manufacturing processes known to man halfway across the world.” At the December 6 announcement, Biden said, “American manufacturing is back,” but it is only back at a much higher cost (the plant’s construction cost is ten times more than it would have cost in Taiwan). “The most difficult thing about wafer manufacturing is not technology,” Wayne Chiu—an engineer who left TSMC in 2022—told the New York Times. “The most difficult thing is personnel management. Americans are the worst at this because Americans are the most difficult to manage.”

Blow up Taiwan

U.S. Ambassador Robert O’Brien, the former National Security Advisor of Donald Trump, told Steve Clemons, an editor at Semafor, at the Global Security Forum in Doha, Qatar, on March 13, 2023, “The United States and its allies are never going to let those [semiconductor] factories fall into Chinese hands.” China, O’Brien said, could build “the new OPEC of silicon chips” and thereby, “control the world economy.” The United States will prevent this possibility, he said, even if it means a military strike. On May 2, 2023, at a Milken Institute event, U.S. Congressman Seth Moulton said that if Chinese forces move into Taiwan, “we will blow up TSMC. … Of course, the Taiwanese really don’t like this idea.”

These outlandish statements by O’Brien and Moulton have a basis in a widely circulated paper from the U.S. Army War College, published in November 2021, by Jared M. McKinney and Peter Harris (“Broken Nest: Deterring China from Invading Taiwan”). “The United States and Taiwan should lay plans for a targeted scorched-earth strategy that would render Taiwan not just unattractive if ever seized by force, but positively costly to maintain. This could be done effectively by threatening to destroy facilities belonging to the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company,” they write.

Right after Moulton made these incendiary remarks, former U.S. defense undersecretary Michèle Flournoy said that it was a “terrible idea” and that such an attack would have a “$2 trillion impact on the global economy within the first year and you put manufacturing around the world at a standstill.”

Taiwan’s officials responded swiftly to Moulton, with minister of defense Chiu Kuo-cheng asking, “How can our national army tolerate this situation if he says he wants to bomb this or that?” While Chiu responded to Moulton’s statement about a military strike on TSMC, in fact, the U.S. government has already attacked the ability of this Taiwanese company to remain in Taiwan.

Taiwan’s economics vice minister Lin Chuan-neng said in response to these threats and Buffett’s sale of TSMC that his government “will do its utmost to let the world know that Taiwan is stable and safe.” These incendiary remarks aimed at China now threaten the collapse of Taiwan’s economy.

Made in Japan

In his May 6 meeting, Warren Buffett said something that gives a clue about where the semiconductor manufacturing might be diverted. “I feel better about the capital that we’ve got deployed in Japan than Taiwan,” he said. In 1988, 51 percent of the world’s semiconductors were made in Japan, but as of 2022, the number is merely 9 percent. In June 2022, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) announced it would put in 40 percent of a planned $8.6 billion for a semiconductor manufacturing plant by TSMC in Kumamoto. METI said in November that it has selected the Rapidus Corporation—which includes a stake by NTT, SoftBank, Sony, and Toyota—to manufacture next-generation 2-nanometer chips. It is likely that Berkshire Hathaway will invest in this new business.

Source: Globetrotter

Political Crisis in Ecuador Continues Following Dissolution of Parliament


On Wednesday, May 17, Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso decreed the dissolution of the National Assembly, the country’s unicameral parliament, using the “cross-death” constitutional mechanism. Lasso argued that there was a “serious political crisis and internal commotion” in the country and that the dissolution of the opposition majority parliament was a “constitutional solution” and a “democratic action.” Lasso’s decision came a day after the parliament began an impeachment hearing against him. He is accused of corruption and embezzlement of public funds.

Following Lasso’s announcement, the left-wing opposition Citizen Revolution Movement (RC) rejected the dissolution of parliament, calling it a “desperate and unconstitutional action.” The RC said that it was Lasso’s “strategy” to avoid the impeachment trial that could have removed him from office.

“The decree issued by President Guillermo Lasso is evidence of the triumph of the impeachment. This desperate and unconstitutional action is a strategy of a hopeless government that seeks to avoid the vote to remove it, without caring about the people. He is clinging to his post, instead of allowing the country to revive. The Citizen Revolution -as it has always said and maintained- places its positions at the disposal of the Ecuadorian people. This is the moment for the country to change. Lasso will not be able to stop the judgment of history. Soon the patient but present people will wake up, with our people we will triumph,” stated the RC.

The conservative Social Christian Party (PSC), Lasso’s former electoral partner, also questioned the legitimacy of Lasso’s move and rejected claims of a serious political and internal crisis.

from the Peoples Dispatch / Globetrotter News Service

Despite Poor Record, Greece’s Ruling New Democracy Emerges as Single Largest Party in Elections


With 99.65 percent of votes counted in the elections to the Greek parliament held on Sunday, May 21, the conservative New Democracy (ND) party led by incumbent Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis emerged as the single largest party with 40.79 percent of the votes and 146 seats. However, it fell short of a simple majority. The major opposition party, Syriza, led by Alexis Tsipras, secured only 20 percent of the votes and 71 seats (-15). The liberal-socialist PASOK-KINAL coalition and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) significantly improved their performance, winning 41 (+19) and 26 seats (+11), respectively. The elections saw a turnout of 60.92 percent despite that voting was compulsory.

According to reports, ND is unwilling to form a coalition with any other party and Mitsotakis has expressed willingness to go for a repeat vote in June where he might get a majority due to different electoral rules.

The elections were held amid a great deal of dissatisfaction with the major political parties. The ND government’s attacks on the rights of workers across sectors, especially health and education, were met with protests from trade unions. The government also faced a backlash after a horrific train accident and a wire-tapping scandal.

Under the ND government, austerity policies intensified. Close to 30 percent of Greeks are at risk of poverty or social exclusion and real wages of workers have declined by 25 percent since 2007. Greece has also been a key supporter of Ukraine, sending weapons and tank operators and spending 3.5 percent of its GDP on defense, more than any other NATO member.

from the Peoples Dispatch / Globetrotter News Service

Will the Latest Ceasefire Hold in Sudan?


Fighting continued in Sudan hours before a ceasefire agreement was to take effect between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) on Monday, May 22. The warring parties had signed the agreement on May 20. Around 850 civilians have died since fighting broke out on April 15.

Concerns remain about whether the ceasefire will hold as earlier agreements were violated. This is the first time the warring parties have signed a written agreement with a mechanism for monitoring. A Monitoring and Coordination Committee is to be established, comprising three representatives each from the SAF and RSF, and three each from the US and Saudi Arabia, which have been jointly facilitating the negotiations in Jeddah.

While welcoming the agreement, spokesperson of the Sudanese Communist Party Fathi Elfadl told Peoples Dispatch that this committee is insufficient to monitor and ensure compliance. “It does not include a single representative of the civilians who have been suffering the most,” he said. 

The warring parties have committed to ensuring the safety of humanitarian workers and allowing humanitarian assistance delivery. Elfadl said that the humanitarian corridors should not be controlled by the SAF or RSF but by organizations like the doctors’ union and the Sudanese Red Crescent. He added that neighborhood resistance committees, which have been at the forefront of mass protests and relief work, should receive and distribute the aid.

Around 24.7 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the Revised Humanitarian Response Plan for Sudan prepared by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

from the Peoples Dispatch / Globetrotter News Service

Bangladesh: Withdrawal of Additional “Security Escort” for Foreign Envoys and Undue Fuss


Recently, Bangladesh Government decided to withdraw “additional police escort” services provided to the foreign envoys in Dhaka from four countries- the UK, the US, India, and Saudi Arabia. Under this “extra escort” facility, policemen equipped with riot gear used to escort in their vans the envoys from those countries during their movement in the city.

Since the very announcement of the withdrawal, it received an expansive but shallow media coverage, with social media flooded with speculations over whether the withdrawal has resulted from the government’s apparently frayed relations with specific Western countries or its frustration over the recent activities of a foreign envoy that the government reasonably deems interference into the country’s internal affairs. Moreover, the way the decision has been trumpeted in national and some international media seems as if, from the very moment of the decision enacted, those envoys’ movements would be entirely unescorted and their chancery complexes or residences be unprotected.

The decision, however, is to pull out “additional escort” facilities once added to the existing “usual arrangements” out of internal security expediency and rendered so far to the envoys from selected countries. Responding to the unnecessary fanfare and panic, the foreign ministry has already clarified that the police gunmen will continue to accompany the envoys while their movements and the security personnel from the designated policy unit will remain assigned as usual to guard the chancery buildings and residences of the senior diplomats.

For all the curious and appetizing speculations, to a large extent misperception, about the government’s sudden decision to withdraw “additional security” escort, the current internal and external political dynamics with respect to the country’s upcoming national election have incentivized the way the decision has received that much level of avid speculation. Western countries’ increasingly express attention on, and, in some cases, assertive articulation about how the election will have to be held, has recently been seen causing heated debate in domestic political and diplomatic ambit.

However, the government’s decision- devised upon well-explained and logical foundations- is in no way out of its resentment toward certain countries’ plainly unsolicited activities around the country’s internal political developments, notably its imminent national election. To discern the merits behind the decision, one needs to look back to what sort of security circumstance had previously prompted the government to introduce such additional escort facilities to specific countries.

Bangladesh government introduced this facility in 2016 out of heightened security exigency in the wake of the Holey Artisan terror attack. In the aftermath of the terror attack, the overall security atmosphere concerning the Islamist terror threat both within and beyond the country has substantially improved. For instance, Bangladesh ranks 43rd among 163 countries in the 2023 Global Terrorism Index (GTI) with a score of 3,827 out of 10, whereas it stood at 22nd in 2016. With a span of 7 years. It has been elevated by 23 notches, thanks to the country’s comprehensive, whole-society anti-terror measures.

Apart from this security standpoint, two more potent factors offer merits to the withdrawal decision. Firstly, the ongoing economic hardship emanating from the global economic downturn due to the years-long pandemic and the current war in Ukraine has been forcing Bangladesh, like many in the Global South, to adopt fiscal austerity across a number of economic aspects. The cost of providing additional escort facilities to several countries is, given the country’s current economic extremity and the government’s struggle to maintain rigorous fiscal hedging, by no means meager as it may seem to affluent others.

Secondly, providing specially designed security facilities to specific countries stands in contrast to the egalitarian principle of treating all foreign envoys equally. Such a facility, in the naked eye, may seem discriminatory, leaving other envoys out of this special facility’s purview being treated lightly and undermining their enthusiasm for diplomatic engagements. Moreover, from this sort of egalitarian outlook, as the foreign minister said earlier that more countries were demanding such additional facilities, if Bangladesh would have gone for providing every country with similar escort services, it had put further strain on the already ailing economy, and scarce security resources as well.

So, the withdrawal decision is nothing but a realignment of security resources in response to the improved security environment in the country and the nation’s prevailing economic priorities without compromising due diligence to ensure optimum security for the foreign envoys hosted in the country. Bangladesh’s long diplomatic history has had no evidence of taking any implicit or explicit diplomatic retaliatory measures out of resentment.

G7 summit escalates new Cold War


The leaders of the most powerful capitalist empires gathered in Japan over the weekend to hold a summit of the “G7” powers – the United States, UK, France, Canada, Italy, Japan, and Germany. While their deliberations, held in Hiroshima, touched on a wide range of issues, there was one common goal present throughout the meeting – intensify the new Cold War atmosphere in world politics by recklessly deepening key conflicts. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was the de facto guest of honor at the summit. Arriving on Saturday, Zelenskyy held a flurry of meetings and events to solidify his standing among the main sponsors of the proxy war that pits his country against Russia. In his main speech, Zelenskyy reminded his patrons how they are all effectively co-combatants in the war, “For almost 15 months of full-scale war, we’ve made hundreds of security decisions together. These include the formation of coalitions of defense support, sanctions against the aggressor, protection of markets, including the energy and food markets, and protection of Ukraine’s financial stability.” 

The day before Zelenskyy landed in Hiroshima, the Biden administration unveiled a massive escalation of the war. The Pentagon will now seek to facilitate the transfer of highly sought-after F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, and the training of Ukrainian pilots to fly them. For months, even the U.S. government resisted aggressive lobbying by Ukraine to secure these jets. But as the eve of the G7 summit opened, this was reversed in a move that takes the world even further down the path towards catastrophe. 

Biden met with Zelenskyy and pledged, “Together with the entire G7, we have Ukraine’s back and I promise we’re not going anywhere.” An official statement from the summit promised that “Our support for Ukraine will not waver.” Host of the summit, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, assured that the G7 will provide “strong backing for Ukraine from every possible dimension.”

While imperialist diplomacy played out in the comfort of the summit, dramatic events were unfolding on the battlefield in Ukraine. The town of Bakhmut was captured by the Russian military after months of intense fighting that became the focal point of the war. But at the same time, the Ukrainian armed forces were conducting final preparations for a highly-anticipated counter-offensive that could see the greatest risk yet of the war escalating into a direct clash between NATO and Russia.  

Hostility to China a central theme

China, which along with Russia is the principal adversary in the U.S. government’s new Cold War, was also a top target at the summit. The official declaration pledged that the G7 would, “address the challenges posed by China’s non-market policies and practices, which distort the global economy” and “counter malign practices.” It also expressed that the leaders were, “seriously concerned about the situation in the East and South China Seas” and echoed separatist talking points on Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang. These issues are related to the territorial integrity of China, something that is of the utmost importance to the country’s government and could be the basis for a direct military clash. 

A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry responded to this hostility by noting, “the G7 used issues concerning China to smear and attack China and brazenly interfere in China’s internal affairs … gone are the days when a handful of Western countries can just willfully meddle in other countries’ internal affairs and manipulate global affairs. We urge G7 members to catch up with the trend of the times.”

Along the sidelines of the G7 meeting, leaders of the “Indo-Pacific Quad” countries also held a meeting. The Quad was established in 2017 as part of the U.S. strategy to encircle and contain China, and is made up of the United States, Japan, India and Australia. While it stopped short of naming China, the joint statement issued by the Quad countries all but accused the country of “destabilizing or unilateral actions that seek to change the status quo by force or coercion.” Of course, it is actually the U.S. government that for generations has based its entire foreign policy on unilateral action employing force or coercion. 

China was especially alarmed at the rhetoric coming out of the G7 summit because of several recent geopolitical developments. Last month, the right wing president of South Korea Yoon Suk Yeol traveled to the White House to meet with Joe Biden and issue the “Washington Declaration.” This aimed to solidify South Korea’s subordinate role to the U.S. war machine by deepening military coordination, including the regular deployment of U.S. submarine-based nuclear weapons to the Korean peninsula. Then, less than two weeks later, Japanese Prime Minister Kishida went to South Korea for talks aimed at bringing the two countries closer together for the sake of mutual confrontation with China and North Korea. Last December, Kishida’s government announced the country would embark on its largest military build-up since World War Two. 

It is a true irony that this gathering took place in Hiroshima – the place where the U.S. military criminally carried out the first attack in history using nuclear arms. While the leaders visited the city’s Peace Park dedicated to the bomb’s victims and spouted hollow rhetoric about disarmament, their actions at the summit brought the world closer to the brink of a catastrophic global confrontation where this type of weapon could bring about the end of life on Earth as we know it. 

Source: The Liberation

US hopes to snatch victory from jaws of defeat in Ukraine


The G7 Leaders’ 2700-word statement on Ukraine, issued in Hiroshima after their summit meeting glossed over the burning question today — the so-called counter-offensive against the Russian forces.

It is a deafening silence, since rumours are swirling about the disappearance of the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces. Significantly, President Vladimir Zelensky himself is making himself scarce from Kiev touring world capitals — Helsinki, Hague, Rome, Vatican, Berlin, Paris, London and Jeddah and Hiroshima. It does seem that something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

As the G7 summit ended, the head of the Wagner PMC, Yevgeny Prigozhin announced on Saturday that the Russian operation to capture the strategic communication hub of Bakhmut in Donbass region of eastern Ukraine lasting 224 days, has been brought to a successful completion, overcoming the resistance by more than 80,000 Ukrainian troops. 

It is a painful moment for Zelensky, who had boasted before US lawmakers in Capitol Hill last December that “just like the Battle of Saratoga (in 1777 during the American Revolutionary War), the fight for Bakhmut will change the trajectory of our war for independence and for freedom.” 

Meanwhile, to distract attention, there is talk now about a subtle shift in the US policy regarding supply of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine in an indeterminate future. In reality, though, no one can tell what the Ukrainian rump state will look like when the jets arrive.  Unsurprisingly, the Biden Administration still seems to be in two minds. F-16 is a hot item for export; what happens if the Russians were to blow it out of the sky with their hi-tech weapons and rubbish its fame ? 

The Russians seem to have concluded that nothing short of a total victory will make the Americans and the British understand that Moscow means business on the three objectives behind the special military operations that are non-negotiable: security and safety of the ethnic Russian community and their right to live in peace and dignity in the new territories; demilitarisation and de-Nazification of Ukraine; and a neutral, sovereign, independent Ukraine freed from the US clutches and no longer a hostile neighbour. 

To be sure, the unprecedented levels of US hostility towards Russia only hardened Moscow’s resolve. If the Anglo-Saxon alliance keeps climbing the escalation ladder, the Russian campaign may well expand the operation to the entire region east of the Dnieper River. The Russians are in this war for the long haul and the ball is in the  American court.

What comes to mind is a speech last July by President Vladimir Putin while addressing the Duma. He had said, “Today we hear that they want to defeat us on the battlefield. Well, what can I say? Let them try. We have already heard a lot about the West wanting to fight us ‘to the last Ukrainian.’ This is a tragedy for the Ukrainian people, but that seems to be where it is going. But everyone should know that, by and large, we have not started anything in earnest yet.” 

Well, the Russian operation has finally started “in earnest.” The thinking behind the delay is unmistakeable. Putin underscored in his speech that the West should know that the longer Russia’s special military operation goes on, “the harder it will be for them to negotiate with us.”  

Therefore, the big question is about the Ukrainian counteroffensive. The Russian forces enjoy overwhelming superiority in every sense militarily. Even if the hard core of the Ukrainian forces who were trained in the West, numbering some 30-35000 soldiers, manage to achieve some “breakthrough” in the 950-kilometre long frontline, what happens thereafter? 

Make no mistake, a massive Russian counterattack will follow and the Ukrainian soldiers may only end up in a fire trap and suffer huge losses in their tens of thousands. What would the Anglo-Saxon axis have achieved? 

Besides, the Ukrainian military will have so thoroughly exhausted itself that there will be nothing stopping the Russian forces from advancing toward Kharkov and Odessa. Herein lies the paradox. For, from that point, Russians will have no one to talk to. 

If past American behaviour — be it Vietnam, Afghanistan or Iraq and Syria — is anything to go by, Washington will do nothing. The well-known American strategic thinker Col. (Retd.) David MacGreggor couldn’t have put things better when he said earlier this week: 

“I can tell you that Washington is going to do nothing. And I’ve always warned… we (United States) are not a continental power, not a land power anywhere but in our own Hemisphere. We are primarily an aerospace and maritime power, much like Great Britain. And what does that mean? When things go badly for us, we sail away, we fly away, we go home… That’s what we always do. Eventually, we just leave. And I think, that’s on the agenda now.” 

The stony silence of the G7 statement on the Ukrainian counteroffensive is understandable. The G7 statement needs to be juxtaposed with a report appearing in Politico on the eve of the summit in Hiroshima which, quoting senior US officials elaborated on an audacious plan to transform Ukraine war into a “frozen conflict” on the analogy of the Korean Peninsula or Kashmir. 

A Pentagon official told the daily that recent military aid packages to Ukraine reflect the Biden administration’s “shift to a longer-term strategy.” Reportedly, US officials are already talking to Kiev about the nature of their relationship in the future. 

Principally, if Ukraine’s NATO membership bid stalls, western guarantees could range from a NATO-style Article 5 mutual defence deal to Israel-style arms deals with Ukraine so that “the conflict will wind up somewhere in between an active war and a chilled standoff.”

Indeed, the G7 statement began conceptualising the “Europeanisation” of Ukraine with reforms, market economy driven by private sector and western financial institutions, and boosting Kiev’s deterrent capability vis-a-vis Russia militarily. 

It is quite amazing. Hardly has one flawed narrative — espousing Russia’s military defeat in Ukraine and the overthrow of Putin — unravelled, another narrative is being hoisted, predicated on the simplistic notion that Russia will simply roll over and passively watch the US integrating Ukraine into the western alliance system to create an open wound festering on Russia’s western borders that will drain resources for decades to come and complicating ties with neighbours.

However, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov’s reaction to the G7 Summit confirms that Moscow will not fall into the trap of a “frozen conflict.” Lavrov said, “Could you take a look at those decisions which are being debated and adopted at the G7 summit in Hiroshima and which are aimed at dual containment of Russia and the People’s Republic of China?

“The objective was announced loudly and frankly, which is to defeat Russia on the battlefield, and without stopping at this, to eliminate it later as a geopolitical rival, so to speak, along with any other country that claims an independent place in the world, they will be suppressed as opponents.”

Lavrov also pointed out that the Western countries’ expert community is overtly discussing the order to work out scenarios aimed at Russia’s breakup, and “they do not conceal that the existence of Russia as an independent centre is incompatible with the goal of the West’s global domination.” The Minister said, “We have to give a firm and consistent response to the war declared upon us.”

Yet, it is not as if Americans are incapable of seeing the war through Russia’s eyes. Read here a letter pleading for some sanity in Washington penned by a group of distinguished former American diplomats and military officials associated with the Eisenhower Media Network. By the way, they paid to get it in the New York Times, but the rest of the establishment media chose to ignore it.

Will Indian Government’s Withdrawal of 2000 Note Root Out Corruption?


After demonetisation in 2016, cash circulation in India by value came down significantly . However, subsequently , for whatever reasons , the cash circulation was gradually increased by the Government of India by printing more currency notes of various denominations . As a result, present currency circulation in the country by value is as high as Rs.32 lakh crore.

It is well known that all corrupt dealings take place by cash transactions and black money in cash which is generated by tax evasion. Such cash in the form of black money is used for several corrupt and nefarious practices, ,resulting in development and growth of parallel economy.

Government of India under Prime Minister Modi has been taking special efforts to promote digitalisation and direct transfer of funds through electronic media. It is gratifying that in the last four years or so, the digitalisation of economy have forged ahead at an impressive rate and by and large , people have responded to such digitalisation exercise favourably. These days, it is seen that even small traders and even street vendors accept payment electronically by what is popularly known as google pay or payment by card.

In such conditions, Government of India has done well to take steps to withdraw Rs.2000 currency notes, amounting to more than Rs.3 lakh crore from circulation with the deadline being 30th September,2023. This positive move will certainly bring out the hoarded money by politicians and businessmen or others and dilute the black money circulation in the country to a considerable extent.

What is very important now is that having taken steps to withdraw Rs.2000 notes amounting to the value of more than Rs.3 lakh crore, Government of India should not undo the benefit by replacing the withdrawn Rs.2000 currency by printing lower denomination notes. This will undo the benefit of withdrawing the Rs.2000 currency notes.

India has to move steadily towards cash less economy which is a gradual process and it is showing healthy signs of happening now. The emergence of cashless economy is the ultimate strategy to root out political and administrative corruption in India, which lead to business corruption.

The lesser cash in currency circulation will inevitably force or persuade people to resort to money transaction for business , trade or personal purposes by digital mode.

Of course, with the withdrawal of Rs.2000 currency notes, some critics may find fault with the move ,by stating that there would be shortage of notes of lesser denomination to be exchanged for Rs.2000 currency notes, when submitted by the people to the bank. This complaint would be largely made by the black money holders with concealed cash bundles , as they would not like to use the option of depositing the Rs.2000 currency notes in their bank account.

It is necessary that Government of India should be careful in explaining the merits of the present move to withdraw Rs.2000 currency notes , so that the gullible people would not be misled by false and motivated criticisms. . It is also necessary that enlightened and knowledgeable economists should voice their views in various forums, so that a heathy and forward looking national discussions on the subject can take place, that will contribute to prepare mindset of the people in favour of cashless economy.

Indian diplomacy in overstretch


The Foreign Secretary’s special briefing on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Asia-Pacific tour (May 19-24) dovetailed skilfully into three summit meetings, and brings to mind an institution of the Middle Ages known as the “wandering minstrels”. 

Wealthy people used to employ minstrels to entertain them in their homes. These wandering minstrels told stories, recited poems, sang ballads and played musical instruments. Employing simple rhymes, their ballads told stories that were of interest and at times even dealt with the problems of the poor.

PM’s first halt is Hiroshima, Japan, where he is a special invitee to a  gathering of the club of rich nations, G7, which was born as a result of mounting economic problems, in particular the oil shock and the collapse of the Bretton Woods in the mid-1970s.

According to the Foreign Secretary, G7’s outreach with India would be “structured around three formal sessions,” relating to food,  health, development, gender equality, climate, energy, environment and a ‘peaceful, stable and prosperous world’.“

Japan, as G7 presidency, has also invited Australia, Brazil, Comoros, Cook Islands, Indonesia, Republic of Korea, and Vietnam as  “special invitees”. It’s a motley crowd that makes little sense as movers and shakers of the world order. 

But the western media is awash with reports that the West’s preoccupations with China and Russia will be the leitmotif of the G7 summit. Therefore, the last-minute decision by Ukraine President Vladimir Zelensky to attend the G7 in person electrified the air in Hiroshima, giving the goings on there in the weekend the look of a foreplay leading to the making of an endgame in the Ukraine war, if and when that happens.

In such a scenario, of course, there are vital roles that could be assigned by the US to Brazil and India — both BRICS members — and to South Korea which has actually lived through a “frozen conflict.” But all that is in the realms of speculations for the present, as it will be a far-fetched assumption that a frozen conflict “somewhere in between an active war and a chilled standoff” will suit Russia,  although that “could be a politically palatable long-term result for the United States and other countries backing Ukraine” to gingerly exit the war in Eurasia — to borrow from an important article in Politico two days ago titled Ukraine could join ranks of ‘frozen’ conflicts, U.S. officials sayeven as Biden was emplaning for Hiroshima.

Be that as it may, India’s enthusiasm was on two counts — first, the opportunity for Modi to have extended interactions with President Biden in different locales spread over an entire week —  at Hiroshima, Papua New Guinea and Sydney. Second, the QUAD was to hold a summit in Sydney, Australia, where India saw the  opportunity to showcase itself as a “counterweight” to China. 

However, fate intervened. The slow-motion implosion of the US economy bothers Biden and he has cut short his Asia tour by reducing it to a weekend affair so as to hurry back to Washington by Sunday and resume work in the Oval Office to shore up the “steady progress” so far achieved in the gruelling debt ceiling talks between the administration and the lawmakers. 

However, scuppering the planned QUAD Summit in Sydney next week would convey a wrong signal, too. Therefore, diplomats found a way to squeeze in a substitute QUAD photo-op in Hiroshima itself. After all, as Foreign Secretary pointed out, QUAD is a moveable feast — “Look, the structure and nature of QUAD is such that … (although) the QUAD Leaders’ Meeting not taking placing in Sydney and now taking place in Hiroshima is a change in venue, there has not been any change in the specific aspects of cooperation in QUAD.” 

But Chinese commentators are already mocking that the cancellation of the Sydney summit is “an omen of QUAD’s fate.” And the Guardian newspaper wrote that the cancellation of the QUAD  summit in Sydney will spawn narratives that “the US is racked by increasingly severe domestic upheaval and is an unreliable partner, quick to leave allies high and dry.”

The Guardian lamented that the US should worry about its crumbling credibility. Besides, the cancellation of the event in Sydney is a blow to the Australian hosts, in particular. It seems Australian officials had spent months extensively planning the huge logistical and security operation of a Biden visit to Sydney and last October’s budget actually set aside $23million for the costs of hosting the QUAD summit. 

The bottom line is: Aren’t these one too many summits? To what purpose, really? To contain China? The G7 itself has become a relic of the past. In fact, what we are witnessing could be the last rites of the old order, as Donald Trump’s theatre looms across the Pacific. Also, putting on a show of common endeavour at the G7 is becoming increasingly difficult. There is an end-of-epoch feel to the  G7 summit this year.

Again, take the third meeting of the Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC Summit), which Modi is co-chairing on 22 May in Papua New Guinea. Modi launched this forum during his “historic visit” to Fiji in November 2014 when he hosted the first FIPIC Summit. The second FIPIC Summit followed within ten months in Jaipur, India, in August 2015. Now, almost a decade later, FIPIC is coming back to life after a deep slumber. 

Yet, statistics show that India’s trade with all those 14 PIC countries combined — Cook Islands, Fiji, Republic of Kiribati, Republic of Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Niue, Republic of Nauru, Republic of Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu — is hovering around $250 million! 

Simply put, while Chinese diplomacy is proactive in the strategically important Western Pacific, the US seems to be encouraging India to mark the lamp posts there. But from an Indian perspective, this is classic imperial overstretch, and is highly avoidable. This was what Pakistan used to do, copying Indian diplomacy anywhere and everywhere to “catch up” — until it got exhausted and gave up. 

Biden’s original intention was to hop over to Papua New Guinea with a specific agenda — the signing of a maritime security pact and a defence pact with Papua New Guinea that would give American troops access to the Pacific nation’s ports and airports. Biden’s trip to the Pacific Islands was expected to be a power play in Washington’s face-off with China. For Biden personally, it would also have been a sentimental journey as his uncle died in Papua New Guinea in the Second World War.

But India carries no remains of the day in Western Pacific. Isn’t its hands full, as it is, with the complex issues of Indian Ocean maritime security, which it is barely able to cope with?

Look at Biden. He coolly decided that with a challenging re-election bid ahead in 2024, the domestic debt ceiling crisis talks in DC ought to be his top priority, and instructed Secretary of State Antony Blinken to stand in for him at the summit with Pacific leaders in Port Moresby on Monday. Indian diplomacy has something to learn here about the art of prioritising objectives instead of indulging in shadow boxing and exhausting itself.  

The Anticipations of Indians as Prime Minister Modi Embarks on His Tenth Year


The critics of India’s Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, may say various things about his administration, but the ground reality is that both Indians living across the country and observers abroad believe that India has experienced positive changes in multiple aspects during his nine-year tenure. Numerous international expert groups and even the United Nations have praised India for its robust economic growth, particularly as many other countries face recessionary trends.

Recent opinion surveys have consistently shown that Mr. Modi is the most popular and charismatic leader in India, surpassing any opposition political figures. Some global agencies have also recognized him as an important and popular world leader.

However, the recent election results in Karnataka, where Mr. Modi’s party failed to retain power and lost to the opposition, have come as a surprise. There is now intense debate across India regarding the reasons behind this outcome. While critics argue that this election signifies the beginning of the end for Mr. Modi’s leadership, discerning observers dismiss this view. One credible perspective suggests that the BJP party, which held power in Karnataka, failed to provide the expected quality of governance, potentially leading to instances of corruption within the government machinery. This disappointment could be heightened by the fact that the ultimate leader of the BJP is Mr. Modi himself.

When Mr. Modi was elected as Prime Minister nine years ago, people recognized him as a strong and dedicated political leader with unwavering convictions and a high standard of personal integrity. Naturally, they expected him to launch and implement various development projects in the industrial, commercial, and social sectors, which he has done to the satisfaction of the people. Simultaneously, the public anticipated a comprehensive eradication of corruption at all levels throughout the country.

However, the reality is that the expectation of completely rooting out corruption has not been adequately met during Mr. Modi’s tenure as Prime Minister, particularly in some state governments. Nevertheless, people believe that as a national leader with a strong mandate, it remains Mr. Modi’s responsibility to eliminate corruption even at the state level.

With only around 12 months remaining before the next parliamentary election, Mr. Modi has limited time to fulfill the people’s expectations regarding the eradication of corruption. While development projects are progressing well, and a climate of growth has been established and is likely to be sustained, Mr. Modi’s primary focus for the next twelve months should be his determined crusade against corruption. Despite anticipated resistance and attribution of ulterior motives, he must persevere in identifying and punishing corrupt forces through all possible means. This will instill confidence in the people that corruption will be eradicated soon.

The success of Mr. Modi’s anti-corruption drive will serve as a crucial test during the upcoming parliamentary election.

Many Indians believe that the root cause of political corruption and subsequent administrative corruption in the country lies in the fact that almost all political parties, except the BJP and Communist/Marxist parties, are controlled by families with vested interests. People view such family control of political parties with disdain. Perhaps, the precondition for eliminating corruption is to eradicate family control and vested interests within political parties.

As part of Mr. Modi’s anti-corruption campaign, he should also launch a strong movement to denounce dynasty politics in India. Speaking forcefully about this issue would resonate well with the people and capture their imagination.