Opinion

Chinese Satellite Not a Threat – Ex-CIA Boss

144 views
1 min read

The discovery of a Chinese satellite floating over Montana has created lots more heat than light. Hourly news reports make it sound like a replay of Pearl Harbor.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a balloon!
Fact is, the satellite itself presents zero danger, weapons-wise, and if it were on a serious spying mission, it could be easily neutralized.

“Really, it’s not a big deal,” former Air Force general and CIA director Michael Hayden told US-based SpyTalk.

“We can neutralize so I don’t think it’s a danger either.”

The Pentagon has said as much, too, but its calming message has been pretty much overlooked in the hysterical coverage afforded news the satellite’s discovery a few days ago.

“But out of an abundance of caution, we have taken additional mitigation steps. I’m not going to go into what those are. But we know exactly where this balloon is, exactly what it is passing over. And we are taking steps to be extra vigilant so that we can mitigate any foreign intelligence risk,” a Pentagon briefer said Friday.

There is a “variety of capabilities to render it unusable or mitigate the threat,” Paul Cobaugh, a retired Army information operations specialist also told SpyTalk. “It’s not a threat.”

The satellite might well have drifted off its intended path as an aide in an upcoming satellite launch.

“The near-term goal for the High-Altitude Balloon (HAB) is to act as a testbed for ground communications and CubeSat systems prior to launch,” said a 2021 paper from US Army Space and Missile Defense Command Space and High-Altitude Research Center at West Point. “ The long-term goal for the HAB is to develop a station-keeping subsystem that will enable HABs to maintain their relative position over a single point on the ground and demonstrate militarily relevant capabilities and concepts.”

Armchair generals in social media sites like LinkedIn have been crying for the Air Force to shoot it down. The Biden administration, citing the potential of civilian casualties from the falling debris, declined to do that.

If it posed any real threat, the Pentagon has a range of decades-old technology to neutralize it, experts say. It could “spoof” Bei Dou, the Chinese satellite navigation system, to guide it to the ground, Brian Barritt, chief technology officer at Aalyria Technologies, said on LinkedIn.

Bottom line: Everybody needs to calm down.

Source: Spy Talk

Adani’s Calling Off Public Offer: A Big Setback for India’s Green Hydrogen Projects

/
186 views
3 mins read

All those who are keen that India should successfully set up massive green hydrogen projects to overcome the impending energy crisis are greatly disappointed that Adani group has decided not to go ahead with the fully subscribed  Rs.20,000 crore   Follow On Public Offer.

Using this public offer of Rs.20,000 crore,  Adani group earlier announced that it would spend a substantial amount to set up green hydrogen projects,  which are unlikely to happen now.

Need for green hydrogen energy project

India presently imports around  80% of it’s crude oil requirement amounting to around 250 million tonne per annum,. India is also importing around 50% of India’s requirement of natural gas, which amounts to around 35 billion cubic metres per annum.

Import requirement of crude oil and natural gas is likely to increase at 6 to 7% per annum in the coming years, as domestic production of crude oil and natural gas is likely to remain stagnant in the coming years.

Amongst many plans being implemented by the government of India to reduce the use of fossil fuel and avoid global warming, the promotion of green energy projects in a big way is one of the very important strategies.

The government of India has allotted Rs.35,000 crore for green energy projects in the 2023-24 annual budget.

The government of India is targeting to generate five million tonnes of green hydrogen annually from the year 2030, which is the industry’s total amount of (non-green) hydrogen consumed today.

This shift to green hydrogen would avoid  30  to 40 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per annum and avert import of more than ₹60,000 crore worth of natural gas and crude oil.

Adani group’s proposed plans:

Adani group’s business spans coal trading, mining, FMCG (Adani Wilmar), seaport, solar power manufacturing, airports, roads, data centres, green hydrogen and so on. 

If the proposed public offer would have been accepted by Adani group, about ₹10,800 crores would have been used to fund the capital needs of green hydrogen projects, airports and expressways. 

Green hydrogen project proposal of Adani group covers the green hydrogen ecosystem from scratch.

While a few other green hydrogen projects are in the preliminary stage in India, the green hydrogen project proposal of Adani group is one of the largest.

A big setback for India’s project investment plans:

Private sector investments in projects like what Adani group has announced have to happen in a big way if India is to attain the target of 5 trillion dollar economy in the coming years.

Obviously, to attain this target, many massive projects require huge investment, for which large public issues of several thousand crores of rupees are required. 

If such public issues were to be throttled and sabotaged by vicious and motivated campaigns by some so-called research groups, then,  it would result in big setbacks for India’s future development programmes.

When an industrial group achieves spectacular growth, it is seen that those who cannot match the performance of the fast-growing group view such performance with surprise and disbelief. 

There have been cases and instances, where competitors from India or abroad would try to indirectly launch campaigns against the fast-growing group and support negative campaigns.

There have also been cases where motivated environmental groups have scuttled projects by carrying out hate campaigns and stating unproven environmental violations against particular companies. The immediate example is the closure of Sterlite Copper unit in Tamil Nadu

There have been many instances to show such motivated campaigns across the world for whatever reasons.

These conditions cause setback to India’s plans to achieve big leap forward.

Adani group   – A victim of motivated campaign  in this case:

A vicious campaign   against Adani group   was carried out by a US-based investment research firm known as  Hindenburg Research, stating several  vague  allegations, some unproven violations 

Due to the massive publicity given to such campaigns in Indian media before proper investigation, the gullible investors became panicky.  In such circumstance, the share of Adani group have seen massive losses.

In such extraordinary circumstances, Adani group felt that going ahead with the fully subscribed issue will not be correct,  since the interest of the investors have to be protected.

The net result of the situation is that  India has lost massive investment opportunities in green hydrogen projects.

Further, the motivated American research team and the detractors against India, wherever they may be,   seem to be highly pleased and satisfied.

The entire Adani episode is a case of negative forces winning ,  which is a very unfortunate situation for a growing and developing country like India.

Revival of Terrorism – View from Pakistan

/
205 views
4 mins read

Some people might be misguided by the thought that the menace of terrorism in Pakistan was successfully crushed to the roots a few years back and after the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan things have become quite normal but actually the situation is not that way.  Terrorists and terrorism both are still alive; it seems they had hibernated themselves for a very short period of time. Once again, they are out of their short sleep and ready to ‘do more’. The recent bomb attack on a mosque in Peshawar on 30th January seemsthe beginning of a fresh wave of terrorist activities in Pakistan. The terrorists have chosen a time when Pakistan is passing through the toughest period of its history with a lot of political and economic instability. Different experts on security affairs were already apprehendingoccurrence of such incidents. It is also being feared thatmore episodes of the same type could take place in near future. Certainly the law-enforcement agencies will have to be more active and more vigilant against the peace-destroyers.

Even the last year had not been very peaceful regarding terrorist activities in Pakistan. According to a think-tank based in Islamabad The Pak Institute for Peace Studies, Pakistan had to face 254 militant attacks in the year 2022. More than 400 Pakistanis lost their lives in these attacks. The Arab News said referring to the report prepared by the Pak Institute for Peace Studies that ‘The toll is significantly higher than last year 2021, when 335 people were killed by militants in 207 incidents, and in 2020, when 146 attacks killed 220.’ The most affected area had been Baluchistan where foreign-patronized terrorists targeted security forces and particularly the Chinese nationals working on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project which is a multibillion-dollar project having a lot of possibility of strengthening Pakistan’s economy. Attacks on the Chinese nationals certainly effected the work on CPEC project as hovering security threats make things very difficult for the foreigners working on different development projects. It seems that the sole target of all terrorist activities was nothing but to create hurdles in the way to completion of the CPEC.

Now the beginning of 2023 does not seem very pleasant and hopeful with reference to the terrorist’s activities in Pakistan specifically in Baluchistan and KPK province. On 18th of January, according to the Voice of America, a militant attack from across the Iranian side of the border had killed four Pakistani soldiers.The attack took place in the remote Panjgur district in southwestern Baluchistan province. Sources say that the terrorists used Iranian soil to target a convoy of security forces patrolling along the border. The government of Pakistan, just after the incident, asked the Iranian side to hunt down the terrorists on their side. Whatever happened there at the Pak-Iran border was certainly very much unexpected and disappointing even for the Iranian government and the Iranian embassy in Islamabad strongly condemned the terrorist attack on Pakistani troops but this act of condemnation is not the solution to the problem. Without looking into the matter in detail, such incidents might reoccur in near and far-future.Panjgur district of Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan province is an area which borders Iran and Afghanistan. The area surrounding Panjgur had always been terrorists’ hot favourite. In 2019, both PakistanandIran had expressed their desire toform a joint quick reaction force to counter and combat militant activitiesalong the border. Unfortunately that desire has yet not been materialized. Though no terrorist group has yet claimed the responsibility of blood-shed in Panjgur. On December 19th 2022, in another incident of the same type four members of Iran’s security forces were killed in a firefight near the Pakistan border. The killed ones were members of The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. These four were killedafter a fight with an unnamed terrorist group, said the Aljazeerareferring to a statement released by the Iranian state media.The incident reportedly took place in Saravan, in the southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchistan, near the Pakistani border. The attackers allegedly fled to Pakistan when IRGC ground forces repelled the assault.

The situation in Afghanistan is also deteriorating with reference to the terrorist activities. Last year on 23rd September several people were killed and dozens more wounded when a car bomb went off at a mosque in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul. The worshippers streaming out of the mosque afterthe ‘afternoon’ prayers were targeted. According to the Aljazeera,‘gunshots rang out several minutes after the explosion in Wazir Akbar Khan area which is the location of many foreign embassies and NATO. More than 15 people were killed and 41 wounded in that incident. Earlier on 18thAugust 2022, a huge explosion ripped through the crowded mosque during evening prayers, injuring 33 people and killing another 21. Prior to that in April 2022, two boys’ schools were targeted in the western Kabul. The targeted schools were Abdul Rahim Shahid high school and the nearby Mumtaz Education Centre, both located in the Dasht-e-Barchi area. More than ten students were killed and around 30 seriously wounded.

In short, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan, all are facing the worst situation regarding terrorist activities. In present scenario, any type of blame-game would simply add to the gravity of situation. Be it Afghanistan or Iran or Pakistan; terrorism is in the benefit of no one. We all will have to join our efforts with all possible devotion and dedication to curb this menace. The government of Afghanistan will have to play the most active role in resolving the situation as a consistent peaceful atmosphere is the most-required and most-needed ‘element’ for the stability and firmness of that war-torn country.The point to rememberis that the flames of terrorism never remain limited to some particular area or some specific region; they are like a pandemic which goes on and moves on from one place to other. We must never forget the Twin-Towers tragedy which was the most horrible episode in the long series of terrorist activities. All self-proclaimed ‘Super Powers’ including the US, China and others must step forward and try to ‘Do More’ against the revival of terrorist’s era particularly in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran.

Benefits of Demonetisation Now Lost in India

/
321 views
3 mins read

In November 2016, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sprang surprised the countrymen by announcing the demonetisation of high-value currency notes.  After announcing the decision,  Mr. Modi spoke to the surprised and confused people and explained as to why demonetisation was necessary.

Mr. Modi  said that considering the urgent need to wipe out black money circulating in the country, root out corruption and eliminate counterfeit notes, he had taken this measure.  While stating that demonetisation was one of the measures that he would initiate to achieve the objectives, Mr. Modi also implied that curbing currency in circulation is a pre-condition to achieve such objectives. 

The demonetisation announcement was followed by long queue in front of the banks,   causing hardships to people in several ways.

Of course, the pledged admirers of Mr. Modi appreciated his courage of conviction to take such bold decision and sworn critics of Mr. Modi opposed his move bitterly. However, the fact is that, by and large ,common people in India viewed   Mr. Modi’s move as necessary and appropriate, which became clearly evident when Mr. Modi’s party was voted back to power with clear majority in subsequent election to parliament.  The consensus view was that the demonetisation measure put huge fear in the mind of the corrupt people and black money holders and huge quantity of unaccounted money was brought to light, which justified the demonetisation measure.

Huge increase in currency circulation :

One of the claims made at the time of demonetisation by Modi government was that the currency in circulation would be significantly brought down and digitalisation would be promoted in a big way .

While the currency in circulation was significantly brought down immediately after demonetisation, the present ground reality is that the currency in circulation has now increased by over around 83% after the demonetisation period in 2016.

Soon after demonetisation, the currency in circulation fell to a low of about ₹9 lakh crore on January 6, 2017, nearly 50% of ₹17.74 lakh crore on November 4, 2016.

The currency in value terms has soared from ₹17.74 lakh crore on November 4, 2016, to ₹32.42 lakh crore on December 23, 2022.  Currency in circulation, which was ₹18.04-lakh crore at end-March 2018, jumped to ₹31.34-lakh crore at end-March 2022 and further to ₹32.42-lakh crore as on December 23, 2022.

Has the benefits been achieved now ?:

The question now is whether India has reaped the benefits of demonetisation measures subsequently.  It appears that it has not happened, which is unfortunate. 

Due to such a high currency circulation level  at present, the use of unaccounted  money  
( mainly cash)  has now soared.  Recently, record seizures amounting Rs.6.6 crore in cash were made in one single assembly constituency in Telangana.  Almost every day, news Is appearing in the media that  Enforcement Directorate and Incomes Tax authorities have been conducting raids and seizing a huge amount of cash from the black money holders. Some people think that the seizure of such black money is only the tip of the iceberg.

With such large currency circulation, the parallel economy is now in full flow in the country, accompanied by corruption in government departments and business dealings.  Real estate deals are now increasingly being done by cash transactions using black money.

The country seems to be back to square one at present, with a parallel economy happening and increasing at an alarming level.

What justification  ?:

Government of India has not so far provided any credible explanation for increasing the currency in circulation multi-fold, which is much against the objective pronounced by the Prime Minister at the time of announcing demonetisation. 

Some economists justify such huge cash in circulation by stating that it is necessary, as the national economy is growing at a very impressive rate and people and business houses need cash to meet their requirements.  Another argument that is advanced in favour of increase in currency circulation is that so long as people pay tax properly directly or indirectly, the total amount of cash in circulation is not a matter of concern.  To support this view, it is pointed out that the GST ( Goods and Services Tax) collection has been increasing steadily.  Further, it is argued that even as cash in circulation is increasing multi-fold, digital transaction has also been increasing significantly.

There appears to be some fundamental flaw in the above argument and there should be a better way of fiscal management than printing currency notes in a developing country like India, unlike USA.

Need for increasing currency circulation :

In the last few years, the Government of India has been spending huge money by way of subsidy support, extending cash benefits to the farmers and welfare measures and distributing free vaccines to the countrymen,  particularly to reduce to the suffering of the people during the COVID period. 

With the significant increase in currency circulation by the Reserve Bank of India, the Government of India collects money from the people in a variety of ways by issuing bonds etc. and several state governments also do so.

Benefits undone:

This strategy of the Government of India amounts to finding a short-term remedy for a long-term problem, which is bound to be counterproductive in the long run.

The net impact of the overall   Rs.32.12 lakh crore currency in circulation at present is that the benefit of demonetisation has been undone, resulting in a disturbing level of growth of parallel economy and corruption in the country. 

It is necessary to note that the increase in tax collection by the government is nowhere in proportion to the huge increase in cash circulation in the country.

Finally, the increase in currency circulation has resulted in a steep increase in the price of goods and services, creating a huge burden on the family budget of those living in the lower and middle-income groups, pensioners and those belonging to the unorganised class in the country.

Why a Small City in Ukraine Is a Focal Point in the War

/
339 views
5 mins read

Since the Ukrainian army’s counteroffensive started gaining momentum in September 2022, the Russian army has largely been on the defensive. Russian drone and missile strikes continue to target Ukraine’s major cities, but its military forces have retreated from attempts to take KhersonKharkiv, or any other major Ukrainian settlement. Strong defensive fortifications built by Russian and Ukrainian armed forces across the frontline have stalled major advances as troops from both sides have mostly opted to dig in.

But the Kremlin has directed thousands of its forces since August 2022 to attack the small Donetsk city of Bakhmut. The war has in several ways been an “old-fashioned conflict, based on attrition, on devastating artillery strikes, and on dug-in positions reminiscent of the trenches of World War I,” as opposed to some of the quick offensives and counteroffensives that were seen during the first part of the current conflict.

According to a January 10, 2023, article in PBS NewsHour, the Ukrainian-backed governor of the Donetsk region, Pavlo Kyrylenko, “estimated more than two months ago that 90 percent of Bakhmut’s prewar population of over 70,000 had fled since Moscow focused on seizing the entire Donbas.” The fighting and destruction have only intensified since Kyrylenko made this statement, but the Kremlin appears intent on capturing Bakhmut for propaganda purposes and to tout a tactical victory after months of retreats. According to a Ukrainian analyst, “Bakhmut is mostly a political goal for Russia—it’s being done mostly for the sake of propaganda reasons to show everybody that after so many months and utter failures in Kherson and Kharkiv, it still can capture a more or less significant city,” stated a TRT World article.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has sought to prove that Ukrainian forces still have the capability to hold back the Russian advance, and made a surprise visit to Bakhmut on December 20. On January 9, 2023, Zelenskyy declared that the defense of the nearby city of Soledar had led to the gain of “additional time and power for Ukraine.” But the Ukrainian armed forces have had to divert “significant reinforcements” to the battle from other parts of the country since January, according to Britain’s Ministry of Defense. And despite heavy Russian casualties, high Ukrainian casualties have also become a concern for Kyiv.

Western and Ukrainian officials have often downplayed the strategic importance of Bakhmut, depicting it as a sinkhole for Russian forces that may result in a “Pyrrhic victory.” Nonetheless, the phrase “hold Bakhmut” has become a Ukrainian rallying cry, and Zelenskyy’s visit demonstrated the growing symbolic importance of controlling the city.

Bakhmut, however, does possess some strategic value. Few major settlements exist to its west until the Dnieper River, and the flatter and open terrain would make Ukrainian attempts to reinforce from this direction vulnerable to Russian surveillance and firepower. Ukraine also has relatively poor road infrastructure, and Bakhmut serves as a critical juncture of transport and communication lines for Ukrainian forces in the region, including strategic supply lines to the Ukrainian-controlled settlements of Siversk, Lyman, Slovyansk, and Kramatorsk.

For Russia, seizing Bakhmut would allow it to disrupt these supply lines, as well as take pressure off the battle over Russia-controlled Kremmina, which Ukrainian forces have been fighting to recover. Bakhmut is therefore key to Russian attempts to consolidate and stabilize the Donbas, where Russia has fought since 2014 and initially made gains in 2022, before the Ukrainian counteroffensive in September.

Taking or destroying key industrial centers in the Donbas region will also reduce Ukraine’s industrial output, leading to its economy suffering further.

Bakhmut stands out as the only major area where Russian forces are on the offensive, but the frontline has been relatively stable up until recently. Yet throughout January 2023, Russian forces have moved to the city’s flank and made increasing gains in the nearby town of Soledar. After weeks of fighting, the Kremlin stated that Soledar had been captured on January 13, this was later confirmed by the Institute for the Study of War and Ukrainian armed forces.

Russian forces have enjoyed an advantage over Ukrainian forces in artillery numbers, and an early transition to a wartime economy by the Kremlin has further helped sustain months of relentless artillery strikes by it. Nonetheless, Russia has turned to countries like North Korea in recent months to obtain more artillery, and its artillery fire has decreased in recent days, according to U.S. and Ukrainian officials.

But Ukraine’s more limited artillery capabilities have also recently been threatened. Despite pleas for more 155-millimeter artillery rounds, Western manufacturers have struggled to supply an adequate quantity and ramp up production. This has forced the U.S. to ask South Korea for artillery and Washington also secured hundreds of thousands of 155mm artillery shells for Ukraine from its stockpiles in Israel. Meanwhile, according to U.S. defense officials, “A third of the roughly 350 Western-made howitzers donated to Kyiv are out of action at any given time.”

Western countries have now been focusing on delivering more advanced weapons to Ukraine, such as missile defense systems, tanks, and armored vehicles. Recent pledges by the UK and Canada to supply Ukraine with heavy vehicles (as well as pressure on Germany and the U.S. to do so as well) will no doubt help Ukrainian forces on the frontline. But with Russia currently dictating where the fiercest fighting will take place, Bakhmut’s vulnerability to artillery has made holding it a significant challenge.

Local militia groups and the Russian military have naturally played essential roles in the ongoing battle for Bakhmut and its surrounding regions. But perhaps most notable is that much of Russia’s recent progress has been made by the Russian private military company, Wagner.

Wagner has operated in Ukraine since 2014 and has expanded its reach to countries across Africa and the Middle East, while the company’s owner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has been keen to demonstrate his private army can accomplish major military objectives. Additionally, the deaths of Wagner mercenaries are not counted as official Russian casualties, making the costly effort to take Bakhmut easier for the Russian public to stomach. In early January 2023, the first Wagner fighters, who were “secretly pardoned convicts” recruited by the company returned home after completing their contracts, causing controversy in Russia and highlighting the role of the non-state actor in the conflict.

Western and Ukrainian observers believe that Wagner troops have suffered casualties in the thousands. Prigozhin, meanwhile, stated on a telegram channel in November 2022 that “Our goal is not Bakhmut… [itself] but the destruction of the Ukrainian army and the reduction of its combat potential, which has an extremely positive effect on other areas, which is why this operation was dubbed the ‘Bakhmut meat grinder.’”

It is also suspected that Prigozhin aims to seize the salt and gypsum mines in the region, similar to other Wagner efforts to gain access to resources across conflict zones in Africa and the Middle East.

The outsized role of Wagner in the battle, as well as Prigozhin’s growing profile in Russia, has led to significant tension between the oligarch and the Russian military. After the capture of Soledar, Prigozhin claimed this was solely due to Wagner, while the Russian Defense Ministry claimed a few days later that victory was thanks to the Russian armed forces without mentioning the Wagner mercenaries.

The dispute between the Russian military and Wagner has come amid a leadership shakeup among the top brass of the Russian military. Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian general staff, replaced Sergei Surovikin as the Ukraine campaign’s overall commander on January 11. The change indicates the Kremlin’s frustration with the fledgling promises of the Russian armed forces. Nonetheless, the slow success of Russian artillery strikes in Soledar combined with Wagner troops shows that the two can work together.

But Bakhmut, so far, remains elusive for the Kremlin. Whichever side controls the city will have an advantage over any potential offensives later in 2023 and will have more say over where the next major battles take place. While Ukraine’s armed forces remain united under a more centralized command, the Kremlin will have to be careful of the growing tension between its armed forces, local militia groups, and private military companies.

What are some fallouts of Davos 2023?

/
368 views
3 mins read

The annual meeting of world leaders including business leaders, at the World Economic Forum at the Swiss resort at Davos, included the usual topics of Trade, Tech and Climate Change, but this year Davos had far reaching implications, hardly contemplated.

Davos 2023 was the 53rd meeting this year, with the Forum President Borge Brende giving the closing remarks on 21 January 2023, summarising with the words: “We can shape a more resilient, sustainable and equitable future, but the only way to do so, is together.” The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterras stressed on 18th January, “There was no perfect solution in a perfect storm.” The sense of unity was contained in the messages, from Alain Berset (President Swiss Confederation) to Sanna Marin (Prime Minister,Finland) and Andrzej Duda (President of Poland) – all of whom expressed their continued support for Ukraine.

The need for collaboration is beyond Ukraine as global inter-world crises requires moral interlinked solutions, including supply chain disruption, with a looming global recession expected according to some economists later this year.

Kristina Georgieva, MD of IMF stated: “As we navigate an uncertain economic outlook about the future of work we need reskilling in order to prepare current and future workforces.

Agriculture and Food, Cybersecurity, Forests,Digital Economy, Trade and Investment also featured in the discussions among business and other leaders.

The Focus at Davos 2023

The focus was on the tension between quality and speed of action. There is the war in Ukraine, which has sent energy and food prices soaring. The resulting inflationary pressures have ignited a global cost of living crisis, leading to social unrest worldwide.

According to The Guardian, China may be forced to make friends again with the West.

This was seen at Davos, with Beijing hinting it may adopt a less hostile approach. Vice President of China, Liu He appeared at Davos to “assure foreign investors that after 3 years of COVID-19 disruption, China was open for business”. Proof of the pudding was when he stated: “We have to abandon the Cold War mentality, we must open up wider and make it work better.”

A number of themes also emerged from Davos. India’s Action, India’s Phenomenal Growth was reflected in responses from political and private leaders at Davos, this year. The Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR) has predicted India will become the Third $10 Trillion economy by 2035, thanks to its demographic dividend. This was

also highlighted with top priority by India’s large delegation at Davos, during India’s current G20 Presidency until November 2023.

What was not stated but is now seen happening after Davos 2023?

About a quarter of the countries of the world are in debt, distress or on the brink of it. At Davos every one of the multilateral organisations that keep tabs on the financial fragility of poor countries did express concern on debt solutions.

As countries are having trouble paying their debts amid slower global growth, rising interest rates, urgent action was canvassed. In the case of Argentina and Brazil we are told are wanting to amalgamate their currencies. A new currency, the Austral may be introduced, which it is hoped will be more stable than the Argentinian Peso. The similarities between Brazil and Argentina debt problem is only skin deep. Argentina’s debt was mostly external; Brazil’s is mostly internal. Both sought Debt Restructuring by the IMF.

In the case of Sri Lanka both, India and China were “told to?” adjust with Sri Lanka in restructuring.

India pledged confirmation of its willingness to extend financial assurances as well as freeze debt for two years. India stated in its communique: “We hereby confirm our strong support for Sri Lanka’s prospective EFF (Extended Fund Facility) Support Plan and commit to supporting Sri Lanka with Financial/Debt Relief consistent with restoring Sri Lanka Public Debt Sustainability under the IMF Support Programme ensuring that the Programme is fully financed as projected by IMF Debt Relief. It is to be provided by Export Import Bank of India”.

China followed suit on 21` January 2023 and responded direct to Sri Lanka’s request on re-scheduling its Debt as a pledge to Bail Out by IMF, with an offer for a two year moratorium.

Japan and the Paris Club have already confirmed their financial assurances.

This gives Sri Lanka the potential for a total of $5 Billion that could be generated from these multilateral lenders. Davos was not the lever to this Bail out, it was World Public Opinion and Sri Lanka’s valid and reasonable request.

Three Ways to Restructure Debt?

“As to the debt problem itself, there are only three ways out:

1) An internal adjustment economically and politically within, a nation entailing a return to the free market system.

     2) An assumption of bad debt loss by the lending institutions, if a country is unable to repay its loans, or

 3) An assumption of risk on the part of the governments of creditor nations (and ultimately on their taxpayers.

Is human life a mere time-passing exercise?

/
360 views
3 mins read

Human beings live on earth, without knowing where they came from to be born and where they would go after the end of life. This is the scenario for thousands of years that have gone by.

Human beings have been struggling to find some answer for this vexed question without much success so far.

Fact with regard to  human life

In view of sustained efforts to understand the “fact of human life” over many centuries, several explanations have been guessed or imagined and evolved.   As a result of such attempts to find answers, several religions have come up all over the world, resulting in sort of competition amongst the religions as to which answer and explanation is appropriate and which is not.

Some religions speak about rebirth after the end of one’s life until such time one would lead a pious life that would facilitate him to reach the feet of God, wherever He is and whatever He is.

Some other religions talk about hell and heaven at the end of human life. So many other explanations have been offered and theories are propounded like pre-ordained fate etc.

There are several mythological stories, ” establishing ”  that there is God ruling the world and about God’s incarnation to correct the world’s happenings from time to time and describing ” impossible conditions “such as a person having ten heads and another person living and passing away and then resurrecting and so on, which cannot be even visualized by the humans.

Individuals really do not understand clearly and convincingly and without an element of doubt as to why one would be born and the human body grows in size over the years and then finally perish in one way or the other.

The fact is highlighted at the end of one’s life that none is really “big or small” in the world, with death ending as an equalizer and clearly create an impression that whatever one has ” achieved in life and not achieved ” is in vacuum, without any significance,  whether the person was a  President or beggar.

Is it time passing exercise?

In any case, what is clear ultimately is that the human life process end up as a time-passing exercise,  with individuals getting themselves into the business of getting a living and striving all the time to prove themselves to others with so-called aspirations and achievements.

In such circumstances, many persons try to avoid the uncomfortable thought process relating to the origin and end of life,  as they move on blindly with the life process, with imaginary hope and aspirations.

With sort of helplessness, humans simply resign themselves to the confusion and lack of clarity about the purpose and otherwise of human life. Ultimately, some theories are accepted by some and some other theories are accepted by someone else, simply as a  matter of faith.

Now, what is the way out in such a condition for an endlessly thinking human being on this subject?

What Hindu religion says ?

Perhaps, leaving aside several stories and theories that have been said and repeated over the years , fundamentals of Hindu religious thought suggest a way of life that enables one to live with peace,  even with unsolved questions about the origin and end of human life.

The fundamentals of  Hindu religious thoughts ask humans to introspect about the question  “Who am I”, that ultimately would lead one to meditation exercise and make the individual conclude that whatever may be the origin and end of life, it cannot be and need not be probed beyond a level.

On the other hand, asking the question “Who am I” enables one to understand the fruitlessness of the  life process  and ” it’s vacuum”

In such circumstances, the Hindu religion advocates visiting temples  and  offering prayers, that would drive the mindset towards introspection on the inner self,  meditation and seeking peace in the mind, destroying ego

Hindu religion asks everyone to lead life actively with a sense of detachment,  with hatred or prejudice towards none.

This condition ultimately promotes peace and harmony in the mindset of individuals, that is what really matters.

Hindu thoughts do not ask individuals to lead  inactive life, withdrawing from the life process.  On the other hand,  it advocates active life with detachment.

One would never know or need to know about the origin and end of life, as such thought process will lead to nowhere.

Under the circumstances, achieving peace in the mind is all that to be desired in worldly life, even as one would continue the process of living active life.   Such peace in the inner self amounts to the realization of   “God within,”   which condition Hindu religion elegantly term as “Ananda”.

This should be the essence of the goal of human life, though it may be deemed to be a time-passing exercise.

Prime Minister Modi shows the way

Recently, Prime Minister Modi’s 99-year-old mother passed away. Mr. Modi cremated the mother’s body and then immediately went ahead with his official programme, even though the passing away of his dear mother must have caused deep grief in his mindset.

By this act, he exhibited his attitude of detachment and continued his work with dedication. This approach to the death of his mother reflects the true basics of Hindu philosophy, where the central advocacy is that one has to maintain detachment to the pleasures and pains of life,  even as one would continue to pursue active life and maintain the work culture.

Such an approach to life, as exhibited by Mr. Modi, would pave way to achieve inner peace, which really amounts to the realization of God.   

Counter Productive Politics in Indian State Tamil Nadu

/
429 views
3 mins read

Those who were born in Tamil Nadu and now living in  Tamil Nadu or other states in India or outside India feel proud about the historical traditions, culture and value system inherent in Tamil Nadu for the last several centuries. Unfortunately, in recent times, many undesirable political developments have taken place in Tamil Nadu that mar the image of Tamil Nadu as a cultured state.

In the last eighteen months, some approaches of the Tamil Nadu government have caused considerable concern to the cross-section of Tamil-speaking people now living in Tamil Nadu and across the world.

The political party which won the last election and came to power made many promises in the pre -election campaign, most of which do not make any economic sense but are good enough to please the gullible public.  After coming to power, while some minor promises have been implemented, several major promises could not be implemented, as Tamil Nadu’s finances are in extremely bad shape. In such conditions,  the political party governing the state is facing criticism, which it is unable to counter by an appropriate response.

In such conditions, the party in power is creating new issues, in such a way that people’s attention can be diverted to such non-issues, so that the criticism against the non-implementation of the pre -election promises by the government would not be focused.

Attack on Hindu religion:

It is a fact that the present government is systematically trying to discredit Hinduism in several ways, by disturbing the smooth functioning of the Hindu temples where poorly trained priests are being appointed and in the process, driving out the experienced and traditional priests from Hindu temples.  This could cause serious uncertainty and confusion in the way that Hindu Gods are worshipped in the temples.

The government mislead the people by saying that it is supporting the Hindu temples by retrieving the encroached land and at the same time, it is taking away the gold and silver belonging to temples which do not belong to the government.

Several speeches made by those belonging to the party in power and their allied parties have been decrying the Hindu religious practices. It is ridiculous that they say that those belonging to Hindu religion are the children of prostitutes.  Many similar extremely undesirable statements have been made against Hindu religious practices.  Obviously, the party in power is causing public debate over such continuous utterances to divert the attention of the people, while such persons speaking against Hindu religion go unpunished and scot-free.

There are so many other incidents that can be readily cited to indicate the diversionary tactics of the party in power, to conceal it’s poor governance.

Weak financial condition:

The finances of the Tamil Nadu government are in very poor shape and several public sector undertakings like transport, TANGEDCO are in deep red. However,  the government continues to borrow more money even while the present debt burden on the state is around Rs.7 lakh crore.  Meanwhile, unconcerned about the situation, many unproductive expenses are being incurred.

Social instability:

People addicted to liquor in Tamil Nadu are increasing at an alarming rate and social stability and family harmony in the state have been seriously disrupted.  Murders and the use of ganja are reportedly increasing, particularly among the youth.

Issue with Tamil Nadu governor:

The recent controversy deliberately created by the state government with regard to its relation with Tamil Nadu governor is extremely in poor taste. The Tamil Nadu governor is conducting himself with a high level of dignity, in spite of many provocations and particularly by the persons belonging to the ruling party and its allies who are using extremely undesirable and vulgar language against the state governor.

To add insult to injury, the  Tamil Nadu Chief Minister deliberately and in a calculated manner insulted the governor, when he came to the Assembly to deliver his customary speech.

It is said that the governor has not read out the speech prepared by the government, but the fact is that in that particular speech prepared by the Tamil Nadu government, many wrong figures and information have been mentioned  which no governor   can read out, if the governor would want to maintain the standards of his office.

It is really silly on the part of the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister to make an issue with the governor, for the governor using the name Thamizhagam instead of Tamil Nadu in his speech.  There is really no difference between these two names and traditionally in many forums and writings by the government and the people, the word Tamizhagam is being used for several hundreds of years.  This is because people, poets, writers and everyone feel more emotionally satisfied using the word Thamizhaam instead of Tamil Nadu. Now, the Tamil Nadu government is demanding that the governor should be sacked, which is condemnable.

Wasted opportunity:

All said and done, the ground reality is that the present party in power in Tamil Nadu has wasted it’s opportunity to govern the state adequately. It seems to be more focused on creating controversies and is not focusing on reducing corruption and nepotism or in enhancing the reputation of Tamil Nadu in the eyes of the world by good governance.

The widespread feeling amongst people in Tamil Nadu is that Tamil Nadu deserves better.

The world’s biggest Tech Show at Las Vegas

330 views
2 mins read

Tech titans and gadget geeks were all at Vegas last week January 5-8, 2023, for CES – The Consumer Electronics Show. It is the premier event of the entire technology eco-system. It is the world’s gathering for the business of consumer technologies and new innovations. Who would doubt that it has to be in “Las Vegas Convention Center”, Nevada, US ofA.

BMW Chairman and CEO, Oliver Zipse was there among many business moguls/ dignitaries, to showcase how the future of mobility by car can merge the real and virtual worlds and present BMW’s vision of the “ultimate digital driving machine”. I leave it to my readers to create rather than elucidate. In this short piece,

Capturing imagination

In a world full of uncertainty and imponderables, it is no longer enough to capture a consumer’s attention, you have to capture the public’s imagination and learn how inventions are winning the hearts and minds of their devoted fans but followers.

From the sublime to the ridiculous, we are told the show was extraordinary, From the Robot “Wowwee” Dog, which has one million combinations of lights, sounds and personality traits, displaying texts and emoji’s when it wags it tail, to the colourful cars and fridges which changes colour to match your outfit or mood, BMW’s i-Vision Dee,(which stands for Digital Emotional Experience) the idea is to provide a more personal and customised driving experience, designed to push the boundaries between  physical with the virtual “digital perception” worlds. This so called, “fun model” will arrive in 2025. 

The CES Show, always has something utterly bonkers. This year the slot was reserved exclusively for “Withings U-Scan”, Wi-Fi connected, Urine Analyser, as you sit on your porcelain throne. Results are reported on the App – Alongside. The advert states it is an actionable tip to improve health.

The great thing about CES, in my opinion is discovering “Tech you never knew you needed”. This is shown in L’Oreal’s brilliant at Home Electronic Eyebrow make-up applicant. All you have to do is fire up the App ,Scan your face, choose the desired Shape, Thickness and Effect, say the instructions, then run it across your face,

But, for us men, it is LG brand’s Colour changing Cool Box –Mood-Up Fridge, to keep cans of beer, it can be customised to match your mood or your kitchen colour scheme.

It has a built in Bluetooth speaker, which will even sync with music for when you are in the party mood.

For the Laptop enthusiast, Lenovo “Yoga Book” 91, is completely rewriting the rules of portable computing, with multi-tasking, dual screen OLED Laptop, with No Key pad or Track Pad in sight. Instead, the Laptop comes bundled with a Bluetooth keyboard, stylus and stand, enabling it to prop up vertically on a desk or table. This seems to be the future of folding Laptops.

Life is but a dream?

Need I say that everything in the world of tomorrow. Is but a dream, an escape from reality. It is all about building your own connection, both physical as well as personal connection and community in a “Nonstop World”. To us oldies, it threatens “Reality”.

It seems as if we play life in a world of new experience. But it is not the world of tomorrow, but according to the CEO of Delta Airlines, USA, it will free Wi-Fi for all who fly their airlines from 1 February 2023.

How close to real life and health is all this experience?

Let us not be fooled, with all this “Americanism”. Visitors to the Show heard about the exploring ways that Technology Innovation is enabling, and in my view, impacting our health, in particular. We are warned that there is going to be a new model of patient care – one that blends in person care with virtual diagnostic and other tools for a more holistic and accessible patient experience, leading to better health outcomes.

My question is providing access to economic mobility, including physical mobility as we age, is the object for a changing world order, but how much of this commands everyone’s free choice and how much is imposed in the name of progress? This is an ethical question, which needs an ethical resolution?

How living as a true Buddhist could avoid an environmental catastrophe

/
817 views
6 mins read

“In my mind I see a group of chickens in a cage disputing over a few seeds of grain, unaware that in a few hours they will all be killed,” -Venerable Thích Nhất Hạnh

Zen Master late Thich Nhat Hanh was a global spiritual leader, poet, and peace activist, renowned for his powerful teachings and bestselling writings on mindfulness and peace. A gentle, humble monk, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called him “an Apostle of peace and nonviolence” when nominating him for the Nobel Peace Prize. Exiled from his native Vietnam for almost four decades, Thich Nhat Hanh has been a pioneer in bringing Buddhism and mindfulness to the West and establishing an engaged Buddhist community for the 21st Century -https://plumvillage.org/thich-nhat-hanh/biography/

Jo Confino writing in the Guardian many years ago said quote “Venerable Thích Nhất Hạnh teaches that the world cannot be changed outside of ourselves. The answer is for each one of us to transform the fear, anger, and despair which we cover-up with over-consumption. If we are filling our bodies and minds with toxins, it is no surprise that the world around us also becomes poisoned. He also argues that those who put their faith in technology alone to save the planet are bowing to a false god”

Confino goes on to say “Like many other spiritual leaders, he sees the genesis of our pain as coming from our dualistic mindset that sees our connection to God, or Buddha, or spirit as outside ourselves and accessible only after our death. As a result, we have developed a strong ego that sees itself as separate and threatened and needs to amass things like wealth to feel strong and protected. But none of these can fill the chasm created by our deep sense of separation”

Venerable Thích Nhất Hạnh believed that within every person are the seeds of love, compassion and understanding as well as the seeds of anger, hatred, and discrimination. Using a gardening metaphor, he said our experience of life depends on which seeds we choose to water. His words are very profound and yet, they are simple and very logical. They remind one of the words of a Buddhist Monk of repute in Sri Lanka, Venerable Galkande Dhammananda, the only Monk pupil of late Ven Walpola Rahula, who constantly refers to the mental wounds that all human beings carry and the chain of events that follow whenever such a wounded person thinks, talks and acts in a particular way. Practicing the tenants of Metta, Karuna, Muditha, and Upekka (loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy or empathy and equanimity) at all times, towards all living beings, is what Ven Dhammananda espouses at all times. This would be the seed of love, compassion and understanding that Ven Thich Nhat Hanh referred to above.

Venerable Thích Nhất Hạnh’s words “The energy we need is not fear or anger, but the energy of understanding and compassion. There is no need to blame or condemn. Those who are destroying themselves, societies and the planet aren’t doing it intentionally. Their pain and loneliness are overwhelming and they want to escape. They need to be helped, not punished. Only understanding and compassion on a collective level can liberate us” are identical to what Ven Dhammananda has been saying about the need to understand and do one’s utmost to heal the mental wounds of oneself and in others by extending Metta, Karuna, Muditha and Upekka to all others.

Buddhist Monks like Ven Thích Nhất Hạnh and Ven Dhammananda have expounded what Buddha taught about the oneness and interdependence of all living beings. The National Library of Medicine in an article titled Cosmic design from a Buddhist perspective says “one of the basic tenets of Buddhism is the concept of interdependence which says that all things exist only in relationship to others, and that nothing can have an independent and autonomous existence. The world is a vast flow of events that are linked together and participate in one another. Thus, there can be no First Cause, and no creation ex nihilo of the universe, as in the Big Bang theory. Since the universe has neither beginning nor end, the only universe compatible with Buddhism is a cyclic one. According to Buddhism, the exquisitely precise fine-tuning of the universe for the emergence of life and consciousness as expressed in the “anthropic principle” is not due to a Creative Principle, but to the interdependence of matter with flows of consciousness, the two having co-existed for all times”

Margaret Blaine, author, Buddhist teacher and a former mental health counselor, who lives in Eugene, Oregon, United States in a concise but an in-depth observation says “Buddhism teaches the principle of the oneness of life and its environment. That means as though our subjective self and our objective surroundings might appear to be two independent realities, they are in fact two dimensions of a single reality, each arising in relationship with the other. As Nichiren Daishonin, the founder of this form of Buddhism says, “Environment is like the shadow, and life, the body. Without the body, no shadow can exist, and without life, no environment. In the same way life is shaped by its environment.”

The Buddhist concept of interdependence which says that all things exist only in relationship to others, and that nothing can have an independent and autonomous existence is the key to the survival of everything one sees before their eyes and feels in their inner selves. This and Buddha’s words that “We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children” is the context in which the those who are causing untold harm to the environment should consider why the broader view of what comprises the environment is important and why it should be saved and preserved.

Efficient and effective land and water resource management, the criticality of forest cover, development of renewable energy sources to replace fossil fuel generated energy to lower carbon dioxide and other harmful emissions, realization and acceptance of the universality of the value of all living beings, not just human beings, to sustain and maintain a safe and healthy environment are all vital elements that should be integral to thinking of people of Sri Lanka and of course the entire world.

The destruction of forests, the indifference to any value to life, both fauna and flora, the wanton destruction of wild life habitats are clear examples of people not realizing and recognizing what Margaret Blaine said about our subjective self and our objective surroundings in fact being two dimensions of a single reality, each arising in relationship with the other.

It is sad and unfortunate to note the reported decline in Sri Lanka’s forest cover down to 16% now, whereas Bhutan’s forest cover is in excess of 70%,(As reported in News 1st, Rain Forest Protectors of Sri Lanka movement has said that Sri Lanka’s forest cover that stood at 82 percent in 1881 has dropped drastically to 16 percent. The Conservator General of Sri Lanka has denied this reported decline in forest cover). However, whether it is 29% as reported in 2015, or 16%, it is best for the country if an assessment could be carried out by an independent body as the general belief amongst many is that there is degradation and exploitation of forest cover and opening up of land for “cultivation” and “development” purposes at the behest of politicians. What matters for the future generations is the truth. Hiding the truth is a sure way to bring forth the destruction of all living beings.

The Buddhist concepts outlined here are logical, common-sense concepts. They need not be Buddhist concepts, but simply common sense concepts. The Buddhist doctrine relating to greed and anger as clearly explained by Dalai Lama, “True happiness comes from having a sense of inner peace and contentment, which in turn must be achieved by cultivating altruism, love and compassion, and by eliminating anger, selfishness and greed” are clear pointers that accumulation of wealth, engaging in armed conflict and war, and lack of empathy and sympathy with and towards the less fortunate are, among other things, the drivers of ignorance, the root cause of unhappiness and suffering. Buddha’s fundamental message that he teaches only two things, suffering and end of suffering clearly applies to life in general but to the environment as well as it is the ignorance about the reality of interdependence of all living beings and that all things exist only because of others that causes human beings to destroy what in fact sustains them.

Whether Buddhism provides a way to save the environment or whether common sense provides the way, what influences negatively on it is political shortsightedness and ignorance.

In saying this, politicians are not solely identified as the cause as they are a product of a political system which only people create and which they only can continue with or change. Such a change can only come from the younger generation through a more informed, questioning, and challenging education system. If this generation is not exposed to rational thinking and objectivity, they will behave in the same manner as their forebearers and before they realize it, the environment would have become irreparable. What has been borrowed from them would be of no use to them when it is passed onto them. They will have nothing to pass onto their succeeding generations.

1 2 3 9