Trump an outcome of the Bush world disorder

BY SAEED NAQVI

It would be almost spiteful to walk upto the US ambassador: “Congratulations, you have Donald Trump as President.” Which way would he look? Secretary of State, John Kerry, has already said it. He is profoundly embarrassed when foreign statesmen confront him: “What is happening in your country?”

Should he become President in November, Trump will have George W. Bush to thank. He is a product of the chaotic world order left behind by Bush and which Barack Obama failed to contain.

Détente in the 70s was going badly for the West – Vietnam, Angola, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, Italian communist leader Enrico Berlingure on the cover of Time Magazine, Afghan communist parties in Kabul and so on. It was advantage Soviet Union all the way.

Came the Ronald Reagan-Margaret Thatcher counter punch which rattled the Soviet Union. George Bush senior and Thatcher stamped the post soviet order by launching Operation Desert Storm in Iraq but, sensibly, stopped short of dislodging Saddam Hussain.

It fell to the lot of George W. Bush to build a new global architecture. He surrounded himself with bad company – Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, even Condoleezza Rice. Deluded by notions of full spectrum global dominance, they botched up the sole superpower moment.

Unbridled chaos was let loose in the guise of the global war on terror. Geraldo Rivera of Fox News actually whipped out a gun on live TV. He would “shoot Osama bin Laden” if he saw him.

Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, threatened Pakistan with dire consequences should General Pervez Musharraf not join the war against exactly the Afghan Jihadis that Pakistan, Saudis and the US had helped train to expel the Soviets. To this day Pakistan and possibly the world is paying the price for that turnaround.

There was no limit to American power. In awe and in admiration, the world fell in line. Two party systems were reinforced, clasping corporate hands. Corporates, linked to international finance, made for a tidy model. The global media and a Murdochized press was to underpin this arrangement.

The economic downturn of 2009 and the declining credibility of the global media began to erode this world order. The latter needs some explanation.

In wartime, the first casualty generally is the truth. Since media is part of all war efforts, it becomes a credible source of propaganda. But during the Bush and Obama years, the US and the West in general have been involved in so many wars, big and small, that the media was kept mobilized for continuous propaganda. The media’s credibility has therefore plummeted.

During the Libyan operation Saudis had to make peace with the Qataris to have the benefit of Al Jazeera’s residual credibility. No one was believing Christiane Amanpour, Lyse Doucet and Thomas Friedman and their support staff.

With crony capitalism gnawing at the vitals, two party systems were in gradual disrepair. The suffocated voter was breaking out in new directions.

In an Elia Kazan movie, a small car on a highway is dwarfed by giant trailers on either side. In a manner of speaking the tyres of these trailers are being punctured one by one.

Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Canada, Iceland, Indonesia have all discarded traditional parties and veered to the left. Likewise, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, indeed the European Parliament have shifted right. Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy, sworn enemies, had to desperately come together to ward off the challenge from the Far Right: Marine Le Pen. Meanwhile, Emmanuel Macron’s new political movement has seized the French imagination.

Tony Blair flailed his arms in vain against Jeremy Corbyn, a Labour leader more with the heart of a Michael Foot. And now David Cameron is on sixes and sevens over the BREXIT referendum. Britain’s exit from the European Union will almost certainly bring Europe closer to Russia, much to American discomfort.

Most recently, a promoter of vigilante groups, who promises to toss criminals into the sea, Rodrigo Duterte nicknamed “Digong” is the President-elect of the Philippines. He must get along well with Trump: they speak the same language – sink them in the sea or build a wall to keep Mexicans out or don’t allow Muslims to enter the US or no harm being seen with the KKK and so on.

The tamasha in the US gets even more intriguing if you consider the establishment darling, Hillary Clinton’s electability. A New York Times report talks of the “soaring levels of unpopularity” of Trump and Clinton. “Nearly two-thirds of voters, for example, say that Mr. Trump is not honest and trustworthy. Just as many say the same of Mrs. Clinton.”

There is no evidence of Senator Bernie Sanders attracting such invective. And yet the Democratic Party establishment finds itself bound by rules not to nominate him – the popular surge is for Sanders, though.  Because he is a “socialist” which outside the US means Left of Centre.

So, people are trying to break out of established party structures. They are neither for Tweeledum nor Tweedledee, just as in India and Pakistan where they have experimented with Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP in Delhi and Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf across the border.

When people were switching loyalties in the 70s, Soviet Union was the beneficiary. Today, new faces that emerge represent disgust with that which is. There is a splintering of the world order. And in its place – what will be, will be.

“Rau mein hai rakhsh e umr, kahan dekhiye thamey;
nay haath bag par hai, na paa hei rakaab mein.” – Ghalib

(The horse is on full gallop, no one knows where it will stop. The rider’s hands are not on the reins, nor his feet in the stirrups)

(Saeed Naqvi is a senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer, and a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Naqvi is also a mentor and a guest blogger with Canary Trap)

VVIP Helicopter Scam: A shakeup call for India

BY RSN SINGH

The subversion of Indian security establishment as a result of the Rs 3726 crores AgustaWestland VVIP Helicopter scam strikes at the very roots of India’s foundation of nation-state. It is not merely a question of kickbacks amounting to Rs 350 crores, but it has raised doubts about the role of the entire governance and security apparatus of the country, i.e. Prime Minister, Defence Minister, National Security Advisor, Defence Secretary, other senior bureaucrats of the MoD, at least one Chief of Air Staff and the head of the SPG. This is besides the erstwhile’ Super Prime Minister’ and her political secretary.

Before proceeding further, it is pertinent here to explain the broad details of the arms procurement process in the country through a flow chart:

Stages in Defence Procurement

Services Qualitative Requirements (SQR)

Drafted by the Service Headquarters. Lays down user requirements, which needs to be broad based and realistic. Must express users requirements in terms of capability desire with minimum required verifiable functional characteristics and its formulation must not prejudice the technical choices by being narrow and tailor-made.

Acceptance of Necessity (AoN)

Consequent to SQR. Service HQs prepares ‘Statement of Case’. Total quantity required given out.

Request For Proposal (RFP)

RFP issued soliciting technical and commercial offers, but in two separate sealed envelopes. This system safeguards against possibility of vendor increasing his commercial offer consequent to development of a Single Vendor situation after evaluation. Vendors make offer after consideration of full requirements of acquisitions.

Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC)

TEC constituted by Service HQs for evaluation of Technical Bids in response to RFP.

Field Evaluation Trials

Conducted by user service. Trial methodology given in RFP. Shortlisted vendors send equipment to India for trial.

Staff Evaluation

Consequent to ‘Field Evaluation’, Staff Evaluation done by Service HQs to analyze field evaluation results and shortlist equipment recommended for introduction into service.

Technical Oversight Committee (TOC)

Constituted by Defence Secretary comprising three members, one senior service officer, one DRDO scientist, one representative of DPSU. Members should not be involved with the acquisitions case.

Contract Negotiation Committee (CNC)

After Staff Evaluation report is accepted by DG Acquisition and TOC report accepted by Defence Secretary. CNC carries out all processes from opening commercial bids till conclusion of the contract.

Approval of Competent Financial Authority

Note: This is the DPP of 2013, which also has an Integrity Pact for signing all defence deals above 100 crores, wherein the government promises that it will accept no bribe and the bidders promise that they will not offer any bribe. It also stipulates that trials will be on no cost and no commitment basis under Indian conditions. The DPP of 2013 was only a perpetuation of India’s DPP from earlier periods, incorporating certain changes to close the loopholes.

The contrast between patriotic India and anti-nationals, between ‘men of integrity’ and ‘men of low character’ stands acutely juxtaposed in the run-up, and now in wake of the exposed scam by Italian authorities. What is worrisome, however, is that the latter category invariably triumphed over the former during the tenure of the previous regime. For eight years, after the AW-101 helicopter was disqualified in 2002 during flight trials for failing to reach the stipulated height of 6000 meters, the conspirators were exerting or were rather desperate to somehow bring back the company into reckoning. They insisted that the service ceiling could be reduced from 6000 meters to 4500 meters on the specious plea that VVIPs rarely flew above that height. Most concerned agencies and organizations were browbeaten, but the then Air Chief Marshal Krishnaswamy did not buckle. In January 2004, he insisted that the VVIP helicopters must be able to fly from Leh to Srinagar crossing Zoji La Pass as well as Siachen glacier. Was he wrong? After all, most defence ministers and prime ministers have made several trips to the Siachen and other high altitude areas. It may be reiterated here that movement of VVIPs within the country is part of the country’s security imperative or part of the war-effort at times of war. These are not pleasure trips. Such visits must act as force-multipliers. It would have been more honourable for these VVIPs to risk their lives with the aging MI-8 helicopters than go for a unworthy replacement like the AW-101 which solely relied on bribes to steal the deal.

An Air Force helicopter incapable of flying from Srinagar to Leh is not worth the second look. A year later in March 2005, come new Air Chief SP Tyagi, all these operational imperatives were killed, the height got reduced to 4500 meters and the AW-101 was back in favour. Accordingly, a new RFP was issued in 2006.  Apart from Augusta Westland two other companies i.e. makers of MI-172 and Sikorosky (maker of S-92) helicopters responded. The Russian manufactures of MI-172 helicopter refused to sign the ‘Integrity Pact’ and withdrew. Thereafter the game became much more convenient to manipulate.

The Tyagi brothers allegedly had fixed up this unthinkable altitude concession in favour of AW-101 even before their cousin Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi had taken over as the Air Chief. During critical years towards the finalization of the AW-101 deal, one person, i.e. Mr. Shashi Kant Sharma had an overwhelming presence in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) between 2003 and 2013 with brief interludes elsewhere.  In those years in the MoD, he held the appointments of Joint Secretary, Additional Secretary, Additional Secretary DG (Acquisition), Secretary DG (Acquisition), and finally Defence Secretary from July 2011 to May 2013.

Mr. Sharma in these years had not only played a pivotal role in major defence acquisitions but also in the age controversy of General VK Singh, who it is believed by many quarters, to have been the victim of a conspiracy by the arms lobby. The perpetrators of Tatra scam that Gen VK Singh exposed are yet to be punished. In all fairness, it must be said that during the period between 2002 and 2004, there were Defence Secretaries, who stood their ground in rejecting the AW-101. The tragedy however of our land is that those who submitted themselves were rewarded not only with kickbacks but also constitutional posts to render them immune from any legal action.

Normally, the gestation period of such defence procurement is 10 years. The arms lobby therefore has to ensure that at least two service Chiefs, if not three, of its choice, are at the helm to pursue its agenda. It is for these reasons that they, many times, with the help of the government or particularly intelligence agencies of their host countries try and manipulate the ‘succession plan’. It is relevant to reflect that SP Tyagi was succeeded by Air Chief Marshal FM Major, a helicopter pilot, amidst huge protest by the fighter pilots. The age controversy of Gen VK Singh and series of accidents in the Indian Navy, which compelled the Naval Chief Admiral Joshi to resign should be seen in this backdrop.

Mega deals, such as the AW-101 one, cannot go through without a complicit bureaucratic setup in the MoD. The posting profile of these bureaucrats when seen in the backdrop of the defence procurement process as given in the flow chart, says it all.

Such subverted bureaucrats and service chiefs cannot occupy the offices to facilitate corrupt acquisitions without the patronage of the Defence Minister and the Prime Minister. Mr Antony cannot be spared of the guilt. In fact he desiccated the soul of the Indian Armed Forces. It started with ensuring the exit of Gen VK Singh by fabricating the age-controversy and subsequently the Naval Chief because of series of so-called 13 accidents, which came to a halt the moment a new Chief took over. Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi, during his service was spared for obvious reasons, and now that his utility is over, the same Mr Antony is protecting himself and his masters by hiding behind him. It may be recalled that Mr Manmohan Singh had prevailed upon Mr Antony to re-seek the opinion of the Law Ministry after a joint secretary had ruled in Gen VK Singh’s favour over the age issue. Mr Manmohan Singh had then maintained that joint secretary was not a high level functionary. Just because a person has a soft or squeaky voice and has a supine and submissive personality does not mean that he is not corrupt. Such people are the worst facilitators of corruption because their character is made in a way that they can go to any extent just to remain in close proximity to the highest power. Mr Manmohan Singh is singularly guilty of violating the spirit of the Constitution by accepting an arrangement with an extra-Constitutional authority over him.  His deference to this authority is responsible for all scams under his leadership.

While the technical parameters were tweaked in favour of AW-101 by the Service HQs, i.e. IAF, the magnitude of the kickbacks can only be decided by the politicians, which is evident from the fact that the largest chunk has gone to them, followed by the bureaucrats. In the note written by the middleman Guido Hashcke the distribution of kickbacks is: Politicians – 6 million Euros, AP (allegedly Ahmed Patel) – 3 million Euros, Bureaucrats – 8.4 million Euros and Air Force officials – 6 million Euros. This note is vindicated by the Italian Court judgment which sentenced Orsi to four years imprisonment for paying 30 million Euro bribe to Indian politicians and officials.

There was corruption at each stage of the procurement as shown in the flow chart. Not only the service ceiling was reduced from 6000 meters to 4500 meters, the height of the cabin was also increased from 1.45 meter to 1.8 meter, thus leading to a single vendor situation in favour of the AW-101 helicopter. Most intriguingly, the field trials of this helicopter were not conducted in India and were carried out on representative helicopters – Merlin MK-3A and Civ-01 instead of AW-101. Compelling test pilots to make compromise on trials does not augur well for the IAF as these pilots have promising careers and are likely to occupy higher ranks in future.  Also once it was decided to purchase the said helicopter AW-101, the quantities were increased from 8 to 12. In violation of the basic principle, the helicopters were being procured not from the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM). This is the most blatant corruption in arms deal in post-independent India. The final price of the helicopters escalated six times from the initial agreement.

Kickbacks in defence deals with foreign countries are just not matter of bribe, but it constitutes an act of sedition and criminality, in that it subverts the armed forces. It plays havoc with the moral fabric of the armed forces. This onslaught has been there since independence. India is the second largest importer of arms. India’s arms import is critical to the economies of the arms industries and their host countries. The Western arms industry or the military-industrial complex therefore not only subverts but also creates vulnerabilities and threat perceptions in respect of the target countries. It is no wonder that the media has also allegedly received kickbacks in the AW-101 helicopter scam.

This system of kickbacks was working very smoothly, but for two major disruptions by way of Bofors guns and now AW-101 helicopters. The host country Italy, as Sweden in Bofors Case, has not raised the issue of kickbacks, for any altruistic reasons, but because the former Chief of Finmeccanica, Giuseppe Orsi, the parent company of AgustaWestland was arrested at the beginning of 2013, as he had fallen out with the officials in his own country over possibly kickbacks. It is only after the arrest of Orsi that Mr Antony panicked and took some nervous measures to distance himself from the company. On 25 March 2013 Antony stated: ‘’Yes corruption has taken place in helicopter deal and bribes have been taken.’’ It was however too late. There is law in any civilized country wherein a bribe giver can be punished without identifying the bribe taker. The Italian authorities including the Judge Marco Maria Maiga know their identity for certain. He exactly knows who are AP and Signora Gandhi. In fact the name of Signora Gandhi figures four times in the 225 page judgment delivered on 08 April 2016. This is also a quirk of destiny or natural justice that the kingpin of the scam is being undone by the country of origin.

Arms industries and their parent countries, which bribe target countries, also resort to constant blackmail. They in league with the beneficiaries of the bribe will always ensure that India does not become self-reliant in arms. They will never allow indigenous arms industry to takeoff.

We are caught in a terrible vicious cycle of arms import trap. The arms lobby is getting increasingly murderous. Here is the opportunity to unshackle  and redeem ourselves.

(RSN Singh is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research & Analysis Wing. The author of two books: Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and Military Factor in Pakistan, he is also a Guest Blogger with Canary Trap. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)

Aleppo Milestone: Syria to limp along until US Presidential Polls

BY SAEED NAQVI

Just when it appeared that Syrian rebels and their proxies had thrown in the towel, and that they had been persuaded to acquiesce in a political settlement to be negotiated in Geneva, there is a sudden spike in fighting in the northern city of Aleppo. Its 5.5 million population as against Damascus’ 4.5 million, makes it the country’s most populous city.

Writings in the New York Times, other Western and Saudi publications have been talking of a “divided city of Aleppo”. This is ominous.

With Russian help, Syrian forces had won a morale boosting victory in Palmyra. In the third week of March, Russians had all but encircled Aleppo. Why did they spare Izaz, the main smuggling route to Turkey? That is the route through which most new arms and men on brand new vehicles have driven in to revive the mayhem in Aleppo.

Russian Foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov has been flourishing “proof” under Secretary of State, John Kerry’s nose: “look so much of this material is brand new and American in origin.”

In the Syrian whodunit, Americans have actually been admitting their mistakes with endearing docility. Remember Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter, his face distinctly in the lower mould, being grilled by a congressional committee, then by the media, for the clumsiness of US Special Operations in Syria? The “moderates” they were training left their weapons with the Al-Nusra Front and sought safe passage. Carter announced, on live cameras, that a $500 million training programme had been discontinued.

Asked by Thomas Friedman, of The New York Times, why had he not used air strikes when the Islamic State first reared its head, President Obama was honest: that would have released pressure on Iraq’s Shia Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki. At that stage, the US-Saudi combine’s priority was to put an end to Maliki’s brazenly pro Shia regime. In that project, the IS was an asset. Is it no longer an asset?

In the latest attacks in Iraq, the IS does not look like a diminished power despite US, Britain and Israel having rung alarm bells across the world. Is this trio confronting the IS powerless?

Arab ambassadors, particularly those opposed to the Saudis, draw diagrams to prove that the IS, in its origins, was a US backed project which may have grown out of US control. Just as Osama bin Laden did.

The other day a journalist in Dhaka placed in my hand a copy of Dabiq, the slick IS online magazine threatening Islamist mayhem in Bangladesh, Myammar, India. Prime Minister Shaikh Hasina’s government in not convinced. She believes her arch rival Begum Khaleda Zia’s Jamaat-e-Islami supporters are behind the recent killings of liberal bloggers, university professors, and minority groups to destabilize her government.

Syrian diplomats on the other hand are targeting Britain with fanciful stories. When British Parliament did not permit Prime Minister David Cameron to attack Assad’s Forces in Syria, British intelligence thought of an alternative scheme: set up the propaganda machine for groups opposed to Assad. Intelligence intercepts, which authorities in Damascus decoded, are cited as evidence.

As one grapples with this confusion, emerges Christiane Amanpour of the CNN subjecting the hapless Ashton Carter to fierce interrogation. She put the fear of God in him. “Aleppo is another Srebrenica waiting to happen.”

Srebrenica became notorious for genocide. Serbian troops separated 8373 men and boys from their womenfolk during the Bosnian war and, in July 1995, slaughtered them. They were buried in mass graves.

Carter did not rise to the bait. “The misery of Syria can only be ended by reaching a political solution.”

Why this resumption of fierce fighting in Aleppo?

With Russian help, Syrian Forces had regained so much territory that the opposition had very few chips to play with at the bargaining table in Geneva. Turkish demand for a no-fly-zone along the stretch north of Aleppo and the Turkish border has not been conceded. The US would not like to dislodge Kurdish influence in that region. A divided Aleppo gives the Syrian opposition atleast a toehold. Russians would be doing a cost-benefit analysis to see if they can allow that to happen.

The US and Russians had agreed to the original ceasefire primarily between the Syrian Army and groups who accept the ceasefire. The agreement did not provide scope for the Al-Nusra Front or IS to be protected. But the US, under pressure from the Saudis and the Turks, is lumping Al-Nusra with the so called “moderate opposition”.

Roughly, what is going on is this: there are, say, rocket attacks which the Syrian Army compasses show are coming from Nusra held enclaves. The army retaliates. The Western media screams murder – look, they are attacking civilians and moderate oppositions.

In other words, Al-Nusra is the miasmal mist behind which a so called moderate opposition is being conceived and forged. What I suspect is being sought is a ceasefire along an imaginary line which will then divide Aleppo. The Syrian-Russian combine would like to impose on Aleppo a fait accompli favourable to them. Syria, I am afraid, will probably limp along a path of non resolution until a new administration in Washington begins to take stock of the situation after November 7.

(Saeed Naqvi is a senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer, and a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Naqvi is also a mentor and a guest blogger with Canary Trap)