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Expect the unexpected from Modi in Camelot 2.0

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Narendra Modi Hindu Identity

New Delhi, May 29 (IANS) With a gargantuan majority at his disposal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a huge gene pool to choose from and reward as he goes about appointing members to his new Camelot. However, with PM Modi, no one can second-guess him. At the same time, speculation is rife in Delhi’s political circles on the composition of the new Cabinet.

For starters, one will have to look at the Big Four – members of the all important Cabinet Committee on Security. In the erstwhile Cabinet there were two women. Apparently, former Rajasthan Chief MInister Vasundhara Raje may be sounded out for the External Affairs Ministry while giant killer Smriti Irani, who toppled Congress President Rahul Gandhi from his pocket borough of Amethi, may get the plum post of Raksha Mantri. Many aspirations and ambitions have to be fulfilled while hard work and perseverance will need to be rewarded.

The PM may also be looking at certain technocrats to push his JAM policy where the tri-junction of Jan, Aadhar and Mobile meet. This has paid handsome dividends at the bottom of the pyramid and in more ways than one given a sense of liberation and purpose to rural women. As such, one shouldn’t be surprised if there is a Make in India, Skill Development and other such nomenclatures in the new Cabinet.

Grapevine also indicates that NSA Ajit Doval may be one of the contenders for the Defence Minister’s job. He could even be sent to Washington as India’s ambassador to the US. Adding a twist to the permutations and combinations, if BJP President Amit Shah is inducted into the Cabinet, he may get one of the most crucial portfolios out of three – Home, Defence or even Finance.

In whatever role the PM assigns him, he will be pushing the rollout agenda of the PM’s pet schemes aggressively. In the eventuality that he joins the Cabinet, given the nature of Indian polity where the country lurches from one election to another and the whirligig is more often than not year round; Dharmendra Pradhan or Bhupendra Yadav may get the nod for the party top job.

Health minister J.P. Nadda is another name doing the rounds. National General Secretary and a Rajya Sabha MP from Himachal Pradesh, Nadda is known as a master strategist in his party. The party had given him charge of Uttar Pradesh in the recently concluded hustings. The party bagged 62 out of 80 Lok Sabha seats.

Meanwhile, Pradhan cut his teeth in the Bihar Lok Sabha elections 2014 and once again, this time in his home state Odisha. BJP’s vote share in the Lok Sabha polls in Odisha rose from about 21.9 per cent in 2014 to 38.37 per cent while the ruling BJD’s fell from 44.1 per cent in 2014 to 42.76 per cent.

BJP’s vote share in the Odisha Assembly polls also rose significantly from 18.2 per cent in 2014 to 32.5 per cent in 2019. An RSS member since his student days and a close confidant of both Modi and Shah, Pradhan is expected to play a bigger role in BJP.

Bhupendra Yadav is a Rajya Sabha member, but equally a powerful national general secretary. Fiercely private, like his mentor Amit Shah, Yadav keeps to the confines of the war room, a role that he relishes. Yadav had been the BJP election in-charge for Rajasthan in 2013, Jharkhand in 2014 and Bihar in 2015. While Bihar did not go the way the BJP would have liked, Yadav delivered results for his boss, Shah, in both Rajasthan and Jharkhand.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh may be retained in his present job, but if party President Amit Shah, who has played a monumental role in the BJP returning to power working ceaselessly and tirelessly to put the strategic tent poles in place, joins the Cabinet, the former party president may become the new Speaker of the Lok Sabha.

Railways Minister Piyush Goyal, who served as the interim finance minister when Arun Jaitley was undergoing treatment, may step into his shoes.

However, other names are also doing the rounds for this post. Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad may be moved to a more prominent ministry after his win in Patna Sahib. He was a minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government and became a cabinet minister under Modi. Nitin Gadkari had a number of ministries under him and is credited with most tangible work being done in those departments. He may continue with the work assigned to him. Agriculture will be one of the focus areas and, there is a thinking that a technocrat like Ashok Gulati should be given the job to ameliorate the woes of agrarian India which appears to be in distress mode.

Telecom will have a new minister since Manoj Sinha is one of the prominent losers in the BJP. If Pradhan moves to head the party, then the energy portfolio comprising petroleum and natural gas will also see a new face. Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi may get a cabinet rank this time. He is the most prominent Muslim face in the Modi team. Prakash Javdekar will also be given an important position — he served as HRD Minister in the old Council of Ministers.

With nearly 80 members in the previous Cabinet, lots of faces and names to fill the posts abound. Expect the infusion of new blood and representation to states where the BJP has done exceedingly well — Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Delhi, Jharkhand, Odisha, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and equal weight to the allies (a story put out earlier by IANS details that).

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Did Vikas Dubey reach Ujjain himself or was he brought there?

After Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra announced his arrest, the Congress is raising questions.

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Vikas Dubey.

Ujjain/Bhopal, July 9 : After gangster Vikas Dubey, who had been on the run for the last seven days, was arrested in Madhya Pradesh’s Ujjain on Thursday morning, a controversy erupted over how he managed to reach the temple town. Questions have been raised whether he came on his own or was brought here, and also as to how he manage to cross many districts of Uttar Pradesh without being recognised.

Dubey, accused of killing eight police men in Bikaru village of Kanpur, was constantly changing his location for the past seven days. Though the Uttar Pradesh Police continued to raid various possible locations, he still reached Ujjain, dodging the police of several districts of UP and Madhya Pradesh.

Dubey, whose in-laws are also from Madhya Pradesh, has been coming to Ujjain every year. His mother Sarala Devi had admitted that he used to go to Ujjain every year to offer prayers at Mahakaal temple. It is being said that he reached Ujjain by road and also offered prayers at the temple on Thursday morning.

After Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra announced his arrest, the Congress is raising questions.

Police sources said that Dubey came to Ujjain in a car from Uttar Pradesh and he also stopped at a residence of a person known to him in Nagjhiri area where he stayed for some time. He reached the temple for ”darshan” on Thursday morning. However, the security guards posted at the temple got suspicious and stopped him for questioning. He reportedly had a brief scuffle with the security guards who then informed the police post. Dubey was later arrested there.

But if Dubey did actually come to Ujjain by road, then he must have covered a distance of about 200 km in Madhya Pradesh seemingly without attracting police attention. Before entering Madhya Pradesh, he must have passed through several districts of Uttar Pradesh as well. Apprehension has been expressed that he reached Ujjain via Rajasthan”s Kota. The police is investigating this also.

Mishra said that Dubey came to Ujjain driving his own vehicle. “Two of his accomplices — Bittu and Suresh have also been arrested. The entire state police was on alert after the Kanpur incident. The surveillance was carried out and finally MP police succeeded in arresting him.”

However, questioning the government, Congress Rajya Sabha member and former Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh said: “It looks like a sponsored surrender to avoid an encounter by the Uttar Pradesh Police. My information is that this has been possible with the courtesy of a senior leader of Madhya Pradesh BJP.”

However, it was not immediately known whether Dubey reached Ujjain on Thursday morning itself or had come a day before.

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Xi Jinping: The Chinese Hitler leading PRC to disaster

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Chinese President Xi Jinping is unfairly using early recovery from pandemic for external encroachment and internal consolidation.Chinese aggression in all domains will be rebuffed globally, led by powers suffering the most.

Xi Jinping”s over ambition and lust for power has been emboldened by mute tolerance in CPC and PRC. His adventurism is leading China to disaster, unless the Chinese reins its leadership.Backdrop

History is full of examples whenever the ambition of any autocrat grew beyond global tolerance, he became responsible for collapse of his regime, resulting in disaster of the country and population, which emboldened him by mute tolerance. Today, despite facing unprecedented global anger for being the originator of novel coronavirus, the aggressiveness of Chinese leadership on multiple fronts to suppress internal and external dissent has pushed the world against itself. Xi Jinping”s unfair adventurism for incremental encroachment to all his ever increasing claim areas in continental and maritime domain, at a time when other countries are suffering from most dangerous pandemic of the century, with death toll rising every day, is amounting to inhuman aggression, junking all morals, international conventions, rules, treaties and forcing the world to reluctantly react against his regime.

Xi Jinping”s Overambition

Xi started his term by dream-selling to pull China out of poverty line by 2020. Internationally he projected himself as the crusader for world peace and climate change(despite junking the ruling of PCA and violating UNCLOS), with a resolve to push through Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to fulfil Chinese dream of rejuvenation, after century of humiliation. As ”Chairman of Everything” he indirectly declared himself as the tallest leader on the planet, got himself re-elected for second term and did everything to make himself great, under the banner of ”Making China Great”. He assumed that the world will accept him as tallest autocratic leader, as Chinese people accepted him, without worthwhile checks and balances. His anti-corruption drive systematically eliminated the entire dissenting elements and all his possible competitors.

China: Boiling Pressure Cooker with no Safety Valve

Xi took over in 2012 as President with 7.9 per cent GDP growth and led China to economic downslide thereafter. With failing BRI, mishandling of COVID-19, there is no worthwhile achievement to his credit except that he managed to eliminate dissenting elements. His critiques in the CPC feel that his real achievements do not match his elevation to the status of MaoZedang, which has created some disgruntled elements/lobbies, who are still under check due to his comprehensive surveillance, because disagreeing with Xi ”The Core” is anti-national and leads to jail.

It is quite clear to Xi Jinping and CPC, that if he fails economically, and the educated people of China don”t get a decent life, they may not tolerate his autocracy, having no worthwhile grievance redressal mechanism and the democratic winds will start flowing from Hong Kong and Taiwan. The legal system stands hostage to party leadership justifies the boiling pot theory; hence the biggest threat to China comes from within. Some of his actions like laying restrictions on religious practices on Uyghurs” and their forced abortions in Xinjiang, use of force in implementing draconian National Security Law in Hongkong are too risky. The strict censorship of media and internet, electronic isolation, social engineering to bring societal changes are unpopular steps to minimize unrests.

Why over-ambitious Xi Opening Multiple Fronts?

The viability of ”Implosion theory” is feared to be a reality by a totalitarian regime; hence a dose of nationalism nurtured through external aggression, suits Xi Jinping”s hold on power, besides making best use of early recovery from COVID-19 in comparison to his competitors. China has unfairly used it as an opportunity to assert itself on multiple fronts, including India-China land borders to scrumptiously encroach some area not supposed to be held, as per the mutually agreed CBMs, where both sides were free to patrol. This is a sequel to the Chinese adventurism in Indo-Pacific at multiple places in South and East China sea with greater assertion against other claimants like Vietnam, Indonesia and Philippines. The rationale of China being over assertive at the time of pandemic comes from Sun Tzu”s thoughts of ”Strike adversary when it”s weak and preserve yourself when it is strong”. China is therefore speeding up its Incremental Encroachment Strategy in South China Sea as well as LAC.

The strategic calculations seem to be ambitious, as in authoritarian state, the sycophancy prevents leaders getting objective advices from subordinate strategists. When Hitler launched offensive in Russia in World War II, beyond its logistics limit for sustaining in winters, he overruled advices of subordinates and brought Germany to disaster.

In case of China, Xi emboldened by modernised arsenal and extensive exercises and propaganda is planning to take on some of the most experienced troops, despite not having a single pilot in the PLA with any operational experience. While its density of arsenal in South China Sea and Eastern Sea board looks impressive, but its vulnerability of long Sea lanes of Communications in Malacca strait and the Indian Ocean, coupled with blockading of its naval bases by hostile navies can draw out PLA out of its comfort zone, where it is no match to combined navies of hostile countries, including the US spending four to five times of China on defence over so many decades. The strong military posturing by navies from the US, Australia, Japan, and regional claimants of South China Sea enough for deterrence and accidental engagement, because an all-out war is recipe for mutually assured destruction (MAD), which even Beijing cannot afford given the fact that it faces potent nuclear and space power.

Contours of Undeclared Third World War

The forced occupation of landmass by China in terms of features in South China Sea claimed by others junking PCA ruling, has graduated to skirmishes. The dimensions of warfare to include economic war, cyber and information war, biological war by asymmetrical impact of COVID-19, resulting many more deaths than all world wars put together, large scale military posturing in Indo-Pacific and physical land grab offensive by China in Ladakh, using pandemic as a weapon.

The possible alliances also seem to be on the horizon seemingly China, Pakistan and North Korea taking on competitors of China and everyone else in the world not agreeing to Chinese narrative. The current global situation has every element of a World War, except that the dimension, instruments and modalities have changed from conventional war, and the war has not been ”Formally Declared”; hence it may well be called as ”Undeclared Third World War with Changed Instruments and dimensions”. The world has already entered in preparatory phase of it, without recognising it to be so.

Pattern of Global Reaction

In continental domain its land grab efforts in Ladakh have been rebutted by India, which honoured its 20 fallen soldiers with state honours, whereas the PLA chose to hide its fallen soldiers much more in number, creating another wave of anger amongst the PLA veterans. The mutual disengagement is being viewed with suspicion as PLA demonstrated its unprofessionalism to the world by using barbaric tools for attacking Indian soldiers, junking the CBMs and yet bought heavy casualties. India is certainly not going to take mini disengagement gestures for granted, unless PLA withdraws to pre-standoff positions; hence will be ready to respond with all options on the table.

In maritime front, the US has already demonstrated strong military posturing. The ASEAN, which was muted by China so far, by consolation of draft Code of Conduct and purse diplomacy, combined with coercion due to large power asymmetry, seems emboldened to talk about UNCLOS, demanding fair share of EEZ of affected countries. Taiwan, emboldened by national sentiments, leadership, the US support through Taiwan Relation Act and NDAA has started identifying itself as a nation, junking ”One country Two systems”, ready to defend itself should a situation arise, besides granting asylum to willing people from Hong Kong. Japan is looking for strengthening its defence capabilities. Some more adventurism by North Korea may see Japan going nuclear in future. Xi Jinping”s ambition has costed global loss of trust and some important markets for China. Russia and Iran have a forced marriage with China, due to sanctions from the West, but given the geo-strategic situation, playing neutral, along with sale of weaponry/oil may be the best option for them.

China may be able to implement the draconian National Security Act in Hong Kong, but global reaction is unavoidable. China has to bear the cost of demise of its financial hub, with many countries inclined for economic distancing, shifting FDI, banning concessions granted to Hong Kong, granting citizenship to those willing to exit, thus creating ideal conditions for urban insurgency in times to come, besides the rural insurgency of Xinjiang. Suddenly the voices in support of Uighurs and Tibetans and questions on ”One China Policy” have started becoming active, notwithstanding the threats of Chinese wolf warrior diplomats.

Future of China under over-ambitious Xi

Xi Jinping”s Chinese dream of ”Rejuvenation” and his aim of ”Prosperous Developed Society” with a ”War Winning Modern PLA” by 2050 was achievable, had he not harboured dictatorial over ambition to achieve these aims and dislodge the US as a superpower, making unfair use of pandemic. In fact, the first major conversion of features in South China Sea to military bases took place during the last US elections, with no big bang action from the US. This emboldened Xi to use pandemic unfairly to fulfil all his aims before time, without having capacity to protect its global shipping outside its eastern seaboard. With the kind of global anger he has generated against his regime, the lesson of diversification of global factory for the world, along with need of economic distancing from China has become evident. Xi has thus pushed his country on a path to disaster unless Chinese people wake up and shake up the CCP and rein their leadership to protect their dreams.

Takeaway for India

From the Indian perspective, this is the time when Beijing is under maximum external and internal pressure since last five decades. If Beijing continues with its high headedness, it will invite further pressure. This may well be the time to push through border settlement or demarcation of LAC as the political cost of resolving the border/LAC may be lesser than an active front with India. India should not settle down with token disengagement because unless the LAC is demarcated the standoffs will continue. For the time being India should not blink at the borders.

(Major General S. B. Asthana, SM, VSM Veteran is the Chief Instructor, United Service Institution of India. The views expressed here are his personal views.)

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Australia, Japan and United States join hands to counter China’s use of force in South China Sea

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South China Sea-WEFORNEWS-min

Washington, July 8: To sternly counter China in South China Sea, The defence ministers of  Australia, Japan, United States has reinforced strong opposition to the use of force or coercion to alter the status quo  of the region, and called on to uphold the freedom of navigation and overflight.

Australian Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds, Japanese Minister of Defense KONO Taro, and U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper convened a virtual trilateral defense ministerial meeting on July 7.

Concerned about the recent incidents, including the continued militarization of disputed features, dangerous or coercive use of coast guard vessels and “maritime militia”, the leaders of three countries said no country can disrupt other countries’ resource exploitation activities.

They emphasized the importance of peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, in particular as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and called for all countries in the region to take meaningful steps to ease tension and build trust. 

The ministers also called “for any Code of Conduct in the South China Sea to be consistent with existing international law, in particular as reflected in UNCLOS; not to prejudice the interests of third parties or the rights of any State under international law; and to reinforce existing inclusive regional architecture”.

This comes after USS Nimitz and the USS Ronald Reagan along with their accompanying vessels and aircraft conducted exercises “designed to maximize air defense capabilities, and extend the reach of long-range precision maritime strikes from carrier-based aircraft in a rapidly evolving area of operations.”

The Nimitz and Ronald Reagan strike groups conducted several exercises and operations to strengthen warfighting readiness and proficiency in an all-domain environment. Integrated operations included air defense exercises, tactical maneuvering drills, simulated long-range maritime strike scenarios, and coordinated air and surface exercises to maintain combat readiness and maritime superiority.Our forces provide combatant commanders with significant operational flexibility to respond to regional contingencies.”

Captain Michael Rovenolt, commanding officer of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, said, “Working together with another Carrier Air Wing provides advanced opportunities for our squadrons to conduct high-end training, and increase our warfighting readiness…Our forces provide combatant commanders with significant operational flexibility to respond to regional contingencies.”

Working together with the Ronald Reagan carrier strike group provides advanced, high-end training opportunities that increase our warfighting readiness,” said Capt. Todd Cimicata, Commander, Carrier Air Wing 17.

In reference to the 2019 Australia-Japan-United States Trilateral Strategic Action Agenda, the ministers directed their respective officials to continue to pursue avenues for practical engagement, cooperation, and interoperability in a time of geostrategic change.

This joint statement by trilateral countries provides an impetus to the joint statement issued by the members of the ASEAN bloc expressing concerns over the current situation in the South China Sea.

The ASEAN leaders stressed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, safety and freedom of navigation and over-flight above the South China Sea, as well as upholding international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS, in the South China Sea, working actively towards the full and effective implementation of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in its entirety.
US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo had said that the US has sent a letter to the UN Secretary-General to protest China’s “unlawful South China Sea maritime claims”.

Defence Ministers also agreed to coordinate to ensure to deter destabilizing or coercive unilateral actions that could alter the status quo and increase tensions in the East China Sea.

The ministers underlined the instrumental role of ASEAN in facilitating regional dialogue and establishing norms of behavior that support stability, security, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region, and recognized the importance of supporting partners in South and South East Asia. 

The ministers emphasized their ongoing support for ASEAN centrality as a key contributor to regional security and prosperity.

By Arti Bali  

Sr Journalist (International Affairs)

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