Sunday, March 30, 2008

Dialogue the way forward in Tibet?

Tibet is slowly fading from the headlines but for those who have been following this topic, theo ne thing that must have stood out in the incessant invective being hurled by the Chinese administration at the Dalai Lama. Now I feel no personal sense of attachment to the Dalai Lama, but by all accounts he is a man of honour and doesn't deserve the constant abuse.
And whats the carrot that the Dalai Lama is after? Talks with China.
Even for the lay observer its not hard to spot why the Chinese will never negotiate with the Dalai Lama.
The world as a whole as given up the Tibetean cause as dead for a long time now. There is no violent insurgency raging. There is no external power actively using the Tibetean case against the Chinese. Hence there is no incentive to negotiate.
China resembles the USSR of old. A disparte collection of nations held together by an iron hand.
But the Chinese have learnt for the disintegration of USSR, and have certain that that would not happen to them.
Autnomy/self rule etc are all a pipe-dream for now. The CCP is not made up of humanitarians.
So then on what basis does te Dalai Lama seek negotiations?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Obama the champion of the round toss?

In terms of a Presidential canidate with charisma, Obama stands second to only Bill Clinton.
He certainly would represent an upgrade over the incumbent.
I can't positively say that Hillary is a better option either.
Then why am I a little hesitant at the prospect of him running off against John McCain?
Partly because its my considered opinion that America is still not ready for a Minority Community President.
And the second reason goes back to by school days in India.
We were a class of approximately 100(if I remember correctly). The girls were'nt hot enough to hold our ineterst and they were probably 20 in number. The one thing we could do in break time was to rush to the 3 ping pong tables. Now some 60 guys rushing for a 30 minute break to 3 ping-pong table made it a tough task for everyone to gain access to the said Shangri La.
So to decide who got to play, we Had a round toss.
Basically all of us going around the table keeping the ball in play. When you could'nt you were no longer in contention.
Now I wasn't particulary good at ping pong. But mastered the round toss. So I always got to play.
Coming back to Obama, my fear is he has mastered the primary round toss, but will he falter in running the nation?
I guess that kind of doubt can be directed at any canidate. But Obama of "Yes we can" has staked an awful lot on his likeability.
Well I guess only time will tell.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Mahatma and Tibet

If you have read Tibetean writing on their affairs prior to thier forceful "liberation" by China, thehy make a convincing case for thier independence.
But is this thier ultimate aim? I mean they will be the first to acknowledge that China is not going to not just grant them independence, especially on moral grounds, in response to a non-violent struggle.
There is no military solution possible either, China is much too powerful militarily.
The Dalai Lama has often cited his admiration for Mahatama Gandhi and the non-violent means he adopted to secure independence from India from the British.
So it might be interesting to examine wether a Mahatma could have made a difference in the Tibetean struggle. Or wether the Dalai Lama can forge a resoultion with his current tactics of non-violence.
Mahatma Gandhi had at his disposal a nation much larger than their rulers and our sheer numbers were always wieghted in India's favor. Not so when you compare the 5.5million Tibetean population to the 1billion Chinese.
Geography was another factor, the British realised that it had become increasingly less profitable to run an empire long distance. Again Tibet doesn't have that luxury especially with the railway line China has built to Tibet.
At the time India gained its independence, Britain was a power in decline badly crippled by a war that ha claimed an entre generation of its best and brightest.
China on the other hand has been on a spectacular growth streak, that shows now signs of abating.
Finally the British had a free press and a parliament, and enlightened people who were capable of asking for the moral justification in running colonies when they had just fought of the Nazi's in a brutal war to preserve freedom, democracy and equality.
No such qualms on China's side either.
I have no access to a gallup poll, but I'll wager that a majority of Chinese, are in favor of strong arm tactics to put down demonstrations in Tibet. Well even if I was wrong, it not like there is free press in China to tell me about it.
So in the ultimate analysis , Mahatma Gandhi would not have been able to do jack for Tibet.

The Tibet situation Again...

Looking at the Chinese government's predictable reaction of "crushing" the unrest in Tibet, I am reminded of a story I read while in school.
The story was of the might oak and the reed. And this gist of it was that the oak stood firm and looked strong and was strong, the reeds on the other had were weak and swayed in the slightest wind.
And then one night in a mighty storm the Oak because it stood so firm was uprooted. The reed despite the buffeting, since they swayed, managed to survive.
So standing firm is not always the virtue its made out to be. Maybe once in a while a little swaying is in order.

Friday, March 21, 2008

A tale of two civilizations

The two civilizations that fascinate me the most are the Indian and Chinese.
Having lived in the states for a while and having had the opportunity to interact with some Chinses people I can say we have probably more in common then say and Indian and an American.
The histories of both nations follows a similar pattern too. Both were powerhouses(cultural,economic and scientific) in ancient times, ruled by feudal warlords for the most part.
Both were bullied by colonial powers before starting out their futures as modern nations at rougly the same time.
But something went seriously awry at that point. While India chose the path of representative democracy, The chinese went the way of the authoritarian communism.
Why repeat a past everyone is aware of?
Merely to point out the extent of the gulf that exists between these 2 neighbours.
While China has Tibet , India has Kashmir.
China as has been witnessed over the last one week, will brook no dissent for its rule in Tibet.
The population has no channel to vent, so occassionally you will see these bouts of violence.
The "cultural genocide" description used by the Dalai Lama is spot on. The Chinese government has shown no inclination in preserving Tibetean culture.
Tibeteans can survive as long as they are willing to accept their fate.
To be honest I can't see things improving for the Tibeteans. In todays world, there is not one nation who isn't wary of China at some level.
Now to come back to the comparison I was drawing.
Not many will know that There is a law that debars Indians from buying land in Kashmir.
So as an Indian citizen, I can buy land in preety much any part of the world, but not in my own country(a part of my own country ie)
Whatever the merits of this law, it was enacted to pacify the average Kashmiri and reassure him that he would not be over run by millions and millions of indians.
China has shown no such restraint with Tibet.
I can't expect the Cinese government to change the way it deals with its problems,
But really would it be so bad to give the Tibeteans a voice?
Whats a few peaceful demonstartions with no media coverage going to accomplish in the larger context?
Allow peaceful demonstartions will go some way in ensuring this does'nt turn into a violent struggle(which would just lead to more dead tibeteans)

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Hillary vs Barak

I wont pretend to be anything more than a weekend analyst.
And none of the views expressed hence will can be entirely original given the relentless scrutiny that this face-off has received by the media and political pundits.
Let me start off by tackling the most sensitive question first.
Is America ready to have a black president? Or for that matter has this nation reached a point where that issue does not matter?
Its been an observation of mine, that no matter what we think about ourselves , we do tend to pre-judge people based on their origins their appearance etc. Which would mean we are all atleast a little racist.
I know , that nobody reading this will be thumping their desks in agreement (How can anyone be a little racist , its like saying some one's a little gay!!!)
Despite what we see in the Democratic primaries my feeling is that a country that's 70+% white is not quite ready to be run by a black man.
Now it would be a grave injustice to Obama to look beyond his credentials and go right for his race. After all he never appealed for votes on anything other than his credentials for the job.
Well he did'nt have to. based on some reports around 80% of the black vote in the primaries went Obama's way. Hillary on the other hand did'nt have the benefit of the "white" vote.
But then how do you explain the Obama victories in overwhelmingly white states?
My weekend analyst flippancy allows me to drag out this theory.
Obama's victories in white states has been due to superb organization and also the low overall democratic votes being cast. Not a whole of states Obama has won in the primaries are going Obama's way in a presidential election.
But what about Hillary?
She has won democratic strong holds like California and New York that would swing democrat no matter what.
So whom to pick?
Who can go toe to toe with McCain is the question.
McCain , has the independent anti establishment aura that is Barak Obama's turf.
So he will be able to attract a fair share of the independent vote.
His perceived weakness has been the conservative base of the party.
But nothing is more likely to bring out the conservative base to vote, if not for Obama running opposed to him.
My educated guess is that young educated urbane voter will plump for Obama.
But what of those with families and bleak economic prospects?
Ultimately ,it might just boil down to which democrat can win in Ohio and Florida , the 2 states that have time and again been responsible for electing a US president.
Bottom line don't read too much into Barak Obama's stunning primary success , this is a dog-fight and no matter who wins, a battered Republican party has chosen the right man maybe eight years too late.