Short term prospects in Pakistan and Afghanistan in response to the Peshawar attack

What happens next in reaction to the gruesome terrorist attack in Peshawar is the question that continues to confound all stakeholders. Here’s a quick assessment of the short term prospects in Pakistan and Afghanistan post the attack.
First, the Pakistan army is likely to ask its domestic proxies like Lashkar-e-Janghvi, Lashkar-e-Taiba and others to layoff for a while in order to prevent taking a further hit to their authority.
Second, Nawaz Sharif’s position will improve relative to his other political opponents like Imran Khan. His stock will also rise vis-a-vis Raheel Sharif who will now have to face a backlash questioning the purpose and effectiveness of Operation Zarb-e-Azb.
Third, there is a possibility of a truce between Kabul and Islamabad as a result of which Pakistan will be asked to reign in the Haqqani Network in exchange of getting Afghanistan’s buy in for going after Maulana Fazalullah, believed to be hiding in Afghanistan. But this truce is likely to remain temporary as the Pakistan army will have to consider the entrenched interests of its agents in Afghanistan at a later point of time. In the event that such a truce does not shape up, tensions will rise between all the combatants (state and non-state) along the Durand border.
Fourth, acceptance of the US drone strikes as a measure to eliminate terrorists will now increase. This is because their legitimacy will be pitched against the horrendous acts that the Taliban perpetrates.
Fifth, genuine strikes against the terrorists along the Durand Line will worsen the security situation in that region. This is likely to divert Pakistan’s attention from its border with India for a short period.
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The appropriate umpire

By Devika kher

The Spicejet case allows the Directorate General of Civil Aviationto emerge as an appropriate umpire.

The Government regulators got it right this time. Based on the remarks of the hassled civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) Chief Prabhat Kumar took the much needed steps to monitor Spicejet, a heavily indebted domestic airline in a timely manner. The airline was put on the cash-and-carry mode after the Civil Aviation Minister expressed his concern regarding the flight. All these measures were taken by the DGCA as a step for “heightened surveillance”.

Spicejet is a low-cost Indian airline owned by the Chennai based Sun Group, a conglomerate of Kalanithi Maran who also own the Sun TV Network, the largest media network in the country. It commenced services in 2005 and has Sanjeev Kapoor as the current CEO who took the position in April 2014 as the airline made a substantial loss of Rs.1,186 crore in 2013-14 and was in a dire need of investments. In the turbulent times faced by the airline last year, the owner Kalanithi Maran invested Rs. 54.27 crore into the airline as it made a loss of Rs 559 crore for Q2FY14.

Not keeping with the financial condition of the airline, Spicejet managed to be the second largest passenger carrier till August 2014 with a 20.9 percent share of the domestic market. A major attribute for the high number of passengers was the low fares maintained below the cost price, which eventually led to the increase in the losses made by the airline. As the financial health of the airline became grim, the Civil Aviation Minister pointed it out as “giving (them) a heart attack”.

On December 4th, the DGCA Chief issued a warning against Spicejet airline asking it to provide a schedule for payment of a Rs.1,500 crore loan to various vendors. The DGCA Chief also took other steps, such as withdrawal of the credit facility for airport user fees, in response to the Rs. 200 crore debt owed by the airline to the Airport Authority of India (AAI). However, an interesting aspect of the decisions was, the caution taken to leave the market untouched. Instead the DGCA went a step ahead and asked the airline to stop advance bookings of flights for over a month as well as to refund the customers of the cancelled flights. The airline was asked to withdraw slots to minimise the impact in the aviation industry. Besides the market factors, the safety measure have also been kept in mind when the DGCA ensured that pilots would not be made to do overtime, as 115 commanders and 17 co-pilots resigned on Saturday, December 6.

Another intriguing aspect was the government’s ability to avoid taking extreme steps. For instance, on one hand the authorities refused to provide financial support to the private airline, on the other, they extended the deadline for the debt payment to AAI by almost a week. Hence, the government took the stand of not being authoritative enough, so as to ban the airline, but were cautious to not misuse the fiscal resources at hand.

This case can be seen as an example of the government playing the role of a fair umpire. As an umpire the government should set the rules of the game. It should ensure that all players adhere to it. If this is done right, it helps the government in asserting legitimacy over the players in the market. In this case, the government has shown timeliness by taking steps before it was too late. This not only helped improve the government’s ability to overlook the scenario but also saved the employees, investors, customers and agents from another massive loss after the Kingfisher Airline fiasco.

Fortunately, unlike the Uber case, this scenario gives hope for a government body with the ability to realise its role in accordance to the objective required to be attained. Hence, instead of impairing the market by banning a firm from operating in the national capital, the DGCA concentrated on reducing the impact of the losses of one firm from adversely affecting the entire industry. The government authority in the case of Spicejet used its power to sustain the market, instead of using it as a punching bag for the political economy.

Devika Kher is a Research Asoociate at the Takshashila Institution.

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Store in India! Part II

By Ranjeet Rane

Why enforce, when you can enable and engage instead?

In my previous post I had proposed the idea of “Store in India” by using a four layered model, also while presenting the concept of a “Data Ecosystem” in the same post; I had discussed Data Sovereignty and Lawful Interception as the two layers around which the policy discourse of the data ecosystem is currently focused on. To evolve into a more holistic approach the policy discourse needs to take into consideration two more factors, namely “Data Intermediaries” and “User Privacy”.

Data Intermediaries are those body corporates that aid in the transmission, storage, and third party access of your data. Data Intermediaries find mention in the Indian IT Act 2008 and subsequent Rules as the sole custodians of user generated data. These intermediaries comprise of the entire spectrum of service providers including telecom operators, ISPs, cloud based services, Over the Top (OTT) applications and even Cyber cafes. They form the back bone of the physical infrastructure needed to sustain the data ecosystem.

It would be apt to mention that the National Cyber Security Policy 2013 categorically lists the need to engage in a PPP model to strengthen the cyber infrastructure in the country. While the policy awaits implementation in letter and spirit, contradictory examples of the Government using this proposed partnership to further its interests towards tapping into public communication networks can be stated. One such example is the announcement by Microsoft to terminate certain services of its Skype application in coming weeks.

While the business dynamics behind this decision are debatable, it is clear that the insistence of the Government to gain access to Skype calls in a bid to monitor anti-national groups has been one of the main reasons for the termination of this service in India. By creating and aiding the implementation of an ambiguous policy framework the government has prevented efficient utilisation of such services by the end user.

Further the nature and scope of these services (and the involved service providers) is undergoing a change as well. WhatsApp (and other messaging applications) which are being used by Law enforcement agencies to strengthen their traditional informant networks are also under the scanner for spreading defamatory and communally sensitive content. These services have a dual nature of application and present day policy structure is focused on blocking these instead of utilising the last mile connectivity options provided by these services. Policy makers need to accept this duality and encourage the integration of these in main stream communication channels across all levels.

While OTT applications are riding the popularity wave across multiple technology platforms, the ownership patterns of most of these applications are not transparent. Ownership of data nested at any geographical location will be difficult to establish as this sector undergoes its consolidation cycle in the near future. Indian authorities continue to ignore these trends in the Data Ecosystem and are stuck with the “Local Server” rhetoric. They however, have no answer to the legal, technical and logistical challenges that such demands brings to fore. Coercion and arm twisting as seen in the case of Blackberry servers may not always work. These intermediaries need to be engaged on multiple platforms and be enabled to “Store in India” than arm twisted into it

The last layer and the core of this model is that of “User Privacy” concerns in the data ecosystem. The realisation that ‘User’ is the keystone species of the data ecosystem is of utmost importance here. Data based services have been chosen by end users to serve specific purposes. If the present policies make it difficult for users to avail of these services, they will move on to the next option, which might not be based on data enabled networks.

Recently a report released by the Internet and Mobile Association of India states that by December 2014, India will overtake the US as the second largest Internet users’ base in the world. The numbers point to a staggering 302 million users. A very large percentage of this growth will be driven by the ‘mobile’ platforms. Google and Twitter have already put their weight behind these numbers.

This user base is reason that the Data Ecosystem exists. By interfering with user patterns, market regulators and policy makers may indirectly sound the death kneels for this ecosystem. A recent attempt of which was seen when the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) conducted a round table on the possibility of Over the Top (OTT) applications paying spectrum usage charges to telecom service providers.

It is ironic that while on one hand the Government announces initiatives for a “Digital India”, on the other hand it tries to shape end user choices through market regulation. The policy makers need to propose a mix of measures, including but not limited to tax incentives, long term policy clarity, accountable methods of lawful interception, affordable local sourcing of hardware and other technology components and aggressively promoting the use of these data enabled services to further the cause of citizen service delivery. Microsoft is already tapping into the Indian market; it claims that local data centers will benefit organizations in the country adopting its technologies, by providing them with data sovereignty, lower latency and geo redundancy.

While the Narendra Modi led Government is pulling all stops to draw global focus to the potential to “Make in India” it is time that they also roll out a policy document that addresses the evolving nature of the Data Ecosystem in a long term perspective. The market has recognised the potential to “Store in India”; it is now time for the policy makers to resonate with an enabling environment for the same.

This is the second of a two part post. Read the first post here.

Ranjeet Rane is a research assistant on cyber-security at the Takshashila Institution.

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Store in India

by Ranjeet Rane

As the dust settles around the Indian Air Force (IAF) notification against the use of Chinese mobile phones by its officers and personnel, yet another opportunity to discuss and work upon the larger issues of data sovereignty, user data privacy and lawful interception may be lost. The issue at hand goes beyond the “Chinese spying” rhetoric. The IAF advisory and subsequent denial about the same only highlights the incoherent approach adopted by the Indian policy makers towards understanding the changing dynamics of a “data ecosystem” in a world that is fast embracing the “Internet of Things”. A “data ecosystem” encompasses all the processes relating to user data generation, storage, transmission and third party access/consumption.

A four layered model can be used to demonstrate the possible approach that can be adopted while working on a holistic policy for the rapidly evolving data ecosystem in India.

Data-Ranjeet-Rane

The outermost layer is that of Data Sovereignty. Policy discourse is presently centered around this concern. Security and Law Enforcement agencies have constantly been demanding “India based servers” (read Data centers) from data intermediaries. The Blackberry case was perhaps the most notable example in the last few years that centered around the issue of Data Sovereignty. This demand for data centers within geographical boundaries of India is based on two reasons. The first is that Indian IT laws are not applicable to data stored outside of India. Security and Law enforcement agencies often face procedural delays if access to data is sought for prosecution needs. The other reason is concerning third party access to such data. While the IAF advisory against communication devices that have a “China connect” is the most recent example of this, similar advisories have been issued by the Army as well as the Intelligence Bureau. Curiously, most of these are based on third party vulnerability reports released by private cyber security firms.

This brings to fore the need to have in place a “testing environment” that conducts routine vulnerability assessments within the data ecosystem. This could then be evolved into a certifying authority for “Data Integrity” Standards across various data intense technologies. Coupled with an agency like CERT-In it can be utilized to institutionalizethe Government oversight that is currently missing in this domain. Further this will make it easier for the data intermediaries to establish service credentials, maintain high quality of service along with mandatory documentation and periodic review of steps taken to ensure data integrity. By enabling intermediaries to follow predefined standards, the Government may indirectly boost user confidence that will help in strengthening the fundamentals of the data ecosystem.

Lawful Interception is the next sphere of this model. The NDA government has been vocal about strengthening internal security mechanisms in the country by reviving programs like the Central Monitoring System, NETRA and NATGRID. It will rely heavily on lawful interception towards meeting the objectives of these programs. The focus on blanket surveillance techniques will not be in the benefit of the data ecosystem in the long term. By increasing end user apprehension and making it difficult for the intermediaries to comply with government requests for interception, the government will continue to alter the way users perceive threats to data privacy.

The Government needs to move out from the shadow of the colonial Telegraph Act 1885 if it wishes to have a measure of success in these programs. It needs to put in place an accountable system where legitimate requests for interception would be vetted, documented and realized in public domain at regular intervals. This will increase the end user confidence in using services within the data ecosystem. This will also make it easier for the intermediaries to comply with genuine requests of interception and user information. One of the long pending steps in this regards is the National Telecom Security Policy. While its draft has been around for quite some time, it has been caught in the turf war between various ministries seeking exclusivity over interception requests by agencies under them.

Setting up of a data center is dependent primarily on its utility for users in a geographical region. India has the highest number of active users on Facebook outside of the USA. Similarly India has the highest number of users for messenger applications and other OTT applications. This large user base needs to be projected as the first reason for intermediaries to invest in setting up data centers in India. By encouraging the establishment of data centers in India, the government will be able to find partners for its National Fiber Optic Network, a project to ensure last mile connectivity to remote locations. It will also act as a counter to the perceived threat of Chinese spying in the region.

By choosing to “Store in India”, intermediaries of the data ecosystem will be able garner user trust and at the same time aid the growth of the other layers of the ecosystem. It is important that the policy makers take a relook at the various telecom and communications policies framed in the last decade and make a serious effort to integrate these in the “data ecosystem” that is flourishing in India. Unless a holistic approach is adopted to look at the issues in the data ecosystem, we might lose out on an excellent opportunity to project India as a “data hub” in the coming decade.

In my next post I shall discuss the role of data intermediaries in the data ecosystem, impact of regulatory intervention and highlight the importance of keeping end User Privacy at the core of this model.

Ranjeet Rane is a research assistant on cyber-security at the Takshashila Institution.

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Devolve or die

By Anantha Nageswaran

Reflections on the Takshashila-Hudson Conference on ‘India – the way forward’.

I have just returned from a daylong intense conference jointly hosted by the Takshashila Institution and the Hudson Institute in Bangalore on August 2. There is an onslaught of ideas, information and even emotions. The brain struggles to keep pace and works overtime to assimilate all the information and arguments presented and finally, to make sense of it all, into a cogent whole.

If one day of ideas on four topics – labour, health, innovation and trade & investment – can send the brain into a tizzy – how difficult it must be for the so-called  policymakers and politicians (P&P) to make sense of a far greater bewildering range of information, emotions and pulls and pressures thrown at them non-stop, 24*7?

There are more than ten definitions of ‘wages’, numerous laws dealing with them, some contradictory and many confusing. Changes to the Apprenticeship Act 1961 first mooted as the last of the twenty-point programme of former prime minister Indira Gandhi is beginning to see the light of the day. India should not touch Chapter 5B of the Industrial Disputes Act for the next two years, at least – it is about the right to hire and… the right to fire. In the jargon, it is about labour market flexibility. But, is India’s problem about conferring another right – this time, the right to fire – or is it about creating more jobs to accommodate and engage the demographic youth bulge in the next two and half decades?

Then, there is the Health sector. India is said to be following the fashion of the day set by the World Health Organisation. Standards are set by the Government for hospitals. But, government is a player. It runs hospitals. Hence, the standards are enforced more on private hospitals with scope for corruption and abuse. India is gravitating towards third-party payer insurance model. No one has a stake to control costs in the ‘Third party pays’ – neither hospitals, nor patients nor the insurance companies. The Western world has defined all forms of medicine other than Western medicine, ‘traditional’ and ‘alternative’. In the Indian context, it should be the other way around, perhaps, given that Indian medical traditions, practices and medicines pre-date Western medicine. But, are there enough qualified practitioners with the right blend of skills, experience and ethics to apply traditional medicine to health and healing? The Medical Council of India restricts supply of doctors. India needs more doctors. Really?

Perhaps, India needs more ‘Licensed Medical Practitioners’ who can take care of the daily ailments that afflict people – some 80% of the outpatient visits to hospitals. In complex cases involving prolonged treatment, they can be referred to qualified medical practitioners. But, in other countries, they do not start practising after getting a basic medical degree which is what Indian MBBS is all about. Then, there are extensive regulations on inputs – size of classroom, size of laboratories but less on outcomes. The regulatory system is, as always, designed to catch even the last violator with the result that it makes compliance onerous, costly, wasteful and counterproductive for the reasonably to highly honest.

Then, the topic was innovation in India. India is content with mediocrity. There is no attempt to reach for the horizon. Science education is not given undue importance. May be, the scholarship given by the Central Board of Secondary Education for students undertaking Science Education in Bachelor’s and at the Master’s level needs to be publicised and commended. Should the government encourage innovation? Or, is government the problem? Have not many innovations in the West happened, ranging from nuclear power to medicines to Internet, because of the initial government support and research? Why talk of innovation when hardly 5 percent of around 1.0 million engineers that graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in engineering every year in India know any engineering at all? So, should India aim to get its plumbing right, to start with? Perhaps, as in the case of Maslow’s hierarchy, when a step in the ladder is crossed, the other step will automatically come into view and become more easily scalable? As Nitin Pai, good friend and the co-founder of Takshashila Institution often says, India may not be able to get its security right if it cannot get its sewage right.

Then, on to Trade and Investment. Should India hold the process at the World Trade Organisation hostage as, after all, the WTO is more egalitarian than other multilateral financial institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF? Will India get its infrastructure spending and other investment spending right if it develops a corporate bond market and eliminate its revenue deficit? Should India be mindful of the spillover onto its domestic economy and financial markets arising out of the policies adopted and executed in the West and free flow of capital across borders? How does India make sure that the financial sector and financial assets do not exercise an undue influence on household and corporate financials and net worth in India, as they do now, in the West?

We, the participants at the conference, did not have to decide on anything. However, P&P have to make decisions, fraught with unknown consequences, predictable and unpredictable reactions from the public and pundits (another set of P&P). Uncertain and unintended consequences must be bearing heavily on their minds. But, there is no getting away from it. If the enormity of decision-making leaves one paralysed, his place in the history books is assured, but for the wrong reasons. The people who headed the previous government in India should know.

Then, on the way to the airport to return to Singapore, I was discussing with my friend the case of a promising young company that is now in the market raising capital from investors at one-fourth of the valuation at which it raised capital some three years ago. How did the company lose its way? Not all but most start-ups with a good idea and an energetic entrepreneur eventually run into the Peter’s principle where every manager eventually runs into his ultimate level of incompetence. Things just become too complex for him to manage.

A day later and back in Singapore on Sunday as I was unpacking, the question that cropped up in my head is this: Can India really be managed? This question may sound hackneyed. However, I would like to submit that I am coming from the management angle here.

This question is often posed at the corporate level. Corporations start small, succeed and grow. They become too complex for the management team, howsoever talented and competent, to manage. They stagnate and struggle to survive. They have to be broken down into smaller units with substantial empowerment and autonomy or divested. So that the cycle can start afresh, in some sense.

This is an eternal truth because human cognitive limitations are the biggest binding constraint on managing complexity. As many researchers who have peered into figuring out how the human brain is wired have discovered, for the most part, our brains have stopped evolving after the Stone Age, and most of its instincts were honed in the days when we were just hunter-gatherers. The modern industrial age would not merit more than 4 inches of space from the end if all of human history were inscribed on a scroll a mile long. Hence, it is no surprise that the brain has not evolved to discern long-term trends, to distinguish random from systematic outcomes and focus on a multitude of factors at once. If this eventually comes in the way of managing corporations, it is even likelier to come in the way of managing nations. Especially given the size and diversity of India, templates or precedents simply do not exist.

Therefore, it is not an admission of inadequacy but an admission of a universal reality that any capable politician in India is going to run into the Peter’s principle. With 1.2 billion people and growing, democracy, open and subversive media, the explosion in the growth of social networks, 29 States and multiple languages, multiple layers of government, a complex legal and regulatory regime overlaid on the legacy of predatory and control regime of the colonial era, it is simply too much for any government to handle. Throw in information glut, the proclivity to argue endlessly, tendency to reach for instant gratification and much else, India is perhaps too overwhelming for Indian members of Homo sapiens. Then, is the message of this article one of despair and of no hope? May be not.

Given the enormity of the challenge faced, an attitude of resignation and cessation of efforts is a big risk. Giving up is not really an option. It is important to recognise that post-Independence modern India has survived and made progress on several fronts. Challenges remain not because they have not been tackled but the problems have kept getting bigger and more complex due to the relentless rise in the population numbers and we are where we are now.

Faced with a complex situation, the first step is to break it down into manageable, bite-size parts in every possible way. So, forget about tackling all things at once. If ingenuity has kept Indians going defying adversity in every aspect of their daily lives, the same ingenuity will guide them when conditions turn more favourable. So, the government does not have to solve all the problems. It can solve some – very few – and that would enable India to solve the rest of its problems on its own.

How about just making electricity available 24*7? Or, may be, the best brains in and outside the government can just agree on three most important things that the government should tackle first and three things that citizens can do, in return. Once some reasonable measure of progress is achieved on the identified goals, the country can move on to the next set of priorities. Why are citizens indispensable to the process? Well, simply because governing and growing India is too big and too important to be left to the government alone.

Second, devolve, devolve and devolve. India is too big and too complex to be a single administrative unit. A very loose federal setup is required. Substantial devolution of authority, responsibility and resources to the States and from the States to Corporations, to Municipalities, to Gram Panchayats and so on is urgently needed.

Some or most of these lower administrative units may fail. They may be too overwhelmed by the sudden change in their situation. They may not be able to cope. They have to be open to new ideas, to getting new people in and to new powers and responsibilities. Most may buckle under the pressure. Peter’s Principle is powerful. But, some will succeed and, over time, others may start to emulate.

Third, because there are no templates and precedents for India, it is important to run multiple pilots or multiple policy experiments simultaneously. No one answer will emerge that can be applied all over India. Far from it. In fact, plurality of solutions has to be expected, encouraged and even demanded. By its nature and given the uniformity it has to enforce, the bureaucracy might find plurality of policies and approaches the most difficult to accept and work with. They first need to become aware of this gap between their conditioning and what the reality demands. That is the first step towards acceptance and then mastery of the situation.

Fourth and finally, humility is called for – both from those who design and execute and from those criticise. We are dealing with a unique situation in many ways. Humility will make dialogue possible making it easier for a diversity of solutions to emerge.

With the above approach, there is a possibility that India becomes a positive role model for problem solving under complexity with such an eclectic, diverse and open-minded approach. If it did not, it can still be a role model but of the wrong variety.

Anantha Nageswaran is co-founder the Takshashila Institution and Fellow for Geo-economics.

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Digital Odisha

By Aditya Dash

Accesibility of knowledge is the great equaliser in society.

You can read this because you know how to read English. Imagine the internet content available for people who cannot read English? What if you can only read Oriya? The scope for accessing the vast ocean of knowledge on the internet is severely limited. This is a very fundamental barier and a very prominent but overlooked wall that make up the “digital divide”. We have the government and private sector focusing on the infrastructure hurdles such as fibre optic cables and internet connectivity through 4G networks. We have manufactures of laptops, cellphones, and tablets that will ensure that such devices will be made available at a very low cost to consumers. Is the Odisha market worth their trouble? Is it something that market forces can deliver?

Going by the 2011 census the literacy rate of Odisha is 73.45 percent (82.4 percent male, 64.36 percent female). Out of the literate population the percentage of people who can read and write English will be even lower. BJD being the prominent regional party should take the lead in making Oriya content available on the internet. The BJP can also take a lead and boost its prospects in the state. Let us acknolwedge the fact that the digital divide is not simply about lack of fibre optic cables in every Panchayat, language is a very real and very prominent wall in denying the fruits of the internet to the majority of the Oriya population.

The Department of Tourism & Culture should collaborate with Department of Information Technology and launch new schemes. One of the areas they could focus on is in translating relevant information in Oriya. The scope is immense so some focus is needed. The Food and Agricultural Organisation has a huge list of manuals for farming, horticulture, animal husbandary and fisheries all available in English. Translating these into Oriya would be an efficient way of disseminating valuble information. Another area where the state government can take a proactive role is by collaborating with popular software companies such as Microsoft, Google and Mozilla and launch an Oriya versions of their software.

While we wait and hope for the government machinery to act upon such suggestions there is plenty of scope for the private citizen to join this campaign. One can have an awareness session amongst prominent media organisations of Odisha for adopting a uniform (unicode) Oriya script for their websites. The unicode Oriya script is something like the unviersal Oriya script, however it will be useful only if people start using it. This is especially the case with the print industy which continues to use non-Unicode Oriya fonts for typing. Hopefully a prominent media organisation can lead by example.

The information revloution has made the world flat. Now we have a chance to contribute to society by simply creating content on Oriya Wikipedia or even English Wikipedia for that matter. Oriya Wikipedia could use a lot of volunteers, it currently has around 50 active contributors. Wikipedia for those who do not know is the online open source encyclopedia. Contrary to popular perception it is not somewhere where anyone can simply post and edit information. Citation rules are strictly enforced and voluntary editors ensure that the content is very accurate. Oriya Wikipedia hasn’t got the mainstream attention that such an important project deserves. Maybe young politicians and bureacrats can motivate society and raise awarness about this noble initiative. Educational institutions such as schools and universities can also contribute towards this project, the act of creating a valid Wikipedia entry has tremendous educational values. It enhances writing, research, and citation skills.

Other open source projects are also possible. There are simple ones such as identifying and writing about prominent tourist spots on popular apps like Google Maps, Wikimapia and TripAdvisor. Other more ambitious open source projects would include translating the huge collection of manuscripts available with the Odisha State museum. The museum will be (again don’t really know how long they will take) making the manuscripts available online, with help of the National Informatics Center. During my visit to the manuscript preservation lab I learnt that existing readers of Oriya language can easily learn and decipher the ancient palm leaf manuscripts (you do not need formal training for it). So join in and spread knowledge, appreciate the power of knowledge. Accesibility of knowledge is the great equaliser in society. Let us spread it.

Aditya Dash is a seafood exporter based on Orissa. He is also an alumnus of the Takshashila Institution. 

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A review of the political situation in Pakistan

By Pranay Kotasthane

The following points are meant to portray the picture emerging out of the political protests taking place in Pakistan.

One, it is amply clear from Imran Khan’s bizarre demand of temporary resignation of the Prime Minister (for the purpose of judicial enquiry) that he is being played up by the Army in exchange of future favours. No politician would demand a temporary resignation otherwise.
Two, Tahir-Ul-Qadri’s interviewwhich lauds the Army’s non-interference and neutral stances in political turmoils clearly points, at the very least to an understanding and at the most to a clear collusion with the Army. In the negotiations, his aim would be the safe exit of Pervez Musharraf and to get him onboard the Pakistani Awami Tehreek (PAT).
Three, it is not a coincidence that two protests, having different objectives are occurring at the same time. Realising that none of the two prime actors in the revolution is a game-changer by himself, the Army has propped them up at the same time for greater impact and subtler obfuscation. This is, at the minima – a bargaining chip used by the Army to wrest control from Nawaz Sharif and at the maxima, a coup under the garb of a political upheaval.
Four, the target of the protests seems to have shifted from Shahbaz Sharif to Nawaz Sharif. Shahbaz – whose party has 312 of the 371 seats in the Punjab provincial assembly seems to be safe unless he is removed under a compromise formula to keep his brother in power at the centre.
Five, a ray of hope is the stand taken by parties like the PPP and ANP, which augurs well for Pakistan’s fragile democracy.
Six, the army’s objectives in this game are:

  • Seek realignment over the Afghanistan policy whereby it wants to continue using Afghan Taliban as an actor in that state’s politics. Nawaz Sharif had advocated a non-interference approach earlier.
  • Oppose any significant reconciliation efforts with India that involves compromises.
  • Teach a lesson to the political establishment that opposed its stand on Operation Zarb-e-Azb and the GEO TV case.

Seven, soon the army will project itself as the third umpire which will break the deadlock in national interest.
Eight, a back-of-the-room compromise between the two arms of the Pakistani state – the government and the Army seems highly probable where the Army will meet each of its three objectives in return of letting off the government. PTI and PAT will get brownie points for their efforts from the military establishment.
Nine, these protests are paving the way for a new modus operandi substituting outright coups through which the Army will control the government.

Pranay Kotasthane is a Policy Analyst at the Takshashila Institution. 

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Should India accept China’s maritime silk road proposal?

Both India and China should come forward with guidelines and agendas to discuss regarding such maritime cooperation

By Piyush Singh

At the just concluded 17th Round of Talks between the Special Representatives of India and China in February on the boundary question, Chinese State Councilor Yang Jichei invited India to setup a Maritime Dialogue with China and also to join the “Maritime Silk Road” initiative it had mooted with ASEAN States. This proposal was surprising in the context that China had just carried out its largest ever naval drill in the Indian Ocean involving its largest landing craft Changbaishan cutting through Makassar Straits.

China contends that due to increasing trade and economic activity, the confluence of Indian and Pacific Ocean is necessary since nearly 70 percent of the World trade moves through this area. And Since India is major maritime power in this region, it is necessary that India take part in this initiative to make it a success. The “Maritime Silk Road” project first emerged in President Xi Jinping’s trip to South-East Asia last year. Originally planned to include ASEAN states, it was expanded to include Countries extending from India to the Middle-East. This “Maritime Silk Road” project will complement the Land Based Silk Road connecting China to countries of Central Asia and Europe. China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi compared this new concept to the 2000 year old Silk Road, when much of the trade was carried out between China and other Central Asian countries through a series of land connected routes through which culture, trade and economic benefits was brought to all.

However, for this project to succeed China has to address concerns of the “String of Pearls Strategy” around the Indian Ocean. India has legitimate security concerns with regards to China’s increasing naval presence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). China’s rapid naval build-up of ports in and around India has raised concerns in Indian military establishment on what is China’s true intention. China contends that it seeks to build these port facilities to safeguard its economic interests and to help in Anti-Piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden. Since there is no official “String of Pearls” strategy in official Chinese policy circles, the idea of “Maritime Silk Road” is being seen as having the support of top Chinese leadership. This initiative will also help in allaying fears about China’s not so peaceful rise since it will be primarily be focused on trade and economic cooperation. However India’s legitimate security concerns remain unanswered. Former Foreign Secretary of India, Kanwal Sibal has argued that India needs to tread cautiously on such initiative and the proposal is “too self-serving to receive our support”. According to him, China will follow up its economic interest with naval support in the coming future.

SriLanka had become the first country to officially sponsor the “Maritime Silk Road” and is expected to grant China further investment opportunities in the region.  Pakistan though has not yet given official consent to the project; it is expected to do so in the coming months especially since China has invested heavily in the development of Gwadar port. These countries have had an on-off relation with India in the past decade and are seen to move into the China camp in order to counter the Indian influence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

In order for this initiative to succeed it is very much essential that India shed its apprehensions and join this Project as an equal to China. China should go out of the way to safeguard Indian Interests and should make it clear that its role in the region is mainly for economic growth and prosperity. Opening of this new frontier between India and China will lead to further economic growth between the two states. India-China trade is currently valued at around $70 Billion and is expected to reach $100 Billion by the year 2016. Trade through inter-connected economic corridors between India and China will help in giving the much need momentum to the slowing economic growth of these countries. China has more than 3.5 Trillion $ in reserves and is looking for new markets for investments and nowhere it is going to find a more suitable market than India. Linking the Maritime Silk Road with the Land Based Silk Road through various economic corridors should bring much prosperity to the region. However China should not make these countries entirely depended on them and should allow local trade to flourish instead of flooding them with Chinese made goods and services. These initiatives of trade should be based on principles of equality through which each country’s intellectual property is protected and safeguarded.

With regard to Maritime Dialogue with China, India is looking at the proposal cautiously since many analysts view Indian Ocean as India’s backyard and any intrusion by China into this will not be accepted. However India should cast-off these apprehensions and should realize that in an increasing connected world it will hard to demarcate areas in the oceanic region. Same goes for China with regard to its activities in the South China Sea.

Both India and China should come forward with guidelines and agendas to discuss regarding such maritime cooperation. The Silk Road concept will go a long way in strengthening of bilateral relations and people to people exchanges as the old Silk Road led to transfer of Buddhism across the great Himalayas to China. The very economic cooperation between the two countries will define the future of Asia as they are regularly shown as adversary rather than friends. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his speech at Central Party School, Beijing in October, 2013 held out the proposition that India and China are destined to lead Asia to its glory days back again as friends rather than adversaries. A win-win situation would be created for both the countries. It is up to the new government to decide what China policy should be pursued? One of adversary or as harbinger of peace in Asia.

Piyush Singh is an intern at the Takshashila Institution

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Navigating the TPP waters

By Abhirup Bhunia

To keep off potential political and commercial isolation, India has to deftly navigate the TPP waters. 

Complex elements of modern day trade like protection of Intellectual Property Rights, seamless cross-border investments, labour and environmental standards for production, etc – together identified as “21st century trade issues” in common parlance – are being comprehensively dealt with by the US-led Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a pact which has caused much flutter in trade and foreign ministries worldwide, not least in developing countries.

The TPP is a trade agreement between the US, Canada and major Asia Pacific powers, Australia, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. It aims to tear tariff and non-tariff barriers down, ease investment flows and promote economic growth.  The US-led TPP once implemented will alter world commerce and bring about a shift in its geo-economics. Obama’s just concluded week-long visit to the Asia Pacific region has sparked off renewed interest in the TPP. While no significant gains have been made in this visit, the lack of a debate on the TPP in India is surprising as the TPP will impact India in more ways than one.

While China is still reportedly out of the TPP ambit, there are many reasons why India should think twice before opting out of the TPP. Regardless of the fairness of the TPP, its merits, and the manner of its operation, it is a huge bloc and it will make geo-economic sense (as well as pure economic sense) to simply join the same. India surely won’t make a point by swimming against the tide. But it stands a chance to do so once it is an active member of the group and its discussions.

Here’s why India can ill afford to join the TPP. While the Bali round has injected fresh ammo into the multilateral system, the WTO is still exposed to the possibility of being replaced by a supranational institution like say the TPP. And while India is part of the RCEP  (another mega FTA involving Asia Pacific powers), it reduces itself to the likelihood of being subjected to rules crafted between the major TPP powers, mainly the US, by staying out of the bloc. If mature democracies like India refuse to play an active role in democratising the international regulatory architecture, the TPP is going to emerge as the de facto regulatory body of global trade. This is because the TPP is by far the most comprehensive economic deal encompassing all the complex trade issues, besides commanding huge numbers. On whether it is excessively corporate friendly and overlooks some of the legitimate developmental concerns, there can be a separate debate and the same is highly called-for. However, by staying out of it, India does not benefit the developmental cause the least bit. All it does is that it isolates itself.

There are specific economic impacts that the TPP will have for India if it stays out of the agreement. Depending on the nature of concessions offered to the TPP members, India could stare at a loss of market share vis-à-vis the IT and services sector, which accounts for well over half of its GDP. India is already facing stiff competition in outsourcing from Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia. While the latter, with the help of TPP, can develop a stronghold in the global services industry, there are indications that Philippines might be brought under into the TPP fold too. Although this looks somewhat distant now, it might spell mean further trouble for India, as Manila is already providing stiff competition to the Indian services industry.

A TPP sans India would also mean that FDI risks moving away from it to those countries that are part of the TPP. With the TPP also discussing regulatory harmonisation between nations – which envisages that MNCs do not have to deal with divergent set of laws – India risks becoming all the more unattractive as its legislations are not particularly aligned with global standards. While India’s spectacularly large consumer market and a rising middle class makes it an invariable foreign investment choice, firms have earlier faced issues with retrospective tax legislations, and the smoothening out of legislative hurdles in the TPP lands India in a comparatively disadvantageous position. Given its infrastructure building and job creating potentials, India will hardly be in a position to forego potential FDI inflows. India’s flagging manufacturing sector, which it seeks to invigorate through the National Manufacturing and Investment Zones (NMIZs) will also take a blow as the NMIZs seem to rely on FDI inflows to a quite an extent. The textile sector, for one, is likely to be badly hit. As a non-TPP nation, India will be put at a disadvantage as other textile manufacturers who are part of the agreement, notably Vietnam, will get a preferential treatment in the US markets. And with the US alone accounting for 30 percent of India’s readymade garment exports, the sector is in for some trouble. But the extent of trade diversion that will take place owing to India being kept out of the TPP remains to be seen. Although India has FTAs with ASEAN as a whole and many of its constituent members, it stands to lose market share to some of the ASEAN nations with which it competes for a share in the global market.

Then there is the geopolitical aspect. Should India miss an opportunity to make itself heard in a platform as big as the TPP (it commands 40 percent of global GDP and more than a quarter of global trade)? The answer is a resounding no. The geopolitical intentions of the TPP are quite well-known. US Vice President Joe Biden is quoted to have said about the TPP that it intends the high standards of the TPP to ‘enter the blood stream of the global system’. Thus US’ intention to be at the forefront of 21st century trade governance is unambiguous. India, as an emerging power, and a BRICS and G20 member, should voice its opinion in the TPP platform, if it hopes to remain a critical member-state for future global economic governance.

The US has officially shown interest in bringing India within the TPP fold but India does not seem particularly fascinated or capable, for that matter, to enter into an agreement that requires far-reaching reforms. This has got to do with India’s inability to provide concessions on policy/regulatory, environmental and labour fronts, a strict demand of TPP. Also since the TPP is a high level FTA involving tariff cuts across sectors without much room for flexibility, India might find it difficult to accede to tariff cuts in farm and merchandise products in particular. Meeting strict quality standards will be an uphill task for Indian exporters too.

Clearly India has a few issues to resolve in terms of economic dealings. But staying away from it is no solution. To keep off potential political and commercial isolation, India has to deftly navigate the TPP waters. While progress seems to be rather slow with the TPP, US officials have indicated that the TPP is nearing conclusion. Even as consensus building becomes a painful process with so many stakeholders, an Indian nod to the TPP will unfold a new chapter in the ten year long TPP saga.

Abhirup Bhunia holds an MA in International Political Economy from University of Sussex, UK and is currently a research analyst with the Institute of Economic Growth, New Delhi. 

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Jihad: the real climate change challenge

Analysts and researchers have long worked on why Jihadi activity has increased in the last many years. Popular fiction links it with the Afghan war and how US decided to back a mujahideen army to win the cold war against USSR. This was coupled with the aftermath of the siege of Mecca in 1979 which led Saudi Arabia to support extremism outside its territory, in return for domestic stability. However, we all know for a fact that Pakistan started supporting Afghan Jihadis in the early 1970s, which busts this convenient narrative.

In fact there has been a gradual increase in Jihadi activity since the 18th century, which has now accelerated to become a major destabilising force in recent years. New research finds that this is strongly correlated with climate change. An important driver of this, Wahabi philosophy, was established at the dawn of Industrial Revolution. It is foolish to ignore this as a coincidence.

Intrigued by the phenomena of violent hurricanes and Jihadi attacks occurring and increasing at the same time, researchers from the Takshashila Institution are on the brink of solving the puzzle. Rising temperatures often cause hot-headedness, which has been the primary reason behind this activity. Hot-headedness as anthropological behaviour has been studied for centuries but a climate signal has been found behind it for the first time now. We asked Takshashila’s director, Nitin Pai, about this finding:

SC: How significant is this finding?

NP: This is path breaking. For the first time, we have a sound scientific basis for policy action rather than all the analytical nonsense the think tank kinds keep propagating.

SC: What kind of hypothesis testing and research did you have do to reach this conclusion?

NP: The beauty of this theory was that no testing was required. It was so obvious, that as soon as it was revealed to us we just knew it had to be right. Really, it is so obvious. Some things manifest as self-evident truths.

Social norms like turbans and dark beards have been propagated to further increase the effects of high temperatures on individuals. Clean shaven men are less prone to Jihadist tendencies.But the conspiracy goes further.

Saudi Arabia and other middle eastern states promote an oil-intensive world with the purpose of increasing carbon emissions to unsustainable levels such that climate change is accelerated. This is the real thrust of how they promote Jihad in the world, with the more explicit funding of Wahabism just being cover. With sea level rise threatening to drown the state of Israel, jihad only has two great Satans left to deal with.

Saurabh Chandra is a Strategic Futures Analyst with the Takshashila Institution. This is a preview of his upcoming research on ‘A scientific approach to addressing Jihad’.

Readers are requested to peruse the date of publication of this article.

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