Because I ‘Saeed’ So…

‘Saeed mocks US administration for putting a bounty on him.’

It is heartening to observe Washington finally wanting to put the plug on the JUD chief but with a bounty!!! Strange for a super power that waged two brutal wars ravaging the lands on account of a ruler who allegedly hid WMDs and another to eliminate the scourge of terrorism aptly termed the Global war on terror. Saeed has been a father figure to most of the prominent militant groups in Pakistan. He is the mastermind of many gruesome acts of terror targeted against innocents in India, albeit under the garb of new and lesser known outfits. Fortunately for him, his plans haven’t crossed the Atlantic to pose a threat to the US or attack its citizens and hence US can go as far as only putting a bounty on his head. India need not be thrilled at Washington’s announcement nor should it rely on US to intensify its penalties on terror perpetrators on Pakistan’s soil.

The impudence and audacity with which Hafiz Saeed treated the grim news of US-sponsored bounty on him is bound to raise a few questions in the minds of global leaders and terrorists alike. Questions that seriously jeopardize global peace, questions about the efficacy of international law against non-state actors and most of all answers even when found, will sadly not be in the interest of humanity.

Horrible Boss..US

The failure to pass the resolution against Iran in UNSC has not deterred Washington from issuing unilateral sanctions on Iran. Towing the line is EU with its own oil embargo on Iran. Following these independent measures to restrict Iran exports is the request cum command of the United States from its trading partners to cut oil supplies if any, from Iran. The objective is to strike at the economy of Iran which is pre dominantly dependent upon its crude oil exports. The nations treating this request cum command lightly will eventually face trade sanctions from the US leading to heavy losses to the exchequer and national economy.

Many European and Asian nations have complied with the order reducing by a significant amount, their oil imports from Iran. But considering India and China are the leading importers of crude oil from Iran, the real targets of the have shown contempt much to the dismay of Washington. However there has been news suggesting considerable changes in the policy to acquire oil from Iran in both China and India. Though India has made it clear in its foreign policy statement that it is under no singular obligation to accept any unilateral sanctions, some of its actions indicate silent surrender.

The Indian govt. has ordered its private companies to withhold their important projects in Iran’s oil fields, Shipments from Iran are facing hurdles in the name of insurance and most critical one is the predicament India finds itself in related to payment of Iran’s dues. Since a dollar trade is barred with Iran and European countries are under pressure from Washington to not aid any nation trade with Iran, India has resorted to rupee trade, a decision welcomed by the Iranian administration and condemned by Washington.

Petroleum is a major driver of our national economy. No nation can afford to endanger its national interest unless there are alternatives. If India is planning to isolate Iran the way west has, it must first be prepared to find its replacement. 12% of India’s crude oil imports come from Iran and India shares historic and cultural ties with Iran. Replacing the Persian Partner will be difficult but a more daunting task will be losing the Persian partner considering the geopolitical significance of Iran to India in the future. Neither can the pipelines from Central Asia can ever reach India via Pakistan nor can India trade with Afghanistan via Pakistan (assuming it will engage Afghanistan in trade post the NATO exit show 2014).

US has always arm twisted its allies and partners into doing what is best for US, jeopardizing the national interests of its allies. India was and hopefully will never be an ally of US but if it bows to US pressure today without any significant strategy, it will lose its leadership status in the Third World which comprises of more than half of UNGA and ultimately lose support from them on any future global issue in UNSC. Fortunately we live in a multi polar and not a unipolar world. The New Global Order is in a state of flux and anybody can be anybody’s boss as power equations are frequently changing. India must strike a balance in retaining its values and trust worthy partners and its national interest goals.

Que Syria, Syria…

When I was just about to get free,
I asked my rulers, “What will I try?
Should I get a King”
Should I have Military?”
This was their wise reply:

“Que Syria, Syria,
Whatever will be, will be;
The future’s only yours to see.

When I got freedom and fought wars
I asked my leaders, “What lies ahead?
Will we have rainbows
Day after day?”
Here’s what my leader said:

“Que Syria, Syria
Whatever will be, will be;
The future’s a monocracy.

Now I have my children being killed and tortured.
They ask their mother, “What will I be?”
Will I be handsome?
Will I be rich?”
I tell them tenderly:

“Que Syria, Syria,
Whatever will be, will be;
The future’s not ours to see.
Que Syria, Syria,
What will be, will be. The future’s a tyranny…

Hurt Locke(o)r just Shoot!

The Global War on Terror just took a nasty turn when the Bad burnt the Good, shot the Good while the Ugly remained in hiding. The so called messengers of peace and proponents of Democracy who since 2001 have been fighting to defeat Taliban in Afghanistan are now in the midst to wrap up their mission and exit by the end of 2014. But it seems the troops are either getting restless or Taliban has finally defeated them at least psychologically. With news of US troops burning the Quran and one of the staff sergeant (doesn’t really matter whether sober or in an inebriated state) from the US Army shooting mercilessly 16 Afghan civilians including children, it is high time Washington and Pentagon took some critical decisions regarding their Af-Pak strategy.

Obviously unlike many in India, these soldiers will not face the Sharia Trial, leaving Obama to do the damage control. The President by now has become used to that phrase considering he took over from the dearly missed George W Bush Jr. It is a relief though for the western European nations, also NATO allies contributing troops to the ISAF that it wasn’t one of their soldiers who was responsible for this terrible action. Already burdened with economic concerns, a military crisis in a foreign land with a cultural undertone would have only made things worse for European stability.

Pentagon, no doubt is the most effective and best equipped Military HQ in the world but Washington must understand that in a region like Afghanistan western aggressive approach of NATO, ISAF, US etc, won’t work even in the presence of unending ammo and advanced weapons. It will only create a vicious cycle of Jehad vs. West, played out every alternate decade.  The Obama administration must not forget that gone are the days when they could hunt with the hounds and run with hares too. The non-NATO ally Pakistan is an indispensable partner in this war but overdependence will only help it bargain for its ulterior motives with US having no option but to accede. The solution lies in engaging the regional players like India, China, Central Asian countries to help stabilize the region and also balance the power in the region. Europe or NATO or Pentagon have all ran out of strategies and fuel and also the mental strength to win this war. It was a brave decision to quit by 2014 but with the frequency of grave incidents increasing by the day, the exit might just get advanced. And obviously it is up to the Capitol Hill to decide if they want a dignified exit at the end of this fruitless battle or an embittered expulsion owing to local unrest and inability of ISAF contributors to continue. Actually both sound equally undesirable! So Washington, please get over your hurt, lock and shoot tactic, instead try spreading peace and democracy by acting democratically and building consensus not at gun point!

Accidents in Afghanistan of recent kind by US troops in the past, present or future say one thing…

THIS MEANS WAR….just got Longer!

And the Oscar went to…

all my picks…well almost all! But really this time Oscars surprised themselves choosing vision over ticket sales and Iran (Best Foreign Language Film) over odds.

But what a lovely show it was. Billy Crystal is just the classic host Oscar needs to differentiate it from the other award shows. The guy was great with his medley and wonderful with his comic acts that had just the right amount of humor. But Billy Crystal obviously is not the only one to take the entire credit for hosting. The short films he acted and presented during the show along with the splendid music were the highlights of the evening. Mesmerizing the show was a magnificent Cirque du So lei performance and an enchanting rendition of Louis Armstrong’s ‘What a wonderful World’ by Esperanza Spalding (2011 Grammy winner for Best new artist) to pay tribute to the departed.

The most entertaining presenters were obviously the extremely musically inclined Will Ferrel and Zach Galfianakis who presented the award for the Best Original Song (Sadly there were only two entries). God, they are so good. How they keep a straight face pulling off such creative and cool gigs is awesome, wish Jack Black could be there too. Chris Rock when not the host can do as much damage to the Academy as a presenter, though he entertained quite a bit as the presenter for the Best Animation. Emma Stone did a smashing job as the first time presenter at the Academy Awards with the talented Mr. Ben Stiller. And obviously you can always expect something different from Downey Jr. who was his usual erratic self alongside the unassuming Gwyneth Paltrow. Kirsten Wiig and Melissa McCarthy from ‘Bridesmaids’ were a refined comic version of themselves at the ceremony. Acceptable as Oscars isn’t exactly the SNL. One awkward moment was when the one of the writers for Descendents awarded for the Best Adapted Screenplay tried to imitate Angelina Jolie’s pose as she presented the same award. Gosh, he better not wish to employ her in his movies ever.

The biggest night was probably for the veterans, a certain-complacent Meryl Streep and a conspicuously unfazed gentleman Christopher Plummer. Streep finally won the second Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of the Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher (17 nominations) and Plummer the supporting actor nod for his dying gay father act in Beginners. At least now critics and fans won’t pity Streep for not winning for 3:17 is a fairly good winning ratio at the Academy Awards man! Marty (Scorsese) waited almost 30 years to finally convince the Academy to present him the Best Director Oscar, and that too for a movie (The Departed) much lighter than the usual Marty stuff we are in awe of! Either he has a way to grab attention for his lighter on the eye movies or Academy simply prefers to keep him and us all guessing about it, testimony to the former being The Departed and Hugo. The 3D flick is candyfloss compared to any other movie he has directed. Of course many still eagerly await the Oscars despite its shortcomings!!!

Though one hoped for a recap of the Halle Berry Oscar moment incase Viola Davis won, the first time winner Octavia Spencer for best supporting actress seemed ecstatic but nothing to match Halle’s acceptance speech. It was quite surprising to see Jean Dujardin accept his award with such stillness compared to his amusing and engaging rendezvous with awards pre Oscars. But as the speech neared its end you saw the ‘entertaining Jean’ gradually emerging out in French obviously… Merci Beaucoup! But the record for the most thrilled winner on and off stage still remains with Roberto Bengini’s (Life is Beautiful) and Cuba Gooding Jr (Jerry Maguire).

The Best Acceptance Speech has to go to Plummer for being so at peace with self on the stage with the coveted honor. He was articulate in his remembering the cast and entertained with the ageless joke on memorizing the lines of the thank you speech since being born only to forget it today when he receives the Oscar at the age of 82, just two years younger than ‘Oscar’.

So Hugo and The Artist both win big this year at the 84th Academy Awards held at the Chapter 11 Building oops…So long…

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Film: The Artist

Best Director: Michael Hazanavicius

Best Actor: Jean Dujardin

Best Actress: Viola Davis

Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer (wish she shared it with Melissa McCarthy)

Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer

Original Screenplay: The Artist

Adapted Screenplay: The Descendants (wish Bridesmaids made it)

Best Anime: Rango


The Artist…with MuseD’Fatal

If only the International Political Hall of Fame had its list! Who could be the contenders today?

Why is Ahmadinejad trying to be a Saddam? His recent political antics including his tirade against US, IAEA, UN, the snap with the centrifuges etc. have catapulted him into a respectable patriotic leader, a pretty astonishing feat considering almost half the nation was out on the street when he was elected as the new President?

Netanyahu, can be considered a survivor in the ever armed Knesset. His only claim to fame is telling Obama ‘Stop Iran or I will’…in a magazine! You may think of his contender ship as a typo, but he sure can bag the Ig Nobel or Razzie equivalent of International Politics.

CPC, Communist Party of China is one skilled artist. The CPC can boast of its own gallery given it has maximum number of artworks amongst all with again, maximum hues. But it is neither so simple to decipher the works nor vouch for its authenticity. ‘Genuine’ can be as good as an IPED is to an IPAD! CPC is a party to watch out for with a amazingly aggressive foreign policy, a dangerously myopic state policy and an enviable non-transparent modus operandi.

Obama has added 100 times more value to his worth since he became the 44th President of USA. Probably the only other valuable stock apart from Apple! He looks confident to win the next term too with his popularity soaring against the Republican candidates fighting real close. But the most powerful man on earth must make no mistake in making use of the ever-so-easy military option! The latest politico-economic offerings from US are heavily loaded with anti-Taliban, anti-Iran, and pro-Israel and on-n-off pro-Pak policies. Clearly all feature the persevering Pentagon. Obama’s administration of late is sending a dangerous signal: No issue is expendable without the use of force. Seems like the electorate will either ride on the Operation this-n-that wave or simply elect a republican businessman-cum-politician!

Gilani, is the artist with a difference. He is the muse to his artistic self. Only that could be the bizarre explanation for his democratically driven demeanor before the Supreme Court that was mistaken as contempt. No kidding, all this long he acted anti-Zardari and suddenly the shift in the name of democracy was all but cinematic. If not the hall of fame, he can aim an Oscar in the foreign film category for scripting such a dramatic event.

Who could believe today that the Greece was the cradle of western civilization, the origin of democracy, Olympics, politics, literature, drama etc? One can’t name any one leader from Greece because all were equally indifferent and useless and this isn’t the best of the worst category right! Anyway, like a fallen angel Greece has lost the trust and reverence of many. In order to eschew an encumbered life, law, governance and accountability were compromised. Free riding Greeks played like the worst poker players that too without any money! But even nonchalance requires guts while aid demands acting, so ancient Greece after all did help modern Greed oops Greece.

And lastly, the EU happens to be the most eccentric of all artists for creating a masterpiece only to dispense with it and then going the extra mile to restore the magnum opus! And a heads up, 5% of the artists worldwide suffer from mental disorders, they say that is how the creativity originates!?!

So at the end of the day, does the glory of the muse lie in the triumph of the artist or vice versa?

Hugo…s to Hell?

The so called Captain Planet of International Affairs i.e. the United Nations had a real bad start in the 21st century. The whole of last decade for this multilateral institution has been quiet disappointing. And unfortunately it has remained the same even after the dawn of the New Year.

Somalia is still hoping to receive international assistance to counter the Al-Shabab’s atrocities that have wiped out half the population and Piracy which is posing a serious threat to global sea trade. Libya waited for over 4 months of brutal conflict and acts of vandalism that cost it over 5000 lives before help came in to settle scores with Gadaffi. It took 7000 Syrian lives and counting, for UN to finally decide voting on the issue of military intervention. Egypt’s colossal Tahrir moment wasn’t enough for UN to send a humanitarian mission neither was the loss of more than a thousand lives pre and post the overthrow of Mubarak. Nigeria is burning in ethnic strife that may spread to other West African nations but that can hold right!

Irrespective of UN’s functional delays, some cases have been more than just prompt. In case of Iran and Afghanistan the UN operated without any mandate or scruples so to say! After the WTC attack that killed around thousand lives, UNSC was unable to pass the vote of military intervention in Afghanistan. Despite the formal veto, US went to war and UN didn’t waste a moment in supporting US to attack Al Qaida in Afghanistan ruining the country forever under the pretext of its “war on terror”. UN was extremely proactive with respect to Iran owing to its ‘dangerous’ nuclear program. It ordered a vote at the drop of a hat and when it got vetoed US followed by EU announced unilateral sanctions against Iran. One wonders why the Non-NPT signing Israel goes scotfree from the UN watchdogs. Is the Israeli nuclear arsenal ‘safe’ in the humble eyes of the UN. All this leads to one major conclusion and that is UN is a titular body, a spoiler alert for those who aspire to become permanent members of UNSC!

US led UN is seen to be more interested with those international missions that serve the national interest of Washington DC else they are either silent or minimally involved. To assuage this insensitive attitude of its administrators, the world witnesses occasionally a public outcry within the American Civil Society led by successful talk show hosts or prominent (read Oscar Winners) Holywood stars. Sadly people’s attention span is very less as it all boils down to how long and how far can the media stick to one story. UN is and will be considered an international government, a vanguard of democracy and its principles despite its failures. So you know who decides who goes to Hell and who survives in this big bad world of International Politics?

The Do’sandDon’ts of the Descendants

The Arab Spring came, saw and conquered …But history has a way of casting its dark shadow upon the future. Ergo the hope is that the efforts of the awakening must not go waste! Islamists as is evident, are gaining momentum after the Arab  Spring. Tunisia is doing somewhat better than all but Libya, Egypt are worse than before. Yemen looks wasted while Syria is just about there. The question is- has the Arab Spring really brought reform or is it just a facade like old times?

The Islamic Republics are either monarchies or run by religious or military leaders. Most of the ones calling themselves democracies have their own variant of democracy where liberty, equality, secularism and people’s power are the least popular terms. Yes there are the exceptions down Southeast Asia where despite a massive Muslim population, democracy has taken form and survived many threats. For this simple reason, the civil society movements in the Arab region don’t deserve applause just now coz there’s much to prove and pass. Yes, Well done for showing the courage to REBEL but the real test is to REVIVE.

The test is still not over and hence the outcome is not final. Both the people and the political leaders of the Arab countries undergoing socio-political changes must not lose track of the real goals. The objectives of equality and liberty must find a place in the new Arab Order else all is a hoax. The youth have every reason to effectively participate in politics to engage the leaders in a rational discussion in the interest of the Islamic community. The aspiring leaders of the new Arab World will be considered only rubber stamps of religious sects unless they reform themselves and introduce measures to bring social-political and economic justice to the fore. Instead of the Shia-Sunni confrontation, the people and its leaders have to address the scourge of gender discrimination, poverty, disease and illiteracy. Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen will need at least 10-15 years to establish their political triumph. So it is too early to believe they have made history!

Will the changing Arab world challenge its real concerns? Or will it give in to the demands of the religion vs. politics vs. military predicament it usually finds itself in? The social mores so far has been a reflection of the indifferent and ignorant society but today technology has created an opportunity for the Arab Gen X to build a better and stable future that hails liberty over religion, equality over ethnicity, rationality over fatwa, empowerment over hijab and most importantly tolerance over abhorrence.  

Today in the Maghreb region, the erstwhile dictators, autocrats and ethnic leaders have either deserted their land or succumbed to public pressure, have been admitted to the hospital or have not survived to witness any of the aforementioned. It is to be seen if the Descendants of Arab Spring will bring change and hope or they will end up as a mere facelift for the older despots!

The Man with the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Looks like Washington is losing its grip on Islamabad. Operation Neptune Spear followed by the diplomatic conflicts and then the NATO strikes, it seemed like a perfect closure if only! Neither can Uncle Sam give up so easily on Pakistan nor can Pakistan remain adamant for long considering both nations have got their their strategic calculus interspersed in this global war against terror. Islamabad is under siege from Rawalpindi, if news are taken at face value. This only means no longer can Washington or Pentagon dictate terms to Islamabad. Rawalpindi is now playing to the masses to earn loyalty and credibility by turning rhetorical against USA. The Generals have slammed ISAF and NATO for killing innocents and carrying out drone attacks without permission within their territory. Wonder what took them so long as the drones have been killing civilians since 2004.  The Pak Army stand of charging fees from NATO and ISAF trucks to cross Afghan border sounds a bit late but a welcome decision. How long it can act head strong is to be seen? Till then Washington must engage other players in the subcontinent on different levels to keep its head above water.

After the hard game played by Pakistan, Washington can always snap ties but it won’t given the miraculous situation Islamabad finds itself in. Pakistan as is known to most of us, is a key ally in the war against terror. Karzai in Afghanistan is just a puppet, the real masterminds and leaders of Taliban are scattered in the safe haven of Pakistan. Pakistan is the only country to guarantee a safe and viable supply route for NATO troops into Afghanistan. The ammo and food supplies are transported across the Durand Line courtesy the Pak Army’s support. So Rawalpindi is the lifeline for sustenance of the remaining war and also in ensuring a dignified exit for ISAF.

The Second and a more disturbing fact is the growing relations between Pak and China. In the long term, this relationship will be more deadly than the Al Qaida for USA. It will rob US off its power status in the geo strategic regions. Beijing’s rising profile in Asia has already irked Washington’s power elite but with the help of Pakistan, its sphere of influence is bound to grow even in the oil rich Mid East and Arabic World. Afghanistan in the future will be a playground for Islamabad and Beijing to carry out trade and war games. While India and US can keep signing agreeements! So are you still guessing, whose the man and whose the girl and what does the tattoo signify?