Monday, September 29, 2014

India's Modi Talks Toilets

"We initiated “Clean INDIA” program – I don’t know whether it’s a big thing or a small thing- but I am determined to build toilets on a large scale, People ask me “what’s your vision, big vision?” I tell them I got to this stage but I started out selling tea……I can think only small things for small people, but these are big things for small people, these will change the future of India"

Prime Minister Narendra Modi  Speaking at Madison Square Garden, New York September 29, 2014

Can’t we just make arrangements for toilets for the dignity of our mothers and sisters? Brothers and Sisters, somebody might feel that a big festival like 15th August is an occasion to talk big.....Brothers and sisters, you must be getting shocked to hear the Prime Minister speaking of cleanliness and the need to build toilets from the ramparts of the Red Fort. Brothers and sisters, I do not know how my speech is going to be criticised and how will people take it. But this is my heartfelt conviction. I come from a poor family, I have seen poverty. The poor need respect and it begins with cleanliness. I, therefore, have to launch a ‘clean India’ campaign from 2nd October this year and carry it forward in 4 years. I want to make a beginning today itself and that is – all schools in the country should have toilets with separate toilets for girls. Only then our daughters will not be compelled to leave schools midway. Our parliamentarians utilizing MPLAD fund are there. I appeal to them to spend it for constructing toilets in schools for a year. The government should utilize its budget on providing toilets. I call upon the corporate sector also to give priority to the provision of toilets in schools with your expenditure under Corporate Social Responsibility. This target should be finished within one year with the help of state governments and on the next 15th August, we should be in a firm position to announce that there is no school in India without separate toilets for boys and girls.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi Speaking at Red Fort, New Delhi August 15, 2014

After blogging about it (here and here) and suffering nationalistic Indians' slings and arrows for years, it's refreshing for this blogger to see a top Indian leader finally acknowledge the serious problem of the lack of hygiene in India.

How Serious is the Problem?

India's rivers have been turned into open sewers by 638 million Indians without access to toilets, according to rural development minister Jairam Ramesh. He was reacting a UNICEF report that says Indians make up 58% of the world population which still practices open defection, and the sense of public hygiene in India is the worst in South Asia and the world.

India(638m) is followed by Indonesia (58m), China (50m), Ethiopia (49m), Pakistan (48m), Nigeria (33m) and Sudan (17m). In terms of percentage of each country's population resorting to the unhygienic practice, Ethiopia tops the list with 60%, followed by India 54%, Nepal 50%, Pakistan 28%, Indonesia 26%, and China 4%.

18 percent of urban India still defecates in open while the percentage of rural India is as high as 69 percent of the population. It is the key reason why India carries among the highest infectious disease burdens in the world.

The number of open defecators in rural India alone is more than twice those in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, according to a report by DFID, the UK's Department for International Development.

Impact of the Problem: 

The World Bank has estimated that open defecation costs India $54 billion per year or $48 per head. This is more than the Government of India’s entire budget for health.

The UNICEF report says that with only one more years to go until 2015, a major leap in efforts and investments in sanitation is needed to reach the targets of Millennium Development Goals.

New research has found that poor sanitation is a major cause of stunted children in India. These children’s bodies divert energy and nutrients away from growth and brain development to prioritize infection-fighting survival,” said Jean Humphrey, a professor of human nutrition at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in an interview with New York Times. “When this happens during the first two years of life, children become stunted. What’s particularly disturbing is that the lost height and intelligence are permanent.”

The UN says a child raised in India is far more likely to be malnourished than one from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe or Somalia, the planet’s poorest countries. Stunting affects 65 million Indian children under the age of 5, including a third of children from the country’s richest families.


Mr. Modi is going beyond just recognizing the problem of lack of sanitation in his country; he is using his bully pulpit to push for allocating public and private resources to address it. He is setting a good example for other nations in South Asia, including Pakistan, to follow.

Here's a video of Modi speaking at Madison Square Garden in New York:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

India Leads the World in Open Defecation

Fixing Sanitation Crisis in India

Food, Clothing and Shelter in India and Pakistan

Heavy Disease Burdens in South Asia

Peepli Live Destroys Indian Myths

India After 63 Years of Independence

Poverty Across India 2011

India and Pakistan Contrasted

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

India, Bangladesh Most Vulnerable to Climate Change; China and Pakistan Close Behind

Bangladesh and India, along with several South East Asian and African nations, are the most vulnerable to climate change, while the United States, Canada and Western Europe are the least vulnerable, according to a recently-published assessment by Standard and Poor credit rating service.  The rich industrialized nations which have contribute the most to climate change are the least vulnerable to its disastrous effects now. The report says Pakistan and China are relatively less vulnerable than India and Bangladesh.

Source: Standard and Poor Global Portal

There are two basic reasons why poor countries are bearing the brunt of climate change: geography and poverty. Most of the red countries on the Standard and Poor map lie near the equator, where climate change-caused storms, flooding, and droughts will be more intense, according to media reports.  India is particularly vulnerable because of its rising population and depleting resources.

India is ranked 33rd and Pakistan 39th among the most overcrowded nations of the world by Overpopulation Index published by the Optimum Population Trust based in the United Kingdom. The index measures overcrowding based on the size of the population and the resources available to sustain it.

India has a dependency percentage of 51.6 per cent on other nations and an ecological footprint of 0.77. The index calculates that India is overpopulated by 594.32 million people. Pakistan has a dependency percentage of 49.9 per cent on other nations and an ecological footprint of 0.75. The index calculates that Pakistan is overpopulated by 80 million people. Pakistan is less crowded than China (ranked 29), India (ranked 33) and the US (ranked 35), according to the index. Singapore is the most overcrowded and Bukina Faso the least on a list of 77 nations assessed by the Optimum Population Trust.

Standard and Poor has ranked 116 nations according to their vulnerability across three indicators: proportion of population living lower than 5 meters (16 feet) above sea-level, share of agriculture in economic output and a vulnerability index compiled by Notre Dame University. It ranks India at 101 and Pakistan at 94 while Bangladesh is ranked at 114 along with Vietnam at 115 and Cambodia at 116 as the most vulnerable among 116 countries. China is ranked at 82. Among African countries listed as most vulnerable are Senegal (113), Mozambique (112) and Nigeria (109).

Standard and Poor's analysts led by Moritz Karemer warned that global warming “will put downward pressure on sovereign ratings during the remainder of this century,” “The degree to which individual countries and societies are going to be affected by warming and changing weather patterns depends largely on actions undertaken by other, often far-away societies.”

Both India and Pakistan have seen recurring droughts and massive flooding in recent years which have resulted in large numbers of deaths and injuries in addition to property losses. India has seen one farmer commit suicide every 30 minutes over the last two decades.

The fact is that the developing countries facing huge costs from climate change can do little to control it without significant help from the rich industrialized nations most responsible for it.  The World Bank is warning that this could lead to massive increases in disease, extreme storms, droughts, and flooding. Unless concerted action is taken soon, the World Bank President Jim Kim fears that the effects of climate change could roll back "decades of development gains and force tens of more millions of people to live in poverty."

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

India's Rising Population and Depleting Resources

Recurring Droughts and Flooding in Pakistan

An Indian Farmer Commits Suicide Every 30 Minutes 

Growing Water Scarcity in Pakistan

Political Patronage in Pakistan

Corrupt and Incompetent Politicians

Pakistan's Energy Crisis

Culture of Tax Evasion and Aid Dependence

Climate Change in South Asia

US Senate Report on Avoiding Water Wars in Central and South Asia

Friday, September 19, 2014

Does China Seek to Dominate India, Africa and Latin America?

A new study shows that China is now India's top trading partner, edging out the United Arab Emirates—India’s previous top trading partner—and is comfortably ahead of the US and Saudi Arabia. India-China annual trade volume now adds up to about $70 billion, and India is running a massive $40 billion trade deficit with China. China exports high-value, high-tech machines to India while India exports low-value commodities to China.

Chinese Infrastructure Loans to India:

 China's state-owned banks are financing huge infrastructure projects in Africa and India to boost Chinese exports. Leading the effort are China's ExIm Bank, China Development Bank and China Industrial Commercial Bank. Major multi-billion dollar projects being signed by Chinese President Xi Jineng, currently visiting India, and Prime Minister Modi will be financed by loans from one or more of the state-owned Chinese banks.

Chinese Infrastructure Project Financing in Pakistan: 

China is also pursuing strategic Pakistan-China economic corridor which includes several large infrastructure projects worth tens of billions of US dollars connecting China with the Arabian Sea through Pakistan. These projects will be financed by China's ExIm Bank and other state-owned banks.

In a report last year, China's State-owned Xinhua News Agency articulated China's motivation to expand land trade in addition to building its navy to protect its sea trade. Here's what it said:

“As a global economic power, China has a tremendous number of economic sea lanes to protect. China is justified to develop its military capabilities to safeguard its sovereignty and protect its vast interests around the world."

China's Global Superpower Ambitions: 

The Xinhua report has for the first time shed light on China's growing concerns with US pivot to Asia which could threaten China's international trade and its economic lifeline of energy and other natural resources it needs to sustain and grow its economy. This concern has been further reinforced by the following:

1. Frequent US statements to "check" China's rise.  For example, former US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in a 2011 address to the Naval Postgraduate School in California: "We try everything we can to cooperate with these rising powers and to work with them, but to make sure at the same time that they do not threaten stability in the world, to be able to project our power, to be able to say to the world that we continue to be a force to be reckoned with." He added that "we continue to confront rising powers in the world - China, India, Brazil, Russia, countries that we need to cooperate with. We need to hopefully work with. But in the end, we also need to make sure do not threaten the stability of the world."

Source: The Guardian

2. Chinese strategists see a long chain of islands from Japan in the north, all the way down to Australia, all United States allies, all potential controlling chokepoints that could  block Chinese sea lanes and cripple its economy, business and industry.

Karakoram Highway-World's Highest Paved International Road at 15000 ft.

Chinese Premier's emphasis on "connectivity and maritime sectors" and "China-Pakistan economic corridor project" is mainly driven by their paranoia about the US intentions to "check China's rise" It is intended to establish greater maritime presence at Gwadar, located close to the strategic Strait of Hormuz, and  to build land routes (motorways, rail links, pipelines)  from the Persian Gulf through Pakistan to Western China. This is China's insurance to continue trade with West Asia and the Middle East in case of hostilities with the United States and its allies in Asia.

Pakistan's Gawadar Port- located 400 Km from the Strait of Hormuz

As to the benefits for Pakistanis, expanded trade and the Chinese investment in "connectivity and maritime sectors" and "China-Pakistan economic corridor project" will help build infrastructure, stimulate Pakistan's economy and create millions of badly needed jobs.

Clearly, China-Pakistan ties have now become much more strategic than the US-Pakistan ties, particularly since 2011 because, as American Journalist Mark Mazzetti of New York Times put it, the  Obama administration's heavy handed policies "turned Pakistan against the United States". A similar view is offered by a former State Department official Vali Nasr in his book "The Dispensable Nation".

Chinese Checkbook Diplomacy: 

China is now the biggest lender to the developing world,  surpassing the World Bank set up as an institution by the West to extend its dominance after WWII. China's checkbook diplomacy is bearing fruit with its growing trade making it the biggest trading partner of a growing number of countries and regions.  As China surpasses the United States as the largest economy and its trade volume explodes, it is very likely that the RMB (Yuan), the Chinese currency, will replace the US dollar as the world's main trade and reserve currency.

Between 2001 and 2010, China’s Export-Import Bank extended $62.7 billion in loans to African nations, or $12.5 billion more than the World Bank, according to Forbes magazine. Over the same period, trade between Africa and China grew by more than 700 per cent with China replacing the U.S. as Africa’s biggest trading partner in 2009.


History is filled with examples of great powers using trade and exports to extend their power and influence across the world. China appears to be taking a page from their playbook in pursuit of massive trade growth through check-book diplomacy in Africa, South Asia and South America.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

China's Checkbook Diplomacy

Japan to Finance, Build Karachi Mass Transit System

Pak-China Economic Corridor 

Soaring Chinese Imports and Twin Deficits in India

India-Israel Military Relations

Pakistan's Military Production

BRIC, Chindia, and the "Indian Miracle"

India's "Indigenous" Weapons

Pakistan's Telecom Boom

India's Growing Defense Budget

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Changing Face of Pak Protests: Containers, Drones, Music, Social Media

PTI's month-long sit-in led by Imran Khan is setting new standards for political protest rallies in Pakistan. Tens of thousands of urban middle class Pakistanis are joining in to enthusiastically listen to the PTI chief's speeches from the top of a shipping container, with pauses filled with music and dance while media drones hover overhead to cover it 24X7. Social media are abuzz with regular tweets and facebook posts from the attendees and their followers keeping millions more updated on the proceedings of PTI's month-long Dharna (sit-in) in Islamabad.

Urban Middle Class:

Historically, Pakistani politics has been dominated by feudal politicians who hold political rallies with their peasants in attendance who are guaranteed to cast their votes for their landlords in every election. The growth of the urban middle class in years 2000-2008 and the emergence of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) as a political force is changing all that. For the first time in the last 6+ decades,  Pakistan's middle-class city dwellers are now participating in the political process by voting in elections and attending rallies.

Shipping Containers:

Both the government and the PTI and PAT dharna organizers are making extensive use of shipping containers. The government uses them to try and block people's participation in Opposition marches and rallies while the Opposition uses them to house leaders and the container roofs as raised platforms for making speeches.

It seems that the containers have now become a must-have accessory for the modern politician in Pakistan. The cost of converting such containers into mobile homes and speech platforms can easily run into tens of thousands of dollars.

Journalism Drones:

Drones fitted with high-definition cameras are making history in drone journalism in Islamabad.

Since tens of thousands of supporters of Imran Khan and Allama Tahir ul Qadri marched into Islamabad a amoth ago, there have been continuous live aerial images and spectacular videos of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf's and Pakistan Awami Tehrik's massive but peaceful sit-in protests broadcast directly from Islamabad by several Pakistani TV channels. This breathtaking live drone camera coverage of  a major media event has made drone journalism history in the South Asian country of over 180 million people.


Well-timed pauses in Imran Khan's speeches are filled with pre-selected music played by DJ Butt, a professional disk Jockey.  Thousands of attendees dance to the music drawing the ire of conservative right-wingers. Some of them dismiss it as just a concert while others pull out their well-worn fatwas declaring the whole thing "haram" (forbidden) in Islam. The government feels so threatened by it that they have arrested DJ Butt on terrorism charges.

DJ Butt plays national and devotional songs during speeches: from Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to Junoon to Ataullah Eesa Khelvi to some tracks especially created by Yousaf Salahuddin. Songs played most often at Imran Khan's rallies include "Mein to dekhonga/ tum bhi dekho gai" by Bilal Maqsood, "Tabdeeli aagaye hai yaaro" by Waqqas Qadir Shaikh and Atif Ali, "Jab ayega Imran/ Banega Naya Pakistan" by Ataullah Eesa Khelvi and "Jitna Vi Imran Khan Jitna" by Abrar ul Haq.

Internet Stats Source: World Bank

Social Media:

PTI activists, and to a lesser extent PAT supporters, have dominated the social media in Pakistan for at least a month to get their messages and news out to millions of Facebook and Twitter users in the country and across the world.


Regardless of the outcome of the PTI-PAT month-long dharna (sit-in), the protest movement has already broken new ground in terms of the demographics of the participants and the effective use of shipping containers, drones, music and social media. The 24X7 TV coverage has also served to start a  broad public discussion of corruption, nepotism, misrule and abuse of power by Pakistan's ruling politicians.

Here's a video of "Jab Ayega Imran" sung by Ataullah Esakhelvi:

jab aye ga imran by bastichawli

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Nawaz Sharif Guilty as Charged but Still PM

Pakistan Middle Class Growth

Pakistan's Protest Music

Drones Inspire and Outrage Pakistanis

Pakistan Media Revolution

Drone Journalism Lab

Military Contingency Plans For Escalating Political Crisis

Pakistani Drones in America

Imran Khan Draws Inspiration From Allama Iqbal

Kudos to Qadri

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Al Qaeda Can Succeed in India Only if Aided by Hindu Nationalists

Ayman Al-Zawahiri, successor to Osama Bin Laden as Al Qaeda chief, has announced plans to "raise the flag of jihad" in South Asia, particularly India.  Zawahiri said that the new wing would save Muslims from injustice and oppression, and bring relief for Muslims "in Burma [Myanmar], Bangladesh, Assam, Gujarat, Ahmedabad, and Kashmir", according to Indian media reports.

In a video released by Al Qaeda, Zawahiri has made two references to the western state of Gujarat, the home state of India's Hindu Nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is widely believed to be at least partly responsible for the 2002 riots in which thousands of Muslims were massacred in Gujarat.

Can Al Qaeda Succeed in India?

Can Al Qaeda succeed in "raising the flag of jihad" in India? Are the conditions in India conducive for Al Qaeda to take root? These are the important questions being raised among south Asia watchers and analysts.  In my view the answer to these questions would depend mainly on how the Modi government reacts to this threat.

What is the State of Muslims in India?

It is not a secret that there is widespread discrimination against Indian Muslims in education, employment and housing.

India's criminal justice system is clearly stacked against Muslims and other minorities.  Muslims make up 13% of India's population but 28% of Indian prisoners.   Similarly, Christians make up 2.8% of India's population but 6% of India's prison population. Meanwhile, the newly elected parliament has just 4% Muslim representation.

There is ongoing ghettoization of Muslims in Indian cities.  Muslims are routinely and systematically excluded from living in nice urban neighborhoods.

Indian Muslims are now worse off than the lowest-caste Hindus, or Dalits, in terms of education and employment. The 2013 update of the Sachar Commission report shows there has been little improvement for Muslims since the original report published 2006.

Will Hindu Nationalists Frame More Muslims on Terror Charges?

Hindu Nationalists and their allies in the Indian government machinery have used the US global war on terror as a convenient cover to launch a concerted campaign of terror against Indian Muslims. Large numbers of Muslims in various parts of India continue to languish in jails on trumped-up terror charges, suffering brutal torture as well as routine insults to their religion by police officials, according to Indian journalist Yoginder Sikand.

In addition, several Hindutva terror groups, and their affiliates, have carried out a number of bomb blasts across India in the last few years, and tried to pin the blame on Indian Muslims or the Pakistan's intelligence service ISI. A retired high-ranking Indian police official S.M. Mushrif has described nearly a dozen blasts conducted by Hindutva terror groups of different stripes. He argues that a section of India’s intelligence services, a small group in the armed forces and parts of different state police forces have been compromised and infiltrated by these elements, a development that bodes ill for the future of the country, and the region.


Conditions already exist today, especially after the recent success of the Sangh Parivar in India, for Al Qaeda to succeed in persuading many resentful Indian Muslims to join its "jihad" in South Asia.  If the latest video threat from Al Qaeda chief intensifies framing of innocent Muslims on terror charges by the new Hindu Nationalist government led by Narendra Modi, then the chances of Al Qaeda's success would dramatically increase in India.

Here's a video of just one of many innocent Indian Muslims framed on terror charges in India:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Can Hindutva Terrorists Spark India-Pakistan War?

Modi's Pakistan Policy

Indian Muslims Worse Off Than Dalits

Gujarat Muslims Ignored By Indian Politcians

Are Muslims Better Off in Jinnah's Pakistan?

India's Guantanamos and Abu Ghraibs 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Pakistan Opposition Indicts But Still Supports Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif

Contrary to the news and editorials in Pakistan's hyper-partisan media, the fact is that protesters led by PTI leader Imran Khan and PAT chief Tahir ul Qadri have already achieved many of their key objectives, including the following:

1. Going by the speeches of Aitzaz Ahsan, Khursheed Shah, Javed Hashmi and other parliamentarians at the joint session, there is broad agreement that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his ruling clique are guilty of abuse of power, corruption and nepotism, the charges leveled by PTI and PAT against the ruling Sharif family.

2. The speakers at the joint session,  particularly Aitzaz Ahsan, also believe that Nawaz Sharif has violated the constitution by placing shipping containers in an attempt to stop PTI and PAT marches.

3.  They said that the last general elections held in May of 2013 which gave Nawaz Sharif's PMLN party majority in the parliament were massively rigged as alleged by Imran Khan.

Sen. Aitazaz Ahsan's Convoluted Logic 

However, what is most surprising is that the same speakers who indicted Nawaz Sharif also pledged to stand by him and urged the Prime Minister to not resign. They argue that  they are defending Pakistan's constitution and democracy by supporting Nawaz Sharif to remain Prime Minister of Pakistan. This stand by the PPP and other parties, particularly by Senator Aitzaz Ahsan, raises the following questions:

1. If Senator Aitzaz Ahsan and some of his fellow parliamentarian truly believe that Nawaz Sharif is guilty as charged, then how is he qualified to hold the office of the Prime Minister?

2. Will they, Aitzaz Ahsan and others, use constitutional means to remove Mr. Sharif from office based on the charge sheet that they have laid out in their speeches to parliament?

3. If they support electoral and governance reforms in Pakistan, how would they go about pushing for it while Nawaz Sharif and his family remain in power?

This is Nawaz Sharif's third term as Pakistan's Prime Minister. Given the history of Nawaz Sharif's behavior in office, is there hope that any serious electoral or governance reforms can take place on his watch? This is the key question that those who oppose his resignation must answer.

Here's a description of a video discussion on this subject: Have PTI and PAT dharnas succeeded in their objectives? Did Pakistan Parliament Joint Session speeches indicting Nawaz Sharif help or hurt PMLN government? Will current crisis lead to radical reforms in electoral process and governance demanded by Imran Khan and Tahir ul Qadri in Pakistan? Is Modi aligning himself with Japan and US against China in the new great game in Asia? Viewpoint From Overseas host Misbah Azam ( discusses these questions with panelists Ali Hasan Cemendtaur and Riaz Haq (

Pakistan Political Crisis Resolution; Modi's Attack on China from WBT TV on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Neither Democracy Nor Development in Pakistan

Kudos to Qadri

Imran Khan in Silicon Valley

Judicial Coup in Pakistan

Imran Khan's Social Media Campaign

Another Lost Decade in Pakistan?

Politics of Patronage in Pakistan

Feudal Power Dominates Pakistani Elections

Pakistan Elections 2013 Predictions