IS ANOTHER COLD WAR IN THE OFFING-INDEPENDENT-11-04-2014

Friday, 11 April 2014
Author / Source: KAZI ANWARUL MASUD

Speculations are rife about the resumption of another cold war or even repetition of Cuban Missile Crisis following the Russian annexation of Crimea. But in a rational world where adversaries possess nuclear weapons to destroy the world many times over such dystopian nihilism should be avoided at all cost.
One has to ask whether after the dissolution of the Soviet Empire and consequent flight of the former East European countries to join the European Union and NATO on the borders of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin could have tolerated an Ukraine to be a member of NATO and the EU. One could argue ad infinitum about the freedom and liberty of nations to choose its destiny. Yet Finlandazition during Leonid Brezhnev’s time, attacks on Hungary and Czechoslovakia by then Soviet Union and forays into Granada, Panama( albeit Noriega was a despicable fellow), failed attack on Cuba during Jack Kennedy’s Presidency , and the invasion of Iraq on false ground trashing Michael Walzer’s Just and Unjust War theory by President George W Bush make the UN declaration of the inviolability of nations’ sovereignty and territorial integrity to be treated as mythology.
Neocons who primed Bush jr to invade Iraq while pundits like Bernard Lewis and Samuel Huntington played the tune of crusade on Islamic civilization are extant and surviving. Firm in the belief of American Exceptionalism( though with varied interpretation) some still believe that that the US remains indispensable for maintenance of global security.
One could recall President Obama’s response to candidate Mitt Romney in April 2012 when he said “It’s worth noting that I first arrived on the national stage with a speech at the Democratic Convention that was entirely about American exceptionalism and that my entire career has been a testimony to American exceptionalism,”. Obama echoed Seymour Martin Lipset’s (Godfather of the term described in his book- American Exceptionalism: a Double Edged Sword”) conviction. Lipset recounts the factors accounting for American Exceptionlism as liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, populism, and laissez-faire.
“There can be little question,” Lipset writes, “that the hand of providence has been on a nation which finds a Washington, a Lincoln, or a Roosevelt when it needs him. When I write the above sentence, I believe that I draw scholarly conclusions, although I will confess that I write also as a proud American. But I should hasten to add, not as one who thinks his country is better than other democratic societies, but as one who believes that the greatness of free polities lies in their institutionalization of conflict, of the continued struggles for freer and more humanely decent
societies.”
Its roots can be traced to the early Americans like who saw America as a special land where humankind could “begin the world over again” by establishing a political society built on new, progressive ideas. The framers of the Constitution built on this idea in 1787. Thomas Jefferson and others fearful of the degradation of others believed that with eternal vigilance, the United States could be prevented from succumbing to the same vices that had destroyed other great nations.
Providential and republican ideology thus combined to firmly entrench the idea of exceptionalism at the center of American national identity. Most American leaders have believed in American exceptionalism. In Strasbourg France in April 2009 President Obama compared his belief in ” in American exceptionalism” with that of the British and of the Greeks. Being enormously proud of his country and its role and history in the world Obama felt no need for “America (to) be embarrassed to see evidence of the sacrifices of our troops, the enormous amount of resources that were put into Europe postwar, and our leadership in crafting an alliance that ultimately led to the unification of Europe. We should take great pride in that. And if you think of our current situation, the United States remains the largest economy in the world. We have unmatched military capability. And I think that we have a core set of values that are enshrined in our Constitution, in our body of law, in our democratic practices, in our belief in free speech and equality that, though imperfect, are exceptional”. Vladimir Putin however chastised Obama for referring to American exceptionalism in Obama’s speech on Syria. According to Putin “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation,…There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”
What a change from Karl Marx’s religion being an opium of people ! Americans shrugged off Putin’s objection, perhaps, because throughout the world’s difficult days, particularly in the post-second world era, the Americans by and large were seen as the savior though a large chunk went under Stalinism with all its consequent brutality. But then domestically it has been argued that the abolition of slavery, the end of legal segregation, the resistance to racial or gender preferences, the rise of entrepreneurship or the religious nature of moral compass and , major trends or significant events in American history often stem from one or more of the five major tenets of Seymour Walter Lipset.
It has been also argued that the concept of individualism runs much deeper in American society than many other European or Asian nation which perhaps explains in part why trade unions remain relatively weak and insignificant unlike their European counterparts. It also accounts for the lack of any substantial socialist movements in American politics. For the world at large some people to be accepted as exceptional just because of the power their country possesses can be discomforting.
Tom Barnett a Professor in the US Naval College and Donald Rumsfeld’s military “transformation” guru in his book The Pentagon’s New Map thinks that ( as explained by Karen Kwiatkowski) nations conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men and women are created equal cannot long endure. So it’s time for the old ways to perish from the earth — the U.S. and the world need “new rule-sets.”Barnett insists that there are no exit strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan and that “the world is divided into a culturally and economically connected Core and a disconnected Non-Integrating Gap.
It needs a post Cold War “rule-set reset” to ensure that the disconnected ones — states and individuals — are not excluded from the game. The security of the international system is the new American responsibility. We must organize and act in a way to combat violence originating, for the most part, from individuals and groups operating from the disconnected Gap”. Barnett’s views are terrifyingly Orwellian and should be rejected outright. The US may remain the preponderant military power for the foreseeable future yet one must recognize that the post-cold war “unipolar” moment was transient and the world is not looking for Charles Kindelberger’s hegemonic stability where an assertive hegemon can act as a stabilizing force in international relations.
If one were to look at the UNGA resolution on Crimean referendum one would find that powerful emerging players like China, Brazil and India were among the 58 countries that abstained from the vote, and many more of the 193-country assembly did not participate at all.
This does not augur well for the likes of Tom Barnett and his philosophy to bring in line individuals and nations from “disconnected gap” barring of course the terrorists of all varieties.
The contrary argument can be found in Robert Kaplan (In Defense of Empire-The Atlantic-April 2014) in which he cites Harvard historian Niall Ferguson’s argument that the British Empire enabled a late-19th- and early-20th-century form of globalization, tragically interrupted by a worldwide depression, two world wars, and a cold war. Apart from the Hapsburgs of Austria and Ottoman Turks known for their relative tolerance and protection of the minorities Kaplan argues, from Rome’s widespread offer of citizenship to its subject peoples, to France’s offer of a measure of equality to fluent Francophone Africans, to Britain’s arrangement of truces among the Yemeni tribes, to the epic array of agricultural and educational services provided by the Europeans throughout their tropical domains—Britain’s Indian Civil Service stands out—imperialism and enlightenment (albeit self-interested) have often been inextricable…. the critique that imperialism constitutes evil and nothing more is, broadly speaking, lazy and ahistorical, dependent as it often is on the very worst examples, such as the Belgians in the 19th-century Congo and the Russians throughout modern history in Eurasia.
Perhaps most coherent description of the present day world has been given by Harvard Professor Joseph Nye jr in which he predicts that ” We do not live in a “post-American world,” but neither do we live any longer in the “American era” of the late 20th century” . Joseph Nye adds that in terms of primacy, the United States will be “first” but not “sole.” but agrees with the projection of the National Intelligence Council that although the unipolar moment is over, the United States probably will remain first among equals among the other great powers in 2030 because of the multifaceted nature of its power and legacies of its leadership.
“Simply put” Joseph Nye says , “the problem of American power in the 21st century is not one of a poorly specified “decline” or being eclipsed by China but, rather, the “rise of the rest.” The paradox of American power is that even the largest country will not be able to achieve the outcomes it wants without the help of others” ( American power in the 21st century).

The writer is a former Secretary and ambassador

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TERRORIST ATTACS DO NOT ALWAYS TRANSLATE INTO VICTORY AND LEGITIMACY-INDEPENDENT-04-04-2014

Friday, 04 April 2014
Author / Source: KAZI ANWARUL MASUD

In 1899 Rudyard’s Kipling poem The White Man’s Burden exhorting then “civilized” community to take up the burden of helping the colonized people created controversy because of the presumed superiority of the colonizers over the colonized. Some felt that on the face of it the poem conveyed a positive view of the idea that “The White Man”, generally accepted to believe that the colonial powers (Great Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Holland, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Russia, Italy and the United States), had a duty to civilize the more “brutish and barbaric” parts of the world. Though the term colonialism lost its importance following the end of the Second World War in global narrative intellectuals like Princeton historian Bernard Lewis and Samuel Huntington of The Clash of Civilizations fame have rekindled the idea of a crusade between the “defeated Islam and the victorious “Christianity” and the superiority of one faith over the other.
Columbia Professor late Edward Said, best known for the book Orientalism (1978), an analysis of the cultural representations that are the bases of Orientalism, a term he redefined to mean the Western study of Eastern cultures and, in general, the framework of how The West perceives and represents The East, in an article ( The Clash of Ignorance-The Nation) scathingly critiqued both Lewis and Huntington of being opportunistic for supplying the Americans with an original thesis about “a new phase” in world politics after the end of the cold war.
Said accused both of ” the personification of enormous entities called “the West” and “Islam” recklessly affirmed, as if hugely complicated matters like identity and culture existed in a cartoon like world where Popeye and Bluto bash each other mercilessly, with one always more virtuous pugilist getting the upper hand over his adversary.
Said found unacceptable Huntington’s challenge for Western policy-makers to make sure that the West gets stronger and fends off all the others, Islam in particular . He found Lewis’ views of history as being ” crudely Darwinian one in which powers and cultures vie for dominance, some rising, some sinking. There isn’t much left to what Lewis says, therefore, than that cultures can be measured in their most appallingly simplified terms (my culture is stronger—i.e., has better trains, guns, symphony orchestras—than yours).
Edward Said was unrelenting in his criticism of the neocons like Paul Wolfowitz and others who crowded George W Bush’s inner circle to push forward an agenda of crushing “them” by “us” having failed earlier with Bill Clinton with an appeal to teach the Arab Muslims a lesson of the superiority of the Western culture and religion.
Said writes: ” At some level, for instance, primitive passions and sophisticated know-how converge in ways that give the lie to a fortified boundary not only between “West” and “Islam” but also between past and present, us and them, to say nothing of the very concepts of identity and nationality about which there is unending disagreement and debate.
A unilateral decision made to draw lines in the sand, to undertake crusades, to oppose their evil with our good, to extirpate terrorism and, in Paul Wolfowitz’s nihilistic vocabulary, to end nations entirely, doesn’t make the supposed entities any easier to see; rather, it speaks to how much simpler it is to make bellicose statements for the purpose of mobilizing collective passions than to reflect, examine, sort out what it is we are dealing with in reality, the interconnectedness of innumerable lives, “ours” as well as “theirs”.
True President Barak Obama demolished the myth of confrontation between Islam and Christianity in his Cairo speech in June 2009 when he called for cooperation between the West and the Islamic world ” based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings”.
Gilles Kepel, a French political scientist and expert on Arab affairs ( The War for the Muslim Minds: Islam and the West) considers Islamist terrorism as a reflection of its desperate attempt to hold on to diminishing appeal of Islamism—the movement to replace the existing Muslim governments with the ones that rule according to Sharia or Islamic laws.
“Desperate terrorist attacks” Kepel writes “do not translate easily into political victory and legitimate power. And (late) bin Laden and Mullah Omar’s hopes to ignite in their fellow believers the fire of a worldwide Jihad failed miserably”. Equally Oliver Roy( The failure of political Islam) thinks that political Islam( drive for political power) has lost out to neo-fundamentalist( focusing on the family and the mosque)–one supported by Iran and the other by Saudi Arabia.
Yet Oliver Roy’s assessment “that the recruitment of large numbers of alienated young men without much hope in the future has transformed political Islam into what he calls “neo-fundamentalism ” cannot be ignored. Unlike the Islamists, many of whom were serious intellectuals who tried to adapt to aspects of modernity, the neo-fundamentalists do little more than channel the discontents of urban youth into political opposition.
Roy thinks that if they come to power they will resemble the repressive, one-party regimes that they are likely to replace, and will in turn face the opposition of these same disaffected classes. He sees contemporary Islamic movements not as serious efforts to return to the classical paradigms of Islamic governance but rather as a result of a failed modernization. Can one rationally equate the terrorism perpetrated by handful of renegades as representing the culture, hopes and aspirations of the global Muslim community? Obviously for doctrinaire secularists and moderate Muslims the answer would be resoundingly negative. One could wonder if Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness–1899) could give some answer to the primeval activities of the malcontents. In his book the central figure-Kurtz-freed from taboos and societal mandates is dehumanized and in his final moments he realizes that ” Congo is not the “heart of darkness”, but it is actually the heart and soul of every human.
One learns that the natives in their primitive and brutal ways are actually more pure and good, than the Europeans and their greed”. Conrad uses Kurtz, an ideal human of remarkable mettle and impervious morals, and demonstrates what lies beneath all men, the evil that is present and waiting in all of us.
Fittingly Edward Said whose first book, Joseph Conrad and the Fiction of Autobiography (1966) and expanded on for his doctoral dissertation, aptly observed ” It was Conrad, more powerfully than any of his readers at the end of the nineteenth century could have imagined, who understood that the distinctions between civilized London and “the heart of darkness” quickly collapsed in extreme situations, and that the heights of European civilization could instantaneously fall into the most barbarous practices without preparation or transition” .
However since in the ultimate analysis more conflicts have been waged in the name of religion than any other reason we have to remain on guard against the al-Qaida, the Taliban and their cohorts till they cease to inflict murder and mayhem on the innocent and put the blame on Islam–a religion of peace that has been co-existing peacefully with other religions for centuries.
The advanced countries would be well advised to ignore the words of the likes of Bernard Lewis of the Muslims hating the Christians ( They’ve been hating us for a long time. In a sense, they’ve been hating us for centuries, and it’s very natural that they should. You have this millennial rivalry between two world religions, and now, from their point of view, the wrong one seems to be winning. So the hatred is something almost axiomatic–What Went Wrong).
But then would the West necessarily abandon these intellectuals just because the Muslim ummah would demand it? Would not Western thinkers question the compatibility of Islam with democracy, sovereignty, fundamental human rights in particular the issue of gender equality, and other factors related with modernity?
Iranian intellectual Abdul Karim Saroush quoting Radwan Masmoudi of the Washington based Center of the study of Islam & Democracy asserts that there is no inherent contradiction between Islam and democracy and the explanation of why so many Muslim countries are not democratic lies in historical, political, cultural, and economic factors, not religious ones. Unfortunately dysfunctional, corrupt, repressive states are neither willing nor capable of reform. Apathy and despair breed radicalism. The failure of secular politics in Muslim countries provides fertile ground for the rise of political Islam. Again as Saroushi points out the rise of political Islam has made the concept of Islamic sovereignty central to Islamic political theory and that concept is often presented as a barrier to any form of democracy.
The Quranic concept of sovereignty is universal (that is nonterritorial), transcendental (beyond human agency), indivisible, inalienable, and truly absolute. God the sovereign is the primary law-giver, while agents such as the Islamic state and the Khalifa (God’s agents on earth) enjoy marginal autonomy necessary to implement and enforce the laws of their sovereign. The separation between the Church and the State, central to Western thought and governance, is absent in Islam. Yet 750 million Muslims live under democracy in Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, Europe, North America, Israel, and even Iran. One must also remember that it took the West several centuries to reach Francis Fukuyama’s controversial End of History thesis. There is, therefore, no reason for the Islamic ummah to be apologetic for the deviants who terrorize in the name of Islam.

The writer is a former Secretary and ambassador

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CRIMEAN REFERENDUM AND INTERNATIONAL SYSTEM–PART II-INDEPENDENT-31-03-2014

Monday, 31 March 2014
Author / Source: KAZI ANWARUL MASUD

Part-II

The vast majority of the Serbs, who made up about 5% of the population, opposed separation; whereas the Albanians, who comprised about 90% of the residents, almost unanimously wished to have a state of their own. Most proponents of primary right theories have stipulated some conditions that the separatists must meet. They have argued that secession must be prohibited if it exposes minorities to exploitation or oppression. Theories of national self-determination, the second alternative, may be labeled voluntarist as well. Contrary to primary right theories, they only regard national communities as being morally entitled to establish an independent state. The remedial right or just cause theories treat the right to secession analogously to the right to resistance.
Their advocates view the demand for an independent state only as legitimate if the group in question suffers from serious injustice. They usually acknowledge inter alia the forceful annexation of the territory and the violation of fundamental human rights as justification for secession.
The focus of remedial right theories is, in contrast to primary right theories, not on the will of the people but on their ill-treatment by the existing state. The proponents of the remedial right theory, have argued that the creation of a new state should only be permitted if the injustice cannot be alleviated in less drastic ways.
The case of Kosovo is of particular importance because its legal status differed from that of Slovenia, Croatia, and the other newly independent states. Brookings Institution’s Steven Pifer recounts the historical account of Western position on Crimean issue.
He observes that for the past two decades, most of Europe has generally agreed that ethnic minorities have no right to unilaterally separate themselves, a principle the Russians have strongly backed when it had come to Russia. The principal exception in Europe was Kosovo.
Pifer observes that Western acceptance of Russia’s annexation and the Crimean referendum’s results may prove to be a mistake. It would weaken key rules—such as respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity—that have governed post-Cold War Europe. It would fuel worries in countries with sizable ethnic Russian populations, including NATO allies such as Latvia and Estonia. And it would not resolve the longer-term tensions between Moscow and a Ukrainian state that sees a better future for itself with Europe.
The Guardian makes a forceful argument to prove why the Crimean referendum is illegal. The paper held (14-03-2014) that as a matter of international law territory cannot be annexed simply because the people who happen to be living there today want to secede. If that were the case, then under international law, any geographically cohesive group could vote on independence. That would mean the Basques should be free from Spain and France, and the Kurds would have an independent nation. However international law is unambiguous on how countries should decide the fate of disputed territories like Crimea. Countries can acquire territory by discovering uninhabited land, signing a treaty – as with Khrushchev’s transfer of Crimea to Ukraine in 1954 – or occupying an area peacefully over a long period of time.
The legal methods for resolving questions of sovereignty are founded on widely recognized principles of international law. These do not include, and have never included, a simple referendum of people living in a contested territory. What makes a secessionist claim successful in the eyes of the international community is the existence of a historical grievance over territory.
But then one has to take into account not only legal aspects of the issue but also the historical ties that Crimea has had with the Russian empire and then the Soviet Union for centuries. Even dissidents like Alexander Solzhenitsyn was always at the nationalist end of the spectrum. He endorsed a hyper-local, Swiss-style democratic politics, a transition to private property, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
“We do not have the energy to run an Empire!” he wrote. “Let us shrug it off. It is crushing us, it is draining us, and it is accelerating our demise.” On the question of Ukraine he held that Russia must be at the center of a “Russian union,” he declared, and Ukraine was integral to it ( The New Yorker -Putin’s Pique). Barry Strauss of Cornell University notes that secession movements in Scotland, Quebec and in Spain’s Catalonia region starkly differ from the movement to split Crimea from Ukraine.
Strauss says:. “In Quebec, the prospect of a new majority government by the Parti Quebecois could lead to yet another referendum on Quebec independence, a movement that reappears regularly. “In Spain’s Catalonia region there is also an independence movement. “The situation in Crimea, however, is quite different. It represents independence enforced by guns and legitimated by a referendum that didn’t allow a free choice. While the movements from Italy to Quebec are internally inspired, Crimea’s breakaway from Ukraine came from outside action – by Russia. The first are a matter of democracy, the second the result of expansion by an ever-more assertive power.”
Harvard Professor Serhii Plokhii tracing the roots of the Ukrainian crisis writes that the current Ukrainian crisis and Russia’s occupation of the Crimea are directly linked to Moscow’s project of reintegrating the space of the former Soviet Union into a comprehensive economic, political and military Eurasian Union.
When Ukraine voted for independence on Dec. 1, 1991, it sealed the Soviet Union’s fate. More than 90% of Ukrainian citizens voted in favor of statehood. Even in the Crimea, which then (as now) had an ethnic Russian majority, 54% voted for independence. In Sevastopol, the Soviet naval base in the Crimea, 57% were in favor. The Russians of Ukraine, in short, voted in large numbers for Ukrainian independence. The last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, had drawn up a template for a new, looser union, but Boris Yeltsin and Leonid Kravchuk of Ukraine refused to join. On Dec. 8, 1991, in a hunting lodge in the forests of Belarus, Yeltsin and Kravchuk dissolved the U.S.S.R. and created a Commonwealth of Independent States to link the former republics.
But Yeltsin’s policy of trying to peacefully reintegrate the former Soviet space was reversed by his successor, Vladimir Putin, who invaded Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014. Putin’s Russia, unlike Yeltsin’s, is using both its newly acquired economic power and its long-standing military might to rewrite the history of the Soviet collapse.
Back in 1991, the West did exceptionally well in helping to make the disintegration of its Cold War rival a largely peaceful process. President Bush forged a consensus with Washington’s European allies, and the West was able to offer the former Soviet republics both diplomatic recognition and economic cooperation, while also demanding that the new post-Soviet borders be treated as inviolable.
In the ultimate analysis it would be advisable to listen to Henry Kissinger’s warning that” To treat Ukraine as part of an East-West confrontation would scuttle for decades any prospect to bring Russia and the West — especially Russia and Europe — into a cooperative international system… if Ukraine is to survive and thrive, it must not be either side’s outpost against the other — it should function as a bridge between them.

(Concluded)

The writer is a former Secretary and ambassador

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LEGALITY OF CRIMEAN REFERENDUM-PART 1-INDEPENDENT-30-03-2014

Sunday, 30 March 2014
Author / Source: Kazi Anwarul Masud

Part-I

While President Barak Obama and the Western leaders have unequivocally declared the Crimean referendum as illegal and a violation of international law President Vladimir Putin considers the referendum as free expression of the will of the people in accord with the international law. Putin underlined in particular that the steps taken by Crimea’s legitimate authorities are based on international law and aimed at guaranteeing the legitimate interests of the peninsula’s population. Angela Merkel ,for example, told Putin that the referendum violated Ukraine’s constitution and was against international law.
Merkel’s argument appears to be based on assumption that referendum is a right reserved to the people to approve or reject an act of the legislature, or the right of the people to approve or reject legislation that has been referred to them by the legislature. The referendum power is created by state constitutions and is conferred on the citizens of a state or a local subdivision of the state . The power of referendum does not permit the people to invalidate a law that is already operative but suspends or annuls a law that has not yet gone into effect.
In this sense, the referendum power is derived solely from a state’s constitution and applies to that state’s laws; people do not have the right to challenge federal legislation by referendum. In the case of the Crimean referendum Ukraine constitution provides that results of a referendum to be effective the participation of the entire population of the country is necessary.
The Chinese vexed with the on-again and off-again efforts by Taiwan to declare its independence had expressed in detail their views (The China Daily– 26-11-2003) in an article that the concept first appeared in the form of international law when, in the aftermath of World War II. The Allied nations drafted the Charter of the United Nations in the belief that colonialism had done much to hinder world peace and the conviction that there must be a way for previously colonized countries to achieve “self-determination”.
Hence the clause urging “respect for the principles of equal rights and self-determination”. Under this principle, many countries newly freed from their colonial pasts and accepted to the UN pushed for a resolution in 1960 that equated national self-determination with anti-colonialism. Resolution 1514, the “Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples”, clearly states that only colonized nations have the right to self-determination via referendum, while regions or ethnicities within the nation are not entitled to it. In the case of the Canadian province of Quebec it opted for a referendum in 1995 to determine whether it should divorce itself from Canada. The international community along with the Canadian Government deemed its actions illegal and invalid. The US Government firmly opposed it as well. In August 1998, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that Quebec could not unilaterally declare independence but instead had to get endorsement from the federation and other provinces.
In March 2000, Canada passed a law requiring Quebec to get approval from the federal government before a referendum on independence could be considered legitimate. Others have held that the referendum or plebiscite is a form of direct democracy ideally favoring the majority. It can be binding or non-binding. A foundational referendum or plebiscite may be drafted by a constituent assembly before being put to voters.
Although Acts of Parliament may permit referendums to take place, the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty means any Act of Parliament giving effect to a referendum result could be reversed by a subsequent Act of Parliament. As a result, referendums in the United Kingdom cannot be constitutionally binding, although they will usually have a persuasive political effect.
Although some advocates of direct democracy would have the referendum become the dominant institution of government, in practice and in principle, in almost all cases, the referendum exists solely as a complement to the system of representative democracy, in which most major decisions are made by an elected legislature. Advocates of the referendum argue that certain decisions are best taken out of the hands of representatives and determined directly by the people. Some adopt a strict definition of democracy, saying elected parliaments are a necessary expedient to make governance possible in the large, modern nation-state, though direct democracy is nonetheless preferable and the referendum takes precedence over Parliamentary decisions. Other advocates insist that the principle of popular sovereignty demands that certain foundational questions, such as the adoption or amendment of a constitution, the secession of a state or the altering of national boundaries, be determined with the directly expressed consent of the people. In the fall of 1994 the Journal of Libertarian Studies published Robert W. McGee’s article “Secession Reconsidered”. He writes from a libertarian perspective, but holds that secession is justified only if secessionists can create a viable, if minimal, state on contiguous territory. Irredentism where secession is sought in order to annex the territory to another state because of common ethnicity or prior historical links.
Annexation of Sudetenland by Hitler and Crimea by Vladimir Putin could be described as examples of irredentism. The primary right or choice theories, on the one hand, offer a voluntaristic justification for secession. Their adherents hold that any territorially concentrated group of individuals may freely decide on its membership in a given state.
In Kosovo, referred to by Vladimir Putin in his criticism of Western activism of the Crimean referendum, the ratio of positive and negative attitudes toward secession reflects to a large extent the national proportion of its inhabitants.

(to be continued)

The writer is a former Secretary and ambassador

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PROMOTION TO A MIDDLE INCOME COUNTRY-INDEPENDENT-27-03-2014

Thursday, 27 March 2014
Author / Source: KAZI ANWARUL MASUD

It is hoped by the Bangladesh authorities that the country will become a middle income country by the year 2021. The target is achievable if the optimism expressed by the World Bank, Goldman & Sachs, Oxford Study, UNDP etc on Bangladesh and other upcoming economies come to pass.
Goldman Sachs Group has included Bangladesh as one of its Next-11 countries, characterised by rapidly growing populations, combined with significant industrial capacity or potential. Their assessment noted that “East Asia is more expensive, Pakistan too risky, India too regulated, and Africa does not yet have the production capacity and track record, to be a major competitor in the near future.” A recent USAID report showed the productivity of Bangladeshi workers to be on par with Chinese workers, in well-managed firms, with their wages being five times lower than those of their Chinese counterparts.
Furthermore, Bangladesh is poised to exploit the much-awaited “demographic dividend”, with a higher share of the working age population and a declining dependency ratio.
So far as the World Bank is concerned a former advisor for Finance( Mirza Azizul Islam-creating a middle income country-April 6 2013-The Daily Star) in reviewing the book by Rafiqur Rahman ( Can Bangladesh be a middle income country in a decade) observed that the author’s optimism based on his examination of the per capita GNI level of ten countries (China, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Ghana, Guyana, Mauritania, Sudan and Zambia) relative to the cut off level about ten years prior to their attaining lower middle income status and their growth performance over this period and the situation of Bangladesh with those countries.
Based on this comparison, Rafiqur Rahman is optimistic about Bangladesh attaining the status by 2021, if not before. The optimism is based on the assumption of sustained high growth (not falling below 6.7 percent achieved in FY 2011), increasingly confident private sector, further diversification of exports, improvements in education and skill, dynamism of the youth and an energetic and enlightened civil society able to overcome political tensions and conflicts and keep the country focused on economic and social growth.
However, the author also notes that Bangladesh advanced only 18 percentage points during the last eleven years (2000 to 2010) from 46% in 2000 to 64% in 2010 of the per capita GNI required for entry into the middle income status. If this result is projected in a linear manner, it would be 2032 when the country can move into the lower middle income group.
Referring to the World Bank study the Advisor adds that according to this study, Bangladesh would have to sustain GDP growth rate of 6.6 percent under the best possible scenario of remittance growth and likely increase of the threshold per capita GNI. Bangladesh already fell short of this rate in FY 2012 and would have also definitely fallen short in FY 2013.
The required GDP growth rate in the remaining years up to 2021 will thus have to be higher than 6.6 percent. Achieving and maintaining a GDP growth rate of about 7 percent is not impossible, but difficult (According to a recent World Bank study, Bangladesh had under-invested by 6.2 percentage points of GDP in the FY 2011, with actual investments amounting to 25.2 per cent of GDP, compared with the desired 31.4 per cent) in view of the continuing challenges to investment aggravated by regular cycles of political discord, general strikes and street violence.
The question that needs to be answered is whether in our race to achieve middle income country status we are not ignoring the increasing income inequality between the rich and the poor.
It is already recognized that income inequality in Bangladesh is still high, underpinned by unequal distribution of economic opportunities though inclusivity of opportunity has largely improved in recent years.
Further improvements will require stimulating employment and productivity growth by focusing on enhancing the human capacities of the poor. Are income inequality and accompanying effects peculiar to low income countries like Bangladesh or do they impact the socio-economic situation in developed countries as well? Fareed Zakaria( Washington Post December 30 2013) questions whether income inequality is the “defining challenge” of our time?
According to Zakaria inequality involves three different issues: the astonishing rise of the very rich, the stagnant wages and weakening prospects of the American middle class, and the large number of people at the bottom of the ladder. The super-rich have grown worldwide, but the United States is at the head of the pack.
This is because of factors structural (globalization and technology help superstars; large and liquid financial markets make the rich richer) and political (lower tax rates and the political influence of the financial sector).
Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz who has written incessantly on inequality adds his voice to the continuing injustice and unfairness meted out to the poor.
He observes that (Washington Post– Inequality is a choicve-13-10-2013) from 1988 to 2008 people in the world’s top 1 percent saw their incomes increase by 60 percent, while those in the bottom 5 percent had no change in their income.
While median incomes have greatly improved in recent decades, there are still enormous imbalances: 8 percent of humanity takes home 50 percent of global income; the top 1 percent alone takes home 15 percent. Income gains have been greatest among the global elite — financial and corporate executives in rich countries — and the great “emerging middle classes” of China, India, Indonesia and Brazil.
In this process Africans, some Latin Americans, and people in post-Communist Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union lost out.
A 2011 study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that income inequality first started to rise in the late ’70s and early ’80s in America and Britain (and also in Israel).
The trend became more widespread starting in the late ’80s.
Within the last decade, income inequality grew even in traditionally egalitarian countries like Germany, Sweden and Denmark. With a few exceptions — France, Japan, Spain — the top 10 percent of earners in most advanced economies raced ahead, while the bottom 10 percent fell further behind.
Stieglitz emphasizes that inequality is not an inevitable byproduct of globalization, the free movement of labor, capital, goods and services, and technological change that favors better-skilled and better-educated employees. Of the advanced economies, America has some of the worst disparities in incomes and opportunities, with devastating macroeconomic consequences.
The gross domestic product of the United States has more than quadrupled in the last 40 years and nearly doubled in the last 25, but the benefits have gone to the top — and increasingly to the very, very top American innovations in rent-seeking — enriching oneself not by making the size of the economic pie bigger but by manipulating the system to seize a larger slice — have gone global.
Asymmetric globalization has also exerted its toll around the globe.
Mobile capital has demanded that workers make wage concessions and governments make tax concessions.
The result is a race to the bottom. Inequality and poverty among children are a special moral disgrace.
They flout right-wing suggestions that poverty is a result of laziness and poor choices; children can’t choose their parents. In America, nearly one in four children lives in poverty; in Spain and Greece, about one in six; in Australia, Britain and Canada, more than one in 10.
None of this is inevitable. Some countries have made the choice to create more equitable economies: South Korea, where a half-century ago just one in 10 people attained a college degree, today has one of the world’s highest university completion rates.
For these reasons, according to Stieglitz, the world is divided not just between the haves and have-nots, but also between those countries that do nothing about it, and those that do.
Some countries will be successful in creating shared prosperity — that is only kind of prosperity that he believe is truly sustainable.
Others will let inequality run amok. In these divided societies, the rich will hunker in gated communities, almost completely separated from the poor, whose lives will be almost unfathomable to them, and vice versa.
Peter Beinart, Lawrence Summers, Gregory Clark and George F Will, among others, have spoken about the advantages that kids of the rich and the famous continue to get throughout their life the bounty received from their parents and ancestors. Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers posits that sharp increases in the share of income going to the top 1 percent of earners, a rising share of income going to profits, stagnant real wages, and a rising gap between productivity growth and growth in median family income are all valid causes for concern.
Echoing the sentiment Pulitzer Prize winning columnist George F Will wrote: even when Balzac’s axiom is accurate (“At the bottom of every great fortune without apparent source, there’s always some crime”) and fortunes are ill-gotten, subsequent generations often soon fritter them away…. And if progressivism prevails, the United States will be Downton Abbey: Upstairs, the administrators of the regulatory state will, with a feudal sense of noblesse oblige, assume responsibility for the lower orders downstairs, gently protecting them from “substandard” health-insurance policies, school choice, gun ownership, large sodas
and other decisions that experts consider naughty or calamitous.
Professor Gregory Clark of UCLA adds that mobility has always been slow. When one look across centuries, and at social status broadly measured — not just income and wealth, but also occupation, education and longevity — social mobility is much slower. According to Gregory Clark capitalism has not led to pervasive, rapid mobility. Nor have democratization, mass public education, the decline of nepotism, redistributive taxation, the emancipation of women, or even, as in China, socialist revolution….
The recent study suggests that 10 percent of variation in income can be predicted based on one’s parents’ earnings and 50 to 60 percent of variation in overall status is determined by one’s lineage. The fortunes of high-status families inexorably fall, and those of low-status families rise, toward the average — what social scientists call “regression to the mean” — but the process can take 10 to 15 generations (300 to 450 years), much longer than most social scientists have estimated in the past.
Some findings suggest, however, that the compulsion to strive, the talent to prosper and the ability to overcome failure are strongly inherited. As the political theorist John Rawls suggested in his landmark work “A Theory of Justice” (1971), innate differences in talent and drive mean that, to create a fair society, the disadvantages of low social status should be limited. These indicate that upward mobility is difficult if not impossible.
For a fairer distribution of income countries like Bangladesh should not follow neoliberal economic policies that effectively means control of economic factors is shifted from the public sector to the private sector.
Drawing upon principles of neoclassical economics, neoliberalism suggests that governments reduce deficit spending, limit subsidies, reform tax law to broaden the tax base, remove fixed exchange rates, open up markets to trade by limiting protectionism, privatize state-run businesses, allow private property and back deregulation.
Or in other words engage the rule of the market . Liberating “free” enterprise or private enterprise from any bonds imposed by the government (the state) no matter how much social damage this causes. Cut public expenditure for social services( reducing safety net for the poor), deregulation, privatization, and eliminating the concept of public goods and replacing with “individual responsibility”.
Given the large number of the business community now represented in our Parliament (assuming Hobbes account of human nature being animalistic, leaving each of us to live independently of everyone else, acting only in his or her own self-interest, without regard for others what he called the “state of war,” a way of life that is certain to prove “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”) divorce from noeliberalism can ensure both fairness and our promotion to a middle income country to be meaningful.

The writer is a former Secretary and ambassador

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CRISIS IN UKRAINE-INDEPENDENT-14-03-2014

Friday, 14 March 2014
Author / Source: KAZI ANWARUL MASUD

The crisis in Ukraine is deepening by the day. The protests in Kiev that forced the pro- Russian President Viktor Yunukovych to flee the country and take refuge in Russia have now escalated with the Crimean parliament declaring independence from Ukraine if the referendum of 16th March declares that Crimea with 60%Russian speaking people would like to join the Russian Federation. For Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukraine is a no-go area as far as the West and NATO are concerned. If Ukraine is allowed to drift away from the centuries-old Russian influence, it would be curtains for Moscow. Vladimir Putin did not want to go down in history as the man “who lost Ukraine”.
This and the strategic consideration propelled Putin to pursue his Ukraine policy. For the US-led West, Ukraine is not just another far-off country in the Caucasus. It is right there in Europe where NATO is hyperactive and is keen to have Ukraine in its fold .The Russian act of sending its troops into Crimea and seizing control of this only ethnic Russian-dominant region of Ukraine is an alarm bell that the West can ignore at its own peril.
With its Crimea act and the authorization that Putin has got from the Russian parliament to use military force to protect Russian interests in Ukraine, Russia has made its intentions clear. One has to take into account that Ukraine borders four of America’s NATO allies, who are watching closely how the U.S. and the rest of Europe respond.
The U.S. has for more than two decades championed Ukraine’s independence as crucial to European security. In exchange for Kiev’s difficult decision in 1994 to hand over its nuclear weapons to Russia, the U.S., along with Britain and Moscow, promised to assure Ukraine’s territorial integrity in the so-called Budapest memorandum. Russia is now in breach of this agreement.
In his first telephone conversation with President Barak Obama since the crisis erupted Putin was bluntly honest for a change. He made clear to Barak Obama that “in case of any further spread of violence to eastern Ukraine and Crimea, Russia retains the right to protect its interests and the Russian-speaking population of
those areas”.
But the Western powers think that Kremlin’s claims about the importance of ethnic Russian identity and language are just a sideshow in the struggle. What is going on is a pure power play. Since Vladimir Putin has nuclear weapons and no apparent care for world opinion, the same gives him an edge. But eastern Ukraine, they would like to think, would not be as easy to snare as Crimea, and the attempt could backfire on Putin. Thomas Freidman in an op-ed in NYT on 4th March wrote “There is much nonsense being written about how Vladimir Putin showed how he is “tougher” than Barack Obama and how Obama now needs to demonstrate his manhood. This is how great powers get drawn into the politics of small tribes and end up in great wars that end badly for everyone. ……. Any man who actually believes, as Putin has said, that the breakup of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century is caught up in a dangerous fantasy that can’t end well for him or his people.
The Soviet Union died because Communism could not provide rising standards of living, and its collapse actually unleashed boundless human energy all across Eastern Europe and Russia”. One wonders whether Russian President’s claim to protect its interests and that of the Russian speaking population does not echo Adolf Hitler’s similar claims about German speaking people of Sudetenland.
The Munich agreement of 1938 allowed Germany to annex Sudetenland, a strip of border in Czechoslovakia. The rationale for Hitler’s annexation demand was that he was following the desire of ethnic, or “Sudeten,” Germans in Czechoslovakia who wished to be part of Germany. The Munich agreement illustrated the pattern of “appeasement” by the Western powers to Hitler’s territorial demands prior to World War ii, and encouraged him to invade Poland in 1939.
The immediate result of the Munich agreement was the physical annexation by Germany of the Sudetenland. The Munich agreement bound great Britain, France and Italy to recognize Nazi Germany’s annexation of the Sudeten territories. Then again can Putin’s claim could be sustained by stretching the nascent development of the concept of contingent sovereignty in international law.
This school of thought holds that sovereign rights and immunities are not absolute. They depend on the observance of fundamental state obligations. These include the responsibility to protect the citizens of the state. When a regime makes war on its people or cannot prevent atrocities against them, it risks forfeiting its claim to non-intervention.
In such circumstances, the responsibility to protect may devolve to the international community. According to Council of Foreign Relations the traditional realist approach of the UN as a meeting place of sovereign states is slowly changing to catch up to the reality on the ground. The principles of the formal equality of sovereign states, the inviolability of international borders and the monopoly of force within one’s own borders is yielding to state sovereignty that is contingent on the nature and behavior of a regime.
The perception that fairness in the international system is somehow measured by the degree to which each country gets an equal say—one country, one vote—is also under challenge. There are two components to contingent sovereignty. The first is the extent to which a country enjoys sovereign rights and privileges which has been described as the principle of conditional sovereignty. The second is the standards that may be used to distinguish among sovereign nations that may be called as differentiated sovereignty.
Linked to the notion of conditional sovereignty is the concept of differentiated sovereignty—the effort to identify legitimate standards by which to distinguish among states based on the nature of their society and their behavior. The flaws in the sovereign equality model have intensified the search for internationally acceptable standards by which to differentiate among regimes in the UN and more broadly the notion of a “duty to prevent”, for example, posits that closed societies (“governments that lack internal checks on their power”) pose a greater danger than open ones and therefore require earlier and more intense international effort to prevent them from pursuing dangerous options.
After the exit of Yunokovych one of the first acts of the Ukrainian parliament was to decree repealing a law that allowed regions to use Russian as a second official language. The interim Ukraine President vetoed the bill, but the veto did not get much attention. The bigger problem for Kiev was the vacuum of authority in the east. The New York Times in its editorial of 2nd March observed that “the victorious opposition should have known how critical it was to reassure all groups in that country that their rights would be respected in any new order; instead, one of the parliament’s first actions was to abolish a law that ensured a legal status for Russian and other minority languages, thus raising fears among Russian speakers that Ukrainian nationalists were taking over.
Yet none of this justifies Vladimir Putin’s cynical and outrageous exploitation of the Ukrainian crisis to seize control of Crimea, nor any other power grab he may be hatching”. But Henry Kissinger warns that ” To treat Ukraine as part of an East-West confrontation would scuttle for decades any prospect to bring Russia and the West — especially Russia and Europe — into a cooperative international system… if Ukraine is to survive and thrive, it must not be either side’s outpost against the other — it should function as a bridge between them”( How the Ukraine crisis ends-Washington Post).
Wall street journal describing the Russian move as ” brazen aggression” felt that ” entering his 15th year in power, Putin has never concealed his ambition to recreate Russia’s regional hegemony. He has replaced Soviet Marxism with ultra-nationalism, contempt for the West and a form of crony state capitalism. He bit off chunks of Georgia in 2008 and paid no price, but Ukraine’s 46 million people and territory on the border of NATO are a bigger prize.
His updated Brezhnev doctrine seeks to entrench authoritarianism in client states and prevent them from joining free Europe , it was clear that a Russian-held Crimea is only stage one”. Some have found Putin’s takeover of Crimea as “alarming” and are baffled by his behavior. “He does like to act by surprise. But this one is more than just a surprise,” said Kimberly Marten, an expert on U.S.-Russian relations at Barnard College and Columbia University.
“There’s something about this that doesn’t make sense.” While the world scrambled to come up with a response and persuade the Russian President to pull back, academics were not the only ones left wondering what he was up to. Secretary of State John Kerry called the incursion “stunning.”And Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany went further after speaking to Putin over the weekend.
She told President Barack Obama that he seemed to be “in another world,” perhaps out of touch with reality. Be it as it may there is no denying the fact that Ukraine crisis is perhaps the most alarming geo-political development since the end of the Cold War. Whether the European Union and the US would be able to deny Vladimir Putin a repetition of the invasion of Iraq by President George W Bush or whether they would ultimately acquiesce in the “conquest” of Crimea by Russia remains to be seen. One only hopes that the Cuban Missiles Crisis would not be reenacted in the present day volatile world.

The writer is a former Secretary and ambassador

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ISRAEL’S UNCHECKED INTRASIGENSE-INDEPENDENT-07-03-2014

Friday, 07 March 2014
Author / Source: KAZI ANWARUL MASUD

The OIC Secretary General Iyad Madani described the move as “a dangerous and unprecedented step that comes as part of Israel’s racist policy … aiming to Judaise Jerusalem.
“Urging world action against Israel, Madani warned that “this dangerous escalation provokes the feelings of the whole Muslim nation”. On 27th February Amnesty International published a report that described Israeli soldiers as “trigger happy” and accused Israel of “war crimes and other serious violations of international law” against Palestinians. The report notes that more Palestinians living in the West Bank had been killed last year than in 2012 and 2011 combined, and that more than 8,000 Palestinians – including 1,500 children – have been wounded by rubber bullets and tear gas since 2011. Amnesty International report added that “the frequency and persistence of arbitrary and abusive force against peaceful protesters in the West Bank by Israeli soldiers and police officers- and the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators – suggests that it is carried out as a matter of policy”.
Since 1967 war in which the Arabs were decisively defeated by Israelis resulting in the conquest of vast tracts of Arab land the world has been trying to bring about peace in an area that defy compromise between the Israel conquerors and conquered Arabs. Subsequent peace with Egypt at Camp David with the return of Sinai and with Jordan have yet to result in an enduring peace between Israel and Palestine.
The impasse has been possible because of the unflinching support by the West to Israel, particularly by the US, based on religious belief held by a number of Christians in the inherent right of the Jews to the Promised land that would make possible the second coming of Jesus, excessive power wielded by the Jewish lobby in the US, success by the neo-cons to direct US policy in the Middle East in accord with that of Israel and contrary to the interest of the US itself, among other reasons.
Leonard Fien in an article in the Dissent magazine( Spring 2008- Reflections of a sometime Israeli lobbyist) quoted Nadav Safran’s ( a distinguished professor of Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard) book, published in 1963, titled The United States and Israel in which he wrote “I believe that fundamentally both Arabs and Jews have an unassailable moral argument. A person who cannot see how this is possible does not understand the essence of tragedy; much less does he realize that his position serves only to assure that the Palestine tragedy should have another sequel, and yet another.”
Leonard Fein finds Safran as prescient. “Exclusivists on both sides of the conflict have indeed brought on sequel after sequel, by now an ongoing calamity. It matters not at all which set of exclusivists is the more to blame, which less. What matters is that together they’ve come to own the crowded stage. There’s Hamas, of course, in a class by itself. There are the settlers and their avid defenders. There are a handful of hard-line American Jewish organizations”. But there are also others who find the Jewish state as racist, militaristic and an anachronism in the modern world.
Professors John Meirsheimer and Stephen Walt’s book on Israeli lobby and the US foreign policy details the reasons for the failure of the Western powers that lie in the ability of some US officials in tailoring the US policy suiting Israeli indefensible acts of repressions and in total disregard of global voice-both of the Islamic world and non-Muslim countries.
Of the Israeli lobby they observed that “no lobby has managed to divert it as far from what the national interest would suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that US interests and those of the other country – in this case, Israel – are essentially identical”. Since the Second World War Israel has received $ 140 billion as aid and the only recipient state that does not have to account for the money spent though Israel is now a wealthy country with per capita income equal to Spain or South Korea.
Israel has been given access to the US intelligence denied to NATO allies. Besides the US has turned a blind eye to Israel’s acquisition of nuclear weapons.
The US also extends diplomatic support to Israel. Meirsheimer and Walt point out that ” Since 1982, the US has vetoed 32 Security Council resolutions critical of Israel, more than the total number of vetoes cast by all the other Security Council members. It blocks the efforts of Arab states to put Israel’s nuclear arsenal on the IAEA’s agenda. The US comes to the rescue in wartime and takes Israel’s side when negotiating peace…… This extraordinary generosity might be understandable if Israel were a vital strategic asset or if there were a compelling moral case for US backing. But neither explanation is convincing.”.
In October 1973, Arab members of OPEC, in response to the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War, raised the posted price of crude by 70% and placed an embargo on exports to the U.S. and other nations allied with Israel. Israel proved a burden to the West as it did during the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the Gulf war, and at the time of the invasion of Iraq.
The bulk of the Jews and the Israelis draw from the Hitler period the conviction that, in this world, when threatened one must be prepared to kill or be killed. The Arabs draw from the Algerian conflict the conviction that, even in dealing with so rational and civilized a people as the French, liberation was made possible only by resorting to the gun and the knife. Both Israeli and Arabs in other words feel that only force can assure justice.
In this they agree, and this sets them on a collision course. For the Jews believe justice requires the recognition of Israel as a fact; for the Arabs, to recognize the fact is to acquiesce in the wrong done them by the conquest of Palestine”. Stone adds ” IN BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE the Jews have been going in and out of Palestine for 3,000 years. They came down from the Euphrates under Abraham; returned from Egypt under Moses and Joshua; came back again from the Babylonian captivity and were dispersed again after Jerusalem fell to the Romans in 70 A.D. This is the third return.
The Arabs feel they have a superior claim because they stayed put”. He captured the disappointment of the global Jewry( not allied with the Jewish lobby) by the following words ” Israel is creating a kind of moral schizophrenia in world Jewry. In the outside world the welfare of Jewry depends on the maintenance of secular, non-racial, pluralistic societies. In Israel, Jewry finds itself defending a society in which mixed marriages cannot be legalized, in which non-Jews have a lesser status than Jews, and in which the ideal is racial and exclusionist. Jews must fight elsewhere for their very security and existence—against principles and practices they find themselves defending in Israel. Those from the outside world, even in their moments of greatest enthusiasm amid Israel’s accomplishments, feel twinges of claustrophobia, not just geographical but spiritual. Those caught up in Prophetic fervor soon begin to feel that the light they hoped to see out of Zion is only that of another narrow nationalism”.
This was most recently demonstrated by a group of Israeli parliamentarians in their meeting with the American ambassador in Israel in which they vented their anger at the US and declared that any framework agreement( reportedly being prepared by John Kerry for which Benjamin Netanyahu is flying to the US) that talks about the 1967 lines or includes the evacuation of settlements or giving up sovereignty in Judea and Samaria [the biblical name for the West Bank] and Jerusalem will lead to the fall of the current government.
They dismissed the chances of a peace agreement, saying there was no “real possibility of bridging the gaps between Israel and the Palestinians and no majority in Likud for a plan containing a division of the land”. Israel is demanding that it retain a presence in the Jordan Valley, a strategic part of the West bank that is home to around 4,500 Jewish settlers, after a peace deal, citing security concerns. Daniel Shapiro, who has been US ambassador since 2011, said he understood the Jewish people’s historic ties to the land of Israel, but added: “The problem is that there is another people here as well and the public in Israel understands that there are two peoples here who cannot live together.”
In the ultimate analysis the hawks in Israel and elsewhere have to understand that the Jews cannot forever remain an exile community as an existential condition though they have land that they have forcibly occupied and then conquered. Israel cannot deny the Palestinians a state to which they are entitled and the international community, particularly the US, has an obligation to make it happen. Otherwise the region and the world will remain destabilized giving opportunity to the terrorists a weapon to further their goals unwelcomed by the civilized world.

The writer is a former Secretary and ambassador

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NEED FOR TEMPERANCE IN RELIGIOUS PRACTICE-INDEPENDENT-21-02=2014

Friday, 21 February 2014
Author / Source: KAZI ANWARUL MASUD

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The treaty of Westphalia might have signaled the end of the last of the great wars of religion yet both in the developed and the developing worlds religion continues to command significant influence in the conduct of both domestic and foreign relations. German theorist Jurgen Habermas believes that post-secular age has come to stay in the advanced world, though ” the practice of faith also withdrew into more a personal or subjective domain”, he found “a correlation between the functional specification of the religious system and the individualization of religious practice”. The developed world has not totally abandoned the practice of separation of the church and the state as Habermas points out citing the contention of Georgetown Professor Jose Casanova regarded as one of the world’s top scholars of the sociology of religion that the loss of function and the trend towards individualization does not necessarily imply that religion loses influence and relevance either in the political arena and the culture of a society or in the personal conduct of life.
Such assertions of the vibrancy of the practitioners of religion, particularly of the orthodox and the conservatives among them, has been found by others as well. Yale Professor Paul Bloom (Is God an accident-The Atlantic-December 2005) writes of the US as a poster child for the supernatural belief as just about everyone—90 percent in one poll—believes in God. He quotes sociologist Steven Waldman that 51 percent of the Democrats( the Republicans are no exception) believe that God gave Israel to the Jews and that its existence fulfills the prophecy about the second coming of Jesus.
Bloom suggests that religion is bred in the bone. It has also been argued that modernism does not necessarily have to embrace secularism. Reviewing Charles Taylor‘s monumental book A SECULAR AGE Professor Richard Madsen explored several meanings of secularism. One of the meanings is embedded in culture — “a move from a society where belief in God was unchallenged and indeed was unproblematic, to one in which it is understood to be one option among others, and frequently not the easiest to embrace”.
In this age of globalization where competition for excellence is the key word for success Aristotelian pursuit of excellence calling for transcendence of the initial state of the self into a better one may not necessarily mean an abandonment of religion.
What the civilized world has to be on guard is to deny opportunity to the malevolent groups who in the name of religion indulge in terrorism and enthuse others to do so.
Nicholas Schmidle, a fellow at the New America Foundation and the author of To Live or to Perish Forever: Two Tumultuous Years in Pakistan traced the growth of Talibinization from a loose knit group of pious , well meaning Muslims wanting nothing more than to live according to Sharia law to the brutalization of Swat and Malakand areas.
The atrocities committed almost daily by Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan(TTP) do not need recounting. The very existence of Pakistan as a cohesive and responsible member of the international community was being threatened.
The current Nawaz Sharif government has decided to hold talks with the TTP and the first round was held recently.
A joint statement issued after a meeting of government and Taliban negotiators for peace talks called upon the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan to end arbitrary activities and ensure the implementation of peace in the country.
The statement expressed concern over the recent spate of terror attacks in the country while strongly condemning them. The joint statement reiterated that violence would not only hamper the dialogue but halt it altogether.
The meeting between the two sides was held in Islamabad.
“Both the committees expressed deep grief and regret over anti-peace activities and declared that such incidents would have a negative impact on the peace efforts.”
Pakistani newspaper Dawn recently observed that stability in nuclear-armed Pakistan is seen as important to neighboring Afghanistan where US-led NATO troops are pulling out after more than a decade of war. Washington is watching the talks with the Taliban closely. It has long been pushing Pakistan to take action against militants using Pakistan’s tribal areas as a base to attack NATO forces across the border. Analysts both Pakistani and others have expressed doubts about the success of the talks with the TTP.
TTP insists that Pakistan has to be governed by sharia law and base the Constitution on the Holy Quran while Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif insists that the country has to be run in accordance with the prevailing Constitution. The 15 point declaration by the political shura of TTP recently announced included handover control of the tribal areas to local forces; withdrawal of the army from the tribal agencies and the closure of check posts; termination of relations with the US as well as support for its war against terrorism; and replacement of parliamentary democracy by an Islamic system.
The reason as to why the world has to watch the progress if any of the success of the talks is to ascertain whether there can be coexistence with the radical Islamists who believe in the establishment of a 6th century “pristine” Islamic order.
In this age of Oxford luminary Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), journalist Christopher Hitchens and others as opposed to Emeritus Professor Charles Taylor of McGill University (A Secular Age) and Jurgen Habermas, it is difficult to sit on the fringes without belonging to either of the camps despite waning influence of religion in the industrial North from day to day life in the present post-modern society.
But then as New York Times recounts the apprehension of the American founding fathers that religion in then young republic consisting of a series of contending factions would do more damage than good, and consequently God “after several polite appearances in the Declaration of Independence, is nowhere to be found in the Constitution… (Thomas Jefferson was of the view that) Priests dread the advances of science as witches do the approach of daylight”.
Richard Dawkins may have created a furor in the intellectual world through his nihilistic decapitation of God that he defines as “a supernatural creator appropriate to worship” supported by Stephen Hawkins’ assertion that science finds difficulty in accommodating God and American astrophysicist Carl Sagan who does not find much sense to pray to the law of gravity. But as mentioned earlier there is no denying the fact that there has been a resurgence of religious fervor in recent past, partly stoked by the fear generated by Samuel Huntington’s civilizational conflict thesis and the terrorism spearheaded by al-Qaeda and its ideological companions.
In support of the conflict of religions one could refer to the “absolute incompatibility” between Islam and Christianity asserted by Bernard Lewis, Samuel Huntington, Christopher Caldwell and many others. But the cooler heads in the Western world bedeviled by its current economic discomfiture do not believe that the battle of the Crusades have to be fought all over again.
This was made abundantly clear by President Obama in his speech delivered in Cairo in June 2009 when he spoke of seeking a new beginning with the Islamic world “based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition.
Instead, they overlap, and share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings”.
At the same time the Muslim world has to accept the universality of globalization and the essential contribution of all countries regardless of differences in faith and rise up against Islamist terrorism considered as a reflection of its desperate attempt to hold on to diminishing appeal of Islamism—the movement to replace the existing Muslim governments with the ones that rule according to strict interpretation of Sharia or Islamic laws contradictory to the true spirit of Islam.

The writer is a former Secretary and ambassador

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INDISPENSABILITY OF MAINTAINING POLITICAL STABILITY-INDEPENDENT 14-02-2014

Friday, 14 February 2014
Author / Source: KAZI ANWARUL MASUD

Alyssa Ayres of the Council of Foreign Relations described the attempts to frustrate the 5th January elections in Bangladesh as ” an opposition party which not only boycotts an election but seeks to prevent citizens from voting isn’t furthering a democratic process at all”. Like many other observers she found Bangladesh as “a country that has achieved around 6 percent economic growth for much of the last decade, has the eighth largest population in the world, has delivered maternal and child health improvements on a scale comparable to the great Meiji restoration of 19th century Japan, is the world’s second largest exporter of ready-made garments after only China, and has achieved a 94 percent infant immunization rate”.
Recently Bangladesh government expressed hope to graduate to the threshold of a middle income country by 2015 ( the next triennial review period of LDCs). The up-to-date criteria for a LDC are the ‘per capita income’ criterion, based on the gross national income (GNI) per capita (a three-year average),with a threshold of USD 992; the ‘human assets’ criterion based on a composite index (the Human Assets Index), which consists of indicators on nutrition, health, school enrolment and literacy; and the ‘economic vulnerability’ criterion based on a composite index (the Economic Vulnerability Index), which includes indicators on natural shocks, trade shocks, exposure to shocks, economic smallness, and economic remoteness. On all three fronts the government is hopeful to meet the needed criteria for graduation to the threshold of a middle income country. UNDP report of 2013, World Bank reports and some others positively assessed the recent economic performances of Bangladesh with a question mark on the political instability that may very well undo the successes achieved and stall the progress of the country to solidify its democratic structure.
Ayreen Khan (a researcher at the Peace and Security and Democracy and Governance fields at the Institut fur Entwicklung und Frieden (INEF), Duisburg, Germany) has assessed that the current political impasse hampers the economy of the country. Each day of strike or blockade mount huge loss to the economy of the country, estimated an amount of USD 193million per day.
Every sector of the economy gets affected for political clash, e.g., garment industries count loss of USD 25.8 million per day, transport sector USD 32.2 million and small retailers face an amount USD 77.4 million loss per day.
The current deadlock has affected every economic-monetary sector possible, e.g., hotel, restaurant, tourism, housing, raw materials (low growth in cement production: 3.6%, iron and steel production: -8.72%), remittances (-8%).
Transport owners counted loss of USD 540.8 million while 4000 (3000 vandalised, 1000 burnt) vehicles were damaged in one and a half years. Agricultural growth weakened from 3.1% in 2012 to 2.2% in 2013. Service growth declined from 6.3% in 2012 to 6.06% in 2013 (“Bangladesh Development Update: Resilient Economy Facing Internal Risk”, World Bank, accessed on 29 December 2013). Investor’s confidence declined 1.2% in the real private investment rate. Due to the inevitable political clash during the election time, economic growth declines in every election year.
The GDP growth rate declined during the election years in 1996, 2001, 2008 and in 2013 from 4.93% to 4.62%, 5.94% to 5.27%, 6.43% to 6.63% and 6.32% to 6.01%.
The recent escalation of the nationwide blockade and existing thrust hampered the average rate of 6.2% GDP growth of the last four years( Where is the limit to political violence–3rd January 2014).
The loss to the economy listed above bring in the debate on inequality raging in both the developed and developing world. The most advanced industrialized economy in the world–the USA–is also believed to have most unequal distribution of national wealth.
In Bangladesh and in other comparable societies the poor are hurt more than the rich because the poor have less shock absorption capacity than the rich. Gini coefficient, that measures the extent of distribution of income among individuals and households, last reported by the World Bank for Bangladesh was 3.12 in 2010 where 0 represents perfect equality and 10 perfect inequality. As the rich( noveau or otherwise) in most societies, particularly in ours, are believed to have cards stacked in their favour they even on occasions of hartals/strike take advantage of supply disruptions forcing farmers to sell their produce below production cost and in turn sell the same products to the city dwellers at exorbitant prices by forming syndicates.
Our political leaders would be well advised to seek the path of communication forsaking violence because in the ultimate analysis people seek peace and fast lose interest in an electoral process where their will is not fully expressed.
Uncontrolled violence also opens up the possibility of strengthening radical Islamists movement introducing an international dimension to our political crisis. The present government has to its credit suppressing radical Islamists by taking strong actions against them.
The continuing trial and conviction of those accused of crimes against humanity has done the nation proud. But the conflict between the ruling parties and the opposition parties combine, unless settled soonest possible, may encourage external forces to fish in troubled water.
One would like to hope that meaningful communication between the feuding parties would be restored and possibilities of interference would be denied to external forces.

The writer is a former Secretary and ambassador

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MODERNISM AND BANGLADESH-07-01-2014-INDEPENDENT

Friday, 07 February 2014
Author / Source: KAZI ANWARUL MASUD

There is a current debate that the advanced part of the world may have embraced post-modernism through disenchantment with the enlightenment and the “hegemony” of rationalism, and an emerging global culture though Jorgen Habermas argues that a post-secular world has emerged resultant of “a worldwide ‘resurgence of religion’: the missionary expansion , a fundamentalist radicalization, and the political instrumentalisation of the potential for violence innate in many of the world religions. A first sign of their vibrancy is the fact that orthodox, or at least conservative, groups within the established religious organizations and churches are on the advance everywhere. This holds for Hinduism and Buddhism just as much as it does for the three monotheistic religions ( Notes on a post-secular society). The question facing countries like ours where binary socio-economic structure exist between the haves and the have-nots along with some deviants of Islamic religion immersed in their own grotesque interpretation of pristine Islam posing threat not only to the West but also to Muslims who they consider to have deviated from the true path, though the essentialist construction of the people and the religion of Islam dominant in the western academic orthodoxy being grossly distorted, is whether we can call ourselves a modern society.
Before we shove ourselves into a pre-modern stage perhaps it would be useful to define modernism as generally understood as ” a socially progressive trend of thought that affirms the power of human beings to create, improve and reshape their environment with the aid of practical experimentation, scientific knowledge, or technology.
Modernism encourages the re-examination of every aspect of existence, from commerce to philosophy, with the goal of finding that which was ‘holding back’ progress, and replacing it with new ways of reaching the same end”. We certainly do not belong to the postmodern world that is essentially a rebellion, an adventure questioning the world as we see it and refusing to accept other peoples’ views as the final truth because we are still bound by traditions of culture and religion in a largely illiterate society.
Fortunately we do not suffer from either identity politics or tribalism stunting socio-political growth. Yet we are mired in destructive politics that contradicts the essence of democracy based on communication between and amongst people who are equally informed and capable of forming their own judgment. The overpowering influence of an individual or a group denying opponents equal opportunity to dissent is a regression to authoritarian rule and denial of modernism which presupposes re-examination of every aspect of life, from commerce to philosophy.
But is it necessarily so? Countries under authoritarian rule have posted impressive economic growth and have acquired technological development that would be envy of many developed economies. China today has become the second largest economy(GDP $15 trillion- per capita income $ 10253-2013 estimate) in the world beating Japan and may surpass that Gross National Product of the US( 16274 trillion-per capita income $52839- 2013 estimate) in foreseeable future.
Equally South Korea which was less developed than Bangladesh in the 60s now has become a developed country with a GDP of $ 1.777 trillion and per capita income of $ 34755- 2014 estimate) while Singapore, with developed country status has a GDP $ 327557 billion and (per capita income of $ 61046-2012 estimate).
While China retains communism as state philosophy South Korea and Singapore under General Park Chung-hee and Lee Kwan Yew respectively lacked democracy yet attained remarkable economic development. All three countries possess modern technology with infra-structure comparable to Western developed economies. Can one then assume that democracy does not have to be an integral part of modernism?
Ivan Krastev (Authoritarian Capitalism Versus Democracy– Hoover Digest March 30 2012) has posited ” The end of the Cold War was a blessing for the West because it left capitalism and democracy without an alternative, but it was also a curse because it forced the alternatives to democracy and capitalism to mutate (taking the forms of democratic or market institutions) and because it profoundly changed the relations between the elites and societies…
Globalization dramatically increased the number of middle-class people in the world, but it has eroded the foundations of the middle-class societies that were the distinctive feature of the Cold War West. Social inequality has increased in most Western democracies, and social mobility has declined. The global emergence of a hovercraft elite, increasingly borderless and emotionally unrelated to their societies, is the fruit of a 30-year process that we might call “the movement for the liberation of the elites.”
What distinguishes the new elites from previous generations of the rich and powerful is their lack of ideology and their escape from the restraints imposed by the nation-state. The social contract between rich and poor has been eroded by the ease with which the wealthy can stockpile their money beyond the redistributive power of the nation-state”.
One can see the emergence of plutocracy in Bangladesh. If one goes into the background of the members of parliament one would find that increasing number of the parliament’s members are business men/industrialists. Besides as the members before their elections have to submit wealth statement to the Election Commission one can find the wealth increase of the members and their families between the elections i.e. 2008 and 2014.
Since parliament members wield significant power not only through legislation but also due to various posts they occupy by virtue of their membership often public perceive them of being corrupt. Such perception is strengthened by periodic reports of Transparency International and some other international bodies engaged in ensuring good governance in developing countries.
Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz ( The Price of Inequality) has observed ” our economic system is seen to fail for most citizens, and as our political system seems to be captured by moneyed interests, confidence in our democracy and in our market economy will erode along with our global influence…..recent research in economics and psychology has shown the importance that individuals attach to fairness…the financial crisis unleashed a new realization that our economic system is not only inefficient but also fundamentally unfair”.
The questions of justice and fairness is receiving preeminence in discussions on distribution of national wealth. Due to high social cost the world is now debating whether in view of global meltdown Adam Smith’s theory of minimalist role by the government to lead a country “to the highest degree of opulence from lowest barbarism” is not an outdated theory after all.
Advocates of capitalism ignored that perfect marriage between demand and supply is a theoretical concept, particularly in places where few firms forming syndicates control the supply and price of commodities.
In economies like ours often captains of industry and commerce also dictate state economic policies either as pressure groups on the political authority or on their election as members of parliament. With the withering away of idealistic politics and the advent of commerce based politics and expensive elections politicians in both the developed and developing worlds have increasingly become dependent on the “suggestions” of plutocracy. Yet one has to take into account the fact that the demise of communism does not necessarily mean the victory of the philosophy that growth only means accruement of aggregate wealth of a particular nation because administration of any society must take into consideration the role of justice.
American sociologist and Harvard Professor late Daniel Bell observed: ” that capitalist society, in its emphasis on accumulation, has made that activity an end in itself. But no moral philosopher, from Aristotle and Aquinas, to John Locke and Adam Smith, divorced economics from a set of moral ends or held the production of wealth to be an end in itself; rather it was seen as a means to the realization of virtue, a means of leading a civilized life.. ..the community takes precedence over the individual in the values that legitimate economic policy.
The first lien on the resources of a society therefore should be to establish that “social minimum” which would allow individuals to lead a life of self- respect, to be members of the community” (Modernism and Capitalism). In our quest for becoming a middle income country our leaders have to remain informed of the distinction between needs and wants. In the words of John Maynard Keynes ” “. . . it is true that the needs of human beings may seem to be insatiable. But they fall into two classes-those needs which are absolute in the sense that we feel them whatever the situation of our fellow human beings may be, and those which are relative in the sense that we feel them only if their satisfaction lifts us above, makes us feel superior to, our fellows.
Needs of the second class, those which satisfy the desire for superiority, may indeed be insatiable . . . but this is not true of absolute needs”. Should the leaders lose their way into the accretion of wealth in pursuit of their aim to build a modern Bangladesh at the expense of the minimum needs of the common people then history will judge them harshly.
If the administration follows a fair and just policy for the betterment of the people regardless of socio-economic distinction into classes then they will continue to enjoy the confidence and support of the majority of the people of Bangladesh.

The writer is a former Secretary and ambassador

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