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Category Geo-politics

Nationalism threatens the European status quo

I am not saying that it’s a bad thing.
What I am concerned about is the position or non-position among the more progressive and green parts of the spectrum in England.
Many activists might be unaware that the European Greens work together with the European Free Alliance, a group of Nationalist parties, including Plaid & SNP to EA in the Basque country and beyond.

Yesterday, Belgium via its Antwerp election took a giant step to a split.
On Sunday, 21st October, the Basques go to polls where it looks like the nationalists will win two thirds of the vote.
Catalonia has a referendum on independence on November 25th.

But I have yet to witness any debate within the Green movement on what happens if Europe splinters into new states. Wallonia anyone? Catalunya?
The EU can forget about basking in the halo of a Nobel Prize (!). The position of Brussels would need to be resolved if Belgium split.

2014 looks to be a pivotal year..

a) Scottish referendum on Independence
b) 200th anniversary of Catalan subjugation into a Spanish state & elections
c) Belgian general elections
d) European elections

Europe is changing before our very eyes. We had better recognise this and adapt or state our position.
The fight against austerity is very much linked to rising nationalism. The English question may not be being asked right now, but it will. Much sooner than we think.
What I am very afraid of is that we leave those questions to be asked by the right wing who then go on to frame a debate which focuses on exclusivity, a barely-veiled racism and an immoral economic system which unites all three mainstream Unionist parties.

Farid Erkizia Bakht

P.S>
AFP reports the Belgian bombshell election this way:
Flemish nationalist leader Bart De Wever scored a breakthrough election win Sunday and immediately urged Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo to radically re-shape the federal state.

Hailing a “historic” victory for himself in Antwerp with big gains right across Dutch-speaking Flanders in local polls, De Wever said Di Rupo and his coalition partners should “assume your responsibility.”

With results from Antwerp almost all in, De Wever’s New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) bagged 37.7 percent and Socialist incumbent mayor Patrick Janssens 28.6 percent, and the win was underpinned by scores of 20-30 percent across the territory of six million people.

With backers readying for a party in City Hall, De Wever demanded negotiations “to enable both Flanders and Wallonia to look after their own affairs.”

In the run-up to tense 2014 general elections, he wants to turn Belgium into a “confederation,” effectively seeking fiscal independence for the Dutch-speaking north and French-speaking south although sharing areas like defence.

Only this, De Wever said, would allow Belgium as a whole to “find a path of solidarity,” which could also affect the future of Brussels, the largely Francophone EU, Belgian and Flemish capital.

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China and India at war October 20th

Fifty years ago this month, China defeated India in a short war in the Eastern Himalayan region, including South Tibet/Arunachal Pradesh and near Assam.
Today, both have almost half a million soldiers in the area and are upgrading their capabilities.
With Myanmar “open for business” and the US egging on India to “contain” China, this backwater is set to become a flashpoint this decade.
To complicate matters, a quarter of a billion Bengalis (in Bangladesh and West Bengal) are next door and will increasingly have a say in what happens in this region.

What should be a New Economic Frontier of peace, prosperity and progress could easily turn into a US-induced arena of conflict between two still poor countries (billing themselves as superpowers).
Let us never forget there are more poor people in India than in the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa.
The West of China especially rural areas still has grinding poverty. i.e. a poor population the size of Europe..

If Mao and Zhou en Lai had wanted, they could have sent their troops into the Ganges-Brahmaputra valleys and cut off eastern India & (then)East Pakistan.
History would have re-written. Nehru’s administration was a shambles and would not have put up a fight.
Today, the region needs to think ahead and look at Kashmir and Tibet through the same lens.
Delhi needs to admit it has misruled Assam and the rest of North East and must very quickly come up with a new Settlement and allow economic, social and environmental progress.
It won’t, of course.
So the scene is set for a short burst of ‘investment’ proposals to capture the fossil fuel reserves, build infrastructure into Myanmar and then watch as social and political turmoil put those aspirations on hold.
Very soon, this region will become the centre of the world’s attention, for all the wrong reasons

Farid Erkizia Bakht

Click below for an article from the Asia Times for reference (though with a health warning that it is skewed towards Delhi and thereby Washington)

http://atimes.com/atimes/China/NJ11Ad03.html

Morsi, a future coup if Camp David is re-visited

http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/NH31Ak03.html

Morsi delivers his calling card.
Another blistering article by Asia Times’ Pepe Escobar – the ‘opposition’s answer to Stratfor’s Kaplan.

Pepe hints at a US backed military coup in the medium term if the Muslim Brotherhood decides to renegotiate the Camp David accords and have a truly independent foreign policy

Si la izquierda egipcia se presentase unida arrasaría

olga rodríguez | periodista, autora de «yo muero hoy»

«Si la izquierda egipcia se presentase unida arrasaría»

Nacida en León (Estado español) en 1975, la periodista Olga Rodríguez lleva casi una década relatando las visicitudes de Oriente Medio. Recientemente ha publicado «Yo muero hoy» (Debate, 2012), una mirada a la primavera árabe desde el punto de vista de sus principales actores.
p015_f04.jpg

Alberto PRADILLA |

Rainad es una bloguera de Bahrein detenida en innumerables ocasiones por su labor frente al régimen colaboracionista con Arabia Saudí y Estados Unidos. Muna Saif, una activista egipcia que ha peleado contra los juicios militares a civiles. Ellas son algunos de los personajes que presenta Olga Rodríguez en su obra «Yo muero hoy», un recorrido por la primavera árabe escrito bajo el prisma clásico del reporterismo: salir a la calle y contar historias.

¿Revueltas o revoluciones? ¿Manifestaciones espontáneas o una mano oculta?

En mi opinión, estas revueltas han sido genuinas. Decir que los millones de personas que salieron a la calle lo hicieron empujadas por un plan conspiratorio de servicios secretos occidentales es dar la espalda a la ciudadanía que se ha jugado la vida exigiendo demandas revolucionarias como «pan, libertad y justicia social». Millones de personas en el mundo árabe han decidido dejar de ser esa mayoría en el sofá e intentarlo, conscientes de que Oriente Medio es una de las zonas más intervenidas política y económicamente.

¿No se ha producido un giro que ha terminado manteniendo el estatus quo?

Eso es lo que están intentando todos los enemigos de las demandas de las revueltas. Lamentablemente, en algunos casos lo están consiguiendo. Tratar de limitar la importancia de una rebelión me parece muy peligroso. La mentalidad de millones de personas ha cambiado para siempre. Se ha perdido el miedo. Hay un tejido social de protesta sin el cual la impunidad y la represión estarían siendo mayores. Y esto es muy importante. Tratar de reducir todo y extraer la conclusión de que no ha servido de nada es dar la espalda a realidad. La libertad no cae del cielo, se conquista.

La victoria de los islamistas en Egipto y Túnez ha cargado de razones a quienes rechazan los logros de la primavera árabe.

En Egipto, la suma de los dos candidatos a presidente presentados por la izquierda era superior a los votos obtenidos por Mursi o Safiq. De nuevo, si la izquierda se hubiese presentado unida, hubiese arrasado. Además, la Hermandad Musulmana es algo muy amplio. Sus líderes, en general, son personas adineradas, conservadoras en lo político y neoliberales en lo económico. Pero entre sus bases hay mucho trabajador que lleva años participando en protestas. También hay fricciones con los jóvenes. De todos modos, las demandas de tanta gente que ha salido a la calle no se corresponden con los planes políticos anunciados por organizaciones islámicas. Creo que a la larga la insatisfacción se perpetuará. Y es probable que dentro de meses o años vuelva a ser representada a través de nuevas manifestaciones y huelgas.

No se puede obviar que han existido unas intervenciones extranjeras que no obedecían al interés de las poblaciones autóctonas, como en los casos de Libia o Siria, y que han marcado las revueltas.

En Libia las revueltas estallaron de forma genuina, con unas demandas legítimas pero deformadas en el momento en el que se produce la intervención militar extranjera. En el caso de Siria, las revueltas contra el régimen de Al Assad se ven cada vez más secuestradas. Ahora es un tablero de ajedrez donde determinadas potencias internacionales están echando un pulso. La represión brutal del régimen está amparada por Rusia. Y, al margen de esa oposición genuina, se está viendo cómo entran en territorio sirio grupos extranjeros armados, algunos que se autodenominan yihadistas. Como dice una de las protagonistas del libro, «¿quién les ha llamado?». Cada vez se reciben más informaciones que hablan sobre intervenciones encubiertas lanzadas por vecinos como Irán y Turquía. También de países como EEUU, con presencia de la CIA en la frontera turca, o Arabia Saudí. Quien sale perdiendo es la población que se levantó contra el régimen.

Esta opinión no es compartida por sectores de la izquierda, que han defendido a los gobiernos de Libia o Siria.

Es curioso cómo la mayor parte de la izquierda árabe tuvo clara su postura respecto a Libia o Siria desde el principio: no a Gadafi, no a la intervención militar extranjera. No a Al Assad, no a la intervención extranjera que pretende secuestrar la libertad que demanda la ciudadanía. Esas voces se han escuchado muy poco. Y solo a través de ellas y de lo que hacen se puede entender la esencia de estas revueltas o revoluciones, que han consistido en tratar de dejar de ser súbditos para conquistar el derecho a ser ciudadanas.

¿Los intereses geoestratégicos se han impuesto frente a las reivindicaciones de los manifestantes?

Por encima de los intereses geostratégicos y macroeconómicos están los de la ciudadanía. Siempre. Y no podemos olvidarlo desde la izquierda. No digo esto desde la ingenuidad, ya que hay que tener en cuenta el poder de las grandes potencias. Pero, al menos para mí, por encima están los intereses de las poblaciones. Solo escuchando a los protagonistas se puede creer que se pueden cambiar las cosas y darte cuenta del carácter genuino de estas revueltas.

¿Los periodistas han vendido una imagen excesivamente amable de las revueltas? El papel de medios como Al Jazeera ha sido muy cuestionado.

No creo que se haya contado una historia bonita. Los medios de comunicación más convencionales sí que han ofrecido una historia absolutamente romántica de la primavera árabe, apostando, cada vez más, por el show y el espectáculo. Evidentemente, Al Jazeera ha jugado un papel fundamental y si no hubiese difundido esas primeras protestas en Túnez quizás no se hubiesen extendido. Sin embargo, pertenece al emirato de Qatar y se ha visto atrapada por sus propios intereses.

GARA

Zafar Sobhan: 2012 is 2006 in reverse

This is Zafar’s take on the change/renewal of power in Bangladesh.

Given that he is well connected, has been in the media for some time and knows how to analyse, his warning (veiled though it is) should be taken seriously. 

With all articles emanating from Dhaka, one must read between the lines and/or expand on a line (half said) to grasp the true implications of what the message really is. In other words, it’s going to be a hell of a lot worse than is being intimated here.

Ouch!

 

 

2012 is 2006 in reverse

AL is calculating that the country would rather have a one sided election than allow the army to step in to restore order.

he best way to understand politics today is to see that 2012 is essentially 2006, if not 1996, in reverse.

At first glance, 1996 seems like the more obvious analogy. In 1996, we had a BNP government with the Opposition AL calling hartal after hartal to demand the institution of a caretaker government to administer the elections. In the end, the BNP succumbed, passing a constitutional amendment to form the caretaker administration, and were booted from office, losing the subsequent election held.

Fast forward 16 years, and we once again have an AL government, with the BNP in Opposition. But in the intervening time, the AL has repealed the caretaker government law and plans to administer the next general election itself. Thus, the BNP today are essentially where the AL were in 1996.

But, psychologically, and also in terms of probable outcome, 2012 is more like 2006. In 2006, the caretaker government was in place, but still the AL felt that it was dominated by pro-BNP types and that the fix was in. In response, they hit the streets to ensure that there would be no elections.

What makes 2012 more like 2006 than 1996 is the options open to us and the probable end-games. Having recently repealed the caretaker government law, the AL is unlikely to be bullied into reinstating it (though that would be the smart and statesmanlike and shrewd thing to do). This movie won’t end like it did in 1996.

In 2006, the AL only really ever had one successful possible end-game. For a party in Opposition that refuses to go to the polls, there can only be one end-game. The best they could hope for would be to fight the government to a standstill on the streets and ensure that no elections could be held.

In the end, though, there is only one way for an Opposition party to come to power, and that is through elections. And in the end, if you don’t trust the government (or the caretaker government, as was the case in 2006) to hold free and fair elections, the only other entity capable of administering elections is the army.

The BNP may deny that this is their end-game, as the AL did in 2006, but what else could it possibly be?

The AL could pre-empt such a thing by reinstating the caretaker government. It would be an incredibly shrewd move on their part. Recall that the fracas in 2006 arose because the AL believed that the caretaker government was in the BNP’s pocket.

Now, having used all its powder to bring about a caretaker government, it would be very hard for the BNP to make a similar argument. It is possible that the whole repeal of the caretaker government law is an elaborate bait and switch, and that the AL plans to reinstate it at the last moment, but then pack it with their cronies as the BNP did in 2006.

Having fought so hard for the caretaker government, the BNP would then be wrong-footed, and have a hard time arguing against it, as the AL did in 2006. They would then be stuck with the caretaker government, even it were filled with crypto-ALers.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the game. All indications are that the AL will go to the mat on the issue and has no intention of compromising. The reason is that the caretaker government may provide an opening for the army to step in as it did in 2007. This is certainly a risk, and one can understand the AL’s hesitation. It doesn’t want what happened to the BNP in 2006 to happen to it.

All well and good. Unfortunately, the reality is that if the caretaker government is not reinstated, then the BNP will refuse to participate in the elections (with some grounds), and the country will once again come to a standstill. And that will open the door to the army to step in and adjudicate the matter.

The AL is calculating that the country would rather have a one-sided election followed by another five years of AL rule than sit idly by while the army steps in to restore order. It’s a fair bet; the Bangladeshi people are and always will be sceptical of army intervention, even for a short time and even in an ostensibly good cause.

But if the government’s popularity continues to plummet in the next year, and the general consensus is that the BNP would win fair elections, and if the BNP itself favours army-administered elections to AL-administered ones, then all bets are off.

Bangladesh: a central player in the New Indo-China

The rumour mill on social media networks, email chatter and Dhaka elite gossip is rife with the notion that there will be no election or no meaningful election in the winter of 2013……. the harbinger of a military re-entry into Bangladeshi politics….. Part Two of 2007 and that failed experiment of a ‘technocrat-led’ (or civilian-stooge-puppets depending on your point of view) regime backed by the bayonets of a military.

The rationale is that the armed forces are frustrated with the dysfunctional politics of a  democratic elite which cannot practice the first rule of democracy….. learn how to lose (an election) gracefully…..

Behind this forces are the Western embassies, just as they were in 2006 to 2008. Cast our minds back to that embarrassment of a British Ambassador (shamefully of Sylheti origin which makes his behaviour doubly odious as he acted as an unpaid PR spokesperson for a regime which locked up the two political leaders side by side, ironically next to the closed Parliament building).

Not one of Blair’s better moments of choosing Ambassadors from their countries of origin.

Of course, he was only showing his over-enthusiasm in a wider ‘diplomat’ project of World Bank and Euro-US institutions intent that Bangladesh ‘reach economic take-off’, naturally within the ideology of globalisation and neo-liberalism…..

And they were not alone.

Civil Society (a misnomer if there ever was one) or its Bengali equivalent of ‘Shushil Samaj’ is now an insult in many quarters because of their obvious collaboration with Western Aid Agencies and Embassies in providing Bengali intellectual cover for what amounts to a Takeover – twice done… First by external powers and then by internal elites, indifferent to the wretched poverty in the slums or the countryside, signing vapid tunes of being part of the Next 11 (thanks to that lovable, uncorrupt Goldman Sachs..)

Memories are short in elite Dhaka. So, power cuts in the heat and monsoon, tied to soaring food prices, general inflation, traffic snarl ups and bureaucratic logjams, topped by the family politics of a directionless political class… all lead to a shrug of the shoulders to rumours that there will be no democratic handover to another regime.

Why?

a) the current regime does away with the ‘caretaker’ system of a neutral government during elections to prevent accusations of electoral rigging..

who provided this advice, masquerading as a friend but as in Bengali politics since the days of Mir Zafar actually providing banana skins to slip up an unsuspecting political family?

The next election will be boycotted (as in February 2006) or ridiculed and challenged, leading to weeks of street unrest, with the inevitable call for the military to come in and ‘restore order’. There are various versions of this role-play…

b) the hamfisted approach with a leader of an NGO – revenge for his role in early 2007 and an aborted entry into politics. Lots of people have commented about that person and it’s old news. The point is that when Indian corporate and diplomatic bigwigs say: they are disappointed with the Awami League and ‘distressed’ about this episode and ‘witchhunt’, you know the writing is on the wall

c) the breathless entry of Hilary Clinton, US Secretary of State, in a game over the re-entry into Myanmar amid rumours (in the Indian press) about interest in the US 7th Fleet setting up a base in Bangladesh to project power across this new Indo-China region…..

Minor details such as the World Bank refusing a loan for a bridge are just decoration pieces in a jigsaw puzzle whose outline is easy to see…. the embassies and global financial institutions have decided that if they can do away with democracy in Europe (Italy and Greece), with their long time dictator allies in the Middle East, then they can ignore the desire of Bengalis and Bangladeshis to remain within a democratic system.

The stakes have gotten higher. On the global stage, the fate of Two Ladies wasn’t deemed worth supporting from 2006 onwards and only reluctantly accepted in 2008 because of street pressure….. that scenario is now set to return again..

The corporations salivating over the untapped riches in this wider region where serious money is set to be made in energy, engineering, telecom, banking, rail, road and agriculture…… where Bangladesh is blocking the way to the almost cut-off North East of India towards China and now the new frontier of Myanmar,….. … …. they want a political system that keeps the people off their back while they reap the benefits… in the nineties the fad was democracy (friendly to globalisation)… that era post-Lehman has gone….. now they are just as happy with the bayonet as well as the ballot box….

The point is what works, not what is right or moral.

The same feelings that ran through the veins and the expat bars in the foreign clubs of Dhaka about removing the 1975-81 hangover of politics based on two assassinations …. that has meaning to the people… it is an incidental detail pasted on a one page executive summary.. somethings which ‘holds up’ the bonanza….

Of course, they tried General Moeen…… remember him? No? His advice to eat potatoes……his present of horses by Delhi… his non-existent vision of a prosperous state (worsened by inadequate no bodies in a Vichy style cabinet)….?

Well, as I said, memories are short…

The elite and perhaps much of the middle class (let alone the ignored slums) have seen the politicians expend most of their political capital…

Like Western banks, the balance sheet has a big hole in it…. Credibility….

In a country with the incredible problems that Bangladesh has (for one, it needs a new Garments industry worth of jobs every 18 months to provide a living and hope for the youth entering the job market)…. legitimacy does not come with the ballot box, a lengthy speech in front of Pay-and-you-cheer bussed in crowd……. it comes with keeping the lights on, providing new lines for new connections, keeping food prices within reach of the slums and the apartment living middle classes and by providing the very basic in education, health and hygiene…

The people have set the bar very low… they ask for very little… but since 1971, no regime has delivered……

That is the backdrop to the coming instability in this state with regional ramifications….

What do you want to do about it?

This is the Indo-China of the 21st Century (1)

WIkipedia “Indo-China” and it will refer to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia and then onto the defeat of the French colonialists (so much for liberte, egalite e fraternite) and the ‘American anguish’ over defeat even though they killed 2 million Vietnamese, opened the path for Pol Pot and destroyed the jungles with Dow Chemical Agent Orange (soon to be seen at the London Olympics).

Geographically, it makes more sense to see Indo-China to the north west of this region.

Myanmar, Yunnan, the Seven Sister states, Bangladesh, West Bengal, Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet and Kashmir.

And this area is the new fault line in much of our lifetime. A Venn Diagram of states, provinces and regions in a Nuclear Neighbourhood.

The great prize for Washington is the ‘containment’ of China by building up India, making inroads into Myanmar and sowing discontent in Tibet and Western China up to Chongking.

The great prize for Delhi? (I don’t say India as like I never subscribed to the idea of ‘whats good for General Motors is good for America’ I also don’t believe that the neo-imperial tendencies of South Block and neo-liberal ideologies of Mumbai-Delhi are any good for the state of India)…….. a fulfilment of the urge to be the Asian superpower (piggy-backing the US) putting China back in its cage.

A necessary condition for Delhi is therefore economic, political and military domination of South Asia, a version of the ‘Near Abroad’ to use post Soviet terminology.

This 21st century Indo-China is the next frontline. The ‘re-opening’ of Myanmar should be seen in this context.

Essentially, this has the makings of the ‘Balkan Question’ of the 1800s up to the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and the onset of an epoch changing World War. This time it moves east, out of Europe into Forgotten Asia.

Minerals, Natural Gas, hydro-energy, cheap labour, a half a billion consumers, the gateway to the potential riches of Northern Indian gangetic plain and to South-east Asia up to Singapore and Hanoi as well as the untapped potential of Western China (a continent away from Shanghai and the Pacific Coast)…. added to the vital rare earths of Tibet and the perennial impasse (and half a million Indian troops) over Kashmir…… the armed national liberation movements in the Seven Sisters and the inexorable rise of the Maoist rebellion in the Strategic Corridor cutting the sub-continent in half from Nepal down to the Bay of Bengal.

In the next post in this series, we turn to a country in the middle of all this.. a population with a history of volatile politicisation, with a youth bulge and a desperate need for jobs, economic uplift to offset a looming environmental catastrophe…..