Hey everyone! I finally applied for my Visa. Oh the horror of bureaucracy and procedures…I will write a book about that someday. Thankfully, the troublesome work is all done. Now the final journey prep, shopping, flight tickets, and a l-o-n-g wait…
As usual, in between when I was busy with all these, everything seemed to happen across the planet. Just like always, everything happens whenever I am preoccupied with personal commitments. British embassy attacked in Iran, tit for tat diplomatic retaliation by Old Europe against the Persian hooliganism, NATO bombing of Pakistani army posts and the subsequent posturing, increasing anti-western rhetoric by Russia, probably due to the upcoming elections, and a curious news of India taking over the training of 30,000 Afghan soldiers, from USA. Even though I didn’t write about those, I covered them on the FB page of the blog, and the Twitter. So if you don’t want to miss my extremely erudite and scholarly commentary, you can visit or join/follow the page and twitter. If you are actually interested in world affairs and international relations ofcourse.
However, they are old news. Wars and attacks and military et-cetera titillates the ephemeral thrill seeking human psyche. Something much more important is happening right in front of us, with a thousand times more impact, and one tenth of global coverage that the other pieces of news are getting. Continue reading
Sorry for not updating recently, folks…having a bit of a tough time…(No. Not the rapture…but hey, “I…I’m still alive…”)…but here’s a quick update on our neighbourhood…cause honestly, that needs a full single post…so here it goes…
Pakistan woos insurgent groups. WSJ comes out with it. Now whats new in that? Only this time they are bolstered by a MASSIVE Nuclear surge…here’s more news of it…(Just kindly note, that their country is in economic mess…people don’t have anything to eat, the education and service sector is in ruins…and the nuclear surge most probably comes from American Aid money…which is taxpayer’s dollars…and USA is also going in a spiraling abyss of debt for that…but that’s a different issue…it is a total chaos…)
And here’s USA’s ongoing reply to that…
The century, right from the start of it, was written in blood. Starting with the 9/11 World Trade Center terrorist attacks, and the Famous French newspaper declaration of “Today we are all Americans…”, the decade wrote a future of a whole generation, and forged the World, with the greatest clash of ideologies since cold war. The clash between “free spirit” and “state-community-religious dominance”. Some thinkers are even saying that this is the historic turn back to “Laissez Faire”, a revival of freedom, the way classical age philosophers defined.
Moving back to the modern proverbial “cold cruel” world, the thing that however got the attention of many was the resurgence of FRANCE. Often termed as Colonial Hangover by some cynical press, no one can deny, that the name of only one nation was in the middle of every major international crisis, starting from Afghanistan, to not being in Iraq, to mediating in between Russia and Georgia, to Libya and Ivory Coast. One man, Nicolas Sarkozy, made headlines, with declaring that he himself was physically and actively present during the Berlin Wall collapse, to sitting in front of Taj Mahal and dissing Pakistan during Joint-Statement, in one of the most scathing attacks ever by any modern era Head of the States during their visit to India.
India and France goes back in history, and modern India is just not only a democratic sister to France, (Democracy is a pretty rare thing in South Asia, and that way, even with faults, India is different than its neighbours!) but much more than that. But since India is an Anglophone country, and we don’t have much access to mainstream French media and French opinions and analysis, I decided to form a set of common questions, answers to which will explain the position of France and the common notions on its neo-assertiveness.
It was a delight for me, that my questions was answered by some of the best bloggers and experts on Geo-Strategy and International Relations. Olivier Kempf from Etudes Géopolitiques Européennes et Atlantiques, Yannick Harrel from Cyberstrategie Est Ouest and JGP from Mon Blog Défense replies to my questions in this discussion. I am also grateful to Clarisse Carnets, who helped me regarding ideation, of this interview. It was an absolute pleasure, working with them.
1. World is seeing a resurgence of French International Relations. Right from joining NATO actively, to brokering a truce between Russia and Georgia, to active military muscle flexing in Libya and Ivory Coast. New found confidence, sudden realization of real politik or economic invincibility in European Union?
Kempf : France is used to act as a power, which may surprise from a European point of view. A kind of disinhibiting that contrasts with other pruderies…. What’s new is the acceptance of “national” action, out of “entangling alliances” (G. Washington), both in NATO and EU.
Harrel : The French political system is especially presidential. It is depending enormously on the personality of the President. However France never left the foreign policy arena : it used more its soft power than its hard power formerly. In 2003 for example, France refused to engage in Iraq: its influence on the international affairs was important but of another nature. Strong activity is not synonymous with great effectiveness. It is true however that because of its universalism mentality, France cannot adopt an isolationist position on the most important international matters.
JGP : Let’s put it straight: France is not the world’s leading power, but it has some strong (diplomatic, economic, military, cultural) assets to defend its interests that spread all over the globe, which is quite rare for a country of only 60 million people. Even if its influence (and the results achieved!) in all the examples quoted in the question must not be overrated, this “resurgence” is in the continuity of quite an old vision according to which France has a “special mission” in international relations.
Furthermore, the absence of political union and leadership at the European level encourages the main countries of the Old Continent to take unilateral or bilateral (in the case of the newly (re)created France-UK couple) initiatives.
2. World opinion of Sarkozy varies from an eccentric emotional lover boy, to a man who is very practical and shrewd, to a patriot who wants French dominance in World affairs back, even with a streak of dictatorship, to a man who is running after personal glory and immortality, and a place in history. Which one is true…or is it everything together?
Kempf : He is a pragmatic, which is a surprise, when you compare to the image foreigners have of French character, usually considered as theoretical, ideologist…But here, Sarkozy is mirroring French character, much more globalized than believed…
Harrel : It is too early to conclude yet : on the international scene, it takes years to establish an assessment of the conducted actions. A fact is however undeniable: universalism leads the French President and his foreign ministers to be attentive and active. The selected manners and options are not always the good ones but the current President is the fruit of this political practice.
JGP : From a purely French domestic perspective it is quite to answer as we lack hindsight, being engulfed in the politicking game, one year before the Presidential election. One may say that, like all first-rank politicians with a big ego, Sarkozy’s main objective is to get elected and leave a trace in History. Some observers in France think he has, with his manners, desecrated the presidential function. Anyway, speaking of dictatorship may be excessive, even though there is an authoritarian trend in many European countries.
3. Burqa Ban…good, bad, ugly? Necessary, irrelevant, baseless? Cultural jingoism, Liberty equality fraternity, Islamophobia?
Kempf : No. Essence of the French national balance, made of secularity. French passion is not freedom, but equality. Showing one’s face is the signal of that equality.
Harrel : It is a domestic policy very related on its history and the constitution of the Republic. “Laicité” is one of the main republican principles which is very specific to France. It is a very contemporary debate to know if this principle must evolve or if it must remain frozen. However and as in 1905 (date of the first law of “laicité”), this debate has also repercussions in the international environment : the French authorities cannot be unaware of this reality but they must firstly decide what is best in the interest of the social peace.
JGP : Based on the very French concept of “laïcité” (stronger than mere secularity / secularism), this law, according to its supporters, aims at ensuring human dignity and equality by “living the Republic with an unveiled face”. The ban applies both to burqa and niqab, worn by a few hundred/thousand women out of the estimated 5 million French Muslims, in all public spaces. It thus concerns only a small minority that some moderate Muslim authorities have described as “sectarian”. It must be linked to the broader concern in Europe (and the Western world) towards Islam and Muslim immigrants from Africa and Asia, and the recent electoral successes of far-right parties in several countries.
It could be “interesting” though to see how French policemen will enforce this ban on the Champs-Elysées when the place is full of rich Saudi tourists.
4. We have seen French reservation on NATO. France have always advocated democratic values, but we see a little different behavior in regard to different Middle Eastern countries…is that going to be self defeating in the long run?
Kempf : I don’t understand what you mean by mentioning the link between French reservation to NATO, and the advocacy for democratic values… As regards the intervention in Libya, that’s a bet for future.
JGP : Almost any country in the world can be accused of double standard policies, even China who pretends not to interfere in domestic affairs. However, it is also true that France often presents itself as a human rights champion (“le pays des Droits de l’Homme”). This leads to some contradictions when real politik and short term interests contradict moral values. Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Bernard Kouchner even stated that there was “a permanent contradiction between human rights and a state’s (even France) foreign policy”.
In the long term, it could be relevant for France to stop giving the impression that it continuously teaches a lesson to the entire world, while at the same time supporting dictators in its former colonies. Maybe we should invest in more backstage lobbying, which may not be as grandiloquent, but surely more effective.
5. What should be French position regarding Israel and Russia? How is the newly assertive France looking forward to engage the two most contentious foreign policy issues that have dogged her in the recent times?
Kempf : With Israel, believe in French pragmatism. With Russia, a shared interest.
Harrel : Only one word: pragmatism. France was always very concerned by the questions of the Mediterranean world, it is logical consequently that each country of this geographical zone is not indifferent for it. Russia is a historical partner of France: the negotiations are not always obvious but often the shared interests make it possible to overcome the differences.
JGP : In both cases France and Europe must seize the opportunity to play a go-between role: while the US have always been our natural ally and partner, their position, especially in the Middle-East, is not totally aligned with our own interests that could benefit from a more assertive involvement.
6. Finally, France and India share historic relations. Its one of the most successful defence partner of India, and is commonly known as democratic sisters. France was the only country who didn’t sanction India after Nuclear tests, and even supported India in relation to Pakistan. We see the “deal of the century” 126 fighter jets, which can change the geo-strategic balance of the South Asia, might also go to Rafale, which is in the last stage…how significant is that on a strategic and global aspect?
Kempf : There was a long French neglect towards India, since the decolonization. The French dream of Asia was incarnated in Indochina, with the well-known output it results in: from that time, France abandoned its fascination to Asia. It’s coming back by the last ten years, with a new fascination to China. However, France should bet on India, who is a better challenger, used to look for a “third way” since decades: between US and USSR yesterday, between US and China today. Capitalizing on that shared interest would be a good idea for both parties.
Harrel : France cannot be unaware of India, both for major economic opportunities as for historical relations. This “deal of the century” would be especially an excellent opportunity so that French and Indians learn with better knowing and appreciate each other. The economic exchanges must especially be reinforced by political, military and cultural exchanges at the highest level. This geopolitical prospect is filling with enthusiasm because realistic for the two States. France does not have any dispute with India, and India could count on France to have a serious support within the European Union and the United Nations.
JGP : The interest for India in France goes back to several centuries, especially thanks to Antoine Hyacinthe Anquetil-Duperron, a famous orientalist who translated the Upanishads into Latin in 1804. Today, India is seen in France as a first-class world leader in the making, a kind of democratic alternative to China. But it’s true that this latter exerts a far greater fascination on our leaders and medias, even though India is seen closer to the West (on a strategic perspective).
After the Indian nuclear tries in 1998, France differentiated itself from most of the international community because it wanted to maintain the dialogue on non-proliferation, seeing India as a reliable strategic partner. France is also a strong advocate of a better integration of India and other emerging countries in global governance (G20, UN…), to counter-balance unilateral (US) or bilateral (US / China) initiatives. However there is also the perception that India is becoming an economic rival, especially in the high-tech industry. This perception is reinforced by the fact that France is only a minor investor in India. During his latest official visit in December 2010, President Sarkozy insisted on strengthening our economic ties: more investments, more exchanges by 2012.
Regarding this MRCA “deal of the century”, it could indeed seal a long-term partnership. The competitor to the Rafale in this last stage of the process is the Eurofighter Typhoon: this reveals a lack of European cooperation and integration that may constitute a threat for our technological and military independence. France has been so far unable to export its Rafale, which questions, should Dassault lose both in India and in Brazil, the future of our fighter jet industry.
2. Burqa Ban (in France!). Oh man…exactly how many op-eds came out supporting, and dissing this? Millions…here’s one more, for all those who were saying its a matter of choice for the women, to decide on what she wants to wear…and not the state and the community.
3. This is the best news I have read so far, a speech by Mahmoud Ahmedinejad of Iran. Apparently, the Arab-Persian, Shia-Sunni, centuries old sectarian clashes are all created by USA. Who would have thought that. Some brilliant A1 piece of oratory we see here.
“America and its allies are trying to create an Iranian-Arab tension, they seek to sow discord among Shiites and Sunnis… but their plan will fail.” (Yes, for centuries…the first one to create this discord among brothers is probably George Washington.)
On a side note, however, as he said that speech, 12 Iranian engineers were kidnapped in Afghanistan…by the Talibans.
4. Its a ongoing fashion in Africa, to have riots, and civil war, just as after someone wins a Presidential elections. This time in Nigeria, a man named, Goodluck Jonathan won the elections, and is set to be the new President. Immediately after that, riots broke out…
5. Epic. The aftermath of the Egypt revolution, which USA supported…
(My other Op-Ed in Washington Examiner, on the same issue, here.)
Most of the serious students and followers of International relations have probably read about the Clash of Civilizations by Samuel P. Huntington. For the uninitiated, it is a upcoming clash between hardline Islamic and non-Islamic World that will define the future of the Planet.
It seemed true with Nicolas Sarkozy who called for a ban of Burqa in France, calling it to be a “medium of subversion” of women. (For reference, read the BBC’s charting of the current situation regarding face veil in Europe.)
Now apparently this is a tricky issue. I am a born Hindu Brahmin, practicing hedonist, absolutely and utterly irreligious, and to be quite honest I don’t have a clear opinion about this. So I would not try to give any expert Op-Ed comments.
But I will point out some interesting situations which I noticed across relating to this…
Fact number 1: Muslims are all over the World are conservative.
Also, just in case, Turkey, and Syria have banned any kind of religious dress code too.
Fact number 2: Streetfights across France and England as an immediate aftermath of the Burqa ban.
I don’t know how to define this. The faces of hate, on both sides of the spectrum, which we are seeing of the English Defence League, and the Sharia for Europe groups are both equally despicable holy bunch of degenerates. (Am sure there is a pun in there somewhere…!)
Interesting to see people fighting in the streets, both side arguements based on freedom…on one side, freedom from religious subversion, on the other side, freedom of choice…
Now, as of me, I personally don’t appreciate any kind of rules by State (or for that matter anyone, regarding anything, am against rules)…dress code or not. The State, or community, (like the North Indian Hindu Khaps) ideally do not, or should not have any right to dictate, only except when it is matters of security, like Passport photos and security checks etc.
Similarly I also believe in freedom of practicing, preaching, and propagating one’s own religion, as long as it is not being a menace to society. If someone. deliberately wants to wear face veil…fine…its her own choice…
But I also agree to the counter point…that the women, who are NOT willing to wear a face veil, should not by any way be forced…by any one…in the name of religion, honour or anything. Unfortunately we see a lot of subversion, and force, and even honour killings, just cause some woman wanted to be different…that is the sad extreme other side too. And that is very much prevalent.
I also agree to the arguement that migrants should not show absolute blatant disregard for the customs and traditions of the host country, and should by no way show a dignified middle finger to the laws and constitution of the land.
Being an indifferent and unbiased observer, a silent spectator of events that I think myself to be, I don’t know, nor am I sure of the long term fall out of this. The only thing I am sure of is, that this “Clash of Civilisation” is going to be one of those defining moments, which might change the course of history. Whether for better or worse, only posterity will tell…
I was looking back at my blog, and couldn’t find the last time I actually came out with a “World Watch” piece. The last few pieces were so unbelievably
boring serious, that I guess I owe my readers with one view on the rumors thats going on the internet. So here it goes…
2. At one point of time, the Germans used to fight the whole world alone. And the French used to surrender. Well, not anymore. France, the country which was surrendering to almost everybody since say about 200 BC, was the first country to bomb Libya, as Germany moved away its warships from the Mediterranean in order to be out of any conflict. And now, after Libya, its the turn of Cote d’Ivore. Okay that sounded hideous, Ivory Coast. France is on a roll, and Germans are shying away from the war in Libya. Strange, strange times! Can we call this the French blitzkrieg? Or that will be too politically incorrect?
Bottomline, French armed forces technology came a long way from this.
3. This is amazing! Guess who’s the “original King Julian” of the dance floor?
5. ” The reality is that Obama has some 15 countries in the current Libya coalition. President Bush put together close to 50 countries for the Afghan coalition, some 40 countries for the Iraqi coalition, more than 90 countries for the Proliferation Security Initiative and over 90 countries in the Global War on Terror, and yet as your question suggested, he was called a “unilateralist.” “
That sums up this absolute gem of an interview of Donald Rumsfeld, in Der Speigel. A must read.
But this is not the first time this kind of internal disagreement is happening. NATO was formed to counter the Soviet challenge, and global communism. Many paranoid countries joined the protective nuclear umbrella of the democratic big powers, namely USA, UK and a handful of western European states.
With the break up of the Soviets the cause and motive of NATO became non-existent, and it rapidly included several former east European communist countries, who now were wary of Russia on their borders. But the inevitable dilution happened.
NATO never owned up collectively against global crisis post Soviet breakup. The Yugoslavia breakup in the mid 90s saw NATO operations, which were severely mismanaged until USA took over the campaign. During and after 9/11 the article 5 (an attack on one member is an attack on others) of the NATO charter was invoked for the first time in the history of the organisation. But even after that the contribution of troops of NATO in Afghanistan and Iraq remained hilarious.
Which is obvious. In a December 2009 article in Bombs and Dollars, I argued how European complacency, and isolationism is proving to be disastrous for world peace.
There are greater dangers now. While the world remains glued to the historical events in Middle East, a little known even went unnoticed. The border clash between Cambodia and Thailand proved China is no longer sitting idle and is actively influencing global politics.
Not only Cambodia. China is influencing Pakistan against its main democratic rival India, which is basically a bid to take control of the trading routes in the Indian ocean, which is still mostly controlled by US and Indian navies and where it is still not a major player. It is also directly challenging the communication and military supremacy of the USA.
During the George Bush presidency, Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice tried to formulate the democratic “Asian arc of freedom” with Japan, Australia and India, dubbed as a “little NATO” by a nervous China. But Australian lack of interest, and subsequently Obama presidency somehow stalled the initiative.
With the new Libya crisis, it is proved again, that USA is to take all the burden with the other European countries mostly disinterested or unwilling to commit its resources in global conflicts. Its about time to scrap NATO, and redraft, formulate and finalise the actual “coalition of willing” of the democratic countries across the globe to face the genuine challenges facing the 21st century.
And for sanity’s sake, this time lets not admit countries which come only for the glamour and show of it.
1. Kashmir, once known as Heaven on Earth, and probably now better known as the place which in modern history saw the greatest religio-political turmoil ever…is going to face another Crisis…
4. South Korea, known as the France of Asia, for cowering down regularly to North’s aggression…finally shows some spine…in Somalian border…
5. And history made, as we lived through an Arab revolt…
Village wiped out of map after US offensive.
Guess who’s back?
Guess who’s back, part 2?
The New Cold War in Afghanistan…
Finally after almost half a year in Public Relations…I realised something…
” You love playing with that. You love playing with all your stuffed animals. You love your Mommy, your Daddy. You love your pajamas. You love everything, don’t ya? Yea. But you know what, buddy? As you get older… some of the things you love might not seem so special anymore. Like your Jack-in-a-Box. Maybe you’ll realize it’s just a piece of tin and a stuffed animal. And the older you get, the fewer things you really love. And by the time you get to my age, maybe it’s only one or two things. With me, I think it’s one… ” – Sgt William James (The Hurt Locker)
The thrill, excitement, adrenaline rush, and most importantly the freedom is back…am getting back to Journalism, baby…
1. Finally…Belgium stands united in banning the Burqa. In a bold development, Belgian lower house of the Parliament, unitedly banned the Burqa, and/or the Niqab, siting it as a medieval subversion of women, and a walking prison. This comes after, Switzerland banned Minarets late last year. France is also going the same way, and there is a strong anti-veil movement in Netherlands and Denmark as well. Well, Europe is again showing us the way. The Jihad is finally stopping at the “Gates of Vienna” again. Now will the politically correct, and unbelievably moronic Asians and Americans follow? Or will they be still confused in debating human rights, defined by the left-liberal intellectuals? Time will speak…
“If senate approves it now,Belgium wd be the first country to ban the burkha.Hope they will do it to free women from being a mobile prison.” – Taslima Nasreen, Twitter.
2. Okay, fear grips Nepal, as Maoists plan “massive and indefinite” agitation from today, May 1. Unconfirmed reports that Maoists have started looting and demanding cash and food grains, from the traders and businesses, probably for the future. Well, the democratic Maoists are pretty much against the democratic mandate of the elected government, it seems…
3. Thailand chaos is slowly getting more and more surreal…
4. The most damaging spy, in the history of NATO. He was born out of wedlock. Probably a lovechild of James Bond.
5. Yulia Tymoshenko, Ex-PM and opposition leader of Ukraine, who looks like an elf straight out of the Lord of the Rings (and a “b-a-b-e!”), says that Russia wants to destroy their sovereignty… (Well, if you need asylum pretty…India is always a good option! Jus saying!)