Category: Human Life

Ethnic Cleansing


According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, ethnic cleansing is “the expulsion, imprisonment, or killing of an ethnic minority by a dominant majority in order to achieve ethnic homogeneity”.

According to a U.N. Commission of Experts formed in connection with the atrocities committed during the Yugoslavian wars in the Nineties, “…… the coercive practices used to remove the civilian population can include: murder, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, extrajudicial executions, rape and sexual assaults, severe physical injury to civilians, confinement of civilian population in ghetto areas, forcible removal, displacement and deportation of civilian population, deliberate military attacks or threats of attacks on civilians and civilian areas, use of civilians as human shields, destruction of property, robbery of personal property, attacks on hospitals, medical personnel, and locations with the Red Cross/Red Crescent emblem, among others”. 

Now, unbelievably, there is ethnic cleansing happening in one of the ASEAN countries, and all members of the ASEAN grouping are keeping mum, in keeping with their stated policy of non-interference in each others’ internal affairs. I am referring to the systematic ethnic cleansing being carried out by Myanmar (erstwhile Burma) against its Rohingya Muslim community in the Rakhine State adjoining Bangladesh, which has created a humanitarian crisis with over 300,000 people fleeing from murder and rape being committed by perpetrators.

I had a strongly positive view of Buddhism and Buddhist monks who give up all their material possessions in search of enlightenment. I have mentioned to many of my friends that I am inclined towards seeking truth in Buddhism (as against Hinduism to which I belong by birth). I have always wanted a simpler faith which can show the path to enlightenment in a straightforward manner without the undue complexities involved in Hinduism, though fundamentally Buddhism emerged as an offshoot of Hinduism.

Now, I have to question my faith. When I see that Buddhist monks and Buddhist practitioners from Burmese society join hands and attack the Rohingya Muslims belonging to their own country, then the pacifist nature of Buddhism as a peaceful religion with peace-loving followers evaporates………in a white plume of smoke. And, all the expulsion, burning of homes, mosques, murder, rape, et al, happened with the absolute connivance of the Myanmar Government and the state security forces……..all of them being of Buddhist orientation.

There is heavy coverage of the plight of the Rohingya Muslims in the news media this past week, and so I am not going to repeat the key findings.

In the midst of all these happenings, the silence of Myanmar’s Nobel Prize Winner, Aung San Suu Kyi has been simply appalling. She is a powerful figure in Myanmar, and is globally known for her peaceful fight against the very powerful Myanmar Military rulers. She finally won that fight, but is was only a partial win. The Military still controls 25% of the Myanmar Parliament, and the silence exhibited shamefully by Aung San Suu Kyi is a witness to the domination of the Military when it comes to internal affairs. If she had risen up against the Military and said things to protect the Rohingya Muslims, things would have been vastly different now.

However, notwithstanding the ghastly attacks on Rohingya Muslims, and their forced evictions from their townships and homes, matters continue as though all is normal in Myanmar. ASEAN has not said anything of significance against Myanmar, and the U.N. is struggling with multiple crises around the world. In the meanwhile, Myanmar Government and security forces get away and continue their behaviour as though nothing has happened.

It is a complete pity that the world community is unable to stop the ethnic cleansing so systematically being carried out by the Myanmar Government. When there is no one to question, is it any wonder that things continue as usual under the pretext of “communal violence” or “national security”? Not at all.

I can only hope that the displaced Rohingya Muslims would eventually find their way back to their townships in Rakhine State with the approval and support of the Myanmar Government, which needs to understand that it is not yet recognized as an equal member in the comity of democratic nations of the world. It needs to prove its intent to become one by solving this problem, and changing its Citizenship Law to grant citizenships to Rohingya Muslims, and providing security to them.

Let us all hope this would happen soon.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

10th September 2017

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Finally he did it!


It is Sunday evening here in Singapore.

I sat down at my laptop for doing two things – checking the status of the system backup which was going on for more than two hours with a new software that I had installed, and writing my customary second blog post of the weekend. For the blog post, I had selected the latest Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough New Zealand to write about.

But alas, it was not to be.

My backup software was running fine, approaching almost the end of the backup process. I was not too concerned about it, except to check the progress occasionally (I like to see the % bar moving towards the 100% mark).

Then, it happened.

I checked CNN.com and there it was – blaring at me with a 100 tonnes hit. It was actually a 120 Kilo Tons nuclear explosion by North Korea’s mercurial leader, the young Kim Jong Un – its sixth nuclear bomb, which it claims to be a Hydrogen Bomb. And, it was some 100 times more powerful than the first one in October 2006 – a two point difference between the Richter Scale readings (6.3 now vs 4.3 in 2006) is equivalent to a 100 times gain in the power of the bomb. Further, to put this in perspective, a 120 KT bomb is 8 times more powerful than the atomic bombs that the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki!

So, finally, the young man is standing up to the twitter attacks from President Donald Trump. To start with, Kim Jong Un never much cared about Trump and his mindless tweets on “Fire and Fury” – he must have laughed it off. Given that some 26M lives are within his destructive reach, he knows that the U.S. cannot do much in terms of military action. And, of course, the U.S. knows it – not sure if President Trump knows about it. But then, given his finicky nature, it is going to be a very dangerous game of one upmanship in days to come. Kim Jong Un will deliberately provoke Trump, and Trump’s fingers are going to twitch – rather impulsively.

And, that could destroy Asia. Millions of lives (does the U.S. or President Trump really care about the loss of non-American lives?) are at stake. Huge infrastructure investments will be completely destroyed. Stock and property markets will crash. The global economy will go into a tailspin. Corporations will be under threat. Everything will go out of control in a nuclear war, and let us not be optimistic – in a nuclear war, Kim Jong Un can be expected to leverage every inch of weaponry he has, including all his nuclear assets.

The U.S. will eventually lose out. Japan will lose and South Korea will lose.

Is this war worth it? Not at all.

Why don’t we look at the advice rendered by another “bad” guy – President Putin of Russia. He said the most sober things couple of days ago (in my opinion, he always speaks sense, and far more sense than President Trump). He said that there is an urgent need for North Korea and the U.S. to enter into a diplomatic dialogue, and sort out matters. He said that North Korea should stop its missile launches and nuclear bomb testing, provided that the U.S. and South Korea stop their rather aggressive military exercises. Why provoke each other? There should be no pre-conditions to talks – world peace is a more critical objective at this point in time (I think it always is).

Given that Kim Jong Un has been grossly underestimated over his six-year reign, it is not inappropriate to expect more fire and fury, between the world’s two worst adversaries. At 33 years of age, Kim Jong Un now commands the attention of the world, far better and stronger than what his father was able to accomplish. I would call him “a young man with a destructive purpose aimed at safeguarding his country”, and with an evil mind which is comparable with the best that the U.S. has in its vast armoury of people and machines. What Trump (at age 70) is finding out however, is that Kim Jong Un is not going to blink easily, and his apparent blinking earlier in August was destined to fool others. He is running the show, and he is running it rather well. He is not about to give it up and surrender to the whims of an American President who he apparently does not respect that much.

Let us watch what happens when the White House opens for business on Sunday 3rd September to this news.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

03 September 2017

The Escapist Ride


I wanted to drive a longer distance than I usually do every day, and kind of enjoy the monotony of the road travel. I have had these strange urges many a time, and mostly these get ignored given the buzz of everyday routine. I sometimes wonder why we get these tendencies to get free from it all, and I suspect that it has got to do with some unique stress factors which play on one’s body and mind, and forces us to take respite, at least for some time.

While I am not going to explain the specific situations which could have forced me to take to escapism, I was a bit taken aback when my mind started urging me to take a break, and let the body glide into oblivion for some time. I am not sure if others get these urges, and I have not discussed this matter with anyone in my immediate circle. Of course, I was fascinated by the calling to go somewhere with a “free” mind.

I told my wife that I plan to take a “long” drive, and she smiled. How far can you go in a small city like Singapore? I told her that after buying the groceries she had wanted, I was going for a long drive on one of the expressways, and it might take me some time to get back home.

It was a public holiday yesterday, and so I expected the roads to be a bit easy, however, it was not to be. There were thousands of cars heading to the city in one of the expressways that I took, and I could not think or get the escapist feeling on that ride. I exited as fast as I could, and took another expressway going towards the northern end of Singapore.

Well, that was almost empty – I could have counted the cars in front of me and at my back. So, I launched the cruise control at a steady speed of 80 KMPH and let the car manage the ride. I was of course, watchful but got the feeling of freedom impinging on my body and mind. It was exhilarating. That lasted only for some 5 minutes till the first idiot cut across my lane just in front of me, forcing me to take control of the car by braking. Idiots dominate the roads wherever we go, since they are selfish and could not bring themselves to wait and give way to the rightful lane owners ahead of them. But that is the way it is, and we the sober drivers have to be very careful all the time.

When the trees whizzed past, and the car was swallowing the KMs, I let my mind wander a bit – where am I headed in life? What is going well and what is not? How are others viewing me and my behaviour and decisions? Who are the key people that I should focus on in life? Where is the world going? Do I have enough money to live out my life? When should I retire? Can I retire at all? What are the places in the world that I want to see along with my wife? How do I see the positive or negative impact of others? Why do people have mostly selfish motives? Why is collaboration so hard? How to make others believe in the purpose – large or small?

It was a good rumination – I have not captured all my thoughts above. The mind is a fast machine running at 1,000 KMPH and the car is running only at 80 KMPH. To cope with one’s mind, one needs speed tactics which would accelerate one to 1,000 KMPH even while remaining stationary.

I did some 50 KMs on the expressway (including detours), and then turned back towards my home. Apart from my desire to stay on the road for a longish time, my car was also probably thirsting for long rides (once in a while), as otherwise the engine does not reach the prescribed efficiency. It was a good ride, with many thoughts plaguing my mind, with answers for some, and only more questions for others.

I would not really call this “escapism”, but an urge to be on my own for sometime, away from others’ influences, or away from familiarity. The soul needs a different kind of attention, a certain calmness which one may not be able to get on a speeding car. However, the constant regurgitation of thoughts and answers and non-answers keep the mind thinking constantly, and facilitates a healthy coordination with the body. I do this also when taking long walks (which is everyday).

Each one of us find our own ways to deal with our body, mind and soul. It is not unnatural to be thinking differently and reacting differently, as each one of us is different from each other. It is important to sync our own selves with the environment and develop a calm demeanour which would help us greatly in dealing with our own life.

Enjoy the weekend,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

2nd September 2017

Visa to the U.S.


You thought wrong. This is not about Indian IT companies getting the much-coveted H1B visas for their IT professionals, which is under threat from the Trump Administration.

This is not about getting any visa to the U.S. As you are well aware, the U.S. will not grant visas to human rights violators, criminals, and convicted offenders. For more than a decade, the U.S. Government applied this policy against the entry of Indian Prime Minister Modi, till it was gently revoked without much fanfare. Mr Modi’s violation? He was accused of turning a blind eye in the midst of killings of around a thousand Muslims in his Gujarat State in 2002, where he was the Chief Minister, in the aftermath of violent riots.

President Obama reversed the long-established American policy after the Supreme Court of India could not find enough evidence to implicate Mr Modi and his state administration. Not only that, he embraced Mr Modi and his reformist agenda.

However, President Trump is not Obama – in fact, he detests any comparisons with Obama’s rule. Trump thinks he has achieved more than any other president of the U.S. in the first 100 days of his presidency. So, it was not surprising at all that he continues to delude himself, in the hope of achieving a lasting legacy. Not just for the next 1,360 days but may be for another 4 years after the conclusion of his first term, which is not inconceivable though there are a multitude of constituents who would dread that possibility.

Now, American human rights policy has hit dirt. President Trump has invited President Duterte of the Philippines to visit him in the White House. He has already met with the dictatorial President of Egypt – Mr Sisi, at the White House. He has welcomed the consolidation of dictatorial powers of President Erdogan of Turkey. He also used to like the strongman president of Russia, Mr Vladimir Putin.

Mr Duterte would not even be considered for a visa in the light of his murderous streak, killing thousands of his own citizens (more than 8,000 at last count) in the name of elimination of drug trade in the Philippines. How can a legally elected popular president be allowed to use his law enforcement machinery to kill the citizens in cold blood? Where is his Congress? Where is the Church of the Philippines? Where are the Courts of Law? And, finally, where is the conscience?

And now, President Trump is going to entertain President Duterte at the White House and legitimize all the killings which have happened and which are going to continue unabated because the leader of the so-called “free world” has endorsed the actions taken by Duterte thus far. How ridiculous it can get?

The U.S. Congress should not allow this visit with all its power and voice. Of course, Trump will do what he wants, but the U.S. should now clearly realize that it has irretrievably lost its bully pulpit of human rights advocacy around the world because of the completely wrong, adhoc actions of its President without much thought or advice whatsoever.

The ASEAN Summit, of course, cannot condemn any killings in member states, as that would be construed as interference and the construct of ASEAN is based on non-interference and non-criticism (I do not agree with that philosophy however). But for the U.S. to show a welcoming approach towards President Duterte at the current juncture is very wrong and is going to damage the standing of the U.S. in the eyes of the free world. There is no more free world in any case. Europe is the last bastion of freedom and democracy and even there a severe test is happening in France.

So to get a visa to the U.S. any elected representative has to commit murders – more so for the invitation from a sitting president. I do not buy the argument that Duterte got the invitation to ensure the Philippines remains as an ally of the U.S. against the interest of China – that shift has already happened.

What about the other dictators? Should they kill more of their own before getting the invite from President Trump?

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

01 May 2017

The Korean Crisis


North Korea has long been a problem child of the world.

Now, it has also become very dangerous consequent to its acquisition of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technology. Its vociferous claims that it will destroy the U.S., Japan and South Korea, have not gone unnoticed, and are increasingly being taken seriously while in the past such claims have been dismissed all too easily.

Any war on the Korean Peninsula is sure to kill thousands, if not millions of people, and devastate Asian economies. South Korea is a major global manufacturer, critical to the world’s supply chain in several key industries. Japan is not far from the Korean Peninsula, and there is bound to be huge impact on the Japanese economy as a result of any Korean conflict. And what about China which shares a border with Korea? Any war would have huge repercussions on China as a whole.

Is a war inevitable? It appears so if one reads/sees the world media. The war “noise” is increasing on a daily basis, both from the U.S. and North Korea. It is a fact that all Asian countries are dreading the prospect of an imminent war. It does not appear that President Donald Trump really cares about the impact of a Korean war on Asian countries and the global economy as such. Being unpredictable has been a success symbol for him, and he is more than a match in this aspect as compared to Kim Jong-un, Supreme Leader of the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea). Looks like in Trump, Kim Jong-un has found a tough, unpredictable, and surprising foe.

Notwithstanding all of the above, war is never inevitable. War, of course, should be avoided at all costs. War is really not an option in today’s modern, peaceful world. Sounds fancy, isn’t it?

It does, but I still believe that a genuine attempt has to be made, without any pre-conditions attached, to make peace with North Korea. This can only be made if all five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council jointly agree on a peace pursuit, and appoint an emissary to negotiate peace terms with North Korea. In return for a permanent suspension of all nuclear and ballistic missile testing, North Korea should receive monitored humanitarian assistance, equal treatment as a full member of the United Nations, trade benefits, removal of all sanctions, and recognition as a state on an equal footing with South Korea in all matters. All war games on either side will be suspended permanently. The Korean Armistice will be converted into a full peace treaty between North and South Koreas.

Looks impossible, right? But I believe not enough has been done on good faith from both sides for a very long time. It is critical to gain trust, and that is not possible when there are ballistic missile tests on one side, and war games on the other side of the 38th Parallel which divides the two Koreas. Sabre-rattling is not a good idea in a scenario of heightened tensions.

While the above positive situation could come about eventually, it is unlikely in the current context of who blinks first. I am afraid that President Trump might pull the trigger if the North explodes a nuclear device, and attack the test location with Tomahawk missiles like what he did with Syria recently. If that happens, then all bets are off. War will break out as Kim Jong-un will not accept the insult and the attack on his country, and will order his forces to attack the South with all its might. An all-out war on the Korean Peninsula will destroy most Asian economies and kill thousands of civilians, and could bring Japan and China into the war.

Such a situation is definitely not good for Asia and not good for the world.

Sober counsel needs to urgently prevail on both sides, and South Korea needs to aggressively push the U.S. not to launch pre-emptive strikes against North Korea. Japan needs to be more sober as well, not wanting to create an unnecessary war in its proximity. And, the U.S. needs to listen to its close allies and not make decisions on its own.

War mongering should stop urgently. Asia is now clearly on the brink of war, just as Middle East has always been.

Think! and, Think Again!! Peoples’ lives matter.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

16th April 2017

 

Chemical Attack


The Syrian armed forces and government crossed many red lines last week when they attacked a rebel-held provincial town with chemical weapons. I agree with the almost immediate response taken by Donald Trump, retaliating against the airbase which launched the attack planes and almost completely destroying it with Tomahawk missiles from some 1,000 miles away. The U.S. blew away the airbase while President Trump was having his talks and dinner with the visiting Chinese President Xi, giving yet another strong message about the invincibility and decisiveness of American control of airspace around war zones.

More than anything else, President Assad of Syria has been a cruel dictator, officially killing over 400,000 of his own citizens and sending away millions of Syrians as refugees to other countries, mainly to Europe. How can he justify mass killings of Syrians – families, women and children – whether they are held hostage by the rebels fighting his government or not. And, how can Russia justify any more support to President Assad?

President Obama missed a wonderful opportunity to eliminate President Assad way back in 2013, when the red line was crossed on chemical weapons deployment by Syrian armed forces. Most of the middle eastern countries, especially Saudi Arabia, were aghast that the U.S. would pardon off such a cruel dictator and not strike him militarily. That was a terrible mistake by Obama, and he would regret it forever.

Look at what happened – Russia supported Syrian Government, and strengthened its armed forces, which went on to decimate the rebel forces. The allied forces were more focused on ISIS, not on the continuous attacks carried out by Syrian armed forces against the rebels. Russia pounded both the rebels and the ISIS. At the end, the U.S. and allies ended up strengthening a dictator that they all along detested and wanted him gone.

President Putin of Russia should now sit up and think carefully about Russian support for President Assad. If he had not wanted the U.S. to attack the airbase, he could have told the Americans that he would protect the airbase with his S-400 missiles, or could have easily warned the Americans that Russian forces are at the airbase which therefore should not be attacked. He did not apparently take any action, and thereby corroborated the necessity of the U.S. missile attack, though Putin later said that the attacks were wrong.

Where is the world headed? We have a weak United Nations, and an ineffective UN Security Council, where the Permanent Ambassadors from the Big 5 nations talk tough but fail to reach consensus on any major issue of global interest, almost fighting with each other. How can the world trust these folks?

In any case, the chemical attack on poor people by Syrian government forces is unconscionable and unpardonable, and should be condemned whole-heartedly by the world. There are many quiet nations which keep their own counsel, but they will come to regret their inactions sometime or the other.

Just take time to see the pictures from the chemical attack. Horrible, horrible. On this one thing, I totally and fully agree with President Trump and his quick military action. How he will carry through further needs to be seen, but sometimes gut feel does produce results. President Assad should now know how an American attack feels, and how helpless he would be if President Trump chooses to attack his palace. What will the Russians do then?

It is critical for world leaders to condemn this reckless and horrible chemical attack on innocent civilians. President Assad needs to take total responsibility – he cannot lay the blame at the doorsteps of rebels. All chemical weapons were shipped out of Syria by Russia as per the agreement reached with President Obama, but apparently that does not seem to be the case.

At the end of the day, the world revolves on perception, and Syrian Government has done nothing to dispel any suspicion or perception about its hand in the attacks. And Russia is increasingly being viewed as a co-conspirator. This is not good for Russia.

Hopefully, rationale will prevail now, and President Assad will stop using chemical weapons like the deadly Sarin nerve gas. However, further actions must be taken against the Syrian government by world community. Russia should watch out as it also needs world support despite it being a super power.

Let us not kill our own people, or any people. The world needs peace for economic prosperity and growth.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

8th April 2017

 

Largest Humanitarian Crisis since 1945


I don’t know how many people read about this report by the U.N. which was presented to the Security Council last week.

Starvation. Famine. Deaths. Irreversible losses in economic development. 20M people affected. Scary headlines, covered in almost all major news media. But does anyone care?

Most countries are currently in the process of getting their national budgets approved by their respective parliaments. During the year starting 1st April 2017, more than a trillion dollars will be spent just by the top 20 countries in the world, just only on defence – military expenditures and investments. The U.S. alone will spend nearly 600B dollars on its defences, dwarfing every other nation on the earth.

How much money flows to impoverished countries on the planet? Far less than a trillion dollars every year. The U.N. Humanitarian Chief, Stephen O’Brien says that he needs USD 4.4B by July 2017 if significant positive impact needs to be made to save people from disaster and death. Is that too much? It is not even 1% of a trillion dollars, and here we are talking about children dying because of lack of nutrition, food, water and shelter.

This is a very precarious situation, not just for the four affected countries (Yemen, South Sudan, Northeast Nigeria and Somalia), but is likely to spread across Africa if urgent actions are not taken. The U.N. should be ashamed for not pushing the envelope on this matter to all its member countries and demand that immediate financial assistance be rushed to the affected countries. Yemen is plagued by a non-stop war which is utterly destroying that country and its people, and the U.N. has failed to stop the war. Things are going from very bad to really worse, and should the rest of the world take urgent notice? It should, and take expeditious actions to avoid the onset of famine and deaths (especially among children).

Intervention is key to not just halting the war in Yemen and South Sudan, but also to stopping the famine from taking root. Other countries have to intervene and stop the people from self-destruction and warring.

If children under the age of 5 are malnourished or severely impacted by famine, then the results will be disastrous for their future. The world cannot afford to let this situation continue.

Saudi Arabia should stop bombing Yemen which has caused untold misery amongst the people of Yemen. While there is not much news coverage on the Yemen situation, it can be culled out by concerted searches which would reveal the scope of the disaster confronting the poor Yemeni people who have been bombed out of shape by Saudi Arabia with military aid from the U.S. and the U.K. This is not a positive situation, and over the past two years, Yemen has gone from really bad to really worse. And continuing military actions have to completely stop with full access to the U.N. Humanitarian teams to provide urgent relief to the people.

The latest U.N. report covers only 4 countries, but makes for a very sorry reading. Can the world devote resources to avert famine and malnourishment in the affected countries – can each nation dedicate at least 0.1% of their national budgets to Africa? Can the U.N. Security Council act fast? Can the U.S. step in and show its magnanimity? Can Europe do something? Can China and India do something positive to alleviate the sufferings of these folks? We are talking about the poor people of Africa, who are already totally impoverished and with no access to food or water.

Come on, we just cannot sit there quietly and read the news papers and the internet and watch the cable TV channels. We got to do something impactful. Let us write to our respective governments. How about contributing just USD 10 every month to the U.N. Humanitarian Emergency Relief Fund? Let me go and check on that.

OK here it is –

https://donate.unhcr.org/int-en/south-sudan/?gclid=CLfu3fey0NICFYiBvQodxowF3w

Look up for yourself. Your money will go directly to the emergency relief fund. There is no politician here!

Cheers, and No Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

12th March 2017