A while ago I inherited an enormous box of letters that my wife’s grandfather wrote to her grandmother while he was away during WW2 in India. Here is one of those letters. This one is slightly graphic so I will put it under the fold. All grammar and spelling is left as it was in the letter.
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Archive for the 'India' Category
A while ago I inherited an enormous box of letters that my wife’s grandfather wrote to her grandmother while he was away during WW2 in India. Here is one of those letters. This one is slightly graphic so I will put it under the fold. All grammar and spelling is left as it was in the letter.
I have a new piece up at Pragati Magazine this morning, which focuses on a book review of Makers by Chris Anderson:
….If anything, Anderson has managed to understate the velocity with which the technology is advancing and the creative uses to which users are putting their machines. Since the publication ofMakers, a succession of news stories have revealed everything from Formlabs’ slickly designed Form 1 machine to users printing functional (if fragile) assault rifles, car bodies and biomedical surgical replacements for missing pieces of the human skull. One gets the sense that the genie is out of the bottle.
Anderson is not merely making a technologically oriented argument , but a profoundly cultural one. In his view, the existence of the Maker movement, operating on the collaborative, “open-source” ethos is an iterative, accelerative driver of economic change that complements the technology. Anderson writes: “…In short, the Maker Movement shares three characteristics, all of which are transformative:
Read the rest here.
Crossposted from zenpundit.com
Posted by Lexington Green on 18th February 2013 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.
The Taj Mahal is as beautiful as you’d expect it to be. It is in Agra which used to be an earlier capital of India. We arrived early in the morning trying to get a sunrise shot but the light wasn’t right. We still had an opportunity to take great pictures.
This is the classic front view. Sometimes if you waited long enough you could get a picture with a better reflection and with no people in it but I wasn’t that patient.
Since the site is so massive it is hard to get all the minarets in one photo. Here is a view from up front on the side. Once you understand the scale of this it is even more amazing to think that they proposed building a version of the Taj Mahal in Dubai that is even larger (and includes a hotel).
As an American traveling abroad I am often ashamed that I only know how to speak English. In India this wasn’t a significant problem because we stayed at tourist hotels and had guides and other friends that spoke multiple languages. While English is one of the “common” languages of India and many, many people spoke it like everything else your results would vary especially when it came to taxis or drivers who only knew rudimentary terms and probably were just nodding and not comprehending when I talked to them. In any area remotely tied to tourism the signs were in English as well as in the local languages. The only signs that were rarely translated were the various political campaign posters appealing for voters.
At the beautiful Amber Fort I saw this sign that had been dutifully translated into English but was perhaps the most boring historical marker I’ve ever seen.
I understood what they were trying to say at the Taj Mahal but the words aren’t “quite” right.
Sometimes you see a sign and it cracks you up. This was a big fireworks brand and everyone was shooting off fireworks for Dawali. For days afterwards you’d hear “booms” during the day as people probably stumbled upon rockets that didn’t go off and they re-lit them.
Some signs need no translation. I didn’t go inside but I know they don’t serve beef.
This billboard wasn’t really translated but you can clearly see the sign. This is often what happens to a Western traveler that eats the food – you can see the guy throwing up and someone else sweating it out on the toilet. This is called “Delhi Belly” at least while you are near Delhi can’t speak for the rest of the country.
Cross posted at LITGM
Travel from the US to Asia has been shortened by use of the “Polar Route“, which means flying over Greenland and the north and then traveling across Russia to Asian countries. It should have been obvious to me that we were taking the polar route since it was a long, direct flight out (to Hong Kong, with connections) but I really didn’t think about it until we started flying north, over Canada.
As someone who has spent their entire life studying military history, particularly the Russian fronts, it was fascinating to me that I was actually flying over that country. When you are up over Canada and over Russia and looking at the sparsely populated map on the flight display it does get a little unnerving. When I got back home I looked up the “diversion airports” and there are a few here and there over Canada and then over Russia but it is a long way between them in what would be the dead of winter.
Also interesting is the distorting effect of Greenland on maps as you near the north pole. Greenland is actually about the size of Mexico but of course it seems enormous due to the distorting tendency of common mapping technology.
On the outbound flight we were in a United 747, a four engine aircraft. On the return flight we were in a 777, a two engine aircraft. It is a bit scary to fly over the far north in an aircraft that presumably wouldn’t get far on a single engine. To make matters worse we were waylaid on the tarmac for a few hours before we took off due to “engine troubles”. We made it, but it was a bit hair raising. Per wikipedia there haven’t been any serious incidents with the 777 but our faith in mechanical airplanes is truly amazing.
I also learned to sympathize with flying from the developing nation point of view. The Delhi airport was busy at 2:30am because flights take off in the wee hours of the night in order to arrive in the West at a reasonable hour. It was brutal for me to stay awake that late and it didn’t seem to help my jet lag which I really wasn’t cured of for over a week.
Cross posted at LITGM
In my time in India I was struck by how much obvious wealth was on display. We stayed in Gurgaon, which is one of the richest areas of India. Per wikipedia there are over 40 malls in Gurgaon, many of them brand new and built in a striking style and visible from the street. They also had multiple high end retailers including at least two Kohler stores and many other interior designers.
The cost of real estate is also astronomical, especially for what is considered to be a developing country. The condos in that building in Gurgaon in the photo above likely went for between $500k – $1M USD. There is a shortage of land on which to build and a second shortage of high end “western style” modern facilities, thus driving up the price on both. If you have a large stand alone house (likely passed down in your family) in a major city it can easily have a value greater than $1M USD.
In the past when India was under severe socialism and cut off from the West I remember photos of their obsolete cars that were produced for local consumption. Today on the streets (among the tuk tuks and often animals and scooters) you can see many modern autos made likely by local companies in partnership with major auto manufacturers – they are not obviously different from what you’d see in the West.
Even in Gurgaon you can’t really walk outside as you can in the West. You need a driver or a car to get anywhere. Part of this is due to the way the area was developed but another element is just that even in the richest area myriad people are continuously on the streets and you’d be endlessly hassled if you went out to take a jog or something.
Then there is the rest of India. Since we didn’t seek out poverty we only saw what was available from the side of the road. There were many smaller towns and settlements, with businesses (usually selling snacks, mobiles, or car parts) set up in dilapidated buildings among other abandoned buildings. It is common for people just to urinate outside (like that guy in the corner of the photo) and many of the settlements looked like they had no proper sanitation or sewers and garbage was strewn about (although likely picked clean of anything of value).
You start to understand what Malthus was talking about when you see a tiny plot of land being farmed (often by hand) with a little hut without electricity (and I assume water, too) and then likely there are multiple children living with that family. That bit of land barely feeds who is there now, much less leaving much for multiple kids to inherit. The drive to leave and seek work elsewhere is always present as a result. I didn’t see it but someone we were with noted a woman having a child out on the street when we were passing by. That is the kind of eye opening thing you don’t see in the west.
In the richest areas of India you can live like you do in the West, albeit with many more servants and you can’t walk anywhere (need a driver). The prices, if anything, are higher than many areas of the West. As for the rest of India, you can see the great challenge they face with poverty.
Cross posted at LITGM
In India we saw a wide variety of animals. We weren’t on any sort of nature excursion and only saw those that happened to be at our popular tourist locations or out the window of our bus as we sped by (or sat in traffic).
The most famous were the elephants at the Amber Fort. At 8am they begin queuing up for tourists and you can ride on their backs 2 at a time (they apparently used to do 4 passengers but then went down to 2 after complaints from activists). Our elephant was slow and a bit balky but it was a lot of fun. This elephant coming towards us was made up for the Dawali holidays apparently.
Due to the fact that I was pretty much limited to coffee, bottled water, and beer, I spent a lot of time looking at that brightly colored bird on the Kingfisher beer bottle.
All that nature study came in handy when a Kingfisher came and landed right in the pool where we were staying!
Cows of course were everywhere. Cars stopped for them and many of the cows looked to be in decent shape, although some were getting old in the tooth.
Since I spent a lot of time in the power generation business I am always interested in electricity systems. India is probably the first country I’ve ever been to where you can regularly witness electricity theft from the system on a large scale.
The electrical systems seemed to be reliable during the time I was there, although it was likely “low season” since it wasn’t very hot out (November) which I assume sets the peak demand for India.
The power routinely turned on and off in one of the hotels I stayed at. The lights would go out completely for a moment until the “hum” of the backup generator kicked in. Likely the inclusion of backup power is an absolute requirement for the type of higher level tourist hotels that I stayed in.
High quality hotels in India had the European model where you had to put your key card in the slot when you entered the room in order to turn the power on or keep it running for more than a few minutes. This model power down the room when you are out.
The newer office parks where the IT service industry was located had what appeared to be modern electrical systems with many of the lines buried underground. The transmission lines along the highway often appeared new, even if they ran right by huts and houses that obviously had no power since they weren’t connected to the local distribution system.
India also appeared to be air conditioned in the major tourist areas for hotels and shopping as well as the newer office parks. The buildings were designed as if to rely on central air conditioning and the backup power was there to provide electricity when the power goes out (although I don’t think they could run A/C indefinitely).
Cross posted at LITGM
While in India I was struck by the myriad number of police and security personnel that I encountered armed with a wide varied of weapons from a large bamboo stick (a lathi) to an old shotgun to myriad variants of the AK-47 (since the Indians have long relied on Soviet weapons).
I have a general policy of not taking photos of people with guns and I thought this was a doubly wise policy to follow in India. The above security forces were at the Taj Mahal where everyone was taking photographs anyways so I thought that would be harmless.
The number of police forces and security forces you encounter on a regular visit can be staggering. There were armed soldiers (actually paramilitary forces, although apparently they don’t like the term in India) with AK-47′s checking your ticket at the major airports. I always wonder why you’d arm someone with an MG like this in a crowded situation since it would be hell on civilians but I guess they are likely preparing for a heavily armed terrorist attack more than a typical criminal encounter.
At the famous facilities like the Taj Mahal and the Amber Fort many of the security forces were unarmed but in uniform. The uniforms generally seemed clean and organized at the main tourist attractions.
This wikipedia site details the various security forces within India, which don’t include the main branches of the armed services. Malls and stores also had armed guards, particularly those dealing with gold and jewelry, although one old shotgun I’d bet hadn’t been fired in a decade or more.
Cross posted at LITGM
In the US we hear frequently about the environment and how we are doing so much damage to our environment. It would be good for people to visit India to see actual pollution in action on a large scale.
As we drove around Delhi, the smog was amazing, even with all the vehicles that converted to CNG from diesel (in this picture you can see a tuk tuk in “CNG” yellow and green colors). In this photo there are a couple of huge office buildings right off the road but you can’t even make them out in the smog. We asked our guide if the CNG over diesel made any difference and he said that in the days before the conversion “if you wore a white shirt outside it would be colored grey from all the soot in one day”.
This photo shows a jet flying over a famous minaret in Delhi. You can see the smog there, too.
I felt like one of those cartoon characters where when you cough “dust” flies out of your mouth. One of my close travel mates blew her nose and it just came out black. And we were in a tour bus much of the time that was just from being outside seeing the monuments (and then getting herded back in the bus).
With the CNG and investments in public transport it seems that India is trying but the current state seems unimaginable to a Westerner. I really don’t think that I’d be able to survive in Delhi for an extended period of time since I have allergies unless I never left the house.
Cross posted at LITGM
I recently was in five major cities in India. I was struck by driving in India and how different it was than driving in the western countries.
Photos And Observations
They have vehicles in India that I haven’t seen before. This is a “tuk tuk” or auto rickshaw as they are formally called. They are 3 wheelers with a motorcycle in the front and a seat in the back for passengers. Note that the streets are empty because this is a secured area – the India Parliament is in the background – you cannot linger here – and this was about the only light traffic area I saw in India except on some of the major tollways (briefly).
The tuk tuk is yellow and green because that is the color of vehicles that have been converted from regular fuel to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). This was done in order to make the air cleaner in major Indian cities such as Delhi.
One item that makes Indian driving so much more complex than in first world countries is the bewildering array of vehicles on the road from horse and camel drawn carts to bicycles to rickshaws to tuk tuks to scooters and everything else. There are vehicles barreling down the road as fast as they can and those that can’t move hardly at all, sharing the same space.
Scooters and motorcycles were everywhere, mixed in with the cars. We saw a family of five on one scooter, with a child in front, the male driver (with a helmet), another child, his wife (sitting sideways), and then another child on the very back.
In India they don’t use lanes, they just crowd together and cut each other off, honking their horns to signal all the while. To Westerners it looks like chaos but it obviously works in that an entire country is getting where they want to go. I heard of a campaign called “Lane Driving is Sane Driving” trying to change behavior but I could see no evidence of it at hand.
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Only the finest in India. The author drinking a Miller High Life sold only in Haryana with a henna tattoo (a whale, I think). Note that the straw is in the other beer so that girls can drink while their tattoos on the inside of their hands dry.
Cross posted at LITGM
This post is an intersection of my research on the power industry around the world and a lack of understanding of the power of capitalism that I see reflected around me in Chicago and in many news outlets.
India’s Power Industry
The NY Times recently had an article titled “Scandal Posts a Question: Will India Ever Be Able to Tackle Corruption?“. The article described a scandal about India’s coal mining industry, a critical element of their power generation since India has heavy reliance on locally sourced coal.
Coalgate, as the scandal is now known here, is centered on the opaque government allotment process that enabled well-connected businessmen and politicians to obtain rights to undeveloped coal fields.
Why is this important? Per the article, 57% of India’s power is generated by coal. The industry is hobbled for lack of coal. 300 million Indians are without electricity, and a recent blackout effected huge areas of the country.
The Indian government used a bureaucratic process to assign out rights to these coal fields, instead of an overt capitalistic auction process (a fact that the NY Times article fails to mention), and many politicians and their cronies of course received the rights, likely due to overt or covert bribery and connections.
(the) $34 billion coal mining scandal that has exposed the ugly underside of Indian politics and economic life: a brazen style of crony capitalism that has enabled politicians and their friends to reap huge profits by gaining control of vast swaths of the country’s natural resources, often for nothing.
Why does this matter? When property rights are doled out in this manner, the people who receive them aren’t the BEST POSITIONED to develop the assets. If a profit seeking company paid for an asset in a public auction, they would be paying cash from investors (or out of their own pocket) and would need to “monetize” the asset in order to achieve a proper return back to investors. You don’t go into the auction without a plan to develop the asset, since you would be bidding against actual competitors who were motivated to do so and they’d likely pay more than you would. Per the article on India, this is the type of behavior that you see, instead:
Investigators now say that some of the favored applicants, having acquired the coal fields free, quickly sold them for tens of millions of dollars to steel or power companies. Others simply kept them as an asset and have not yet developed them, even as the country faces blackouts and coal shortages.
The NY Times treats this as some sort of “scandal” rather than as a FEATURE of socialistic systems. Politicians in these systems are exactly like capitalists in a capitalist society, using their role to obtain power and riches rather than for some sort of utopian “betterment of mankind” which the NY Times would likely expect them to do. In fact, these sorts of behaviors are modeled as successful and drive out would-be capitalists since the politicians in socialist societies hold the cards in terms of laws and processes and will use them against those trying to open up the process to a fair and transparent capitalist alternative.
India has no power for 300 million people, an unreliable system with rolling blackouts, and is crippling growth BECAUSE IT RUNS POWER AS A SOCIALIST SYSTEM RATHER THAN A CAPITALIST ONE. The answer is absolutely as simple as that. The scandal and the failures are product of a socialist system as doomed to fail as the USSR’s five year plans.
The answers to this problem of inadequate power are simple and can be found in any text from Smith to Hayek.
1. Sell state owned coal fields to qualified bidders (have the capital and means to develop the fields) in an open and transparent auction process
2. Protect the property rights of power developers by ensuring that they are able to build and site transmission lines and power stations appropriately
3. Protect the property rights of power companies by ensuring that they are able to charge and collect from customers and eliminate illegal connections to their systems
4. For areas that are a local monopoly (distribution), the state should ensure that performance and reliability are monitored via clear criteria and that entities that don’t comply should be fined or the franchise put up for auction to another qualified entity
Since the NY Times fundamentally doesn’t understand how capitalism works and that it is a BETTER solution that top down central planning or socialistic bureaucratic “queuing” models” (of which this is a primitive variant) they don’t make any of these recommendations. Scandals aren’t a problem – they are a direct result of the SYSTEM and will always be present in these sorts of political environments.
Cross posted at LITGM
My amigo Adam Elkus and I each have an article up at the newest issue of Pragati magazine. Adam is reviewing the Sanger book on Obama and national security and I tackle the strategic implications of drones and cyber warfare:
David Sanger’s Confront and Conceal is best used as a Rosetta stone for deciphering DC discourse. Its true utility lies not in its uneven discussion of Barack Obama’s national security decisions, but in the way it reveals both mundane and alarming traits of American foreign policy debate. Sanger’s obsession with a supposed “split” between values and interests, mistaken belief that international security should be conducted according to the Golden Rule, and exposure of sensitive leaks all tell a story about the state of national security debate in 21st century Washington. Although the message is muddied and the narrator unreliable, Confront and Conceal is gripping reading.
Sanger’s self-designated task is to illuminate, through judicious research and both on and off the record interviews, the Obama administration’s struggle to operationalise its new vision of foreign policy. Sanger is at his best when exploring the way high-level officials engage in bureaucratic judo. His Obama is a canny political operator that compensates for relative inexperience with self-awareness and vigor. Even in the face of strategic surprise and bureaucratic infighting, Obama keeps a firm hand on the steering wheel. Sanger aggressively promotes a reading of Obama as driven operator rather than spectator, a portrayal that rings true when compared to other popular accounts of Obama’s foreign policy leadership style….
Mark Safranski -Drone invasions and cyber dystopias
….Of the two, drones have the older history, going back almost a century to the Great War where experiments in auto-piloted planes were financed by the US Navy, but for much of the twentieth century, military applications for drones (or “remotely piloted vehicles”) were sharply limited. The technological capabilities of drones always lagged far behind the advances in manned aircraft and they were extremely vulnerable to modern anti-aircraft systems, or in some cases, small arms fire. While drones had some marginal utility for battlefield surveillance or as decoys, during the Cold War they were never the primary collection tools for sensitive intelligence that the U-2 Blackbird, listening posts and spy satellites were.
Several factors in the twenty-first century have pushed drones to the forefront as a weapon of choice for the Pentagon and the militaries of major powers. First, has been the relative decline of the probability of major interstate war since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the corresponding rise of irregular warfare in the form of insurgency by terrorists, guerrillas and rebellious tribes. Generally, these low-tech combatants reside in poor and remote areas and lack the capacity to detect or defend against drones except by concealment. Secondly, drones offer a tremendous economic advantage and battlefield return on investment (ROI) per enemy killed over advanced fighter aircraft. A new F-22 costs $150 million to buy and $45,000 an hour just to fly with a pilot whose training costs the USAF $2.6 million; a reusable, propeller-driven Predator only costs slightly over $4 million. About the price of two and half Tomahawk cruise missiles….
Since Johnathan posted a picture of the Captin’s Market last week, I thought I may as well post a picture of my favorite corner gas-station and mini-mart. The exterior is … deceptive. The inside of it is very different from what you would expect, just driving past.
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Posted by Michael Kennedy on 24th June 2012 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
The Muslim Brotherhood candidate has now been declared the winner of the Egyptian election. Some foolish things are being said, as a consequence.
Morsi’s election is tempered by the army’s recent move to significantly limit the powers of the presidency regarding the national budget, military oversight and declaring war. Following a court ruling this month to dissolve the Islamist-controlled parliament, the military also seized legislative powers and is angling to cement its legal authority over the nation by guiding the drafting of a new constitution.
The military will not be able to control the destiny of the country. The army in Turkey was much stronger with a 60 year history of secularism and a recognized right to displace governments that violated Ataturk’s intent. Since the election of Erdogan, the army has been neutered and half the senior officers are in prison, either with no charges or trumped up charges.
Barry Rubin has a pessimistic view of the future for Egypt.
Let me divide the discussion into two parts: What does this tell about “us” and what does this tell about Egypt and its future?
First, what does it tell about the West? The answer is that there are things that can be learned and understood, leading to some predictive power, but unfortunately the current hegemonic elite and its worldview refuse to learn.
What could be more revealing of that fact than the words off Jacqueline Stevens in the New York Times: “Chimps randomly throwing darts at the possible outcomes would have done almost as well as the experts”? Well, it depends on which experts. Martin Kramer, one of those who was right all along about Egypt, has a choice selection of quotes from a certain kind of Middle East expert who was dead wrong. A near-infinite number of such quotes can be gathered from the pages of America’s most august newspapers.
These people all share the current left-wing ideology; the refusal to understand the menace of revolutionary Islamism; the general belief that President Barack Obama is doing a great job; and the tendency to blame either Israel or America for the region’s problems. So if a big mistake has been made, it is that approach that has proven to be in the chimp category.
Debt is traditionally thought of as a conservative financial instrument. You buy a bond, it pays you interest (tax exempt or taxable), and then you receive your principal back when the bond matures. The interest you receive depends on the duration (time until you get your money back), riskiness of the borrower (traditionally the US government has been the safest lender with the lowest rates, but it may not be that way forever), and the overall level of interest rates in the economy (either the prime rate or LIBOR).
There are many, many variations on bonds, however, and this view of debt is out-dated. Convertible bonds allow the debt to be converted into shares of the company’s stock at certain price points, which allows the company to offer a lower interest rate on debt (because of this “upside”). Distressed debt is often bought by hedge funds and others as a way to take over companies in distress because post-reorganization the equity holders are generally wiped out and the debt-holders receive the new company’s shares.
A risk with debt and all financial instruments is an implied currency risk. In the US we don’t directly “see” the impact of the falling dollar in our day to day activities, but it is immediately evident if you leave the country and go somewhere with a strong currency, as I found out when I traveled to Norway and spent $20 US to buy a drink and lunch for 2 in a decent cafe was over $100. More subtle signs of the dollar’s decline are the hordes of foreign tourists from countries that have a trade surplus with the US buying everything in sight – Dan and I saw an entire upscale mall full of them in San Francisco.
Along with changes in currencies, there is a general hunger for “yield” meaning income that can be earned with relatively low risk (or at least according to models and rating agencies), meaning that borrowers are rushing to market to take advantage by issuing debt at historically low long term rates. Countries that may have had difficulty borrowing in the past or paid high rates like Mexico are now able to issue at interest rate levels that are very low by historical standards – Mexico is now able to borrow with a 10 year maturity at 5.85% (in local currency). These types of rates are at historical lows.
In addition to governments (with decent credit ratings) going out to market for more debt, companies are also issuing debt to take advantage of these historically low rates. Even if the companies have no immediate use for the cash, they are taking advantage of the rates to build funding if the economy turns, for acquisitions, or even to buy back stock and take advantage of leverage to increase EPS. Per this article in the WSJ:
Their timing could hardly be better. Average corporate bond yields finished Monday at 3.28%, just 0.01 percentage point from the all-time low going back to 1973, according to the Barclays U.S. investment-grade index. Industrial bond yields are even lower, at 3.07%.
For private companies in foreign countries, often local banks provided financing. In the US corporations traditionally don’t rely on banks to the same degree and issue bonds to the general public (many of which are bought by pension funds and insurance companies, as well). As banks pull back around the world, foreign companies are now trying to take advantage of 1) historically low interest rates 2) hunger for yield by tapping into this demand for debt by buyers.
Many of the issuers in other countries are now issuing “dollar denominated” bonds. Dollar denominated debt means that they agree to pay at the rate of the US dollar against their local currency, regardless of what happens to the local currency. This insulates the buyer (probably a foreigner from the US) from currency fluctuations in countries like India, Mexico and Chile – but on the other hand it makes the entire transaction much riskier from the seller’s perspective (assuming they don’t hedge this risk). There aren’t just US dollar denominated bonds – there are Euro denominated bonds, Yen denominated bonds, and likely more Chinese currency denominated bonds in the future.
The interesting part for me is the long term “evolution” of debt from a relatively straight-forward low risk instrument (except for default risk, which supposedly could be “rated”) to a very complex instruments with myriad risks. One OBVIOUS risk on these dollar denominated bonds is – what happens when the country’s currency falls vs. the US dollar and these bonds have to be paid back in US dollars? What do you think happens?
According to this article “Weak Rupee Hits India Bondholders“:
The Indian rupee’s sharp depreciation has added to the woes of Indian companies scrambling to repay foreign currency bonds – and it is increasing the likelihood that foreign investors will be hurt… in 2005-2007… the rupee was strengthening, trading at a record of around 40 rupees to a dollar. The bonds were sold only to foreign investors, and companies used the money to fund their growth plans… Indian companies have to repay nearly $3.4 billion in foreign-currency bonds before the end of 2012.
But now, many of these bonds are coming due when the rupee has lost nearly 40% from its high and is trading around all-time low levels.
The article goes on to mention several companies who are having trouble making payments and asking for reprieves from lenders, which typically involves extending terms and / or changing the interest rates. And since these were sold to foreigners, good luck trying to take action within the Indian legal system unlike the US where debt can lead to an implied stake in the post-bankruptcy entity (this wasn’t mentioned in the article and I am not an expert on this so it is only my opinion).
I don’t know how any investor looking for yield and wanting to avoid currency risk just assumed that these risks didn’t exist because they were being borne by the issuer and not them when they received their payment in US dollars. Now these chickens are coming home to roost, and it is pretty obvious in retrospect that these issues were very risky on the currency side and were much closer to a high risk investment than a vanilla boring interest bearing security. The hunger for yield and the fact that these were issued in US dollars made them appear to be much less risky than they apparently turned out to be.
As I mentioned in this post, I have inherited hundreds of letters that were written from my wife’s grandfather to her grandmother while they were courting. Most of the letters were written during the time while my wife’s grandfather was drafted into service during WW2. Many are from basic training and many are from his time served in India. I have not yet begun the formal process of scanning, dating and sorting the letters. This letter was floating around on top with no envelope – there is no date listed on it besides “1945″. All spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors have been left intact.
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My wife took a recent visit to her grandmother and grandfather. They aren’t doing so well. We have had to have “the talk” with them about getting them out of their house and into some sort of assisted living facility. It isn’t pleasant, of course – it never is when dealing with situations such as this.
While there, my wife was asked to go through some things and distribute them among the living family members. Most of these things hold only sentimental value. I ended up with a couple of guns, a sweet antique Marlin .22 and a beautiful bolt action Mossberg 12 gauge shotgun. I haven’t had time to research them as of yet.
As we were cleaning up the van and getting some of the items ready for a garage sale to raise cash for them, my wife informed me she also got a box of letters. What’s that, I said? Well, here it is.
I was told that these were letters from my wife’s grandfather to her grandmother. And they are. Hundreds and hundreds of them, neatly bundled and put away for nearly 70 years before my eyes gazed upon them. From an early look, the vast majority of them seem to be from when my wife’s grandfather was drafted to be in the big war – ww2, that is. They have that musty/old book smell.
He was stationed in India and from what I can glean upon reading a letter or two is that he was a supply clerk of some sort. There are also a lot of letters that he wrote to her from basic training. Most of the addresses use grandma’s maiden name. They were still courting.
Oh yea – I haven’t told my wife this yet – there are letters from other guys to grandma too. Well then.
I plan on sharing some of these letters with our readers here. They are an invaluable source of information to a historian such as myself to get a feel what it was like back then – not only from a military history standpoint, but they will be a look into the social lives of folks back then as well.
I shall change the names as these folks are still alive, but I will leave all of the language intact. I hope you enjoy these letters that I will publish as I find time to transcribe them. The first thing I need to do is figure out everything chronologically.
I am absolutely giddy with anticipation.
India’s crude oil imports from Iran is facing a risk of potential disruption as increasing US and EU sanctions make it impossible for Indian ships to obtain insurance.
I imagine if I were an Indian official, I’d be a bit peeved to learn that acting “responsibly” means privileging the interests of the United States over my own country. Nevertheless, Burns has a point. After all, India may rely on Iran for 12 percent of its oil imports, but look at what the United States has been willing to do for India:
Presidents Obama and Bush have met India more than halfway in offering concrete and highly visible commitments on issues India cares about. On his state visit to India in November 2010, for example, President Obama committed the U.S. for the very first time to support India’s candidacy for permanent membership on the U.N. Security Council.
I don’t know about you, but if the U.S. was asked to forgo 12 percent of its oil imports in exchange for another country’s endorsement for a seat on a multilateral forum, I’d make the trade. I mean, c’mon, 12 percent? The U.S. gets about that much from the Persian Gulf – and we barely pay that area any attention at all…
“The EU-India free trade agreement will be the single biggest trade agreement in the world, benefiting 1.7 billion people,” said president Barroso. “It would mean new opportunities for both Indian and European companies. It would mean a key driver for sustainable growth, job creation and innovation in India and Europe.”
The EU is India’s largest trading partner, accounting for about €86bn of trade in goods and services in 2010. Bilateral trade in goods rose by 20% between 2010 and 2011.”
Last year Israel supplied India with $1.6 billion worth of military equipment and is India’s second-largest defense supplier after Russia. Sales are only going to rise. Indian defense procurements from Israel in the period 2002-07 have touched the $5 billion mark.
And this doesn’t even get into the China-EU-US-Israel-Saudi Arabia wheels-within-wheels complications when it comes to arms deals, hoped for arms deals, trade deals, hoped for trade deals, energy politics, and the rest of it….
It’s not 1985, now is it? The past is a different country, a Russian (Soviet)-oriented Cold War country used to thinking in terms of “Kissengerian” alliances and blocs. An intellectual adjustment may be needed. It’s like 3-D chess out there….
Speaking of energy:
“Was Saudi Arabia involved?” (Asia Times Online.) If it makes you feel better, let me point out that Saudi petrodollars continue to fund all sorts of interesting educational activities on the subcontinent, in Africa, and elsewhere, along with Iranian monies. So that’s nice.
Posted in Business, China, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Entrepreneurship, India, International Affairs, Iran, Israel, Markets and Trading, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, North America | 2 Comments »
Cross-posted at zenpundit.com
….Into the breach strides eminent diplomatic historian John Lewis Gaddis, offering a magisterial 784 page biography, a quarter- century in the making, George F. Kennan: An American Life. Gaddis, a noted historian of the Cold War and critic of revisionist interpretations of American foreign policy, has produced his magnum opus, distilling not only the essence of Kennan’s career, but the origins of his grand strategic worldview that were part and parcel the self-critical and lonely isolation that made Kennan such an acute observer of foreign societies and a myopic student of his own.
Gaddis, who is a co-founder of the elite Grand Strategy Program at Yale University, had such a long intellectual association with his subject, having been appointed Kennan’s biographer in 1982, that one wonders on theories of strategy at times where George Kennan ends and John Lewis Gaddis begins. Giving Kennan the supreme compliment among strategists, that he possessed in the years of the Long Telegram and the Policy Planning Staff, Clausewitz’s Coup d’oeil, Gaddis does not shy away from explaining Kennan’s human imperfections to the reader that made the diplomat a study in contradictions….
Read the rest here.
- Hebert E. Meyer memorandum, Nov. 30, 1983 (via National Review Online).
(We really should take up the President’s suggestion to begin planning for a post-Soviet world; the Soviet Union and its people won’t disappear from the planet, and we have not yet thought seriously about the sort of political and economic structure likely to emerge.)
- Reagan and India: ‘Dialog of Discovery’ (News India Times).
If his sunny disposition and easy manner charmed the original “Iron Lady” during their first encounter in Mexico, his administration’s ingenious framework to strengthen bilateral relations laid the foundation on which today’s U.S.-India strategic partnership rests.
In a clear departure from the preceding administrations – including the sympathetic Kennedy, Johnson and Carter administrations and the nearly hostile Nixon White House – President Reagan decided to engage India on areas where there was agreement and mutual interest instead of trying to resolve outstanding issues that were intractable.
The Reagan White House had to placate Islamabad – which was hell bent on gaining a military edge over India – without either weakening or hurting New Delhi, which was already furious at Washington’s move to arm Pakistan and cast a Nelson’s eye on its nuclear program.
The Reagan administration accomplished this impossible balancing act by rejecting the notion that U.S. relations in South Asia were a zero-sum game. So, while it appeased Pakistan’s Zia-ul Haq with aid and arms, it upped the ante on political and business relations with India. The president went about it by establishing personal relations with Indian leaders, including lavishly hosting Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and, later Rajiv Gandh, at the White House.
Unlike his predecessors, who regarded Indira Gandhi to be somewhat recalcitrant and obstinate and approached her warily, Reagan respected her forthrightness and strength.
A far thinking man, too. Unfortunately, post 9-11, someone within our National Security Complex thought replaying the Reagan Islamabad playbook might be a good idea. Unwise, given that the Pakistani-supported Taliban turned out to be a bit problematic for us in more ways than one (to put it mildly). I still don’t understand Rick “Musharraf” Santorum’s thinking or what I sometimes jokingly refer to as the “Musharraf corner” of National Review’s online Corner? You know, the pundits that turn up periodically to remind us how the secular Pakistani military is our best hope? Post-Abbottabad, I have to wonder about the ability of some analysts and pundits to put 2 and 2 together and come up with 4. The non-state actor/jihadi project is a long-standing and detailed design of the GHQ. You can’t just “hire” one General to go after a few assets and expect the whole thing to reform itself. That isn’t logical. And as far as the Al Q we supposedly did scoop up (to date)? I wonder just how much of that intelligence has been independently verified and just how much comes via our complicated CIA-ISI liaison relationship? Who knows?
Lest our progressive friends feel a bit “I told you so” about all of this: aid is fungible. Any money the US might spend on the civilian sector eventually gets into military hands one way or another so I wouldn’t feel too smug. Plus, the Taliban that the Obama administration is attempting to negotiate with have only to pretend to negotiate and then wait it out with Pakistani help (aided with our very own tax money).
Anyway, regarding the original topic of this post, President Reagan had the absolute correct instincts and I think he got it right in terms of the big picture. He can’t be blamed for the decisions that came after the Soviet Union collapsed, and besides, if Steve Coll’s book “Ghost Wars” is correct, the danger of the jihad project was downplayed by CIA higher-ups and others in his administration – and administrations that came after his. A President can’t do everything by himself, after all. How does the CIA keep getting away with being so wrong, time and time again? Or am I being unfair?
Ghost Wars II – if such a book is ever written – is going to be an interesting book….
Update Aspects of Indira Gandhi’s tenure were, er, problematic (emergency rule, certain domestic policies) and I am not a fan of her governance. I am learning (being so poorly educated on these topics), however, that grand strategy and national statecraft are tough and you can’t afford to make an enemy out of every nation whose governance you don’t like. Note to self, really, as I think about optimal policies for Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Obama administration wishes to “pivot” to Asia. How should we think about this in terms of American Strategy and what does pivoting mean?
Joe Ralston had the awkward assignment of making sure that he was with General Karamat during the launch of the Tomahawks. That way, if the low-flying missiles showed up on Pakistani radar screens, Joe would be able to assure Karamat that they were not the first wave of an Indian sneak attack. Toward the end of a dinner at the VIP lounge at Islamabad airport, Ralston checked his watch and told Karamat that about sixty Tomahawks had just passed through Pakistani airspace en route to their targets in Afghanistan. Shortly after, he thanked his host for dinner, shook hands, and departed.
Karamat felt humiliated and betrayed. The next day his anger grew more intense when it was learned that one of the cruise missiles had gone astray and come down in Pakistan. Those that found their mark killed a number of Pakistani intelligence officers and trainees at the Afghan camps. These casualties were further cause for outrage in Pakistan, but they also confirmed Indian charges that Pakistan was officially supporting terrorism and the U.S. administration’s need to keep the operation secret.
The attack missed bin Laden by hours. Suspicions lingered for years afterward that even though the Pakistanis did not know exactly when the attack was coming, they may have known enough to tip off bin Laden.
One might think that the obvious solution would have been to inform or coordinate with Pakistan up front and let them know the missiles would be ours. Under normal circumstances, that might have worked. In this case, Pakistan’s national intelligence agency, the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence), was so connected with al-Qaeda, there was no doubt that such a forewarning would go right back to UBL and his minions, and in ten minutes those camps would be more deserted than an old Western ghost town, leaving our missiles to pound sand on empty tents and vacant training facilities.
At this point, what is there to say?
PS: I deleted a bunch of stuff I wrote after “what is there to say,” because it was silly. I meant to save it and post it in the comments instead so as not to be accused of “scrubbing” this post but I didn’t. I’m sure it’s cached somewhere. It’s not really anything terrible, anyway. Here is what I wish I had posted instead:
Lasch described the emergence of elites who “…control the international flow of money and information, preside over philanthropic foundations and institutions of higher learning, manage the instruments of cultural production and thus set the terms of public debate.” These elites would undermine American democracy in order to fulfill their insatiable desire for wealth and power and to perpetuate their social and political advantages. Middle-class values, Lasch warned, would be hollowed out by a value-neutral educational system preaching multiculturalism. Their replacement would be narcissistic values based on self-gratification and worshipful of fame and celebrity as the ultimate values in a world devoid of deeper meaning.
One point I haven’t mentioned before is that the British Raj propounded the ‘martial races’ concept, which had a big impact on the Indian subcontinent, and which Pakistan continued to accept after independence. Technically the concept was abandoned in the 1970s within the Pakistan military but until just a couple years ago Pakistani society held the military as the highest ideal — and (alongside cricket stars) the ideal for the male. The fiercest of military men as the model for manhood followed the British colonizer’s dictum, which was dryly summarized by Dr. Jeffrey Greenhut:
The Martial Race theory had an elegant symmetry. Indians who were intelligent and educated were defined as cowards, while those defined as brave were uneducated and backward.
The ‘high’ culture of the Bengalis in East Pakistan, which placed great emphasis on the arts and intellectual pursuits, was intolerable to West Pakistan’s military class — and this was partly the reason for the horrific atrocities they carried out against the Bengalis, both Hindu and Muslim.
The damning parallel between the groups that were loyal during the Mutiny and those who would be designated as “Martial Races” later seems hard to escape. Though I generally try and avoid paranoid speculation, the idea of “divide and rule” also seems to be relevant here: by keeping the various ethnic regiments of the Indian army divided along linguistic or ethnic lines, they prevented them from congealing along racial (as in, brown vs. white) ones.
For better or worse, groups once designated by the British as “martial races” still tend to carry that badge with pride. But it’s a dubious source of honor, and also an extremely dubious way of asserting one’s manhood & masculinity. (How much violence against women has been perpetrated in the service of the myth of Jat or Pathan/Pashtun martial masculinity?)
A quick glance at the composition of Indian Army Regiments shows that the Indian Army is still run on the “martial races” concept — in particular, the post-1857 interpretation. This designation was based on British perceptions of which communities were best able to bear arms and loyally serve the crown, and is related to their cultural stances on climate (hill-folk favored over the plains dwellers) as well as occupation (favoring sturdy independent peasants). Ultimately however, the British favored groups which stuck with them in the 1857 mutiny (Jats, Sikhs, Gurkhas) over those groups perceived to be disloyal (upper-castes, Bengalis, Tamils).
Over a third of the recruits in the Indian Army are recruited from the Jats, Rajputs, Gujjars, and Dogras of Haryana, Punjab, and Himanchal Pradesh — though these states comprise just over 5% of the national population (given the caste identities, the Army is really drawn from an even smaller subset of that group). That is, roughly as many infantry as fielded by the entire US Army are recruited from a group of castes among a cluster of states totalling 50 million in population. Many of the rest are similarly drawn on a narrow regional/caste basis.
The Pakistan Army has always been psyched to believe that “one Pakistani is equal to ten Indians”.
This has been repeatedly debunked in all the wars fought between India and Pakistan.
While the outcome of wars is debatable, 1971 and 1965’s Battle of Assal Uttar (the physical graveyard of Patton tanks which were superior to anything India had) gave Pakistan no leeway to cover up their inadequacy at combat unlike the fact wherein Pakistan’s Operation Grand Slam is not discussed in history, military or otherwise or for that matter, any other debacle, not even the 1971 fiasco of their own making (except in general vague and defensive terms)!!
That apart, Musharraf has a chip on his shoulder. He is a Mohajir and hence non martial as per the British classification. And yet he was the COAS. In addition, he pipped Khatak (a blue blooded Pathan and a martial race man) to the post of COAS. He also had a personal grievance to settle. Gen. Zia chose Gen. Musharraf (then a Brigadier) in 1987 to command a newly-raised Special Services Group (SSG) base at Khapalu in the Siachen area. To please Gen. Zia, Gen. Musharraf with his SSG commandos launched an attack on an Indian post at Bilfond La in September, 1987, and was beaten back.
Despite serving under the same basic TACOS as the Indian Battalions conditions of service were generally better in the British battalions and their take home pay was greater due to various allowances they received. Although poorly paid by British standards they were extremely well paid by Nepali standards.
The various Gurkha welfare organisations launched a campaign, adopted by Joanna Lumley (UK media star) for parity in Gurkha TACOS with British soldiers and the right to abode in the UK. This campaign was successful and had the precise effect that the UK Army suspected it would have:
Increased social problems in the UK as Gurkha families settle in the UK
Lessening of the inflow of capital into Nepal as Gurkhas choose to bring families into the UK and retired Gurkhas move to the UK rather then take their pensions and settle in Nepal.
Bringing Gurkha soldiers TACOS in line with UK soldiers has caused manning and career management issues leading to redundancies.
At a time of a shrinking Army it is hard to justify maintaining Gurkha battalions when we are losing British battalions; Gurkhas are no longer the cheaper option.
I have served with Gurkhas, they are great, but like all soldiers have their strengths and their weaknesses. I can amplify on any of the points above, but my feeling is that the change to the Gurkha system has severely threatened their long term viability in the British Army.
I am largely an Anglophile, but I don’t romanticize the Raj. Or maybe I do. Who ever knows with me? One day I think one thing, the next day I think another. The oral history in my family regarding the time of the “britishers” is uncomfortable to recount. Half-whispered and half-remembered family mythology as oral history: “She never went into that town by herself, Madhu. No one knew why. She never wanted to be around them alone.” What does this mean? Is it true; is it exaggerated; was it a small incident or something too horrible to imagine? But no-one knows or dwells on it. It’s the past and the past is over. The general feeling is, “why think about it?”