Putin’s act can give ideas to China; US wakes up and smells the saffron; Prison ‘privileges’ to tycoon angers Indians





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1 Putin’s act can give ideas to China (David Rohde in Sydney Morning Herald) One senior Obama administration official called Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine outrageous. A second described them as an outlaw act. A third said the brazen use of military force harked back to a past century. “What we see here are distinctly 19th and 20th century decisions made by President Putin,” the official said. “But what he needs to understand is that in terms of his economy, he lives in the 21st century world, an interdependent world.”

James Jeffrey, a retired US diplomat, said that taking such views of Putin’s mindset cripples the US response to the Russian leader. The issue is not that Putin fails to grasp the promise of Western-style democratic capitalism. It is that he and other American rivals flatly reject it.

“All of us that have been in the last four administrations have drunk the Kool-Aid,” Jeffrey said, referring to the belief that they could talk Putin into seeing the Western system as beneficial. ” ‘If they would just understand that it can be a win-win, if we can only convince them’ – Putin doesn’t see it,” Jeffrey said. “The Chinese don’t see it. And I think the Iranians don’t see it.”

Jeffrey said the days and months ahead will be vital. If Putin faces few long-term consequences for seizing Crimea, it will set a precedent for China and other regional powers who may be considering establishing 19th century-style spheres of influence of their own. “The Chinese,” Jeffrey said, “are in the same position.”

A difficulty with effective sanctions lies in western Europe, where many nations now depend on cheap Russian natural gas to fuel their economies. Germany leads the group, with 60 per cent of its natural gas coming from Russia. Secure at home, Putin also fears little backlash from abroad. He believes the US and Europe will publicly condemn Russia but implement few economic sanctions because Europe remains dependent on Russian natural gas.


2 US wakes up and smells the saffron (MJ Akbar in Khaleej Times) The extensive opinion poll on India elections done by the American organisation, Pew, has a crucial input. This poll gave Bharatiya Janata Party’s Narendra Modi an unprecedented 63 per cent support against 19 per cent for Congress. Washington trusts the integrity of Pew. Washington has woken up and started to smell the saffron.

It is hardly a secret that President Barack Obama has lost what limited interest he might have once had in India. His Asian priorities are to the east and west of India. He continues to invest heavily in the China relationship because of its value to the American economy. India brings nothing to the economic table. Obama remains committed to withdrawal from Afghanistan, for which he needs the cooperation of Pakistan. India probably has greater potential role after America leaves, but that is a role which will be defined by the future.

No one has hurt Indo-American relations more than Defence Minister AK Antony, who eliminated the American bid to sell fighter planes at an early stage. If Antony has a case, he and his envoys have not done a good job of explaining it. The curious incident of Devyani Khobragade’s underpaid maid was a minor event that became major because establishments in both Delhi and Washington chose it as a battleground for hostility that had accrued on other issues. Five years ago, such a problem would have been sorted out with minimal fuss.

Relations between India and America have not deteriorated into disrepair, but they have become dangerously untidy. They need to be aired and laundered and ironed back into shape with a transparency that only good friends can afford. Obama will still have two years of administration left when there is, as projected by Pew, a change of government in Delhi by May. Change is an opportunity. The best thing to do with the immediate past is to put it behind us. Both capitals need to craft a new initiative that revives a momentum that once promised so much, but has been allowed to lapse.


3 Prison ‘privileges’ for tycoon angers Indians (BBC) Police in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh have been criticised after they lodged arrested tycoon Subrata Roy in a fancy forest department guest house in Lucknow city. The Kukrail picnic spot, popular with local people and schoolchildren, has been shut down for three days. The Sahara group chief was arrested on Friday in connection with a fraud case.

India’s Supreme Court ordered his arrest when he failed to appear before judges on Wednesday. Two Sahara firms are accused of raising 240bn rupees ($3.9bn) through illegal bonds. Market regulators say Mr Roy failed to refund money to millions of investors despite a court order. The Sahara chief was taken to the guest house on Friday night and reports say over the weekend he was visited by a large number of family members and well-wishers.

In a report, India Today said the guest house “is supposed to be one of the best in the city” and that “questions are being raised on why Subrata Roy is being given such special treatment”. Mr Roy is a household name in India. His group, worth $11bn, has businesses ranging from finance, housing, manufacturing, aviation and the media. It also has interests overseas – it owns New York’s landmark Plaza Hotel and London’s iconic Grosvenor House. With more than 1.1 million workers, the group is India’s biggest private sector employer.



About joesnewspicks

This blog captures interesting news items from around the world for those strained by information overload and yet need to stay updated on global events of significance. The news items displayed are not in order of merit. (The blog takes a weekly off — normally on Sundays — and does not appear when I am on vacation or busy.) I am a journalist for nearly three decades.
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