Category Archives: Security
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
This New Year’s Eve rages an inauspicious knife fight for the very soul of India. Amidst the fog of this complicated war lies a simple question: is India a secular democracy or a Hindu dictatorship?
On the secularist side is a clown car alliance led by the pathetic and corrupt opposition party, Congress. Meanwhile, the Hindu nationalist camp is led by a strongman and wannabe dictator, Narendra Modi of the BJP. And so those of us who care about India are left with a terrible choice to make: dysentery diarrhea democracy or cancerous constipation Caesar salad?
2019 saw India go full rogue against the founding fathers of India, the constitution, and the very concept of basic human decency with two dramatic acts. At Modi’s direction the Indian Army has illegally taken over most of Indian-held Kashmir using martial law tactics such as the wholesale torture of Kashmiri teenagers and a total, months-long blackout of the Internet, phones, and other media for millions of Kashmiris. Reporters are officially banned from entering and human rights have become a joke. The legs of commerce and education have been broken in an already-struggling region.
Terrorism was thrown out as the excuse for this power play, which has been condemned by civilized nations around the world. The blackout in particular is the largest ever committed by any country in history, and wholly unbecoming of a democracy. Let’s forget for a second the legality and human decency angles; does anyone honestly think this will make India’s prospects for peace in the future any better or will it predictably inflame a minority’s worst impulses for a generation to come?
In December the Indian government took the new brain-dead position that Muslim migrants would not be granted citizenship, but non-Muslims would. The country has erupted in protests, riots, and violence over this new policy, called the Citizenship Act. This act is laughably obvious as a violation of India’s constitution- just like Trump’s attempts at instituting Muslim bans in America violate the enshrined separation of church and state.
Modi to his credit recognized that the latter half of 2019 was the right time to strike. American democracy is on its knees, and strongmen the world over are rejoicing over their free rein to abuse citizens, especially Muslim ones. It’s now open season the world over on dissidents, who lie bleeding on dungeon floors in most of the world’s nations today including in “democratic” India. Modi is drawing unflattering comparisons to Adolf Hitler. Meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi and the Congress Party are taking advantage of this opportunity to keep robbing people blind while the distractions go on on the streets.
We are witnessing the cancelation of the world’s largest democracy. Shame on you, India. As the birthplace of Karma, you know better than anyone that it can be a bitch.
photo: Officer Down Memorial Page, odmp.org
Like many in Texas and around the world, I was deeply pained by the slaying of Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Dhaliwal in Texas a week ago. The cold-blooded murder of an all-around good guy by all accounts, should be mourned by us all.
Hanging over the murder of this Sikh-American cop is the specter of hate crime in Houston, close on the heels of the El Paso slaughter and other Texas rampages, and whether the Deputy’s turban is what inspired the shooter (who we won’t deign to name) to commit this heinous, senseless crime. Too many times the Sikh turban has been viewed as a threat by other Americans, including here in my home state of Wisconsin which witnessed a brutal mass massacre of Sikhs at their place of worship. Back then I wrote:
The post-9/11 period has been a bad one for American Sikhs, who were targeted and even killed because some are too ignorant to know the difference, and so zealous with hate that they would take the law into their own hands. Sikhism is of course a completely different religion than Islam, and the two have very separate histories though they share a legacy of wearing turbans- along with many other groups among the world’s people.
What would make us think that Dhaliwal may have been targeted due to his specific background? All the facts are not out, and it’s impossible to know the motive, if any, yet. However, it is telling that there was no altercation that led to his getting shot from behind. Dhaliwal was widely beloved by his community and fellow officers, and he just happened to be wearing a turban. And nobody wearing a turban, of any faith or race, should be singled out in 2019 America. It is unfair to pay the price for the actions of ISIS, Taliban, or Al-Qaeda in distant lands with no connections to those bastards whatsoever.
These hate crimes must stop at once. The Sikh Americans deserve to have all of us standing behind them in solidarity, especially considering their stellar record of service in US law enforcement and US military ranks. Their loyalty to America has been set in stone, and written in blood.
We must state the obvious and follow logic. The irresponsible and unacceptable rhetoric emanating from the White House, Christian Right, and GOP circles against minority faith groups for political favor most certainly contributed to the murder of an innocent man. Shame on each and every one of you.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
Editor’s Note: This piece was written in 2012 when WikiLeaks and Julian Assange first became famous. Now that Assange has finally been arrested after all these years, I thought it was worth pulling this up now as a primer. This is all a bit complicated and doesn’t fit a neat narrative, including a left/right one…
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
With the recent document dump by the website Wikileaks.org, 25,000 State Department cables that had been previously classified were released into the public domain in one fell swoop. As with most controversial political issues of the day, pundits and public leaders around the world came out by the thousands to comment on this unprecedented event. The latest episode came on the heals of the previous big Wikileaks story: the release of thousands of secret documents regarding the conduct of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, including a military video of a tragic killing in an Iraqi neighborhood by American troops from an Apache helicopter. As with the embassy cables, the war diaries run the gamut from the mundane, which is mostly the case, to quite serious and disturbing. I recommend for all of you to read the fascinating New Yorker account of how this came to pass.
The Wikileaks exposures of sensitive government documents that were not meant for public consumption represent societal conundrums that are yet to be judged in either a court of law, or of public opinion. Is Wikileaks founder Julian Assange a hero, a whistle blower, a criminal, or a terrorist? Is he a force for good or evil? He has been called all of these things. And in an exceedingly rare case of a person entering the world stage in so dramatic and important a way, he cannot be pigeonholed as any one of these. This would be a gross and unjust oversimplification. For Mr. Assange, ladies and gentlemen, is all of these things at once- defying definitions and straining our moral assumptions.
Whatever the outcome of all this, and whatever your opinion of it might be, Wikileaks has helped alter the course of human history by catalyzing a form of rogue journalism that is impossible for governments to prevent or stop. For a change we have someone throwing caution to the wind instead of erring on the side of caution.
Technology has made it possible to run your website piecemeal on servers all over the world in countries with varying laws about censorship and cyber security. Once Wikileaks documents are published on the web, they cannot be easily taken down, and will never disappear from the public eye once documents have gone viral. The documents are already out there, and the backups of the backups have backups. Finances and operations are decentralized and run by shadowy members around the globe. What’s been done can never be undone. This is the largest shift from how secrets were stolen before- a tape, a person, a room, a computer, a camera, or a notebook with sensitive information can be stolen or destroyed even if there are multiples. Document dumps onto the web cannot.
So what now? The future of the website or the copycat movement it will spawn are hard to fathom. We can only conjecture on what has already happened. It’s time for the good, the bad, and the… highly entertaining.
No Page-Turner. After skimming the site and reading numerous accounts of the supposedly juiciest tidbits that Wikileaks has published, I was disappointed by the lack of truly interesting documents. Far from earth-shattering, most exposed documents describe routine matters and few surprises. So diplomats send cables about Libya’s dictator traveling around with a “voluptuous blonde” nurse, or Putin likes to get drunk with Berlusconi? Less interesting than a single page of any Nelson DeMille novel. I was actually pleased to see that diplomats played hardball when trying to convince foreign countries to accept Guantanamo detainees- offering aid here and a meeting with Obama there. That’s awesome- that’s what they’re supposed to be doing, it’s what we pay them for! Reading any given cable to the extent it’s worth it, is less a surprise than an affirmation that many at State were pushing US interests hard. Good.
Public Service?. Government agencies got a horrific wakeup call that was desperately needed- and of little surprise to most astute observers. For this reason, and the fact that little if anything truly dangerous leaked out yet, Americans should be highly grateful to Wikileaks. If the US Army or the State Department could allow disgruntled runts to simply waltz out of the office with thousands of sensitive documents capable of causing such an international stir, security measures are woefully lacking. There are far too many people with high-level clearances, too many sensitive documents floating around, and too little control of the flow of information we are told is so goddam critical to national security. If this stuff was so critical, it should have been guarded far more jealously. The current situation is unacceptable. President Obama should call an immediate review of US government agencies’ information security practices. Governors and Mayors across the nation need to do the same. This isn’t just for the Pentagon or State; other agencies one wouldn’t usually expect to need worry about such as the Department of Agriculture, Social Security Administration, or the state DMV all harbor documents we wouldn’t want in the wrong hands and certainly not out in public.
The Danger Zone. This brings us to why Wikileaks is potentially a big threat. It demonstrates how a small group of determined individuals seeking to perform chaos can probably manage to do some serious harm, using a small network of inside informants and tech savvy hackers in key places. They could release documents that could get people killed if terrorists or foreign governments got a hold of them. This in itself should worry us. Although there is something fair and even democratic in the end product being seen by website visitors- government documents in their original form for one to judge for himself or herself, something traditional journalism does not give us- Wikileaks self-selects what documents get released and when. The site decides on the sources to use, and they are not made public. However socially responsible their goals may be, and however noble a goal it is to investigate how taxpayer money is really being spent, it is dangerous to wield this power to decide who and what makes the cut. You cannot shine a light from a dark place over a long period of time. It carries the type of potential for abuse of power that Wikileaks is supposed to be against.
Should it be Shut? There is much talk of shutting down the site, arresting its principals, and making an example of them. Clearly a number of U.S. laws have been broken regarding release of classified information. However, Assange and most of his team are not U.S. citizens, and in fact many of them are not known. The information was leaked from the inside of government first, and in the case of State it’s not clear which runt(s) were responsible. While the Wikileaks team could be considered accomplices to the initial crimes of stealing, the unique nature of what the website has done so far will never be stopped. In fact, imprisoning Assange could make him a sort of martyr, which could be exactly what he wants in order to accelerate the movement exponentially.
Spreading Democracy? Although the American media is largely missing this point, closed and corrupt governments such as those in China, Russia, North Korea, Burma, and Iran are much less concerned with what US diplomats are saying about them than what Wikileaks could say about them. In this sense, Wikileaks has done Western governments and people the most important service of all. Autocrats trying to keep things close to the vest are probably pretty worried right now.
At its best, Wikileaks could expose things to the global public that journalists, intelligence agencies, and law enforcement cannot or are unable to. It could even help bring down or alter regimes more easily than a superpower can. If it stays open, I hope Wikileaks does so. And if a byproduct of this is some more accountability at home, then so be it. Those who follow the rules generally have less to worry about.
Many American soldiers served and died in the various bloody theaters of World War II. They were called upon by the people of America and the wider family of civilized nations around the world to defeat burgeoning, horrific threats to the global order. They enjoined what history has widely judged to be a just and necessary war. Hundreds of thousands of these heroes’ remains were duly brought back home to be buried by their families and friends in somber funeral ceremonies across the 50 states. While those war dead represented the greatest possible sacrifice to country at a critical moment in history, and also a tragic loss for countless communities, at least upon paying the terrible price they received the proper honor they deserved in a final resting place chosen by those who loved them the most after earning victory. In the 1940s and beyond their headstones would be adorned with inspiring inscriptions, soaring monuments, and beautiful flowers, or they could lie next to their brothers in arms in dignified venues such as Arlington Cemetery, their heroism to be cherished by the generations to come and most importantly, never, ever forgotten.
Yet the remains of too many of these brave souls unceremoniously languish even today under remote corners of Indian stone and soil, in the incongruously scenic mountains and fields of Arunachal Pradesh, a Northeastern state riven by contentious territorial disputes between the rising superpowers, China and India.
They were US Airmen whose planes crashed in the heat of battle, and the Great War is still not over for them at all. We have a good idea of exactly who they are and where they lie, but the descendants and friends of approximately 400 men have been innocent victims squarely caught in the crossfire of endless bureaucratic disputes between nations- *nations whose soldiers fought alongside them as allies in WW II, no less.* Government bureaucracies are preventing even basic access to the sites where these men lie, forever young. Meanwhile, challenging and complex as the solutions may be, the United States government has not fought hard enough for a clean resolution, which should disturb all Americans who still benefit from the fruits of the MIA soldiers’ ultimate sacrifice.
As an Indian-American in particular, I feel the pain and helplessness suffered by the wives, siblings, and children who are living and over time, dying without the simple satisfaction of closure that society owes them.
What will it take to right this injustice? Previous editorials in this space by Gary Zaetz, the leader of Families and Supporters of America’s Arunachal Missing in Action paint a picture of tireless efforts, promising breakthroughs, productive archaeological surveys and digging expeditions, and minor victories on the rare occasion where a limited expedition turns up a small fraction of a soldier’s strewn body parts over 70 years after World War II ended.
The Pentagon has even sponsored a few ceremonies for a few of them. Many journalists, government leaders, and concerned citizens around the world have encouragingly offered support for the cause. But what sticks out most cruelly are the reams of red tape thrown forward by the halls of power in Washington, New Delhi, and Beijing which are stifling progress. Please read these moving editorials by Gary Zaetz here with critical updates to the story published here and here. Please take a few moments to scan the photos of the pilots and crew members, and look straight into the eyes of these young men and their families.
So what are the main challenges today? The key roadblock is the fact that China and India disagree about who the land belongs to, along with thousands of other miles of far-flung border lands throughout the Himalayan Mountain region. The two nations themselves have fought major wars in the 20th century over various little pieces of this turf in tragic pissing matches, with China defeating India badly, along with numerous smaller skirmishes that continue to this day. None of these have served to permanently settle the disputes over territory between these two nuclear weapon-tipped rivals. Hundreds of thousands of troops from both sides uneasily patrol the disputed regions in an ugly stalemate. The United Nations and the international community have been helpless in helping settle the disputes. Under the current postures of the involved nations, China will not allow peaceful expeditions to search for the remains safely behind a security cordon. India, viewing its role in the matter as subservient to wider engagement priorities in dialogue with China, has been unwilling to support the expeditions despite claiming outright that the territory is Indian. Perhaps understandably under the harsh realities, neither China nor India have decided to lead the discovery of American bodies. More vexingly, successive United States governments under administration after administration both Democrat and Republican have not taken full accountability for their own war dead either.
This should not stand. In fact, there is a duly appointed Pentagon office called Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) whose entire mission and reason for being is to find, recover, and repatriate the US military’s MIAs around the world. Unlike MIAs in Vietnam and elsewhere, where it may seem like finding them is sort of a “cold case,” there is more accurate information as to where to look in the case of Arunachal’s MIA soldiers. However, since 2004 communications and efforts of the Families and Supporters for Arunachal’s Missing in Action with the DPAA has resulted in limited progress.
The group has also earnestly reached out to US Senators, Representatives, State Department officials such as multiple US Ambassadors to India over time, senior Indian government officials such as retired Indian military officers, the Chinese Embassy in Washington, media groups, and others. Unfortunately, these communications have largely resulted in finger pointing about who is responsible for the lack of accountability in leading the long-overdue MIA discoveries. Over the last several years I have felt increasingly hapless due to the sea of red tape that has risen up.
We can certainly do better! I have contemplated what simple actions can be taken by concerned readers, regardless of where you live in the world, your politics, culture, or your religious background in the face of what seem like insurmountable challenges as large as the Himalaya mountains themselves. After all, this is purely a humanitarian issue with a potential solution in sight, a light at the end of the tunnel. You can join in by doing the following:
1) Join the Facebook page for the latest updates and offer your support in any way you can to this nonprofit organization, including financial.
2) Reach out with targeted messaging to the relevant government authorities individually, or as part of an organization you belong to such as local VFW or American Legion posts. Feel free to use the content from this editorial or others we have shared here as a guide, such as copying and pasting into emails, letters, or social media:
* The US Embassy to India https://in.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/new-delhi/
* The Indian Embassy to the United States https://www.indianembassy.org/
* The White House https://www.whitehouse.gov/
* Your Senator and Congressperson
3) Publish these letters and emails in local newspapers, newsletters, or social media outlets that you have access to.
4) If you can, set up meetings with government leaders who may have the power to assist in finding and bringing home the MIAs of Arunachal Pradesh.
5) Communicate any fresh ideas you might have to usindiamonitor or to Gary Zaetz, as you may think of new angles not yet considered for achieving elusive progress.
If enough people join this fight, the Arunachal Pradesh expeditions can continue apace once again with the approvals of all the relevant authorities- a long and hard slog in its own right so far led by a team including Clayton Kuhles, despite the government resistance. Indian-Americans, other NRIs, or Indians residing in India itself can join with this cause in solidarity. But of course, all comers would be most welcome.
The saddest aspect is that the loved ones of the US war dead will themselves be buried without the satisfaction of burying their own hero family members. This suffering is unnecessary and unacceptable, if there is something that can be done about it.
To some I understand that this may all appear to be such a small and unimportant priority from a long bygone era, when there are so many active problems going on in the world of today. To those, I would respond that if we patriots can’t take care of these little things as a society, then how can we possibly hope to tackle the grand global challenges society faces today?
I look forward to hearing from you on this conundrum.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindamonitor
While browsing the quite engaging war scenarios by the Infographics Show, I came across a video that describes in advanced level of detail what could happen if a potential US-India alliance came to battle a Russia-China offensive. This video is relevant for several reasons. Most importantly, many have come to believe that these two sides present the front lines of the new 21st century “Cold War,” which needs to be recognized as a new world order slowly replacing the previous Cold War and its unstable aftermath we are living through today. This is in fact even the topic of an upcoming novel by usindiamonitor. Secondly, the world needs to prepare for these new alignments.
Is this terrible war scenario likely in the near future? We don’t think so. But we foreign policy mavens should get mentally prepared for what it would look like, and this video does a very good job of laying out the likeliest possibilities in the heat of a battle involving millions of soldiers and affecting billions of human beings. It’s worth watching! If nothing else, you will learn what the capabilities are of these four powerful militaries when thrown onto the chessboard in a time of grave peril.
The FBI recently tweeted about the history of its famous, or infamous, 10 Most Wanted list. Out of curiosity I went online to check out who the current fugitives from the law on the list are. I was surprised to learn one of them is Indian-born Bhadreshkumar Chetanbhai Patel, a man who brutally murdered his wife by repeatedly stabbing her at the Dunkin Donuts where they worked in Maryland, and made a run for it, potentially abroad. Please see video above for more details.
I know that a lot of Indians and others around the world visit this site and don’t like these kinds of headlines giving us all a bad name. If any of you have info about Patel and are willing to call this one in, there is a reward of up to $100,000 waiting for you. I would love one of my readers to be the one to help nail this alleged monster’s ass to the wall.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
One of the many pitfalls of our current climate in America is the severe breakdown in identifying causal links between policies and outcomes. All too predictable in a country where science and logic are being trumped by emotions such as fear.
Let’s take an example from the 2018 frame. Forget the raging immorality of separating 3,000 young children from their parents at the US border and throwing them in cages using my hard-earned taxpayer dollars. Is it at least an effective policy?
The answer is of course, no. It ain’t working. We spend billions to protect our borders, billions to prevent illegal drugs from pouring in, and billions more to protect our cybersecurity. But America is a total and absolute failure at all of these aspects of protecting Americans, which is the federal government’s #1 job. American efforts in these areas are a complete joke and everyone around the world knows it. Locking up kids in cages doesn’t work, either.
Emotions are quite simply the reason why we are in the current state we are in. Americans are overall pretty uneducated, misinformed, and ruled by our lizard brains. We elect leaders who are disproportionately crooks that prey upon our emotions. The solution itself is easy: pursue policies that make logical and scientific sense.
I can end illegal immigration in 1 month. Requiring nothing more than manipulating the simple laws of supply and demand. Pass a law that any corporation, restaurant, bar, farm, cab company, family, or individual who employs illegal immigrants will immediately be thrown in jail for 10 years. Go out and arrest them en masse. Such employers are explicitly breaking the law by hiring workers under the table. Yet nobody ever goes after these criminals simply because they come out of the political donor class that fuels both parties.
But, uh, justice is supposed to be blind right? F*** the political donor class. After this swift administration of justice, let’s see if illegal immigration drops dramatically or not. Yes, the president and his family and his cronies would be even more knee-deep in trouble with the law than they already are, because among other projects Trump Tower itself was built by many- you guessed it – illegal immigrants.
Of course the policy will work. The supply and demand curves don’t lie. Illegal immigrants would be unable to find work in America again, and they’d stop coming here soon enough. But good luck keeping the child care, the factories, the farms, the armed services, the restaurants, the cabs, and the food supply running. Those are different problems for different days.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
We spend upwards of $600 billion annually on our military, and yet we do a subpar job in protecting our business and political interests from the Chinese, Russians, and others robbing us blind, hacking our elections, stealing the plans from weapons systems and federal government personnel files, etc.
The problem is structural. No entity is accountable for our cyber arena threat matrix- both offensive and defensive capabilities. There’s the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Pentagon, Homeland Security, CIA, FBI, NSA, and the list goes on.
Whose fault was RussiaGate? Whose job is it to respond? WE ARE AT WAR. We should be going on the offensive. And the future isn’t tanks, and jets, and carriers, and missiles. We already dominate those categories, and we are still left unprotected and vulnerable. We can’t even run a clean election or a free and truthful press, those most basic tenets of democracy.
The United States must create, ASAP, a new military branch on par with the Army, Navy, and Air Force called the United States Cyber Force. It’s not just land, air, and sea anymore. It must have cutting-edge technical and personnel resources to show overwhelming AND disproportionate force if any nation or terrorist group or criminal organization ever decides to attack America’s cyber infrastructure.
I’m writing a novel about this. But this is more important than that. It’s about patriotism, and it’s not partisan at all. We need to make it reality. Today. The clock is ticking, and no less than our democracy is at stake.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
Donald Trump’s first tweet of 2018 made a huge splash around the world. It was that rare sort of Trump foreign policy statement that didn’t deny collusion with Russia, or taunt North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. It was about withdrawing US aid to Pakistan.
The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 1, 2018
My first instinct was to agree with the premise. I was shocked by positive truths while visiting Pakistan, but I have long thought that the United States should predicate the billions in military and civil aid to Pakistan on effectiveness and measurable progress towards eliminating terrorism and increasing economic development, respectively. It would be fair to take some of that aid away at this point. Pakistan’s government has proven over and over again that a large chunk of US aid will go to build up its armed forces against India and twist the spigot of American blood in Afghanistan to and fro. This dirty double game has been going on ever since 9/11.
Ending the double game is a noble goal. But it’s not so simple. The Trump administration is ramping up the US military presence in Afghanistan by thousands of troops, even as yet another American soldier was killed and four others critically injured there on the day of Trump’s above tweet. The longest war in American history continues even further into Year 17. We are in endless territory when it comes to US blood and treasure and the suffering of the Afghan people. We hardly know or understand who we are fighting and why. The media hardly bothers to cover that war anymore even when Americans die. It’s the textbook definition of mission creep.
Pakistan has been a beneficiary of this war’s largesse from the start, from Bush through Obama to Trump, partly because the US military supply lines run heavily through Pakistan’s ports, airspace, and roads. America pays dearly for the right to use Pakistan’s resources. Cutting off US funds to Pakistan could also result in an explosion of fire and fury as terrorists are unleashed from Pakistani territory and other parts of the world in retaliation by dark networks we aren’t very good at tracking.
Like most half-cocked Trump policy prescriptions, the foreign policy establishment in the United States has no plan prepared to follow through on the threat. The Tweet was poorly timed. How can you cut off aid to Pakistan when you need them for your war? Without winding down the war in Afghanistan, or being able to control Pakistani terrorists or nukes minus the local government’s help, Pakistan still has America by the balls. Even drone strikes in Pakistan require local human intelligence. These things cannot be separated. India’s rejoicing may be premature, and I’m not the only one saying so.
We shall watch now how it all unfolds.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
usindiamonitor was overly underwhelmed that the position of US Ambassador to India had been left vacant for many months since January 2017. That’s when former Ambassador Richard Verma last roamed the halls of the US Embassy and left behind not only the hot air of New Delhi, but also a legacy of forward progress in the US-India relationship. Obama’s pick was also much appreciated by many Indians worldwide as the first Indian-American to hold the post. Trump promised less than one year ago that India would be America’s best friend as he lit up a Hindu diva in New Jersey, stoking the hopes and dreams of innumerable Indian-American voters along with a wonderful lamp.
Do best friends leave Ambassador posts to one another unfilled for that long, especially if the relationship is as superlatively non-controversial and bipartisan as the US-India nexus today? Maybe not. But in June, promising murmurs circulated about a certain Kenneth Juster being appointed to the post, an unexpected announcement which nearly served to make up for the time lapse. Senate confirmation based on Juster’s qualifications seemed a given due to his tried and true negotiations with India. Opposition either domestic or bilateral seemed unlikely to cause real impact.
Yet several more long months of silence on this matter followed, as the White House and its attendant media were consumed by other, baser affairs. On September 5, Juster was finally nominated to be the 26th US Ambassador to India. We urge rapid action by the US Senate to confirm Juster without delay when he comes up to vote this week.
So, who is Kenneth Ian Juster?
Juster had overseas proclivities generally, and toward Asia specifically from an early age. As a Harvard undergraduate he studied abroad in Thailand, and served as a research assistant to Samuel P. Huntington, one of the foremost political science gurus in United States history. Juster’s resume includes substantive stints in both the public and private sectors, and in each area the work took him beyond the water’s edge. He came to know the levers and pipelines of federal bureaucracy at the White House, State Department, Department of Commerce, National Security Council, and National Economic Council. On the other side, Juster was respected by private sector colleagues at entities such as salesforce.com, power law firm Arnold & Porter, and private equity shop Warburg Pincus, all of which have global operations.
When it comes to US-India diplomatic relations, Juster is among the limited pool of Americans who have found themselves deep in the arena over the years- and yet became accepted as true friends of India by Indians. This pool is relatively small, shared by members such as previous Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, the aforementioned Richard Verma, the late Congressman Stephen Solarz, and former Ambassador Robert Blackwill. Unlike many in the US foreign policy establishment and particularly in the US State Department, these figures generally didn’t condescend towards their counterparts even if they had to play hardball. Indians have never viewed this as a given. Small wonder that Narendra Modi and his team approved of Juster’s nomination.
Juster is known for helping initiate a High Tech Cooperation Group between the two countries in the early 2000’s, at a time when technology trade and transfer were nowhere near the powerhouse level they have now reached. Today, it’s impossible to keep up with the daily flow of US-India tech deals, mergers, and acquisitions. Some of this is finally creeping into the military realm, including the potential for big-ticket US toys such as the Marine One helicopter and the F-16 fighter jet to be made in India, while American drones and other cutting-edge hardware may be sold to the Indian military, all for the first time.
Juster is even better known for what followed, playing a key role in the multi-year negotiations that culminated in the 2008 civilian nuclear cooperation deal, to this day a jewel in the crown of bilateral trade, but one which still has a long way to go to fulfill its promise. Nuclear exchange is nowhere near where it could be. Even so 2008 represented the end of a long and difficult climb since 1998, a year when India secretly tested nuclear weapons in the sands underneath the Pokhran desert, angering the United States, prompting sanctions against India, and setting the relationship back by years. There has been a steep climb since 2008 as well to address a myriad of concerns with the deal.
It won’t hurt that Juster has Trump’s ear and has for some years especially on economic matters. There are many challenges in play. A rising China and the bitter escalation with North Korea are going to affect the entire Asian neighborhood for the foreseeable future in this, the Asian Century. The nuclear exchange could stall on matters such as liability. Reduction in the flow of Indians coming to the United States to work and study under the Trump administration should be of serious concern to both countries. Intellectual property and the monitoring quality of drug manufacturing in India for US sales are in need of mutually agreed upon swim lanes. Afghanistan, which has been in turmoil for 40 years will rely heavily on US-India cooperation if it’s ever to stabilize. Future cooperation will also depend on how the United States and Pakistan deal with each other, an issue that India will study more closely than all others.
It is possible that Juster will be part of a much anticipated seismic shift, toward the first mutual defense treaty between the United States and India, befitting for the world’s oldest democracy and the world’s largest. There are many steps and pitfalls along the way, but we consider this eventuality to be inevitable the way things are going. Might as well get on with it.
Juster will have his hands full upon arrival in New Delhi. But for now, it’s time for the Senate to do its job and confirm the qualified nominee. This is also a very good time to thank Mary Kay Loss Carlson, the US Charge d’Affaires in New Delhi, for holding down the fort during the long interim period. We also applaud the Trump administration for making a good decision in this critical area of foreign policy. If only there were more of them.