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.
Any objective observation of Washington in 2017 reveals a cross-aisle dysfunction and hatred which have risen to legendary levels even by the swamp’s constipated standards over the Potomac River of time. The word ‘bipartisanship’ is now a cruel joke, and most Americans don’t even remember what that word even means. It’s not our fault. Whether it’s immigration, law enforcement, healthcare, taxes, foreign policy, women’s rights, or education. agreement between Republicans and Democrats- voters or politicians- on any major issue not only doesn’t exist, it isn’t even allowed by party leadership. The partisan wounds have had their scabs ripped off.
The shooting of a sitting Congressman at a softball game, a tragedy which should have brought Americans together, instead predictably devolved into a partisan Mexican standoff between the gunfuckers and gun control advocates. Quaint 20th century stories circulate about genteel lawmakers from both parties sharing shrimp salad and a scotch with their spouses, and we laugh at those hazy Washington recollections as they fade from institutional memory.
Yet there is one area on which the sides are in complete agreement, even lockstep (shockingly). It also so happens to be the area of my expertise. Yes, improving US-India relations is today a bipartisan priority- and probably the only bipartisan priority we can manage to come up with. Democrats, Republicans. Governors, Representatives, Senators, Trump, Pelosi, Ryan, McConnell, Sanders, Tillerson, and Schumer all agree that India should be a better friend. Even Nikki Haley stumbled into a good idea, by advocating India’s permanent entry onto the UN Security Council. US politicians are falling over themselves to say nice things about India. As did Obama and his entire cabinet. Trump has repeated the mantra of India’s friendship himself.
It’s not hard to see why. A closer relationship with India is critical for America’s corporations, national defense, anti-piracy counter-terrorism efforts, immigrant diaspora, universities, and balancing against China. Trump, who is on a mission to crush all other aspects of Obama’s legacy at all costs, has embraced Indian Prime Minister just as Obama did.
There are several factors at play making the current environment conducive to closer ties. Chinese saber-rattling. Modi’s open arms to both US political parties and all corporations. US exasperation with a failing Pakistani state. A crumbling Europe.
The situation with all other friends is much more fluid: Trump has bashed Australia and Mexico, distrusts Germany, is jealous of Canada’s Justin Trudeau, has a bizarre male-dominance complex with France’s Macron as demonstrated by creepy handshake rituals. He is afraid to visit the UK, the indispensable US ally, because they will protest him there. Meanwhile, relationships with China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia are all over the map- from inexplicable, to chaotic, to bipolar schizophrenic level dangerous, and worse.
The only functional and steady bilateral and bipartisan relationship in Trump’s America is with India. There’s a bipartisan agenda of substance, as demonstrated by Malabar 2017, the largest US-India-Japn trilateral naval exercise ever conducted. And this scrap is the last uneaten morsel left on the table of bipartisanship after the attack dogs have ravaged all else. This is a good thing.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
For most American families, “India” evokes such positive images as India’s wonderful cuisines, its many cultural treasures such as the Taj Mahal and the great Hindu books, Gandhi’s historic civil disobedience campaign against British rule, the epic accomplishments of Indian scientists, and the physical and spiritual benefits of the discipline of yoga. Unfortunately, for a small group of American families, numbering in the hundreds, India does not evoke such positive thoughts. They are the families of US servicemen killed in India during World War Two – servicemen whose remains still lie unburied there because of the Indian Government’s long history of callousness toward their humanitarian plight. For these families, who only want the Indian Government to honor their right to repatriate their loved ones’ remains for proper burial, “India” only evokes thoughts of frustration and resentment.
A fundamental aspect of basic human decency, shared by all religions and all cultures worldwide throughout history, is that families have not only a right but an obligation to honor the mortal remains of their deceased loved ones ceremonially with a funeral ceremony as soon as possible after they die. If families are refused access to the mortal remains of their loved ones, they are illegitimately deprived of the ability to exercise this right and obligation, and those who refuse this access deserve the severest condemnation. This right is well-established in both the Geneva Conventions and the body of customary international humanitarian law.
.An estimated 400 US servicemen still lie unrecovered at or near a multitude of World War II crash sites in northeast India. Since the turn of the millenium, 15 of these crash sites have been located, photographed, and documented by the American MIA investigator Clayton Kuhles. From the late 1970s until late 2008, and then from 2010 to 2015, the Government of India did not permit US Defense Department recovery teams into the region of India – Arunachal Pradesh – where most of the remains of US airmen in India lie unburied. For a brief time only (late 2008 until late 2009), the Government of India permitted only one of the many well-known crash sites in Arunachal Pradesh to be investigated for remains, a crash site located on a mountainside in the Upper Siang district near the village of Damroh. In late 2009 the UPA Government withdrew that permission, without a word of protest by the Obama Administration, before any human remains could be recovered. From early 2010 until the assumption of the Modi Government, a de facto moratorium was imposed on Arunachal recoveries. Even after the Modi Government took over, the de facto moratorium continued for well over a year, until the Modi Government, faced with bad publicity over this situation in the Indian press, finally relented and permitted some token recovery efforts.
.During the years (2010-2015) the Indian Government imposed a de facto moratorium on remains recoveries in Arunachal Pradesh, many close relatives of these airmen died, forever deprived by the Indian Government of their right, recognized by the Geneva Conventions (to which India is a signatory). to reunite with the remains of their loved ones killed in wartime, and give them the honored funerals they deserve. Faced with this violation of such a foundational principle of humanitarianism, I (a nephew of one of these MIA servicemen) founded Families and Supporters of America’s Arunachal Missing in Action to lobby the Government of India to honor its obligation to allow the recovery of the bodies of these men from its sovereign territory, an obligation frequently supported by statements of Indian leaders, but almost never honored by action.
Secondarily, our efforts have focused on trying to get our own Government – the US Government – to pressure the Government of India to honor these obligations. The Obama Administration was more concerned with selling to arms to India, conducting joint military exercises, and concluding lucrative commercial contracts with Indian companies than with recovering our war dead. The Obama Administration even went so far as to make patently transparent excuses for the Indian Government’s inaction.
With the transition to the Trump Administration, it’s anybody’s guess whether President Trump will make recovery of our MIAs in India a higher priority. Disturbingly, when US Secretary of Defense Mattis recently talked with Indian Defence Minister Parrikar, published accounts of the conversation made no mention of US MIAs in India.
Those who counsel patience to the families of these men are tragically unrealistic. Many of these MIAs still have elderly brothers and sisters who deserve to have their right to bury their loved ones honored during their own lifetimes. These relatives do not have many years left themselves – patience is the one thing they cannot afford. They deserve to have the remains of their relatives repatriated NOW.
Founder/Chairman of Families and Supporters of America’s Arunachal Missing in Action
Cary, North Carolina
I saw this video making the rounds on WhatsApp, and the premise of this gentleman Dr. Anuj Srivastava’s little lecture is intriguing: why are Indian media outlets so derogatory? That they spew lots of hatred is certainly true. And the video starts out with a calm and intelligent tone that led me to believe this might be an interesting few minutes and I might even learn something.
However, the good doctor’s explanations are absolutely batshit crazy! To take just one example that really caught my attention, he claims without any evidence that CNN-News18, the CNN India partnership formerly known as CNN-IBN, is funded by the “Southern Baptist Church,” and that is why the channel is anti-Indian, anti-Hindu, liberal, and leftist. One by one, he claims that all of India’s major news outlets, including NDTV, the Times group, the Hindu, and India Today are all totally compromised by foreign governments or religious groups. Just a tiny bit of research would show that the Southern Baptist Church has nothing to do with CNN-News18. Why in God’s name would they want to sponsor that news channel? Also, this doctor does not practice in the US though the video would have you believe he is based there. I am not doubting his medical abilities here.
You must watch this video, and not just for a good laugh. There is no doubting Dr. Srivastava’s sincerity. There is no better example of the Indian society’s biggest faults on display: a penchant for batshit crazy conspiracy theories, whining, and blaming anyone else except themselves for India’s massive problems 70 years after the British abandoned India.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
Imagine the extraordinarily low odds for any poor American rural kid to be able to make it to the NBA. Those odds need to be multiplied many times over for a rural kid- even a gigantic one- from the state of Punjab in India to achieve the same goal. And yet Satnam Singh Bhamara now stands on the cusp of finding a roster spot in the National Basketball Association. The 7-foot-2 gentle giant was drafted in the second round of the 2015 NBA draft by the Dallas Mavericks, and currently plays in the Developmental League. His epic rise, and the massive challenges he has had to overcome, are well-documented in the documentary film, One in a Billion, available as of this month on Netflix. By no coincidence, Netflix is making major inroads into India.
One in a Billion does a fantastic job of laying out this story of someone who most basketball fans in the United States have not even heard of yet, a story whose ending is not yet written as Singh is just 21 years old. The filmmakers gained access to a diverse bunch of people, including Singh’s family members, youth coaches, trainers, and teammates in both India and the United States, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive, and Indian hoops journalist Karan Madhok.
The hero of the story could not possibly be easier to root for, regardless of your interest level in basketball. Satnam’s relentless focus on improvement and positive energy in the face of obstacles, coupled with his desire to make family and country proud above all else is nothing short of inspiring. He had to learn not only basketball but also English at a late age, which caused him major academic troubles in America. The gym where he learned to play the game in India had a leaky roof and pigeons interrupting practices.
Satnam also faced inordinate amounts of homesickness and culture shock coming from a remote North Indian village to Florida for high school, leaving all of his friends and family far behind. In the film even the NBA, which is a giant profit-making machine, shows that it has a bit of heart despite the fact that high-level institutional support for Satnam is very much about tapping the 1.25 billion person India market for money.
There are moments that I really loved. The Indian farm scenes are poignant and sad, despite the upward trajectory of one of the village’s favorite sons. At one point Satnam’s black high school teammates at IMG Academy in Florida joked around with Satnam about dancing and impressing girls, and probed him about what India was like. There are moments where Satnam’s high school coach praises him, and others where he yells at him. Satnam’s workouts, drills, and game footage are also interspersed into the documentary and show his progression. Satnam gets fitted for his first suit and then the draft-day hijinks are very intense, and well-shot. I got chills in the scene where Satnam shook hands with Larry Bird, who runs basketball operations for the Indiana Pacers, my favorite team. Satnam in a Pacers uniform would be My. Dream. Come. True.
“People may look back on that date, and say that was the tipping point for basketball in India,” says Silver about Satnam’s drafting in the film. I tend to agree. India is too big to have just one major sport. It’s possible that at some future date, basketball might one day give cricket a run for its money in India. Personally, I can’t wait for that day to come, and for Singh, the Bhullar brothers, and others to pave the way for more Indians in pro basketball in the NBA and around the world.
In the meanwhile, this movie is the definitive account of how it all started. Credit director Roman Gackowski and the whole crew for that.
I am a real human. I live in India. I love India and Narendra Modi (NaMo) for his vision for a clean, developed and economically vibrant India. I also love beef, pork, sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling and rock’n’roll (in no specific order).
MoNa will now take your questions!!! Today, we have the first installment of the MoNa series known as MoNa Ki Baat. Stay tuned for more from MoNa in the near future.
The Honorable Supreme Court has decreed that every patriotic Indian has to stand for the National Anthem before every movie. I support the notion of national symbols and ritualistic following of these symbols in public gatherings to inculcate a feeling of one-ness among fellow citizens. However, I am struggling with a conundrum and I need your advice.
I have begun to enjoy movie while high since I have found through rigorous experimentation i.e. watching several movies while sober, drunk and after stoned (and also alcohol/weed combos), that the experience of the movie is the most superior when watched after smoking half a joint (and no alcohol). I found the experience to be so uniquely good that I am now not interested in enjoying the movies any other way. I must go on to add that at no point in time, have I ever been a nuisance to anybody in the theatre nor have I ever damaged any public property unlike many people walking the streets under the influence of alcohol. But, that’s beside the point and a topic for a future debate.
I also sing the National Anthem with fervour at any opportunity I get. Each time I sing the National Anthem in the company of my fellow Indians, it has renewed my wish to see India and Indians prosper and be happy. Each time I have sung the National Anthem, I have also been acutely reminded of the challenges facing our great nation which has almost always caused an onset of a sombre mood.
Now, my conundrum. So, here I am – a patriotic Indian, love my country, will sing and stand erect for the National Anthem at the drop of a hat and I am stoned in anticipation of a good movie experience. I am afraid that post the mandatory Anthem, which I will surely sing aloud, I will fail to enjoy the movie because of the inevitable tinge of sadness that I will feel. I am also paranoid that I might turn into one of the patriots who ask people that don’t stand for the Anthem to leave the theatre.
What should I do? Unfortunately for me, while I believe that I am as much as a patriot as anyone, I cannot/will not sacrifice my pleasures for the sake of my country like our Honourable Prime Minister has.
Mahri Jann, Ootakamandalam, Tamil Nadu, INDIA
Dear Mahri Jann:
I must say that your problem seems to be caused by extreme patriotism and you don’t seem to be the demography which the Honourable Supreme Court was talking about while framing this judgement. Surely you agree with me that people who are Indian citizens should never forget their Indian-ness and what better way than to make them hear the National Anthem frequently. The Honourable Court must be aware that people have stopped attending public events organized by schools, colleges and government organizations in favour of spending their time in pursuing frivolous pastimes like watching movies. Hence, playing the National Anthem in the theatres would be a good way to achieve the goal.
The easiest solution to your problem would be for you to leave and find another place where you can enjoy the movies without having to hear/sing the Anthem. I hear California has good weather and will also have the added benefit from next year of legal marijuana. However, this would be the same as the solution for beef-eaters to go to Pakistan. Though, I wonder why Pakistan and not Argentina or Australia which has the best beef available. I guess because the non-beef eaters who suggested that the beef-eaters go to Pakistan suffered from the same affliction that Modiji suffered from when he forgot about all those weddings in the demonetization announcement. Also, the same affliction suffered by the bureaucrats who allowed 2.5Lac for weddings, albeit in a lesser degree.
I digress. Leaving the country is never an option since no country is perfect as the election of Donald Trump has proven. Give it time for our government, our judiciary and our police to all understand that achieving “one-ness” at the cost of “uniqueness/diversity” is not the right way forward. Till that time, I have the following suggestions:
With Memorial Day upon us, it is worth sharing a little-known fact about the deeply revered and beautiful Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC. The Memorial will be forever tied to the hills of South India.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial has a unique and unmistakable design by Maya Lin, with a centerpiece consisting of two walls of solid polished black granite, each one 246 feet and 9 inches long. These walls list the names of 58,307 American men and women who were killed or MIA due to the Vietnam War, etched into stone. The gigantic blocks of black granite were imported all the way from Karnataka, India, the home state of my family and one of the few places in the world where shiny black granite is to be found. It helps make the Memorial reflective- in more ways than one- with a spirit that extends to other monuments, including the 9/11 Memorial in New York City.
We’d like to salute those who have fallen in the Vietnam War and other wars in service of their country. As the United States and India build toward a closer military relationship, it is worth noting the other important ways the two countries are meaningful to one another.
Photo Credit vvfm.org
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
The dire importance of the rebuttal to Obama’s 2016 State of the Union speech tonight was not lost on the Republican party. With the Iowa caucuses just days away and a reasonable expectation that Obama’s speech would be one of his best yet, the GOP did something that I consider to be a pretty smart move (of which there have been few lately). For the first time, they had an Indian-American woman deliver the SOTU rebuttal on live TV tonight, and a reliably conservative one at that. And South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley was up to the task.
What dramatically separated her rebuttal speech from most of the nasty GOP rhetoric in this election season was her dramatic positivity, which was more in line with Obama’s own speech. This was the most positive rebuttal to any of Obama’s SOTU speeches by far. Without specifically naming Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, she asked her fellow right wingers to “turn down the volume” and not fall in line behind those who bark the loudest. There could be no doubt that her party brought Haley out in front of the cameras out of a deep fear of the Republican regicide playing out in the polling, and potentially in the primaries.
Nikki Haley did her job successfully. She threaded the needle by trying to herd the audience somewhere between Obama and Trump. She admitted that Republicans shared some of the blame for the way things are- while still criticizing Obama and his Democratic allies, and asking that Americans work together towards better, pragmatic solutions on health care, or immigration. In effect, she was a very able mouthpiece for the Republican establishment tonight. However, like most of the Obama SOTU rebuttals I’ve seen, there was very little discussion of policy. But policy probably wasn’t her purpose this evening.
Despite Haley’s very strong night, it may be too late for the GOP establishment to maintain control over the primary process. There is a real chance that Trump and/or Cruz, neither of whom the establishment wants to see winning the nomination, will win most, if not all of the early primary states this winter. In the meanwhile, we expect that talk of Haley being chosen as the running mate of the eventual primary winner- largely because of her Indian-American background- will continue to brew. We welcome that.
After all, she does look good with a gun.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
In the last year, a must-read book has been published for practitioners, observers, and students of India’s foreign policy. Beyond South Asia by author Neil Padukone is an excellent and surprisingly easy read considering the complex and puzzling subject matter: the history and future of New Delhi’s strategic thought (insert laugh track here…). Experts in this area, and lay readers with zero background in foreign policy alike will gain new insights by picking up a copy. I have read dozens of books on Indian foreign policy from both Western and Eastern points of view. Padukone’s is easily among the easiest to read, and I was able to complete it in just a few days.
Some analysts, including myself, have complained for decades that Indian foreign policy lacks a cohesive overarching strategy. Others find the decision-making processes opaque, or even downright flailing. Padukone has patiently laid out, with copious amounts of quotes and notes in Beyond South Asia that the reality is more subtle; that the young and growing nation has often pursued rational and intelligent policies throughout its history, though adjustments were required as with any country’s strategic vision in the fast-changing landscape of South Asian and global geopolitics. Padukone earned credibility by working closely with numerous high-level officials in this area; more on that in the Q&A below. Read the rest of this entry