Friday, December 29, 2006

Heroin Seizures - 2006

As some of you may have noticed, there was a rapid upsurge in heroin seizures in December 2006. As much as 50 Kg of No. 4 grade heroin was seized from couriers by the BSF and the NCB. To put this number in perspective our total heroin seizures annually are about 200 Kg of white powder. So in one month we picked up about a fourth of our annual capture. The market value of these seizures is a couple of million USD. Heroin usually sells for about 1 Cr rupees per Kg.

The packs containing heroin were marked "Marble Ifaq Factory" of the "Meer Marble Agency of Pakistan Afghanistan Limited". "Pakistan Afghanistan Limited" is allegedly owned by one Bashir Pathan (sometimes also referred to as Mori Gul). Additionally a Canadian NRI was arrested with a substantial quantity of heroin in Punjab and two nigerians were arrested in Delhi with about 18 Kg of white powder by Special Cell. This suggests that the heroin was bound for western markets.

As you all know 2006 has been a tumultous year for drug seizures in India. In addition to the huge haul of Cocaine at Nhava Sheva, there was a stunningly large seizure of Mandax in New Delhi. Earlier in 2006 a network running approximately 42 Million USD worth of heroin each year via Sri Lanka was busted. You are also probably aware that India has been put on a US list as a country of concern due to "leakage" of licit Heroin in India on to the illegal market. Some observers have openly opined that India is emerging as the new hub for narcotics transport in the world and there will soon be considerable pressure on India to disrupt.

The news from South America is particularly interesting, rumours suggest that someone close to President Hugo Chavez is tying Venezuela's oil economy to existing Cocaine economies in the region and this has propelled an anti-American shift in the loyalties of South American Cocaine producers and trafficers. Afghanistan does not present a pretty picture either, opiate production is at record levels. Myanmar is also recording staggering rises in Heroin production. Rumour circulating suggest that heroin and cocaine cartels all over the world are overproducing and driving the prices down. Another idea doing rounds is that a powerful Heroin for Cocaine exchange is building up in Nigeria, and it is rapidly connecting the economies of South America, Africa, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

It is difficult to imagine that drug lords will take kindly to a high rate of interception in India. In other transit countries, narcotics groups have routinely funded terrorist acts when faced with regulatory pressure. The objective of such terrorist acts is to discredit the government of the land publicly and to leverage an end to terror in exhange of a reduction in regulation. A combination of growing domestic demand and changing trafficing patterns will create regulatory pressures in India and this is likely to provide incentive to narcoterrorism.

We are heading for a very difficult time in these matters.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Goddess in India

I recently purchased a copy of The Goddess in India, by Devdutt Pattanaik. It is a fantastic book, I recommend buying it, it is the best summary of Goddess Worship in India that I have seen. In addition to a careful discussion of various ideas in Goddess Worship, the book also provides an insightful overview of the structure of modern Hindu theology.

I was also forwarded this article by Terence Kealey.

In the article Terence says:

The standard explanation is that Hinduism harnessed sex in the service of mysticism

This is incorrect.

It is not "Hinduism" that says anything about sex or mysticism. Mysticism is a catch-all phrase devised to pretend knowledge when when one clearly lacks it. It is Goddess Worship views sex as a representation of a greater union between two components of the Cosmos. The act of union between these two components, is refective of a greater sense of balance in the Cosmos.

The ideas of Goddess Worship were incorporated into the main "Hindu" theologies ages ago. At various levels, in the Vedas, the Veda Suttas, the Puranas, the Itihas, the Upanisads, and the Commentaries on the Upanisads, these ideas were injected with considerable precision. In addition to this, Indian folklore which is a derivative of the Puranas was also infused with ideas of Goddess Worship.

I can very convincingly argue that modern "Hinduism" which draws considerable inspiration from the Bhakti Era is founded on the rock of Goddess Worship and though it cannot be dated accurately into the Common Era, "Hinduism" appears to have hosted several key notions in Goddess Worship long before they expressed themselves elsewhere. The idea of Gaia, the living goddess of the Earth, a living entity that pervades the planet and lends itself great consciousness is something the "Hindus" have been talking about for a while.

You can probably go to a specific sculpture in any "Hindu" temple, and work out based on the style and the context, the exact idea of Goddess Worship that the sculptor was attempting to convey.

I agree that there is a strain of misogny in "Hinduism" too, however this strain is not dominant. The same cannot be said for Islam or Christianity which are over infused with ideas of male dominance. It is only under the influence of misogny that sex as an act is denigrated and its depiction considered undesirable. By contrast to Christianity and Islam which harbour unfathomable distaste and implicit rejection of Goddess Worship, in "Hinduism" these ideas are revered and celebrated.

I note with some amusement this statement by Terence Kealey

but we scientists...

Actually Terence, as a scientist, you have to follow something called the scientific method. A greater part of this method involves actually taking the trouble to look up the specifics of what you are talking about rather than drawing random connections to things you might think you know something about.

The connection drawn up between misogny and depictions in temples is a preformed conclusion that does not agree with the bulk of detailed scholarship in the field of architecture.

For the record, unlike medieval Europe and the sandy lands of Arabia where the Church or the Mosque was the only stable structure standing and consequently the center of all social activities, "Hindus"had plently of other built up structures in their towns and villages. They didn't need their temples to double up as brothels, there were plenty of other places to go to.

If all else fails, an appeal to reason, a quiet romp in the night in Soho probably costs a few quid, I imagine for a few hundred thousand pounds, you could reasonably hope to catch a few minutes with Her Majesty herself but if you try to buy any one of those "pornographic" temple images, you will be shelling out quite a bit more than a few million pounds. Ever wonder why that is?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Towards Energy Independence

As you all can see on your TV screens, a pitched battle rages between the proponents and the opponents of the India-US nuclear deal. I expect this battle is going to get quite a bit more bloody before we see any real trends emerge, also I expect any actual purchases from the US will run into a series of problems.

Frankly I don't know which is worse, the deluded folks in the US Congress who believe that their antics have somehow helped the non-proliferation agenda or the madmen in the private sector who are convinced that India is somehow going to buy a vast number of American reactors. Either ways when India refuses to buy American wares, the private companies are going to be disgusted, and they are going to try and pay off people inside the Indian government to create trouble for the party in power. The American companies are also going to go back up to their government and harass their own lawmakers, I imagine that rather than take the blame for making this mess in the first place, the American lawmakers are going to harass their national intelligence community to do something about this lack of will in India.

So realistically between the private CIA and the government CIA's operations, we are very likely to see a period of instability reminiscent of the Janata Dal era governments. It is exceedingly tragic but I fear that the giant political mess that follows will be seen as the only enduring legacy of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Narayanan Sir, I am really sorry to have to be the one to say this, but in the light of this, it does appear as if the very best efforts of our very best men have come to nought.

I feel that this raging debate will kick up a lot of sand and obscure from vision the key issues that are driving this madness. I want to lay them out before the dust kicked up by American information and psychological operations hides them forever.

1) The current rate of global energy use is unsustainable for political and environmental reasons. Most notably we can no longer guarentee the stability of the pricing structure of carbon based energy sources. As the environmental costs of Carbon Dioxide pollution become more and more difficult to hide, a clean up cost will have to be added to the price of the fuel and this will kill the idea that carbon fuel is cheap. A great deal of work is being put into maintaining the stability of carbon fuel prices in Iraq and Afghanistan, though the idea is technically good, the sloppy execution of these campaigns by the US national security community have made even short term stability of pricing a distant dream. It is difficult to imagine how the middle east is going to remain a managed risk environment for any kind of investments.

2) A shift in global energy utilisation is necessary. The change needs to be at two levels, firstly energy generation needs to become more evironmentally friendly and secondly we need to start using energy in more efficient ways. These problems are interlinked. We need higher generation volume because our utilisation is of poor efficiency. If we changed the way we used electricity, for example by moving to light sources that consume less electrical power and give off the same amount of light, we could get away with lower loads on the transformer. The load saving on the transformer could be passed on to the generation station and a smaller generation station would require a smaller transmission line and that would be far less lossy than what we currently have.

3) The key to securing this shift lies in pursuing three levels of technology. Firstly, for high volume generation, renewable nuclear power sources need to be developed. The Indian Thorium power solution is an example of this kind of idea, we need more of this. Secondly, for low volume generation, a variety of hybrid power sources need to pursued. I am talking about biogas, solar, and wind based generation. Thirdly, we need to reduce energy consumption by forcing people towards the purchase of high efficiency energy saving products.

4) The current utilisation of nuclear resources for high volume renewable generation of nuclear power is limited by the bizarre state of global political affairs. Primarily deterrence theology popular in the P-5 national security communities is divorced from simple economic logic. These nations have nuclear weapons stockpiles that are far in excess of the demands of any rational deterrence philosophy. Additionally a conflict economy has sprung up around these stockpiles and a misguided sense of profit drives the stockpiling of nuclear arms. This needs to stop and there has to be a real move towards global nuclear disarmament and starting with the Americans, people have to reduce the size of their nuclear weapons stockpile.

Irrespective of who is in power in New Delhi or Washington D.C. or Beijing this is the agenda that will drive the dynamics of the mess we are about to see appear.

I do not expect the Americans to jump with joy at the prospect of this and consequently fewer and fewer nations will find the American claims of global leadership credible. All the media based advertising that has been going on to make the US seem like the land of dreams, will largely collapse in the years to come.

I anticipate that when the Americans percieve that their nation no longer commands the respect it once did internationally, they will suffer an extreme injury to their collective ego and this wound will make the US much harder to deal with. Can a US with a massive sense of injury to its national ego become a far bigger pain than it currently is? Yes it can. A simple look at the post Sept 11 world shows that in abundance, however I simply do not see a way to avoid this kind of hurt. The current trajectory of US foreign policy puts the US on a collision course with every other nation on earth. Things are already at the stage where everyone else simply nods and quietly ignores the American foreign policy regime, the day when this humiliation becomes more public is not far. I feel a "financial correction" will take effect not long after say Great Britian takes a step back from Tony Blair's enthusiastic identification with the US. I know you all laugh when someone says things like "Londonistan", but you mark my words, the support of the banks in England is key to ensuring that at least one nation on earth pays attention to America.

What about us in India? well, we are a nation that has been around for centuries. A few decades of political instability will not change that. The energy crisis we are facing is merely a way of summarising a variety of other underlying problems in our social system, we may have to devise ingenious ways of getting around these especially at a time when we won't have even limited capital reserves to access. In sum our problems are our own and we will have to find ways of solving them.

I end (as Kalam once did) on an appeal to India's Shakti, that inner drive that causes us to seek a better tomorrow, for without its blessings we are lost.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Entering the Twilight Zone

I have been staring at every major news channel and electronic media resources I can find from Pakistan and I see absolutely nothing.

None of Musharraf's mouthpieces are saying a word about the PADE test. No other voices in Pakistan are saying a word either. It is an eerie silence that is not ending. The only thing one hears are rumours of negotiations with the PPP for Benazir's return to power. One does not know what to make of that. It is unlikely that Benazir will take the bait. Neither can one tell what is implied by the concilatory tone in the recent Kashmir proposals. Can one take that seriously? no one can say? We can reciprocate conciliatory tones with conciliatory tones, but can we be serious if we do not know if the other party is serious?

My friends suggest that perhaps Musharraf is desperately bargaining with the Americans and the Chinese to see some sort of face saving formula appear that will give Pakistan the public posture it needs to show that India has not completely kicked it out of the fray. My friends think that perhaps either China or America or both will eventually step in to save Musharraf after extracting some major concession from him in this time of his need.

I wonder if this is going to happen. Am I wrong to think that if there was any chance this was going to happen at all, things would never have been allowed to slide to this level in the first place. Does this in someway indicate a desire in the US and China to explore the world that lies beyond Musharraf?

Less than a year ago, the Americans openly talked about dealing with a situation where President Musharraf has been removed from power. In that scenario President Bush's successor was in power, the implication here appeared to be that as long President Bush was in power, such a thing would not come to pass, i.e. no one in Pakistan could doubt Musharraf's claim to leadership.

But this is precisely what the PADE is questioning - Musharraf's overt claim that he can defend Pakistan with the push of a button.

Hu Jintao was recently in India making gestures of a very friendly nature. Was there a message to the Pakistanis in that behaviour?

The problem with going in to the post Musharraf world is that there is an immense twilight zone between Emperor Musharraf and the Kings to come after. There is no guarentee that once one enters this twilight zone, one will actually make it out.

I am reading straws in the wind, but I have this funny feeling that I can't shake, but I fear we are entering the twilight zone.