Foreign leaders visiting King Salman of Saudi Arabia have noticed that there is a large flower display positioned just in front of where the 80-year-old monarch sits. On closer investigation, the visitors realised that the purpose of the flowers is to conceal a computer which acts as a teleprompter, enabling the King to appear capable of carrying on a coherent conversation about important issues.
One visiting US delegation meeting with King Salman recently observed a different method of convincing visitors – or at least television viewers watching the encounter – that he can deal with the escalating crises facing Saudi Arabia. The king did not look at the group but at a giant television screen hanging from the ceiling of the room on which was appearing prompts. Simon Henderson, the Saudi expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who tells the story, writes that off to one side in the room was an aide who “furiously hammered talking points into a keyboard”. Continue reading
The conception of a representative government that would enable the devolution of administrative responsibilities to districts and villages; a socialist system in which the state would control the means of production so as to ensure the fairest distribution of goods, power, and service to its members; the good of society would be considered a responsibility of the state, but the state would serve as an administrator and a distributor, not as a disseminator of ideology or doctrine; instituting educational and social schemes for marginalized sections of society—this is the Naya Kashmir manifesto that I grew up believing in.
Has this worthy manifesto been replaced in J & K with an agenda that encourages mainstream Indian financial institutions to play a decisive role in the State through the fixing of prices on the national and world markets, cartels, and a variety of policies that maul our historical and political identity? How much of an effort do the new coalition governments brought to power through the electoral process make to govern effectively and be accountable to the people who voted them into office? Has J & K been reduced to as much of a municipality as PAK and Gilgit-Baltistan have? Continue reading
The war in Syria and Iraq has produced two new de facto states in the last five years and enabled a third quasi-state greatly to expand its territory and power. The two new states, though unrecognised internationally, are stronger militarily and politically than most members of the UN. One is the Islamic State, which established its caliphate in eastern Syria and western Iraq in the summer of 2014 after capturing Mosul and defeating the Iraqi army. The second is Rojava, as the Syrian Kurds call the area they gained control of when the Syrian army largely withdrew in 2012, and which now, thanks to a series of victories over IS, stretches across northern Syria between the Tigris and Euphrates. In Iraq, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), already highly autonomous, took advantage of IS’s destruction of Baghdad’s authority in northern Iraq to expand its territory by 40 per cent, taking over areas long disputed between itself and Baghdad, including the Kirkuk oilfields and some mixed Kurdish-Arab districts. Continue reading