Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Pakistan puts Modi in tight spot...!

Source: www.firstpost.com
On July 28th 2015, three men in army fatigues crossed in the International border between India and Pakistan into the Punjab region of Gurdaspur that had claimed the lives of 3 civilians and 4 police officers and had left a over a dozen injured. Only last month, Indian media were booming with pride and Indian ministers were giving jingoistic rhetorics to the media, about the change in attitude of the GoI (Government of India) in accordance with the promise of Mr. Modi's government to get tough with Pakistan should there be another attack. However, in my previous post, I argued that it may not be possible for India to repeat the success in Pakistan. I guess, time has to come to prove me wrong... However, the government's less than normal media storm would indicate otherwise... In any case, hot pursuits are to come into effect in less than 72 hours and it is not yet, 72 hours... So we'll wait and see how Mr. Modi's reacts.

In the mean time, let look into the attack and the options India has. Though the attack itself is limited in the damage and definitely lacks in scale and media attention compared to 26/11 attack in Mumbai, it has some similarity. Both have used 'fidayeen' style attacks using small arms and in both the cases, there were intelligent inputs on possible attacks that were ignored by the government, concerned. By this attack, Pakistan attempts to:
  1. Discredit Mr. Modi and his government in the international arena as "toothless paper tiger"
  2. Give Congress and Pro-Pakistan lobbies tooth to pressure government that talks are the only forward, while people are well aware that it had only cost their lives and livelihoods
  3. Prove their ability to still carry-out attacks in India from across border, to their dwindling supporters in India and possibly to enlist IS.
It is also highly likely that the attack is the result of the thaw in Indo-pak relations. Whenever, Indo-Pak relation sees a thaw, it had almost always followed by an attack in large or small scale. The best example is the Kargil war in 1999 which immediately followed, within months, after the Lahore summit and the historic bus journey of Mr. Vajpayee in February 1999. Similarly, the Agra Summit in July 2001 was followed by an attack on Indian Parliament in December 2011. Many such examples could be given. In all these cases, one similarity is that the attacks almost always followed within months after a thaw in relations. The current attack too, follows the same pattern. It has happened within months (actually within days...) after Ufa summit. So, one thing is for sure, unless and until Pakistan change it attitude or India grows its tooth, innocent Indians are going to lose their lives every time Indian politicians tries to become Gandhi or fall prey to the Pro-Pakistani (Pro-talk) lobby.

While the pattern of attack stands, what is a mystery to me is why? Is the Pakistani Government taking Indians to be fools or think that Indians cannot fight back as some late Pakistan' President thought, is anyone' guess. It is also likely that Pakistan is run by parallel governments, one that is publicly recognized to take the blame and lose power for the act of the other, which is shadows (at least in legal terms... read Pakistan military). While the first possibility still lacks solid evidence, the history of Pakistan Army over-throwing Pakistan Government one too-many times stands evidence for the second possibility. Even US had to toe Pakistan Army's line to get its work done in Afghanistan. In fact, US bought Pakistan's support for its actions in Afghanistan through its multi-billion dollar aids. And its inability to keep Pakistan Army in check, in spite of these largesse, to do its bidding could be attributed to its not so successful campaign in Afghanistan. 

In any case, Mr. Modi is now in a fix. Unlike Myanmar, Pakistan Army is hostile to Indian interests. In fact, it is the perpetrator of the shadow war that is costing hundreds of Indian lives every year. If India tries to emulate its Myanmar actions, Pakistan has the capabilities to retaliate and will do for sure. Thanks to China. Extraction is much more difficult than intrusion, in this context. If Mr. Modi, decides to get tough with Pakistan he can only push Indian soldiers for a suicidal mission, which may not go well with Indian public and may not even succeed. India lacks the stealth technologies that are necessary for the successful penetration of Pakistani airspace, any way. Even if he tries to cover it up, it would crop-up for sure in future and elections would be a very bad time for such information to be leaked.  

Thanks to I.K Gujjral's misplaced bonhomie India lacks covert action capabilities against Pakistan while the latter maintains and nurture its asymmetric advantage over India. In spite of the advise of many security and strategic analysts, the successive governments of India hesitates to reinstate the covert operation capabilities of Indian intelligence. For one, they don't want to be seen as anti-Gandhian. The other is the successful lobbying by Pakistan sponsored pro-talk groups in India and other nations. Hence, covert action is not a possibility.

The third option, that Mr. Modi could resort to is to make precision missile attacks. Indian missile systems seems to have that technology. For example, Brahmos and Shaurya missiles of India are capable of attacking Pakistani targets close to border with precision. Their speed makes interception difficult. However, this would invariably invite the wrath of Global community as Pakistan would claim that Indian attack had killed innocent lives. For such attack, intelligence should be accurate. If it was found later that India attacked and killed innocent civilians, it would be left with a red-face in the global arena and its non-aggressive peaceful history stand blemished. This option is the most viable, if Mr. Modi decides to walk the talk... However, India has to risk a war with Pakistan, as it is highly likely that Pakistan escalates the conflict to a full fledged nuclear war

The fourth option, is the easiest and is the most often used by the successive governments. Condemn Pakistan's actions, some more rhetorics, some increase in defence budgets and as usual try to mount International pressure... Probably, also throw a "mocking bird", some missile advancement or achievement that could take the sight of public from this attack. This option only make him another paper tiger. However, in all likelihood, this would be the most likely course Mr. Modi might take, given India's predilections and past responses...!

In short, Pakistan in a single act has called off Mr. Modi's bluff in Myanmar and had made his Government get caught in its own rhetorical trap. The world now waits to see if Mr. Modi can walk his talk... Or is he yet another paper tiger?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Harper Immigration Policies destroy talents...

Canada is gripping with election fever but none of the parties seem to address or even acknowledge the misplaced immigration policies of Mr. Harper. This, while Canada's Global Competitive Index (GCI) ranking, a measure by World Economic Forum (WEF) on the ability of a country to bring prosperity to its population, has slipped to 15th in 2015. GCI takes over 110 variables into account for the estimation. However, by comparing with US, I think the flawed immigration policies and the system skewed against immigrants could be one of the reasons along with spending cuts to R&D.

It seems there is a lot of groups lobbying to restrict immigration. To an extent, it is true that some tend to import cheap labor but skilled-immigrant population actually helps Canadian economy more than it hurts. For example, African doctors who migrated to Canada saved over 400 million dollars while costing their home countries billions. Assuming an average citizen of Canada makes a million dollars during his productive period, the savings mean 400 more jobs or possibilities to invest in opportunities that could produce even more jobs and consequently more income to the Govt. However, in an attempt to fix this problem the immigration policies enacted, actually seem to aggravate this problem and in some cases, pushing of skilled immigrants out of the country or derogate them to lower jobs. Thanks to improvement of conditions in Asia and the flawed immigration policies, Canada is now seeing reverse immigration.

Prof. McNiven, in an interview to CBC in 2012 said that PhDs from developing countries were lured to Canada with high hopes only to find that their qualifications were not enough making them to drive taxis and work in restaurants. He also mentioned that it is due to the Canadian Government's intention to keep the higher paying "good jobs" among Canada-born young people.  He was also correct in saying that Canada needs immigrants with minimal skill and a lot of drive. From my experience, if I'm to recruit some one to my team or company, more than the skill they have I would look for their ability to acquire the skill. Hence, I agree with McNiven on accepting immigrants with minimal skill and lot of drive. However, the same conditions ("good jobs" for Canadians) still exist and the flaws in the system still helps the industries bring cheap labor instead of attracting and retaining talents - resulting in brain drain.

As case in point is the situation of postdocs and scientists, visiting Canada to work in Federal  and other laboratories across Canada. These immigrants add to skilled workforce involved in the development of technologies and science which ultimately benefit Canada. However, when these postdocs want to find an academic position in an University after their tenure as a postdoc or move to industries, they hit a "glass wall". Since companies are not much inclined to spend time and money (a requirement by CIC), a residency becomes a requirement for a job offer. However, according to the current system, one needs a "valid" job offer to get invited to apply for residency. The end result is either under-utilization or drain of talents. If I'm not wrong, I guess the labs and government perceive these postdocs as expendable cogs. In other words, they are doing the same thing that they want others not to do - exploit immigrants and import cheap labor. What they fail to realize is that these young minds, while they do bring new ideas on their arrival also leave with more ideas on their departure. In addition to attributing to the attrition of talents, the scenario could very well play against Canadian interests in geo-politics.

On the other hand, according to the current point system, the people who would enter Canada are IT and similar professionals, under paid by their company back at home. When these companies bring these professionals, usually they are brought on deputation and instead of a full payment, they would receive allowances. However, after a year these professionals would be eligible for Experience Class immigration and since they already have a "valid" job offer with LMO (Labor Market opinion), they would be successful in immigrating to Canada. I leave it to the readers to determine which one is good for the country in short and long term.

The start-up visa program, is also a bit tricky and may not be effective in retaining talents. First, most of the postdocs prefer a scientific career. After all, they chose to do PhD when they could have very well proceeded to become an MBA, right? Also, it might be difficult for the postdocs in the Federal labs to bring together a team to form a start-up. At the most, some one in some universities could apply for the Start-Up visa program. From what I understand, there had not been many success stories. A person with right business mind, also may not be interested to create a startup/company here because of the cost of labor and raw materials, as well as the size of markets. For example, India and China are bigger markets than Canada.

The federal and provincial labs that host visiting fellows and scientists also provide next to nothing opportunities to build their skill-sets or acquire new skills, to help them move to industry or to improve their employability. This actually aggravates the postdoc crisis. I had attended a few interviews from data science start-ups. Though I have a good understanding on time series data and have been dealing with extremely discontinuous data, and, as any postdoc, acquire the programming skills along the way to complete my tasks, these start-ups invariably rejected opportunities as I was lacking skills in Hadoop or Scala. I was hoping to have an opportunity to acquire those skill sets. However, if I have to acquire them myself I need over 24hrs (I already sleep only for 4 hrs) and more money to set-up my own infrastructure to acquire the experience that these companies, apparently seek. Further, the regulations in effect, prohibits postdocs from attending International conferences (even when they have results to present. The same is the case for Federal Scientists as well.), which are vital to their career development. In short, the policies of the Canadian Government effectively destroys young scientific minds.

I guess these are what some call as invisible racism and Harpers Govt. is not just helping brain drain but effectively destroying them. I think it would do more good to Canada if the underlying problems that hinders the realization of the full potential of immigrant talents are addressed instead of directing racial slurs. However, both the opposition and the public seem to be oblivious to the issue... I guess, immigrant postdocs should be warned against coming to Canada... Would you agree?!

Note to Readers: I have been off for a couple of weeks, as I have been attending interviews. I greatly appreciate your patience and your continued support.