Month: February 2013

Terror attacks: A call to look within

Despite being a victim of terrorism for decades, India has demonstrated remarkable consistency in the irrational and incoherent response of its policy makers, people and sections of its mass media to dramatic and outrageous terrorist violence.

Terrorists have struck again in India. This time, they targeted the city of Hyderabad. Two bombs, which exploded on Thursday evening in a span of few seconds, have so far killed 16 people, besides injuring scores of people. Last year, 13 people were killed in the capital city of Delhi when bombs exploded outside the High Court in September. One month before, low tensity bombs, planted in Pune, had injured one person.

According to the Global Terrorism Index, India is now among the top five terror-hit nations in the world. The others are Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen. The terror index, published by the US and Australia-based Institute for Economics and Peace think tank, was based on data from the Global Terrorism Database run by a consortium based at the University of Maryland, a commonly used reference by security researchers.

Despite being a victim of terrorism for decades, India has demonstrated remarkable consistency in the irrational and incoherent response of its policy makers, people and sections of its mass media to dramatic and outrageous terrorist violence inflicted on the country. Most terror attacks have been followed by a typical though distinctly more pronounced response from all quarters. Much of the public debate following these terrorist attack has focussed on internal security systems (or the lack thereof) and the effort to punish the perpetrators. The public sphere including the media and academic dialogue seem to be preoccupied with ways to bring in line the truant Pakistan.

Such approach has failed consistently. The major flaw with placing the blame entirely on Pakistan is the premise that Pakistan or its proxy warriors could have executed any of these outrageous acts in the absence of serious internal vulnerabilities. Though some of these vulnerabilities are acknowledged by many after the Mumbai attacks, they remain limited to the domain dealing with foreign policy, internal security and intelligence gathering.

Even now there is complete silence on a most crucial aspect that we must recognise; Indian Nationals collaborated with the Pakistani perpetrators in planning and executing this barbaric incident. The law enforcement agencies and the politicians are yet to provide us any clue on the identity of the perpetrators who were killed and on the countless others who helped in the various stages of this act. India, its media and its polity have not even attempted to articulate this dimension in their prescription for preventing these events from occurring again. The increasing presence of radicals in India, in this case those who justify violence in the name of Islam, is a clear and present danger and must be halted if any degree of success is to be achieved in India’s endeavour to tackle the menace of terrorism. It is imperative that Islamic radicalism be recognised as such and then efforts be made to prevent its spread. It is equally important to enact policies that resolve conditions that aid the spread of this violent radicalism.

This reluctance to look within, it may be argued, is due to the inherent predisposition of nations and societies to externalise such incidents. The US and much of the western world has frequently treated terrorist violence as a distant third world phenomenon attributing its cause and origin to the ’impoverished and backward regions’ of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle-East. This propensity of the western world is a legacy of the colonial/orientalist discourse. It also prevents societies from looking within and engaging with shortcomings in their own socio-political landscape. This is evident from the alacrity with which the West categorises its Muslim citizenry as ’Moderate and Progressive’ while denouncing the Muslim perpetrators (even when they are from their own populace) as ’Islamic Terrorists’ motivated and created in alien societies devoid of freedom and liberty. To admit to the existence of discontent and outrage amongst its own Muslim population would be to admit to shortcomings within their own brand of liberal pluralism.

India, its government and people, have responded to the Mumbai attacks and other terrorist action in the past in much the same manner. The origin of these violent incidents have been distanced from within and located entirely in the ’fundamentalist and undemocratic’ Pakistan. This is simplistic and dangerous. The sophistication, planning and increasing frequency of terror violence in India demonstrates strong local support for this radical Islamist ideology that propagates violence. Irrespective of the existence, contours and construct of a global Jihadi network, it is irrefutable that social conditions do exist within India that create disaffection and hopelessness and allow this population within the Indian Muslim community to be lured to the ideology that many today term ’Radical Islam’. The existence of SIMI and their violent brand of political agitation confirm to this growth of radicalism in the local Muslim community. The participation of home grown terrorists from educated and middle class backgrounds points to the presence of this radicalism in all strata of society and within the urban mainstream of India.

Radical Islam is not a primeval phenomenon, nor is it unsophisticated. It is now a post-modern ideology able to attract a diverse demography. It also makes use of modern media and communication platforms and positions itself effectively as an alternative and preferred form of habitation for persons seeking an outlet and release from their existing social reality. This presence of Radical Islam demands two specific investigations that India must undertake if it is to effectively respond to its dangerous proliferation. The first must involve an honest study of political, economic and sociological factors that shape anxieties of the Indian Muslim today. This would help in identifying vulnerable sections and vulnerabilities in our systems that may be exploited. The second investigation must construct how Radical Islam offers its ideology to the Indian Muslims as a relief from their current anxieties. It should understand the substantive messages that are communicated by the supporters of this ideology that address the current day issues of the Indian Muslims across the social spectrum.

An understanding of these vulnerabilities and the messages may offer a point of departure for the policy makers and civil society and help to develop a response comprising of both, security and socio-economic dimensions. This would aid policies and processes that would not only make India safer but also enhance its democratic depth.

“Mitigating Carbon Emissions in India: The Case for Green Financial Instruments”

New Delhi, 18th of February 2013
Please find here the link to download the report.

Executive Summary
With the sun gradually setting on the Kyoto Protocol (Phase One), it has become quite apparent that the global response to resource scarcity and climate change is going to be variable and disaggregated. Increasingly, countries and businesses across the globe are adopting various financial mechanisms and policies in order to manage such challenges. However, many such responses are restricted to advanced, developed countries, whereas the effects of climate change and the increasing cost of resources such as fossil fuels are likely to be more severe for developing countries. This dichotomy in response measures needs to be urgently addressed, and this report is an attempt to highlight the benefits of an inclusive growth oriented financial response mechanism with particular focus on India.

In its first chapter the report briefly outlines the relevance of GHG emissions mitigation through in- clusive market based mechanisms in India. With shifting patterns of economic growth and increased global demand volatility companies and investors in emerging economies, such as India, need to rec- ognise the value created through the supply chain of business deliverables by mitigating emissions. Mechanisms which exclude companies that do not meet global benchmarks, whether by way of share- holder advocacy and investment exclusion, or regulatory policies, will have a significant impact on the way that these companies choose to grow.

Low carbon strategies can only be implemented if the emissions landscape and its effects on sustainable growth are clearly defined and understood. The second chapter outlines emissions trends in India in order to map the carbon landscape and set the context for the rest of the discourse. Chapter 3 examines the trends of energy consumption and emissions at a sector specific and firm specific level (within the assessed sector). It is found that firms in the assessed sector (cement) are operating in sub optimal con- ditions, along with a lack of policy frameworks and market based emissions reduction incentives – there are no indigenous market based mechanisms to incentivise and stimulate change.
A firm level case study of one of the bigger private players in the Indian cement sector has revealed that the firm’s financial performance could have been better. At the same time, capacity additions and increased output have caused the total emissions of the company to increase, which is not sufficiently offset by the revenue gains. As a result, the firm’s emissions intensity has been rising consistently for clinker production. However, enhanced use of additives has kept the overall GHG intensity of cement based revenue lower. The average emissions intensity of the company was higher for three years than the sector average for the same period. The high correlation between the firm’s environmental perfor- mance and its financial performance has been highlighted.
The results of chapter 3 are aligned with the philosophy that environmental performance must not be excluded from the range of parameters that are used by investors while choosing a stock, especially a long term investment. This is true since the two concepts are inherently interlinked under the overall aegis of sustainable growth. It highlights the need for developing market based mechanisms to signal investment opportunities based upon carbon efficiency and financial performance, as both tend to complement each other in the medium to long term.

Chapter four concludes that; companies preparing for risk are not risk averse, but rather are risk prepared. The difference is subtle but important. Market based mechanisms which incentivise good performance by channelling investments to firms that respond to risk better than their competitors in a given environment, help investors realise this distinction clearly. For “green” market mechanisms and investment vehicles to be viable and effective, they must efficiently ensure that the transmission mecha- nism works and only performance based, credible signals are relayed to the open markets. This becomes even more important in the context of a developing country due to the nascent capital markets, and urgent need for scaling up sustainability initiatives – both at the firm and policy levels.

Capital generation should not be looked at as the problem. Rather, redirecting existing and planned capital flows from traditional high-carbon to low-emission; resilient investment is the key challenge of financing transition to a low-emission economy. In order to facilitate such transitions, a universally replicable model will be used – a multipronged approach to achieve the above objectives. This would involve creation of innovative financial products based on purely quantitative data, create and publish sector wise and cross sectoral market reports, and facilitate progressive policy advocacy in order to en- able market realisation for its products. It will further seek to replicate the model in other developing countries through a hub and spoke approach to expansion.