When Sadanand Dhume doffs his thinking hat and throws it away

A reasonable expectation by readers of someone who is projected to be an unbiased analyst is that the latter has taken time to present a picture based on facts and correct interpretations.  Most of the readers of a general purpose publication would not have the resources and the time to sift the data, and will accept what he/she reads as having a good deal of merit.

Sometimes, the unbiased analyst refers to an article written by someone else, who is supposed to be even closer (literally and/or figuratively) to events. If the reference is passed forward without comments, the reader cannot be faulted if he/she thinks that the unbiased analyst considers the other person’s article deserves serious considerations.

Sadanand Dhume struts around the world as an unbiased analyst on issues relating to Bharat.  He is employed by American Enterprise Institute, which is supposed to have a conservative agenda.  But he frequently doffs his thinking hat, using his position in AEI to project his own agenda to an audience who would not know the full details of the subject he writes on.  When he does, it is time that he is called out.

China peeling Bhutan away from Bharat?

In the context of the problem that China has created in Doklam, Dhume tweets: 

Sadanand Dhume (@dhume) tweeted at 8:11 PM on Sat, Aug 26, 2017:
Amidst #Doklam standoff, China is trying to use a $10b package to peel Bhutan away from India.  https://t.co/JfPLcnfbT9
(https://twitter.com/dhume/status/901454492855676928?s=03)

The article is from a Japanese publication, and it is available at:

https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics-Economy/Policy-Politics/China-woos-Bhutan-with-10-billion-in-standoff-with-India

The article tries to project that China is effectively trying to bribe Bhutan as a country (as against an individual) to downgrade its relations with Bharat.  Though the articled does say (“Although a Bhutanese government official immediately issued a denial to Indian media..”), it continues the sentence with (“… New Delhi remains unconvinced”).  If Dhume could not see this red flag, it is because he does not want to see it, a characteristic of a biased person.  The article uses all sorts of innuendos to give an impression that the government of Bharat is really worried that Bhutan may be so tempted with the ‘bribe’ that it would take actions that are not just against the interest of Bharat, but also would be against the interest of Bhutan itself.  The boorish behaviour of the Chinese leadership is well known, and there have been many countries which have been similarly bribed only to later realize the trap that they have fallen in.

Furthermore, many of the recipients of aid from China, have realized that it is actually aid TO China, and there are multiple negative fall outs the countries are facing.  While in some cases the leadership of the recipient countries are reticent about talking openly on the subject, the people of those countries do not have any constraints about expressing themselves.

The amount of ‘bribe’

Even if it is assumed that Dhume passed on the link without fully reading the article, the headline figure should have raised the warning antenna.  The amount mentioned, $ 10 billion, is $12,000 per capita of the population of Bhutan.  The GDP per capita of the country is about $2,800.  Even if the ‘aid’ is spread over ten years, it would be around 40% of the GDP per capita.  Also, the annual government expenditure of Bhutan is around $0.7 bn.  The addition of such large amounts to Bhutan’s economy would just not be sustainable.  One does not have to be an equivalent of a rocket scientist to understand what would happen.  Another red flag was pretended to be missed.

Enamoured of China

The Chinese leadership is a problematic one – but there are many in the world who are willing to project it as something good and noble.  Recently, Kanwal Sibal wrote (The Economic Times, August 17):

Those enamoured of China — there are many in the West and more numerous in India than is warranted by years of China’s adversarial policies towards us — and have romantic notions about it wrongly believe that as a country it is almost infallible in policy-making because it calculates and plans carefully in a longer-term perspective.

The leadership of the United States and the erstwhile Soviet Union have tried to influence policies of smaller countries by all sorts of adharmic methods.  The complicated factor in the international relationship then was the Cold War, where two supposedly ideological narratives were trying to get the upper hand over each other.  Both failed.  Because it was the people of the smaller countries that suffered.  The Chinese leadership does not seem to have learnt the lessons properly.  Or, if they did, they think that they know how to get around the problem.  But adharma is adharma, and in the long run such methods will always fail.

Lamsang exposes the lie

Apart from the number of red flags in the article, on social media it was already exposed as fake at least a day before Dhume put out his tweet.  A Bhutanese journalist had tweeted:

Tenzing Lamsang (@TenzingLamsang) tweeted at 1:09 PM on Fri, Aug 25, 2017:
Another completely untrue story on Bhutan. Bhutan’s Foreign Ministry has not received such offers. Creative writing? https://t.co/8Axrirrib6https://t.co/XjOR50Tlum
(https://twitter.com/TenzingLamsang/status/900985916247887874?s=03)

About four weeks prior, the same journalist had written an article in an Bharatiya publication setting out his country’s position regarding the Chinese attempt to forcibly occupy a part of its territory in the Doklam plateau.  The article is available at:

http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/more-than-the-doklam-issue-bhutan-worried-about-hydropower-deficits-4768598/lite/

The old elite

Dhume’s recent writing on Bharat has an avowedly biased tinge.  It seems, like so many other so-called analysts, the election of Yogi Adityanath as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh after the massive win of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the recent state elections seems to have unhinged him.  And the home-coming of Nitish Kumar to the fold of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), led by the BJP, seems to have made them really desperate.  This phenomenon was analysed by Surjit Bhalla, one who writes primarily on economic issues of Bharat, when he wrote:

“The Indian people are asking more questions and demanding greater accountability from dynastic political leaders. But the old elite — politicians, corporates, left-intellectuals, academics — cannot be expected to give up their privileges so easily. They will try to derail the transformation and object at every turn: If that means fake analysis, they will do so. If that means intellectual gymnastics, they will do so. The key point is that they must do so.”

Dhume wants his readers to believe that it is the members of the “Right Wing” that are indulging in fake news – both in terms of setting out the facts, as well as the analysis.  To try and pervert the minds of his readers, he has coined the phrase Hindutva Troll Army, to give an impression that there is a horde of Hindus on social media, paid by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the BJP, to spread falsehood and thus influence the mainstream media.  Being a member of what Bhalla has called the old elite, Dhume is also finding his own privileges eroding away.  Instead of having the intellectual honesty to admit that he was wrong, he is trying to push his agenda through intellectual gymnastics, which in common parlance means lies.  And, in the process, he has to indulge in chicanery where language has replaced logic.

Lamsang also points out how the fake story tellers quote each other, and eventually try and make the fake into a genuine article.

Tenzing Lamsang (@TenzingLamsang) tweeted at 1:28 PM on Fri, Aug 25, 2017:
They will start quoting each other and the fake news will spread
(https://twitter.com/TenzingLamsang/status/900990715626311680?s=03)

But social media is a cruel instrument, and the old elite are yet to understand that they no longer are able to force their narrative on the people.

Old elite should retire

Things in Bharat are not perfect.  It is just that the old elite has done precious little, in the post-independent period, to effectively solve the problems.  The mood in the country started to change from 1998 onwards, when a dispensation ideologically opposed to the Congress came to power.  However, the power of the old elite was not weakened, or at least it appeared so.  Many in the new dispensation were co-opted by the old elite, at least on a temporary basis.  And some of the old elite weaseled their way into the power structure of the new dispensation.  And so the old elite continued to play their games.

2014 changed it all.  The mature way the present government is handling the problem that China has created in Doklam, shows that the Sinophiles (pretending to be Sinologists) have no longer the power to even come close to influencing the narrative.  And that it is the interest of the people of Bharat that is going to be of paramount importance and not the parlour games of the old elite.  The latter has just got to get used to this titanic change.  If they wish to continue to be relevant, then they have to make a public apology for their past deeds and make sincere attempts to prove that they are sincere in their apology.  Or else they should retire to the hills and live out the rest of their lives admiring the scenery.  They have earned enough from the society to make the latter choice not an uncomfortable one.  And they can pay back by stop being a nuisance that they have been all these years.


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