NewsIndiaTimes - page 5

What AmericansWant FromTheWorld
The 2016 presidential election looks set to offer American voters a choice of foreign-policy
viewpoints on a scale unseen in recent political history
hen it comes to foreign pol-
icy, American voters have al-
ways been a mass of
contradictions. The majority
still believes their country is
the most powerful in the world, but they
see that position slipping. In many cases,
they just seem to wish the rest of the
planet would go away.
Clearly, that’s not going to happen.
While the 2016 presidential election
looks set to offer American voters a
choice of foreign-policy viewpoints on a
scale unseen in recent political history,
recent experience seems to have dashed
any hope that current challenges might
have easy answers.
That’s hardly surprising. In the 15
years since the 9/11 attacks, the United
States has plowed colossal human, polit-
ical and economic effort into trying to
keep itself safe, particularly through the
wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Neither
seems to have made things significantly
better – indeed, quite the opposite. The
wider geopolitical picture continues to
look ever more complex, with the Euro-
pean Union deeper in crisis than ever
after Britons voted to withdraw in June.
The recent attacks in Orlando and
Nice inevitably fueled calls from both
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to
step up military action against Islamic
State in the Middle East – even though
the attack itself appeared homegrown. At
the same time,Washington faces direct
challenges frommajor nation states –
particularly Russia and China – on a
scale not seen since the ColdWar.
Inside the United States, many voters
seem to have lost their belief that Amer-
ica’s engagement in the world – military,
economic and diplomatic – genuinely
serves their interests. To them, globaliza-
tion has simply meant exporting jobs
overseas while importing security prob-
lems and competition, particularly
through migration.
Republican standard bearer Trump’s
ability to tap into that xenophobia looks
to have been a key factor of his astonish-
ing success. Even if, as some polls sug-
gest, Clinton, the ultimate foreign-policy
insider, ends up winning this election,
the isolationism his campaign has tried
to tap is unlikely to go away.
At the same time, Trump was quick to
demand more action against IS in the af-
termath of Orlando.When it comes to
dealing with such militants, some 60
percent of Americans – a majority of Re-
publicans and Democrats – said they
wanted the Obama
administration to
“do more.” But, as
always, it was far
from clear what
that might actually
Republicans, for
sure, were notably
more enthusiastic
than Democrats on
ramping up airstrikes against IS. The ma-
jority of voters from both parties, how-
ever, were not keen on ramping up the
use of special forces in Iraq or Syria and
even less on deploying conventional
ground troops. Neither did they like the
idea of taking refugees from Syria; more
than half said they believed to do so
would affect the security of the United
States. Nor are there any simple re-
sponses to the rising challenges of Russia
and China, both reasserting themselves
in the neighborhood.
When it comes to an ascendant
China, Americans clearly believe there is
also a lot to worry about. Roughly half of
all those surveyed by Pew said they were
seriously concerned about Beijing’s
growing military power, environmental
and human rights
record, trade
deficit with the
United States and
the potential for
cyber attacks. An
even greater num-
ber – more than 60
percent – was wor-
ried about the loss
of jobs and the
amount of money ($1.2 trillion)Wash-
ington now owes the China.
Like many in the rest of the world,
Americans have a largely negative view
of Russian leader Vladimir Putin – albeit
one that is tempered by a grudging re-
spect verging on fear. Polling this year
shows a majority of Americans – 56 per-
cent – say they believe the U.S. should
back its NATO allies militarily in the
event of an attack by Moscow.
As one might expect, Republicans are
much more likely than Democrats to say
Washington must back its regional part-
ners by force if necessary – only a minor-
ity of Democrats believe in the use of
force to protect NATO allies. This year’s
candidates, however, take exactly the op-
posite positions – Clinton has voiced
strong support for NATO while the more
isolationist Trump has gone on record
saying a poor U.S. command can no
longer afford to underwrite European se-
curity in the way it has for decades.
It’s a reminder that these differences
may increasingly cross party lines. In this
election, Democrat Clinton is clearly the
more internationalist – as befits a former
secretary of state. In future campaigns,
however, it’s entirely possible to imagine
a leftist, isolationist Democrat in the
Bernie Sanders mode facing off against a
more hawkish Republican.
Trump might want relatively indis-
criminate military action, even torture,
when it comes to fighting militants but
he is opposed to large-scale, Iraq-style
nation-building. Across the board, Re-
publicans favor heightened military
spending but simultaneously want to
use it less. Historically, these tensions
have always been there. From the begin-
ning, America’s founding fathers such as
GeorgeWashington and Thomas Jeffer-
son were keen to avoid “foreign entan-
glements.” The nation came late to both
world wars. Only after 1945 did it show
any enthusiasm for becoming the “global
If this election so far has shown every-
thing, it is that domestic politics in the
United States are as polarized as at any
point in living memory. Somehow, Amer-
ica must manage themwhile dealing
with what seems an equally complicated
world. Given events so far, it’s not quite
clear how well that will work out.
Peter Apps
ndian billionaire Kumar Mangalam
Birla overestimated investors’ toler-
ance for complexity, and ended up
destroying more than $700 million
of shareholder value over just two
trading days this month.
With his team now doing a better job of
explaining the rationale behind a confus-
ing marriage of two group companies, the
lost wealth stands a good chance of being
recouped.What may be irretrievably gone,
though, are the voting rights that some
minority investors are being asked to sac-
Birla’s justification last Thursday for the
merger of Grasim Industries and Aditya
Birla Nuvo was that the former had plenty
of free cash flow, thanks to its cement and
viscose staple fiber businesses, while the
latter was exposed to fast-growing indus-
tries like telecom and finance.
Together, the combined entity would
offer a blend of growth and stability. Two
of those businesses – cement and tele-
com – already have separate listings. After
financial services are spun off via an IPO,
investors would have a choice of owning
either the operating entities or the holding
While the description was accurate, it
still managed to spark a rush for the exits
among investors of both Grasim and
Nuvo, despite most equity analysts con-
cluding that the proposed share swap is
fair.The reason for the nervousness?
Apart from the usual concerns about a
holding-company discount, Grasim in-
vestors probably loathed the idea of being
partly on the hook for mobile operator
Idea Cellular’s debt.With the price war in
India’s telecom sector turning brutal, that
anxiety is justified.
But funding telecommunications with
Grasim’s cash isn’t the plan – at least for
now. Birla’s team did well to explain that
financial services, currently a wholly
owned subsidiary of Nuvo, would be bet-
ter off with higher-rated Grasim’s balance
sheet backing its future expansion.That
makes sense. India’s state-run banks are
too capital-starved to finance new assets.
And while large diversified conglomer-
ates such as Birla won’t be allowed by the
monetary authority to run their own fully
fledged banks, there will plenty for them
to do as financiers, asset managers and in-
Both Grasim and Nuvo shares stabi-
lizedWednesday. Even so, there are ques-
tion marks around the deal’s lopsided
structure. For one, Birla and related par-
ties get to own 39 percent of an enlarged
Grasim, and would eventually control an
additional 17 percent in financial services.
Throw in merged Grasim’s 57 percent
ownership of this sunrise business, and
the main shareholders would effectively
lord over 74 percent of its voting rights, ac-
cording to proxy researcher InGovern.In a
full demerger, the Birlas would have con-
trolled no more financial services than the
39 percent they would own in a merged
For all practical purposes, the partial
demerger appears to give the controlling
shareholder privileges in excess of what it
has paid for.South Korean chaebols’ web
of cross-shareholdings allowed founders
to control large empires with little equity.
Billionaire Birla’s double-dipping isn’t in
the same league. But it does make for a
less-than-pleasing sight.
– Bloombergview
BillionaireBirla IsDouble-Dipping
By Andy Mukherjee
News India Times August 26, 2016
While largediversified
conglomerates suchas Birla
won’t be allowedby the
monetary authority to run
their own fully fledgedbanks,
therewill plenty for themto
do as financiers, asset
managers and insurers
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