Photo Gallery – January 2022

MMA – KAS event on the theme “Chai Kings – Rising from the Ashes” by Mr Jahabar Sadique, Co-Founder & CEO, Chai Kings in conversation with Mr V Shankar, Founder CAMS & Director, ACSYS Investments Pvt Ltd
MMA – KAS Discussion on the theme “Pivots for Career Success – Unleashing People Power” by Mr R Gopalakrishnan, Former Executive Director, Tata Sons Ltd and Mr R Srinivasan, Former Member, Corporate Management Committee, ITC Ltd, Kolkata. Mr R R Nair, CEO Coach, OD Consultant & Independent Director lead the conversation with the panelist during the event.
MMA -KAS Discussion on the theme “The Lean Startup: How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses
Mr Rajesh Srinivasan, Marketing, Branding and Business Growth Strategist lead the conversation with Special Invitees on the theme of the book. Special Invitees: Mr Maran Nagarajan, CEO, Kaar Technologies, Ms Meena Chabria, Associate Vice President – Brand Alliance – PVR Cinemas.
MMA – KAS Online Event on the theme “Demystifying Career Growth”. Distinguished Panelists: Mr Gopal Subramanyam, Chairman, SKF India Ltd, Mr A R Unnikrishnan, Managing Director, Saint-Gobain Glass, Mr Katsushi Minobe, Executive Vice President, Kobelco Industrial Machinery, Mr Arul Shanmugavelu, Author & Managing Director, Kobelco Industrial Machinery India Pvt Ltd in Conversation with Mr N S Sivaraman, Retired Vice President (Special Projects), Larsen & Toubro Ltd

Positioning India in the New World Order

MMA in partnership with the India Office of the KAS and ORF organised a conclave on the theme ‘Positioning India in the New World Order.’

A new leadership in Germany raises questions about the future of what is acknowledged as ‘Merkelism’ in domestic and international affairs — like Reganomics and Thatcherism in the US and the UK respectively before it. The changeover also coincided with the emergence of AUKUS, over which France, an EU power alongside Germany, had a diplomatic spat with USA and Australia as much for political and strategic reasons as commercial. Ahead of both, we have had the EU coming up with an Indian Ocean Doctrine of its own, and Germany announcing its forays into these parts, separately.

What is more apparent is the studied European silence viz-a viz political and strategic developments in the Indo-Pacific, where China’s determination to dominate the narrative is becoming both visible and provocative by the day.

What does it mean for the world, starting with the immediate Indian Ocean waters and nations including India, as this is where the geo-centre of future action is predicted to be?

India must retrieve its moral leadership in international affairs

Mr M K Narayanan
Former National Security Advisor of India (NSA) and former Governor of West Bengal

There is nothing taking place like a new world order. Compared to the final years of the 20th century, the world of the 21st century appears adrift. Today, there is neither a bipolar nor a multipolar world. Many new power centres have emerged. The focus of geopolitics has shifted to the East, with Asia at its epicentre. The only constant in today’s shifting milieu is impermanence. Within the context of this universe, the rise of China is the only constant.
The Indo-Pacific region has turned highly volatile following heightened tensions between US and China. There have been some breakthroughs, such as the Abraham Accords but these have not had any serious impact. The foremost challenge to the world order is China. It has emerged as a major disruptor of the existing rules-based governance. With its economy at 15Bn$, its net worth is estimated to be higher than that of United States. Militarily, it is second only to the US. China is openly challenging the US in the state-of-the-art weaponry and has already achieved a breakthrough in hypersonic technology.

In the Indo-Pacific, the Chinese navy appears well-positioned to checkmate the US. Even more threatening is China establishing a stranglehold on items that are critical to today’s digital world. It is in a position to hold the world to ransom in the days to come. Due to the China-US proxy war for influence, the situation in Asia has become unpredictable. One such fallout of this proxy war is the Sino-Indian border issue in the Himalayas. This had remained quietened for the better part of four decades. China perceives India to be part of a grand alliance led by the US, aimed at containing China. The US, Japan, Australia and India are part of an alliance for a quadrilateral dialogue which encompasses the Pacific region. Also, the US, UK and Australia have entered into an alliance to police the Pacific.

Even the West Asia seems to have become a quagmire of intense rivalry and a manoeuvring ground for gaining influence for China, Russia and the rest of the region. India has unwittingly entered into this quagmire by entering into a QUAD alliance between the US, Israel, and the UAE.

Even the West Asia seems to have become a quagmire of intense rivalry and a manoeuvring ground for gaining influence for China, Russia and the rest of the region. India has unwittingly entered into this quagmire by entering into a QUAD alliance between the US, Israel, and the UAE.

India must try and retrieve its moral leadership in international affairs. The world is looking for a sense of direction. India should revive its leadership of the non-aligned movement. India still has got traction among member countries of NAM. India must not flinch from biting the bullet and finding an effective way to manage its problems with China and Pakistan. The so called enemy is at the gates and, therefore, India must devise a structured approach and a climate for negotiation, while firmly resisting any Chinese advance. Given its long border with China, India should not merge its strategy with the grand strategy adopted by the US and other nations in dealing with China. India needs to enforce the adherence of agreements on border issues with China and reopen lines of communication with Pakistan, in spite of its perfidious behaviour in the past. India also should work harder to revitalize relations with Russia; and South as well as West Asian countries.

Indo-US relations had never been as vibrant as they are today. The US has become a key factor in determining India’s foreign policy priorities. However, US must not undermine India’s strategic autonomy. Indo-Europe relations have always been warm but never intense. India and Europe have a natural congruence of purpose, not limited to trade. What is needed is a vision with regard to future cooperation. Dr. Angela Merkel has been India’s mainstay for the past 15 years. Her leadership has been a defining factor of the world order and her absence is deeply felt by India. India must now find new anchors in Germany and the EU.

While politics and power generally drive geo-politics, leaders do matter. India is fortunate to have a stable democracy and an established leadership. It is well-positioned to beat the odds and achieve the desired results as and when a new world order emerges.

The US has become a key factor in determining India’s foreign policy priorities. However, US must not undermine India’s strategic autonomy.

India must see the world from its own vantage point.

P S Raghavan
Former Chairman, National Security Advisory Board and Former Indian Ambassador to Russia

We are moving towards bipolarity with multi-polar characteristics, unlike the older template. The relations in the neighbourhood must be recalibrated. The management of relations with China is critical. Taking sides between the US and China is a no-brainer, as the relationship with the US on all levels has been great. The problem arises when India is asked to take a side between US and Russia. The fact remains that India has a physical border with China and the 2005 agreement between India and China is an innovative as well as an important one in many senses. Russia-China nexus against India is something that India definitely does not need. A template has to be created wherein the challenges to Indian interests in the extended neighbourhood need to be addressed. Any talk of a rules-based order becomes complicated for any country which is not a part of the process of framing rules. Indo-Pacific is a geography defined differently by different countries and Asia-Pacific, of which India is not a part, is more a political concept. India must see the world from its own vantage point and define its role in the new world order.

Taking sides between the US and China is a no-brainer, as the relationship with the US on all levels has been great.

In the old Cold War, technology depended on where you were and we see that situation today.

Prof Dr Heribert Dieter
Senior Fellow, German Institute for International and Security Affairs

In trade and finance, there are quite a few emerging issues. Former US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson referred to the emergence of a new “Economic Iron Curtain” between the U.S. and China. In the old Cold War, technology depended on where you were and we see that situation today. Like in the old COMECON (Council for Mutual Economic Cooperation), today, some products cannot be exported to certain countries like China. In spite of the range of troubles that US and OECD countries face, these economies tend to be leaders in a range of key industries like semiconductors and aircraft. A Dutch firm makes a sophisticated chip manufacturing tool. The US government managed to convince this firm through the Dutch government, not to export it to China. This is a recent development. China is developing aircraft but it is dependent on the US for the aircraft engine and aviation electronics. The US is not ready to supply these to China. The economic relations today have a significant political component.

Future of institutions

The 12th WTO Biannual Ministerial Meeting scheduled for 29 Nov 2021 in Geneva was cancelled by citing Covid concerns. Covid was not the only reason for the cancellation. The US is not interested in supporting a multilateral trade regime that China has been abusing. It has learnt the lesson that supporting China’s entry to WTO in 2000 was a mistake. Chinese companies that get government subsidy, compete with other global companies that do not get any subsidy. This is a political problem. According to Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director General of WTO, the WTO suffers from design problems. Countries like China self-classify themselves as developing countries. There is no mechanism to check if they are developing countries or not. South Korea is no longer a developing country. They have reclassified themselves as an industrialized country. They did not do this on their own. It was because of the pressure put by the then US President Donald Trump on South Korea not to avail the benefits available to a developing country. Pluri-lateral solutions are not the best solutions to organising, governing and regulating international trade. But the best solutions have been blocked due to the conflict between the US and China. GATT was never a global trade regime. It was a club of the west.

President Trump won in 2016 partly due to the campaign on the negative effect of globalisation on white-collar workers in the US. The current reorganization of supply chain is not just because of Covid; China is increasingly becoming an unattractive location for production. In China, labour costs are now high and productivity is too low. The workforce has shrunk by 25% in 4 years. The influence of Communist Party’s interference is increasing. This has become a deterrent for investments in new supply chains in China. Jack Welch once said, “The ideal factory is mounted on a barge.” As things change, we can move the factory around. We see today that factories are moved from one place to the other.

India has a golden opportunity in the emerging scheme of things. It has a young work force. Being nearer to EU, relocating supply chains to India will not only reduce the logistics cost for EU but also help in its efforts to manage climate change as the shipping duration gets reduced substantially, leading to big savings in fuel consumption.

The 12th WTO Biannual Ministerial Meeting scheduled for 29 Nov 2021 in Geneva was cancelled by citing Covid concerns. Covid was not the only reason for the cancellation. The US is not interested in supporting a multilateral trade regime that China has been abusing.

The tool box approach

Dr Gudrun Wacker
Senior Fellow, Asia Division, German Institute for International and Security Affairs

For China, things changed after the financial crisis of 2008. They thought that their time of waiting was over. Xi Jinping was criticized for taking on US too early. China was emboldened by the 2008 US financial crisis, the Olympics and the Expo. These made them to articulate their intentions in a clearer way. In the last few years, China has not undermined the rules-based order. Rather, they are changing the rules-based order. They choose the rules that are compatible and convenient to them and which promote their interests. Whatever institutions Donald Trump undermined or vacated in his four-year period, China quickly moved into them and occupied the number 1 or 2 slot in them. This was possible because, the US did not care for institutions. China does not aim for soft power anymore. They believe in a tool box approach. Joseph Nye calls them ‘sharp power.’ Under the leadership of Xi Jinping, it has become aggressive in its approach with a toolbox full of sticks and also, some carrots.

The instruments in the tool kit are deployed in different ways in different countries. The tools are sometimes militaristic and sometimes diplomatic. Their wolf warrior diplomacy has caused a geo-economic and geopolitical shift. The objective of China’s piecemeal approach is to win in the end, without fighting.

Until a few years ago, whenever there was talk of Asia in the EU forum, they only referred to China. EU only looked at the bilateral relations with China and some global issues like climate change and non-proliferation, where China has to be on boarded as a partner.

Until a few years ago, whenever there was talk of Asia in the EU forum, they only referred to China. EU only looked at the bilateral relations with China and some global issues like climate change and non-proliferation, where China has to be on boarded as a partner. EU did not look at China’s behaviour in the region. This was different from the way US approached China. The way China behaved in Europe changed EU’s perspective of China in the last couple of years. China started taking over companies and was gaining control of critical infrastructure in Europe.

For EU, China is a partner, a competitor and a systemic rival. EU normally does not move very fast. EU is now developing its toolbox to make it more resilient. Due to the initiative of France, Germany and Netherland, the EU has developed an Indo-Pacific strategy. It is now acknowledging the significance of and the shift that has taken place in the region.

Asia is the new epicentre where the new world order will be decided.

Prof Dr Carlo Masala
Professor at the Universitat at Bunderwehr Munchen

For the last one decade, what we have seen is a world of disorders. Multilateralism is beyond repairs. A polycentric world order is highly unlikely. The world is in transition, and it will be shifting from a unipolar to a bipolar structure. There are two major revisionist powers today which worry the world—Russia and China. While Russia is a ruthless power, China is cleverer and rising. It is like a spider web, closing in on its prey, slowly. Russia and China are in a partnership of convenience.

Many of the global institutions that were created between 1945 and 1990 are today dysfunctional and beyond repair. New forms of cooperation are advisable. Asia is the new epicentre where the new world order will be decided. How the US and the rest of the nations in the region, more so, India, react to Chinese pressure and its handling of the Taiwan situation, will become a decisive factor and send a critical message to the rest of the world.

Another worrying factor in the short term is that the US is putting out a new nuclear strategy. What we know from Washington is that ‘sole purpose’ is going to be the new formula for the use of nuclear power. In Europe and Asia, there is a lot of nervousness about this ‘sole purpose’ as defined by the US. The US strategy could trigger some sort of nuclear proliferation in the region. There are two litmus tests for the US—Its ‘sole purpose’ nuclear strategy and how it deals with China handling Taiwan. India cannot remain neutral for long and it needs to align itself to one side. Europe and India must be on the side of the US for their own interests. The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) was never neutral and, historically, it was closer to one epicentre of the Cold War period than the other epicentre.

Massive military build-up in the Asian region could easily escalate into a major conflict, and with five nuclear powers in the region, the need for confidence building measures, discussions and debates is of paramount importance. While we talk of rules-based world order, we need to ask the question: Whose rules do we refer to?

Mutual solidarity at a time of great economic hardship.

Peter Rimmele
Resident Representative to India, KAS

Our world today faces a much more challenging and uncertain scenario than we have ever experienced in recent decades. This is partly a consequence of the pandemic, but mostly due to the resurgence of isolationism and the strategic dispute between the United States and China in an increasingly bipolar world. The possibility of international organisations becoming a mere arena where great powers try to marginalise each other, with others also being affected collaterally, is a major threat. These trends have put the liberal world order characterised by globalisation, a rules-based world order and liberal constituencies, under severe stress.

Like-minded democratic countries like India and Germany must deliver viable responses to uphold our values of democracy, rule of law and human rights, and to ensure effective multilateralism in the evolving world order. International cooperation has a pretty good track record in recent years, despite all the criticism directed towards multilateralism. Both the 2016 Paris Agreement to combat climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals promoted by the United Nations are good examples of this. States like China and Russia blocking decisions in key international cooperation bodies can be overcome by further strengthening the regional and ideological alliances such as the QUAD.

India should undertake multilateral efforts and assert its rightful place in the emerging world order. The ongoing efforts of India already bear testimony to this idea. India and the EU have defied global trends by enhancing cooperation to promote security, prosperity and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. However, this strategic relationship, whose importance and progress was highlighted by this year’s EU-India Summit, needs to be further consolidated in the months and years ahead. The resumption of negotiations on a comprehensive free trade agreement after an eight-year hiatus offers a promising avenue for developing closer ties and friendships. This is an important sign of mutual solidarity between the world’s two largest democracies, at a time of great economic hardship.

To quote from Henry Ford, who once said: “Coming together is a beginning. Staying together is progress. Working together is success.” The whole of the EU and India have already passed these first two stages. There still remains some room for progress towards the third, which is working together. This is a crucial stage which, if achieved on a sustainable basis, will ensure the saliency of India and the EU, regardless of what kind of new world order emerges.

India should undertake multilateral efforts and assert its rightful place in the emerging world order.

Will globalisation come to an end?

Prof. Dieter: I continue to believe that the international division of labour, as broadly defined, is a useful concept. The reduction of poverty from 1980s to today is significantly because of the global trade and the international division of labour. I don’t see mankind abandoning a concept that has been so useful, although I am aware of the risks of globalisation.

Globalisation benefitted the world including China and Germany. So such a concept would evolve to suit the current circumstances. We will see adjustments happening but globalisation will stay, according to me.

The GFC (Global Financial Crisis) led to people losing faith in capitalism but GFC happened purely because of US and its economic policies. I also feel that an Asian financial crisis may be round the corner. The way China handles its finance is not encouraging. Its real estate sector has been outrageously over-valued. It is not sustainable and may be due for a correction.

What corrections are required to restore global harmony, without serious conflicts?

Prof. Dieter: Harmony is not a concept that is common in international economic relations. I do not believe in it. Though competition is not the opposite of harmony, competition is what is preferred in economics. It drives innovation. If we have too much harmony, we may neglect innovation. The economic debate today is more about competition than harmony.

Will China succeed in its attempt to change the rules-based world order?

Dr. Wacker: China has already started doing that. It has started changing the language at the UN level. For instance, in the UN Human Rights Commission, they are bringing in the Chinese formulations like Xi Jinping’s concept of ‘shared destiny of humankind.’

With the US walking away from some of these institutions, China has been quickly occupying that space and succeeding. When US neglected UNESCO, China organised a major UNESCO conference. China is even reviving some semi-dead organisations.

It has captured the north-south narrative quite effectively. Also the Belt and Road Initiative is, in my opinion, the most effective and successful narrative that was ever rolled out. You might have noticed that India has been absent in rolling out an effective narrative.

China has been leading in the internet and cyberspace too. Unlike Russia, China plays its game in an incremental way—by the time it is noticed, it becomes already too late.

There is clash between democracy and communism as practised by China. What are the critical issues that China is facing and which can help democratic nations?

Dr. Wacker: In a democracy, the legitimacy comes from the people electing a government. In the Chinese system, the legitimacy comes from the output delivered by the government. In China, the leadership—the Communist Party—delivers. We have neglected our own political systems for too long. The democratic countries rested on the laurels of the victory of democracy in WWII and since then, they did not feel that they had to educate the public about the efficiency and achievements of democracy. Our democracies are not standing out like bright models either. In China, the narrative has been controlled by the state. Especially after the reign of Donald Trump in US, China has been quick to ask their people, “Is this the kind of system that you want us to adopt?”

Are we facing a new Cold War?

Prof Masala: In the academia, we have a distinction between the Cold War and the East-West conflict. In the East-West conflict, both sides could press the power competition and the ideological conflict as well. Cold War was more focussed on the power competition. If power is the primary deciding factor, then yes, this is a new Cold War on all fronts. The tensions are as high now as they were in the two phases of the old Cold War—the Cuban crisis before 1963 and then between 1979 and 1983 when Russia-US relations were highly strained.

How would India orient its policies with the challenges posed by China in the Asia-Pacific region on the one hand and the EU expecting India to step up its role on the other hand with the US retreating and leaving India to face the challenges?

Amb. Raghavan: We have to work with US and at the same time, draw China to a more cooperative order. Everybody has a high level of economic cooperation with China. At the same, India must build its capacity. Protecting India’s continental flank is important and it must find its own solutions. India’s dominance in the region is important to the USA too.

Has the decline of global capitalism led to the rise of China? Will the Chinese system sustain?

Dr. Wacker: In 1949, experts said that only socialism could save China. In 1979, they said only Capitalism could save China. In 1989, they said only China can save socialism. In 2009, they said only China can save Capitalism. The Chinese system is not Socialism. It is State Capitalism. We have to be clear about the attributes of the Chinese system. We cannot be arrogant and say that innovation is not possible in a Communist-controlled China.

The West had been complacent. How often have we predicted the collapse of China? The Communist Party has always found a way to adapt. I am not suggesting that the Chinese system cannot collapse but it has been predicted too often. So far, the Chinese system has proved to be very resilient.

What is the real intention of China’s recent aggression with India?

Dr. Wacker: China’s real intention has always been to win, without fighting. The clashes in the border happened because China’s considers those territories as the core interests of China. They are not willing to compromise in this. I don’t think that China will compromise on territorial issues any more. However, the main problem, according to me is that China sees everything from the lens of the US-China competition. This may lead to wrong conclusions and, therefore, wrong actions from China.

Cyber Security Issues and Challenges

Cyber Security Issues and Challenges Excerpts from the talk given by
Mr. Vijayashankar Nagaraj Rao in the MMAKAS conclave on “Securing India in Cyber Space.”

Criminals are today running with the data and we are all running after the criminals, to recover either our lost money or data. In this fight, some tech companies benefit from cyber crimes. There are also some vested interests who delay the Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill. Information Technology Act 2000 itself has got many data protection requirements within that Act. In 2006, at the same time when Information Technology Act was being amended, a bill for personal data protection was presented. But unfortunately, it never became a law.

ITA 2000 Amendment became a law in 2008 and that is what we are having with Section 43A and Section 72A. People don’t want PDP bill to be passed because they want to make merry before the law sets in and all of us, in some way or the other, let this happen. As cyber security professionals, we need to see what we can do to ensure that cyber security really happens on the ground.

Organisation or End Victim?

There are two perspectives to cyber security threat:

  • Organisational Perspective, and
  • End Victim Perspective

Organisations think that they are the owner of data and they have to be safeguarded. The end victim perspective is different. Personal data protection, they think, is their fundamental right and therefore they think that they should be protected. Cyber crimes affect companies through ransomware. It also affects individuals because of identity theft. Our credit cards and SIM cards are cloned and reused somewhere else. The industry appears to be more concerned with protecting the organization and less concerned about protecting the individual.

Many times, institutions end up saying that their responsibility is only to create awareness and education. Awareness creation is only the first necessary step but not the sufficient step. We need to address security requirements at a higher level—for intermediaries like ISPs and the organizations which handle data. In fact, no crime will ever happen, if the victim is always careful. If I don’t keep money in my hip pocket, then there will be no pickpocketing. So you cannot say that it is due to the negligence of the cyber crime victim. It is necessary that the society, which includes the government and companies, must work together to ensure that if they want to use technology, then it should be safe. Otherwise, we are happy even without a technology.

The role of intermediaries

There are two dimensions to the threats in information security that have been recognised by the IT Act—the Body Corporation and Intermediaries. The Body Corporation that handles sensitive personal data are required to address reasonable security practices. They are expected to have a contractual arrangement with data subjects and accordingly protect the data. This is as per Section 72A and Section 43A, which speak about reasonable security practices.

Intermediaries, who pass data and let crimes happen, are also responsible for cyber security. Twitter and other social media organizations want freedom to do business without the corresponding responsibility to take care of security. As a result, cyber security suffers and we let intermediaries escape with no responsibilities. This is something which information security professionals must address. A proposed bill to protect personal data security recognizes two categories of data handlers: data fiduciary and data processor. The data fiduciary is a person who has to take the responsibility to provide protection to the privacy of the individual. The fiduciary will have to act as a trustee to the data’s principal and, therefore, his responsibility is greater. The data processor will have to follow instructions of the data fiduciary. The data fiduciary will provide assistance to the data processor.

Security: A Moving Target

Security is always a moving target. What was true and sufficient yesterday may not be true and sufficient today. New threats emerge along with new technology solutions. We are supposed to utilize that to the benefit of the target audience of cyber security which includes not only the organizations but also the end users of systems. For example, bank is not the focus of information security. Bank customers should be the focus. When we are able to look at it in that sense, we can really address cyber security for the benefit of the society.

Of course, we know that we cannot protect individual customers without protecting the bank. The focus should be the benefit of the people behind the systems. That is one important difference which will come when the data protection act becomes a law.

Passwords May Soon be Passe

For data security in the past, we were harping on complicated passwords having 8 digits with capital letters, small letters, and special characters and so on. That was one step in hardening the security. Then we went into hardware tokens. Today, we talk of something like single sign-on with a chain of authentications, some of which are automatically handled. Many of the security issues like the single sign-on and zero trust security tools sometimes appear to contradict each other. We are not clear whether it is good to focus all security measures in one single sign-on authenticating device or we should have multiple authentications. In fact, one concept in security today is that authentication does not end at the time of login. It has to be a continuous process from log in to log out. Artificial intelligence should track the behaviour of the user from log in to log out and where necessary, have adoptive authentication like putting challenges again and again to the person. If necessary, ask him to re-login.

No doubt this will hurt the convenience of the system about which technology people are more interested in, but convenience without security cannot be supported. So passwords are on the way out. We need to have a replacement or an alternative to passwords.

We have also used encryption of data which ultimately comes back to password because the key has to be managed. Then we have used virtual private networks (VPN). Again, it comes back to passwords. The IT Act 2000 introduced the digital signature system which can be used for creating VPN between the sender and the receiver of the message. We are still happy to use the VPN system where device to device encryption is done but not for person to person encryption. Therefore, security, which is available as per the law is not fully utilized.

Spate of New Devices

In terms of devices itself, we have moved from computers to mobiles, wearables, medical implants inside our body, IOT devices and industrial assets like CCTV cameras. The security scenario has been changing and new threats are evolving because of this.

One of the things which I am more concerned is not the end customer security. Phishing and other things are there. But more importantly, we have the organizational level security threats, like the ‘zero day’ vulnerabilities in software that is sold for a price. People experience difficulties. Software companies do not take responsibility for their products. That is why we face zero day vulnerabilities. Even the patches do not help in updating the software. The new supply chain attacks target even the patches and updates. So, one has to be very careful.

Early Bird Catches the Worm

You may to have a system where patches cannot be immediately applied. You must have a sandbox kind of an arrangement, because just as we say that the early bird catches the worm, we can also say that only the early worm gets caught. So when there is an update, we don’t know what new vulnerabilities are there in the update itself. That is how major ransomware attacks have happened in the recent days.

One of the things which I am more concerned is not the end customer security. Phishing and other things are there. But more importantly, we have the organizational level security threats, like the ‘zero day’ vulnerabilities in software that is sold for a price.

Then there are misconfiguration of software which people do; supply chain vulnerabilities; and backdoor or Manchurian chips, which people try to implant. These are threats which have to be addressed at the higher level. At the individual level, we have this identity theft and phishing, which will continue to be threats. But the actors are moving from cybercriminals to cyber terrorists and cyber enemy nations where the resources are enormous. The individuals will not have ability to counter threats from these actors. Organizations have better capabilities, provided they invest in security, which they are today trying to push on to the individuals. Even cyber insurance in banking should be taken by organizations. They should not push this to individuals. But nobody seems to bother about the individual needs that have to be protected by the organizations or intermediaries.


Various kinds of malware are known, but what we are worried is crime-as-a service. As a society, we are letting crime-as-a-service or malware-as-a service. We should prevent criminals from becoming organisations. While at the machine shop, we may have secured data, chances of corruption of data transmitted from sensors to server are very high. It is possible that an entire batch of production could be corrupted. Technology and innovation should not be introduced, unmindful of the risks.

A device like Alexa at home may be continuously listening to what we speak. I do not know how it will react. CCTV provides lot of advantages but it is also being misused and prone to attacks. When intelligence fails in autonomous cars, we may have serious issues. We have risks in wireless implantable medical devices. Human lives could be at threat and cyber security should focus on securing such medical devices from attacks. Governments today are moving towards humanoids and on top of that, Saudi Arabia is giving citizenship to humanoid robot. A robot is also a computer with a chip designed by an individual. If that individual has provided a back door, then the humanoid can be a threat to lives.

Recently, we have seen that the OEM equipment boards have been hacked. China used a tiny chip in the motherboard to infiltrate America’s top companies like Amazon. Iranian nuclear power station, 50 feet below the ground, was attacked. We have seen the US pipe line attacks and we see supply chain attacks happening every day. In every one of our computers, it is possible that there could be some sort of crypto mining going on.

  • Technologists are ignoring “Security by Design” principle which is their duty.
  • As a society, we use AI more to aid crimes than to protect the society.
  • The government is dithering over the crypto ban.
  • The law enforcement agencies are surrendering to the power of the dark web.

This is the situation that we have today. Cyber security professionals need to do a lot of introspection to find the right solutions. The question is: do we have sufficient will to fight cyber threats? n

Emerging Global Civilisation Paradigm and India

Delivering the 3rd R K Swamy Memorial Lecture, Mr S Gurumurthy highlighted the growing gap in the current geopolitical space and India’s role in the emerging world order.

Three weeks ago, I addressed a chosen strategic community in Delhi on strategic defence and war models of India. The strategic thinkers said that only in 1905, at The Hague, the International Convention was held to recommend that we should distinguish between combatants and non-combatants. They said that they listen to the international people who say that it is they who brought the noble rules of war.

In Mahabharat, after the day’s war was over, the Pandavas and Kauravas used to sit and dine together and talk as if nothing had taken place, forgetting that they were going to hit each other the next day. We all thought that this was just a poet’s imagination. I had done a lot of research on this. V R Ramachandra Dikshitar was one of the famous minds who wrote a very, very powerful treatise on the Hindu rules of war. He had said that Ashoka’s Kalinga war was an adharmic war, because he hit a weaker enemy without giving him notice.

Our war model was different. I studied the entire thing through the History of Dharma Shastras—11 volumes of profound knowledge. It was brought out by Bhandarkar Institute and the Government of India funded it at that time, when it had some inclination for civilizational understanding of the country. When I read this, I was stunned by the noble rules of war, which our people had instituted and how it was followed right down to our Pallavas, Cheras and Cholas. We had very elaborate rules. If somebody dropped their weapon, he should not be considered a fighter. A wounded man is a patient.

In the 16th-17th Century Kerala, the Zamorin kings had wars with the Portuguese. The Zamorin kings had told the Portuguese as to how they would wage the war and this was brought out by Whiteway, an English scholar.

Their rules said, ‘We do not wage war where people are involved. Agriculture should not be affected. People’s lives should not be affected. There is a playground outside and on both sides of the huge ground, there is a lake. You can perch your army there. We can be on the other side. We will beat the drum to say that we are ready for the war. Only if you beat the drum, we will start the war. ‘There will be neither night fighting nor ambushes. There should be no surprise attack on the enemy.’

‘War had become a game governed by a series of elaborate rules and to break one of these rules involved was dishonour, which was worse than death,’ wrote Whiteway.

In the entire 18 days of the Mahabharata war, only one night fighting was allowed. Otherwise, it was only day war. Whiteway adds, “Soldiers of both armies mingled at the time, put on their armour, ate their rice, chewed their beetle, gossiped and chatted together. At the beat of the drum, either side drew apart and formed ranks. It was incredible.”

The Encyclopaedia Britannica says that all ancient wars were barbaric. No Indian stood up to counter this with information about the kind of war which we had for thousands of years and it was followed right down to 17th century. You can understand the civilizational poverty in India.

The Post-Covid World Order

Discussing how the world is now turning and what we should do calls for a helicopter and silos-free view. We have to put together everything—politics, economics, trade and military—and see where we are, where our intellectuals are and where our media is.

There is near unanimity that the post-Covid world order will change forever. The man who structured the post-cold war order, Henry Kissinger wrote a 600 word article in which he mentioned that the post-Covid world order will change forever but didn’t elaborate. No one knows what is likely to be the change and who are going to be the actors.

The Rise of China

The most important aspect of the post-Covid world order, which has been visible in the last decade or so, is the rise of China. The rise of China has stunned the West. But Deng Xiaoping had told even 30 years ago, “Let’s hide our strength and bide our time.” That the West, with many strategic think tanks and great minds running all kinds of aspiring institutions, failed to read China is surprising.

Brookings Institution brought out a paper which said that the entire American system has been bribed by China. The whole of American think-tank is today not free from Chinese influence. The World Bank admitted that China bribed them to give them good ranking in the Ease of Doing Business Index.

After Biden got elected, on 30 December, the European Union entered into a Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) with China. It was a slap on America.

We have a rising China and fatigued West. This is a paradox. The whole picture has changed over the last decade. China’s rise is the most debated issue in the last five or six years, without any answer.

Decoupling from China is going to be as difficult as China decoupling from other countries. It’s not easy because it is like doing a major operation to separate two entangled bodies. The only way is to look at India.

Agreement with China on Hold

After Biden got elected, on 30 December, the European Union entered into a Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) with China. It was a slap on America.

Then something dramatic happened. In February, they raised the issue of human rights. In April, the EU Parliament asked to stop this agreement in which Xi Jinping had put his entire political might. He had opened the entire Chinese market for European products. The most important beneficiary was going to be Germany and Angela Merkel was driving this whole process.
Everybody thought that the American space has shrunk, but in one turn, the whole thing stopped. The CAI collapsed in April. In June, three important summits took place, which completely turned the situation against China. One was the G7 meeting. Second was the NATO meeting. Third was the EU meeting. It all happened in three days.

I have not seen great reports in India about this. G7 said that China is a systemic problem. The next day, the NATO meeting said that China is a systemic adversary. Last year, in 2020, Emmanuel Macron would not utter even one word against China in the NATO meetings. In twelve months, everything changed. The European Union endorsed the fact that the CAI won’t be implemented.

Don’t think that pure economic forces are working here. Forces deeper than that are working. Only the Anglo-Saxon countries first declared that they would not use the Chinese 5G technology. Everything was centered on Australia, England, America, and Canada. Everyone else had to fall in line. The world is being shaped by a group of nations, which feel threatened, not just economically, politically militarily but also civilizationally. This is an important aspect. So everything changed in a matter of four months and that is not even discussed in India.

Who did this? Which mechanism invented the great idea of human rights problems in Xinjiang? It has been happening for the last 20 years. They have been shooting and killing people and suddenly they put sanctions on the Chinese who were so confident that they had conquered the EU and even put sanctions on the EU Parliament members under the Green Party President of Germany, which was China’s greatest supporter. So we can understand how arrogance leads to actions which are difficult to recall. If CAI had succeeded, there is no way America could have countered China.

Relocating Supply Chains

Decoupling from China is going to be as difficult as China decoupling from other countries. It’s not easy because it is like doing a major operation to separate two entangled bodies. The only way is to look at India.

There is a paradigm shift in the approach towards supply chain. The world used to look at cheap supply chain. Now, they are looking at safe supply chain. Geopolitically, autocratic China was seen as a stable and safe supply chain for 28 years. Democratic India was seen as unstable and unsafe, but this has changed after covid (where the role of China and America are both suspect in producing covid. America funded the production of Covid infection and this is a fact).

Many studies reported that India would benefit largely from businesses shifting from China and would be aided by Washington’s strategic decoupling from China. Now you can understand why China is after India. In May 2021, Global Trade Review reported that India, Japan and Australia’s ministers met digitally to frame supply chain resilience initiatives to squeeze China out of critical technologies’ supply chain like semiconductors, batteries, etc. India is entering into a strategic investment and technology agreement with Taiwan, which is the leading semiconductor production country in the world. This is the shift that is taking place.

Why China? Why not India?

Forbes Magazine wrote an article comparing the three gorgeous dams that China built with the Narmada Dam built by India. ‘The three dams flooded 13 cities, 140 towns, 1,350 villages and displaced 1.2 million people. But China completed it in a decade.’

‘In contrast, the Narmada Dam inundated no city, no town, impacted just 178 villages and displaced less than one tenth of the people that the Chinese dams displaced. But how long did India take to complete the Narmada Dam? 48 years! Jawaharlal Nehru laid the foundation for it in 1961. The World Bank agreed to fund it in 1965 but went back after Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) began its agitation. The NBA moved the Supreme Court to stop the construction in 1995.’

‘In 1999, the Court lifted the stay and limited the dam height to 88 meters. Then over 19 years, it raised the height in five painful instalments—90 metres in 2000, 95 meters in 2002 and 110 meters in 2004, 122 meters in 2006 and 139 metres in 2019 to its full capacity.’ If democratic India took five times more the time that China took to build the largest dam in the world, why will not China fly and India only grow?

India’s democracy alone is not the problem. We had four elections and seven Prime Ministers in ten years. The world had to choose between India and China, particularly the West and even more particularly America. Their choice of China was a bad one. It was a businessman’s and a financial institution’s choice. It was the choice of political miscalculation, which has made China as the biggest danger of not only India but also the west.

China had a strange combination of Marxian politics with market economics. We had a strange mix of Marxian economics and democratic politics. Indian human rights will be highlighted by our media. Nobody even talks about Chinese human rights issues. There is a huge Chinese lobby in India in the media and the administration and in all the policy-making mechanisms. These are all real issues.

China Goes Back to its Past

Many think that China’s rise is because of trade, economics, geopolitics and military. But it has to do with its civilization. China is now paradigm shifting the word. Chinese have no respect for the past. They hate the past and focus only on moving forward, so much so, the Communist China was hating the Confucian China and demolished all his statutes, burnt all his books and termed him a person who was responsible for the downfall of China. They called his thoughts semi-barbaric.

But the West has a problem. It has regarded its past as dark. It has also regarded every country’s past as dark. Only in the enlightened world, they produced a Hitler and two world wars.

Now there are 572 neo-Confucian centres in almost all American universities and think tanks. They began this shift in 2005 and now Communist China has become Confucian China. In the hundredth anniversary of the party, Xi Jinping addressed ten million people and said, “Historical and cultural heritage not only vividly tells the past but also profoundly affects the present and future. It belongs not only to us, but also to future generations. Having gone through over 5,000 years of vicissitudes, the Chinese civilization has always kept its original roots.”

If the Indian Prime Minister talks like this, he may be called a backward looking man, communal and xenophobic. Xi in one speech destroyed the very idea of communism, about history, civilization, culture and values. He spoke as if communism did not exist at all. Has there been any article written in India pointing out that China is now looking to civilizational moorings, civilizational roots and civilizational inspiration, not only for the present but also for the future?

Problems of the West

But the West has a problem. It has regarded its past as dark. It has also regarded every country’s past as dark. Only in the enlightened world, they produced a Hitler and two world wars. In fact, there was no enlightenment and it was just an anti-Christian movement. The entire Western history of enlightenment was about how to keep the Church away. But they continue with the same aggressiveness, dominating and world-conquering spirit and the colonising idea.

In India, if all Indians become like Americans, 60% of the people of India will be standing outside our Prime Minister’s house for two square meals a day. Can India run this way? Whether there can be anything called Indian economy?

The western theory of enlightenment as the only source of modernity has been thoroughly demolished by their own intellectuals.

Every country is becoming modern in its own way and there is no one source of modernity. They even advocated a one-size-fits-all model of economic development. In 1951, the United Nations issued an advisory to all under-developed nations that if they want to develop, they must give up their philosophies, social values and relationships. In short, it encouraged contracts-based societies. Everyone caught on to this paradigm and began introducing those concepts in education.

The Perils of Modernity

Today, if a father scolds a child, it is not considered a responsibility of the father, but child abuse. Can you understand how those values have been interpreted and imposed on us? My neighbours have slapped me and corrected me in my village. I look at them as my teachers, mentors and guardians. Today, a teacher can’t correct a child.

We have transformed all relationships into contracts, jobs and transactional. This is the difference between modernism and civilization. We are a civilizational nation. The entire Asia is civilizational. It is not just a model of life, but it reflects in politics too. You will be stunned to know how civilizational democracies are faring—democracies where there is a relationship between the people, independent of the constitution and law. It is a normative society. We are living in a normative society.

What is the economic consequence of it? In America, no son will take care of the father, and no father will educate his son. When I went to the University of California, Los Angeles, and asked the management students there as to how many of them were being supported by their parents, out of 300, not even two or three lifted their hand.

When I addressed the same question in IIT Madras Management Institute, the entire audience lifted their hands. This is the difference between a civilizational nation and a contract-based modern nation. In the West, 55% of the first marriages end in divorce, 76% of the second and 73%, third. This is according to Psychology Magazine.

What are the economic consequences of a modernity-based society? The Universal Social Security is a product of destruction of our relationships. In 1983, eleven economists including Milton Friedman who got the Nobel Prize in 1970 argued in an article not to interfere with the filial responsibilities of a father and the responsibility of a child, having handed over the kitchen to the multinationals. Kitchen is a rarity in an American family. May be, you can see a kitchen but no cooking. He pleaded, ‘If cooking and caring for children and caring for each other are the two important functions of the family, we have already destroyed one and let us not destroy the other. Don’t bring universal social security.”

Civilization Impacts Politics and Economics

Universal Social Security has come to stay in the US. They have to pay social security tax for their fathers to be taken care of, children to be educated and all unhealthy people in the family to be taken care of. Individuals have no responsibility. The cost of these unfunded social security obligations of America today is $68 trillion, against which it doesn’t have even $1.
In India, if all Indians become like Americans, 60% of the people of India will be standing outside our Prime Minister’s house for two square meals a day. Can India run this way? Whether there can be anything called Indian economy?

We have a civilizational drive in India. This has political and not just economic consequence. The entire structure of liberal democracies is collapsing today, according to Freedom House. The voter turnout in liberal democracies is continuously decreasing. 35% of those below the age of 25 do not vote at all. They have no interest in public affairs. Can you run a democracy like this?
The democratic paradigm is a vanishing act. Many citizens do not see politics as central to their identity due to many social and economic interests as per the study. Majority of the people are too busy for the political involvement. This is because of liberalism which lays too much stress on individual liberty. When they have so much to enjoy, why should they bother about electing a Prime Minister?

The Flawed Supremacy of Individuals

Since the 1980s, with the rise of Thatcher and Reagan, politically, the individual has been held at the heart of the society and with the radical rollback of the State, lassie faire economic policies have resulted in deregulating the market, privatisation and radical tax cuts. Citizens are being encouraged to become more self-sufficient and self-interested.

I remember an incident in 1993 or 94. One of my business clients had an appointment with State Bank of India to discuss a high value settlement worth 200 to 300 crores. As he was driving out to go to the airport, his neighbour’s wife came and cried that her husband had a chest pain and had to be taken to the hospital.

My client just went to the neighbour’s house and took that person to the hospital. As a result, he could not travel for that important meeting. It took him another seven years to reach a settlement. Did he regret missing that trip? He said, “If only I had gone for the bank appointment and something had happened to my neighbour, I can never have peace in my mind.” This is our relationship even with our neighbours. This is not the relationship between an American father and a son.

Liberalism Led to Trumpism

Social impulses produce economic results. Too much of freedom has undermined liberal democracies, which constitute just 13% of the world. The result of liberalism in America was the advent of Trumpism. It was a movement. It changed America once and for all.

I wrote in the second year of Trump’s rule that Trump may go, but Trumpism will last forever. Now Trumpism has not only become an American security, economic, trade and strategic policy, but it has become the policy of the European Union itself and it has been accepted by G7 and NATO.

Trump was a poor articulator of his own policies. He failed to say what he stood for. Trump’s political doctrine has now become the doctrine of the entire West vis-a-vis China. He identified China as the adversary of America. If Trump had not spoken about the 5G technology of America and banned Huawei, what would have happened to the world today? Trumpism has left United States completely divided between the liberal and civilizational US.

Just printing money is no solution. America is printing money. There is no alternative and all countries have purchased that printed money, including China and India.

Civilisation US feels that there is a higher US. Wokeism is the opposite of it.

Huntington, in his book on Clash of Civilizations, wrote that in the post-cold war world, which is called the globalised world, liberal democracy and free market mechanism have won once and for all and that it constituted the victory of the west over the rest forever.

Huntington was a poor representative of civilization just as Trump was a poor representative of Trumpism. Both Trump and Huntington promoted conflicts. America was shaken by terror on 9/11 and economically in 2008. It has not recovered still. If anybody feels that America has recovered as an economy, they have very little knowledge of financial economics.

A World Bound by Dollars

Just printing money is no solution. America is printing money. There is no alternative and all countries have purchased that printed money, including China and India. The world has been co-opted by America into the dollar mechanism. So we are all praying for America’s welfare.

How long will this be sustained in a divided word? America has been running current account deficit from 1976 till today, except for two years in Clinton’s period. The current account deficit incurred by them is in excess of $13.5 trillion. That is the extent of dollar that America has printed. In 1989, the Economist even wrote that the most profitable export-oriented industry of America is printing dollars. This mechanism is now being challenged not just politically but, in my view, civilizationally too.

India is the Golden Lining

We have to compare Indian democracy with American democracy. The liberal democracy is failing. Their youth, poor and minorities are not voting. Is that the discourse in India? We are a very strong bottom spread economy. In India, we vote as castes, as villages and as families. We discuss as a family which party we should vote. This is civilizational democracy. We share everything, including votes and parties. Is destroying all these called liberal democracy? In Asia, as compared to 1960, the voting percentage has risen to 70. That is why, the civilizational democracy is strong.

We want an elected government, which would work efficiently and work in the interests of the country. Whether somebody is free in his own house or not is not the test of democracy. In the West, the test of democracies is whether a child is free in its own family. An Indian lady fed her child with her hand in Norway and she was arrested. Can you believe this? We have our civilization and value systems. We have our way of mothering children. Asia’s rise is due to the rise of relationship based politics. It has its own problems but we are managing them. The Brookings Institution came out with a paper in 2019 January saying that ‘all liberal democracies are shaken up. There is backsliding of the democracies in the Central and Eastern Europe. India is the silver lining and golden lining of democracies in the world.’ We can even live without a government. We have 6,68,000 towns and villages. We have just 12,800 police stations. Crime levels in India are lower compared to the West. India is a country with the lowest murder rate, lowest rape rate and lowest dacoity rate in the world.

The Importance of Values

Policing does not reduce crime nor do the courts or law. It is the value systems which reduce crime. Carbon-copying the ecosystem in the west to an unsuitable and inappropriate, culturally different ecosystem is not correct. Which society doesn’t have a problem? American problems can never be resolved. Research psychologist Robert Epstein has recommended the Indian marriage system to solve America’s relationship problems.

In India, the boy or girl to be married is chosen by the entire family. This has its own impact in politics and sociology. This civilizational paradigm has suddenly gained prominence in the post COVID world.

The Western liberal democracy and Indian civilization democracy, both have to work together, if autocracy has to be resisted. Without India, the West and the US cannot fight China. This is the USP of India. This is a strategic position which we have gained.

The roots of Indian democracy are civilizational. Freedom House in its report based on the annual survey they did in 1999-2000, stated that there is a strong correlation between electoral democracy and Hinduism and there is a significant number of free countries among traditionally Buddhist societies like Japan, Mongolia, Taiwan and Thailand.

We are going to be one of the major influencers of the course of the world. We need a very courageous intellectualism in India to articulate this and speak the truth. We have to empty our thoughts and think afresh. This is my appeal to all Indian intellectuals.

Negotiation Skills for Conflict Resolution

Ms Radhika Shapoorjee, Founder and CEO, Mediation Mantras, focussed on key aspects of conflict resolution and what it entails. Her talk covered these points:
Is conflict an opportunity or threat?
What is conflict and its role in our everyday life?
What are the roots of conflict?
Resolving conflict with effective negotiations

Conflict is a serious disagreement or argument, typically a protracted one, between people, across groups, across countries. Usually, it is a clash of ideas, opinions or interests. A conflict spiral happens when a small difference of opinion that is unresolved becomes a dispute. When the dispute is unresolved, it becomes a conflict. When a conflict is unresolved, many conflicts happen. Then it can escalate into words.

A small disagreement at home can escalate into many different conflicts in our personal and professional lives. The point is that, it is easier to resolve a conflict when it is small; when a difference of opinion starts.

Conflicts are everywhere

Why is it so difficult to address conflicts? Why are there so many conflicts happening in our homes, between parents and their children, over different ideas, over opinions, over interests and over generations? We see conflicts escalating between states over water or other resources. We see on television political leaders with different ideologies shouting at each other. There is anger and resentment. We see business disputes over various issues—personal or professional.

To give you a small number, our courts will take 408 years to resolve the cases across our country, if there is not a single case filed from today. Obviously, conflicts are not getting resolved. Justice delayed is justice denied and that is a topic of a big conversation that is happening across the world.
So how can we understand the roots of conflict in a deeper manner? We must understand the anatomy and psychology of conflict. Conflict is perceived as a threat. How can we creatively resolve conflicts, transform this threat into an opportunity and strengthen relationships? That is the essence of conflict resolution.

Resolving the Inner Conflict

The greatest story about conflicts that has shaped India, for sure, is the Mahabharata, and it has taught us many lessons. We all know that Krishna helped Arjun resolve his inner conflict first, before he was ready to fight the Kauravas in a battle that lasted 18 days. We must overcome our inner conflicts first, so that we can resolve our outer demons as they come in front of us, in a manner which is not destructive but constructive.

My work in conflict resolution has been really to help people understand that inner conflict, because when these issues are not resolved, they spill into the external world. So let’s understand that better.

Conflict and fear

Conflict is perceived as a threat and an attack. We react to that threat with fear. Since the beginning of humankind, fear was a means of survival to humans so that they could protect themselves from wild animals, nature, rival tribes and nature’s fury. All these have now almost stopped. We are in the comforts of our home. We have none of those physical threats. However, we do have the same instincts. When there is a difference of opinion, even our loved ones become threatening enemies.

We react in a way so that we can protect our own identity. If someone says that you are not a good mother, a good father, a good boss or a good colleague, you want to defend that position. That is the core of our conflict. With it, comes the fear. When we get fear, we react in only three ways – fight, flight or freeze.

We have been taught that good must overcome evil. Each of us has a sense of righteousness. We think we are right and the other person is wrong. This polarized view of our opinions and actions leads to so many unresolved conflicts in our everyday life. This adversarial way in addressing each other, where we are unwilling to listen to the other person’s point of view, results in small differences turning into full-fledged conflicts between people and communities.

Seeds Sowed So Soon

The seeds of human identity are sowed in the family and environment in which a child is brought up. Every child learns how to how to deal with conflict from the age of zero when they are born, to 7 years. Those are the foundational years and they watch their parents and family deal with each other. Do they deal with each other in a mindful manner or hostile manner? How do they communicate with each other and the community at large? When they come back home, what stories do they tell?

Children take away these things subconsciously and their social skills are developed and retained in their subconscious mind. Perhaps, you were brought up in an environment where conflict was completely avoided. All these will shape the way you respond as an adult.

Fears all the way

This is one of our biggest debilitators. We also have the fear of not being heard, the fear of losing money, the fear of health issues and the fear of death. All these fears are pretty much at home within the family, because that’s what all of us would have watched subconsciously and consciously. They go into shaping our identity and the way we handle conflict.

Therefore, the need to create a psychological safe place for the child and family to express themselves, to express their views in a way that differences are respected, is something that all of us must think about. Create a safe place where we can express and where we allow our family, our colleagues and our neighbours to come and say things which are not the same as what you stand for.

The Chief Culprit

When a difference arises, the first culprit is usually communication or a lack of it. When there is a breakdown of communication between people in conflict, suddenly there is a roadblock out there. Fear comes in and we start reacting. We see on social media the kind of resentment and hatred that people have for people they don’t even know. This comes from deep-rooted conflicts that have been sown by generations before, against people and communities. So we need to step back and see what is happening around us. Why are the courts clogged up? Why are our homes not seen as safe places? Why is our office not a safe place where we can discuss, be seen vulnerable and yet, do not get a fear of failure.

Look at how you respond to conflict. Do I respond with fear? Do I freeze? Do I flee? What kind of an environment do I create so that people can express themselves? Am I able to respect differences? We all come from very different emotional worlds and therefore, it needs to be respected.

Conflict is a teacher. It tells you that you need to progress and move forward and evolve to a higher place. If you don’t, you go to a lower place. Get into others’ shoes and understand where they are coming from. Make them understand where you are coming from. Have the courage of conviction to have the dialogue, to have that flow of communication.

The Eagle’s Egg

Here is an interesting story. A team of global CEOs were traveling on a plane. It was a long-distance 50 hour ride into Africa. They were going there to find a very rare eagle which laid an egg every 10 years and it was discovered that the egg had the solution and cure for cancer as well as diabetes.

Conflict is a teacher. It tells you that you need to progress and move forward and evolve to a higher place. If you don’t, you go to a lower place. Get into others’ shoes and understand where they are coming from.

Two CEOs were ahead of others in that search—One was the head of a cancer care pharmaceutical company and the other CEO was the head of a diabetics company. They were obviously in conflict as to who was going to get it. But they were wise men and they decided to understand their underlying needs and interests.

They realised that the cure for cancer lay in the yolk and the cure for diabetes lay in the white of the egg. So they both could take that one egg and share it and address a transformational solution to their business. If they had not had that conversation and decided to fight for that egg, they would have destroyed the value. That is something that could have happened.

Everyone becomes happy

I did mediation with two co-founders—One senior and the other, ten years younger. They had a running conflict for years, and it took me three months of about eight sessions to resolve their conflict amicably. Today, they continue to work in the same organization. But at the heart of that conflict were their own inner issues coming out in a not so good manner.

Once I created a safe environment, each understood where the other came from and I was able to help them. They negotiated a new and a far stronger way of functioning. The investor, who got me to negotiate, is now a happy person. The multiple investors in that organization are happy. Most importantly, the 3,000-odd employees who are affected by the conflict are happy. The conflict had created tension within the organization.

Resolve Conflicts as They Arise

Communication and good negotiation skills can convert a conflict into an opportunity. I am so grateful for having learned some of these techniques over the years and I have applied them to my daughter, son and husband. Resolving issues as and when they come up is much easier. I have made so much progress that I have set up my entrepreneurial journey in partnership with my husband Mr Shapoorji. He has played a big role in helping me understand conflict and shaping the path of my future purpose.

The moment you reprimand, get upset or put boundaries, it becomes one-sided. Then they want to rebel.

Remember Maslow’s need theory? Our deepest psychological fears are about our safety and security. This has been used by many marketing and advertising people in their campaigns.

You may have a small difference of opinion with your child when he or she goes out. Recognize that your child wants to be independent. Go two steps deeper into the mind of the child and then, your child will feel heard and wanted. The moment you reprimand, get upset or put boundaries, it becomes one-sided. Then they want to rebel. Understand where the rebellion comes from and address it early. This is an everyday part of life.

Learning from the Experts

Cultivate your own communication skills so that you can negotiate better. Over the last couple of years, I have watched videos of at least 500,000 people. I feel very blessed, full of gratitude that I could listen, read and learn from many people who are experts in the domain of conflict resolution—from psychologists to FBI negotiators, to mediators at Harvard.

My superhero is Chris Voss, former FBI negotiator. He has written a very interesting book called ‘Never split the difference.’ It’s an amazing book and one of many books that has influenced me greatly. ‘Getting to Yes’ by William Ury is also another great book.

One of my clients faced a media boycott. Over a lunch, we were able to resolve it. It is interesting that in that case, it was just the arrogance in the way that my client had dealt with them which had created the block. The simple act of inviting all of them for lunch, resolved it in exactly the same time that we took for our lunch. We all had a wonderful laugh and discussion about everything else and the boycott was taken off within an hour of that discussion.

Tips to remember

  • The Power of empathy: Empathy is understanding the other person’s point of view, how they feel and care about it. Harvard Business School has done a lot of work on strategic empathy and tactical empathy. The moment you empathise, the entire negotiation will shift.
  • The Power of Listening: The most important communication skill I would say is listening. One of our normal reactions when the other person talks, is to jump in and interrupt. Don’t do that. Instead, listen with your heart, ears and eyes. If you can see the body language, there is so much you can identify in terms of the emotions that the other person is expressing or not expressing.
  • The Power of Acknowledgement: It has a huge impact in conflict resolution. An interesting trick that Chris Voss has taught is mirroring. When you talk to me, I can take three of your last words and repeat it and mirror it. You will always feel heard. So acknowledge with the three last words. Use a proper tone which shows your interest. Even a small shift in tone can make the other person feel attacked or unheard. All that people want is that they want to be heard.
  • Silence is a great tactical tool: When there is silence, somebody wants to fill it up. Let it be the other person. In that filling up, there is so much which you can learn and so much about what the other person’s true feelings are.
  • Paraphrasing: Another way of acknowledgement is a great technique called paraphrasing. It is like mirroring except that it is just playing back what you have heard. This is a powerful technique in communication.
  • Summarise: Once you have heard out the other person, it is important to summarize what you have heard.
  • Calibrated Questions: Let your questions start with ‘what’ or ‘how.’ They will ensure that you will not get ‘no’ as an answer. It will allow people to elaborate the issue and how they feel. That opens up the space for conversation.
  • Getting to YES: At the end of the summary, you must decide to agree. How do you get the other person to genuinely agree? Use the power of ‘Three Yes.’ The first ‘Yes’ maybe just counterfeit. The second ‘Yes’ could be a confirmation and the third ‘Yes,’ a commitment. Therefore, if the person has said ‘yes’ three times, it means that he or she has committed to implement the process.

Gurgaon Moms: When women come together magic happens

The exciting story of why and how GurgaonMoms came about and what they do. Edited excerpts from the talk given by Ms Neela Kaushik in the MMA-Women Business Forum on 16 Nov 2021.

I studied in Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu. When I moved from the US to Gurgaon (now Gurugram) near Delhi, I was new to the city. I was yet to make friends. I wanted to figure out where to take my kid, what would be a good restaurant and so on. Basically, I wanted exchange of information. I am from a digital marketing background. Facebook groups had just begun. So I started the GurgaonMoms Facebook group. Later on, I realized that this was just a trigger that made me start a community.

One and a half years after I had started the Facebook group, we put together a small workshop for moms; women were quite excited about this concept, because suddenly they were making new friends and able to have conversations. The husbands were curious with whom their wives were talking in the middle of the night! Actually, the community gets very active 10 pm afterwards. The husbands even wanted access to the community and we were having a good laugh.

Space for being heard

Women started sharing how they finally felt listened to. People always ask me ‘why is it a women-only community?’ Because the challenges women face are unique—be it the middle age or motherhood. They face a lot of pressure and often break down. Coming out of it becomes very important.
A woman, at life’s transition points, needs to be accommodative and compromise more and more. In the process, she somewhere loses herself. It is nobody’s fault but it is just the societal constructs. All that it requires to break out of something like this is to be mindful and conscious of the choices that you make. That is why in a space like this, when you start listening to stories, you get reminders again and again of how women have been doing it. What are the right choices? People even trolled our group as a glorified online kitty party or a wailing wall.

The first time, I was really hurt, because it was belittling of the good work that the team has been doing. We have amazing team members and volunteers who put in their time and effort to bring about a lot of changes.
This is a beautiful space where women come to share their stories, ask for help and come forward to offer help as well. We have women CXOs and women achievers. They help another woman to get up whenever she falls down. Through the beautiful stories shared, she not only receives up-to-date information on parenting but also seeks inspiration for her own personal growth. We have some amazing examples.

Flooded with help

In 2015, when the Madras floods happened, being a Chennai girl, I spoke about it and our community felt so upset. We collected medicines and clothes and but sending them to Chennai was a challenge. One of our members, a CEO of a logistics firm volunteered to send four trucks. As going by road would take time, I thought of alternatives.

I knew that one of my friends’ husband works for Spicejet and I spoke to him. He agreed to take our things and deliver to Chennai. What started off as a small conversation in the community became a huge success story and created a big impact, as we could send four truckload worth of relief materials. That is when I realized that when women come together, magic happens. All that you have to do is to put out an intention there. We just organize ourselves to make things happen.

Closing the distance to help

During the Covid time, many got help. I myself was down with Covid but my team members stepped up beautifully. They all got their act together. There were doctors in the community who went out of the way to give free online calls. The community put up the list of doctors with their numbers.

Ambika, one of our volunteers, saw a post about a pregnant woman down with Covid and facing difficulty in getting food. She took it upon herself, drove all the way for one hour to provide food to the pregnant woman. She did not even post her help on the community. It is so therapeutic to be in the community.

Some of the challenges that we face are unique. When you go and communicate your problems in a bigger forum, the acknowledgement, compassion or empathy that you require may not be there. But here, it is a safe space where you can discuss anything, without the fear of being judged. You are encouraged to be vulnerable.

The forum also provides a safe space to learn and unlearn. Women often end up getting trapped in unconscious patterns of behavior, which are detrimental to their own growth and success.

More inspiring stories

A woman wrote about how she felt lonely because her kids have left home and she had no purpose in life. Seeing this post, the community members came together and met the distressed woman. One of them was a life coach who found out her interests and encouraged her to write in the community. She received beautiful reviews which motivated her. There was a woman who owned up one of her mistakes that she had done. As I was the person approving the post, I was worried that the woman would get trolled in the unforgiving social media spaces. But I was pleasantly surprised to see how women actually lauded her for owning up her mistake and encouraged her to move forward.

The forum also provides a safe space to learn and unlearn. Women often end up getting trapped in unconscious patterns of behavior, which are detrimental to their own growth and success. But in a community like this, you will come across people sharing instances from their personal life, asking doubts or even sharing stories of triumph and success. It can be even something small but can be life-changing. One of my friends brought to my notice that I do not leave my family to travel alone by myself. I have never done that before because I always thought my family may need me. So eight of us went together on a trip and I realized that even if you’re not there, the family will still go. I came back so happy.

Supporting entrepreneurs

McKinsey Global has estimated that India can add 770 Bn$ to GDP by 2025 simply by giving equal opportunities to women. The present contribution of women in GDP remains at 18% and Covid has only made things worse. In GurgaonMoms, we provide professional support.

In fact, two of the girls in the community made their first post about their idea of launching millet related products based on their own experience of looking for some healthy snacking for their children. They wanted women to taste their cookies and give them feedback. Guess what? Today, their company, Slurp Farm, is a huge brand and I am very happy that they were able to make that first post in the community and invite feedback. I remember that they received huge encouragement and they received the validation that they required as well. I also remember the founder of mother and baby care brand The Moms Co, which was very recently bought over by MyGlamm, mentioning to me how a single recommendation on GurgaonMoms suddenly saw a surge in one of their products. Such is the power of women and mom communities. We also help women find jobs. Today a lot of companies post their requirements in the community and they have found high quality resources. I suggest that if companies are looking for temporary or part-time resources, please do consider women and mom communities. Women prefer flexi-working.

Another thing that we are extremely proud of is organising our Mom Achievers Summit. At first, people didn’t understand why a summit for mothers was needed and that too from 9 to 5. There is so much about mom; parenthood is just a slice of life.

The cheering squad

You can come to GurgaonMoms any time you feel you’re down. You can just come for entertainment or to find inspiration. You have a ready-made cheering squad available for you. They mean it when they see it. It’s not like they say it, just to make you feel good. They all go through it. Women go through the imposter syndrome. We often ask, “Do we really deserve this?” That is when you need a cheering squad who will tell you that you deserve it and that you are the reason behind many things that are happening behind you.

The summit of success

Another thing that we are extremely proud of is organising our Mom Achievers Summit. At first, people didn’t understand why a summit for mothers was needed and that too from 9 to 5. There is so much about mom; parenthood is just a slice of life. Women have career aspirations, lots of hobbies and want to network as well. When we invited people, they were not willing to buy the delegate passes because they didn’t know what to expect and we had hundred plus women who attended the event. Half of them were invited by us. The next year onwards, the story was very different. We were getting sold out every year and we had to move from one bigger venue to another bigger venue until last year. In 2019, before the pandemic, we had an event that saw 450 plus members attending. In 2020, we were just moving to an even bigger space but Covid happened. The summit is the culmination of our efforts. If you want to experience the community, you have to attend the summit. In that one day, you will be able to understand what it is about. You will hear stories that will make you laugh and inspire, as well. That is what happens when women come together, be it in online space or offline space. The energy is just so palpable. Failure resume is popular these days. But I would like to share my learnings.

At the end of the day, I preach that women’s time has to be valued and so, the people who spend time on my community need to receive some sort of financial support. My learning is that money is not a bad word and sustainability is extremely important for this purpose.

Taking control of my life: I come from Chennai, growing up in Trichy and watching Tamil movies and dreaming a perfect life. After marriage, when I prepared coffee and gave it to my husband, he asked me, “Why are you giving me a cup of coffee in the morning? I can make my own coffee and you can make your own coffee. That’s how it has to be. It has to be a choice and you don’t have to do anything by compulsion.” That really made me question many other things in life.

For the longest part of time, I was getting used to giving away the control to my life and that realization came only a few years back. But after that, I have taken control of everything in my life. I know that I have choices. I am responsible for my own choices. If somebody is making choices for me, that is because I have let them make the choice ahead of me. Know that you have to stand up for yourself.

Big mind, small mind: My coach has taught me a beautiful thing that there is a big mind and a small mind inside each of us. The big mind always gives us such a beautiful picture of us and tells us that we are capable of achieving anything. That is true also. The small mind constantly tells us, ‘Hey, you’re not good enough. What happens if you fail?’ It will stop you from doing. Unfortunately, it is the small mind that we listen to most of the time. Instead, if you push yourself and listen to the big mind, beautiful things will happen in your life.

Reach out for help: Do not hesitate to ask for help. This is something that as women, we do not do. Probably, we think we don’t deserve it. When I started putting out my intention, I realized that the Universe conspires to make it happen and I can confidently say that if you’re in a women’s group, the group will conspire to make it happen for you. So do not hesitate to ask for help. The worst you can hear is a ‘no’ but what if you get a ‘yes!’

Money is not a bad word: We are a community of volunteers. But if I want to scale from one level to another and want the impact to be bigger, then I’ll have to talk in terms of numbers and money. I will have to pay our salaries. It doesn’t have to be a big amount like a corporate, though. At the end of the day, I preach that women’s time has to be valued and so, the people who spend time on my community need to receive some sort of financial support. My learning is that money is not a bad word and sustainability is extremely important for this purpose.

Magic waiting for you: I would like to remind each one of you that you are special and you deserve special things to happen to you. It can happen to you, only if you allow it to happen and make up your mind for it. For all this to happen, you have to be part of a community. I am speaking in the MMA network today which has such a great power. There is a community out there waiting to happen. There is magic waiting to happen.