Sir James David Wolfensohn, The World’s Banker: RIP

James D. Wolfensohn was the 9th President of the World Bank Group.

Sir James D. Wolfensohn

I met Mr. Wolfensohn for the first time on my very first day in the United States, 7th of November 2003. What could have been more significant than meeting the President of the World Bank as your first meeting in DC?.  Mr. Wolfensohn blew your socks off, he was humble with a wonderful sense of self-deprecating humor and could be incredibly charming and very kind. He put my 23 year old self at ease, offered me whiskey at 11am :-), like one good colonial to another (his words) and the humor helped a very nervous me start a meeting which lasted for over an hour and a half.

Despite his often unpredictable temper, JDW brought vigour and foresight to the World Bank. Whether it was being picky about how business plans for developmental projects were written or surrounding himself with people who were talented and passionate, Jim brought uniqueness to the fight against poverty and corruption that the World Bank lacked and probably no successor has been able to replicate.

I was an incidental fly on the wall for some of his more creative meetings, his meeting with Quincy Jones at the Four Seasons in DC where the doyen of Wall Street and the godfather of music found a common voice for poor children to an informal dinner with very unpredictable dinner mates at the Development Gateway conference at Petersberg, near Bonn in Germany. In every situation he led, with his brand of unique leadership. In every situation he brought people together.  Above all, he cared.

While the unauthorized biography, book “The World’s Banker”, irritated him to no degree, I believe he was secretly pleased with the title and at my unsuccessful attempt to try and get him to autograph it.

His passing yesterday, I also found out that his wife of several decades Elaine Wolfensohn, had passed away in August. A wonderful lady and a leader in her own right and definitely the strong woman behind this very successful man.

May they both rest in peace.

The Indian tiger and the Chinese dragon: the next frontier

The India-China border dispute

While BECA and the Quad 2+2 Malabar war games bring India the comfort that it has allies in its struggle against the Chinese dragon, the Indian tiger must start engaging China at its underbelly, its global economic dominance campaign.

Much has been spoken of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s new international diplomatic offensive to keep China in check. During his first term (2014-2019) he had the dynamic Sushma Swaraj as his Minister of Foreign Affairs who revolutionised India’s image abroad.

New leadership at the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Swaraj’s abrupt passing away left a void in both the BJP as well as a potential successor to Modi nationally. Her replacement is low key, however has not let up pressure on India’s enemies abroad. S. Jaishankar, the current minister of foreign affairs, has done an excellent job as has the new foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla. The dynamic duo are experienced old hands of Indian diplomacy and come from the cadre, which also implies that Modi has wanted to maintain control of the political narrative in his second term.

While internally, the agenda of the BJP has thrown no surprises, Modi’s foreign policy has been rather hesitant. India will, in 2030, be the most populous country in the world with over 1/3rd of its population between 15-34 years. It is already the largest democracy in the world. On the global stage however, India continues to play defence. It continues to react to China and Pakistan while seeks alliances to consolidate its position and security.

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