(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
India has not quite yet changed the horses midstream but it seems to have asked its’ two important guests to to lend a shoulder for it to shift its’ diplomatic destiny in 2020 and beyond.
Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javid Zarif were in Delhi yesterday and met their Indian equivalent Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, as well as Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, to help India fit in in the diplomatic attire it now wants in the Middle East.
India has been alarmed with the duplicity of its professed friend United States which hosted a 2+2 meeting (foreign and defence ministers of the two nations) for India in Washington last month but gave no inkling of the assassination it had planned for Iranian General Qassem Soleimani within days which has bloodied and disfigured India’s domestic and foreign interests.
India stunned by US betrayal
India has been snuggling up to Saudi Arabia and Israel, and downgrading its commitment to Iran, for some time now which was viewed as pointers to its closeness to the United States. But now this presumption has been torn to shreds: Not only United States shrouded a dagger in its sleeve but in the wake of General Soleimani’s assassination, it chose to call up Pakistan’s army chief General Qamar Bajwa while ignoring India’s top brass completely. Even Donald Trump, who never tires of terming Modi as his dear friend, didn’t bother to ring up the Indian prime minister. All that bonhomie of last few years between the two amounted to nothing. To rub further salt into India’s wounds, the State Department has now announced the resumption of US-Pakistan military co-operation.
India’s domestic compulsions are no less compelling. It has mounting energy bill from the Middle East which could hit sky if the region descends into chaos. It would only add to India’s present economic woes. It also has to worry about its 8 million large diaspora in the Middle East—and many more if one counts their families back home–which sends a sizeable remittance of $40 billion every year. India also has the second-largest Shia population in the world, 45 million by the last count, which is furious by Gen. Soleimani’s assassination: Down United States and pro-Iran slogans have been witnessed in Kargil, a part of erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state.
It’s also pretty apparent that Iran is the umbrella under which anti-US sentiments in the Middle East has now grown to a feverish pitch in the Middle East. Iran’s militia proxies operate from the bases of most nations of the region and its’ missile strike at two airbases in Iraq last week showcased that Iran doesn’t need to be a nuclear power to inflict damage on the United States.
India has begun to warm up to Iran
India has been on a course-correction vis-à-vis Iran for a few weeks now. It refused to be part of a global naval alliance which the United States had called upon to secure the Persian Gulf. India was startled when Iran, in conjunction with Russia and China, launched a joint naval exercise from the Chabahar port in response for four days last month. It was a sure sign that Iran has important friends and the Chabahar port in which India has invested so heavily and yet ignored under the US pressure, could slip out of India’s grasp. Chabahar essentially allows India to maneuver in its extended neighbourhood. A strong Iran is also a good bet against Islamic State (IS)—buoyant now that its sworn enemy General Soleimani is dead—who could unleash terror against India’s interests in the Middle East and closer home.
India would hope its old friend Russia is a good bet to mend its’ fences with Iran as it looks to align its’ interest in the Middle East of now. Russia is now a force and an arbiter in the Middle East, a stabilizing presence against a chaotic and war-mongering United States. It has ears of diverse and even conflicting forces of the region, be it Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria or Saudi Arabia, Israel and Libya.
It’s in this respect that India gave a full-throated welcome to Lavrov. Lavrov, and Zarif, on their part, would be equally keen to return the Indian warmth. Russia is now ambitious to have a presence in Indo-Pacific—as Lavrov’s comments in Sri Lanka on the eve of his India visit testify—and Iran shares too deep historical and cultural ties with India to stay away for too long.
The United States sent its own two important functionaries on the occasion: Deputy national security adviser Matthew Pottinger—a known-China baiter and Alice Wells, assistant secretary for South and Central Asian affairs. But theirs was a sideshow, neither gaining audience from India’s big men nor securing any guarantee that India still has positive lens on the United States.
(A modified version of this piece was published in rt.com).
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
To the images of the charred remains of a young woman, raped and murdered, countless Indians woke up this morning with a sense of having failed their nation, and no less their popular prime minister Narendra Modi.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
History pulls some poor jokes and I am afraid onion is one of them though it’s unlikely millions of my agitated fellow Indians would view the matter as funny.
Onion prices have hit the roof in India, a kilogram costing one-third of an average Indian’s daily income of $4 dollars, forcing a worried government to seek tranches of supply from Egypt of all places lest the people’s anger extracts a political cost too grave in nature.
There’s a precedent for such grave forebodings too as governments once fell on rising onion costs in Delhi and Rajasthan and Indira Gandhi once channelized such anger to ride to power in 1980 even though the excesses of Emergency were still fresh in people’s mind.
Onion to Indians is what air is to human life, invisible yet impossible to do without, a bulb of a food which launches a thousand curries, an essential even if inconspicuous item on your food plate, peeling of which is always a teary proposition and consumption of which is strictly no-no if the next thing you are doing is to kiss your lover. You see, what is pungent for your food is odour between two mouths!
Onions were once despised by Indians
Yet history tells us that onion was one of the forbidden foods for ancient Indians who were seeking an austere life. Holy scriptures despised it as an aphrodisiac, unsuitable in quest of a spiritual life. One of history’s most famous travellers, Hieun Tsang of China, observed in the seventh century that very few locals used onions for fear of being expelled beyond the walls of the town.
Muslim invaders then came in hordes but always returned after loots, unlike the Mughals who dominated the next millennium and barely ate anything without the onions. Their cuisine of rich meat dishes and biryani (flavoured rice), virtually embedded with this layered bulb, sometimes raw, mostly burned brown and mixed, let a strong aroma to the royal kitchenette and their dining halls. The smell soon blew down to the masses beyond the royal walls and before long, onion occupied the pride of place which it retains to this day for an average Indian’s food buds.
The irony won’t be lost to a history student as he observes a renaissance of ancient India and its true ethos of our times which laments the loss of its virility due to a thousand years of servility at the hands of the Muslim invaders and British colonialists and yet is unmindful that one of Indians’ staple food, the unputdownable onions, is actually a gift of the Mughals. That’s what you call out history for one of its poor jokes.
As onion grew in importance, so did its crop for farmers to the extent that India today is the second biggest producer and exporter of onions in the world and earns $360 million each year from its surplus. Once in a while, the monsoon is delayed or rains are active till the onset of winters and this double whammy makes onions scarce and dearer. That’s when fumes of anger hit the power corridors of government and occasionally envelopes it too. This year is a classic case study of such a frightful scenario.
Plans and the battle ahead
India hopes to come to grips with it in a matter of month or two for there is always an abundance of onions between January and May which allows the excess to be stored and used till August before the fresh crop in winter keeps Indian kitchens running for the rest of the year. It’s this winter crop, called Rabi crop in India, which has suffered the vagaries of weather this year.
Indian government is countering the crisis by banning exports and calling for imports from diverse nations such as Egypt, UAE and Turkey to meet the shortfall. Times were when India turned to Pakistan in such crisis as it was in 2010 but now the ties between the two neighbours is in deep freeze and India even needs permission to use air space of its arch-rivals. There are also measures to subsidize such imports for Indian consumers as well as a policy to ensure Indian farmers don’t get shortchanged in price only because the weather has played truant.
Such assurance though are difficult to extend to its Middle and Far East clients as well as to neighbours like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka who are used to special brown Indian onions and find the alternative, say the white ones from Egypt, too bland in taste. Yet Egypt is now shipping its onions to Sri Lanka which it had done never before. Even the Netherlands is importing onions to Sri Lanka though the transportation lag is no less than six weeks. Onion cost has skyrocketed for India’s traditional export clients and there is fear that India might have yielded too much ground to exporting rivals such as Pakistan, China and Egypt.
(This piece also appeared in rt.com).
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Many view India’s ballooning population, set to overtake China by the next decade, as a time-bomb ticking but a solution is now at hand which nevertheless took four long decades in coming and was hidden in plain sight.
India had only 54 millions on its population chart in 1979 when a slight professor in his 40s, Dr. Sujoy Kumar Guha, published his first scientific paper on Risug, a drug molecule he had developed as a reversible contraceptive for men. He pleaded for clinical trials. But the “Dr” in front of his name was not a medical degree; it was courtesy his PhD studies in an American university. No go, said India’s apex medical body, ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research).
Guha chose to climb this door which was slammed shut on him by opting for his medical entrance test and becoming a qualified medical doctor. ICMR relented and the clinical trials began but more than a decade had passed and Guha was now in his 50s, an age when most men tend to get flaccid in mind.
Phase I of clinical trials progressed from rats, rabbits, monkeys to humans and were proved spectacularly successful in 1993. But then ICMR brought it to a half after someone complained that the substances of Risug are known to cause cancer. Guha argued individual substances turn harmless as compounds, just as chlorine, which could melt human flesh, becomes basic salt of everyday use when mixed with sodium. ICMR wasn’t convinced.
Dr Guha knocked the doors of Supreme Court; the Phase II was set in motion after a few years and by 2002 Dr Guha’s dreams were close to being realized before another spanner was thrown in the works. Now it was the changed international norms for clinical trials. It took Indian medical authorities another five years to put the required norms in place.
The envy which took its toll
Unsurprisingly, Guha evoked interest and envy in equal measure around the world. The world began sniffing on his wonder drug and not always with a sense of appreciation. The National Institute of Health in the US raised questions and caused delays. Dr Guha believes to this day it was meant to promote a pill-in-the-making which, unlike his one-time injectable hormone-based drug, promised continual demand and endless profit.
Now after another dozen years, nearly 40 years all put together, Dr Guha’s dream is close to being realized. The extended tests on Risug have shown no side-effects. The Indian medical authorities are hopeful of introducing his reversible contraceptive in market in next 6-7 months. It would be the first injectable male contraceptive in the world. Its’ competitor, the pill, is nowhere in sight.
Indian men prefer to use condoms than an invasive vasectomy surgery to sterilize their reproductive organ. But Dr Guha’s invention is external, non-invasive and cheap and could prompt millions to opt for it, given its’ reversible with just two counter injections put in place. There is no barriers to physical intimacy like condoms.
Youth and the shackles of population
There’s a great imbalance in India’s population trajectory with southern states meeting the global trends of less than two children per household. In contrast the northern states, which contain 40 per cent of India’s population, tend to have nearly four children per household. Education, economic dependence of women, rural-urban divide all play a role in India’s population which is bursting at the seams and poses a great strain on India’s diminishing resources such as water and energy. India has more than 600 million young people and needs 12 million jobs for them each year. Population is an issue which could no longer be put off to tomorrow.
In times gone by, around the time when Dr Guha had worked out his invention, Sanjay Gandhi, son of India’s then reigning prime minister Indira Gandhi, went for a compulsory sterilization programme to halt the population boom in 1976. Over 6 million men were sterilized in just a year. Nearly 2,000 men died because of botched operations. In the ensuing elections, India voted the Gandhis out of power. Nobody in authority has dared to do anything as dramatic as this since those dark days.
Dr Guha, nearing 80 and still sprightly, could finally give India solution to a problem which has seriously shackled the nation’s future. He wouldn’t meet the tragic fate of Dr Subhas Mukherjee who was the real architect of “test-tube baby” but lost the rights of invention to Louise Brown only because his work hadn’t appeared in any international journal. In 1981, Dr Mukherjee was found hanging in his Kolkata apartment.
(This piece is a reprint from rt.com).
(A reprint from NewsBred).
India is shouting from the rooftop it has made no transgressions across its eastern borders in neighbouring Nepal but it has made no difference to latter whose prime minister KP Oli has joined his citizens who hit the streets in protest last week.
Nepal’s bitter political rivals, Nepal Communist Party and Nepali Congress, are united in anger and so are the students on the streets who are convinced India has swallowed the long-disputed Kalapani area in its latest map which it released in the wake of reconfiguration of Jammu & Kashmir state early this month.
India, meanwhile, has stressed it’s the same map and same boundaries it has depicted all along for over half a century now, including the other disputed territory of Susta in Nepal’s south which for the time being doesn’t get Nepal’s hackles up.
Blame it on geography’s changing moods and the toxicity of colonialism that India finds itself enmeshed in border disputes with not just Nepal but many others in its neighbourhood, including China.
Kalapani, and Susta are territories around Kali and Gandak rivers. After the Anglo-Gurkha War (1814-1816), Nepal and East India Company signed a treaty in March 1816. The two rivers drew the arbitrary borders between these two long-disputed sites. Territories right of Gandak river, including Susta, belonged to Nepal; those on the left were with India. Since then Gandak river has changed course: Now Susta is on the left of Gandak river and hence with India. As for Kalapani, British kept changing the source of Kali river which has led to rival claims of today.
China: Talks after talks
India’s border disputes with China are one of the most protracted ones in the world. Since the first border talks began in 1981 to the latest, the 22nd round, which is due later this year, solutions have eluded the two Asian giants who fight the legacy of British colonialism and are afraid to upset the domestic audience in a give-and-take eventuality.
The two countries share a 3,488-km long unresolved border but two, the Western and Eastern ones, are particularly contentious. China controls 37,000-square km sized Aksai Chin in the West, a virtually uninhabited high-altitude desert; India 84,000 square km-wide populated Arunachal Pradesh in the East. The two fought for a month in 1962 but since a peace deal was struck in 1993, dialogues have been preferred over violence.
Yet, no solution is in sight. Along vast stretches of the borders between the two, there is no mutually agreed Line of Actual Control (LAC). India follows the Johnson Line in the Western sector, proposed by the British in the 1860s, which allocates Aksai Chin to them. China asserts it never agreed to the Johnson Line and thus Aksai Chin is its own. Aksai Chin is between volatile Kashmir and China’s Xinjiang province which are seen troublesome to the two nations. Then there is MacMahon Line in Eastern sector, initiated in 1913-14 between China, India and Tibet which is disputed.
Fortunately, pragmatism has brought about Border Defence Cooperation Agreement between the two Asian giants. Soldiers patrol their territory but back off when brought face-to-face with each other. Quite often military commanders at the border share a bonhomie, exchange views and sort out local issues.
Pakistan: An intractable issue
The border dispute between India and Pakistan concern Kashmir and are on since their independence in 1947. Pakistan launched a tribal militia in Kashmir on independence and the ruler of Kashmir, Maharja Hari Singh, sought India’s assistance which put a condition on Kashmir first acceding to India. Having duly secured the accession, India airlifted its troops to Srinagar and by the time cease-fire was secured after a year, India controlled two-thirds of the Kashmir while the remaining one-third was possessed by Pakistan. The status-quo has prevailed despite three wars and as many peace agreements (Tashkent, Simla, Lahore) between the two neighbours.
Bangladesh: All quiet at borders
India and East Pakistan (later Bangladesh) became free from the British empire in 1947 but the two retained thousands of citizens in hundreds of enclaves in each other’s territory. These enclave dwellers lived without any rights or papers, virtually stateless and lacking basics in education, health and security. All this changed for the good when the Indian prime minister Narendra Modi signed a historic pact with his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina in 2015. It allowed these thousands of stateless people an opportunity to choose either of the two countries as their own. Land was also swapped between the two nations. The border dispute between the two is settled for good.
Similarly, India had a small dispute with Sri Lanka over an uninhabited 235-acre island, Katchatheevu, which was satisfactorily solved after India formally gifted it to Sri Lanka in the 70s. India has extremely minor border issues with Myanmar and practically none with Bhutan.
The curse of colonialism has left India with border issues which are non-existent, say in a majority of Europe or even between United States and Canada even though the demarcating line between the two countries is a straight one. With strong governments in place, India and China could settle the mutual issues to a great deal. The one with Pakistan though is another matter.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Pakistan is unlikely to keep up with its hostile words or action on Kashmir if the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meet in Paris on October 13-18 goes as planned.
Already in the “grey list” of the FATF, Pakistan could lose up to $10 billion and be economically devastated if it is “blacklisted” by the influential global body which primarily deals with countries that promote money laundering, drugs and terrorism and are a threat to global system.
Pakistan surely would need to tone done its rhetoric or any misadventure it might have planned on Kashmir, the focal point of Pakistan’s policy for decades, let its treated as a leper in international monetary system.
Pakistan needs three members of the 37-member FATF to avoid being blacklisted and its Prime Minister Imran Khan last week sought out the heads of Malaysia and Turkey to canvass support. China, which heads FATF, in any case is an all-weather friend. These three countries were the reason Pakistan avoided being “blacklisted” in June this year. The trio are likely to come again to Pakistan’s rescue in Paris.
Pakistan though is unlikely to slip out of the “grey list” as it would require the support of 15 of 37 members of FATF which is too uphill a task. The United Nations General Assembly session last month saw it being isolated on the world stage with no significant world power, but for China, coming to Pakistan’s support.
The pressure is mounting by the hour on Pakistan as Asia-Pacific Joint Group (APJG), a FATF sub-group, held a review meeting with Pakistani officials in Bangkok in August on the issues of anti-money laundering and combating financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regimes. It found Pakistan to be in violation of as many as 21 of the 27-point action plan and placed it in the Enhanced Follow Up list. Of the 40 technical compliance parameters, Pakistan was non-compliant on 30 parameters. And, of the 11 efectiveness parameters, Pakstan was adjudged as “low” on 10. These finding would surely have a huge bearing on Pakistan’s fate in the FATF meeting in Paris in less than a fortnight’s time.
India, meanwhile, is on an overdrive to ensure that Pakistan is unable to escape the “noose” of FATF. The trio of prime minister Narendra Modi, foreign minister S. Jaishankar and national security advisor Ajit Doval have spent last few weeks in canvassing support from as many as 24 of the 37 members of the FATF.
While Modi sought out Belgium, France, US, UK, Italy, New Zealand and South Africa among others in the UN, Jaishankar held parleys with his counterparts from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Singapore, Turkey and Japan in New York. He also looked for support from the two regional organizations of the FATF, the Gulf Governing Council (GCC) and the European Commission (EC). Doval meanwhile is in Saudi Arabia mustering support from the oil kingdom which has shunned Pakistan in favour of India in recent months.
If Pakistan is “blacklisted” it could virtually be an outcast in the international financial system. Its banking system would be crippled and be it imports or exports, remittances or access to international lending order, would all be overwhelmed. It would have trouble securing loans as foreign financial institutions would be wary of dealing with Pakistan lest they fall foul of international violations on the issues of money laundering, drugs and terrorism. Foreign investors won’t be enamoured either.
It’s not the first time Pakistan finds itself in the “grey list” of FATF. It was first put under watch in 2008 and later between 2012-2015. Apparently, the deterrence hasn’t s worked. As India has pointed out, Pakistan is home to 130 UN-designated terrorists and 25 terrorists listed by the UN.
Pakistan though is not the only country in the “grey list” of FATF. The other countries in the last are Ethiopia, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia and Yemen.
Presently only two countries are in the “blacklist” of FATF—Iran and North Korea. Pakistan is close to joining the unenvied group of international order. If Pakistan is able to avoid being blacklisted, it would be a damning reflection on its benefactors–China, Malaysia and Turkey—as they would be seen in support of terrorism.
Pakistan, truth to tell, is today seen a breeding ground for terrorists and has done little to curb them. There has been no demonstrable action or persecution of globally-designated terrorists or terror networks. Its law enforcement agencies are yet to even begin investigating terror groups like Da’ish, Al-Qaeda, Jamaat-ud Dawa, Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Haqqani Network or persons who are affiliated with Taliban. Terrorists such as Masood Azhar and Hafiz Saeed operate with impunity and protection from the state of Pakistan.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is back from the United States. During his sojourn, he had the President of the United States in attendance and in audience in the Houston event; won the “Goalkeepers Global Goals Award” from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF); and above all had the world eating out of his palms on Kashmir. No Indian, arguably since Swami Vivekananda, ever set foot on United States and returned home with such global acclaim. (Never mind if our own Shashi Tharoor is working overtime to argue that Modi’s is not unprecedented, even if he has to resort to fake news on Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru).
If Houston was imagery, the concurrence of world on Kashmir in the United Nations was real substance. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan looked no better than a gangster, smoking gun from a nuclear upholstery, faking the championing of his country on behalf of Kashmiri Muslims, never mind he didn’t even whimper on one million fellow Muslims being kept in concentration camps in Xinjiang by China or that his country was responsible for over a million killings of fellow Muslims in once East Pakistan. Pakistan is today seen as what it’s worth in the world.
Be that as it may, Operation Kashmir is now in its second phase. It’s a phase when at some stage the Modi government would’ve to consider lifting the ban on internet, freeing thousands of politicians, activists, businessmen etc who unknown to their families are lodged up in and outside Kashmir. The present clampdown in Kashmir can’t go on forever. At some stage, elections would’ve to be announced and before that happens, the government and security forces would’ve to pull themselves back in the trenches. Leaders of regional political parties– Abdullahs and Muftis–would need to be freed. Longer it’s delayed, faster India would lose the world which is now standing next to it.
Or, Modi could act indifferent to the world. The world today is wooing him not because it’s convinced of Kashmir being an internal issue but because it wants India by its side. West, in particular, is wary of China and sees India as indispensible in halting the Dragon’s march. India’s market and the growth story is no less attractive to them. Modi thus could keep the frills out, delay elections in Kashmir as long as he deems fit, keeps Muftis and Abdullahs in house arrest and to hell with the cacophony of the seculars. He could put internal security above all other considerations, given the intelligence inputs.
Before the Houston event, Modi met a group of Kashmiri Pandits and assured them justice. Kashmiri Pandits–and their numbers run in lakhs–of course have a yearning to return to their homeland from where they were driven out in the 1990s. It’s been almost a generation since BJP has made it a part of their manifesto. The abrogation of Article 370 has raised hopes in the hearts of these Kashmiris.
But it won’t be easy. Muslim Kashmiris in the Valley today are incensed at the curb on their freedom and their knowns being lodged up in jails. The post-1990 generation have no idea that theirs is a land where once syncretism prevailed and Muslims and Hindus lived check-by-jowl. They are likely to see returning Kashmiri Pandits as intruders and not rightful owners of their hearths and homes. The natives would be seen as aliens. The reconstruction of their vandalized temples, as the Modi government has vowed, would be fodder to canons of insinuations and rumours. Winning hearts without compromising in security or allowing Pakistan to stir up mischief with its mercenary terrorists won’t be easy.
Lutyens Media is ready with its texts, blurbs and headlines once clampdown is lifted in the Kashmir Valley. These sob stories would be endlessly played. Modi would be shown to have committed a Himalayan blunder in tampering with Kashmir’s special status. Modi government would need to be on its toes to fight this war of misinformation. For every word of misinformation, it needs an article of facts to be put on public display. It would need nothing less than a separate Ministry against Misinformation on Kashmir.
Lutyens media has latched on to Imran Khan evoking the image of 2002 Gujarat riots. They of course won’t tell that every Court in the country has cleared Modi of culpability in the crime. (And it is not as if only Muslims were killed. The figures, released by the Congress-led government itself in 2005 put the figures as 794 Muslims and 254 Hindus killed). Similarly, Lutyens Media has gone to length to highlight the dozen protestors who stationed themselves in front of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, petitioning against the award to Modi on Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). They won’t let you know that the Mission is almost 100 per cent successful. Nearly all villages of the country are now Open-Defecation Free (ODF). As Sandipan Deb wrote in the Mint: “The WHO study estimated that SBM Grameen is likely to have averted more than 300,000 deaths between 2014 and October 2019. BMGF’s survey found that in ODF districts, there were 32% fewer cases of diarrhea among children, 15% fewer cases of stunting, and 37% less women with lower body mass index, compared with non-ODF districts.”
Governance, like life, can’t be still. One has to think on one’s feet. Modi has dealt with the first phase of Operation Kashmir to the last detail. The second phase is fraught with dangers for now guns would have to be replaced with roses.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Iran has shown its hurt on India which has unilaterally stopped the import of its oil, unwilling to stand in the corner of the adversaries of the United States.
Ali Chegeni, Iranian Ambassador to India, didn’t mince his words in a press briefing in New Delhi on Tuesday, chiding India for succumbing to the “sanctions” of the United States.
The Donald Trump administration is going berserk in his attempt to destroy Iran, first pulling out of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) despite Iran being faithful to the deal and piling on with economic sanctions without approval from its allies or world community in the form of United Nations.
India hasn’t imported oil from Iran for months now and couched its action as “reduced” and not “stopped” to suit its independent image. But now that Iran has gone public, India has been shown as having been arm-twisted by the United States.
Fans of India’s prime minister Narendra Modi and his muscular foreign policy could feel cheated as a multi-polar world—against the unipolar bullying of United States—is nearer to being a reality.
Russia and China, hit by sanctions and trade wars, are now joined at hips and Iran is a vital clog in their drive to keep Middle East, even Eurasia, out of bounds for the United States. European Union (EU) has created INSTEX (Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges) to keep trading with Iran without resorting to direct transfers of money between the two entities. India is seen as one final piece of jigsaw of the emerging multi-polar world which would signal the further unravelling of US’ hegemony.
To be sure, the United States is one hell of an economic power and throws its weight to bring nations under its heel. It’s the nerve centre of global economy. Be it goods or money; data or transportation, the world doesn’t move much without the express will of the United States.
The United States is the kingpin of globalization. It anchors International Monetary Fund (IMF). It controls over 50 per cent of the venture capital, all but 10 per cent of currency trade use its dollars. Tech and finance doesn’t move without its dollars; it could cripple phone-operating systems of the world; it controls the fund-management assets. As The Economist puts it: “Across the panel, it’s normal to use a Visa card, invoice exports in dollars, sleep beside a device with a Qualcomm chip, watch Netflix and work for a firm that BlackRock invests in.”
If a firm is blacklisted, no bank would touch you with a barge pole and you are put outside the dollar payment system. There is a law in place which controls the foreign investment into Silicon Valley—if you fall foul, you could virtually say goodbye to transactions in semiconductors and software, a virtual ruination in today’s world.
Economy isn’t the imperative though which has guided India’s change of course vis-à-vis Iran. India needs to hedge its bets. That’s the demand of the geopolitics reality. It neither can annoy the chief actors of the drama nor it can afford to align itself with either of the two groups: United States vs the Russia-China combine. If it snuggles up to the United States, it loses the strategic and military advantage of Russia. It provokes China to join hands with Pakistan and cause mayhem on its borders. If it slips into the arms of Russia-China, it must brace itself to the devastation which the United States could unleash, like the one they have in Hong Kong.
India thus follows the sensible policy of keeping its suitors interested. Both the United States and China need India. The United States in its existential mission to squeeze China and badly needs India. China wants to keep India dormant for the same reason. It can’t afford a naval configuration of United States-Japan-Australia-India to spike its waters.
India too needs to do a balancing act of its own. So it relents on South China Sea to ensure China doesn’t help Pakistan to the extent its borders are put under siege. It relents to United States’ demand on Iran to ensure its military purchases from Russia are unimpaired. It knows the mischief the United States is capable of. India internally is in an ideological churn. And the United States is expert in fishing in troubled waters. Kashmir could so easily go horribly wrong.
I suspect Modi’s India, in its heart, is for a multi-polar world. United States doesn’t follow rules, it isn’t friends with anyone. All it wants is servility. Those who are independent—like Cuba, Venezuela, Russia, China, North Korea or Iran—face its wrath. India is still some leagues away before it could trust China completely and dump the United States for good. India is pivotal to Project Eurasia but can’t afford to annoy either of the two blocs. It’s a watchful tread by them.
It’s just not the United States: India has also made a choice in warming up to Saudi Arabia-Israel in the Middle East. They are Iran’s sworn enemies. By drawing close to the Gulf Muslim nations, India has left Pakistan sterile. Pakistan’s fervent appeal on religious lines to Muslim nations has drawn a very tepid response on Kashmir. Instead we have the situation where Modi is being accorded the highest civilian honour in UAE and Bahrain. This comes in the backdrop of Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Maldives conferring similar honours to him. It has isolated Pakistan on Kashmir.
Iran has shown it can’t wait for India interminably. It doesn’t want to be a minor player in India’s international diplomatic games. It’s a perfectly legitimate response given how Iran and its’ proud people are waging a war for survival. Modi government though is in the thick of its own war with internal and external enemies. One hopes, through the backdoor diplomatic channels, India and Iran remain warm to each other. Till the time is ripe.
It’s good for the world.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Indian Express is going to length to find voices which could question the Centre on its fiat on Jammu & Kashmir, notably on constitutional, human rights and its federal-character-under-assault grounds.
Conveniently kept out of view is terrorism, loss of tens of thousands of civilian/army lives and billions of tax-payers money which never reached the commoners of the troubled state.
The newspaper doesn’t have a stance on the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits, that minorities were discriminated against in the state, that caste reservations was out of bounds; and that 106 Central Laws (Prevention of Corruption Act, Land Acquisition Act, Right to Education Act, National Commission for Minorities Act etc) were rendered lifeless by those who governed the Centre and Srinagar.
Where are people in Indian Express’ discourse? Do we hear from them on Jammu and Ladakh which has bigger area and still bigger population than the Valley? Where are its investigating geniuses who hide from its readers that Kashmir Valley gets more financial allocation that what Jammu and Ladakh divisions, put together, are provided for? Why it escapes them that the per-capita subsidy to J & K is 16 times more than West Bengal and 12 times more than Bihar?
In its’ Sunday’s edition today (September 1, 2019), Indian Express has flushed out a Supreme Court lawyer Aman Hingorani who turned a doctoral research into a book (Unravelling the Kashmir Knot) and now has an entire page dedicated to his discourse to the crème da la crème of the Capital on the Constitutional heist which the Modi government has pulled off in J & K. The newspaper takes Hingorani’s discourse on a page they pompously call “Explained”. The man himself is preening to his audience that at the end of his discourse, they would realize the futility of Centre’s move. (You dumbs, here I am to get you rid of your ignorance).
I am not sure if it was an interactive session or Hingorani’s monologue. But since Express claims the session was meant to benefit its’ readers, I as one of its most long-lasting consumer, have a few questions for Hingorani and I hope they are not inconvenient enough to be ducked by both the newspaper and the “star” it has peddled today.
HINGORANI: The Accession terms were the same in J & K as it was for other princely states. But while other princely states merged their territory into India, Jammu and Kashmir refused to do so…
Question: Please avoid the misinformation that all other princely states had merged their territory into India. Junagadh and Hyderabad hadn’t. They were intransigent compared to a prostrated Maharaja Hari Singh of J & K. But while Junagadh and Hyderabad succumbed to India’s military pressure, J & K was allowed to dictate terms.
Now how did that happen? Was it because Junagadh and Hyderabad were managed by Sardar Patel while J & K was left to be Pt. Nehru’s toy? Your turn Mr Hingorani.
HINGORANI: Article 370 had been emptied long ago…It had never come in the way of New Delhi dealing with the state in the way it wanted to deal with the state.
Question: Article 370 was the stepping stone on which Article 35 and 1954 Presidential Order were later added. It allowed J & K to have a separate constitution, a state flag and autonomy over the internal region of Kashmir. It allowed the state government to discriminate against Hindu and Sikhs who migrated at Partition; against Valmikis of Punjab whom they lured with the promise of citizenship but never delivered.
Article 370 makes a mockery of Article 14 which guarantees equality before the law and the principles of liberty. As we know, not everyone living in J & K could vote in the election to the state assembly. Further, Article 15 prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, caste, sex, place of birth or race etc.
So Mr Hingorani, could you please revisit your position in light of the facts obscured in your discourse?
HINGORANI: Many states have restrictions on people buying land, what’s so special about it (Article 370)?
Question: Let me rephrase this question and see Mr Hingorani what’s your response: Which are other states where a woman, if she marries outside her state, is denied rights over land? Ok, here’s a dollop of escape route I let you have: Just name one state.
HINGORANI: India can’t go to United Nations and then say (Kashmir) is an internal issue…
Question: So Mr Hingorani, what did United Nations do when Pakistan not only occupied a part of Kashmir but also later ceded 20% of the entire area, Gilgit-Baltistan etc, to China? What right Pakistan has on the area of Kashmir it has illegally occupied? What rights Pakistan has of ceding Kashmir to China which has no claim over the territory? Did they take the route of people’s referendum? Was there any instrument of accession signed that you are so fond of quoting? Hasn’t United Nations become irrelevant on Kashmir? If it hasn’t, then why didn’t United Nations make any noise after India’s move this month: That wait, this matter is under us, and India can’t decide on its own on J & K?
HINGORANI: Presidential Rule is an emergency provision. It is not meant for taking far-reaching decisions…
Question: And you think 70 years spent in the quagmire still doesn’t confer an emergency-status to J & K. If the application of President’s Rule now is a travesty of justice, what would you say to the Presidential Order of 1954? Does our constitution bind the President not to take such a decision? If it doesn’t, what’s your gripe?
HINGORANI: Can you use emergency provisions to dismember and destroy the identity of a state?
Question: You call it dismembering of state but not question the latter which had no time for Ladakh. You would call it destruction of identity of state but would make no mention that how come Kashmir Valley, with lesser population and lesser area, had 46 assembly seats to Jammu’s 37 in the state assembly. Isn’t it a stolen identity? Who did it? Didn’t it allow Muftis and Abdullahs perpetuity in power? Was it subversion or empowerment of democracy?
It’s important we interject when our newspapers peddle a one-sided warped discourse. It’s certainly not neutral or unbiased. It’s easy to hide behind the cloak that it’s a writer’s own personal view. But when none of your editorials present any piece which speaks for Kashmiri Pandits, minorities, deprivation of central laws or the welfare of SC-STs in J & K or even question why after 70 years the lot of Kashmiris haven’t improved, then it’s legitimate to ask: Who are you speaking for?
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
India and Pakistan have started whipping up support in their corners as the Ring that is Jammu and Kashmir gets ready for a trade of punches.
Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan wants his people on the streets in solidarity against the rearranged status of Jammu and Kashmir while Narendra Modi is reserving the month of September for his ministers’ outreach to people in 35 state capitals and 370 cities.
The momentum is with India where Modi has secured a cheque of gratitude from a billion people and possibly from history too on the once intractable issue of Kashmir. He has second guessed almost everyone including the global powers, jihadi nuts in the Valley and secessionists forces within India. It’s nearly a month and India hasn’t fired a single bullet in anger.
Imran Khan is relying on propaganda and the good offices of China without realizing that slaves could only stare at the feet, and not go at the throat of the masters. It has a good ranch of guerillas, terrorists and Talibans but to take on world’s second largest army, bigger than United States, you need stallion and not jackass. Mooting closure of airspace could only evoke yawn. His dream of becoming prime minister is now a raging nightmare.
India’s enemies are investing much in the hope that Muftis and Abdullahs would be free soon and hold court; Valley would be put to flame and Lutyens Media would manufacture sob stories. For the moment, they have nothing but the sham cry of violations of human rights and India’s federal-structure-in-danger to keep stoking the dying embers.
When would Muftis and Abdullahs be set free? My guess is not in next four weeks. Modi government prefers embarrassment to harm. Half measures would come back to bite. You don’t do PR exercise with enemies. If the world can turn one eye away on Xinjiang in China; it could as well the other on Kashmir.
There is incremental easing up in Kashmir Valley. Landlines have been restored. Independence Day and Eid were celebrated. Journalists, despite the brouhaha, are getting passes to move around at will. Schools and Colleges have been reopened. It’s not to say Valley would be quiet. Muftis and Abdullahs could pay a heavy cost if flutes and music alone is the noise in their backyards.
There are a few things which the Modi government must follow as gospel. One, learn to ignore the barking dogs. Valley and Lutyens Media would be shooting from both sides of mouth. They must not be allowed to set the agenda. Give them a damn. Two, this outreach to people in September can’t be one-off thing. People need constant repeats on facts. Lose no opportunity, be it face-to-face, social media, spokespersons or editorials in newspapers. This is the only war your adversary would be engaging you in; so treat it as one. Three, name and shame the enemies within who run contrary to India’s interests. Three generations of this lobby has fattened itself on Kashmir. The cat is too fat now; it must be made to shed some weight.
I suspect Centre has hit upon an ace in raking up some high profile cases. So mournful is media on P. Chidambaram’s custody that Kashmir has been put on the backburner. The cases against Sharad Pawar and Ahmed Patel’s son too would shrink space on Kashmir. Heat has been turned on against Trinamool Congress (TMC). Three state elections in three months would further pull the rug under Kashmir’s feet. Why, when was the last you heard on “Jai Shri Ram” crimes and “lynchings”?
But this is just the first phase of preparedness. Kashmir is serious. Heads could roll in Pakistan’s establishment. Imran Khan could invite a fate similar to Nawaz Sharif. General Qamar Javed Bajwa has to justify his extension. United States could change tack in case it can’t summon India against China, Iran and Russia. So don’t take your eyes off. India has to handle Kashmir in real time. It could take months, years and even generations. But a start, a good one at that, has been made. And the nation can’t be thankful enough.