Sarajevo

I await Pompeo not just for India but for what the two have to say on Taiwan

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

It would be erroneous on the part of United States and India to show intent by way of meeting between their foreign and defence ministers—due in New Delhi on Tuesday—and lack purpose in ignoring the Sarajevo moment in the room.

In 1914, the first World War broke out after an Austrian prince and his wife were assassinated by a local Bosnian group in Sarajevo and it was the beginning of the new World Order. Another such moment awaits us if China, wholly unpredictable and raging mad, were to invade Taiwan.

Taiwan is small, an island, within the breath of Beijing, blocked and bullied all these years by the Mainland. It has stood alone in Covid-19 pandemic and if you thought it was the world which has made her recover, it’s the other way around. Taiwan donated 5.6 million masks to Europe which earned it the gratitude of Brussels. Yet the niceties are not enough. There has to be a resolve and an open one on the part of the World to let Taipei know: We Care.

So it’s all very well for the arriving US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to talk of “regional security in Indo-Pacific” but he needs to shout Taiwan within the earshot of China. And so does India. Taiwan is everybody’s business. For their own good if Taiwan’s democracy, technology, a thriving economy and a role-model-to-follow-on-healthcare is not enough. For all we know, Taiwan could be the first stop of China to test the world’s resolve and we all can’t be talking in circles.

Our leaders need to highlight how military sorties of Beijing are at an unprecedented level in Taiwan Strait. It’s in the same South China Sea which falls in Indo-Pacific and which China wants to make all of its own—and which has drawn world’s biggest democracies together. In 2020, People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has made 49 military aircraft sorties violating the Taiwanese space. It’s the highest ever. It’s defence minister told parliament that the Chinese military “conducted 1,710 aircraft sorties and 1,029 military vessel sorties into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) this year.”

Truth to tell though, it’s India more than the United States which needs to brush up its Taiwan game. More than media or a zealous nationalist, it’s the Indian State which needs to come out in open as Beijing does for Jammu and Kashmir as a matter of daily drill. The United States indeed had caught our eye as their health secretary and under-secretary of state for economic growth have visited Taipei in recent months. It’s the first since they broke off diplomatic relations in 1979. It was a signature transitional moment in Taiwan’s brutalized history. It has been made sweeter now that the United States has committed an arms package of almost $2 billion to Taiwan, with a promise to up it to $5 billion in coming days. The military package includes missiles, sensors and artillery.

The Modi government shouldn’t worry of the consequences of coming out in open for Taiwan. It could conduct a popular poll if that is the fire which would propel our rocket of commitment. The United States, for example, has just done that. The US Congress always was in support of Taiwan. But now the US citizens are showing a remarkable preference to come to Taiwan’s aid if Beijing was to invade it.

Two studies have caught my attention. One was by Chicago Council on Global Affairs (CCGA) which has shown 41 percent o Americans backing US intervention on behalf of Taiwan. It might not sound much but given the tepid response of US citizens since the study began conducting its poll in 1992, it’s remarkable. The other one by Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) is even more remarkable: It shows up a support of 6.69 out of 10 for Taiwan which is more than even what Australia (6.38) could muster. Japan (6.88) and South Korea (6.92) were favoured ahead of Taiwan only in decimals.

People clearing their throats for Taiwan was one thing. The other influential nodes made no less buzz. The Thought-Leaders supported Taiwan’s military cause by a whopping 7.93 out of 10. Human Rights Experts too gave an overwhelming (57%) response in Taiwan’s favour.

So buoyed as we are at the possibility of inking the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) with the US and S. Jaishankar and Rajnath Singh beaming for the Indian audience, this is as good a moment as any to pop out Taiwan in public domain. It would be a pity of China was to test us out on Taiwan and we would show our preoccupation in Ladakh to excuse ourselves from the entanglement.

The world has enough blood on its hand in pampering the wolf and ignoring the lamb. Taiwan must be returned to the global fold with forgiveness on lips.

 

Would Indian Express not mind a communal flare-up?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

On a day when every mainstream national daily has lauded the message of “peace and brotherhood” in the Shoba Yatra at Hauz Qazi to douse communal animosity, Indian Express has chosen to flare it up.

Times of India clapped the “peaceful procession”; Hindustan Times extolled Muslims in reinstalling temple idols and even The Hindu put “communal harmony on show” in its headline. But you read Indian Express and it seems they were at a different event than the one being covered.

Beginning with its headline – “On day 3 BJP MPs visit, VHP leader says: Can turn Hauz Qazi, Ballimaran into Ayodhya” – to its content, Indian Express has insinuated “saffron terror” in the form of massive Hindu turnout and speeches by a couple of insignificant entities. Still undone, they inserted a completely unrelated mention with these words: “The issue also figured on the latest cover of the RSS mouthpiece Organiser, with the headline #Temple Vandalism Perils of Minoritarianism.”

Every reader who has read Indian Express today (July 10, 2019) would carry the impression of Saffron intimidation.  A reader would fear impending communal riots in an area where Hindus and Muslims have lived cheek-by-jowl for generations.  A reader would interpret the presence of 3 BJP MPs as a tacit acquiescence by the party leadership.

And what could be the consequences? Hindus and Muslims gulping this poison within them, and not just in Hauz Qazi. A temple vandalized here; a mosque desecrated there, riots erupting; lives lost, police and security overcome by mobs, government in limbo and the unrest in India bringing in sharks from Western shores at the smell of blood in the pool.

Is this what Indian Express wants? Don’t they know that its 10 days to the horrible event and Hindus haven’t even picked up a stone? Aren’t they mindful that sensible Muslims of Hauz Qazi are coming out in droves to ensure no communal rupture erupts in the vicinity? Can’t they lend an ear to the temple priest who says “Today’s event (Shobha Yatra) was organized to stand up against such people (who desecrate a religious place.) We want to cohabit with all other communities.”

To be sure, newspapers seek different angle to make themselves distinct. Someone might choose to highlight Rahul Gandhi and his biggest win in 2019 polls from Wayanad, Kerala while others might find his ousting from family bastion Amethi, UP bigger news. Someone might droll over BJP’s remarkable Lok Sabha show in Karnataka; others might dwell on how Tamil Nadu and Kerala have shut the door on them in South.

But today’s Indian Express is not an interpretation. It’s insinuation. An insinuation, which could trigger something far more sinister. Which could affect our generation, our next generation, the unity of this country, the future of India. Another Partition; another horror; another vivisection.

This issue of vandalized temple is high on the mind of millions of Indians. What next? How would it play out? Am I in a safe neighbourhood? What do I do about my daughter who returns from college to our deserted lane late in the evening? Or my son who is back only when the dusk falls on the fields in Moradabad?

Those who want an “akhand bharat” (United India) want Hindus and Muslims to live in peace and amity. Those who want  a “dismembered India” want Hindus and Muslims to tear themselves apart. Today, I see Indian Express standing with the latter. It would be difficult for them to convince me that their report wasn’t projecting the fear of fundamentalist Hindus—when the rest of mainstream media has lauded the restraint of Hindus.

Am I overreacting to a “small incident” in a “small lane” at the backdrop of a “minor incident”?  Didn’t World War I begin only because a prince (Archduke Franz Ferdinand) was assassinated on the streets of Sarajevo; that a stray protest in Tunisia could herald “Arab Spring”; that Soviet Union would come apart only because Ronald Reagan, a continent apart, had made arms race too prohibitive; that a “Euromaidan movement” could bring down a Ukrainian government; that  American revolution could begin because the elites had refused to pay taxes?

Its time Indian Express opens itself to scrutiny. The governments and the press bodies would have their own reasons to shrink from hauling them up. But they owe an answer to Indians and their country. Come out and debate this issue with me in an open forum. When the country’s future depends on Hindu-Muslim relations, Indian Express can’t seek warmth in the glow of, god forbid, torched homes and burning pyres.