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India: PM Modi government’s two-year extravaganza

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The government in India may have changed hands from Manmaohan Singh to Narendra Modi and from ‘hands to lotus’ (party symbols) but the functioning of the government has remained unchanged.

It is because basically there is no difference between Congress and BJP- both are Hindu parties, though former tricks the Muslims while the latter has does it with Hindus. Moreover, the RSS, the BJP and its previous avatars were supported by the Congress party in order to contain the Muslims leaders and keep the Muslim vote banks under its full control by using the paid Muslim leaders as party agents.

Many of BJP’s poll promises remain unfulfilled. Liquor baron Vijay Mallya left India with Modi support and is enjoy8ing life abroad with state protection. Both Congress and BJP play tricks, blaming each other for making India one of most corrupt nations on earth.

Both Congress and BJP ruling classes in Indian democracy consider the active promotion of corruption is their birth right and nobody can question their basic rights. Not even the Supreme court of India.

Former President of India Dr. Abdul Kalam rarely visited foreign countries and he made it appoint to go to South Africa where Mahatma Gandhi launched his freedom struggle and he went there only to visit Mahatma Gandhi’s memorials as tribute to him as India’s most important achievement.

But today, Indian PM Modi is known as tourist premier she is undertaking non-stop foreign visits, ostensibly to popularize India on world scene as if the previous governments, including of former PM Vajpayee, have failed to do that.

The Modi government not only promotes corruption but also spends too much money on PM torus and advertisements. RSS-BJP is fully aware fo the fact that they f took the people for an easy ride and now people are fully aware of their plight under the BJP government.

Indian PM Modi, who is actively engaged in a self styled world tour at state expenses, seems to be aiming at some sort of records, like the cricketers do with mafia help, to enter Guinness book, is also trying to outsmart the US presidents who generally undertake shuttle diplomatic exercises across many countries in one go.

PM Modi, who allows all Hindutva operations take place quietly, is doing what generally the domain of foreign ministry officals and corporate lords who jointly keep visiting many countries at state cost for discussing bilateral and multilateral issues and wherever possible striking economic deals. .

Like Vijay Mallya and Robert Vadra, who used India government of Congress and BJP to enlarge their business interests, Modi has used politics to fulfill his life ambition of world tours on state expenses.

PM Modi has managed to stitch around him a neat propaganda that his main focus would be foreign policy and he did so by inviting SAARC leaders for his inaugural ceremony in New Delhi in 2014. He spends more time and attention on his foreign tours than attending to and solving the domestic problems.

One major achievement of Modi era is the weakening of Congress party as a national party as part of BJP agenda of creating India without Congress, but BJP also has been in trouble as its influence also has been diminishing steadily.

Except that BJP is a thorough and open Hindutva communal party , there is not much that divides it form the Congress and other similar parties that use Muslims for elections and use criminal gangs to attack them after the poll.

Both BJP and Congress promote money laundering and IPL betting and gambling, rampant corruption, illegal mafias promotions, etc.

Shuttle triclomacy

US presidents are known to undertake shuttle diplomatic tours by clubbing a few countries to visits in a row. Modi seems to outsmart US precedent as well.

Many Indians feel proud of having got a prime minister who tours the world like any international tourist but state expenses and he spends not only on himself but for the entire entourage of about 200-300 persons from ministries, business lords, media magnets, etc, etc.

Indian Prime minister Narendra Modi is known to be on the move last two years from month one in office, visiting foreign countries in a row ostensibly to advance Indian interests if the prime ministers before him did not do that at all. Lucky ones are those who are in his good books. Modi and ‘allies’ spent more time abroad than in India, leaving governance to the cabinet members who take decisions on their own or as directed by the RSS-BJP leaders in the absence of their big leader.

Nothing is wrong if a PM with huge powers enjoys life abroad as his passion or hobby. Many people thought he is searching for Indian money kept abroad and wants to bring that money back home to be distributed among the voters who voted him and his BJP to power. .

Modi’s foreign tours influenced Indian president Pranab Mukherjee so much that he himself undertook tours like the latest one to China etc. taking cue from the prime minister’s t constant torus, some top officals, like Vice chancellors like EFLU (Hyderabad) keep themselves busy in foreign tours and attend office when they are ‘free’ that too in the evening hours while quality of educations and research has fallen in many ways. Generally the VC refuses to meet anyone as she always busy, obviously doing nothing. Without VC everyone does one feels like doing.

That is the situation in most of the central universities and no one controls the VCs. In many universities persons who busy elsewhere are appointed as VCs. Higher education is out of gear in India and there seems to be no cure at all. .

PM is on the move abroad. The Prime Minister next covers Afghanistan, Qatar, Switzerland, US and Mexico. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will embark on a five-nation visit from June 4 which will cover Afghanistan, Qatar, Switzerland, the US and Mexico. Modi will begin his trip with Afghanistan to inaugurate India-funded Salma Dam which has been constructed at a cost of about Rs 1,400 crore. From Afghanistan, he will proceed to energy-rich Qatar and then to Switzerland. During the two-day visit to energy-rich Qatar, Modi will hold extensive talks with Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on a range of bilateral issues including ways to further boost economic ties, particularly in the hydrocarbon sector.

In Switzerland, the Prime Minister will hold talks with the Swiss leadership, including President Johann Schneider-Ammann, and is likely to seek cooperation to unearth black money accounts of Indians in Switzerland which was a promise made by him during elections in 2014. According to sources, the officials of the two countries are working on finalizing an arrangement that could pave the way for automatic exchange of information on tax-related issues. The Switzerland government had on May 18 initiated consultation on an ordinance to put in place a mechanism for automatic exchange of tax information with India and other countries.

From Switzerland, Modi will travel to the US on June 7 at the invitation of President Barack Obama, with whom he will review the progress made in key areas of defence, security and energy. During his stay, he will also address a Joint Meeting of the US Congress.

Big bossism

A man fond of celebrations even without any a big achievement, Narendra Modi and his government completed two-year in office and the celebrations at India Gate in Delhi marking the two year were a pomp and show. Corporate lords, hyper rich people gathered as the VIIPs. At the culmination of the mega show that saw and industry leaders narrating the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s achievements in the two years of its rule, Modi himself appeared on the platform and added to the list.

As prime ministerial candidate in 2014 Modi had promised the people of India a few important things, including end corruption, bring back the Indian money kept in foreign banks as part of money laundering effort to hide their wealth and huge money. Modi said his government got Rs 36,000 crore from subsidy cuts. Modi said a change has come, enumerated what his government planned to give to the poor in the ensuing years (for instance, LPG connections to crore people), in other words stating why the continuity of his government is a necessity for India’s poor.

Despite having the largest number of poor people in the world –India is not a poor country but an influential one.

India is seen as the country that talks a lot but when it comes to actually delivering its policy lacks substance. Similarly, in the military context, the Indian government keeps proclaiming how it has bought US$10 billion worth of arms from the US and this makes it a valuable arms market. To put this in context, in 2010, Saudi Arabia bought US$60 billion worth of weapons from the US after negotiating for just a few months.

Money will not move from the West to India until their corporations believe that India is actually serious about structural reforms. India is particular about not letting foreigners control Indian economy even while being part of it. Given the continued disillusionment with India in the realms of foreign policy, economics, and the military, major nations, particularly the USA also play cross-tricks.

Many capitalism specialists in India and abroad advise Indian government to attract the American corporations and earn the respect of the American government – rapidly open the Indian market and secure investments from the West. They play the usual Pakistan card to woo India to go for structural reforms for foreign capitalists to make strong presence in Indian economy; they argue that investments have a security dimension because as they increase in size they will grant India greater foreign policy autonomy and work to further isolate Pakistan.

BJP’s quiet corruption

The one point in his favor is there isn’t any corruption cases reported so far against Modi or any of Modi’s central ministers in the 2-year period, though nepotism issues do crop up. The government indeed exhibited its reforms intent by taking up several small steps such as the passage of key legislations – Aadhaar, bankruptcy code, coal and insurance bills. However, it is wrong to say that Modi put India back to the global scene through his relentless campaigns. He accelerated what the previous Congress government had said it did.

If Modi’s NDA government is to be compared with that Manmaohan Singh’s UPA regime the former is harmless. However, acceleration of Hindutva agenda has exposed the Modi government as being the embodiment of hate politics.

Was such huge spending on full page newspaper advertisements and prime time slots at News channels necessary? Especially when the country is reeling under the pain of successive droughts and farmers are staring at yet another agrarian crisis. There has been no notable change in the ground-level situation in the real economy (despite what the GDP numbers show) and the problem of huge employment persists. It certainly doesn’t. The problem is that this government tends to celebrate too early.

The Indian economy is still balancing its walk through the edge of a major banking crisis, which isn’t a theory in the near future if the government fails to support the state-run banks given the manner in which bad loans are piling up. In the March quarter alone, state-run banks reported cumulated losses of over Rs 14,000 crore on account of huge provisions made on bad loans. Stressed assets currently account for almost 11 percent of the total loans given by the banks. Of these loans, Rs 4,00,000 crore are gross NPAs and an equal amount of restructured loans, which could also turn bad if economy doesn’t pick up fast. There is a substantial quantum of SMA-2 loans, which means they are overdue for 60 days. If a banking a crisis happens, that can take the country in reverse gear by several years, forget about competing with China on economic growth.

With private investment cycle yet to resume, stalled projects are on the rise and the 17-month consecutive fall in exports do not offer any comfort to the economy. Compared to what the government has ‘achieved’ in the last two years, its unfulfilled tasks are massive and it hasn’t crossed even half way to say that economy has turned the corner. A big reason why Modi’s economy has escaped an economic crisis, despite two successive years of drought, is due to crashing oil and commodity prices. That will not sustain forever.

Modi should introspect

Self advertisements and foreign tour will only increase the economic burden on the nation.

Except the BJP government and its supporters and sympathizers, did the aam aadmi participate in the two-year celebrations? According to reports, as many as 454 farmers have ended their lives in Maharashtra’s drought-prone Marthawada region alone so far this year. The numbers are up by 22 percent, compared to the 372 cases reported till the end of May last year.

In many places in Marathwada, water levels in reservoirs are down to just 1 percent, as against 8 percent during the same period last year. Number of deaths reported due to shortage of drinking water have spiralled. Has the government done enough to address the problem? However, a good monsoon will save the economy from a disaster, a third year of successive drought would put us back on crisis.

If the Modi-government chose to avoid the two-year jamboree at Indian Gate, admitting that the time isn’t right for a celebration when the country is going through a crisis and acknowledging that the economy is not out of woods yet, that would have been a bigger advertisement for this government. It would have been evident that the government is sensitive to the pain of the country’s poor and is not oblivious to the ground realities of the real economy.

The good work the government has done should have been celebrated by 125 crore Indians too, not just an invited group of people at the India Gate that literally kept the aam aadmi —in Modi’s own parlance, the janta janardan – out of the fences of the festivities.

As mentioned earlier, the problem is that, in India, we tend to uncork the bubbly too early and even the good work this government is done will be lost in the clamour of unwarranted chest-thumping. That’s the reason why the balloon of 7.3-7.6 percent GDP growth the BJP leaders and top government bureaucrats often boast of was rightly pricked by RBI governor Raghuram Rajan when he said, “There are problems with the way we count GDP and which is why we need to be careful sometimes just talking about growth.” That didn’t mean, there is no growth in the economy. There is growth, indeed, but overstating it is dangerous.

What more, even if one reads between the lines of Subramanian Swamy’s now famous attacks on Rajan, there is an honest acknowledgement that economy is not doing well and job market is faring poorly. The fact is that there is uncertainty on both domestic and economic fronts that continue to threaten India’s economy – a slowing world (hence 17-month export contraction and possible reversal in commodity prices abroad) – and a fragile far sector that is heavily dependent on monsoons back at home. It’s certainly no time to celebrate.

As this government enters the second half of its five-year term, the focus will be logically more on appeasing the vote bank through more populist measures, rather than addressing radical reforms in the economy in preparation for the Uttar Pradesh elections in 2017 and 2019 general elections. That’s the reason why BJP think tank, Arun Shourie, criticized Modi saying he is managing only the headlines not the economy.

The two-year mega show slogans such as Ek Nayi Subhah and ‘change has come’ gives one the bad memories of ‘India Shining’ slogan launched by the NDA-government in 2003, which subsequently failed miserably. Even BJP’s top leader LK Advani had confessed later that the ‘feel-good factor’ campaign didn’t work well in the subsequent Lok Sabha elections. The Modi-government shouldn’t repeat the mistake. This incumbent government, with a huge mandate, is an opportunity to India not to miss its golden chance to emerge as a global power correcting its fundamental flaws.

So far, the Modi-government hasn’t managed to bring in big changes in the Indian economy that can translate into major job growth and prosperity. But, it is on the right track. Complacency can spoil the big opportunity.

BJP and Modi can only promote corruption

Possibly most people who voted for BJP, in order deny the hopelessly corrupt Congress party of Sonia-Rahul-Manmohan trio, hoping that it might help the nation get rid of corruption, are not at all happy that Modi government betrayed them.

People of Uttar Pradesh fell prey to Modi’s big claims and promises in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and gave votes much above the expectations of BJP to help it form government at the Centre. But none of the promises have been fulfilled. BSP supremo Mayawati today questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s claim of working for farmers in Uttar Pradesh, alleging that his government had treated the state with “apathy and neglect” during its two-year rule. “Modi government has betrayed people by not keeping its promise as a result of which the ‘vikas parv rally’ in Saharanpur was not up to the mark despite attempts to bring people from neighbouring Haryana and Utarakhand.

The twenty-two crore people of Uttar Pradesh have suffered due to neglect of the central government. “Modi government was having ostentatious celebrations on completion of two years to divert people’s attention from its failures and growing frustration over unfulfilled promises,” the BSP president alleged. Referring to Prime Minister’s announcement of raising retirement age of doctors to 65 years, she said it was an attempt to gain cheap publicity. The BSP chief claimed in a release issued by the state party unit here that like the rally organized in Mathura on completion of Modi government’s in office, this year’s event also failed to get a response from people.

In the two years of the Modi government, none of that seems to have happened. There are no actions on 1.76-lakh crore 2G spectrum scam, Coal-gate scam, Commonwealth games scam etc. Even if Acche Din may not have come as claimed, at least corruption-free days seem to be here. Is it truly the case?

On September 30, 2014, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution exempted Stock Limit on Imported Pulses till September 30, 2015 and in an Order stated that : “the Central Government hereby makes the following Order further to amend the Removal of (Licensing requirements, Stock limits and Movement Restrictions) on Specified Foodstuffs Order, 2002. What this means is that the cap set on accumulating food commodities was removed. This cap was put to prevent hoarding of foodstuff by middlemen thus causing extreme rise in prices.

This order meant that from now on, anyone with the financial ware withal could buy and stock up as much food products as they wanted. This was further aided by another government order passed just five days before where exception of customs duty on imported pulses was extended the till December 31, 2014 for garbanzos and till March 31, 2015 for other pulses.

BJP has refused to do away with the power middle men so that common people are safe, because BJP itself has plenty of middle men groomed for years of its misrule at the centre and many states as alternatives to the Congress lot.

The price increase of pulses hit exactly a year later. One could say this means that there was enough time for interested parties with ‘ware withal’ to hoard the food commodities to create an artificial scarcity and determine prices? We have had food inflation before, but such high prices hint at the possibility of one company, or even a cartel causing it. The exception of customs duty should have helped keep import costs low. Also, the price that the farmer was getting did not increase. The increase was initiated and controlled by the new middlemen that had come in. If you consider the amount of money paid to a farmer for the pulses and the price at which it was sold in the market and factor in the amount of pulses sold, you will realize that Indians have paid at least one lakh crore extra for this inflation which should not have been there in the first place, at least not to this extent.

BJP serves the corporate lords more than the Congress party did. Were there people who benefited from the lifting of cap on hoarding? In fact, they may have influenced the lifting of the cap? Was the cap lifted deliberately to benefit a few. There are people who made wrongful profits worth thousands of crores. Who are they? In Maharashtra ex-CM Prithviraj Chavan made pointed digs at the current Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in a “Rs 4,000 crore scam” of a similar nature, which could be part of a nationwide pulses scam. Chavan revealed that the original six page note that led to the decision to lift the ban on hoarding had mention of only edible oil and oil seeds. But, when the noting was sent for the approval to secretary (marketing), lifting of ban on pulses was added in original note. “Who ordered secretary to add pulses in the list? Who was behind it?” he asked.” another scam worth Rs. 29,000 crores was unearthed. Forty of India’s biggest energy companies are being investigated by a wing of the Union Ministry of Finance for over-invoicing of imported coal. The artificially higher prices of coal have been passed on to electricity consumers across the country.

The scam is conservatively estimated by government officials at no less than Rs 29,000 crore, a third of which is in the form of higher power tariffs. Big names from the corporate sector, notably the Adani group and ADAG, are being probed for their alleged involvement in the scandal. What are the findings of these investigations? Will it be laid out before the public? What about the Panama Papers which names the Adani group, Indiabulls, DLF, Apollo Tyres among many others. The din began and died mostly with Amitabh Bachchan. Is the government making any investigation on this? What about the 20,000 crore GSPC scam? What about the Vyapam scam of Madhya Pradesh where eye witnesses are being killed in hordes? What about the Asaram Bapu case where eye witnesses are being killed off with impunity?

Isn’t it corruption to allow these to happen when you have the entire might of the state to protect these people? What about Chhattisgarh, another state that has been ruled by the BJP for the third term where violent atrocities have again been unleashed on the tribal, including rape and murder? Journalists reporting on these issues have routinely been targeted and hounded off? Isn’t it corruption when nothing is done about these? Isn’t it corruption when because of the actions or inactions of the PM, religious fundamentalists get the inspiration and power to not just say – for stupid words of idiots can be a source of mirth at times – but do anything?

To murder in the name of food, to beat people up in the name of morality and religion, aren’t these forms of corruption as well? Perhaps it is all right to brand anyone who questions the government as ‘libtards’, ‘sickulars’, any journalist who dares to question Modi actions as a ‘presstitude’. There is fun in this pointless name calling. But jokes do not hide the facts about corruption. Isn’t it corruption when an atmosphere of fear is allowed to develop, grow and circulate in the nation, where anyone who doubts, who questions, not only fears being called names, but fears for her/his very life?

Indian development ignores the plight of commons and functions only to protect the interest of the rich and corporate class.. Isn’t it corruption when the government shoves an overpriced Bullet Train costing 90,000 crore for the benefit of a handful who anyways have the luxury and choice of air travel when railways that caters to common millions is systematically neglected? It’s said the good of the many outweigh the good of the few. Won’t you then use the same money to transform the railways, increase trains and connectivity, improve efficiency in railways thus transforming the lives of literally millions and also helping your flagship campaigns like ‘Make in India’?

Isn’t it corruption when you divert the attention of the public by branding a bunch of student criticising you as anti-nationals. Isn’t it corruption when media houses, inspired by your actions, discuss nothing but the idea of ‘anti-nationalism’ even when an agrarian crisis, a terrible drought has hit the nation hard, killing thousands, debilitating millions? Isn’t it corruption when the PM of the country who finds the time to visit a new country every other week, not only does not declare a national emergency when the nation is faced with the worst draught in decades, but also does not find the time to pay the token visit to these drought affected regions?

Isn’t it corruption when you cut funding on education and healthcare adversely affecting the lives of millions of people in the nation and when they protest, like they have with regards UGC all over the country like in Hyderabad University, JNU, Jadavpur, FTII etc., you unleash the might of the state on them? And yes, brand them anti-nationals as well. Isn’t it national corruption when people expressing doubts are threatened, by government supporters in the vilest terms? Isn’t it a dangerous form of corruption, this building up of greater, more violent division in the society and to dangerously high levels?

So is the current BJP government at the centre corruption free? Depends on which side of the divide you view it from and how you define ‘corruption’ (scams are just one aspect of corruption). From the positive business sentiment point of view who demand and in many cases have been given the impunity to profit from the masses at will, it will seem like the greatest government. But there are millions of destitute who are not benefiting from the new status quo, but are being pushed into greater perils because of a lot of the actions of the current government. By the looks of it, the skeletons that have been gathering in the closet for the last two years have begun to rattle.

Observation

As the Modi government is searching for routes to help the corporate lords who accompany him in all foreign tours to take away even the remaining public sector property and state wealth, the common masses who are rightful owners of Indian economy feel dejected and betrayed by the anti-congress plus secret ally BJP.

RSS intolerance and BJP PM’s foreign tours at state cost cannot go hand in hand.

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South Asia

Into the Sea: Nepal in International Waters

Sisir Devkota

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A visit to the only dry port of Nepal will immediately captivate busy scenes with hundreds of trucks, some railway carriages and huge Maersk containers at play. Trains from the Port of Kolkata in India carry tons of Nepal’s exports every week. Every year, Nepal is fined millions of rupees for overstaying its containers at the designated dock in Haldiya Port of Kolkata. Nepal pays for spaces inside Indian ships to carry out its exports via the sea. This is the closest Nepal has come in exploiting economic opportunities through sea waters. Prime Minister KP Oli went one step further and presented an idea of steering Nepal’s own fleets in the vast international sea space. While his idea of Nepal affording its own ship was mocked; on the contrary, he was right. The idea is practical but herculean.

To start with, Nepal has a landlocked right to use international waters via a third country for economic purposes only. Law of the Sea conferences held during the 80’s, guarantees Nepal’s right to use the exclusive economic zone all around the globe. Article 69 of the Law of the Sea convention states that Nepal could both use sea as a trading route and exploit the exclusive economic zone of its sea facing neighbors. Nepal’s closest neighbor, India has a wide exclusive economic zone which consists of 7500 km long coastline. The article also allows landlocked nations to use docking facilities of the nearest coastal nation to run its fleets. An exclusive economic zone in sea waters is designated after a coastal nation’s eleven mile parallel water boundary ends; which is also a part of the coastal nations territory. Simply put, Nepali fleets can dock at India’s port, sail eleven miles further into international waters-carry out fishing and other activities, sail back to the Indian coast and transfer its catches back to Nepal.

Floating Challenges

Before ships can carry the triangular flag into sea waters, Nepal will need treaties in place to use coastal nation’s water to take off and build shipment facilities. Law of the Sea convention clearly mentions that the right to use another nation’s coast will depend solely on the will of the hosting coastal nation. Does Nepal have the political will to communicate and forge a comprehensive sea transit agreement with its coastal neighbors? Nepal’s chance of securing fleets in and around the Indian Ocean will depend on whether it can convince nations like India of mutual benefits and cancel any apprehension regarding its security that might be compromised via Nepal’s sea activity. The convention itself is one among the most controversial international agreements where deteriorating marine ecosystems, sovereignty issues and maritime crimes are at its core. Majority of global and environmental problems persist in the high seas; ranging from territorial acquisitions to resource drilling offences. Nepal is welcome into the high seas, but does it comprehend the sensitivity that clouts sea horizons? Nepal needs a diplomatic strategy, but lacking experience, Nepal will need to develop institutional capacities to materialize the oceanic dream. Secondly, the cost of operating such a national project will be dreadfully expensive. Does the Nepali treasury boast finances for a leapfrogging adventure?

How is it possible?

The good news is that many landlocked nations operate in international waters. Switzerland, as an example might not assure the Nepali case, but Ethiopia exercising its sea rights via Djibouti’s port could be inspiring. Before Nepal can start ordering its fleets, it will need to design its own political and diplomatic strategy. Nepal’s best rationale would lie in working together with its neighbors. The South Asian network of nations could finally come into use. Along with Nepal, Bhutan is another landlocked nation where possible alliances await. If India’s coasts are unapproachable, Nepal and Bhutan could vie for Bangladeshi coastlines to experience sea trading. Maldivian and Pakistani waters are geographically and economically inaccessible but Sri Lanka lies deep down the South Asian continent. If Nepal and Bhutan can satisfy Sri Lankan interests, the landlocked union could not only skim through thousands of nautical miles around the Bay of Bengal without entering Indian water space; but also neutralize the hegemonic status of India in the region. If such a multinational agreement can be sought; SAARC- the passive regional body will not only gain political prowess but other areas of regional development will also kickstart.

Most importantly, a transit route (such as the Rohanpur-Singhdabad transit route) from Bangladesh to Nepal and Bhutan will need to be constructed well before ships start running in the Indian Ocean. In doing so, Nepal will not only tranquilize Nepal-Bhutan relations but also exercise leadership role in South Asia. A regional agreement will flourish trade but will also make landlocked Nepal’s agenda of sailing through other regions of international sea strong and plausible. A landlocked union with Bhutan will trim the costs than that of which Nepal will be spending alone. Such regional compliance would also encourage international financial institutions to fund Nepal’s sea project. Apart from political leverages, Nepal’s economy would scale new heights with decreasing price of paramount goods and services. Flourishing exports and increased tourism opportunities would be Nepal’s grandiloquence. Nepal’s main challenge lies in assuring its neighbors on how its idea would be mutually beneficial. Nepal’s work starts here. Nepal needs to put together a cunning diplomatic show.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hug Diplomacy Fails

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s enthusiasm is only to capture power; the same, however, cannot be said of foreign policy administration, especially in dealing with our immediate neighbors, and China. The best examples of his policy paralysis are the way in which demonetization and GSTs are implemented, or his sudden visit to Pakistan in December 2015. He is always in election mode. During the first two years, he was in the humor of a general election victory. Thereafter, he has spent much of his energy in establishing himself as the sole savior of the BJP in state elections, and this year he will turn his attention to the 2019 general elections.

Two years ago, without doing any homework or planning, Modi travelled to Pakistan from Afghanistan to greet his counterpart, the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, to wish him well on his birthday. He hugged Sharif and spent only two hours with him to try to sort out the 70 year outstanding divergence between India and Pakistan.

Modi strategically hugs fellow world leaders. He has no strategic perception. He believes only in the power of his personal charisma in dealing with foreign policy matters. This strategy has failed considerably with China and with our other immediate neighbors, but he neither intends to accept these mistakes, nor is he interested in learning from them. More importantly, an alternative diplomatic strategy is necessary to maintain our international position; through prudent policy articulations. Let us examine the impact of his hug diplomacy.

During the 2013/14 general elections campaign he attacked the Congress-led UPA government on multiple fronts, including towards former Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh’s policy on Pakistan. He proposed that the BJP government would have more guts to better deal with Pakistan. Under his administration, we lost numerous soldiers in fighting with Pakistan terrorists, experienced a 100-day shutdown in Kashmir, blindly allowed a Pakistan team to inspect our Pathankot Air Force Station, and generally continued down a visionless path in foreign policy. These indicate that Modi’s defensive and offensive strokes against Pakistan have failed completely, including the most politicized ‘surgical strike’ that did not contain the terrorists from Pakistan. Today, the Modi government is searching for policy directions in handling Pakistan, but sat in a corner like a lame duck.

In the beginning, when he took office, Modi perhaps believed that ‘everything is possible’ in international affairs simply by virtue of occupying the prime minister seat. Further, he thought that all his visits abroad would bring a breakthrough. His hugs with counterparts, various costume changes, and the serving of tea, indicate that our prime minister is using soft power approaches. These approaches were used by our first Prime Minister Nehru whilst India did not have a strong military or economy. However, India is not today what it was in the 1950/60s. Presently, hugging and changing costumes will not necessarily keep India influential in international relations, especially at a time when the world is undergoing multi-polar disorder. However, he is in continuous denial that his paths are wrong, especially in dealing with our neighbors.

What is the BJP led-NDA government policy on Pakistan? Does this government have any policy for Pakistan? Since 2014,Modi has not permitted the Minister of External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj, to contribute to any foreign policy articulations. As long as Sushma fulfills the duty of Ministry of Indian Overseas Affairs she will receive praise from the prime minister’s office.

During 2015 he met Sharif at his residence in Islamabad to give him a hug. This happened exactly two years ago. Further, this is a very serious question that the Media and Modi-supporting TV channels forgot to raise. Instead, without hesitation, they praised him for touching the sky, and described the moment as a diplomatic initiative for a breakthrough with our neighbor Pakistan. The Media will realize this mistake when their traditional viewers switch over to other channels to get centrist news.

What are the outcomes of Modi hugging Sharif at his residence? The results are terrible. India’s relation with Pakistan touches the lowest ever level in a history of 70 years. The Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed was released from house arrest and has started a political party to contest the general elections in Pakistan next year. This government does not have the guts to put pressure on Pakistan to provide the evidence – as requested by the Pakistan’s Court – essential to keeping the trial alive against Saeed. Modi has often preached that his government succeeded in isolating Pakistan in the international domain. The reality would be as much India diplomatically isolating Pakistan from the international community as the vacuum has been comfortably filled by China without any difficulty. These are the achievements that Modi’s hugs have brought to India.

The stability of Afghanistan is in India’s long-term strategic interest. India’s ‘aid diplomacy’ to Afghanistan in various fields has been increasing day after day, including infrastructure development and the training of Afghan security forces. Yet, India’s influence in Afghanistan is in disarray. Former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai said, “India should have its own policy on Afghanistan”. However, Modi’s policy makers in New Delhi are expecting the US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to maintain India’s active and significant role in Afghanistan.

India showed its displeasure during the constitutional crisis in Nepal, in halting energy supply to Kathmandu. This forced the land-locked country to obtain easy support from Beijing. Nepal was once the buffer state between India and China; it is now sitting on China’s lap and steering India. Modi’s mute approach to the Rohingya crisis speculates India’s major power ambition. This is a serious setback to India’s diplomacy: it is now pushing Myanmar to get support from China, along with our neighbor Bangladesh, in resolving the crisis with Rohingya refugees.

The first democratically elected government under Mohamed Nasheed was toppled unconstitutionally in Maldives. Since India has failed to raise any substantial voice against this atrocity, China has jumped onto the scene. New Delhi ought to have designed a policy to resolve the political crisis, but India, the world’s largest democracy, has watched this incident as a movie in the Indian Ocean Theatre. The highlight was the decision of our Prime Minister to skip a visit to the Maldives whilst on his tour of the Indian Ocean islands.

In Sri Lanka, China is designing its future battlefield against India. As the war against LTTE was over, Colombo started travelling in a two-way track, with India and China. Beijing’s love affair, apparently with Colombo, but with an eye on New Delhi, is no secret. Since Modi has allowed these developments without exercising any diplomatic resistance, he has given China a comfortable seat inside Sri Lanka. China has now realised that her weaved network against India can be strengthened easily in the Indian Ocean, because New Delhi only displays silent concern. After Modi took office, India – China relations have remained static. The border talks are on stand still. Beijing holds on to extend a technical hold on Masood Azhar, a UN designated terrorist. The dragon pulls our immediate neighbors to her side. These developments indicate that our foreign policy articulations are not supported by any clear strategic trajectory.

Modi’s diplomacy is like an air balloon which, once torn, cannot be refilled; a new balloon is needed. Hugging a leader does not lead to any commitment in foreign affairs. Personal charisma does not work as a foreign policy tool in dealing with a world power. For this reason, Modi cannot understand the setback he is facing with China, Pakistan, and our other neighbors. In comparison, Vajpayee’s or Dr. Manmohan Singh’s combined simple charisma as leaders or economists with appropriate home-work in the past; has caused tremendous results in foreign policy, including expected results in Indo-US nuclear negotiations. This is completely missing in Modi’s administration.

Hence, the newly elected Congress Party President Rahul Gandhi has said, “Modi’s hug diplomacy fails”. It was a valuable comment that the ruling elite should consider as a meaningful insight. Alternative approaches are vital to regain our neighbors’ trust, as opposed to China’s. However, Prime Minister Modi’s this year of work will be focused on the 2019 general elections, compromising the proper attention due to India’s international diplomacy.

First published in Congress Sandesh

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South Asia

Potential Consequences of Nuclear Politics in South Asia

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Established in 1948, Indian atomic energy commission turned towards United Kingdom for their first help in the making of Apsara. Subsequently, with a similar vision, the CIRUS reactor was supplied by Canada, where, the heavy water came from the United States.

India, over the years, has built a nuclear program that has led to the making of a number of reactors. India’s 1974 “Peaceful nuclear explosion” implies to their hegemonic ambitions as India has the capacity to produce around 300-400 nuclear weapons. The continuous upgradation of weapons by India could lead her as a hegemon nuclear power that can deeply unsettle Pakistan and China.

Calling into question India’s stated intentions, when it comes to nuclear tests, the plutonium for its 1974 and 1998 tests was diverted from its “civilian” nuclear facilities. After 1974, India continued to claim its explosion was “peaceful” and advocated global nuclear disarmament, even as it rejected proposals by Pakistan to denuclearize South Asia.

From Pokhran-I to Operation Shakti, India has traditionally relied on plutonium and thermonuclear technology. In 1992, the then Chairman of Department of Indian Atomic Energy  acknowledged that India had succeeded in the past for achieving the target of highly enriched uranium, while the centrifuge program was facing critical and technical hindrances. Also, it was admitted by the former Chairman of AEC, Raja Ramanna that India was working to produce more efficient centrifuges which were used for military purposes.  At the peak of all these developments, it is important to note that thermonuclear weapons have far more destructive power than a nuclear bomb.

India may also be considering using its civil power reactors to increase its stock of weapon-grade plutonium. Robert Einhorn, the State Department’s former top nonproliferation official told the Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference in March that the officials in the Bush administration had the ambition to sign a nuclear deal with India, to “work together to counter China- to be a counterweight to an emerging China.” He further expressed his views that the nuclear deal had unfortunate repercussions, because other nations concluded that Washington was playing favorites with India.

India is the only country in the region having uranium reserves that are higher than what other countries in the region hold. India has already received roughly 4,914 tons of uranium from France, Russia, and Kazakhstan, and it has agreements with Canada, Mongolia, Argentina, and Namibia for additional shipments. It also signed a uranium deal with Australia that has sparked considerable controversy at home.

This massive production of uranium annually can support its nuclear submarine program and current weapons grade plutonium production rate indirectly. These uranium reserves are enough for approx. 6-10 bombs per year.

Adding a twist to the existing fissile material build-up process, the Indo-US strategic partnership supplemented it. Under this dangerous bargain, it would continue to not only allow India to increase its fissile material but also the capacity to increase the build-up of nuclear weapon material.

Hence, the strategic stability in South Asia has been negatively impacted since the initial stages due to the hegemonic designs which India pursued with the start of CIRUS reactor. With the passage of time, the Indo-US nuclear deal and Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) waiver have already added more repercussions and now the discriminatory move to try to facilitate Indian NSG membership will further erode the strategic stability in South Asia.

Indian NSG membership and its potential exemption has adverse implications on non-proliferation regime. This has allowed India to expand its military program. As a result of 2008 exemption it has signed a number of agreement in nuclear domain with different countries. Interestingly, Mansoor Ahmed states that India has the capacity to utilize the uranium it is importing from these countries to produce more bombs.  The aforementioned reasons sum up India’s keenness to obtain NSG’s membership. This U.S.-backed move to make India a member of the NSG will be good neither for Pakistan nor for China, and it would set off nuclear instability in the region.

While looking at the dynamics of left alone Pakistan since late 1990’s, starting from Indo-US strategic partnership to now this geoploliticising of NSG. Consequently, this shall allow India to use all this a means of making the most optimum use of all its natural uranium stocks for weaponization. To offset the stakes, it might be prudent to have a close check on the international architects of India’s nuclear build-up. The alleged misuse of U.S. and Canadian controlled items by India must be enough to refrain from any cooperation if it is not abiding by group’s guidelines and commodity control list.

Furthermore, the more discriminatory the international nuclear order becomes, the less would be the effectiveness of deterrence and strategic balance in the region. The NSG will have to identify that India’s 1974 nuclear explosive test was the reason that nuclear supplier states established the NSG. It must also emphasize upon its commitment to uphold the principles of the nonproliferation.

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