[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] D [/yt_dropcap]emonetization essentially means a state deprives people of privileges of using the currency notes as they are withdrawn from circulation. Indian BJP government of Narendra Modi abruptly withdrew currency notes of value Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000, causing an emergency situation of uncertainly in the country.
Indian Hindutva ruling party BJP and its leader PM Narendra Modi seems to be undertaking measures to make over the slide that has taken place in the popular acceptance of the party and its leader by resorting an issue that has caught the attention of Indian masses, namely corruption and black money.
On the evening of 8 November, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address to the nation, announced the demonetization of Rs 500, and Rs 1,000 notes, it gave a sense of hope that India finally would have a government which was taking decisive action against black money and corruption. A slew of steps were announced as well to ease the transition. The prime minister presented a passionate case: “To break the grip of corruption and black money, we have decided that the five hundred rupee and thousand rupee currency notes presently in use will no longer be legal tender from midnight tonight, that is 8th November 2016…This step will strengthen the hands of the common man in the fight against corruption, black money and fake currency.”
Within minutes, the Modi government’s sudden but big move was extolled, debated, dissected and analyzed; however, the good feeling soon ebbed away leading to panic and anxiety: How to get rid of the old defunct Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes?
In fact, PM Modi has adopted the “surgical strike” on people of Indian to upset the latest trend, first, to join in the media war to make Indian issue look important as US presidential poll, then to help the corporate and transnational lords to use Indian money locked in banks even as Indians are unable to use their money; and, to try for fortunes in the upcoming polls on anti-corruption plank.
However, people are not impressed now as this is the second time that PM Modi has promised extra and free money for the people in their bank accounts This multi-pronged technique has only made people stand in long queues for little money at least, while the rich and corporate lord have other “openings” to continue their money businesses
For politicians, tunnel vision is a deadly handicap. Politics is often the art of making most of the opportunities but exclusive focus on present can erode the possibilities of the future. There is a reason why Narendra Modi fashioned his ludicrously risky demonetization program as a moral fight against corruption. By turning a purely economic exercise into some sort of a political movement, he was hedging against popular backlash. Also, while exhorting citizens to join him in the “war against black money”, he was setting subtle moral traps for his detractors. And most of his rivals walked straight into it.
People are familiar with the notion that an idea is only as good as its implementation. Indian PM, in his zeal for initiating a radical change, seems to have underestimated India’s intrinsic logistical shortcomings. If his idea was a game changer, the implementation — allowing enough room for an operation on this scale and secrecy — has been shocking. Regulations were mended and amended along the way with a clear communication gap emerging between government’s frequent changing of rules and the banks’ ability to cope up with those.
Demonetization idea is made for an ugly spectacle as millions of marginalized and the poor were made to suffer loss of livelihood as they stood in endless queues.
As a useful escape route, the Prime Minister Modi asked for 50 days of hardship but economists say resuscitating the economy to normalcy will likely take several months. It would seem that a leader who has unleashed this amount of mayhem through one fiat, should get ready to pack his bags and take sanyas (retirement) from politics. And yet, despite these hardships, bone-crunching inconveniences whose effect may stretch well beyond 50 days, Modi may emerge as an even stronger leader and put more distance between him and the chasing pack. That is because this is no ordinary inconvenience.
Black money, rent, bribery, permitted mafia
Experts say a good part of Indian money is not genuine but what is dangerous is Indian regime never attempted to clean the money and system that ensures safe passage.
In India, the term “black money” comes with an entire set of cultural and moral connotations beyond the dry definition of “untaxed funds”. Alongside black money there is also dirt money, fake currency floating the system. Both exist and contaminate the system. It carries the baggage of a skewed social order where the rich and the well-connected, for decades, have sucked the poor dry. The licence-permit raj unleashed by the falsified socialist politics of Congress party created a whole bunch of entitled crony capitalists who ran an elaborate, rent-seeking parallel economy, boosting corruption. It leeched away the blood of the poor, but also affected the middle class.
Tired of coping up with a crony corrupt system that serves as an extortion racket every step of the way, the common people have trooped out of the country at first opportunity, robbing it of vital human capital. Maybe that is the state policy as well.
If the poor as well as the salaried now stand solidly behind Modi, it is because they think that the prime minister was “batting” for them, almost single handed, waging an audacious war against this decadal social injustice.
Since 8 November, the lines in front of banks and ATMs have only grown and so has the frustration and helplessness of citizens. While representatives of the government have repeatedly assured that the situation will normalise soon, people are not buying it anymore. Despite the prime minister various members of his Cabinet appealing to the country to focus on the big picture, life for the majority of Indians has been reduced to an endless queue.
Modi knew the power of that appeal and is eager to convert that sympathy into votes.
Promotion of corruption vs using corruption merely to win votes
Congress party, the oldest national party did not think of containing black money because it promoted corruption plus blackmoney and made several congressmen and supporters, among others, millions.
PM Modi’s political rivals have willingly boxed themselves into the wrong side of a ‘good vs evil’ binary. In their overwhelming focus on the immediate, most opposition parties have failed to understand the long game.
Modi refused to attend the parliament session as the cash crisis was to be discussed and he just could not face criticism and does not get to choose his opponents. If he is already winning the political battle, as the BJP claims, despite messy handling of a brilliant idea, he should send Rahul Gandhi, Arvind Kejriwal and Mamata Banerjee a hand-written ‘thank you’ note each.
People are camping overnight outside ATMs and banks. The urban salaried class of India might have moved to a cashless way of life. Thanks to the cab aggregators, payment gateways and mobile apps, surviving without hard cash may not seem to be so daunting. With the persisting cash crunch, it is the good old jugaad that has come to the rescue of many Indians. Mobile recharges in exchange of vegetables, online transfers instead of cash payments are the new norm. But what about thousands others who have never heard of payment gateways and net banking? India is far away from being a cashless society, forget online banking, there are many who don’t have debit cards or even banks accounts. There are senior citizens, who prefer to keep emergency funds at home, instead of making multiple trips to the ATM. Did the government take the plight of these people into account before plunging into this scheme?
Modi government is try8ng to cut the stems without targeting the roots of black money, rent system, bribery, and mafia tentacles affecting economy and finances of common people. Mafias operate literally in every field and control translations.
Anti-black money slogan as poll strategy
During the parliament poll, Modi, the then PM candidate promised to bring all black money from foreign banks and distribute them among the needy Indians in lacs. Obviously, Indian government must have got a lot of black money form abroad but PM Modi has forgotten about this promise to Indians.
Now PM Modi is premising to deposit huge sums to every Indians when back money indoors is tracked. Again pure promises, an Indian promise that is never kept, never questioned. .
PM Modi has an eye on the forthcoming polls in some Indian states. By-elections being held in Assam, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Tripura and Tamil Nadu have assumed significance as the first major ground test for the ruling BJP after demonetization of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. Voting is underway for by-polls in eight assembly and four Lok Sabha constituencies. According to officials, elaborate arrangements have been made for the smooth conduct of the polls
Tamil Nadu continues to be a strong pro-ruling party AIADMK base and the ongoing p by polls maybe not be different from the results of the recent assembly poll. Polls for Thanjavur and Aravakkurichi and bypoll in Thirupparankundram and in Nellithope constituencies on Saturday. In Aravakkurichi constituency, V Senthil Balaji (AIADMK) and KC Palanisamy (DMK) and in Thanjavur, Anjugham Boopathy (DMK) and M Rengasamy (AIADMK) are among the candidates. In Thirupparankundram, AIADMK has fielded A K Bose, while P Saravanan is the DMK nominee.
Besides, the AIADMK and DMK candidates, PMK, BJP and DMDK and independents are also contesting the polls. The four-party combine, People’s Welfare Front, comprising MDMK, CPI (M), CPI and VCK, has boycotted the polls. The ruling AIADMK is likely to win all seats.
In Puducherry Nellithope assembly constituency, it will be a crucial test for Congress nominee and Chief Minister V Narayanasamy, a non- member of the house, at bypoll when he crosses swords with AIADMK candidate Om Sakthi Segar. Narayanasamy has the support of DMK and VCK while AINRC, whose founder N Narayanasamy is the leader of the opposition, is backing Segar. The bypoll is being held to fill vacancy caused by the resignation of Congress legislator A John Kumar on September 15 to facilitate Narayanasamy, a non-member of the house, to contest the poll and get elected to the assembly to fulfill the constitutional obligation. Narayanasamy became Chief Minister on June 6 and formed a six member ministry under his leadership with the support of DMK (having two members) from outside. The strength of Congress in the 30 member assembly was 15 before John Kumar quit the post of MLA. Narayanasamy is likely to win the seat.
In Assam, by polls in Lakhimpur Lok Sabha constituency and Baithalanso assembly constituency in Assam will decide the electoral fate of eight contestants. In Lakhimpur, the five candidates included Amiya Kumar Handique (CPI-M), Pradan Baruah (BJP), Dr Hema Hari Prasanna Pegu (Cong), Hem Kanta Miri (SUCI-Communist) and Dilip Moran (Independent). 15,11,110 voters are expected to exercise their franchise in 1954 polling stations spread across the Assembly constituencies of Majuli (ST), Naoboicha, Lakhimpur, Dhakuakhana (ST), Dhemaji (ST), Jonai (ST), Chabua, Doomdooma and Sadiya.
By-elections in West Bengal are underway in Cooch Behar and Tamluk Lok Sabha constituencies and in Monteswar Assembly constituency. Ruling Trinamool Congress, BJP, Left Front and Congress have fielded their candidates in all three seats. Although the Congress and CPI (M)-led Left Front had contested the Assembly polls held earlier this year, the two decided to part company in this round of by-elections.
Demonetization became a key issue in the last lap of campaign for the by-polls. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee did not campaign for the by-polls and left it to the other leaders of her party. TMC MLA and party candidate from Tamluk seat Dibyendu Adhikari told PTI, “Demonetization move has affected every citizen of this country. The common man is suffering.” Demonetization has also impacted our campaign as we are unable to pay the decorators, sound organizers. In Tamluk, most of the rural areas still don’t have proper banking facilities, what will the poor farmers do?” he asked.
According CPI (M) and Congress leaders, demonetization has all of a sudden come up as an issue for the polls as they are receiving feedback that people are inconvenienced due to the new decision. CPI (M) leader Sujan Chakraborty said demonetization became a prominent issue as the people faced huge problems and added that the situation was much worse in rural areas.
The BJP, on the other hand, said that by-elections would be a litmus test for political parties. “It’s not a question of black money or white money. All of a sudden if you scrap high value notes how will you meet various expenditures for the campaign,” Congress candidate from Monteswar Bulbul Ahmed Sheikh said.
By-election in Cooch Behar was necessitated by the death of TMC MP Renuka Sinha while the by-election in Tamluk in East Medinipur district was caused by the resignation of TMC MP Suvendu Adhikari who also won the Assembly poll and joined the state cabinet as transport minister. The bypoll to Monteswar Assembly seat in Burdwan district is due to death of TMC MLA Sajal Panja.
All these constituencies are likely to return the ruling TMC candidates.
By-elections in Madhya Pradesh are being held in Shahdol Lok Sabha constituency and Nepanagar assembly seats in Madhya Pradesh. Thirty companies (15 each) of armed police forces have been deployed in the two constituencies to provide security during the polling. “Over 4,000 EVMs will be used to seal the fate of the candidates. The EVMs also carry the photographs of the candidates to facilitate the voters,” the official said.
While Congress has fielded Himadri Singh, daughter of former union minister Dalbir Singh and ex-MP Rajesh Nandini Singh, from Shahdol Lok Sabha seat, the BJP has given ticket to tribal leader Gyan Singh, a senior minister in Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s cabinet from the reserved seat. The Shahdol bypoll was necessitated due to death of BJP MP Dalpat Singh Paraste. In Nepanagar, Congress has reposed faith in tribal leader Antar Singh Barde, while BJP has fielded Manju Dadu, daughter of late MLA Rajendra Shyamlal Dadu, whose death caused by an accident, necessitated the by-poll to cash in on the sympathy vote. Besides these prominent names, several other candidates have also filed their nominations for the by-polls.
Communist Party of India’s Parmeshwar Singh Porte, Lok Janshakti Party’s Krishna Pal Singh Pavel, Gondwana Gantantra Party’s Hirasingh Markm and Apna Dal’s Sajjan Singh Paraste, among others are in the fray for the Shahdol LS seat. The counting of votes will take place on November 22 and the entire poll process will be completed by November 24.
By-polls in Tripura in two Tripura Assembly seats – Barjala and Khowai – began on a peaceful note amidst tight security. For purposes of peaceful polling nine companies of central paramilitary forces, including Border Security Force (BSF) and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) have been deployed in the two constituencies and their adjoining areas. State forces, including Tripura State Rifles and state police have also been deployed. The Election Commission has appointed three central observes to oversee the polling in the two seats.
The Barjala (SC reserved) seat fell vacant following the resignation of Congress MLA Jitendra Sarkar due to internal squabble in the party, while the death of veteran CPI-M leader Samir Deb necessitated the by-poll in Khowai seat. At Barjala constituency a multi-cornered electoral battle is on with five candidates of BJP, CPI-M, Trinamool Congress, Congress and Amra Bangali in the fray. Khowai seat too has contestants from the same parties in the ring. A total of 39,007 voters will exercise their franchise in 48 polling stations in Barjala assembly constituency, while in Khowai seat 39400 electorate will cast their votes in 52 polling stations.
A prescient politician is one who reads the game better than others. Post his Japan trip, Modi addressed three back-to-back rallies in different parts of the country and asked his cabinet colleagues and party workers not to worry about the political fallout of the move since “the people are with us”. The problem for the opposition was to find a way past the binary and ensure that BJP doesn’t run away with the credit for launching war against corruption. Except Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his Odisha counterpart Naveen Patnaik, the others badly failed in the job.
While Kumar and Patnaik carefully avoided the trap by welcoming the move and waited patiently for the government to trip up, the pack of Congress, Left, TMC, RJD, SP, BSP and AAP tore into Modi. In a high-pitched campaign filled with shrill rhetoric they alleged that the Prime Minister has leaked information selectively to his “friends”, insinuating that he is morally corrupted and called his currency ban program a “big scam”.
The Left taunted him as “Modi Antoinette”, Congress compared him to Muammar Gaddafi, Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler and Ghulam Nabi Azad, the leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, compared the stress-related deaths due to demonetization program to Pakistan-sponsored terrorist attacks on Uri.
That is economic or financial terrorism.
Arvind Kejriwal and Mamata Banerjee have taken a more confrontational stance, demanding that Modi roll back the move “within three days or else face revolt and unrest.”
Supreme Court criticizes the state move
The demonetization issue has affected lives of common people so much that even the Supreme Court, while refusing to stay the government’s notification demonetizing Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes, has asked it to spell out the steps taken to minimize public inconvenience. “We will not be granting any stay,” a bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and D Y Chandrachud said. The remarks were made after some advocates insisted on a stay. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for one of the petitioners, however, said he was not asking for a stay on the notification but seeking answers from the government about the steps taken to remove public inconvenience. The bench asked Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi to file an affidavit about the measures already undertaken by the government and the RBI to minimize public inconvenience and also the steps likely to be undertaken in future.
Without issuing any notice to the Centre or the RBI, the bench posted the matter for further hearing on November 25. During the hearing, the Chief Justice said the objective seems to be laudable “but there is some inconvenience also to the public at large.” The bench also said “You (Centre) can have surgical strike against black money but you cannot have surgical strike against people of the country.
The Centre which had filed a caveat in the matter, sought dismissal of the petitions challenging demonetization on several grounds including that they were “misconceived”. Attorney General (AG) Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Centre, outlined the idea behind demonetization and said large number of fake currency has been used to finance terrorism in various parts of the country including in Jammu and Kashmir and northeastern states. He, however, agreed with the bench that some inconvenience to common citizens occurs as this kind of “surgical strike” is bound to have “some kind of collateral damage”. He also said there were as many as 24 crore bank accounts including 22 crore opened under the ‘Jan Dhan Scheme’ and the Centre was hopeful to “ramp up” the outflow of the cash to banks, post offices and two lakh ATMs across the country. “Two lakh ATM machines could not have been deliberated in advance to be in tune with new notes as the cash would have been out of the banks,” Rohatgi said, adding that “secrecy is the key to such actions”.
There were approximately one lakh branches of various banks and two lakh ATMs besides the post offices across the country to dispense cash to common people and the restriction on withdrawal is there to ensure that the money be paid to maximum number of people. Supreme Court summed up the submission contending that there was no legal basis for opposing the Centre’s move to demonetize the higher denomination currency notes aimed at “catching big fish” which the previous governments failed to do in last 50 years. He said the Centre has complied with section 26(2) of the RBI Act and the present “surgical strike has to be seen in the context of safety and security of the nation, its border, and financial terrorism unleashed through fake currency.” “The attack is on those who have stashed huge amount of currency,” he said, adding that the surgical strike of this nature has to be carried out in complete secrecy and it was not possible to come out with Rs 10 lakh crore of currency in one go as there was a need for recalibration of ATM machines across the country.
The AG was assisted by a team of lawyers, including two Additional Solicitors General, and a senior official from the Finance Ministry. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for one of the petitioners Adil Alvi, said the petition has also challenged the constitutional validity of the notification as the provision of the Reserve Bank of India Act has not been complied with. He referred to section 26(2) of the Act and said the government was not authorised to demonetize all series of currency notes of high denominations in one go.
There has to be legislation if the government wants to demonetize the entire series of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes, Sibal said, adding that in 1978, a law was brought to demonetize the currency notes of particular denominations. Sibal then highlighted the inconvenience faced by the common people in getting their own money from banks and ATMs and said it was a “surgical strike against the common man.” The apex court, on November 10, had agreed to hear pleas against the November 8 decision of the Narendra Modi government that these notes are no longer a legal tender. Out of the four PILs on the demonetization issue, two were filed by Delhi-based lawyers Vivek Narayan Sharma and Sangam Lal Pandey, while two others were filed by individuals, S Muthukumar and Adil Alvi.
The petitioners had alleged that the sudden decision has created chaos and harassment to public at large and the notification of the Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance be either quashed or deferred for some time. Sharma, in his plea, had termed the notification of DEA as “dictatorial”, claiming that it did not grant reasonable time to citizens for exchanging the specified bank notes to legitimate notes to avoid “large scale mayhem, life threatening difficulties”. The plea also sought either quashing of the notification or a direction to the Centre for grant of “reasonable time frame” to citizens to exchange the demonetized currency notes to avoid difficulties being faced by the people. The Prime Minister, in a televised address to the nation, had declared that high denomination notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 will no longer be legal tender from November 8-9 midnight. He had said the Government has declared a “decisive war” against black money and corruption.
Severe cash crunch compels citizens to seek psychiatric help
Demonetization, besides causing lot of commotion, troubles, financial difficulties, also caused serious psychological problems for the people who suffer traumatic issues. Many young people have approached psychiatrists for treatment. In many cases, worried families are bringing their aggrieved members to psychiatrists for crisis intervention. A father whose daughter’s wedding is fixed in November came to meet Dr C Suresh, a psychiatrist at Yashoda Hospital, this week. He was undergoing acute stress due to his inability to access his own money kept in the bank. This was before the government relaxed the withdrawal limit to Rs 2.5 lakh for a wedding. “I counseled him that he will get his money back, told him that this is for nation building. In this case, I had to give him a tranquilizer to calm his mind because he was very nervous,” says Suresh. Another patient, who had applied for a US visa, got panic attacks because of the situation and was slipping into a depressed state of mind.
Psychiatrists say the feeling of happiness, contentment, and well-being is controlled by a chemical called serotonin. Its levels dip when the mind is under acute stress. They warn that a prolonged spell of disruption and worry could lead to impulse control disorder, which is an urge that could harm oneself or others.
Experts say this is a new experience for mainland India as it is not used to an unstable economy or a situation in which rationing of some kind takes place. News is being consumed far more than usual for the latest updates. The government’s decision to change the withdrawal limit thrice in the last ten days has +led to doubts if it knows the roadmap well.
Psychiatrists believe that the present crisis has also led to a trust deficit, with everyone suspecting the other of stashing unaccounted cash.
The fabric of trust is slowly broken, which is not good for society in the long run.’ Experts say it is important for this crisis to get over in a week or two. Already many are resorting to obsessive hoarding of Rs 100 notes, which is a disorder arising out of frustration. Tempers are running high and the Supreme Court has already cautioned the government, rightly, that there could be riots on the streets if the currency is not provided in the banks soon.
Observations: triclomacy won’t work for ever
The results of the recent by polls in states do not suggest any hopes for the BJP and Modi, except that they have retained their own seats but the BJP and Congress ruled states need a third alternative to save India and people.
Upon criticism by the Apex Court the Modi government released some Rs 100 and Rs 50 and Rs 20 notes to somewhat relax popular difficulties
Obviously, no proper home work has been done, even considering the seriousness of the government, for the proper implementation but only money is being gathered in banks to promote the corporate lords and transnational bosses globally as government and private sector jointly exploit the confusion among the masses.
Shortage of money is bad. Markets turned empty, small businesses were majorly hit while ATMs stayed out of service, cooperative banks fell silent, banks and post offices neared implosion as public appeared fast approaching the end of their mental tethers.
People are made to think inconveniences that seem insurmountable now will slowly ease over time. Small business enterprises that have come to a screeching halt will eventually move again. ATMs will have their queues shortened and banks will, at some point in near future, see lesser footfalls and more IPL type games adding more black money to the market.
A time will come when the disorder will dissipate, but the opposition will find that in the “war against corruption”, they tried to create hurdles in Modi’s path. That would make for a gripping political narrative.
Normalcy is still some distance away and the lines are not shortening anytime soon but even at the height of discontent when cash was short and tempers were high, people never wavered from backing the drive. They were hit on the chin and bleeding but they wiped the blood and carried on, imposing full faith in the Prime Minister.
Polls conducted among 10,000 citizens from across 200 citizens of India since the demonetization reveal public support for the Prime Minister’s drive remains high.
Strange as it may seem to many, a report by news agency ANI finds that support for the government’s demonetization program has increased during the last week as people want to see a corruption free and black money free India. . According to the report, a portion of the citizens who were unsure and the ones who did not support the note ban are now coming out in support. The survey by LocalCircles found that in the week after Modi’s announcement, 78 per cent citizens backed the demonetization.
That was upwardly revised to 79 per cent in a follow-up poll after a week on 15 November, indicating that even as hardships increased, more and more people kept backing the PM. A survey was also done separately online in 13 states. More than 80 percent citizens in states like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Telangana offered unconditional support whereas over 25 per cent citizens in states like Uttarakhand, Goa and Odisha said that that they are supportive of the program despite pain and inconvenience.
Whether or not PM Modi and his BJP-RSS partners are trying to burn their fingers is not clear as yet but if they fail to achieve the stated objectives, their future status would be very, very bleak.
Already, the image of BJP as a purely patriotic outfit and PM Modi as a deliverer of justice and money has been declining over time and it is in the negative as people indeed do not trust them as well. .
While Indians seriously doubt sincerity of PM Modi and his BJP-RSS, they also do not want to return to Congress fold even by mistake.
The political outfits with Hindutva agenda are at a crossroads. Whether or not they would give up fanaticism and gimmicks in favor of realpolitik remains to be seen.
Into the Sea: Nepal in International Waters
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.
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.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hug Diplomacy Fails
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
Potential Consequences of Nuclear Politics in South Asia
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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