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‘Yatri’s Great ‘Yatra’

Dr. Muhammad Aslam Khan

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“Mr. Modi came into office with a formidable piece of baggage, having been blacklisted by the United States government for nearly a decade over his handling of religious riots in Gujarat… (Ellen Barry: The New York Times)
Citing him as a metaphor, the yatri was not an ordinary person but the US President whose India yatra stayed in prime focus that kept intensifying as and when the travel date approached closer.

While his capabilities and competence over several years reflected efficiently through the prism of rigorous public scrutiny to which the US Presidents remains subjected to, Mr. Modi’s posture was relatively new to watch though he broke the crust of ambiguity during his America yatra not long ago and managed to cultivate ‘friendship’ with Mr. Obama.

One is sure, Mr. Singh; his predecessor had no less rapport because these were India’s credentials as a state having burgeoning economy, a power with significant military potentials and occupying crucial geo-political as well as geo-economic space in Asia-Pacific region that enable Indian leadership to pass through the uncompromising US friendship-filters comfortably. Modi’s Obama-hug and his tea-pouring for him did not escape observers notice. Some said the magic had worked.

Mr. Obama’s second visit to India and being the only US president who ever reviewed Indian Republic Day parade as the chief guest, places him at the pinnacle of much needed glory.  The urge to make the occasion special, coincided dramatically on each side. Modi being aware of the whispers in US circles that India, even after striking a deal as a strategic partner with George W. Bush and securing concession from the nuclear supplier group  was reluctant to embrace its role in entirety. Such an apparent psychological inhibition, deliberately carved by the Congress government appeared an eye sore for Modi’s BJP government.

On the other hand, Obama has embarked at extensive damage control measures after having been bruised through not-so-brilliant, questionable gains in Iraq and now Afghanistan where US/ISAF forces have lowered their flag to shift operational responsibility to Afghan National Army. The truth has seeped through to US public who rightly demand from US administration to focus at home and take a much needed break from the era of foreign interventions. Nuclear dialogues and interim easing of economic sanctions over Iran, seeking window of opportunity with Cuba to normalize relations, though eclipsed by Russo-Ukrainian conflict and Middle East imbroglio, are some wise moves that bring added vibrancy to US foreign policy. In Ukraine case, US plea of repulsing Russian adventurism does not sound a weighty claim because Crimea is comfortably in Russian grip while Eastern Ukraine does not need Russian forces intervention. The region alone would keep Kiev busy for years unless there is break through, employing soft power of diplomacy.

The follow-up media blitz suggests that the two leaders are in absolute sync and are inclined to cooperate in nuclear, defense, science and technology, trade and environments domains. Modi gave the discourse an added dimension to bolster his inward and outward stature by creating a witty ambiguity for not revealing what the two leaders discussed in closed-door session. The media would have the reasons to make bloated conjectures as some have questioned the incentives that compelled Obama to visit India when he had yet not digested elation accruing to him at the end of his state of union address. Modi also assured Obama that he could not be pressured by any one. Whether or not the statement at this juncture was nice diplomacy-fit but one thing is clear that he did not mince words any longer to suggest that Obama was standing on the soil of changed and vigorous India who would support its allies to the hilt. Modi proved that he knew precisely how to tickle Mr. Obama who is inclined to open Asia-Pacific front once driven by China-phoebes like Ashley Tellis of Carnegie Endowment at home, “It is in U.S. interests to bolster Indian power even if no repayment is forthcoming because doing so will help limit the rise of a Chinese hegemon in Asia that could undermine the enduring strategic interests of the United States.”

When the high pitch visit proceeded, there should have been natural concern to see US drift so close to India and vice versa. Russia has been India’s close ally since Cold War era when India ostensibly owned non-aligned countries club. Balancing its policy parameters very shrewdly, it harvested enviable gains across the globe but equipped its forces predominantly with Russian arsenal. In recent Russo-US/EU standoff perspective, Russia would view Indo-US bonhomie grudgingly. Mr. Obama, possibly alive to international undercurrents, did speak soft about Russia that US did not wish to dent Russian economy. However, his plea could be brushed aside simply if any one raised the question, what do the economic sanctions mean against Russia? No doubt, Russia is finding its balancing acts in world power-politics rather challenging but one could go by simple arithmetic. Indo-US embrace, if it translates to supplementing US capabilities in Asia-Pacific, bringing China in the arena, Russia would prefer to support China against US and its allies.

China’s perceived stance is friendly towards India which harbors tremendous mistrust against China after she drubbed Indian forces on its Himalayan borders in early sixties. China is accused of capturing and retaining Indian Territory and several attempts to normalize the relations broke down without yielding any tangible results. Besides, India sees China-Pakistan nexus with slant greedy eyes. Indo-US strategic alliance, when India appears inclined to flex its muscles, not only in Indian Ocean but also in Pacific (Modi missed mentioning ‘Pacific’ in the press conference on first day of visit) would now force China to draw a red line for India as well. Interested quarters are absolutely insistent that Indian forces potentials on Blue Sea are better than China, a flurry of opinions which mysteriously swamped the media just before Obama’s visit that could be meaningful. US placing strategic pivot in Asia-Pacific would lead her to inspire India to perform added role along with the alliance. A small take off has already been agreed to, once both the dignitaries resolved to play stabilizing role in Afghanistan. The dimensions of the role is a matter of opinion at this stage but it could well be a small battle-inoculation exercise for Indians troops who are yet not tuned to conduct operations out of their territorial limits, UN peace-keeping mission participation once in a while notwithstanding.

For Pakistan, the US role as it draws closer to India in the sub-continent has become fraught with serious ramifications. Modi’s anti-Muslims history is no secret any longer when BJP’s role in torching Samjhota Express and demolition of Babari mosque had been established. Only a week before Obama’s visit, three Muslims were burnt alive by BJP sympathizers’ mob and forced conversion of Muslims to Hindu religion has been set as the state’s theme. The bloodletting by half a million-strong Indian Army is rampant in Indian Held Kashmir. Kashmiris, having been denied the right of self-determination, are the chronic victims of Indian forces’ atrocities since Indo-Pak partition in 1947. UN Security Council resolutions passed during Mr. Pundit Nehru’s times have been dumped in UN archives. Several powers that champion the human rights cause have meted willful neglect to the Kashmiris’ cause. The issue led to three wars among the two neighbors. Sporadic unprovoked shelling by Indian forces against civil population along its border with Pakistan is a routine matter. Mr. Obama remarkably pretended to be ignorant of the entire Indian shenanigan.  The implicit fall out of making India militarily strong would be dangerous for the region, particularly for Pakistan because:

•    Indian stubborn stance on Kashmir issue would further intensify to shun the need of meaningful dialogue and effective resolution of the issue.
•    Kashmiris agony would continue with no hope of finding respite from the Indian Army atrocities that have already led them to suffer about 100,000 men, women and children deaths.
•    Obama’s visit would set in an extreme degree of despondency when the US President has not, ironically, spoken a word about Kashmir and the need to find a lasting solution according to the wishes of the Kashmiris.
•    With US alliance, India’s ability to trash the neighbor like Pakistan would increase. Conversely, Pakistan with lesser power potential has the ability to respond effectively. It makes a scenario clad with perils. Tanvi Madan of Brookings also predicts, “The consultations on regional issues are likely not just to focus on India’s west, but also to its east—where they have identified stability in the Asia-Pacific as a shared interest.” Their measures for stability in Asia-Pacific without knocking out others, considered rivals, would certainly be worth paying compliments.
•    The standoff between two neighbors is ominous for the world peace also. In case of nuclear conflagration, the conflict would expand in scope and lethality for which world powers have yet not come up with a responsible answer. Instead, the fledgling capabilities when the power admittedly intoxicates would mean affording the pretext of hostilities to India.
•    India has already plans in place to set its Cold Start War Doctrine in practice that envisages compact, mobile, hard hitting forces to make surprise shallow, offensive maneuvers and cause destruction (ambitious aim though relevant) or attrition on Pakistani forces system. Pakistan needs to fine-finish all passive counter measures to deny any worthwhile success to Indian Cold Start War euphoria  and keep ready plans to strike back within hours in the same or different sector of its own choosing to teach her a lesson at their cost.
•    Any Indian forces meddling in Afghanistan would not be a welcome proposition under any pretext. Incidentally, two developments occurred that are favorable to Pakistan. When Obama and Modi were addressing joint press conference on 25 Jan 2015, Pakistan Army Chief was reviewing the guard of honor in Beijing with Chinese military counterpart. It would be naive to assume that Obama’s visit and accruing implications were not discussed by them. Also, concurrently, Afghan military delegation was conversing with Pakistani counterparts in Islamabad, a gesture almost akin to tell US/Indian hawks, thanks for the care, we had enough in last over thirteen years.
•    The development in India requires skillful handling and extra vigilance by Pakistan foreign policy wizards. Pakistan foreign office initial response to Mr. Obama’s visit has been disappointing that claimed that it would auger well for the regional peace, an assertion far removed from reality. In fact, Pakistan’s clear interpretation of the aforementioned thrust vectors would have been sounded to US on diplomatic channel, prior to Air Force One’s taking off from Washington tarmac as did Mr. Putin promptly, mustering a counter poise. He said, “Russia would not let US grab the Middle East”. Whether he has the capability or not, may be a moot point but he did not leave any vacuum when Obama and Modi were manipulating the world order in a different way, right or wrong, the time would judge.
•    Pakistan’s foreign policy does not operate on forward foot but is reactive instead. It is time that US played its role as honest broker and bring around Modi to settle Kashmir issue once for all according to the Kashmiris wishes. To achieve such objective, our pundits have to be at par, at least one of them, with Metternich or Castlereagh to convince US administration about the urgency to explore peaceful settlement of Kashmir issue and overcome Modi’s reticence.

India, despite full US shoulder-support needs to remember two vulnerabilities that would haunt her ambitions. One, UN Security Council permanent member seat-promise is a contentious issue for her. Having active hostilities with neighbors, two of them being nuclear power would make it dangerous proposition to admit India into the UNSC. There are strong arguments to give representation to Africa or Latin America who have been denied the slot in UNSC. If in post-Cold War scenario, the merit hinges on the country’s contribution to peacemaking efforts with no flare for embarking on military buildup despite having the sophisticated technological edge, Germany would be the best choice. When France and Britain are UNSC members, Germany’s case becomes weak from as small a continent as Europe. Muslims have no representation in UNSC either when every sixth person on the planet is Muslim. Turkey, Pakistan or Indonesia could be as deserving candidates as India, in fact better one.

Secondly, India’s proclaimed desire to emerge as economic giant, soon outmatching China appears on wrong drive if Mr. Modi’s body language is any guide. What transpires from his statements that somehow he has come to believe that the kind of geo-political environments India is placed in; it would be prudent to insult Pakistan and stigmatize Kashmiris, by snatching their constitutional status through an amendment that the present Indian constitution bestows on them. He also appears inclined to resort to occasional saber rattling towards China. This sequence to achieve by placing the economic objectives laced with hubris born from the heap of sophisticated military hardware appears asymmetrical. Such ruses and chicanery, at which Mr. Modi has been traditionally quite adapt, would lead Indian economic ambition for double digit growth to some silly snare. Instead India must resolve disputes with China and Pakistan through a visible pragmatic diplomacy and must not be lured in to show of force on high seas to intimidate its foes. Indian dreams can be carefully constructed by her allies but these can be shattered certainly by China or Pakistan decisively when Modi breathes too hot on their necks. Indian paradigm hereafter is complex and would also need brainstorming by Turkey and Iran because the alliance in fact is multilayered and some actors in the fold are yet to stand up at an opportune moment. An interesting hypothesis that would merits separate space to cover.

As the largest democracy, she lays claim upon, World would expect from India, strengthening of the universal peace rather than bully Pakistan, pester Kashmiris, meddle in Afghanistan or flash a sword towards China and side line Russia. Big power = Big forgiving heart, makes simple but effective equation for India to emulate. Einstein would have certainly liked this equation if he was alive, better than his theory of relativity.

Dr. Muhammad Aslam Khan is a retired Brig Gen from Pakistan Army, served 32 years. A veteran of ‘1971 Indo-Pak War’ has been instructor in officers’ Pakistan Military Academy, commanded Divisional as well as Corps Artillery. Holds first class Masters degree in International Relations and PhD degree, acquired in 2002-2007 from University of Peshawar, Pakistan. Authored a book, writes frequently in national and international media. Has attended several seminars and conferences within the country and abroad on invitation. Travelled to Switzerland (twice), UK, US, UAE, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Germany (twice). Cambodia and Thailand. Email: dr.makni49@yahoo.com

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South Asia

India’s fury at Moeed Yousaf’s interview?

Amjed Jaaved

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In an interview with Indian media outlet The Wire, Moeed Yusuf , revealed that India had expressed a “desire for conversation” but said that Pakistan’s agreement to talks would be conditional (Talks with India only possible with Kashmir as third party, says SAPM Moeed Yusuf,  Dawn 14 Oct 2020) . India quickly denied any offier for talks. Moeed as also his interviewer were quickly dubbed anti-India  jihadi.

A leader becomes a traitor the moment he stops singing paeans for “secular democracy”. Take Sheikh Abdullah. Barkha Dutt recalls (This Unquiet Land, p. 154) `In a 1948 speech to the United Nations, Sheikh Abdullah … made a blistering defence of the accession to India. Sher-e-Kashmir (Lion of Kashmir) roared, :`I had thought all along that the world had got rid of  Hitlers…but what is happening in my poor country I am convinced that they have transmigrated their souls into Pakistan…I refuse to accept Pakistan as a party in the affairs of Jammu and Kashmir’

Dutt says, “Sheikh Abdullah [later] began to talk about possibility of independent Kashmir…Soon after he changed his stance he was jailed and dismissed from office and was not able to lead the state for another twenty years’.

While talking to Cyril Al Maeda in  an exclusive interview that appeared on 12th May, Pakistan’s  former prime minister Sharif had  said  `Militant organizations are active. Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai?’ During Kalbushan jhadav’strial, Indian counsel used the MNS statement ` to blame Pakistan for its alleged involvement in sponsoring terrorism in India’.

The factual position is that gullible  Sharif  had relied on statement  by  then serving ISI chief Shuja Pasha. Even Pasha’s statement was grossly misinterpreted. Pasha never asaid that it was ISI who in any way sponsored the Mumbai operation. Even the USA never trusted interrogation of David Headley who was `linked’  to the Mumbai incident. 

Let me quote   Mohammed Adobo  and   Etgar  Ugur  (eds.), Assessing the War on Terror, 2013, Lynne Reiner Publishers, Inc., Colorado 80301 (USA). Chapter V: Pakistan Perfidious Ally in the War on Terror, C. Christine Fair, p. 85)

According to Indian officials who interrogated him after his indictment, David Headley, an American involved in the Mumbai attacks conceded ISI involvement (Jason Burke, “ISI chief aided Mumbai terror attacks: Headley”, The Hindu October 19, 2010; Jane Perlez, Eric Schmitt and Ginger Thomson, “US had  warnings on Plotter of Mumbai Attack”, New York Times, October 17, 2010). US officials have not endorsed this claim. Bt, according to some reports, the current director general of the ISI Shuja Pasha, acknowledged that the persons connected to the ISI were involved in attacks (Woodword, Obama’s Wars, pp 46-47). Documentary analysis shows secretive Mumbai trials were translucent (Davidson, Betrayal of India: Revisiting the 26/11 Evidence).

It is a documented fact that India is stroking insurgencies in neighbouring countries. Unlike Kashmir, Bangladesh was not a disputed state like Jammu And Kashmir State. It was an integral part of Pakistan. But, harboured, nurtured, trained and armed Bangladeshi ‘freedom fighters’… Some Indian diplomats and RAW cover officers have made startling revelations in their books about involvement in insurgencies or terrorism in neighbouring countries. . For instance, RK Yadav, and B. Raman (The Kaoboys of R&AW: Down Memory Lane) make no bones about India’s involvement in Bangladesh’s insurgency. They admitted that India’s then prime minister Indira Gandhi, Parliament, RAW and armed forces acted in tandem to dismember Pakistan. Raman recalls ‘Indian parliament passed resolution on March 31, 1971 to support insurgency. India Gandhi had then confided to Kao that if Mujib was prevented from ruling Pakistan, she would liberate East Pakistan from the clutches of the military junta. Kao, through one R&AW agent, got hijacked a plane Fokker Friendship Ganga of Indian Airlines from Srinagar to Lahore. India’s security czar Doval publicly claims that he acted as a spy under a pseudonym in Pakistan for 11 years. India’s then army chief, SAM Manekshaw confessed in video interview that India Gandhi ordered him to attack erstwhile East Pakistan. (YouTube: Indian Army Stories of the Indo-Pak War 1971 by Sam manekshaw).

United Nations’ view of `accession:  Aware of India’s intention to get the ‘Instrument of Accession’ rubber-stamped by the puppet assembly, the Security Council passed two resolutions to forestall the `foreseeable accession’ by the puppet assembly. Security Council’s Resolution No 9 of March 30, 1951 and affirmative Resolution No 122 of March 24, 1957 outlaws accession or any other action to change status of the Jammu and Kashmir state.

Under hypnotic spell of Indian propaganda, readers naively accept IHK’s `assembly’ and preceding `instrument of accession’ as fait accompli. No sir, they aren’t. Aware of India’s intention to get the ‘Instrument of Accession’ rubber-stamped by the sham assembly, the Security Council passed two resolutions to forestall the foreseeable` accession’ by the puppet assembly. Security Council’s Resolution No 9 of March 30, 1951 and confirmatory Resolution No 122 of March 24, 1957 outlaws accession or any other action to change status of the Jammu and Kashmir state.

`Accession instrument’ is a myth, unregistered with the UN. Alastair Lamb, in his book Incomplete Partition (Chapter VI: The accession Crisis, pp.  149-151) points out that Mountbatten wanted India not to intervene militarily without first getting `instrument of accession’ from maharajah Hari Singh.  Not doing so would amount to `intervening in the internal affairs of what was to all intents and purposes an independent State in the throes of civil conflict’.  But, India did not heed his advice. It marched its troops into Kashmir without maharajah‘s permission _ an act of aggression. Lamb says `timing of the alleged Instrument of Accession undoubtedly affected its legitimacy'(p.172, ibid). She adds `If in fact took place after the Indian intervention, then it could well be argued that it was either done under Indian duress or to regularise an Indian fait accompli’.

He argues that the maharajah was travelling by road to Jammu (a distance of over 350 km). How could he sign the instrument while being on the run for safety of his life? There is no evidence of any contact between him and the Indian emissaries on October 26, 1947. Actually, it was on October 27, 1947 that the maharajah was informed by MC Mahajan and VP Menon (who had flown into Srinagar) that an Instrument of Accession is being fabricated in New Delhi. Obviously, the maharajah could not have signed the instrument earlier than October 27, 1947. The instrument remains null and void, even if the maharajah had actually signed it. The reason, as pointed out by Alastair is that the `signatures’ were obtained under coercion. Under law, any undertaking secured through coercion or duress is null and void. She points out Indian troops had already arrived at and secured Srinagar airfield during the middle of October 1947. On October 26, 1947, a further airlift of thousands of Indian troops to Kashmir took place. She questions: “Would the maharajah have signed the Instrument of Accession, had the Indian troops not been on Kashmiri soil?” Isn’t it funny that, in the summer of 1995, the Indian authorities reported the original document as lost or stolen?

Lamb concludes (p. 191, ibid):`According to Wolpert, V. P. Menon returned to Delhi from Srinagar on the morning of 26 October with no signed Instrument of Accession.  Only after the Indian troops had started landing at Srinagar airfield on the morning of 27 October did V. P.   Menon and M. C. Mahajan set out from Delhi from Jammu. The Instrument of Accession, according to Wolpert, was only signed by Maharajah Sir Hari Singh after Indian troops had assumed control of the Jammu and Kashmir State’s summer capital,  Srinagar’.

It is time the Kashmiris woke up and grab the opportunity to correct their historical blunder. It is `Now or Never’. No more palliatives.

Conclusion: India is unqualified to become a permanent member of Security council as it has flouted international treaties. India is wedded to `might is right’ (Noam Chomsky, Rogue States: The Rule of Force in World Affairs). It should be shunned as a rogue state and punished as a pariah states ( Tim Niblock, Pariah States and Sanctions in the Middle East).

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Tripartite dialogue over Kashmir: Only Way out

Dr.Ghulam Nabi Fai

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Women walking past Indian security forces in Srinagar, summer capital of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Nimisha Jaiswal/IRIN

Dr. Moeed Yusuf, Special Advisor to Prime Minister of Pakistan on National Security and Strategic Policy disclosed in an interview with senior Indian journalist, Karan Thapar (October 13, 2020) that India sent us a message for a desire to a conversation. He added that Pakistan stands for conversation that moves us forward. He however emphasized that there are three parties to the dispute, Pakistan, India and there is a principal party, called Kashmiris.  The only thing that matters is the wishes of the people of Kashmir.

We whole heatedly welcome the articulation of Dr. Yusuf to include the Kashmiri leadership in the talks. The people of Kashmir will welcome any talks between India and Pakistan as long as the genuine leadership of the people of Jammu & Kashmir is the part of process of negotiations. They steadfastly maintain that tripartite talks are the only way to resolve the Kashmir issue that has dominated the South Asian region for over 73 years. They maintain this constructive position, despite the outrage caused and the indescribable suffering inflicted on them, by the barbarities of the Indian occupation forces.

The people of Kashmir want to emphasize that as the dispute involves three parties –Government of India, Government of Pakistan and the people of Kashmir who are the most directly affected – any attempt to strike a deal between two parties without the association of the third, will fail to yield a credible settlement. The contemporary history of South Asia is abundantly clear that bilateral efforts have never met with success. The agreement between India and pro-India Kashmiri leaders, like Sheikh Abdullah failed because they sought to bypass Pakistan. Similarly, the agreements between India and Pakistan, like Tashkent Declaration and Simla Agreement failed because they sought to by pass the Kashmiri leadership. All these attempts served only to prolong the dispute, leaving the basic issue unsettled and preserved the stalemate. Although the Simla Agreement of 1972 is irrelevant to the Kashmir dispute, yet it did visualize a ‘final settlement’, but failed for a concrete course of action toward determining Kashmir’s status by the will of its people.

No longer can the mere holding of talks between India and Pakistan defuse the situation. It is a matter of record that during the 72 years history of dispute, India has merely used the façade of talks to evade settlement and ease internal or external pressure. In 1962, when India was facing grave difficulties because of war it had launched against China, it agreed to a round of ministerial talks only to delude two eminent emissaries sent by the United States and the Great Britain. The six seemingly serious sessions were simply exercise in futility. After the end of the 1965 war, when the Security council had committed itself to address the underlying cause of the India – Pakistan conflict – which was none other than the Kashmir dispute – Indian secured the support of its ally, the former Soviet Union and the tacit acquiescence of others to help consign the dispute to limbo as far as the United Nations was concerned. Today, India is again in confrontation with China on one side and with Pakistan on the other. We earnestly hope that the Indian Government’s message to Pakistan ‘for a desire to have a conversation’ will not be one more step in that direction to sabotage the real intent of the talks through diversionary tactics.

Dr. Moeed Yusuf’s approach is based on pragmatism when he said that there can be no progress in talks if they are not accompanied by practical measures, like:

i. To release all political prisoners; ii. Reverse military siege in Kashmir, iii. Pull back the Domicile Law that changes the demography of Kashmir; iv. End human rights violations; and v. Stop Indian state terrorism.

In the past, India has not desisted from its human rights violations while announcing its intent to talk. India has to be told in an understandable language that peace cannot be held, nor continued as long as terror reigns over Kashmir and India remains at war with Kashmiris.

The people of Kashmir believe that the conversion of Line of Control (LoC) into an international border is a non-solution. Such an idea is an insult to the intelligence of the people of Kashmir. They fought against status quo and as Dr. Moeed Yusuf said ‘Line of Control is a problem and cannot become a solution.’

We hope that the Secretary General of the United Nations maintains and intensify his watch over the situation in Kashmir and not be lulled into the belief that India and Pakistan will initiate any meaningful dialogue over Kashmir unless there are some mediatory initiatives by an impartial third party. Third party could be the United Nations itself or a person of an international standing who could be delegated by the United Nations to bring all the three parties together.

The policy that aims at merely defusing the situation, whatever that may mean, and not encouraging a credible settlement has not paid in the past. It is likely to do even less now.

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South Asia

How the India-Bangladesh Cooperation can overcome challenges in the Agricultural Sector

Mozammil Ahmad

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The majority of South Asia is still an agrarian society depending on agriculture for livelihood and survival. Approximately, 60% people in India and Bangladesh are involved in agricultural activities to earn their livelihood. Out of them, over 87% and 70% of rural people in  Bangladesh and India respectively derive their income majorly from the agrarian sector. Therefore, it plays a crucial role in the economy of the developing countries.

Being the most prominent sector of the economy, bilateral cooperations in the agricultural sector can pave the way to overcome the current economic challenges in India and Bangladesh.

Challenges faced by India & Bangladesh in Agriculture

The coronavirus pandemic has affected the already agonized agriculture sectors in South Asia. With the spread of virus, disrupted labour and transportation during the lockdown, it is not an unknown fact that the agricultural sector has taken a hit.

Being neighbours and sharing one of the longest land borders with each other, India and Bangladesh faces similar kinds of challenges in agriculture. These are –

Coronavirus pandemic

Around the world, the coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on economies. Both India and Bangladesh are no exception to this. India’s GDP shrank 23.9% in the second quarter of 2020 even though the gross value added (GVA) from agriculture, forestry & fishing grew by 3.4% at constant prices in April-June 2020. Meanwhile, the agricultural sector in Bangladesh saw a decline to 3.11% in FY 2020 from 3.92% in FY 2019. These were the impact of the countrywide lockdown placed to reduce the spread of the Covid-19. Both of the countries being agrarian in nature, 60% of total population derives their livelihood from agriculture. Hence, it remains one of the most hit sectors in both the countries.

With the lockdown and restrictions in movement of goods and transport services, farmers struggled to harvest and sell their winter crops, hence facing widespread losses.

Mass Exodus of Migrant Workers

The workers of India and Bangladesh have faced double effects of the pandemic with the mass exodus of migrant workers and their humanitarian struggles. Millions of workers were forced to go back to their native places in both the countries due to lockdown. Many Bangladeshi workers who used to work in India also returned under the dire situation.

In India, when the lockdown announced in March 2020 put the migrant workers from rural areas in harm’s way both physically and economically. With factories and transportation shut down, and no mode for survival, migrant workers took to take long walks to their homes.

Bangladesh also witnessed a similar mass exodus of migrant workers from urban areas of Dhaka, Chittagong, Narayanganj,etc. A large number of Bangladeshi migrant workers also returned from abroad. These workers have lost their source of income and cannot return until the crisis brought by the Covid 19 could be handled. Even though the government of Bangladesh introduced various initiatives to reintegrate the migrant workers into the workforce, however, the stigmatization of Covid-19 being brought by outsiders still remains in Bangladesh.

With the mass migration, there are labour issues due to which there is farm labour scarcity in some areas and excess in others. In Bangladesh, for instance, farm wages have been rising steadily in the past decade but with migrants returning to their villages, wages have gone down. In the Indian state of Punjab, farmers are ferrying migrants who have gone to their native places in Bihar, UP, Madhya Pradesh back to Punjab to work on paddy farms. Since paddy sowing depends heavily on manual labour, the shortage due to the earlier exodus has led to a rise in wages, which will impact farmer’s profit margins.

Cyclone Amphan

On 20 May 2020, one of the dangerous cyclones, Cyclone Amphan hit the Bay of Bengal, affecting both India and Bangladesh. With a wind speed of 210 km/hr,  it first hit the land of the Indian states of Odisha and West Bengal. In India, it affected more than 4 million people. Amphan hit particularly at the Sundarbans at the border of India-Bangladesh. Though the storm was weakened when it hit land in Bangladesh, it still impacted more than 55,600 homes and displaced over 100,000 people. Amphan was the most powerful cyclone ever to form in the Bay of Bengal, and though it weakened before making landfall, it caused widespread damage in both countries. Cyclone Amphan is considered to be the costliest disaster in the Bay of Bengal.

According to Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee, Amphan destroyed over 28 percent of the Sundarbans, damaging a significant portion of the area’s mangrove forests. In addition to causing livelihood and human ramifications of the cyclone, it has also impacted the agriculture in both India and Bangladesh. There will be a long lasting impact on coastal communities’ livelihood. The storm has surged and salinized large portions of cropland making it unusable for yielding crops in the coming years.

Monsoon Flooding

In June 2020, the monsoon flooding added additional woes to the agricultural sectors of both India and Bangladesh. Both of the countries are still facing the effects of the pandemic, the migration, cyclone and a flood on top of that, just adds to the complexities.

The monsoon floods affected eight states in India. Odisha and Madhya Pradesh were the most affected states of India. There were 17 and 19 deaths recorded so far in Odisha and Madhya Pradesh respectively. There have been over 10,382 houses and 168,904 hectares of crop area affected due to these floods.

The excessive rains in Bangladesh has opened widespread havoc impacting food insecurity, livelihood and disruption of agricultural production. Around 7.53 million people were exposed to moderate flooding causing 700,000 households requiring food security and agricultural livelihoods support. There have been severe losses of crops, poultry, livestock and fisheries in 92 percent of the total affected unions. It is estimated that 125,459 ha of agricultural land require rehabilitation.

Bilateral Cooperations for Mutual Benefits for India and Bangladesh

The ongoing crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic and the additional challenges both countries face due to monsoon floods, mass exodus of migrants, cyclones are common to both the countries. As  neighbouring countries with quite a close diplomatic relation and porous land border, the need for a bilateral cooperation could be stressed between India and Bangladesh.

In a webinar on ‘Regional Cooperation in Trade and Development of Agriculture: Perspectives from Bangladesh and India’, the executive director of South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM), Selim Raihan said that bilateral cooperation and political willingness were most important in improving the trade in agriculture. The economic shutdown is hampering movement of products between the two countries and affecting farmers of the countries. With the opening up of the land ports, reviving the marketplaces along the borders of Bangladesh and North East India, can strengthen business-to-business communication. Hence, the enhanced cooperation will help farmers of both countries to market their agricultural products. This kind of cooperation can benefit farmers of both countries, increase regional trade and assist in export earning.

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Trade and integration — within the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and with the rest of the world...

Finance10 hours ago

4 Steps to a Successful International Expansion

Doing business internationally is not only a trivial thing nowadays but is also a must for many entrepreneurs who want...

Environment11 hours ago

Celebrating African youth turning the tide on plastic pollution

More than 400 young Africans were today honoured for their leadership in addressing plastic pollution in their communities as part...

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