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.
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.
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.
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.
India’s multi-alignment: the origins, the past, and the present
In the initial two decades following India’s independence, India’s foreign policy was heavily determined by the personal predilections of its first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his protégé VK Krishna Menon, both influenced by British socialism. Nehru himself handled the external affairs portfolio until his death in 1964.
The policy of ‘non-alignment’ which the duo initiated in India’s foreign policy gained world-wide attention since early 1950s, which later became a full-fledged movement and forum of discussion in 1961 (NAM) that consisted of developing and newly decolonised nations from different parts of the world, primarily from Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
But, the policy never meant isolationism or neutrality; rather it was conceived as a positive and constructive policy in the backdrop of the US-USSR Cold War, enabling freedom of action in foreign and security policies, even though many of the individual NAM member states had a tilt towards the Soviet Union, including India.
However, the lofty Nehruvian idealism of India’s foreign policy in its initial decades was not successful enough in integrating well into India’s security interests and needs, as it lost territories to both China and Pakistan during the period, spanning 1947 to 1964.
However, when Indira Gandhi assumed premiership, realism had strongly gained ground in India’s political, diplomatic and military circles, as evident in India’s successful intervention in the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971.
Even at that point of time, India still sticked on to the policy of non-alignment until it was no longer feasible in a changed international system that took shape following the end of the Cold War, which is where the origins of a new orientation in India’s foreign policy decision-making termed as ‘multi-alignment’ lies.
Today, India skilfully manoeuvres between China-led or Russia-led groupings such as the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), along with its involvement in US-led groupings such as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (or the Quad), in which Japan and Australia are also members.
Militarily though, India is still not part of any formal treaty alliance, and is simultaneously part of a diverse network of loose and issue-specific coalitions and regional groupings, led by adversarial powers, with varying founding objectives and strategic imperatives.
Today, non-alignment alone can no longer explain the fact that recently India took part in a US-chaired virtual summit meeting of the Quad in March 2021 and three months later attended a BRICS ministerial meet, where China and Russia were also present.
So, how did India progress from its yesteryear policy of remaining equidistant from both the US-led and Soviet-led military blocs (non-alignment) and how did it begin to align with multiple blocs or centres of power (multi-alignment)? Answer to this question stretches three decades back.
World order witness a change, India adapts to new realities
1992 was a watershed year for Indian diplomacy. A year back, the Soviet Union, a key source of economic and military support for India till then, disappeared in the pages of history, bringing the Cold War to its inevitable end.
This brought a huge vacuum for India’s strategic calculations. Combined with a global oil shock induced by the First Gulf War of 1990 triggered a balance of payment crisis in India, which eventually forced the Indian government to liberalise and open up its economy for foreign investments and face competition.
India elected a pragmatic new prime minister in 1991 – PV Narasimha Rao. The vision he had in mind for India’s standing in the world was quite different from his predecessors. Then finance minister and later PM, Dr Manmohan Singh announced in the Indian Parliament, “No power on earth can stop an idea whose time has come”.
This was during his 1991 budget speech and it marked the beginning of building a new India where excessive control of the state on economic and business affairs seemed no longer a viable option.
At a time when Japan’s economy was experiencing stagnation, China was ‘peacefully rising’, both economically and industrially. The United States remained as the most influential power and security provider in Asia with its far-reaching military alliance network.
As the unipolar world dawned proclaiming the supremacy of the United States, PM Rao steered Indian foreign policy through newer pastures, going beyond traditional friends and partners like Russia.
In another instance, 42 years after India recognised Israel as an independent nation in 1950, both countries established formal diplomatic ties in 1992. Indian diplomats accomplished a task long overdue without affecting the existing amicable ties with Palestine.
In the recent escalation of the Israel-Hamas conflict, it is worth noting that India took a more balanced stance at the United Nations, which was different from its previous stances that reflected an open and outright pro-Palestine narrative.
Today, India values its ties with Israel on a higher pedestal, even in areas beyond defence and counter-terrorism, such as agriculture, water conservation, IT and cyber security.
Breaking the ice with the giant across the Himalayas
China is a huge neighbour of India with which its shares a 3,488-km long un-demarcated border. Skirmishes and flare-ups resulting from difference in perception of the border and overlapping patrolling areas are a regular occurrence in this part of the world.
For the first time after the 1962 war with China, which resulted in a daunting defeat for India, diplomatic talks for confidence-building in the India-China border areas were initiated by the Rao government in 1993, resulting in the landmark Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the defacto border between India and China.
The agreement also provided a framework for ensuring security along the LAC between both sides until a final agreement on clear demarcation of the border is reached out. The 1993 agreement created an expert group consisting of diplomats and military personnel to advise the governments on the resolution of differences in perception and alignment of the LAC. The pact was signed in Beijing in September 1993, during PM Rao’s visit to China.
Former top diplomat of India Shivshankar Menon noted in one of his books that the 1993 agreement was “the first of any kind relating specifically to the border between the Republic of India and the People’s Republic of China … It formalized in an international treaty a bilateral commitment by India and China to maintain the status quo on the border. In effect, the two countries promised not to seek to impose or enforce their versions of the boundary except at the negotiating table.”
The 1993 pact was followed by another one in 1996, the Agreement on Military Confidence-Building Measures. The following two decades saw a number of agreements being signed and new working mechanisms being formalized, even though two major standoffs occurred in the Ladakh sector in 2013 and 2020 respectively and one in between in the Sikkim sector in 2017.
The agreements served as the basis upon which robust economic ties flourished in the 2000s and 2010s, before turning cold as a result of Chinese aggression of 2020 in Ladakh. However, the 1993 agreement still was a landmark deal as we consider the need for peace in today’s increasingly adversarial ties between the two nuclear-armed Asian giants.
Integrates with Asia’s regional architecture
Before the early 1990s, India’s regional involvements to its east remained limited to its socio-cultural ties, even though the region falls under India’s extended neighbourhood, particularly Southeast Asia. But, since 1992, when the Look East Policy (LEP) was formulated under the Rao government, India has been venturing into the region to improve its abysmal record of economic and trade ties with countries the region.
New Delhi began reaching out to the ASEAN or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 1992 and was made a Sectoral Partner of the association in the same year. Thus, India kicked-off the process of its integration into the broader Asian regional architecture.
In 1996, India became a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum, a key platform for talks on issues of security in the wider Indo-Pacific region. India became ASEAN’s summit-level partner in 2002 and a strategic partner in 2012.
A free trade agreement (FTA) was agreed between ASEAN and India in 2010. And in 2014, the erstwhile LEP was upgraded into the Act East Policy (AEP). Today, the ASEAN region remains at the centre of India’s evolving Indo-Pacific policy.
Bonhomie with the superpower across the oceans, the United States
1998 was an important year, not just for India, but for the world. Until May that year, only the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council possessed nuclear capabilities. That year, ‘Buddha smiled again’ in the deserts of India’s Rajasthan state, as India under PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee successfully conducted a series of underground nuclear bomb tests, declaring itself a nuclear state, 24 years after its first nuclear test in 1974 code-named ‘Smiling Buddha’.
The move surprised even the US intelligence agencies, as India managed to go nuclear by bypassing keen US satellite eyes that were overlooking the testing site. Shortly after this, Pakistan also declared itself a nuclear state.
India’s nuclear tests invited severe international condemnation for New Delhi and badly affected its relationship with Washington, resulting in a recalling of its Ambassador to India and imposed economic sanctions, which was a big blow for India’s newly liberalised economy.
But, a bonhomie was reached between India and the US in a matter of two years and then US President Bill Clinton visited India in March 2000, the first presidential visit since 1978. The Indo-US Science and technology Forum was established during this visit and all the sanctions were revoked by following year.
Bharat Karnad, a noted Indian strategic affairs expert, notes in one his books that, “Vajpayee’s regime conceived of ‘strategic autonomy’ to mask its cultivating the US, which resulted in the NSSP”.
The Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP) between the US and India was launched in January 2004 that covered wide ranging areas of cooperation such as nuclear energy, space, defence and trade. This newfound warmth in Indo-US relations was taken to newer heights with the conclusion of the landmark civil nuclear deal between 2005 and 2008.
Today, India is a key defence partner of the United States, having signed all the four key foundational pacts for military-to-military cooperation, the latest being the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for geo-spatial cooperation, signed in October 2020. The two countries are key partners in the Quad grouping and share similar concerns about an increasingly assertive China in the Indo-Pacific region.
Like his predecessors, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been trying to cultivate this special relationship with the United States, reinforced by cooperation in the Quad grouping and also by constantly engaging a 4.8-million strong Indian diaspora in the United States.
The leaders of both countries, from Vajpayee to Modi and from Clinton to Trump have reciprocated bilateral visits to each other’s countries. And, India looks forward to the Biden-Harris administration for new areas of cooperation.
But, a recent military manoeuvre in April, this year, by a US Navy ship (which it calls a FONOP or Freedom of Navigation Operation) in India’s exclusive economic zone, off Lakshadweep coast, casted a shadow over this relations.
The US openly stated in social media that it entered the area without seeking India’s prior consent and asserted its navigational rights. This invited mixed reactions, as it was highly uncalled for. While some analysts consider it humiliating, others think that the incident occurred due to the difference of perceptions about international maritime law in both countries.
Today, along with the US, India skilfully manages its ‘historical and time-tested’ ties with Russia, a strategic foe of the US, and moves forward to purchase Russian-made weapon systems, such as the S-400 missile defence system, even after a threat of sanctions. But, in the past several years, India has been trying to diversify its defence procurements from other countries such as France and Israel and has been also promoting indigenisation of defence production.
A BRICS formula for responsible multilateralism
India is a founding member of the BRICS grouping, formalised in 2006, now consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – the emerging economies of that time with a potential to drive global economic growth and act as an alternate centre of power along with other groupings of rich countries such as the G-7 and the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development).
India always stood for a responsible global multilateral system and rules-based order. Indian leaders have attended all summit-level meetings of BRICS since 2009 unfailingly. Last year, the summit took place in the backdrop of India-China border standoff in Ladakh, under Russia’s chair, a common friend of both countries, where the leaders of India and China came face-to-face for the first time, although in virtual format.
The primary focus of BRICS remains economic in nature, but it also takes independent stances on events occurring in different parts of the world. The grouping also established a bank to offer financial assistance for development projects known as the New Development Bank (NDB) based in Shanghai, China, in 2014, with an Indian as its first elected president.
BRICS also became the first multilateral grouping in the world to endorse the much-needed TRIPS waiver proposal jointly put forward by India and South Africa at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to suspend intellectual property rights on Covid vaccine-making during the duration of the pandemic to provide developing countries that lack adequate technologies with means to battle the virus.
As India gears up to host this year’s upcoming BRICS summit, there is no doubt that being part of the grouping has served the country’s interests well.
Manoeuvring the SCO, along the shores of the Indo-Pacific
The SCO or the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is a regional organisation consisting of eight Eurasian powers, largest in the world both in terms of land area and population covered. It stands for promoting mutual cooperation and stability, where security issues can be freely discussed and conflicts are attempted to be resolved.
India is not a founding member of the SCO, which was created in 2001. Both India and Pakistan were admitted as full members in 2017. The grouping’s members also include Russia, China and four Central Asian countries, excluding Turkmenistan.
Sharing a common platform with Pakistan and China and the presence of a long-term friend, Russia, has helped India diplomatically in key occasions. Using the SCO platform, the existing differences between member states can be discussed and prevented from escalating into major conflicts.
This was evident most recently visible in 2020 when the foreign ministers of India and China agreed on a plan for the disengagement of Indian and Chinese troops from the LAC, as a major step in the diffusion of tensions in Ladakh that had erupted since May that year.
But, Russia and China collectively oppose the usage of the term ‘Indo-Pacific’, something that surfaced into political discourse with the famous speech delivered by the former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in August 2007 in the Parliament of India, calling for “the confluence of two seas” and hinting at a new maritime continuum of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
It is in this context that the grouping of India, Japan, Australia and the United States gained prominence. The four Quad countries came together to offer humanitarian assistance following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the ambit of the grouping’s co-operation ranges from maritime security to cooperation in Covid vaccine production and distribution.
After a decade since the first joint naval exercise of the four Quad countries took place in 2007, the ASEAN’s Manila summit in 2017 provided a platform for the four countries to connect with each other and enhance consultations to revive the four-nation grouping.
The Quad has been raised to the summit level now with the March 2021 virtual summit, and has also conducted two joint naval exercises so far, one in 2007 and the other in 2020. This loose coalition is widely perceived as a counterweight to an increasingly assertive China.
India is the only country in the Quad that shares a land border with China. At the same time, India is also the only country that is not a formal security ally of the United States, meaning if India quits, the Quad ceases to exist, while the other three countries can still remain as treaty allies. However, setting the US aside, cooperation among the other three Quad partners has also been witnessing a boom since the last year.
India and Japan have expanded co-operation in third countries in India’s neighbourhood such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar to improve connectivity and infrastructure in the region and offer an alternative to China’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, which is perceived as having implications of a potential debt-trap aimed at fetching strategic gains.
Amid the pandemic, both the countries have joined hands with Australia to launch a Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI) to diversify key supply chains away from China.
However, India doesn’t perceive a free and open Indo-Pacific as an exclusionary strategy targeted at containing some country, rather as an inclusive geographic concept, where co-operation over conflict is possible. This was articulated by Prime Minister Modi in 2018 at the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore.
Various additions were made to this view in later stages, as the concept evolved into a coherent form, representing New Delhi’s expanding neighbourhood. This vision aligns well with related initiatives such the Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) and the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI), aimed at improving maritime security, trade, connectivity and management of shared resources.
For India, this is an era of complex multi-alignment, different from the Cold War-era international system, where multiple centres of power exist. At different time periods in the past, India has adapted well to the changing circumstances and power dynamics in the international system.
India’s strategic posture today, despite being aspirational, is to have good relations with all its neighbours, regional players, and the major powers, to promote rules-based order, and in the due process to find its own deserving place in the world.
In July, last year, India’s External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar has made it clear that India ‘will never be part of an alliance system’, even though a tilt towards the US is increasingly getting visible, taking the China factor into account. Jaishankar also stated that global power shifts are opening up spaces for middle powers like India.
As the world tries to avoid another Cold War, this time between the United States and China, the competing geopolitics of the Eurasian landmass and the Indo-Pacific maritime region is poised to add up to New Delhi’s many dilemmas in the coming years.
The unrecognized demographic situation of West Bengal and consequences yet to occur
World’s second large demographic nation India’s state West Bengal is now apparently residence of over 91 million population. At the same time, West Bengal is the fourth-most populous state and the fourteenth-large state by area in India. It is also the seventh-most populous country subdivision of the world. To get an insight into the present situation of West Bengal anyone has to look back in 1947 and later consequences. As being a prominent ethnocultural region of India, West Bengal faced political partition in the year 1947 in the wake of the transformation of British India into two separate independent nations India and Pakistan. Under the process of partition, the then Bengal province was bifurcated into two segments. The predominately Hindu living area named West Bengal, a state of India, and the predominately-Muslim living area turned as East Bengal and after becoming a province of Pakistan that renamed as East Pakistan and later in 1971, the Muslim-majority country of Bangladesh.
In 1971 at the time of partition, the Muslim population of West Bengal counted 12% and the Hindu population of East Bengal remained 30%. While at present, with continuous Muslim immigration, Hindu persecution, conversions, and less production of offspring, West Bengal’s Muslim population has increased to 30% (up to 63% in some districts). While as per the counting report of 2011 Bangladesh’s Hindu population has decreased to 8%. When at the present situation for Hindus in Bangladesh is certainly dire, then life has become increasingly difficult for Hindus in West Bengal, having a Muslim-appeasing government. The governance of the elected government led to the demographic and cultural shifts in West Bengal. Prevailing of the same governance after the 2021 Bidhansabha election leads to the destruction of Hindu’s belonging everywhere in Bengal. The situation stood worse in the outskirts where media coverage is poor, compelling Hindu families to flee in adjacent states or to hide. A sizable number of Bengali Hindu families already preferred to shift to Assam.
Looking back as per a striking report of July 2014 by Times of India fewer children were born in Bengal and the prediction was there will be even fewer in the next generation. The 2011 Census shows a decadal growth of 13.84% in West Bengal, which was significantly below the national growth average of 17.7%, and the decadal growth was lowest ever and beaten only by the aftermath of the infamous Famine of Bengal,1942.
While the retrospective study of the demography of West Bengal shows that the culturally dominant Hindu population in West Bengal during the first census of 1951 was around 19,462,706 and in the 2011 census it had increased to 64,385,546. While the percentage of the Hindu population in the state decreased from 78.45% in 1951 to 70.54% in the 2011 Census. The data sharply indicates fewer children birth within families of Hindus only while the population of Muslim counterparts tends to grow over time. Once considered a symbol of Indian culture, what has happened in Bengal for the last few decades is the indicator of West Bengal’s demographic future.
Starting from the diminishing of the Hindu culture, communal riots against the Hindus have started happening for quite some time and the situation has been that the banning of celebrating the festivals of Hindus has started in the last few years. Added to those the recent genocide of Hindus depicting a recent trend of population.
Back in 2015 the famous American journalist Janet Levy has written an article on Bengal and the revelations that have been made in it state that Bengal will soon become a separate Islamic country. Janet Levy claims in her article that civil war is going to start soon in Bengal after Kashmir. Which almost begun in recent times in the wake of the Bidhansabha Election of West Bengal.
Ushering the prediction of Janet Levy mass Hindus will be massacred and demanded a separate country.
She cited the facts for his claim back in 2015 that the Chief Minister of West Bengal has recognized more than 10,000 madrassas who were privileged to receive funds from Saudi Arabia and made their degree eligible for a government job, money comes from Saudi and in those madrassas, Wahhabi bigotry is taught.
In the recent past Chief Minister started several Islamic city projects where Islamic people are taught also started a project to establish an Islamic city in West Bengal. It’s evident that Chief Minister has also declared various types of stipends for the Imams of mosques but no such stipends were declared for Hindus primarily. Janet Levy has given many examples around the world where terrorism, religious fanaticism, and crime cases started increasing as the Muslim population increased. With increasing population, a separate Sharia law is demanded at such places, and then finally it reaches the demand of a separate country.
Author and activist Taslima Nasreen once became reason to test the ground reality for West Bengal.
In 1993, Taslima Nasreen wrote a book ‘Lajja’ on the issue of atrocities on Hindus in Bangladesh and forcibly making them Muslims.
After writing the book, she had to leave Bangladesh facing the threat of bigotry. The author settled in Kolkata considering that she will be safe there as India is a secular country and the constitution also provided the freedom of expression. Eventually experienced the nightmare that Taslima Nasreen had to face a riot-like situation against her in 2007 in Kolkata. Even in a secular country like India, Muslims banned Taslima Nasreen with hatred. Fatwas issued to cut her throat on the secular land of India.
Upholding the threat the author was also attacked several times in different cities of the country.
But the secular Leftists never supported Taslima, not even the Trinamool government of West Bengal because the Muslims would get angry and the vote bank would face shaking.
That time first attempt was made in which Muslim organizations in West Bengal demanded the Islamic blasphemy (Blasfamie) law. Raising questions on India’s secularism and action of secular parties.
Janet Levy further wrote that for the first time in 2013 some fundamentalist Maulanas of Bengal started demanding a separate ‘Mughalistan’. In the same year riots in Bengal, houses and shops of hundreds of Hindus were looted and many temples were also destroyed by rioters under the safe shelter of government and police.
After the Bidhansava Election 2021 the Hindus of West Bengal facing the same or even worse situation.
Are Hindus boycotted?
Victorious party supremo of West Bengal was afraid that if the Muslims were stopped they would get angry and would not vote and after getting freshly elected her government falls into that vicious circle again.
It is evident from the aftermath of the election result in West Bengal that not only riots but to drive away Hindus, in districts where there are more Muslims, boycotting Hindu businessman. In the Muslim majority districts of Malda, Murshidabad, and North Dinajpur, Muslims do not even buy goods from Hindu shops. This is the reason why a large number of Hindus have started migrating from West Bengal like Kashmiri Pandits, here Hindus leaving their homes and businesses and moving to other places. These are the districts where Hindus have become a minority.
Invoking such incidents Janet, stated that the demand for partition of Bengal from India will soon begin from the land of West Bengal. No demographic theorist interpreted the present demographic situation of West Bengal sabotaging Malthusian theory.
In accord with Janet’s analysis, a few recent sources also indicated the number of the Muslim population, in reality, is much higher than the number on record given to the hiding of numbers of children by Muslim parents when a survey takes place. Implementing CAA, NRC could have been way out for West Bengal to check the proper demographic status and to prevent further population explosion to sustain Bengali Hindus. Perceiving the appeasement politics of government for the last 10 years it’s seeming to be unlikely to get any sharp solution.
Covid-19 has made Feminist Foreign Policy all the more Relevant to India
As the impact of the year long COVID19 pandemic continues to be felt across different parts of India—where patriarchy is entrenched in the social code and inequalities against women are being intuitively practised—the repercussions of the health crisis along with the ever deepening gender gaps are being disproportionately and severely borne by women. Yet, most of the discussions revolving around the pandemic have either been gender-blind or gender-neutral, often resulting in the systemic subjugation or marginalisation of women.
In light of these challenges, the thematic debate on gender equality can no longer continue just on papers, it in fact, needs to be converted into actions by the Indian government in order to deal with the short term consequences of the pandemic as well as to develop long-term sustainable peace. The adoption of a Feminist Foreign Policy (FFP) framework is the best way to achieve this dual goal. A FFP could offer a concrete opportunity for India to build a more inclusive policy making set-up; breakaway from the predominant patriarchal notions; and, address pandemic relief strategies—from the viewpoint of women and other vulnerable or under-represented sections of society.
Gendered Impact of COVID19 in India
Within India’s socio-cultural and economic realms—that have historically been marred by inequalities and rigid stereotypes—the gendered effects of the COVID19 pandemic have been both, intersectional and complex.
To begin with, owing to the rapidly increasing number of COVID-19 patients, health-care workers in India, particularly the nurses of whom approximately 88.9 per cent are women remain much more vulnerable to contracting the deadly virus. The existing problem of shortage of basic equipment for these healthcare workers further aggravates these concerns.
Second, the pandemic has had a detrimental impact on an already shrinking Indian economy resulting in financial cut downs and rising unemployment. Women—either due to the deeply embedded patriarchal attitudes or due to the subconscious bias that arises out of such attitudes—have stood at the forefront of being temporarily or permanently laid-off from their jobs. According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, with the commencement of the nationwide lockdown, the rate of unemployment reached 23.5 per cent in March to April 2020 with higher shares of unemployed women. The unemployment rate for women further reached 12.39 per cent as of February 2021.
Third, women in India are now being confronted with a shadow pandemic where forced proximity, isolation, increased substance abuse, lack of access to justice etc. during the on-going health crisis has resulted in an increasing threat of domestic or gender-based violence. As per a set of data released by the National Commission of Women in April 2020, there was an almost 100 per cent increase in domestic violence during the lockdown.
Nonetheless, these are only some of the immediate effects of the pandemic on women in India. There are other sequential consequences that will emerge in time including, the problems of depletion in savings and assets, pandemic-related widowhood, etc., which would collaboratively make recovery extremely difficult for women.
Evidently, in India, the pandemic is exploiting pre-existing economic and social inequalities along with social norms that give men embedded advantages, and has been posing a real threat to closing gender gaps. In fact, according to the recent World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap index, India has already slipped down 28 spots to rank 140th among 156 countries in comparison to its 112th position among 153 countries for the year 2019-2020.
But despite bearing a differential impact, women in India have not been included either directly or indirectly in the development of response strategies to deal with COVID19. As such, they remain absent from decision-making tables that involve the shaping of the future of our societies. However, research indicates that the inclusion of women along with other diverse voices makes for better options in policy making and in bringing about comprehensive outcomes that accommodate the needs and concerns of all groupings.
How can a FFP help?
These unfortunate states of affairs demand an adjustment in India’s thinking and strategy, bring about a paradigmatic shift in its traditional policymaking and allow for diverse representation to effectively deal with COVID19 pandemic. The present crisis is therefore, precisely the time to be talking about a FFP in India and for its representatives to make a stronger commitment to mainstream gender at the policy level.
By critically reflecting on the existing international power structures, a FFP framework focuses on protecting the needs of marginalised and female groups and places issues of human security and human rights at the heart of discussions. In doing so, it provides a fundamental shift from the conventional understanding of security to include other arena of foreign policy such as economics, finance, environment, health, trade etc.
With this new perception of health risks and crisis management as a security threat, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, India can potentially explore broadening the humanitarian trade options under its international arrangements to address shortages of medicine and lack of access to personal protective equipment for health workers within its territory— a vast majority of which continue to be women.
The adoption of a FFP could also pave the way for an increased regional cooperation, facilitate regional discussions on myriad issues and enable the development of targeted recovery program designed specifically for the empowerment of women. Such a program would account for the fact that the economic repercussions of crises disproportionately affect women and therefore, help India in securing assistance from its neighbour to address the gendered economic and social effects of the COVID19 pandemic.
Besides, FFP does not only mean considering power structures and managing relations at the global level alone but also evaluating outcomes within the country’s own domestic landscape. In this sense, a FFP could provide India with an important starting point for bringing about an internal shift by focusing more on gender issues, especially in terms of the strictly defined patriarchal gender roles and eliminate barriers that continue to restrict women’s participation in decision-making processes.
An emphasis on women’s participation in India’s leadership positions would in turn catalyse the application a gender lens to the process of domestic policymaking, thereby, achieving comprehensive outcomes that are inclusive of diverse perspectives. Such policies will promote women’s concerns as humanitarian issues, prioritize and safeguard the continuum of sexual and reproductive health and rights, and continue to facilitate the provision of information and education, thus making women better equipped to deal with the consequences of the pandemic.
Adding on to these factors, given that the FFP is an all-inclusive approach, its application could also potentially strengthen cooperation between the Indian government and civil society organisations or women’s network at home as well as abroad to manage the pandemic and its deleterious effect on people, especially women. At a time when the government resources are overwhelmed in their fight against the pandemic, greater involvement of civil society organisations can in fact, play a critical role in advocating social justice, women’s rights, social equity, and provide medical and food support, distribution of hygiene kits, spreading awareness about the virus, etc. These efforts could bring about a considerable improvement in women’s vulnerable position under the current Covid19 crisis in India.
As such, the FFP approach offers huge potential to address some the major institutional and organisational injustices against women in India, and the COVID19 pandemic represents a critical juncture in this regards. A FFP is important not only to ensure that the gendered imbalances inflicted by COVID19 do not become permanent but also for the long term economic and social development of the country, the strengthening of democratic institutions, and the advancement of national security as well as peace. But whether India will adopt or even consider moving towards a FFP in the near future remains to be seen.
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