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India: PM Modi government’s two-year extravaganza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shuttle triclomacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big bossism

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

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

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

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

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

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

BJP’s quiet corruption

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

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

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

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

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

Modi should introspect

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BJP and Modi can only promote corruption

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Observation

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

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

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South Asia

The Taliban-Afghanistan Dilemmas

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Source: Twitter

The Blitzkrieg winning back of Afghanistan by the Taliban with the concomitant US pullout established Taliban 2.0 in Kabul. But this has created a number of dilemmas for the stakeholding states. The latter include Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours, viz. Iran in the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north, China in the northeast and Pakistan to the east. Russia is also affected since it considers former Central Asian Soviet republics like Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as its backyard and since Moscow has its own share of extremist-secessionist problems in Chechnya. It is also worried about Islamic fundamentalism spreading to its Muslim population concentrated around its major cities and the Caucasus.

The dilemmas are as follows:

I. If the US-led withholding of economic aid and international recognition continues in essence, then conditions– as it is they are bad enough in Afghanistan—will further deteriorate. This will lead to greater hunger, unemployment and all-round economic deprivation of the masses. Such dystopia will generate more refugees in droves as well as terrorists who will spill out to seek greener pastures beyond the country’s borders.

Such condition will in turn mean a life-threatening headache for not only Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours like Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, China and Pakistan but also for more distant lands. The liberal democracies of Europe. Germany, France, Italy, the UK and others have already had their share of refugees—and terrorists—when waves from an unsettled Syria hit them way back in 2015. Chancellor Angela Merkel even decided to act magnanimously and opened Germany’s doors to a million fleeing the civil war in Syria. Such acceptance of refugees from Asia and Africa in Europe, however, boosted right-wing parties like the Alternative for Germany (AfD) and other movements throughout that continent. As a result the easy cross-border movements within the European Union came to be partly restricted in order to keep unwanted refugees out. Calls went out for hardening the external borders of the EU against more refugee invasion. The EU also made arrangements with Turkey to absorb and manage the refugee onrush in exchange for fat amounts of the Euro.

The prospects of a second such wave of refugees desperate not only to escape the clutches of the medieval Taliban but to find a promising future and remarkably better living conditions in the advanced lands of Europe are giving nightmares to the governments of the latter countries.

There seems to be a growing consensus among many in the international community that not only purely humanitarian but also larger economic aid to the Taliban-run Afghanistan should be extended—and without delay, if only to keep a lid on refugees—and terrorists—spilling across the borders. Islamabad apparently scored a remarkable ‘victory’ over New Delhi when its protégé Taliban replaced the pro-Indian Ghani government. Nevertheless, it is worried about the spillover into its territory across the Durand Line to its west. Pakistan, hence, leads this school of thought most vociferously[i]. It fenced its border with Afghanistan to a significant extent in anticipation of more refugees pouring in.  It has been joined in the chorus by Russia, the EU, China, and others. China, for instance, has emphasized the need for releasing funds to Afghanistan at its talks with the G-20 on 23 September.[ii] However, no such stipulation is seen in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) declaration released at the Tajik capital Dushanbe on 17 September, though the document mentions explicitly the need for an “inclusive” government that includes the left-out minorities. India’s presence at the meet may have prevented the inclusion of a funds-release clause.

II. But even if the US unfreezes the $9.25 billion Afghan assets under its control, and allows the IMF and the World Bank to make available other funds and assets to the funds-starved Taliban’s Kabul, a major problem will still linger. This is the question of ‘inclusive’ government, which the Taliban had promised among other things in its February 2020 agreement with the USA at Doha. The composition of the current Taliban government shows the mighty influence of the hardliners within the Taliban, elements like the Haqqani network and the secretive hardcore Kandahar Shura—as opposed to the seemingly more moderate Pakistan-based Quetta Shura. The Prime Minister of Taliban 2.0, Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, is on a UN-designated blacklist; its Interior Minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is on the top of the FBI’s most-wanted list with a multi-million dollars reward hanging over his head.  

Although the Taliban did not officially take a formal position, a member of the new government in Kabul has also defied calls from Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and from other quarters for forming a more ‘inclusive’ government. That would mean more Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras and women holding important positions in the government, a phenomenon markedly absent in the current governmental setup dominated by male Pashtuns. The Taliban member shot back that the current government was as much ‘inclusive’ as it was possible to make and that the Taliban did not care for others to dictate to it what kind of government would suit Afghanistan.

If Taliban 2.0 remains essentially as it is today, with the minorities ignored, this would still create unrest and insurgency in the country. A civil war in the not too distant a future cannot be ruled out. This is the reason that even Pakistan, which certainly would not like to see its protégé Taliban’s power diluted, keeps harping on the ‘inclusive’ clause along with Russia and others.

A civil war will not be confined within the boundaries of Afghanistan but will attract intervention by neighbouring states and other more distant stakeholders like the USA.  Tajikistan will continue to back the Tajiks living astride its southern border with Afghanistan. Uzbekistan will do the same with the Afghan Uzbeks. Shia Iran will  stand up for the Shia Hazaras while the Western world will, in general, wish to see ‘human rights’ and especially ‘women’s rights’ given full leeway. The Chinese seemed to have cut a deal. They would extend economic aid to Kabul in exchange for assurances that no terrorism or separatism would go out of Afghan territory.

But Taliban 2.0, despite its smooth assurances at Doha and elsewhere, shows no signs of stretching significantly from its understanding of the Sharia law, which it said it wished to uphold as a framework within which all these rights would be respected. There are reports that the US is in talks with Russia seeking a base on Russian territory or again in Tajikistan for its future ‘over-the-horizon’ operations in Afghanistan, starting with monitoring purposes.

In sum, while option I, outlined above, promises an immediate disaster for South Asia and even beyond, option II holds out  only marginally better prospects. It still has the Damocles’ sword of the probability of a civil war hanging over the head. The ideal solution would be to widen the Taliban 2.0 government to include the deprived minorities with an eye on keeping an effective lid on social instability. But the prospects for such a solution seem far-fetched, given the apparent domination of the hardliners in Taliban 2.0 and the long-standing animosity between the northern non-Pashtun Afghans and the Pashtun Taliban.. Also, the attacks by other extremist groups like the Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K), al Qaeda, and the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) and so on will unlikely cease, even if option II is fully implemented. These extra-Taliban extremist groups will only encourage the radical elements within the Taliban to opt for more aggressive actions, both within and outside Afghanistan’s borders.

The future in and around Afghanistan looks grim indeed.


[i] Incidentally, the Pashtuns living on both sides of the British-drawn Durand Line of 1893  do not recognise it, and that includes the Taliban)

[ii] Reid Standish report, gandhara.org of rfe/rl.org, 27 September 2021, accessed 14 October 2021, 09.07 Indian Standard Time (IST)… All times henceforth are in IST.

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How India utilised the AFSPA to suppress freedom movements?

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The freedom movements in the volatile north-eastern state of India predate the Partition. The Englishman realised importance of the North East as it could provide a corridor to the Japanese in World War II. India applied the Armed forces Special Powers Act first to the north eastern states of Assam and Manipur, a cauldron of unrest. The act was amended in 1972 to extend to all the seven states in the north eastern region of India. The states affected by the draconian law included Assam. Manipur, Tripura, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland, also known as the seven sisters. The forces brutally applied the AFSPA to the states. It ignored outcry by people against has mounting incidents of arbitrary detention, torture, rape and looting. Indian government continued to extend the initial period for imposition of the law ad infinitum sometimes with ex post facto notifications. Its pleas were without AFSPA all the north eastern states will secede from India.  

Gunpoint diplomacy

A large part of the original region that constitutes the seven states of the republic of India had strong political, economic and socio-cultural links with South East Asia. The great Hindu and Muslim empires that reigned over the Indian subcontinent never extended east of the Brahmaputra River. The British colonists were the first to repress freedom movements. . In the early nineteenth century they moved in to check Burmese expansion into today’s Manipur and Assam. The British, with the help of the then Manipur king, Gambhir Singh, crushed the Burmese imperialist dream and the treaty of Yandabo was signed in 1828. Under this treaty Assam became a part of British India and the British continued to influence the political affairs of the region.

The resentment against the Englishman led to the bloody Anglo-Manipuri Conflict of 1891. The British were subdued by the fighting spirit of the local people. So, they preferred not to administer directly but only through the King.

During the Second World War, the Japanese tried to enter the Indian sub continent through this narrow corridor. But back home when Hiroshima and Nagasaki were A-bombed they retreated from the Imphal and Kohima fronts.

A buffer zone

Before leaving India, the British pondered over many proposals for post-Partition of India. The local people were however never consulted. Finally the British divided the region such that some parts went to Pakistan but the lion’s share to India.

Over the years local democratic movements erupted as the people aspired to a new social and political order. One important example is a strong popular democratic movement against feudalism and colonialism in Manipur, led by Hijam Irabot Singh.

The treacherous annexation of Manipur

The post-Partition India reconstituted the kingdom of Manipur as a constitutional monarchy by passing the Manipur Constitution Act 1947. Elections were held under the new constitution. A legislative assembly was formed. In 1949 V.P Menon, a seminar representative of Government of India, invited the king to a meeting on the pretext of discussing the deteriorating law and order situation in the state in Shillong. Upon his arrival, the king was forced to sign under duress. The agreement was never ratified in the Manipur legislative Assembly. Rather, the Assembly was dissolved and Manipur was kept under the charge of a Chief Commissioner. There were strong protests but using violent and brutal repression the Government of India suppressed the democratic movement in Manipur and has continued applying the same methods ever since.

Colonisation of Nagaland

The inhabitants of the Naga Hills, sprawling across Indo-Burmese border, formed Naga National Council (NNC) aspiring for a common homeland and self governance. During 1929, the NNC petitioned the Simon Commission for independence. The Commission was examining the feasibility of future of self governance of India.

The Naga leaders forcefully articulated the demand of self governance once the British pulled out of India. Gandhi publicly announced that Nagas had every right to be independent. Under the Hydari Agreement signed between NNC and British administration, Nagaland was granted protected status for ten years, after which the Nagas would decide whether they should stay in the Indian union or not. However, shortly after the British withdrew, the new Indian rulers colonized Nagaland and claimed it to be Indian Territory.

The Naga National Council proclaimed Nagaland’s independence in retaliation, and the Indian authorities arrested the Naga leaders. The AFSPA was used to violently suppress the democratic aspirations of the people of North East. In 1975, some Naga leaders held talks with the Government of India which resulted in the Shillong Agreement. Democratic forces of Nagaland smelt a rat in this deceptive agreement and rallied the people for national liberation of Nagas. One of the organizations which articulated the democratic demand of Naga people is National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN).

Mizoram

Mizo National front was a phenomenal product of a famine. In the Lushai Hills of Assam in the early sixties a famine broke out. A relief team requested for help from the Government of India. But there was little help. The relief team organised themselves into the Mizo National front (MNF) to liberate themselves from the neo-colonial occupation of India. Against the democratic aspirations of the people Indian army moved in. The rebellion was so strong, that the Indian air force had to bomb the villagers. The armed forces compelled people to leave their homes. This devastated the structure of Mizo society. In 1986, the Mizo Accord was signed between MNF and Government of India. This accord was as deceptive as the Shillong Accord made with the Nagas earlier. To promote dominance by high caste Hindus, India clubbed poor non-feudal ethnic groups with Adivasis, cheating them in the name of scheduled tribes and in the process forcing them to be marginalized and stigmatized by the upper caste ruling elites of India.

Gradually it became the neocolonial hinterland for exploitation by the Indian state, where local industries were made worthless and now the people are entirely dependent on goods and businesses owned predominantly by those from the Indo-Gangetic plains. The new Indian unscrupulous businesses pull the economic strings of this region.

Tripura

In Tripura the indigenous population has been reduced to a mere 25% of the total population of the state because of large scale immigration from the North east and Bangladesh.

A series of repressive laws were passed by the Government of India in order to deal with this rising National liberation aspiration of the people of North east. In 1953 the Assam maintenance of Public Order (Autonomous District) Regulation Act was passed. It was applicable to the then Naga Hills and Tuensang districts. It empowered the Governor to impose collective fines, prohibit public meetings, and detain anybody without a warrant. Indian atrocities from 1980 onwards include: the massacres of civilians at Heirangoi thong (Manipur) in 1984, at RIMS Manipur in 1995, at Malom (Manipur) in 2000; the horror of army torture and violence on civilians during operation Blue bird (Manipur) in 1987 and operation Rhino (Assam) in 1991. Indiscriminate firing on civilians by armed forces personnel when their own vehicle burst in the town of Kohina (Nagaland) in March 1995, the shelling and destruction of the town of Makokchung (Nagaland) in 1994, the enforced disappearances of Loken and Lokendro (Manipur) in 1996, and the rape of Miss N Sanjita (who subsequently committed suicide) (Manipur) in 2003.

Concluding remark

After the Partition, India emerged as the new-colonial power. The North East still yeans for freedom.

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South Asia

The myth of “shared values”

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PM Narendra Modi and US Vice-President Kamala Harris during a press statement. (Photo: Twitter/@MEAIndia)

The Indian prime minister’s visit to the USA underlines a paradigm shift in the United States’ policy: a shift from Europe to Asia. The shift is dictated by India’s constant pressure on the US to do its part of the quid pro quo for India’s joining the Quad, a conglomerate to corner China. Like the USA, India also is embarrassed at the fall of Kabul. India wants that the Taliban would shut their eyes to the reign of terror in the occupied Kashmir. In its disappointment, the USA, like a rueful baby, is doing everything on India’s bidding to further isolate Pakistan.

Still the portents are that not everything is hunky-dory with Indo-US relations. The US wants India to cancel its deal to purchase the S-400 air defence system from Russia. The US has given India a muffled message that unless the deal is cancelled India may face sanctions. India is hopeful of getting a waiver.After all, India became a member of the nuclear club without signing the Non-Proliferation Treaty. India has been a recipient of the US favours in the past also.  In July 2003 India turned down the US request to provide 17,000 troops to shore up America’s war in Iraq. Then, India under prime minister Manmohan Singh also refused to support any US attempts to isolate or topple the Iran government. Manmohan wished Russian diplomacy on Iran’s nuclear programme would succeed.The US companies have invested $ 200 billion in China. Yet, she is perceived as the number one competitor to the US. The reason is that China may surpass the US in terms of Gross Domestic Product growth in the near future.

US ennui
To Modi’s chagrin, the US president Joe Biden and vice-president Kamala Harris underscored the importance of democratic values in their meetings. Biden quoted Mahatma Gandhi’s message of tolerance to allude to prevailing intolerance of BJP’s government, an avatar of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Harris stressed the need for democratic countries to “defend democratic principles and institutions. Her remarks amounted to a diplomatic nudge to the Indian leadership amid concerns about “democratic backsliding” in India (Freedom house and the Economist downgraded India).
Before Biden and Modi joined their delegations for bilateral talks, the US President had made opening remarks: “Our partnership is more than just what we do. It’s about who we are…. It’s rooted in our shared responsibility to uphold democratic values, our joint commitment to diversity, and it’s about family ties, including four million Indian Americans who make the United States stronger every single day.”
Harris said at a joint media appearance with Modi before their first in-person meeting at the White House: “As democracies around the world are under threat, it is imperative that we defend democratic principles and institutions within our respective countries and around the world, and that we maintain what we must do to strengthen democracies at home.
She had earlier openly differed on Twitter with Jaishanker when he refused to attend a meeting with the House foreign affairs committee because the US legislators had rejected his request to exclude Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who had been critical of the Modi government’s Kashmir policy.
“It’s wrong for any foreign government to tell Congress what members are allowed in meetings on Capitol Hill,” Harris had tweeted in December 2019.
Shared values
As for “tolerance”, the US invasions of Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan leave no doubt about how much the US believes in what it professes.

India’s democratic “tolerance”

Since British raj days, India’s north east had been a simmering cauldron of freedom movements. British colonists held sway over the North East at gun point. In footsteps of the British colonists India suppressed freedom movements in the volatile North East through a slew of draconian laws. The most atrocious law applied to the region was the Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1958. It was later extended to the disputed Jammu and Kashmir state also.

The AFSPA violates the fundamental constitutional rights of right to life, liberty, freedom of speech and expression, peaceful assembly, free movement, practice of any profession, and protection against arbitrary arrest and freedom of religion, as enshrined in Articles 21, 14, 19, 22 and 25 of the Indian Constitution.   AFSPA has been used in these regions to inflict thousands of deaths, custodial deaths and rape, torture, encirclement of the civilian population, combing operations, looting of private citizen’s property etc. Thousands of youth have simply disappeared.

Onus of proof on the accused

The AFSPA holds an accused guilty until proven innocent. This law violates legal maxim Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat (“innocent until proven guilty”).

A quasi-emergency

A governor of an Indian state could through a notification declare a state to be “disturbed” without consulting the state legislature. The law gives armed forces immunity from any accountability. The law is not “in aid of civil authority” but “in place of civil authority”.

Powers of officers

Section 4 gives the following special powers to any commissioned officer, warrant officer or non commissioned officer of the armed forces in a disturbed area: (a) If in his opinion, it is necessary for maintenance for public order to fire even to the extent of causing death or otherwise use force against a person who is acting in contravention of an order prohibiting the assembly of five or more persons or the carrying of weapons or of things capable of being used as weapon. (b) If in his opinion, it is necessary to destroy any arms dump or fortified position, any shelter from which armed attacks are made or are likely to be made, and any structure used as training camp for armed volunteers or as a hideout for armed volunteers or as a hideout for armed gangs or absconders. (c) Arrest without warrant any person who has committed a cognizable offence and to use whatever force is necessary to affect the arrest. (d) To enter and search without warrant any premises to make an arrest or to recover any person wrongfully confined or to recover any arms, ammunition, explosive substance or suspected stolen property.

Section 2 (c) of the Act also clearly shows the close affinity between AFSPA and those laws governing the military such as the Army Act (1950). It reads, ‘All other words and expressions used herein but not defined in the Air Force Act 1950, or the Army Act 1950, shall have the meaning respectively assigned to them in those Acts’.

A war against own people

The act applies toacts that are ‘likely to be made’ or ‘about to be committed’. This presumption is characteristic of war zones. In a war situation, any officer whether he is a commissioned, junior commissioned or non-commissioned officer-leading his men in the field is the judge as well as part of the body that executes his judgments.

The AFSPA grants armed forces personnel the power to shoot to arrest, search, seize and even shoot to kill. Thus it violates the Right to Life enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution of India which guarantees the right to life to all people. The AFSPA also violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). India signed the ICCPR in 1978, taking on the responsibility of securing the rights guaranteed by the Covenant to all its citizens. In particular, the Act is in contravention of Article 6 of the ICCPR guaranteeing the right to life.

Concluding remark

India is often called “the world’s largest democracy” by the West. Western notion of democracy (Westminster model) is that it is government of the people (masses, not classes), for the people and by the people.  In truth, Indian democracy is in name only, not in substance. The “shared values” are a ruse.  

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