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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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Kashmir Issue at the UNGA and the Nuclear Discourse

Haris Bilal Malik

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The Kashmir issue has more significance in view of the nuclearization of South Asia as many security experts around the world consider Kashmir a potential ‘nuclear flashpoint’ between India and Pakistan. The revocation of the special constitutional status of Kashmir by the BJP government on August 5, 2019, also referred to as Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act 2019 and the subsequent lockdown in Kashmir has since considerably increased political and diplomatic tensions between India and Pakistan. India’s recent moves and actions in Kashmir have once again internationalized the Kashmir dispute. This was evident during the UN General Assembly’s 74th Session, where the Kashmir issue remained a crucial agenda item for several countries.

During this year’s session prominent leaders of the world condemned Indian brutalities in Kashmir. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan criticized the international community for failing to pay attention to the Kashmir conflict and called for dialogue to end this dispute. Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said that Kashmir “has been invaded and occupied” by India despite the UN resolution on the issue. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also discussed the issue and called for a peaceful resolution of the dispute based on the UN Charter and Security Council resolutions. Based on the grave importance of Kashmir as a potential ‘nuclear flashpoint’ between India and Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan, while addressing the UNGA warned the world community about the dangers of a nuclear war that according to him might break out over Kashmir due to Indian atrocities. The current situation appears to be the most critical time for both the countries and the region as both countries are nuclear-armed.

However, unfortunately, the Indian leaders and media perceived Prime Minister Imran Khan’s warning as a nuclear threat and termed it as ‘brinkmanship’. Contrary to this perspective, it is worth mentioning here that the Indian leadership itself is involved in negative nuclear signaling and war hysteria against Pakistan in recent months. For instance, the 2019 Indian General Election campaign of Prime Minister Modi was largely based on negative nuclear signaling comprising of several threats referring to the possible use of nuclear weapons against Pakistan. Furthermore, as an apparent shift from India’s ‘No First Use’ (NFU) policy, on August 16, 2019Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, while on a visit to the Pokhran nuclear test site paid tribute to the late former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and asserted that India might review its NFU policy. He stated that a change in future circumstances would likely define the status of India’s NFU policy. Since then there is no official denial of this assertion from India which indicates that India might abandon its NFU policy.

Moreover, India’s offensive missile development programs and its growing nuclear arsenal which include; hypersonic missiles, ballistic missile defence systems, enhanced space capabilities for intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance and the induction of nuclear-powered ballistic-missile-capable submarines clearly indicate that India’s nuclear weapons modernization is aimed at continuously enhancing its deterrence framework including its second-strike capabilities vis-à-vis Pakistan. This is also evident from India’s military preparations under its more recent doctrines such as the 2017 Joint Doctrine of the Indian Armed Forces (JDIAF) and the 2018 Land Warfare Doctrine (LWD)which are also based upon more proactive offensive strategies and indirect threats of pre-emptive strikes against Pakistan.

As evident from the above-mentioned developments, it seems likely that India aspires to increasingly project itself as a regional hegemon and a potential superpower. The BJP government under Prime Minister Modi inspired by the Hindutva ideology is taking offensive measures under the notions of ‘a more Muscular or Modern India’ based on strong military preparedness. In such circumstances, Pakistan’s threat perception would likely remain increasingly inclined towards its eastern border. Pakistan due to its economic constraints would also likely face considerable difficulties in competing with India toe to toe with respect to its military modernization plans. Pakistan is already punching well above its weight, and nuclear deterrence would be the only way through which Pakistan can maintain a precise balance of power to preserve its security. This could only be carried out by deterring India with the employment of both minimum credible deterrence and full-spectrum deterrence capabilities. This posture clearly asserts that since Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are for defensive purposes in principle, they are aimed at deterring India from any and all kinds of aggression.

Hence, at the present India’s forceful annexation of occupied Kashmir and the resultant nuclear discourse at the UNGA has further intensified Pakistan-India tensions. Under present circumstances, the situation could easily trigger another politico-military escalation between India and Pakistan. Prime Minister Modi has bet his political reputation on his move to annex the region and his political career is on the line. The same way Pakistan’s politico-military establishment is equally unlikely back down from its stance on Kashmir. It would be difficult for both countries to come down from the escalation ladder because politico-military reputations would be at stake at both ends. Consequently, Pakistan might be forced to take action before India’s modernization plans get ahead and might respond even sooner.

The nuclear discourse in Prime Minister Imran Khan’s speech against the backdrop of the Kashmir crisis at such a high forum like UNGA would likely keep the issue internationalized. The situation demands the UN fulfill its responsibility of ensuring peace and to prevent billions of people from the dangers of a nuclear war. However, Indian blame game, aggressive behavior and offensive nuclear signaling against Pakistan all present a clear warning of nuclear war. It would greatly limit the prospects for international mediation especially by the United Nations whose resolutions on Kashmir clearly provide a right of self-determination to decide Kashmir’s future.  

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1.2 trillion rupees on the move: Modi’s greatest piece of purchase yet

Sisir Devkota

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Last week, the RBI (Reserve Bank of India) was taken aback by more than a surprise. Just when it was dealing with the uncomfortable series of events that led to the transfer of surplus 1.2 trillion rupees into the government of India; social media erupted. It quickly realized that losing the battle regarding the transfer would only add fuel to the hoax of closing down nine commercial banks. RBI enjoys considerable amount of autonomy and independence in the largest democracy, and still, it had to kneel down to Modi’s alleged quick fix.

The RBI would have to vouch for the government in times of need, it is primarily what is expected of the institution; but there was a great deal of discomfort in how the government justified it. A committee set up under the ex-governor, Mr Bimal Jalan, cited how central banks would not need so much of surplus to carry out their affairs. Effectively, it was an order, not a request, which became the underlying discomfort behind RBI’s hesitancy in adhering to the views of capital transfer committee. Not that anyone expected the central lender to protest longer, it did however, request Mr Jalan to reconsider the decision at the face of various consequences. To say the least, it was embarrassing for a premier financial institution to be put under the public eye. The social media hoax was another ridicule of the sickly RBI. In the tales of grand conquests, the victorious army steals the wealth from the losing party. Similarly, the BJP led government in India are redefining all forms of state tools in favour of their interests.

Stolen wealth is most often than not used to correct economic blunders. Just like in the tales of grand conquests, the decision to transfer national wealth from the reserve bank is nothing new. It is nevertheless baffling, that the money transfer is looping in the same direction. While the BJP government in India were imposing a comprehensive GST (Goods and Service Tax) policy, they would not have anticipated complaints from large industries over decreased consumer consumption. For a party that is now known to redefine the legitimacy of governance, falling prey to NBFC’s (Non-bank Financial Companies) incompetence or bankruptcy is a visible defeat. Unlike many other soaring economies, there are large group of subsidiary lenders operating in India. On hindsight, economic policies are barely creating tunnels through which the capital is getting recycled in the same loop. Revenues are not generating further revenues. It is merely closing down on its self-inflicted gap.

The Security and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) almost played with fire. Uncharacteristically, it proposed a framework to work together with the RBI in order to claim outstanding defaults from high value clients. The RBI was never going to agree with a defaming offer as such but the incident did fuel the argument of capital shuffling. It only makes the bluff look more real. A strategic plan to counter all measures that would have blocked the transfer of trillions. As Mr Jalan sheepishly implied how the importance of central bank and what is does is only limited to the public perception, RBI fought a fix in between larger or rather dangerous political agendas. Consolidating requests from SEBI to only fall into the whims of the government shows the lack lustre personality of the central funding institution. For the time being, Narendra Modi has his way, a theft of national treasure-like his opposition colleague Rajiv Gandhi expressed in the media. However, there will also be a far-fetched evaluation of Modi’s actions. A move of 1.2 trillion rupees in the same pot. Not by any means, a cunning cover up.

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Walking the tight rope: India’s Diplomatic Strategy in the Middle East

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India’s diplomatic corps have been resolutely articulating India’s stances and furthering its interests in the international fora where multiple challenges emanating from historical and contemporary contexts are being faced. One important factor which India’s astute foreign policy makers have faced is the complicated and crucial engagement with the Middle East. There are multiple facets to India’s engagement in the contemporary context that add to this complexity. One, India’s old adversary and neighbor Pakistan has upped the ante in its diplomatic blitzkrieg especially within the Muslim world. Second India’s has varied strategic interests in the warring Middle East factions. Third, the economic interdependencies and the crisis in the international trade in the Trump era has further complicated India’s position as an economic actor in the region. While there are various constituent elements of India’s Middle East outreach, the contemporaneous concerns relate more to its relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Turkey.

India and Saudi Arabia have historically engaged in deep and multi-dimensional political, economic, cultural, defence and strategic cooperation. Saudi Arabia has long been an important Indian trade partner; the Kingdom remains a vital source of energy for India, which imports almost a fifth of its crude oil requirement from Saudi Arabia. Enhanced security cooperation has added a new dimension in the bilateral ties between New Delhi and Riyadh. Recently, Indian PM Narendra Modi was conferred with the highest civilian award of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia even as the top leadership continues to send signals of deep comradarie and solidarity.

With the ascent of the crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman, various layers in this important diplomatic relationship have surfaced. This has happened in a particularly peculiar geopolitical and geostrategic context where both countries have faced tough challenges to their internal stability and international position. While Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is still emerging from the consequences of the massive attack in its oil fields as well as the widespread criticism of humanitarian crisis in Yemen at the international fora, India is grappling with international criticism and discourse about the situation in Kashmir in context of dilution of its political autonomy as well as prolonged information and communication blackout.KSA has had a mediating role in the Indo-Pak tussle since Pulwama and how this hyphenation has led to competitive photo-ops of diplomatic support. Even as KSA has stood by Indian leadership’s vital interests. However, the Pakistani leadership has been relentless in its attempts to appeal to the leader of the Islamic world for vital economic and diplomatic support, especially in context of the Kashmir situation. Even as Saudi Arabia has managed this delicate equation with deftness, it has given in to Pakistan’s economic demands while making a symbolic gesture of closeness by offering the private jet to Pakistani Prime Minister for his visit to the West.  It doesn’t help that the Indian economy is going through a rough phase. However, the audacious announcement to invest $100 Billion in the fledgling Indian economy is a bold testament of the veritable and vibrant economic partnership between New Delhi and Riyadh. It is pertinent to note that in the contemporaneous challenges that the countries face, Iran as well as Pakistan emerge as key actors that affect the bilateral engagement in a pronounced manner.

Iran is India’s historic ally and third largest supplier of crude oil. However, the India-Iran relationship transcends oil. India, with an investment of $500 million, aims to develop Iran’s Chabahar port as a transit hub for Afghanistan, Central Asia, and the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC). Additionally, India is developing two gas fields, namely Farzad-B gas field located in Tehran and the South Pars field located between Iran and Qatar. These projects clearly highlight India’s long-term engagement with Iran. However, India’s muted response to US pressure has been causing slight tension in the bilateral relationship. Even though the top-level bilateral meeting between Indian premier Modi and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani was successful to diffuse tensions to an extent. The crisis in Yemen, oil trade and even India’s action in Kashmir continue to affect the relationship.

In this context, the challenges emanating from Turkey are also a sign of worry. Even as Turkey has remained an old ally of Pakistan and a supporter of the ‘Kashmiri’ cause, its open support for a rather lonely Pakistan should cause some worry in India’s strategic circles. This is because India has fine diplomatic relations with Turkey and has considerable economic and trade interests.

However, oil being an important consumer and agricultural good in India’s economy, it is important to secure its interests to have access to reliable and affordable Iranian crude oil. The trade negotiations and engagements with the US haven’t had any headway even as the threat of sanctions for buying oil from Iran continues. India could emerge as a trouble-solver in this context especially since this KSA-Iran conflict in oil supply context has global implications. PM Modi’s personal chemistry with the US leadership could be useful in this context.

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