The 48-nation the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) aims to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons by restricting the sale of items that can be used to make those arms.
India aims at membership into 48-nation NSG. This membership will make path for India to achieve high-end technology and also shape its engagement with nuclear proliferation group, which can positively impact India’s bid to join elite Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) club. The other foreign policy objective of getting entry into the UN veto powers’ club, also called P5 plus one, has not made any progress as there is no support from the present UNSC-5 plus Germany,, notwithstanding applying all sorts of pressures directly and through other leaders who visited India on official tours. .
A membership into the important nuclear group NSG will open wide-array of nuclear possibilities for India. India can get help from global markets to set up nuclear power plants. Apart from giving India the knowledge of state-of-art technology, it can also solve the problem of nation’s energy crisis. Under this membership, India can also commercialize the production of nuclear power equipment. This in turn will boost innovation and high tech manufacturing and can bring India into level-playing field with its dragon neighbour. Most importantly India’s access to advanced nuclear technologies will help it export power generators to other emerging economies.
China’s military modernization, capacity-building, infrastructure development in Tibet, and moves into the Indian Ocean pose serious challenges to India’s security. The alleged ‘String of Pearls’, an attempt to bring peripheral states into its circle of influence, only adds to India’s geopolitical concerns. According to Pentagon’s 2016 China military report, China is aggressively pursuing military modernisation. China increased its defence budget by 7.6 per cent to $146 billion for FY17, citing militarization of the Asia-Pacific, especially the disputed South China Sea, and deepening tensions with the US. This is almost four times that of India’s outlay.
India on the other hand, seeking to be a super power, is grappling to make available to its armed forces cutting-edge mobility, weapons and equipment. In order to overtake China and USA and Russia, military specialists argue that making India self-reliant in production of its military requirements is the need of the hour and the Modi government should give more funds for upgrading military equipment.
As India is eager to be seen as a big power and an ally of super power and to join the main club of countries controlling access to sensitive nuclear technology, China is leading opposition to a push by the United States (US) and other major powers for pushing Indian case without substance.
Backed by USA, India says it already enjoys most of the benefits of membership under a 2008 exemption to NSG rules granted to support its nuclear cooperation deal with Washington, even though India has developed atomic weapons and never signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the main global arms control pact.
China is leading opposition to a push by the United States and other major powers for India to join the main club of countries controlling access to sensitive nuclear technology, diplomats said as the group discussed India’s membership bid. Other countries opposing Indian membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) include New Zealand, Ireland, Turkey, South Africa and Austria, they said. They argue that granting it membership would further undermine efforts to prevent proliferation. It would also infuriate India’s rival Pakistan, which responded to India’s membership bid with one of its own and has the backing of its close ally China. By bringing India on board, it’s a slap in the face of the entire non-proliferation regime,” a diplomatic source from one of a handful of countries resisting India’s push said on condition of anonymity.
A decision on Indian membership is not expected before an NSG plenary meeting in Seoul on June 20, but diplomats said Washington, delicately pushed by New Delhi by buying huge terror equipment from Washington, had been pressuring hold-outs, and the closed-door meeting was a chance to see how strong opposition is. In order to show how much USA cares for Indian money bags and ‘regional stability’, US Secretary John Kerry wrote to members asking them “not to block consensus on Indian admission to the NSG”.
A UN veto member China, however, showed no sign of backing down from its opposition to India joining unless Pakistan becomes a member. “China, if anything, is hardening its position,” another diplomat said.
Indian Modi has been touring many countries to shore p support for its entry into NSG. Most of the hold-outs oppose the idea of admitting a non-NPT state such as India and argue that if it is to be admitted, it should be under criteria that apply equally to all states rather than under a “tailor-made” solution for a new US ally.
In a move aimed at garnering Beijing’s support for entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), India has ‘smartly’ removed conference visas for Chinese participants from the prior referral category. China has, on several occasions, pressed India for lifting restrictions on conference and research visas.
In line with the decision taken last year during Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s visit to China, India has further liberalised the visa regime for Chinese citizens. India has already rolled out electronic tourist visa-on-arrival facility for Chinese and more recently, removed the need for prior approval for conference visas.
The timing of the move is being seen as an attempt to soften the atmosphere in the run-up to the meetings of the NSG in Vienna. “Not all categories of visas for Chinese have been removed from the restricted category. The relaxation is only for conference visas as it was a major hindrance for the Chinese to come here and share technological advancements and strategies, but India had to do that to appease China. Conference visas are issued for seminars, workshops and conferences organised by government departments, Union ministries, public sector undertakings, central educational institutions or public funded universities.
Earlier, China was bracketed with Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, foreigners of Pakistani origin and stateless persons under the restricted category, requiring prior security clearance from the Indian intelligence agencies for obtaining a visa. However, Beijing is yet to reciprocate to New Delhi demand for a similar arrangement for its citizens.
China, however, has made it clear there is not chance for India to be in the NSG. China knows well that USA is playing the usual tricks on the Indian case for NSG. Interestinlgy, India also is well aware of the emerging situation which is not in its favor but all that it wants is an open declaration of support of USA on India cases. India’s major concern in fact is not UN veto or NSG but keeping neighboring Jammu Kashmir under its brutal control and it seeks US support to deny Pakistan any chance to take over India occupied Jammu Kashmir.
USA, China and Russia also know that. Even Pakistan, which also occupies a part of Jammu Kashmir, too is well versed with the topic.
All the money that travels regularly from New Delhi to Washington is essentially meant to appease the Uncle Sam to support Indian case for Kashmir.
Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to have assumed the duty of spokesperson for Obama and USA as he declared that USA has decided to isolate those who support terrorism. Modi added that India and the United States should work together more closely to defeat terrorism and head off regional instability.
BJP led by PM Modi thrives in India on the themes like Pakistan and Muslims that got the Hindu vote banks to their services to make it the ruling party of India. As routine rhetoric, Modi while in USA called Pakistan a terror state, though indirectly. While the Indian leader did not mention Pakistan by name, he urged US lawmakers to help isolate those who support terrorism that is ‘incubated in India’s neighborhood’. And, while he did not address China’s maritime territorial ambitions, Modi said a US-India partnership would ‘help ensure security of the sea lanes of commerce and freedom of navigation’. Modi made the remarks in an address to a joint session of the US Congress during a visit to Washington designed to build on improved ties between the world’s two largest democracies.
Once effectively banned from the United States because of his alleged role in anti-Muslim riots before coming to national office, Modi has built a rapport with US President Barack Obama. Now, with Obama’s final term coming to an end in seven months, the two partners are keen to secure support for India’s civil nuclear program and build an enduring great power partnership.
Modi was keen to play up for his Washington audience the more than $10 billion India has spent on US weaponry in the past five years. However, China is a major stumbling block to country’s NSG dreams. Backing Pakistan’s membership bid, China asserts that India is not qualified to join the nuclear group, as the latter has not signed NPT.
Pakistan has also expressed concern over growing strategic ties between India and the US, a day after the two countries signed a number of agreements for security cooperation during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s regular visit to the USA. Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said the US approaches Pakistan whenever it needs it and abandons when it does not need the country. “We firmly conveyed it to the US that maintaining effective nuclear deterrence is critical for Pakistan’s security and only Pakistan itself can determine how it should respond to growing strategic imbalance in South Asia,” he said. “Pakistan will convey its concerns to the US over the latest issues in the bilateral ties,” Aziz. A high-level meeting is scheduled to take place between Pakistan and the US officials on Friday in Islamabad.
Aziz also said Pakistan has decided to take up the issue of Kulbhushan Jadhav, alleged Indian spy arrested in Balochistan, with the UN and other international forums. He said the statement made by Director General of National Investigation Agency (NIA) that no evidence linked Pakistan to the January 2 Pathankot attack in Punjab has vindicated Pakistan’s position in attack probe.
The developing Indo-US military relationship is seen as the only a foreign policy ‘success’ for the Obama government. The two countries have finalized various agreements that would make it possible for their militaries to cooperate more closely in the future. Under one such agreement, an American company will build six nuclear reactors in India.
Washington also says it views India as an important part of it’s re-balance to Asia and as a counterweight to China and Russian influence in Mideast.
The destabilization of Pakistan as an Islamic state due to NATO war in and around and the consequent fall of US-Pakistan relations make India happy. The perpetually oscillating Pakistan-US relationship is once again at low as reflected by the congressional restriction on financing of F-16 fighters’ sale from Foreign Military Financing programme, because of which Pakistan lost the opportunity to buy the jets. Washington, however, gets things ‘done’ in Islamabad as it seeks very easily as there is only a puppet regime there. The relationship was further strained when the US carried out a drone strike in Balochistan, killing Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour. Pakistan termed it as a violation of the country’s sovereignty.
After causing instability in South Asia by invading an Islamizing Afghanistan on the pretext of Sept-11 hoax, US rulers are talking about stability in the region. Funny guys!
The Not-So-Missing Case of Indian Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Hitendra Singh and Gauri Noolkar-Oak*
Recently, an article published in Modern Diplomacy caught our attention. The author has cited Mr. Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, and found his famous statement on Indians lacking enterprise and innovation to be ‘music to his ears’. He has then gone on to paint Indians in broad strokes – ironic, for it is something he has accused Indians of doing – and labelled them as a nation lacking entrepreneurial and innovative spirit. While his reasoning certainly has an element of truth and an instant appeal, our response looks to add nuances to his argument and provide a more realistic and complete picture of enterprise and innovation in India.
To begin with, the terms ‘entrepreneurship’ and ‘innovation’ cannot be used interchangeably; not all entrepreneurs are innovators, and vice versa. There are more than 50 million medium and small businesses operating in India which contribute 37% of India’s GDP and employ around 117 million people. These numbers sufficiently prove that entrepreneurship is alive and kicking in the Indian society; Indians are running businesses not only in India but are leading and successful entrepreneurs in many countries of Asia, Africa and rest of the world. Hence, an argument that Indians lack entrepreneurship does not hold much strength.
In the case of innovation and creativity, a different story is emerging. It is slow but is happening and it is solving some of the largest social and developmental challenges in India – from grassroots, to research labs, to top-tier institutions such as ISRO and various DRDO labs. At a global level, India has not only moved up six places in its GII ranking in 2017, but is also ranked second in innovation quality. India has also won international acclaim for its innovative and cost-effective technology; such as its first mission to Mars in 2014, the Mangalyaan, was successful in the first attempt, made entirely with domestic technology, and cost less than the Hollywood movies ‘Gravity’ and ‘The Martian’. It is surprising that the author spots lack of innovation in a household broom but does not see innovation in a nation that sends a successful Mars mission on a budget that is less than that of a Hollywood movie about Mars.
At the national level, grassroots innovation and entrepreneurship are gaining more and more institutional recognition; the National Innovation Foundation (NIF) and the annual Festival of Innovation at the Rashtrapati Bhavan are perhaps the only high-level government initiatives supporting and celebrating innovation in the world. Additionally, many universities and educational institutes across the country host innovation competitions, festivals and incubators.
Several remarkable individuals are nurturing India’s growing innovative and entrepreneurial spirit.Prof. Anil K. Gupta founded SRISTI (Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions) in 1993 and the Honey Bee Network in 1997 to connect innovators from all sections of the society to entrepreneurs, lawyers and investors. For more than 12 years, he has walked around 6000 kilometres across the country, discovering extraordinary grassroots innovations on the way. Dr. Raghunath Mashelkar, an eminent chemical scientist, has led multiple scientific and technological innovations in the country, earlier as the Director-General of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, and now as the President of the National Innovation Foundation.
And then, there are thousands of common men and women, hailing from various walks of life, innovating continuously and creatively to solve pressing everyday problems in the Indian society. There are the famous Arunachalam Muruganantham, who invented a cost-effective way of manufacturing sanitary napkins, and Mansukhbhai Prajapati, who invented a clay refrigerator which runs without electricity. Then there are Mallesham from Andhra Pradesh, who sped up the process of weaving Kochampalli sarees and reduced the physical pains of the weavers, and Shri Sundaram from Rajasthan, who found a way to grow a whole tree in a dry region with just a litre of water. Raghav Gowda from Karnataka designed a cost-effective and painless machine to milk cows, while Mathew K Mathews from Kerala designed a solar mosquito destroyer. Dr. Pawan Mehrotra of Haryana has developed a cost-effective version of breast prosthesis for breast cancer survivors while Harsh Songra of Madhya Pradesh has developed a mobile app to detect developmental disorders among children.
Three women from Manipur, OinamIbetombi Devi, SarangthenDasumati Devi and Nameirakpam Sanahambi Devi invented an herbal medicine that is proven to promote poultry health. Priyanka Sharma from Punjab developed a low-cost biochip to detect environmental pollutants, while Dr. Seema Prakash from Karnataka revolutionised eco-agriculture by inventing a cost-effective plant cloning technique. AshniBiyani, the daughter of Future Group CEO Kishore Biyani, leads the Khoj Lab, which collaborates with the NIF to help commercialise grassroots innovations and ideas.
These and thousands of such examples present a very encouraging picture of the creativity and innovation of Indians. The innovation that the author admires are rooted in a context. Apple and Google (or Lyft or Uber or Spotify) could be created because there was an end consumer who was looking to pay for their products. There are many India innovator-entrepreneurs, such as those mentioned above, who have created products for a necessarily less glamorous but useful India context. Products like brooms and packaged food add convenience to the time-stretched urban and middle and upper middle classes; with a large unskilled and semiskilled workforce competing vigorously for such jobs, does the Indian society have an incentive to invest in innovating them?
Having said that, it is true that upsurge of innovation in India is relatively recent, i.e. about two to three decades old. It is also true that the Indian society has been experiencing socio-economic affluence on such a broad scale only for the past three decades, since the market reforms of 1991. It has been 70 years since Indians have gained sovereignty and control over their resources. The top five innovative countries according to the GII – Switzerland, Sweden, Netherlands, USA and UK – have been sovereign states for about at least two and a half centuries. It would perhaps then be more accurate to compare India’s current innovation scenario with, for instance, the USA’s innovation scenario in the mid-19th century.
Further, given the economic and resource drain faced by the Indian society over centuries, Indian innovation was geared more towards surviving rather than thriving. This explains the ‘group mentality’ strongly rooted in mainstream Indian society; staying and cooperating in a group increased one’s capacity to cope with and survive through all kinds of adversity. Individualistic aspirations, beliefs and actions were then a price to be paid for the security blanket it offered. And yet, once relative stability and affluence began to set in, the innovative and creative instincts of Indians lost no time in bursting forth.
Long story short, both innovation and entrepreneurship are thriving in India. They might not be as “macro” or glamourous as Apple or Uber, but they are solving fundamental problems for the Indian masses. Undoubtedly, there is a lot of room for improvement and growth – India has a long way to go to be recognised as a global leader in innovation and entrepreneurship. However, the scenario is not by any means bleak, as these many examples point out. The trajectory of enterprises and innovation in India is only upward. The future is promising.
* Gauri Noolkar-Oak is Policy Research Analyst at Pune International Centre, a liberal think tank based in Pune, India.
Views expressed by the authors are personal and do not reflect those of the organisation.
Changing Perceptions: How Pakistan should use Public Diplomacy
Traditionally in International Relations the concept of “hard power” remained the basic focus for states so as to achieve power and dominance in international anarchic system but with the changing scenarios in the age of globalization, economic interdependency and rapid spreading of information through various tools, “Soft Power” concept emerged which had great impact on states’ foreign policies. This term of soft power was first coined by Joseph Nye in mid-1960’s which could be defined as the ability of the state to influence others without coercion and this soft power technique basically revolves around three major instruments such as Culture, political values, and foreign policies. Apart from soft power concept, there is another basic concept called as “Public Diplomacy”. This could be described as the further dimension of soft power because by practicing Public Diplomacy state can initiate their soft power policies and can achieve the desired outcomes by winning the hearts and minds of foreign audience and non-governmental entities because by doing so it will enable government and decision making bodies of foreign states to act accordingly.
In context of South Asia particularly taking into consideration the important developing state Pakistan whose basic concern is to maintain friendly and neutral relations with other states Public diplomacy could, however, help it to maintain its relations in the regional complex structure where India is seen as the dominant power and alongside India the powerful rise of China as an external actor in South Asia. By efficient usage of Public diplomacy, Pakistan can improve its bilateral ties with the neighboring states.
The image of Pakistan in foreign media is portrayed as the state which is full of many internal and external challenges and it is also not portrayed as the safe country to travel into. In order to improve the image, Pakistan firstly needs to improve its relations with states within the region and for that India which is considered as hostile neighbor Pakistan should effectively use its public diplomacy tool it should introduce exchange programs because by educating youth and by deploying positive image in their minds Pakistan can influence them which could bring change in the coming years and also by increasing tourism activities. This would make foreigners aware of the fact that Pakistan is a secure state. Similarly, cultural activities, sports diplomacy, literature, art, and media could also have a great impact so as to change the perceptions.
Hence it could be suggested that for the development of state it is important for Pakistan to improve its public diplomacy by changing perceptions of public and elite of neighboring states it should take basic steps which could change the negative image which is in limelight since 9/11. Pakistan by enhancing the public diplomacy in other states as the tool to implement its soft power policies would, however, be able to economically, culturally and politically improve its stance in the International arena.
Rolling back militancy: Bangladesh looks to Saudi Arabia in a twist of irony
Bangladesh, in a twist of irony, is looking to Saudi Arabia to fund a $ 1 billion plan to build hundreds of mosques and religious centres to counter militant Islam that for much of the past decade traced its roots to ultra-conservative strands of the faith promoted by a multi-billion dollar Saudi campaign.
The Bangladeshi plan constitutes the first effort by a Muslim country to enlist the kingdom whose crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has vowed to return Saudi Arabia to an undefined form of ‘moderate Islam,’ in reverse engineering.
The plan would attempt to roll back the fallout of Saudi Arabia’s global investment of up to $100 billion over a period of four decades in support of ultra-conservative mosques, religious centres, and groups as an antidote to post-1979 Iranian revolutionary zeal.
Cooperation with Saudi Arabia and various countries, including Malaysia, has focused until now on countering extremism in cooperation with defense and security authorities rather than as a religious initiative.
Saudi religious authorities and Islamic scholars have long issued fatwas or religious opinions condemning political violence and extremism and accused jihadists of deviating from the true path of Islam.
The Saudi campaign, the largest public diplomacy effort in history, was, nevertheless, long abetted by opportunistic governments who played politics with religion as well as widespread discontent fuelled by the failure of governments to deliver public goods and services.
The Bangladeshi plan raises multiple questions, including whether the counter-narrative industry can produce results in the absence of effective government policies that address social, economic and political grievances.
It also begs the question whether change in Saudi Arabia has advanced to a stage in which the kingdom can claim that it has put its ultra-conservative and militant roots truly behind it. The answer to both questions is probably no.
In many ways, Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatism and militancy, violent and non-violent, despite sharing common roots with the kingdom’s long-standing theological thinking and benefitting directly or indirectly from Saudi financial largess, has created a life of its own that no longer looks to the kingdom for guidance and support and is critical of the path on which Prince Mohammed has embarked.
The fallout of the Saudi campaign is evident in Asia not only in the rise of militancy in Bangladesh but also the degree to which concepts of supremacism and intolerance have taken root in countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Pakistan. Those concepts are often expressed in discrimination, if not persecution of minorities like Shia Muslims and Ahmadis, and draconic anti-blasphemy measures by authorities, militants and vigilantes.
Bangladesh in past years witnessed a series of brutal killings of bloggers and intellectuals whom jihadists accused of atheism.
Moreover, basic freedoms in Bangladesh are being officially and unofficially curtailed in various forms as a result of domestic struggles originally enabled by successful Saudi pressure to amend the country’s secular constitution in 1975 to recognize Islam as its official religion. Saudi Arabia withheld recognition of the new state as well as financial support until the amendment was adopted four years after Bangladeshi independence.
In Indonesia, hard-line Islamic groups, led by the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), earlier this month filed a blasphemy complaint against politician Sukmawati Sukarnoputri, a daughter of Indonesia’s founding father Sukarno and the younger sister of Megawati Sukarnoputri, who leads President Joko Widodo’s ruling party. The hardliners accuse Ms. Sukarnoputri of reciting a poem that allegedly insults Islam.
The groups last year accused Basuki Tjahaja Purnama aka Ahok, Jakarta’s former Christian governor, of blasphemy and spearheaded mass rallies that led to his ouster and jailing, a ruling that many believed was politicized and unjust.
Pakistan’s draconic anti-blasphemy law has created an environment that has allowed Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatives and powerful political forces to whip up popular emotion in pursuit of political objectives. The environment is symbolized by graffiti in the corridor of a courthouse In Islamabad that demanded that blasphemers be beheaded.
Pakistan last month designated Islamabad as a pilot project to regulate Friday prayer sermons in the city’s 1,003 mosques, of which only 86 are state-controlled, in a bid to curb hate speech, extremism and demonization of religions and communities.
The government has drafted a list of subjects that should be the focus of weekly Friday prayer sermons in a bid to prevent mosques being abused “to stir up sectarian hatred, demonise other religions and communities and promote extremism.” The subjects include women rights; Islamic principles of trade, cleanliness and health; and the importance of hard work, tolerance, and honesty.
However, they do not address legally enshrined discrimination of minorities like Ahmadis, who are viewed as heretics by orthodox Muslims. The list risked reinforcing supremacist and intolerant militancy by including the concept of the finality of the Prophet Mohammed that is often used as a whip to discriminate against minorities.
Raising questions about the degree of moderation that Saudi-funded mosques and religious centres in Bangladesh would propagate, Prince Mohammed, in his effort to saw off the rough edges of Saudi ultra-conservatism, has given no indication that he intends to repeal a law that defines atheists as terrorists.
A Saudi court last year condemned a man to death on charges of blasphemy and atheism. Another Saudi was a year earlier sentenced to ten years in prison and 2,000 lashes for expressing atheist sentiments on social media.
Saudi Arabia and other Muslim nations have long lobbied for the criminalization of blasphemy in international law in moves that would legitimize curbs on free speech and growing Muslim intolerance towards any open discussion of their faith.
To be sure, Saudi Arabia cannot be held directly liable for much of the expression of supremacism, intolerance and anti-pluralism in the Muslim world. Yet, by the same token there is little doubt that Saudi propagation of ultra-conservatism frequently contributed to an enabling environment.
Prince Mohammed is at the beginning of his effort to moderate Saudi Islam and has yet to spell out in detail his vision of religious change. Beyond the issue of defining atheism as terrorism, Saudi Arabia also has yet to put an end to multiple ultra-conservative practices, including the principle of male guardianship that forces women to get the approval of a male relative for major decisions in their life.
Prince Mohammed has so far forced the country’s ultra-conservative religious establishment into subservience. That raises the question whether there has been real change in the establishment’s thinking or whether it is kowtowing to an autocratic leader.
In December, King Salman fired a government official for organizing a mixed gender fashion show after ultra-conservatives criticized the event on Twitter. The kingdom this week hosted its first ever Arab Fashion Week, for women only. Designers were obliged to adhere to strict dress codes banning transparent fabrics and the display of cleavages or clothing that bared knees.
In February, Saudi Arabia agreed to surrender control of the Great Mosque in Brussels after its efforts to install a more moderate administration failed to counter mounting Belgian criticism of alleged intolerance and supremacism propagated by mosque executives.
Efforts to moderate Islam in Saudi Arabia as well as Qatar, the world’s only other Wahhabi state that traces its ultra-conservatism to the teachings of 18th century preacher Mohammed ibn Abdul Wahhab, but has long interpreted them more liberally than the kingdom, have proven to be easier said than done.
Saudi King Abdullah, King Salman’s predecessor, positioned himself as a champion of interfaith dialogue and reached out to various groups in society including Shiites and women.
Yet, more than a decade of Saudi efforts to cleanse textbooks used at home and abroad have made significant progress but have yet to completely erase descriptions of alternative strands of Islam such as Shiism and Sufism in derogatory terms or eliminate advise to Muslims not to associate with Jews and Christians who are labelled kaffirs or unbelievers.
Raising questions about Saudi involvement in the Bangladeshi plan, a Human Rights Watch survey of religion textbooks produced by the Saudi education ministry for the 2016-2017 school year concluded that “as early as first grade, students in Saudi schools are being taught hatred toward all those perceived to be of a different faith or school of thought.”
Human Rights Watch researcher Adam Coogle noted that Prince Mohammed has remained conspicuously silent about hate speech in textbooks as well as its use by officials and Islamic scholars connected to the government.
The New York-based Anti-Defamation League last year documented hate speech in Qatari mosques that was disseminated in Qatari media despite Qatar’s propagation of religious tolerance and outreach to American Jews as part of its effort to counter a United Arab Emirates-Saudi-led economic and diplomatic boycott of the Gulf state.
In one instance in December, Qatari preacher Muhammed al-Muraikhi described Jews in a sermon in Doha’s Imam Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab Mosque as “your deceitful, lying, treacherous, fornicating, intransigent enemy” who have “despoiled, corrupted, ruined, and killed, and will not stop.”
No doubt, Saudi Arabia, like Qatar, which much earlier moved away from puritan and literal Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatism, is sincere in its intention to adopt more tolerant and pluralistic worldviews.
Getting from A to B, however, is a lengthy process. The question remains whether the kingdom has progressed to a degree that it can credibly help countries like Bangladesh deal with their demons even before having successfully put its own house in order.
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