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Over NSG, India is its own rival

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Despite support from the US, India could not get Nuclear Suppliers Group membership during the two-day plenary at Seoul in June. New Delhi’s eagerness to gain a seat at the table that controls the global nuclear commerce fizzled and it has tried to place onus of sour grapes on Beijing’s so-called procedural hurdles. This is an untruth.

As the CPI (M) Polit Bureau member Prakash Karat recently said, “The government is trying to say it was only China which opposed India’s entry into NSG. That is not correct. Out of 48 countries, 10 countries, including China, and our own partners in BRICS like Brazil and South Africa, did not favour India getting into the NSG.” This has happened because India is its own rival and its increasing hubris even at Rio Olympics has blindsided it from making rational choices.

India has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which is the keystone of the nonproliferation regime and sine qua non for membership of the NSG. New Delhi has two stark choices to overcome this dilemma: 1) it should either sign NPT as a non-nuclear weapons State or 2) it should swallow its pride and seek simultaneous entry of all non-NPT States in the NSG. It is crystal clear that India shall never be able to enter into NSG alone. The non-proliferation purist countries – not China only – will never like to repeat their mistake of 2008 and allow India permanently enter in to their fold. Despite its poor proliferation record and besides keeping its eight so-called civilian nuclear reactors outside IAEA safeguards, India managed to secure a trade waiver from the NSG. Some participating governments have learnt their lessons and won’t repeat the error in judgment.

Realizing the sensitivity of the issue, a number of American experts and lawmakers have voiced serious reservations on Obama administration’s persistent push on Indian bid. Democratic Senator from Massachusetts Edward Markey in a recent statement said, “Today, the NSG reaffirmed its strong support for the NPT by refraining from admitting India.” Earlier at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on US-India Relations, he had warned that India’s admission into the NSG without signing the NPT would trigger a “never-ending” nuclear race in South Asia. It clearly shows that Obama administration is deeply divided in its desperate quest   for India’s hasty inclusion in NSG. This push is more about Obama’s efforts to leave a legacy rather than genuinely promoting non-proliferation. If it were so, his administration should have no qualms roping in all non-NPT states into NSG simultaneously because their participation would strengthen the regime.

Earlier, Pakistan warned international community by saying that admitting only India into the club would threaten strategic stability in South Asia and permanently damage the non-proliferation regime. Since the 2005 nuclear deal with the U.S. and the 2008 trade waiver, India has vertically proliferated and built huge stockpile of fissile materials for its burgeoning nuclear weapons program. Every gram of nuclear fuel India imports from these states has unencumbered its indigenous resources for weapons development.

This vertical proliferation and utter disregard of norms will only shrink global support for India in its quest for NSG membership and irreversible destabilize strategic and deterrence stability of the Pak-India subcontinent. If NSG membership is so important for New Delhi, it should be subjected severe oversight, asked to take additional commitments and forced to constrain its nuclear and conventional force posture developments.

I propose that NSG participating governments should condition Indian entry into Group to the following four conditions.

One – New Delhi should be asked to bring all its current and upcoming reactors under safeguards. Recent Belfer Centre study reveals that Indian nuclear program has three streams, civilian safeguarded, civilian unsafeguarded and military facilities in its surreptitious fuel cycle. Report further clearly explains that the ‘three streams’ are not transparent in their overlapping and some civilian facilities operating under International Atomic Energy Agency, also contribute to India’s stockpile of unsafeguarded weapons-usable nuclear.

In this regard, India should certify that once admitted simultaneously with other non-NPT States like Pakistan, it would never seek enrichment and reprocessing technology from the NSG. There is substantial evidence that New Delhi’s enrichment program benefitted from the international black market and that it was the Fourth Customer of the non-state network. Likewise, it is worth recalling that NSG was created after India proliferated from Atoms for Peace Program and reprocessed the safeguarded fuel to make its first weapon. A moth eaten safeguards arrangement and a shallow Additional Program would not ensure tracking the imported fuel and ensure that it is not diverted to weapons.

Two – India should be asked to reverse seven developments in its force posture and doctrine: a) Development of intercontinental ballistic missiles; b) Verifiably stop pursuit of MIRV technology; c) It should be forced to return the leased nuclear submarines to Russia and verifiably close submarine-launched ballistic missiles development program; d) India should halt the ballistic missiles defense shield program because it would enhance its pre-emptive tendencies; e) It should reverse development of Prahaar and Pragati tactical nuclear weapons systems and f) Rollback doctrines and related developments on ground that seek fighting limited wars under nuclear overhang and g) lastly give up its doctrine of massive retaliation.

If India does not take these steps in the interest of global and regional stability, its DRDO should be placed under UNSC sanctions in order to regulate its irresponsible behaviour. Some apologists in the West would consider these emplacing these conditions not workable because India is a big market that they cannot afford to ignore and that the country has successfully used China as a bogey to play on Western security sensibilities.

Three – It is well known that India has only provided lip service to eschew further nuclear weapons testing. New Delhi should follow Pakistan’s lead in at least declaring a bilateral moratorium on nuclear weapons testing. In a statement on August 12, 2016, Sartaj Aziz reiterated the country’s offer saying, “Pakistan has consistently supported the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). We voted for the Treaty when it was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1996. We have declared a unilateral moratorium on further testing. Pakistan is prepared to consider translating its unilateral moratorium into a bilateral arrangement on non-testing with India.”

Four – Irresolution of Jammu and Kashmir and water disputes are the roots of instability between India and Pakistan. Islamabad’s repeated efforts to use the negotiating table rather than arms racing has fallen of deaf New Delhi ears. The silence of the civilized world for the sake of economic and political imperatives has emboldened India to grossly suppress the freedom struggle with an iron hand. Thousands have been killed, maimed and raped over the years in Indian occupied Kashmir. If the free world and true democracies use their leverage on India, resolution of disputes between Pakistan and India can bring lasting peace to the region and complement global efforts for general and complete disarmament and non-proliferation’s half-measure to attain this ideal.

It is time that NSG’s participating governments take the unruly bull by its horns and likewise UNSC should exercise its usually selective authority to constrain India behavior and condition its quest for mainstreaming into the non-proliferation regime to its behavior as a responsible player in the world. Till such time this does not happen, India will be its own rival and will stand on the wrong side of history. The civilized world shall remain understandably polite in pointing out Indian follies for political and economic imperatives. Although Confucian wisdom holds that one should never stop an adversary once he is committing a mistake, in this I thought that an advice would serve a global good.

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South Asia

Huge blast on the Afghanistan-Iran border

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Migrants at the IOM Islam Qala Reception Centre. The Centre provided services to thousands of Afghan returnees daily, prior to the catastrophic fire on 13 February. IOM/Nick Bishop

On Saturday 13 February the Islam Qala reception center owned by the IOM was demolished at the border between Afghanistan and Iran, leading to a pause to repatriation service for afghans. This led to a devastating burn. At least 40 people were killed because of this huge blast, while 17 were wounded. Tens of thousands of repatriated Afghans obtained humanitarian relief from the center International Organization of Migration, (IOM) in 2020. None were injured in the fire by IOM workers or migrants returning from Iran.Whatever sparked this explosion was not instantly apparent. The provincial governor of Herat, Wahid Qatali, said the Afghan first responders did not have the means to light the enormous fires and required Iran’s assistance by firefighting aircraft.”We can’t even discuss the victims for the time being,” Qatali told The Associated Press. Emergency crews and Afghan security services moved hundreds of fuel and gas tankers from the region, while an appeal for air-firefighting assistance was made available to the International Resolute Support Mission, quoted by Reuters as quoted by Katali.

Mohammad Rafiq shirzy, spokesperson for the district hospitals of Herat’s Provincial capital and also called Herat, said that more than 500 trucks were carrying natural gas and diesel that have been destroyed by the severity of the fire, and he said that it was impossible for ambulances to reach the injured or to reach the explosion site. Hossein Akhundzadeh, a regional Iranian trade official, told Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) about the explosion of more than 300 coal, diesel, and petrol cars. The flash has not yet been contained, and precise evidence was not provided,”It’s not known whether the drivers were able to escape or not. The blaze has not been contained yet and exact information is not available,”We don’t know whether the driver might escape or not.The Power Supply Ministry Spokesman, Wahidullah Tawhidi, said the fire was continuing after nightfall and that Afghanistan was pressuring Iran to close down its electricity supply. It has been said that the burning of two pylons has disconnected 100 tons of electricity imported into the Herat Province by Iran. He said 60% of Herat, one of Afghanistan’s leading provinces, was powerless.A dangerous route Afghan people often pursue overnight because of fear of gangs of violence, attacks between Herat City and Islam Qalah. Taliban gunmen, on the other hand, travel freely across the area.Afghan government troops assembled defensive positions and aided emergency ambulances and cars from and to the border. According to Iranian State TV, the fire spread to the Irish customs facilities Dogharoon, and first responders, including the fire departments, the Iranian army, and the border guards, managed to extinguish the fire. The natural gas and diesel trucks were sent away from the scene.As part of a national concession exempting Kabul from US sanctions against Iran, the United States permits Afghanistan to import fuel and oil from Iran.

According to a statement from the Aghan organization, on Monday, “IOM anticipates a substantial decline in rates of return through the Islam Qala in the days to come as migrants are now re-routed from Iran into the main border crossing of Milak province of Nimroz, which lies over 1,000 km south-west.They have shown that in 2020, there returned a high number of Afghans.Nick Bishop, program manager of IOM reported in a cross-border return reply that “the initial inspection of reception centers for the return showed significant damage to the roof and walls.”The staff of the Afghan Ministry for Refugees and Returns (MoRR) are relocating people in need here to the IOM transit center in Herat before IOM staff are back, awaiting a full assessment and inspection of the safety situation before IOM staff can resume their work from here. “The organization takes exceptional steps to secure the continuing humanitarian assistance can take place.

Unfortunately, as the fire began all the returning residents, who had already moved to their next location at our reception center, that day.There was a drastic rise in return rates last year, as COVID-19 caused many Afghans residing in neighboring Iran to lose jobs and livelihoods. By 2020, the largest year of return was almost 860,000 illegal Afghan immigrants back from Iran.Approximately 15,000 people cross the Islam Qala border point daily, while nearly 1,500 per day need humanitarian assistance. Approximately 60% of Herat province was helpless as a result of flames, said DABS, an Afghan power supplier.Islam Qala is one of the main ports of Afghanistan that traffic most officially with Iran. Afghanistan has earned concessions from Washington to buy oil and gas from Iran amid the sanctions of the United States.A risky stretch of highway between Herat and Islam Qala, where Afghans barely ride by night for fear of criminal gang attacks. In the area, the Taliban are still free to work.Hope to rapidly repair all damage to the reception facility as soon as possible and continue vital humanitarian services to Afghans returning through this major transit route, but we will require increased support to do so.

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‘External forces’ won’t decide the actions of New Delhi

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India’s farmer’s protest is in the news for a while for the obvious reasons. In a democracy there should be protests, it keeps the power balanced. However, in India, the protestors and the government are both facing a common challenge, that is the external influence. To which, Indian External Affairs Minister and other government wings already made public statements. Before understanding the external factors, one needs to look into the farmer’s protest.

What are the farm laws?

Last year Government of India passed three laws in order to bring a reform in the agriculture sector in India, which are:

  1. The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act – provides for setting up a mechanism allowing the farmers to sell their farm produces outside the Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMCs). Any licence-holder trader can buy the produce from the farmers at mutually agreed prices. This trade of farm produces will be free of mandi (marketplace) tax imposed by the state governments.
  2. The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance – Allows farmers to do contract farming and market their produces freely.
  3. Farm Services Act, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act – amendment to the existing Essential Commodities Act. This law now frees items such as foodgrains, pulses, edible oils and onion for trade except in extraordinary (read crisis) situations.

According to the government – the new laws will help to strengthen basic farm sector infrastructure through greater private investments. Successive governments have found financial constraints in investing in farm and rural infrastructure. It is argued that with food markets growing exponentially in India, private players would make agriculture profitable for the farmers.

Why farmers are protesting?

It’s been around 3 months since the Farmers are protesting in North India, on the highways en-route Delhi. Despite having rounds of talks between the government and the farmers, they’re yet to find a common understanding.

Farmers are worried as they feel this may impact the existing structure and lead to the corporatization of the agriculture sector in which the big corporations will exploit the farmers. Moreover, the new farm bill talks about the establishment of the private Agriculture Produce Market Committee, which in turn will end the role of middleman involved in the market, However, the middleman is seen by farmers, not as one exploiting them but one who provides services to them. Their number in two states – Punjab & Haryana could cross 100,000. So, farmers and middleman fear that this will ultimately result in huge job loss and impact the structure.

Another point farmers fears that from individual-to-individual relation, these bills will change the market into the individual to corporate relations. With a changed dispute settlement mechanism the farmers also are worried that their pleas could not get the desired settlement.

MSP – Minimum Support Price is another demand forwarded by the farmers, which they apprehend that allowing outside-APMC trade of farm produces would lead to lesser buying by the government agencies in the approved Mandis (marketplace). The protesting farmers say the new laws would thus make the MSP system irrelevant and they would not have any assured income from their farming. Right now, the government announces fixed MSP for around two dozen crops.

The working of the MSP system has been such over the years that it benefits only a handful of farmers at the all-India level. The Shanta Kumar committee set up by the Modi government in 2015 says that only six percent of farmers benefit from the MSP regime.

The catch here is that for farmers of some states such as Punjab and Haryana, the MSP system has worked well. In these two states procurement of paddy and wheat range around 75-80 per cent.

So, the fear that the MSP system may crumble and get dismantled after the new farm laws are implement has become a very emotive issue for the farmers of Punjab and Haryana. And, that is why they are the ones who are most vocal in their protest against the farm laws and demanding that the MSP should be made mandatory for both APMC and private Mandis (marketplace).

The government, however, is constantly in touch with the farmers and trying to resolve the issues through dialogue and till then the laws have been kept on hold while talks are held.

External group’s interference

Many external elements are interfering in the protests and challenging the government, including a few fringes and notorious separatist organisations which are based and nurtured by the West during the days of the cold war days for the obvious reasons. In the garb of human rights and democracy, they know it very well that how to destabilise a nation. There are many examples in front of us, the Russian protests being one of them. 

The world has seen how after the new U.S. government’s arrival in the United States set the narrative for the socialist lobby around the world. President Trump very well assessed the threats of such groups and kept them in check but the new administration seems to propagate their ideology as the state policy. 

When President Biden said, “We must meet the ‘new moment’ accelerating global challenges” it indicates toward continuing the policies of Obama administration with new added ‘Biden’ characteristics. 

The tweets by American celebrities and people with clear political leaning are not about the protests, they in fact, do not know much about the protest, and their idea is to attack the ideology which doesn’t meet theirs. India is a land of protests, revolution, ideas and ideologies and both the Government of India and Indians respect the thoughts across the spectrum.

One of the American Congresswomen said that she will continue to monitor this situation closely and another expressed the solidarity but their thoughts are not driven by the plights of farmers, rather a particular ideology.

Recently, the State Department welcomed the reforms by the Indian government and also advocates for the protests. Which is contradicting in itself. India as a bearer of an Independent Foreign Policy should avoid any validation by any foreign government and let not the tweets by a particular mindset decide the course of protest or government actions.

India as a democracy respect different ideas but can’t allow any ‘vested interest’ groups influence any actions by New Delhi.

From our partner International Affairs

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South Asia

Forced Cremation: Another bout of marginalisation in Sri Lanka

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A thermometer gun is used to take a boy's temperature in Sri Lanka. © UNICEF/Chameera Laknath

The agony of the Sri Lankan civil war is not worn off from history as yet. The 26-year war decimated the foundations of the country and highlighted the separatist fragment of the society. The massacre of the Muslim community and the wounds left to fester since 1990’s riots have still not subsided even after three decades. While the clash of the Sinhalese and Tamils climaxed in 2009, the violence against the Muslim minority never ceased. The recent strike over the rights of minorities is the forceful cremation of the deceased in the line of Covid prevention adopted by the Sri Lankan government. Regardless of the religious doctrines guiding the final proceedings of the dead, the Sri Lankan regime continues to ploy to utilise the pandemic as a tool to forcefully cremate the deceased Muslims irrespective of the sentiments of the Muslim families.

Sri Lanka, officially known as the ‘Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka’, is a South Asian country forming a tear-drop below the Indian subcontinent and located at the southwestern edge of the Bay of Bengal. The country was bloodied by the infamous civil war that incited in 1983; claiming mounds of lives and consuming countless communities. The 1990 Massacre was the flash point of the civil war; mosques attacked in the town of Batticaloa resulting in 300 Muslims brutally slain as a drive against the Sinhalese government. The end of the civil war should have marked an end to the inhumanity bestowed upon the Muslim minority given the fall of the ‘Tamil Tigers’; the main culprits of the 1990 massacre. However, the religious violence exponentiated instead of contracting under the Sinhalese dominated Sri Lanka as the anti-Muslimism campaigns picked up pace over the last decade, leaving the Muslim minority, making only 9% of the total population, insecure with respect to safety of life and prosperity.

Over the course of the decade, the spree of violence and discrimination against the Muslims transitioned into bloody chaos claiming mosques, shops and even crippling entire towns dwelled by the Muslims. The anti-Muslimism rhetoric led by the extremist Buddhist group ‘Bodu Bala Sena (BBS)’, backed by the Sinhalese government, paved the riots against the Muslim community in the form of mobs ravaging the Muslim towns during systematic protests. The repeated calls for protection went unheeded by the Sinhalese Buddhist Revivalist Groups, further nudging and encouraging the extremist monks to spread hatred against the Muslim community which came across as the mobster mentality boldly continued to oppress the Muslims.

The Human Rights abuse under the regime of president Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his brother, the Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, has surpassed all the records of injustice etched in the Sri Lankan history. His promises to bring back the Muslims displaced amidst the civil war went in vain and he proved to be as much of a biased leader as his brother. When Gotabaya came into power in 2019, the Sinhalese Buddhist Nationalist Party (SLPP) had been mongering extremism under the pretence of mob-attacks while backing groups like BBS to simmer hatred and prejudice against the Muslim community. The Rajapaksa brothers are notorious of their Burma-like mentality of ethnic cleansing, rumoured to be following the footsteps of Myanmar to thin the Muslim minority in a similar exercise of genocide as against the Rohingya Muslims. Though the ‘ethnic cleaning’ allegations have been repeatedly put down by the SLPP leaders, the historical bloodletting of the Muslim community and the irrational policies adopted under the charter of litigation point to a very different and bleak picture of politics in Sri Lanka.

Since the Sri Lankan government adopted the mandatory cremation policy in March 2020, more than 80 deceased Muslims have been forcibly cremated against the will of their families. While the Rajapaksa-regime uses forced cremation as another tool to torment the Muslim community by trampling on their basic rights in the guise of Covid-prevention, World Health Organisation (WHO), along with the Sri Lankan doctors, has rejected the justification provided by President Gotabaya for adopting cremation as a safety procedure to prevent water contamination due to rituals related to burial. Despite of the assurance of WHO, the Sri Lankan government not only refused to consider burial as an accepted method but even the Supreme Court expended no time to shun the petitions filed against the forcible cremation law, pushing injustice in the face of the Muslim minorities. The UN experts remarked on the systematic persecution of the Muslim community: “We deplore the implementation of such Public Health decisions based on discrimination, aggressive nationalism and ethnocentrism amounting to persecution of the Muslims and other minorities of the county”.

It is clear from the stern attitude of the Rajapaksa-regime that it aims to undermine the voice of the minorities by crushing the rights and subsequently silencing the protests that ensue from the inhuman treatment. Though the global political circles have responded strictly to the ghastly abuse of power in Sri Lanka; UK being the prime country to hold active protests against the violation of human rights and even UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, threatening sanctions on Sri Lanka for proactively transgressing the rights of minorities. However, despite of the pressure building up, the spokesperson of the Sri Lankan government, Keheliya Rambukwella, rebutted the allegations by stating: “We do things only on expert advice and cannot take ad-hoc decisions”. The juvenile statements followed by the aggressive attempts to subterfuge the global community are enough to expose the extremist mindset of the Sri Lankan government. The debacle that is to follow, in retrospect, could be far worse than the civil war since even the dead are not spared of the tyranny in today’s day and age.

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