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How will demonetization strengthen hands of Indian poor?

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] I [/yt_dropcap] ndia is undergoing a serious and strange crisis where poor and common people continue to suffer because they were not taken into confidence by the government by providing them with source of sustenance. Indians do not trust the PM because he had already cheated on them by promising them huge money when the black money etc are recovered from abroad but he is silent about that and began a direct attack on the common people with igniting money cash crisis. Most ATM machines are not functioning and most ones have no money but the rich people have huge sums of money in new currency notes.

Apparently, Hindutva brands RSS and BJP sought to save Modi from any possible punishment in future owing murder of Muslims in the aftermath of the Gujarat riots to appease Hindus. Now the BJP, RSS, VHP and PM Modi are jointly working to save the Hindu criminals from any possible punishment for destroying in 1992 the historic Babri Mosque on 06 December , death anniversary of Dr. Ambedkar, author of Indian Constitution. (The choice of death date of Dr. Ambedkar December 06 for destroying the historic Babri Mosque cannot be just coincidental, considering the importance of choice of dates for India even in cricket matches and joint cricket matches like IPL and ISL, etc).

Hindutva leader Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is now at a crossroads as PM Modi’s demonetization drive has backed its fortunes in the polls in future. If only the rich or corporate lords alone vote to elect a government, BJP or any other party needs not worry about the common people but majority of voters belong to common class.

Corruption, black money and Modi

Indian corruption is a very complicated issue as many forces are at work but government fails to deal with it because it always helps and supports one section of “special” people and refuses to launch a multi-prolonged approach simultaneously to root out the menace. .

Entire system is rotten. But PM Mod ahs attacked the common people in order to ostensibly end corruption and black and fake money. And the government decision is final and even parliament cannot do anything about it. That is Indian democracy.

India’s pride lies in promoting corruption and financial lords in all fields and back and fake money is thriving even when a leading economist Manamohan Singh led the UPA government. . .

Corruption is closely linked with rise of black money and state support for the rich and corporate lords to mint money as much as they want. In fact the central and state governments promote corruption and black money through fake joint sports exercises like IPL, ISL etc (meant for well to do people and all destroying national teams) where blackmoney is being channelized and even made white. In fact, India, after honoring a cricketer Sachin, who made some 100s by official fixings for mutual help, was struggling at the crease for nearly 2 years for his last one hundred runs, with Bharatratna and allows him to make even football a fixed sport. His mafia works for the success of Kerala blastards team which he bought or his own Mumbai team and the teams that play against the Sachin teams help score goals and win. Delhi team helped Sachin team to even in first leg semifinal. With third rate players having been bought by him and other billionaires, India is making a mockery of football showing that not only cricket but football also can be fixed as per a plan.

These fake players are celebrities for Indian media and government.

That is the Indian mischief in the name of sports. But can anyone do anything about these bogus night games?

Indian PM Narendra Modi has been in the news and he and all Hindutva parties need it and love it. Modi said last week his decision to ban old Rs 500 and 1,000 notes was taken to strengthen the hands of the nation’s poor.

As CM of already relatively developed Gujarat state, Modi came to national scene on the eve of parliamentary poll with his own claims of “development of Gujarat”, to which he subsequently added the issue of corruption and blackmoney in the back ground of the famous Anna Hazare-Kejriwal led anti-corruption movement and he as PM candidate of BJP wooed the voters by telling them that they would get a few lacks of rupees every month once black money is recovered from foreign banks.

As his influence began waning, suddenly PM Modi turned anti-corruption crusader. Modi announced the demonetization drive as results of US president elections were coming out and Modi wanted to outsmart the winning Trump and USA in the media. A month into the demonetization drive, there cannot but be a sense of worry in government circles about the unchanging ground realities with no sign of the long queues before banks and ATMs shortening any time soon. There is no unanimity among opposition parties in their ranks about the course of action. A more effective opposition would have had a field day in pillorying Narendra Modi.

Addressing a farmers’ rally in his home state Gujarat in Deesa town of Banaskantha district, Modi said the honest people have been looted for 70 years and that he stands with the poor of the country. “We took the decision on currency notes to strengthen the hands of the poor of the nation,” said Modi without providing any hints about the scheme of making the poor rich. .

Terrorism, Pakistan and Islam were the key issues to political success of BJP and other Hindutva parties. Modi said that terrorism is promoted by black money and his fight was against terrorism and the menace gets power from fake currencies. “With our step on currency notes we have been successful in weakening the hands of terrorists and those in fake currency rackets,” he said.

Modi knows people of India are fed up with rampant corruption promoted by the ruling parties, especially the Congress but including his own BJP so far. But his demonetization drive doesn’t appear to promote the poor or common people, on the contrary they are facing deadly problems. Defending his decision of demonetization, Modi said: “Who is unhappy with corruption? Not those perpetrating corruption. it is the poor, the common citizens who are unhappy.” Modi said the “honest citizens of this country” have supported his move.

It is not surprising that the BJP is making a complete mockery of democracy by such nuisance.

Confidence or fear?

PM Modi has refused to attend the parliamentary session fearing criticism of his cash crisis project. If he is sure of what exactly he is doing now he could have attended the parliament and explained the government position by revealing the facts and his ideas for promoting the poor in the country. PM Modi is duty bound to tell the people what has been achieved so far and how exactly he wants to proceed further. He must also explain how the BJP has so much of money and why di d it withdraw money from banks on the eve of his night announcement about the demonetization. BJP leaders explain PM Modi doing all these to make India a developed nation – but how? Prices of essential commodities are going up and there is no hope that they will come down.

BJP government has said they are ready to debate but PM Modi avoids parliament and once as he came fearing loud noise, he walked out. In the past BJP had stormed parliament for years, walked out as a routine policy.

Modi said, “I am not being allowed to speak in Lok Sabha so I am speaking in the Jan Sabha Had asked for 50 days. You will see how things will change. This is a major step to rid the nation from corruption. Demonetization, Modi argues, has been done to help the poor. For how long can poor of India be told to pay for houses in cash? He talks about modernization. For how long will poor be asked- you want Pacca bill or Kaccha bill. Today your banks and wallets are in your mobile. This is how things have changed. I want to assure the people of the country that no one will be spared. Merely talking about the poor is different from working for the poor, something that the NDA government is always doing. Happenings in Parliament anguished our President, who has tremendous political experience We are not a selfish nation. We think about future generations.

Modi is fully aware of the fact the he and his party have lost the spot in the public domain as they do not trust them. He now knows for sure that he and his party won the parliamentary poll not because of his popularity but mainly because of popular anger and anguish among people over the corrupt Congress government. Anti-corruption movement created the necessary

Black money and fake notes are as catchy slogans as corruption and crimes. Modi is trying to use as many such slogans as they are appealing to people. Development, corruption, black money, flake currency, etc are Modi’s preferences while for RSS and other BJP leaders use Ghar wapsi, beef ban, mosque destruction, etc but all of them use these only for Hindu votes.

State elections due in a few more state assemblies and BJP wants to win as many seats as possible so that it could increase the seats in and get a majority in Rajya Sabha.

Fortunately for PM Modi, the ruling BJP, which had suffered hugely as a national party until it discovered Modi as the PM candidate, has no alternative to Modi and will have to obey him and help him execute his vote capturing agendas. It is moral boosting for Modi in the m name of a “great India” to resort even harder drives in future to target the common people of India.

While Mamata Banerjee wants a complete roll-back, others favour a Joint Parliamentary Committee to examine the crisis. Even if there is no certainty about how long the hardship of the ordinary people will continue, or whether their patience is inexhaustible, the nomination of Modi as Time magazine’s Person of the Year in an online poll was expected to be a morale-booster for the BJP but unfortunately, US president elect Donald Trump emerged the winner defeating Hillary Clinton even in that online poll.

Perhaps there are not many people who have retained their faith in him and expect him to ride out the present storm.

Waning Modi’s popularity

The central point of this transformation is the economic development which is Modi’s trump card. Although there is not much to write home at present about the growth trajectory — Manmohan Singh’s government did better in the early years of his tenure — what makes Modi stand out is his commitment to the cause. While his predecessor faltered in the last few years of his stint Modi focused on the market-oriented capitalist path. The demonetization has caused concern about a fall in the growth rate — the latest figure is 7.1, down from 7.6. Earlier governments were unwilling either to follow the capitalist path to help IMF and World bank with anti-poor policy or to crack down on black money because of the banking secrecy regulations and the fear of causing a flutter in the dovecotes of tainted politicians and bureaucrats, among others. The political consensus of parties not to disturb the status quo of allowing corruption as state policy. .

Seeking political mileage for BJP in the polls and improve ailing prestige, PM Modi, in contrast, has confronted the scourge of a parallel economy head-on notwithstanding the “monumental mismanagement” of the economy of which he has been accused by Manmohan Singh and Sen.

Notorious Reddy gang that steals natural resources in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh/Telengana as their right, are also caught by the authorities b for hiding huge cash and gold reserves but the issue would die down soon as these national frauds would be free, forgotten even in media as Indian military and intelligence divert attention to some cross border issue. Media can easily insult and defame Pakistan but cannot question Indian government about its false promises, especially on demonetization drive. Judiciary considering itself a part of government cannot question the government.

Modi and BJP presume that the ordinary people have been willing to undergo the severe inconvenience of standing in long queues because they believe that instead of mere promises as in the past, a firm step against black money is at last being taken. Nor is there an acceptance of the charge about the futility of the step considering that only six per cent of the black money is kept in cash.

The reason is the belief that the latest measure will tell the hoarders of hidden wealth that Modi seems serious about bringing them to book. Modi, therefore, can said to be in the process of passing the most arduous test of all by expecting the people to ignore their present difficulties because of their faith in him.

There is little doubt that demonetization has been a risky gamble for BJP and Modi where he has taken on a section of the opposition in the hope that his popularity will save him when the votes are counted.

Some people who somehow wants to see India a super power as early as possible to overtake China and challenge and Russia do support Modi who wants to be a hero of the media.

Observations

The chief outcome of the demonetization drive launched by Modi is that people spend very less and save a lot that could be used by the Modi government to put the money in global market to help the multinational corporations make more money. In the process, common people suffer while the rich face no problems as they get money as much as they require. Now black money is available in new 2000 currency notes.

There is no evidence to show that common people will benefit from the current cash crisis perpetrated by the government, making common people a beggar class standing in long queues to get their own money for their daily requirements while the rich and corporate lords get their required big cash- how? Corporate lords will certainly benefit. And BJP can eventually blame Pakistan and terrorism for failure of his cashless drive and media would support them. How come black money promotes terrorism when states are funding terror operations against other countries? Does state have black money?

Corruption and black money are being pampered at many levels and by many sources that share the booty. Poor and common people suffer.

Has Modi done anything for the poor in Gujarat where was the CM for many years?

When the Modi government has not yet begun targeting the mafias operating in every domain of the society with state backing and when the cricket match fixings have remained a state honor for the mafias, there is nothing that would make people believe what PM Modi says.

Ever since he assumed power by dethrone the Congress party’s Manmohan Singh’s government, PM Modi has been making strenuous efforts to be in the news and capture the attention of global media and governments and obviously he has achieved some success in that respect but he has put the nation and people in danger by his latest cashless monetary move, forcing the people to throng the banks and post offices like beggars. .

PM Modi’s usual rhetoric of promoting poor and common men has remained a fake stunt. Common people suffer more than ever before while the rich and corporate lords who fund the poll campaigns of both national parties continue to thrive, though a couple of them have been caught concealing illegal money. But how would this help the poor Is not clear though corruption harms the people at large.

Common people, the chief beneficiary of the demonetization attack by the Modi government’s decision to withdraw important currency notes without any prior caution, cannot be expected to buy the false promise of PM to make them strong by his demonetization gimmick.

PM Modi should now reveal his whole logic behind all this and how the poor and common would benefit direct from the drive.

Already the image of Modi as an elected leader has been waning as people do not see him s the tall leader he and his supporters claim to be worth trusting any more without seeing the results.

Modi must ask every political party to declare their assents, both movable and d immovable and state the sources from which they got the money. He must immediately ask his BJP to declare the assets and the funds it has along with the sources. Once party funds are accounted properly and made known to public, the level of corruption can be contained. People are fed up with piecemeal approach in containing and ending corruption by catching a few individuals and let them escape in due course by funding the ruling party.

Since the BJP is dreaming of making India super power, naturally poor will have to perish and only rich and corporate lords should shine. Developed nations just crush the common people and poor disappear.

Recovering all black money from the defaulters will not automatically make poor and common people rich or self reliance-only governmental action to upgrade them with money can.

Educated people could be fascinated by the slogans like removal of black money and corruption

Removal of black and fake money is a must. But will that alone make the poor happy?

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South Asia

India is finally engaging with the Taliban

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Indian news outlets broke a story about an Indian delegation meeting up with the Taliban in Qatar, where the Taliban has a political office. Indian officials made a ‘quiet visit’ to Doha to speak to the Taliban delegation there, said a Qatari official. This development marks a decisive shift in Indian policy towards the Taliban.

The Taliban is a hardline Islamic movement in Afghanistan that is a formidable military force. According to the Long war journal, the Taliban controls more districts than the government in Kabul. The Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 until the US declared war on Afghanistan for harbouring Osama bin Laden and other Al-Qaeda militants. Despite decades of effort at defeating the Taliban and rebuilding Afghanistan, the US has failed. After 2006 the Taliban started making a comeback, and now they are more potent than ever.

India is known for putting all its eggs in one basket. When Rajiv Gandhi was the prime minister, he is said to have a deep personal relationship with Najibullah, the last communist president of Afghanistan who was forced to resign and subsequently assassinated by the rebel groups in a UN compound where he took shelter after the Mujahideen occupied Kabul. Despite signs that Najibullah’s power was waning and was increasingly becoming a liability, there was no concentrated effort from India to engage other groups. Furthermore, failing to evacuate its long-time ally, India got a reputation of being an unreliable partner. 

India witnessed first hand the folly in not having any lines of communication with the Taliban when an Indian Airlines flight was hijacked and forced to land in Kandahar airport. India was forced to release three terrorists in exchange for the passengers. The Minister of state for external affairs, Ajit Panja, later said in the Indian parliament that it was the “best possible solution in a basket of worse alternatives.” India’s hands were tied because they had no relations with the Taliban. The incident also convinced India of the Taliban-ISI collusion, forcing it to embrace the anti-Taliban groups in Afghanistan further.

The hijacking was nothing short of a complete strategic failure. It was also a flawed reading of the Taliban. The reality was that Pakistan’s undue influence over the Taliban was resented by their leaders, who were looking for ways to diversify away from Pakistan. The Taliban thought of the incident as an opportunity to establish diplomatic contact with India. The Indian leadership, unfortunately, was unwilling to take the risk. Instead, the minister of external affairs, Jaswant Singh, had to fly out to Kandahar to hand over the prisoners embarrassingly.  This Indian approach is in sharp contrast to China, which was willing to work with the Taliban to protect its interests.

India’s chief concern about the Taliban was the various militant training camps operating in Afghanistan, which produced militants fighting in Kashmir. This was again a lack of good judgement. The Taliban was extensively infiltrated by the ISI and hence had little influence to say no to such training camps. The decision to allow such camps were likely to be pragmatic to ensure resources keep flowing from Islamabad. At the same time, they resented the undue Pakistani influence. India did not make the situation any better by not engaging with the Taliban. On the contrary, it played into the Pakistani hands because the Taliban now had one country less to rely on, forcing them to keep coming back to Pakistan for material and diplomatic help.

India failed to realize that there can be different types of Taliban. While some groups like the Haqqani network were firmly in Pakistani hands, other groups would have been willing to engage with New Delhi.

However, India continued putting all its eggs in one basket by ultimately supporting the Karzai regime. The looming threats of a Taliban revival were ignored. This was despite even the US engaging in backroom talks with the Taliban from 2010 onwards. The conflict was lagging on, and the US realized eliminating the Taliban was not a reality. However, again, such pragmatism was absent in the Indian foreign policy as it continued with non-engagement with the Taliban.

With the US troop withdrawal, engaging the Taliban has now become unavoidable.  India has good relations with all immediate neighbours of Afghanistan except Pakistan and can play an important role in the Afghan peace process. Pakistan has tried to block India out of the peace process repeatedly. However, all parties seem to be coming to the conclusion that India is a crucial ally in bringing stability to Afghanistan and can help limit Pakistani influence.

In a letter to the Afghan president Ashraf Ghani, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken proposed a United Nations-level meeting with the foreign ministers of India, Iran, China, Russia, Pakistan, and the United States to develop a “unified approach” to peace. Indian external affairs minister S Jaisankar addressed, via video, the inaugural session of the Doha peace process, signalling a newfound urge to get involved in Afghanistan.

The recent meeting between Indian and Taliban, held in Doha, is a step in the right direction. However, India needs to come out of its shell and engage the Taliban more. They are a reality that needs to be dealt with. Being a mute spectator will only aid Islamabad and harm Indian interests.

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What forced India to abandon its world-power ambition?

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The writer is of the view that India regarded itself as a rightful successor to Imperial India. It viewed Pakistan as an unviable entity who seceded from “great” India.  A series of cataclysmic events scuttled India’s ambition. India uncannily annoyed China, then Soviet Union and even the USA. India’s disastrous defeat in the 1962 Sino-Indian War made India realise that it has to concentrate on its immediate surroundings. But, India is still to realise that without burying the hatchet with Pakistan, India can’t realise its dream of even regional hegemony.

India is a multi-racial, multi-religious and a multi-linguistic “union”. The Englishman was able to hold this “loose sally” together by use of force. There were ebbs and flows of centrifugal movements in some states. But, the Englishman was able to quell them in nascent stage.

The desire for self determination or independence from English yoke arose very late in India. In fact, it was the Englishman himself who paved way for arousal of political consciousness in at least the elitist Indian leaders. David Hume, followed by a few other Britons, headed the Indian National Congress, until toddler indigenous leaders grew strong enough to lead it.

India’s perception as an imperial successor

India dreamt ofbeing an undisputed successor to the pre-partition Imperial India. It harboured ambition to emerge not only a South Asian hegemon but also a world power. However, its ambition suffered many setbacks.  Let us review vicissitudes of India’s “greatness” ambition in historic context.

1947- 1962 period

To get recognised as a major world power it was necessary for India to establish its primacy first as a major power in its neighbourhood. The Quaid-e-Azam wished that India and Pakistan to forget acrimony of the partition. He keenly desired that the subcontinent and all of South Asia should remain aloof from rivalry. He proposed a joint defence pact with India.

Had India accepted his idea, the two countries would not have been at daggers drawn after independence. Before his final flight (Aug 7, 1947) from Delhi to Pakistan, he sent a message to the Indian government, “the past must be buried and let us start as two independent sovereign states of Hindustan and Pakistan, I wish Hindustan prosperity and peace.” Vallabhbhai Patel replied from Delhi “the poison [the Quaid] has been removed from the body of India. As for the Muslims, they have their roots, their sacred places and their centres here. I do not know what they can possibly do in Pakistan. It will not be long before they return to us.”

Even Nehru, an ostensibly liberal leader, regarded the creation of Pakistan as a blunder. His rancour against Pakistan reached a crescendo in his remarks: “I shall not have that carbuncle on my back.” (D. H. Bhutani, The Future of Pakistan, page 14).

Ayesha Jalal in a paper Why Jinnah Matters (Maleeha Lodhi (ed.), Pakistan: Beyond the Crisis State) recalls: “Just before his own death, Jinnah proposed a joint defence with India as the Cold War started to shape the world and the two power blocs began to form. Jinnah was still thinking as a South Asian nationalist…had Jinnah’s vision prevailed and found an echo in India, we would have seen a very different South Asia…there would have been no crippling defence expenditures.”

“There would have been no reason to join one or other camp of the Cold War. There would have been open borders, free trade and regular visiting between the two countries…a more humane sub-continent might have emerged.

India’s cold shoulder compelled Pakistan to challenger her self-conceited “primacy” at every footstep. Accession of some princely states either to India or to Pakistan became a bone of contention between the two next-door neighbours, toujours at daggers drawn.  The Jammu and Kashmir was, particularly, a hard nut to crack.

Pakistan posed a formidable adversary to India’s hegemony at every international forum. To pacify Pakistan, India’s then home minister, Vallabhai Patel offered Kashmir literally on a platter to Pakistan in exchange for Junagadh. But, Liaquat Khan, then Pakistan’s prime minister spurned the offer. He mused `what shall I make of the Kashmir mountains’.

Faced with the raiders in Kashmir, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru approached the United Nations for “mediating”, not for “declaring Pakistan an aggressor”. The stark, nay brutal reality then was that India realised that at the United nations not only the permanent but also the temporary members supported Pakistan’s position. India did not approach even the International Court of Justice as it perceived that it had a weak case.

India remained nominally non-aligned while Pakistan joined security alliances with the USA. Military and quasi-military confrontations took place between the two neighbours. But the Kashmir dispute remained unresolved despite the fisticuffs. Even today, Kashmir is a nuclear tinderbox.

Setback to India’s world-power ambition (1962 to 1991)

India’s disastrous defeat in the 1962 Sino-Indian War buried India’s dream of world leadership. India was able to dismember Pakistan’s eastern wing in 1971. Yet, her dream of becoming a world power or a South Asian hegemon remained unfulfilled.  Political instability coupled with erratic economic policies whittled down Pakistan’s clout in comity of nations. In contrast, India, post-1991, adopted such economic policies that rejuvenated its tottering economy. Still, India could not get recognised as a paramount power in the South Asia as the Imperial successor to the British raj.

India imposes hegemony on some Himalayan states

While Pakistan remained defiant, India managed to coerce Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim to sign such treaties in 1949 and 1950 that made “New Delhi in charge of their foreign policy” (Manjeet S. Pardesi, Is india a South Asian or Asian Power; Knut A. Jacobsen, Routledge Handbook of India, page 136). Sikkim was absorbed into the Indian Union in 1975. About Bhutan, there are strong voices in India demanding India should annex it before China does so. To tame Nepal, a landlocked country, India blockaded it and annexed its Kalapani territory. But, Nepal is steadfastly resisting India’s pressure.

India’s significant post-partition “Asian Great Power” initiatives

Convinced of being heir-apparent to Imperial India, Nehru organised Asian Relations Conference a few months before the country’s independence in March-April 1947 (India became independent on August 15, 1947). In January 1949, India organised a conference on Indonesia to deal specifically with Asian issues, particularly Indonesian independence from the Dutch. At the same time, India forgave debts owed by Burma (Myanmar) to India during its separation from India in 1937.

In 1951, India signed a security treaty with Indonesia. A few months later, it signed a similar treaty with Burma. During the early post-colonial year, Burma behaved as if it was India’s vassal. India dictated Burma even on the latter’s internal security issues. In 1952, India signed a treaty with Philippines that amounted to a non-aggression pact. This “pact” was signed amid an environment in which China in post-War (post-Colonial) context appeared to assume a threatening posture in view of situation emerging in Korea and Indo-China. An Indian chairman happened to head each of the three International Commissions of Supervision and C control for Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, created at Geneva in 1951.

Ascending on great-Asian power trajectory, India signed security arrangements with Indonesian Air Force n 1956, with navy in 1958, and army in 1960.

Forays into North East Asia

Engrossed with great-power ambition, India did not confine its foreign-policy endeavours to the Southeast Asia. It dabbled into Northeast Asian affairs also. Even without any direct diplomatic ties, Korean peninsula was de facto divided during 1950-53 (in the wake of the Second World War).  India continued to maintain a facade of non-alignment despite desire and initiatives to forge security alliances with several countries.

India irks China and the then Soviet Union

Diplomacy is like the acrobatics of balancing on a tight rope. Though the USA opposed, India recognised de jure the People’s Republic of China. The USA, under Harry S. Truman (1956) began to suspect India as a Communist-China sympathiser.

Throughout the 1950s, India supported China’s inclusion in the United Nations’ Security Council. Besides, it introduced the Communist China to the Afro-Asian countries at Bandung in 1955.

 India even legitimized China’s invasion and annexation of Tibet by signing the 1954 panchsheel agreement. India under Nehru also acted as a diplomatic interlocutor between China and Tibet after India had granted refuge to Delai Lama in the wake of Lhasa Uprising.

China and the Soviet Union become suspicious of India’s equivocal foreign policy

India continued making goodwill gestures to both China and the Soviet Union.  But, the both countries construed Indian policies as a conundrum.  To their chagrin, India supported the US-sponsored resolution on Korea. This gesture annoyed both the Soviet Union and China. They became skeptical of India’s nonalignment credentials.

India’s role in repatriation of Korean prisoners of war (POW)

India shrugged off China’s and Soviet Union’s annoyance and lobbied hard for repatriation of the Korean POW. Through India’s effort, some 23000 POW happened to be repatriated though it then appeared to be a Herculean job. Under India’s Lieutenant General KS Thimayya, Major General SPP Thorat leading some 6000 Indian troops and administrative personnel in the Custodian force (that landed in Korea) accomplished the POW’s exchange.

India woos Japan (Far East)

At the International Military Tribunal for the Far East in Tokyo, all the 25 top Japanese leaders were charged with Class A war-crimes. Indian judge Radhabinod Paul declared all of them “not guilty”.

India regarded USA’s San Francisco Peace Treaty with Japan as “unfair”. This treaty bound Japan to pay war-time reparations. India signed a separate treaty, the first ever with Japan, waiving all war-time reparations.

Under Nehru, India invited Japan to the 1955 Bandung Conference even though Japan was not then a member of the United Nations. Japan became a member of the UN later in 1956.  

How Sino Indian bonhomie ended?

China suspected India was bent upon reverting Tibet into its pre-1950-51 status as a buffer state between India and China. India’s disastrous defeat in 1962 Sino-Indian War buried India’s ambition to emerge as a major Asian power for the remainder of the Cold-War period.

India hails Galwan (Ladakh) unarmed clashes as a “victory”. But, in actual fact, the clashes were a storm in a teacup. India’s stand in media contradicted its official stand. India admits China “did not annex an inch of Indian territory” (so said Indian prime minister Narendra Modi at the all-party political moot).

End of World-power ambition

The 1962 Sino-Indian War ad Galwan clashes portrayed India as a power that could not stand China without external military support. India was forced to revert conceptually to the subcontinent as her primary area of concern. Despite Pakistan’s vivisection in 1971, India remained a regional power.

Pakistan’s moves to cut India to size

Pakistan facilitated the USA’s tacit alliance with China. It achieved nuclear parity with India. It prevented India from emerging even as an undisputed regional bully.

In 1972, the then Shah of Iran declared “any attack on Pakistan would be tantamount to an attack on Iran and that Teheran was committed to the territorial integrity of Pakistan”.

India’s Indira Doctrine

In the aftermath of India’s “victory over Pakistan”, India embarked upon Indira Doctrine (ID).  This doctrine is akin to Monroe Doctrine. The ID postulated “South Asia was India’s sphere of influence and India would not tolerate the intervention of any extra-regional power here unless it was on India’s terms. At the same time, India would not intervene in the domestic affairs of the regional states unless requested to do so”.

Application

Within framework of this doctrine, India intervened in the Sri Lankan Civil War (1983-1990), forestalled a coup in Maldives (1988) and blockaded Nepal during 1989-90 to force it to toe India’s diktat in economic and diplomatic relations.

India’s post-1991 (Cold War) major Asian-power policy (Look East Policy)

Subdued by several events, India appears to have now abandoned world-power ambition. It is concentrating on consolidating it position as a major Asian power. .Under Manmohan Singh, India undertook structural economic reforms that banked on Japan, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank.

India strengthened its naval command in Andaman and Nicobar Islands and began conducting joint naval exercises with Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore (Lion King annual bilateral submarine warfare exercise). India trained Malaysian pilots to fly MiG-29 aircraft and upgraded defence cooperation with Vietnam.

Concluding remarks

India sees itself as “indispensable to the strategic balance of power in Asia”. It abhors China dominance in the region.

A series of jolts reduced India’s world-power inspiration to major Asian-power ambition. Nehru declared, ` India was bound to play the role of “leading and interpreting Asia and specifically South East Asia to the wider world’ Manmohan Singh, the architect of India’s Look East policy, stressed, ‘India’s Look East Policy was not merely an external economic policy, it was also a strategic shift in India’s vision of the world and India’s place in evolving global economy’.

India’s great-power dream will remain unrealized unless it mends its fence with Pakistan. Sandwiched between China and Pakistan, India is unlikely to win a two front war.

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Pakistan, Quo Vadis?

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Pakistan’s place in a new world order is anybody’s guess. Recent policy moves suggest options that run the gamut from a state that emphasizes religion above all else to a country that forges a more balanced relationship with China and the United States.

The options need not be mutually exclusive but a populous, nuclear-armed country whose education system is partially anchored in rote learning and memorization of the Qur’an rather than science is likely to raise eyebrows in Washington and Beijing.

Pakistan has long viewed its ties to China as an unassailable friendship and strategic partnership China but has recently been exploring ways of charting a more independent course.

Relations between Islamabad and Beijing were bolstered by an up to US$60 billion Chinese investment in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a cornerstone of the People’s Republic’s infrastructure, transportation, and energy-driven Belt and Road Initiative.

Deeply indebted to China as a result of the Belt and Road that has significantly contributed to electricity supply and transportation infrastructure, Pakistan will have to tread cautiously as it explores the margins of its manoeuvrability.

Nevertheless, suggesting that CPEC may not live up to its promise to significantly boost the country’s position as a key Belt and Road maritime and land transportation hub, Pakistan recently agreed with Saudi Arabia to shy away from building a US$10 billion refinery and petrochemical complex in the port of Gwadar, long viewed as a Belt and Road crown jewel. The two countries are looking at the port city of Karachi as an alternative.

Gwadar port has been troubled for years. Completion of the port has been repeatedly delayed amid mounting resentment among the ethnic Baloch population of the Pakistan province of Balochistan, one of the country’s least developed regions. Work on a fence around the port halted late last year when local residents protested.

Building the refinery in Karachi would dent Chinese hopes of Gwadar emerging as a competitive hub at the top of the Arabian Sea. Doubts about Gwadar’s future are one reason why landlocked Tajikistan, as well as Afghanistan, are looking at Iranian ports as alternatives.

Saudi Arabia and Pakistan initially agreed on building the refinery in Gwadar in 2019 during a visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. A Saudi-funded feasibility study has since suggested that Gwadar lacks the pipeline and transportation infrastructure to justify a refinery. The refinery would be cut off from Karachi, Pakistan’s oil supply hub.

In a similar vein, Pakistan has been discussing a possible military base in the country from which US forces could support the government in Kabul once the Americans leave Afghanistan in September under an agreement with the Taliban.

Washington and Islamabad appear to be nowhere close to an agreement on the terms that would govern a US military presence in Pakistan but the fact that Pakistan is willing to entertain the notion will not have gone unnoticed in Beijing.

Pakistan borders on China’s troubled province of Xinjiang, home to Turkic Muslims who face a brutal Chinese attempt to squash their religious and ethnic identity.

China fears that Pakistan, one of the few countries to have witnessed protests against the crackdown in the early days of the repression, could be used by Turkic Muslim militants, including fighters that escaped Syria, as a launching pad for attacks on Chinese targets in the South Asian country or in Xinjiang itself.

The notion of Pakistan re-emerging as a breeding ground for militants is likely to gain traction in Beijing as well as Washington as Pakistan implements educational reform that would Islamicize syllabi across the board from primary schools to universities. Critics charge that religion would account for up to 30 per cent of the syllabus.

Islamization of Pakistani education rooted in conservative religious concepts contrasts starkly with moves by countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to de-emphasize religious education and ensure that it is more pluralistic. The two Gulf states have positioned themselves as proponents of moderate forms of Islam that highlight religious tolerance while supporting autocratic rule.

“Pakistan is an ideological Islamic state and we need religious education. I feel that even now our syllabus is not completely Islamized, and we need to do more Islamization of the syllabus, teaching more religious content for the moral and ideological training of our citizens,” asserted Muhammad Bashir Khan, a member of parliament for Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ruling party.

By implication, Mr. Khan, the parliamentarian, was suggesting that Pakistan was angling for a conservative leadership role in the Muslim world as various forces, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Turkey, Iran and Indonesia compete for religious soft power in what amounts to a battle for the soul of Islam.

The educational reform boosts Prime Minister Khan’s effort to be the spokesman for Muslim causes. The prime minister has accused French President Emmanuel Macron of peddling Islamophobia and demanded that Facebook ban expressions of anti-Muslim sentiment.

Critics warn that the curriculum will produce anything but a society that is tolerant and pluralistic.

Said education expert Rubina Saigol: “When the state aligns itself with one sect or a singular interpretation of religion, it opens the doors to sectarian conflict, which can turn violent… There is lip service to the ideas of diversity, inclusion and mutuality but, in reality, an SNC that is gender-biased, sectarian and class-based, will sharpen social differences, undermine minority religions and sects, and violate the principles of federalism.” Ms. Saigol was referring to Prime Minister Khan’s Single National Curriculum project by its initials.

Former Senator Farhatullah Babar warned that “The SNC…opens the door for… (religious) seminary teachers to enter mainstream educational institutions… It is well known that a majority of the education of seminary students is grounded in sectarianism. Imagine the consequences of…seminary teachers trained and educated in sectarian education entering the present educational institutions.”

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