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India should retake Katchatheevu from Sri Lankan control

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] E [/yt_dropcap]ven as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced an investment of Rs 12,000 crore to upgrade eight state highways to National Highways in his home state Gujarat as part of efforts to boost infrastructure development and job generation in the state, the Sri Lankan government reportedly shot dead 22-year-old Tamil Indian fisherman on Monday the 06 March while he was fishing in a mechanized boat near Rameswaram Dhanushkodi at a short distance off Katchatheevu islet.

One fisherman, K. Britjo, was killed. Another who was injured was admitted in a hospital in Tamil Nadu. The tragedy has ignited tensions in the state but Colombo insisted its Navy was not involved. Sri Lanka says Indians fish on Lankan waters and six fishermen from Thangachimadam in Ramanathapuram district were fishing near the Katchatheevu isle…

Interestingly, Indian government is yet to properly react to Sri Lankan criminal arrogance; ignoring the fact SL killed an Indian on Indian sea. The 22-year-old Indian fisherman was shot dead while he was fishing in a mechanized boat at a short distance off Katchatheevu islet. Local fishermen alleged that he was killed by the Sri Lankan navy while another was injured.

Sri Lanka declined to take responsibility for the murder of a Tamil fisherman. But the Sri Lankan government on Tuesday said that an initial probe report has ruled out its navy’s involvement in the shooting of an Indian fisherman, an issue raised by India with Sri Lanka’s prime minister.

In New Delhi, External Affairs Ministry said as a routine matter, “Government of India is deeply concerned at the killing of an Indian fisherman. Our High Commissioner to Sri Lanka has taken up the matter with the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka (Ranil Wickremesinghe). The Sri Lankan navy has promised a full and thorough investigation.” Sri Lankan Navy Spokesman Lieutenant Commander Chaminda Walakuluge in Colombo categorically denied any involvement of the navy in the fisherman’s killing, saying the navy does not open fire at poaching fishermen and only arrests them. In a statement, Foreign Ministry of Sri Lanka said, “the initial investigations had indicated that the Sri Lankan navy was not involved.””Irrespective of the parties involved, if in fact a shooting has taken place, it is a matter of grave concern and all possible action will be taken in cooperation with the relevant Indian authorities to investigate into this incident utilizing GPS technology as well,” it added. The statement expressed the government’s deep concern “about the alleged and the connected loss of life of one fisherman and injury caused to another.” It said Sri Lanka is firm in its commitment to ensuring that “all government agencies treat all Indian fishermen in a humane manner at all times”.

The statement followed fisheries minister Amaraweera’s letter to the defence authorities to investigate the matter. Amaraweera said he had spoken with Indian High Commissioner in Colombo, Taranjith Singh Sandhu and assured that Sri Lanka was keen not to allow the good relations between the two countries hampered by any incident.

Indian fisherman Bridgo along with others were fishing near the Katchatheevu islet when the Sri Lankan naval personnel arrived at the spot and opened fire, fisheries department officials in Tamil Nadu had said. Bridgo was shot in the neck and died on the spot and another fisherman, Saravanan (22), suffered leg injuries in the firing. Other fishermen who went along with them escaped unhurt and returned to the shore.

Katchatheevu is located in the narrow Palk Straits dividing India and Sri Lanka. The sea near the island is rich in marine life, leading to frequent clashes between Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen.

Hundreds of fishermen launched a protest at Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu against the killing. Another fisherman was injured. The Sri Lankan Navy promised “a full and thorough probe” into the incident after India took up the matter at the highest level, informed sources said. India voiced deep concern over the killing. Indian High Commissioner Taranjit Singh Sandhu took up the matter with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, the sources said.

The killing has triggered protests in Tamil Nadu, where Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami condemned the incident and announced a compensation of Rs five lakh for the victim’s family. Palaniswami said the state government has been repeatedly taking up with Centre the various instances of arrest and “intimidation” of fishermen by the Lankan Navy, besides seizure of their boats and pressed for a lasting solution.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K. Palaniswami announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the family of the dead fisherman, K. Britso, and a compensation of Rs 1 lakh for the injured fisherman. The attack comes a day after Palaniswami wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking the release of 85 fishermen and their 128 boats now in Sri Lankan custody. PMK leader Anbumani Ramadoss on Tuesday condemned the killing and said New Delhi should stop terming Sri Lanka as a friendly nation. “They were first attacked by the Sri Lankan Navy with grenades and then were shot at,” Ramadoss said in Chennai. He said attacks on the Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy have been happening for the past 30 years, leaving more than 800 fishermen dead. Ramadoss said India and Sri Lanka had agreed that fishermen crossing the maritime boundary by mistake should not be attacked but handled in a humane manner. “It seems Sri Lanka is not willing to abide by any agreement,” he said. He said the Tamil Nadu government should put pressure on the Indian and Sri Lankan governments to arrest the Navy personnel who killed the Indian.

Hundreds of fishermen also staged a demonstration in Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu.

Sri Lanka has taken the silence on the part of Indian government for grated as being implicit support for Lankan atrocities on Tamil fishermen. Apparently, Sri Lanka is exploiting Indian unofficial policy of “no war with neighbors except Pakistan” to its own advantage by harming the interests of Tamil fishermen. Since Indian government also had attacked Tamil fishermen, killing some of them on sea during the anti-nuke struggle of people of Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu, Sri also thinks it also enjoys the same privilege of attacking Tamils whom the majority Singhalese views as their enemy.

Tamils see some apparent secret deal between Indian and Lankan regimes to deal sternly with Tamils and therefore, Indian government allows all atrocities by Lankan military on Indian Tamils. In a civil war earlier, Lankan military committed crimes against humanity by committing genocides of Tamils as part of their goal of holocaust of Tamil population in Lankan Island.

The new regime in Colombo under Sirisena had declared loudly that it would go for reconciliation but now it has presided over the murder of a Tamil fisherman in Tamil Nadu, breaking all provisions of intentional law.

Is Lankan regime blood thirsty or is it just an isolated tragedy?

Sri Lankan regime has made its intent unambiguously clear to India. With the genocides of Lankan Tamils, attacks on Tamil fishermen on sea repeatedly that it can deal with Tamil fishermen the way they feel. They seem to leave two options to India: either recapture Katchatheevu or just ask Indian fishermen to stop fishing in their traditional zones. In this regard the action of Russia in annexing Crimea from Ukraine would serve as model action. Crimea was a part of Russia but was gifted to Ukraine during the Soviet rein by the Soviet President Khrushchev- a Ukrainian- as part of territorial integration of Soviet state. Now it is clear Katchatheevu should not have been gifted to Sri Lanka – that was a strategic mistake of India. Now Sri Lanka declines to allow Tamil fishermen in their traditional zones as per the understanding between India and Sri Lanka and that is unfair, to say the least.

Russia has retained its Crimea by military action and also interfered in East Ukraine as a punishment for supporting USA, but India still mulls over its possible action against Sri Lankan atrocities. India needs to solve the tussle quickly and retake Katchatheevu but allow Lankan Tamils to fish in there.

Sri Lanka fires all shots while India watches the show as a festival firework. Indian deliberately let the Sri Lankan military attack and even kill the Tamil fishermen. When Indian military keeps killing Muslims of occupied Jammu Kashmir it is strange why it is unable to put an end to Lankan arrogance towards Indians. Are Muslims so cheap for Indian regime?

Time is running out for India to make sure seas of Indian Territory are soverign and belong to India. The Modi government has to wake up before Sri Lanka invades Tamil Nadu if they have a hidden plan for that as Tamil people are divided because of the plotters led by Sasikala have divided the ruling AIADMK in order to promote her private interests and control both party and government?

Let the sacrifice of life of fisherman Bridgo resolve the issue of fishing rights of Tamils at Katchatheevu.

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South Asia

Indian Nuclear Explosions of May 98 and Befitting Response

Dr. Anjum Sarfraz

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India started nuclear program soon after independence. The Atomic Energy Act was passed on 15 April 1948, leading to the establishment of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC).  The Prime Minister (PM), Jawaharlal Nehru declared: “We must develop this atomic energy quite apart from war indeed;I think we must develop it for the purpose of using it for peaceful purposes. … Of course, if we are compelled as a nation to use it for other purposes, possibly no pious sentiments of any of us will stop the nation from using it that way.” Indian intentions to develop a nuclear device for military use under the garb of ambivalence were there since independence. Dr. Homi Bhabha was the first secretary who is considered the founder of this program.

The IAEC established a new facility   in January 1954, the Atomic Energy Establishment, Trombay (AEET); later in August 1954 the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) was created with Dr. Bhabha as Director to function directly under PM. The AEET facility was renamed asBhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in January 1967 after the death of Homi Bhabha. On May 18, 1974, India conducted an underground nuclear test at Pokharan in the Rajasthan desert, codenamed “Smiling Buddha.” The government of India claimed it a peaceful test, but it was actually part of an accelerated weapons program. The world reaction was not strong as expected.  United stated and Canada criticized the test as they had provided aid to India for nuclear project which was supposed to be for peaceful purposes. Later on due to violation of understanding between two countries, Canada withdrew assistance to India.  Chinese stance was that it would affect the stability in South Asia. After this event, Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) was established which gives guidelines to regulate the transfer of sensitive nuclear material. However, India continued pursuing vigorously its nuclear program to develop weapons of mass destruction. 

During election campaign in February 1998, the Bhartia Janata Party (BJP) had announced in its manifesto that if elected it would seek to “exercise option to induct nuclear weapons”. The PM, Atal Bihari Vajpayee of BJP, gave orders to conduct nuclear tests on 11 and 13 May 1998. A total 5 nuclear devices were exploded. The Indian PM, very proudly claimed that India has become sixth nuclear weapon state and should be treated by the world. Indian stance towards Pakistan drastically changed. The senior Indian hierarchy started giving provocative statements against Pakistan. The Indian home Minister L.K Advani said, “Islamabad should realize the change in the geo- strategic situation in the region and the world. It must roll back its anti- India policy especially with regard to Kashmir.”  The Corps Commander in Indian occupied Kashmir held an unprecedented news conference and advocated his plans to attack Azad Kashmir across the LOC. The world reaction to Indian nuclear explosion was not as strong as envisioned. Extracts from the President Clinton speech from CNN broad cast of 12 May 1998, are,“I am deeply disturbed by the nuclear tests which India has conducted and I do not believe it contributes to a safer 21st century. The action by India not only threatens the stability of the region, it directly challenges the firm, international consensus to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”The other major world powers also showed reluctance in penalizing India.

2.The Pakistan atomic energy program was started much later as compared to India. The Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) was established in 1956 to participate in Atoms for Peace Program announced by the US administration. The program continued at slow pace for peaceful use till detonation by India in 1974. This strategic development was perhaps the first that pushed Pakistan in the direction of nuclear tests in May 1998.  Dr A Q khan joined the program  in 1976and founded the Engineering Research Laboratories (ERL) later renamed Khan Research Laborites ( KRL)  at Kahuta near Islamabad, with the exclusive task of indigenous development of Uranium Enrichment Plant.  According to Carey Sublette, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons Program Development,” Nuclear Weapons Archive, January 2, 2002, the nuclear program of Pakistan developed speedily in 1980s and it had conducted the first cold tests of its nuclear device in 1983. According to Presseler amendment of 1985, Pakistan was required to get a certificate from the President of USA that it did not possess nuclear device for getting economic and military aid from USA, which was not signed by the President in 1990. Hence the aid to Pakistan was stopped. It happened soon after former USSR left Afghanistan.

3.On 11 may 1998 when India conducted first 3 nuclear tests, the PM of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, was on official visit to Kazakhstan. The Defense Committee of the Cabinet(DCC) convened on 13 May was chaired by PM, attended by the federal ministers and three services chiefs (Gen Jahangir Karamat was CJCSC as well). Dr. Samar Mubarakmand represented PAEC in place of Dr. Ishfaq, the chairman who was abroad, and Dr A Q Khan, the KRL. At closing of the meeting it was informed that India has conducted another nuclear test. The political, military, economic and technical considerations were obviously discussed thread bare. The political and military leadership was on the same page in the decision making process. Gohar Ayub the foreign minister present in the meeting writes in book, “Testing Times”, page 35, that when Raja Zafar ul Haq asked General Jahangir Karamat for his views, he said “we could match India, but the decision to do so would have to be a political one”. Dr. Samar Mubarakm and gave ten days’ time for preparations to conduct the tests. The site and tunnel had already been selected.

On 18 May, after a lot of deliberations with different segments of the society and the opposition parties, the PM gave go ahead to Chairman PAEC to test nuclear bombs on 28 May 98.   This was a unanimous decision of national importance. The government and military leadership, opposition parties, and general public were firmly on the same page.  The PAEC team headed by Dr. Samar under the supervision of Army Corps of Engineers sealed the tunnels on 25 May. On the evening of 27 May the site was made ready for tests and conveyed to PM. Seventeen days starting from 11 May when India conducted first test till Pakistan responded on 28 May were very critical for the PM, Foreign office and GHQ. They were mulling over ways and means to allay the international pressure in the form of sanctions, and attimes lucrative offers for economic aid in lieu. The President of USA called, PM several times to convince him not to go nuclear.

On 27 May a day before nuclear detonation he called our PM several times. A presentation by the participants of War and National Defence Courses,(1997-98), was scheduled on 28 May at 1000 in National Defence College (NDC) now NDU for the PM which was attended by the ministers and services chiefs.  The writer of this article was undergoing war course and present in the auditorium. The topic words to affect was “Should Pakistan Conduct Nuclear Explosions or Exercise Restraints”. Points against the detonation were, weak economic conditions, will further worsen after slapping of economic sanctions.  Points given by the panel to conduct explosions were much stronger. The panel concluded presentation saying, “Now or Never”. There was a big applause.  The environments prevalent in the auditorium, and smiling faces of the senior hierarchy indicated that Pakistan will carry out nuclear tests very soon. The same evening at 3:15pm, Pakistan gave befitting response to 5 Indian nuclear explosions conducted on 11 and 13 May 98, by exploding 5 nuclear bombs and sixth on 30 May at 11:55am. After successful explosions the PM claimed that Pakistan has become seventh nuclear state.  

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Is PTM Genuine to its Cause?

Syed Nasir Hassan

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Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) v/s Sate is a fiery tale which none can anticipate how it will end. Sparked from the extra judicial murder of model aspirant Naqeeb Ulllah Mahsud on January 13, 2018, the movement continue to get a constant hype on the political spectrum of Pakistan. Initially named Mahsud Tahafuz Movement turned into Pashtun Tahafuz Movement when the case was put forward to the court and Rao Anwar was arrested. However, things got transformed as PTM started taking a constant nudge with the state. From the protest in front of press club in Islamabad, in 2018 to different rallies across country things shifted vigorously. PTM’s defiance is mainly pointed at criticizing the military institution and falsely blaming the institution for their plight. But the question rises that is PTM another mainstream political movement subjected for the elites rather than addressing the actual issue? And are they trying to internationally politicize the issue in order to demoralize the efforts of Pakistan?

On April 29, 2019, DG ISPR Maj Gen. Asif Ghafoor, military spokesperson, addressed PTM leadership and apprised them that the time has come when legal actions is mandatory to be taken against them. He further claimed that the financial records makes the existence of PTM skeptical as they are directly being funded by the foreign factions from neighboring countries  for their protests and rallies.  He was also of the view that PTM is being used by the foreign factions to instigate instability when Pakistan has achieved relative peace. However, the fact should not be neglected that the Government of Pakistan and military establishment acknowledges the demands put forward by the leadership of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement. At various points both, government and military, tried to engage with them in a collaborative manner. Recently on April 16, 2019, Senate Special Committee met the PTM leadership along with the MNA Mohsin Dawar. Even before, when the movement was in its early phase military was the first one to engage with them. When a request was put forward by the PTM leaders to meet military in order to express their grievances, it was agreed. Meeting was held between PTM delegation of 15 members and DG, ISPR Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor on Feb 08, 2018, in which apart from primary demand of justice for Naqeeb Mahsud there were other 4 demands. The military showed consensus on all of them. But the duality of the PTM should not be unremembered as on one side it engages with the government and the military but at the same time the constant barraging on the state and its institutes continues through social media. Things got more complicated as the tone of PTM got discordant day by day. The relentless spewing of hate and impudent comments against the state and its institution clearly show as on whose side PTM is. Movement is kind of drifting away from the true cause when the anti-state and separatist slogans and hymns are openly vocalized in the rallies and are now directed to demoralize the standards of army rather than demanding the rights.

With constant efforts from both government and military the PTM appears reluctant to develop a consensus. Keeping this whole saga in mind One might consider that either PTM leaders are not well negotiator or they don’t want to negotiate and the picture is much larger then it seems.

In 2018, a commission was also formed to facilitate PTM which included high ranks from the military and reputable civilians. State was persistence in facilitating the PTM grievances. DG ISPR also highlighted in his briefing that in order to remove landmines, a team was formed and is currently putting every effort at their disposal. The team had cleared 45 percent of the area and in pursuit of the task 101 Jawans had lost their lives. State constantly acknowledges the demands of PTM but PTM and its virtual diaspora have failed to acknowledge the efforts made by the state.

Pashtun makes up to 15% of the total population of Pakistan. What will happen if this number of population, a province indeed is brought in confrontation with the state? It will be enough to vandalize the socioeconomic fabric of Pakistan. Pashtuns of Pakistan have always been delicate segment of Pakistan as they were in the crossfire between Pakistan’s efforts against eradicating terrorism. It makes them soft target and vulnerable to be used by animosities against Pakistan. The point to ponder is that despite the efforts, and acknowledgement of their grievances by the state why this matter is getting more intense whereas the fact should not be forgotten that both parties are on same line in terms of addressing the problem. The only way this can be resolved is when the PTM stop being patsy against Pakistan and show real concern to give solace to the Pashtun community rather than exploiting their grievances

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RSS: Grim Reality under the Secular Veil of India

Syed Nasir Hassan

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Religious extremism is not something novel to mankind. Between 132-136 CE, Romans faced the confrontation with the Jews. A Jew extremist, Simon Bar Kokhba, led the revolt against Romans known as Kokhba Revolution. He succeeded in establishing a Jew state which lasted for just three years, ultimately falling again in to Roman hands.

Under constitutional veil almost every other nation has some sort of religious or ethno extremist factions in their ranks with mass support. India too, which claims to be a true secular model in the subcontinent has their own version of extremist militia and what is worth worrying is that it is well organized and well structured.

RSS or Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is an extremist Hindu vigilante militia which is being nurtured by many political hands. It came into existence in 1925 by Keshav Baliram Hedgewar – a Hindu nationalist. Initially it was established to retaliate against the British raj and Muslims and unite Hindus to devise a Hindu Rashtra (Hindu nation) but in post-independence scenario it became a blot on the secular veil of India. Indian Constitution makes it a secular country but RSS finds it against the norms of Hindustan. It is not the RSS which shifted its discourse but it was India which became a secular state by constitution. Even before the inception of RSS various Hindu nationalist emphasized on the existence of solely Hindu nation. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar,the founder of Hindu nationalist ideology Hindutva (an ideology which aims to form hegemony of Hindus) stated that there is a dire need of a solely Hindu nation.

RSS was banned three times in its post-independence continuity. First it was banned in 1948 after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi by a Hindu nationalist. The interesting fact is the man named Nathuram Godse, who murdered Gandhi, was not an active RSS member at that time but was once. In 1975 RSS came into scrutiny again when Indra Gandhi banned extremist organizations and imposed emergency across the country, and then in 1992 when dispute over Babri masjid erupted and it got demolished.

But what is making the organization function with full momentum? The organization has a fully functional website where one can recruit itself in the organization. Its proper hierarchical order makes it worth worrying as there is a National leader and then there are Regional leaders to oversee the local dealings. It also conducts daily quasi military exercises in parks and open spaces. On many occasions, the members of RSS were involved in the lynching of Muslims and lower casts Hindus. RSS’s Cow protection squad was constantly involved in various incidents during Modi’s reign.

Indian Prime minister, Narendra Modi, during an interview revealed that the personality and the discipline he has, RSS played a major role in shaping it. He also said that he became part of the organization at very young age. RSS also played major role in the putting the throne of Delhi under the Modi’s feet and is again playing a major role in running his election campaign for upcoming elections.

The institutionalized structure of the RSS makes it unique as it has a Cow protection squad, women wing, Labor union and a farmer union to outreach mass population. On its website, they claim that they have more than 50,000 shakhas, a Hindi word for branches, in villages and different cities across the country. Utar-pardesh, a city with largest population in India and major electoral club in the lower house; it is reported that there are 8000 shakahs only in UP which are there obviously to influence the elections and win majority in the house.

Embedded hate against Muslims and other minorities is not something new, in fact, it is in the core beliefs of the organization. M.S Golwalkar, the second Sarsanghchalak (head of RSS) wrote a book named Bunch of Thoughts which comprised of the lectures he had given to shakhas over the country. In his book he wrote that internal elements pose far greater threat to national security than outside aggressor. Golwalkar than identified three major “Internal Threats: i) Muslims; ii) Christians; iii) Communists. Not just this, in an article published in THE HINDU on November 26,2006 it was revealed that the murder of Mahatma Gandhi was somehow celebrated by the RSS. Moreover, giving reference to the secret documents which he had seen the writer divulged that Golwalker had called a meeting on December 6, 1947, where RSS workers of Govardhan, a town not very far from Delhi. As per the police report regarding the meeting, assassination of the leading persons of the Congress was discussed to create terror and panic among the public and to get hold over them. Just after two days. Golwalkar again addressed several thousand RSS volunteers at the Rohtak Road Camp, Delhi. The police reporter notified that the RSS leader had clearly said that Sangh would not rest content until it finishes Pakistan and if anyone was a hindrance in their way they would not spare them either whether it was Nehru’s regime or any other.

Having such militant Hindu organizations flexibly working without any state censorship and proliferating into Indian society is a threat to Indian secular dream. Aimed at making India a purely Hindu state such far-right groups in subcontinent will make exclusive societies rather than inclusive. Intra-state tensions will continue to mount. Which will create the so-called nonpolitical groups like RSS propagating into the Indian society through political interference and can make India’s future bleak. With such intra-state terror groups Indian vision for secular and inclusive India will remain a chimera.

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