National Democratic Alliance(NDA)’s loss in 2004 General Elections was unpredicted. But United Progressive Alliance(UPA)’s loss in 2014 was not. People had become frustrated with a decade long rule which they saw as corrupt, spineless and dynastic.
However what were not unpredicted was the sheer scale of UPA’s decimation and the grand scale of BJP’s victory. Under a charismatic and capable Narendra Modi, the tough and resilient Hindu right wing fought the General Elections as a last stand. BJP, a right wing party with a narrow base among the middle class Hindus had never won more than 200 seats in any General Election. Modi set an ambitious target of 272 seats. Well oiled campaign machinery with Modi in the pilot seat ensured a convincing victory with BJP winning over 280 seats in the House (the simple majority is 273 seats). The subsequent elevation of Narendra Modi as the Indian Prime Minister and his right hand man, Amit Shah(both from Gujarat, the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi) enthused a new sense of confidence in the party and its affiliates. Modi set his eyes on having governments in states that had never been ever in the Hindu party’s fold. And he did succeed, mostly.
Today, BJP controls the lower house of the Indian Parliament without the need for any allies. It is well on its way to appoint a BJP-RSS(BJP’s Ideological parent) member as the Fourteenth Indian President and has sufficient numbers to easily appoint India’s next Vice President without breaking a sweat. Thirteen states today have a BJP Government. Another four have a BJP ally in the Government with BJP as a partner. It has a brutal majority in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous and politically important state. In the next two years, before going to the polls, BJP will have seats in the Upper House of the Indian Parliament (though not a majority, not until 2021-
2022 by various projections). The party is in a comfortable position to push key legislations and make hard decisions without any political ramifications. The Demonetization of Indian Currency Notes in November 2016 and the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax in July, 2017 are evidences that the Government is in a position to enforce it policies. But a question remains to be asked? How did a right wing with a significantly narrow base like BJP become a juggernaut? Was it because the opposition is too weak or rudderless? Is it becau se of the Narendra Modi factor? Was the public fed up with the policies of the past governments? Is Amit Shah a political maverick? Is the BJP’s campaign machinery unbeatable? Yes and No.
Yes, because every factor has a compounding effect on the scale of BJP’s victory margin. No, because even if a single factor is missing, BJP bows out of the game. BJP can pull in votes here and there but for BJP to be an unstoppable juggernaut as it is, all these factors have to be satisfied. The party’s campaigns in Bihar and Delhi suffered from the lacunae of these factors.
Result, they lost. In Uttar Pradesh, all boxes were ticked. A weak and inefficient opposition, a haphazardly cobbled together coalition to oppose BJP that did more harm than good, Amit Shah’s ticket distribution, RSS’s social engineering outreach and the Modi’s presence ensured that they won over 80% seats in the gigantic House Assembly. To top it all, Modi spent the final three days campaigning in Varanasi, his own constituency in the final phase of the elections. An Indian Prime Minister who gets down in the dirt and does his own heavy lifting is rare and BJP won every single seat in the Prime Minister’s constituency.
The General Election of 2019 is still a year and half away. This is long time in politics. But it would not be preposterous to call the next elections a done deal for Narendra Modi. The symptoms are all there. The Opposition is still weak and rudderless. Attempts to cobble together a coalition of opposition parties are half hearted, at best and suicidal for some, at worst. The BJP gets stronger on the top by absorbing leaders slighted in other parties and on the bottom by the RSS’s social engineering. Most of all, Modi’s popularity is still intact even after taking grossly unpopular decisions like the DeMo and the GST. The policies of his administration and the work of his party on the ground are trying to string together a rainbow coalition of castes behind him. There have been many hiccups along the way. Protests against beef ban, cattle laws, lynching in the country, alienation of Muslims, flare-ups in Kashmir and much more have had made things look tricky for the present dispensation. But, the hard truth is that even these unfortunate incidents only strengthen the party, not hurt it. To begin with, most of Muslims never voted for BJP and are unlikely to do so in the near future. Beef ban has played right into the rhetoric of Hindu right wing which worships the cow as Mother Goddess. Distressed farmers are being placated by loan waivers and BJP’s political machinery is busy making and breaking alliances as the need be so. There are no major allegations against the Government on corruption and the potential leaders of the opposition have been decimated. A feeble voice of protest rises from the Left wing but they have become politically irrelevant and are on their last legs. Modi has become the owner of the narrative and the opposition is often caught unawares of his political actions. Modi is efficient, hardworking and above all, a rags to riches story like his has resonated well with the masses who sick and tired of dynastic rule.
Needless to say, unless Modi falters on his own, the Opposition can do nothing about defeating him in 2019. One and a half year may seem like a long time in politics but for the opposition, time, it appears, has run out and they are helpless in front of Modi and his political juggernaut.
Indian Imbalanced Balance
A serious crisis is looming over journalism in India, which is increasingly vested in the hands of authority. On the one hand, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee asks for “discussion and dissension” for a vibrant democracy. “There should always be room for the argumentative Indian, and not the intolerant Indian. The media must be the watchdog, the mediator between the leaders and the public,” Mukherjee said while paying his regards to Ramnath Goenka – former press baron. On the other hand, Indian media has lost its credibility regionally as well as internationally owing to quality of Indian public discourse. According to criminal lawyer Rebecca Mammen, “The true test of a robust democracy is the independence of its media. Over the past few years our media has become the mouthpiece of the party in power. Coupled with the fact the corporate owners of media houses share close links with the government, the Indian media has tragically lost its voice.”
The mainstream media is vested in the hands of a selected few and refuses to question authorities. The ‘Reporters Without Borders’ annual Press Freedom Index, which was released on April 20, has ranked India at 142 among 180 countries reflecting poor credibility due to pressures by government. According to the Report, the Indian media is reeling under a Hindu nationalist government, which has time and again tried to gag journalists. Moreover, India’s influential TV news channels function largely as government mouthpieces.A European non-governmental group “EU disinfo lab” had uncovered a network of 265 ‘fake’ news outlets sponsored by an Indian network to influence the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) with content against to Pakistan.
The crisis in the Indian media will have deeper impacts on Indian democracy. With a feeble opposition, weak institutions, and an inadequate media, Indians have no checks and balances. For instance, maligning Pakistan High Commission, Colombo(PAHIC) during a recent Indo-China conflict was an Indiangovernment instructed media strategy to divert public opinion from their failures in North. In other words, media strategy inadvertently defines poor political will of India to stand up to China while feel strong enough to bully the smaller neighbourhood.
The sane voices in Indian media have continuously shrinking space.Having almost 400 news channels, Indian media has failed to highlight serious matters, such as beef ban, human rights violations in Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IoJK), and numerous discriminations against Indian Dalits. “Over the last few years – especially after Prime Minister Narendra Modi won the general election of 2014 – the Indian mainstream media has allowed itself to be undermined by the transcendent political power that he represents,” said Pamela Philipose, The Wire. “A new note of muscular nationalism has crept into media discourse. Also conspicuous is the curbing of dissent and the rise of the surveillance state – developments that bode ill for the independence of the Indian media,” says Philipose.
In a similar manner, a political scientist Giles Vernier argues that “a new note of muscular nationalism has crept into media discourse. Also conspicuous is the curbing of dissent and the rise of the surveillance state – developments that bode ill for the independence of the Indian media.One reason why we don’t see much criticism in the media is that the government, in the person of the Prime Minister, has the ability to completely dominate the media’s agenda, by saturating the public and media sphere with the message, image, and his voice.”
Journalists should be critical of government’s handling of its internal and external matters to keep it on the right track. TV channels will call speakers of their choice, who would heavily lean to one side of discussion and pretend that it is balanced.
In the current atmosphere, with enraptured legislative issues and social perspectives, with populist political leadership, with developing bigotry against minorities and dissenters, the media can and ought to be an encouraging sign for liberal, mainstream and law based thoughts, yet additionally to guarantee that outrageous perspectives does not get into the papers or on TV. Rather, the media in India has become some portion of the issue, either excitedly partaking in preparing of contempt against the helpless, or carrying on in an insincere path by permitting the most exceedingly terrible components a free run of significant reality on their foundation. Whole ages of columnists are growing up with the possibility that they are playing out an important help; they have scarcely any good examples to gaze upward to, since their own managers, who should know better, are either sold out, ideologically dedicated to fanaticism or are indecisive, without firm feelings or just fearful. In any case, Indian reporting is in a profound emergency, all for the sake of ‘balance.’
This is Pakistan
With an unprecedented progress in politico-socio-economic domains, Pakistan has a new face in the world. It has not only successfully corrected misplaced perceptions about it, but the internal and external circumstances around it have also changed, which has helped shaping Pakistan its renewed look according to changed regional and international environment. The successes at the security front has also led to the economic progress in Pakistan.
In result of Pakistan’s fight against terrorism and anti-extremism operations, it lost tens of thousands of people, including soldiers and civilians. Pakistan’s strong resolve together with sustained military operations against terrorist elements, however, brough back peace and stability in the country. According to Security Report 2019 by Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS), “Pakistan witnessed a further decline in the number of terrorist incidents and consequent casualties… terrorist attacks this year decreased by around 13 percent as compared to 2018.” The report clearly depicted a gradual decrease in terrorist attacks and casualties since 2009. In this regard, Pakistan’s National Action Plan (NAP) helped eliminating the menace of terrorism from the country. The improved security situation in the country resulted in the economic dividends in the shape of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Pakistan is also appreciated for its nuclear material safety. In its annual report, the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) – a leading United States non-proliferation watchdogdivulged that “Pakistan’s improvements in the Security and Control Measures category are significant because strengthened laws and regulations result in durable boosts in Pakistan’s score as well as provide sustainable security benefits.” While appreciating Pakistan’s further improvement in nuclear materials’ safety, Laura Kennedy, a former United States diplomat, tweeted that “one welcome bit of news reported by #NTIindex is that #Pakistan ranked as most improved in security of those countries holding nuclear materials.”
Pakistan’s fight against Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19) is used as a role model by developed countries of the world. The Government of Pakistan (GoP) revealed a PKR 1.13 trillion relief package to help to the powerless and securing industry and other organizations. The concept of ‘Smart Lockdown’ also reaped its dividends and Pakistan has come out from the dangers of this deadly virus.
On the socio-economic front, Pakistan is making progress as well. For instance, the current account deficit has reduced from US$ 20 billion to US$ 3 billion together with a significant decrease in trade and fiscal account deficits. The stalled construction of Diamer-Bhasha dam has also been approved, which will result in additional water supplies for better agricultural production. There has been increase in the rights activism i.e., Transgender Pride March, Aurat March, Climate March, and Student Solidarity March. Women sports stars of Pakistan won international medals and recognitions.For instance, 8-year-old Pakistani Taekwondo star Ayesha Ayaz won a bronze medal for Pakistan at the 7thFujairah Taekwondo Open Championship in United Arab Emirates (UAE); Hajra Khan won 3 Guinness World Records; Mahnoor Shahzad won the Annapurna International Badminton Tournament; Nida Dar became the first Pakistani woman to sign a deal with an international cricket league, Sydney Thunder; Shahida Abbasi from Hazara won one of the total two gold medals for Pakistan at the South Asian Games 2019; and Mallak Faisal Zafar won first position in the Basic Novice Girls II category at the 24th International Eiscup Innsbruck 2019. Test cricket also returned to Pakistan.
Culturally, Pakistan is projecting itself more prominently. Pakistani celebrities are mamking it to international fashion weeks – Mushk Kaleem and Alicia Khan walked the ramp for Milan Fashion Week 2019. Pakistani film Laal Kabootar won the Vancouver International South Asian Film Festival for the Best Feature Film Award. ActressMahira Khan was appointed National Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, strengthening the bond between the people of Pakistan and the international community. Moreover, Mehwish Hayat was appointed ambassador to UK based international humanitarian charity, Penny Appeal.
On the entrepreneurial front, 9 Pakistanis made it to Forbes’ coveted 30 under 30 Asia list: Ahmed Rauf Essa: Founder, Telemart; Karishma Ali, President, Chitral Womens Sports Club; Laila Kasuri, Water Analyst, Global Green Growth Institute; Hanaa Lakhani, Hasan Usmani,Gia Farooqi and MoneebMian, Cofounders, Roshni Rides, Zain Ashraf, Founder, Seed Out; and Zainab Bibi, Founder, Pakistan Society for Green Energy (PSGE).
Regionally, Pakistan’s foreign policy is paying its dividends. Pakistan’s relations among Iran, Afghanistan, Sri-Lanka, Russia, United States and others has improved significantly. Overall, there is many encouraging events happening in and around Pakistan.
Franklin Roosevelt has rightly put it, ‘In politics, nothing happens accidentally. If anything happens, it’s palpable that it planned this way’. Numerous features have been defining pre-pandemic world politics over the years. The current situation shows that pandemic will only reinforce largely five global fault lines that have been characterizing the global environment even in the pre-pandemic phase. Form this we can extrapolate the future course of global politics.
The first and the obvious feature is the rising multi-polarity with power being diffused vertically and horizontally between countries and within countries because citizens become more impart by accessible cheaper technologies. Therefore, global power especially economic power continues to be redistributed while the state power also continues to be eroded by the greater influence of non-state actors both good and bad. In today’s world, no single power can achieve outcomes on its own. It can only do so in conjunction or with the cooperation of other states. Since the Second World War, this pandemic is the first global crisis in which US leadership has been absent.
Secondly, the resurgence of competition and tensions between the big powers in the global environment have come into sight. US-China confrontation has become the most consequential and geopolitical development, which is going to influence and shape the world in the coming years. It can be seen that an outbreak of trade and tech war during the pre-pandemic will continue in the future. Political tensions are also at a record high. President Donald Trump of the United States has been using hostile rhetoric against China. Because of the severe actions taken by the US, China has reached its limits and started pushing back.
Thirdly, global powers are retreating from multilateralism and a rule-based international system. The renunciation of international agreements and treaties has been witnessed over the months. The irony is that the pandemic demands greater solidarity and cooperation but quite the opposite has happened, where there is an absence of international solidarity and much less collaboration. The USA has renounced a long list of treaties including the Iranian nuclear deal, Paris Agreement on Climate Change, Intermediate Nuclear Force Agreement (INF), and recently the Open Skies agreement. It has also walked out of key multilateral institutions such as the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and the WHO more recently.
Another feature is the rise of populist leaders who are often described as strongmen. Although it’s debatable how much they deserve the description of strong men. Populist leaders act unilaterally with impunity as well as seek to rewrite the rules of game either in the world or their region depending upon their capability to manage. They are mostly disdainful toward international norms. In South Asia, the grimmest example is Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is taking brutal and illegal actions not only in occupied Kashmir but also within India by pursuing communal politics.
Ultimately, there would be an emergence of anti-globalization sentiment due to multiple factors. The UN will be celebrating its 75th anniversary which is going to be a historic moment while American threatens to leave the World Health Organization (WHO) permanently. In this unenviable situation, the UN has been under great strain because its main agency which deals with the health crisis is under attack due to curtailment of funding by Donald Trump. Furthermore, certain leaders of the west are going to reject the existing trading regimes because they cannot compete anymore. The prevailing situation in those countries demands to remake global supply chains and they intend to reduce their dependence on China. Apart from that, plans are considered to move towards setting up local hubs of manufacture and supply.
In a nutshell, there is going to be a reversal of many aspects of globalization. Protectionism, trade wars, and to some extent travel restrictions will be a new reality. Right-wing populist leaders will use the health crisis to reinforce their policy preference for closed borders, strict immigration laws, and the ban on the free movement of labour that has been seen in recent decades. The future course of the most important bilateral relationship of our century which is between China and the United States will have a huge impact on the global economy as well as on the international order and multilateral institutions. Pandemic has further strained the relationship and resulted in trading accusations and allegations from both sides. Summarily, that has been described as the new cold war by many. The question arises whether these two global powers will arrive at modus vivendi or will there be a standoff. This has become a more enduring feature of the global landscape.
To round off the whole debate, the World is possibly at one of the history’s most unsettled periods in international relations with the atomization of the international system. This is an uncharted territory which the world has not seen before. For Pakistan, there are going to be strategic, political, and economic implications because it seeks to form good relations with both countries. Pakistan ought to understand that in the long run, its strategic future lies with China rather than the US.
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