Connect with us

South Asia

Kovind , little known RSS man from UP, is new rubber- stamp president of India

Published

on

Indian news is that Ram Nath Kovind, former governor of the northern Indian state of Bihar in the North, has been elected as the country’s new president. It is an accepted fact that under Indian setup, the president’s job is restricted to rubberstamping the decisions of the central government, faithfully. He cannot ask too many questions to the government or parliament unless he is ready to relinquish his top position.

BJP led NDA candidate RN Kovind has been elected the country’s 14th president. Former governor of Bihar, Kovind (71), is the second Dalit leader after RK Narayanan to occupy India’s highest but purely ceremonial or rubber-stamp post. In the final vote count, the Modi nominee Kovind received 65.6 per cent votes translating into 702,044 Electoral College votes, while Congress led UPA candidate Meira Kumar managed to get 34.35 per cent (367,314 votes). According to reports, there was cross voting in UP, Gujarat and Goa during the elections, which resulted into Kovind’s massive 2/3rd votes. 522 MPs voted for Kovind, while 225 parliamentarians voted for Meira Kumar.

A disappointed incumbent President Pranab Mukherjee’s term is ending on July 24 and Kovind will take oath the next day to become India’s 14th President.  In the last Presidential polls held in 2012, Pranab Mukherjee had defeated PA Sangma by over 69 per cent votes. 

Born on October 1, 1945, in Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur Dehat, Ram Nath Kovind was the youngest among three brothers. After graduating in law from a Kanpur college, Kovind had gone to Delhi to prepare for the Indian Administrative Services. He failed to pass it twice and started practicing the law. He is a former President of the BJP Dalit Morcha (1998-2002) and President of the All-India Koli Samaj as well as the SC/ST representative at IIM-Calcutta.

Kovind, an advocate by profession, used to practice in Supreme Court and Delhi High Court. He entered politics in 1994 when he became a member of Parliament in Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh and served as an MP for two consecutive terms till 2006. He had represented India in the United Nations in New York and addressed United Nations General Assembly in October 2002.  In 1977, Kovind had worked as the private secretary of the then Prime Minister Morarji Desai. Later Kovind had also served as national spokesperson of BJP. On August 8, 2015, Kovind was appointed governor of Bihar and now he is the first citizen of India. His tactics helped him to grow in career ladder.

Kovind, son of a cloth-seller, but never campaigned for a Dalit cause and he has kept a low profile. He stayed away from the media as he didn’t want to be controversial and he never attended Dalit programs. In fact, he never projected himself as a Dalit leader as he prefers to stay away from controversies. His unassuming, submissive nature is the main quality for which he has been assigned to Presidential palace as its custodian for a term. He, like his mentor Gujarati Modi, is fluent in both Hindi and English.

Kovind silently built up his political career from lower cadre RSS man to reach the Presidential Palace and thanks to his caste he became the Indian president.

Modi and Kovind have known each other for a long time. There is nothing wrong if the PM goes for a man with whom he shares chemistry. A “committed member” of the right-wing RSS, the ideological fountainhead of the BJP, Kovind rose to become a lawyer and served two terms in the upper house of parliament. He has also been the party’s spokesperson, led a BJP Dalit organisation and has held several important party posts. His closeness to the RSS helped him go places. A highly lucky man, indeed!

India targets Hindu low castes and Muslims

Dalit writer-activist Chandrabhan Prasad is not alone in claiming that he does not know about the man who has just been elected to the top constitutional post. His nomination by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) caused so much surprise that a local media report quipped that it “seems only two people knew about his candidature: PM Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah.  Others in the party are insignificant as PM Modi is everything in the ruling BJP and the government.  Nobody has courage even to think of asking questions to Modi. Modi has gone for a man, who is not towering, is media shy and whose political and ideological orientation is in sync with him. The president should do exactly what the party and government wants him to do. New president Kovind fits the bill comfortably.  

The system which divides Hindus into rigid hierarchical groups based on their karma (work) and dharma (the Hindi word for religion, but here it means duty) is generally accepted to be more than 3,000 years old. The caste system divides Hindus into four main categories – Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and the Shudras. Many believe that the groups originated from Brahma, the Hindu God of creation.

The Dalits sit at the bottom of the Hindu caste system in India and complaints of discrimination are still widespread. Many in fact, accuse the BJP of perpetuating the Brahmin-led caste order where Dalits figure at the bottom, and say Kovind’s nomination comes at a time when the party is being accused of being insensitive towards the community.

Four years ago, a group of upper-caste men arrived at Mehul Vinodbhai Kabira’s modest two-room home in Gujarat and threatened to burn it down. Bhayla is a nondescript village of around 450 low slung brick-and-cement homes straddling a highway dotted by pharmaceutical, engineering and bio-tech factories. Most of the homes in this dense village are owned by land-owning upper castes, but around 70 belong to Dalits (formerly known as untouchables) like Kabira, who form the lowest rung of India’s harsh caste hierarchy.

Kabira’s crime? He dared to park his newly-bought auto-rickshaw for passengers near the village at the bus stop, which also doubled up as its three-wheeler stand. His parents worked all their lives as scavengers, collecting manure, but their son had decided to shun the indignity of a lowly caste-based occupation. Instead, he took out a loan and started playing a three-wheeler. “Most of the auto-rickshaws here are owned by upper-caste men. They couldn’t tolerate a Dalit plying his trade at the bus stand. So they beat me up and threatened me,” he says. Kabira did not take any chances. He left the village with his family to live with a relative some 15km (nine miles) away and drove his three-wheeler. When he returned to Bhayla in 2014, he sold off his auto-rickshaw, paid back his loan and signed up as a 217 rupees-a-day ($3; £2.40) contract worker in the “housekeeping” – a euphemism for a cleaning job – at a pharmaceutical factory. A few houses away, Dayabhai Kanabhai Kabira, 42, faced the ire of upper-caste neighbours in a different way. A canny farmer, he had inherited two acres of farm land from his father, and sold it to buy a four-acre plot some 40km away to augment his income.

Rising violence

India targets weak sections of the nation, namely Muslims and low caste Hindus, Christians, among other such communities.  Most of the violence incidents against them are not reported in the press and media, managed by those lords who hate Muslims and low caste and all minorities. Even when reported, the regime and state government refuse to act. Governments instruct the police officials not to “entertain” the complaints of Muslims and others but just pretend being “gravely” concerned about the problems they face from their foes.  That is it.

Dalit lives have improved in Gujarat – and all over India – and many upper-caste people are finding it difficult to digest this. “Conflict increases where social conditions [for Dalits] may be getting slightly better,” says the Director of the Centre for Policy Research, a leading think-tank.

Atrocities against low Hindu caste Dalits are nothing new in Gujarat, the birthplace of former India leader Mahatma Gandhi, who waged a campaign against untouchability all his life. In the past, conflicts between Dalits and upper castes were restricted to fights over land, wages, water, housing and the practice of untouchability. But conflicts take place without any valid reasons.

Gujarat has only 2.3% of India’s 200 million Dalits – 14th most populous state for the community – yet it ranks high in terms of atrocities against them, with more than 1,000 cases of “crimes” against Dalits recorded in 2015. Between 1990 and 2015, 536 Dalits were murdered in Gujarat and 750 Dalit women raped. The conviction rate is abysmal: suspects in 95 of 100 cases are freed, according to one study. Eleven districts remain officially declared as “atrocity prone” for Dalits since 1981. “Dalits are protesting. They are asking questions, filing right to information applications, petitioning authorities and quizzing village council heads,” says Dalit rights activist Martin Macwan. “Upper castes are getting jittery and the violence continues.” His organisation Navsarjan Trust carried out a four-year-long study – published in 2010 – recording 98 untouchability practices in nearly 1,600 villages in Gujarat.

Most of the findings were startling, for example: More than 90% of the villages banned temple entry to Dalits; 54% of government schools had a separate queue for Dalit children for the midday school lunch; 64% of village councils had Dalit members sitting separately and being given separate tea cups or glasses; In 96% of villages, Dalits did not have access to burial grounds; But the recent violence against the Dalits, according to Shah, is rooted in a shrill campaign by radical Hindu groups “telling people what to eat, drink, dress and monitor their behavior”; Critics say the self-styled “cow protection” vigilantes are running extortion rackets and running amok even as Prime Minister Modi maintains a curious silence;  The agitation in Gujarat may not hurt the BJP in polls much – a third of Dalit voters have voted for the Congress party in the recent past. But, as psychologist Sanjay Kumar says, it might hurt the party’s electoral prospects in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, two states with large Dalit populations and which go to the polls early next year.

Things took a new, devious turn in Gujarat, one of India’s most prosperous states, ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP for more than a decade. A video surfaced showing four Dalit men being assaulted by zealous “cow protection” vigilantes. Their crime was that they were doing their caste job of skinning a dead animal. (Many Hindus consider cows sacred and the slaughter of the animal is banned in many Indian states. There have been attacks across India where Muslims have been accused of eating or smuggling beef.)

A night patrol with India’s cow protection vigilantes Angry Dalits came out in protest and the parliament in Delhi was in uproar. Some 30 Dalits, including women, have tried to take their own lives – and one has died- since the incident.

, tens of thousands of community members pledged to boycott some of their traditional tasks, including the disposal of dead animals and manual cleaning of sewers.

But, as social scientist Ghanshyam Shah says, even Gandhi was helpless when schools in Gujarat set up by organisations owing allegiance to his ideals refused to admit Dalit students. The state saw some of the earliest upper-caste agitations against affirmative action for the Dalits in the 1980s.

There is deep social conflict bubbling from below.  This cannot be good news for Modi who is only interested in and focuses on his next foreign tours.

Observation: Rubber stamp and India’s problems

The five-year job of Indian president is largely ceremonial but could be crucial when elections throw up fragmented mandates. The president apparently has no role in governance and other importance matters concerning policies – they rest with the Prime minister and his cabinet. The Premier calls all shots while the President just agrees with Pm and obeys him. Generally, the president is an insider who would not create any obstacles to the government and sign anything that is sent from the government like an obedient student.

It is said India president is equal to British Queen. The government of UK must take the advice of the Queen on all important matters, but in India president’s existence itself is forgotten. Media reports only when the president goes abroad or visits any state in India.  Of course, all top foreign dignitaries do meet the president and have sumptuous lunch or dinner as the care may be.  TV often shows how he receives foreign presidents.

Ram Nath Kovind will be the first RSS-BJP leader to occupy Rashtrapati Bhavan, but his real test will be to not be swayed by his party on matters where he may have to take a call as per his conscience and assert his authority on issues having no precedent or requiring his discretion, as the Constitution may not be clear on what stand should be taken.

Kovind is not the first low caste President; Earlier, a distinguished carrier diplomat and educationalist KR Narayanan with a lot of experience in human resources management as an Ambassador to USA, China, among other nations,  the VC of JNU and Union minister for technology etc, was made Indian President and he knew how manage the political  leaders as well. 

While it is an open secret that governors are only following the diktats of the ruling party at the Centre, the opposition will approach the President — as governors hold office at the pleasure of the President — for redressal.

Though many would argue that the President of India is a mere “rubber stamp”, experience shows that on many occasions the head of the state has had to take tough decisions which altered the course of history.

In recent years,  renowned scientist APJ Abdul Kalam faced problems from the government as the  latter‘s recommendations  were not approved by the President who  returned the  recommendations of  the government for reconsideration but the government repeatedly resent the same proposal and it became a prestige issue for the government and a Presidency vs. government tussle ensued. When the government repeatedly resent the same proposals for presidential accent, Kalam had then to “obey” the government affix his rubber stand to end the crisis..Government wanted to show its is above the president.  Maybe, Dr. Kalam thought as the director of a military production organization (missiles), he could get everything he wanted from the government but as nation’s President he had to forget that privilege and prestige.

That is the rubber stamp president. Every President wishes to say he or she is not a mere rubber stamp but the Constitution has prescribed the role of the president in a way as being subordinate to the government. In contrast the president of USA or Russia is a powerful post and he is the “supreme leader” of the government. .

Kovind has been chosen in order to widen the vote bank of low caste Hindus for the Hindutva parties and that is the reason why the Congress also fielded a low caste Hindu woman just for the sake of opposing the sure candidate Kovind as BJP had mustered enough to support him to presidency.   

As President RSS operative Kovind won’t be like scientist Dr. Abdul Kalam, the widely known as the Missile man and respected globally as the Indian intelligent common man as president and who was committed entirely the to services to the nation, but as a low caste man he knows what India is all about and is likely to avoid any controversy surrounding the Presidency. Abdul Kalam was nominated by the then PM Vajpayee.  He can now plan his foreign tours to enjoy his stay at Rashtrapati Bhavan but should align his external plans with those of overtly ambitious PM Modi who is now the touring premier of India. .

At present BJP has a comfortable majority in the parliament and he is not going to have any problem at all, unless, of course, BJP loses power in the next parliament poll in two years .  However, many prominent Dalits say they are unaware what contributions, if any, the new first citizen has made on behalf of the community.

Kovind is not entirely without controversy, however, A 2010 Hindustan Times report quoted him as saying that “Islam and Christianity are alien to the nation” at a press conference calling for the scrapping of a report that recommended government job reservations for socially and economically disadvantaged sections among religious and linguistic minorities. This was a political statement and is still the stand of the RSS- BJP Hindutva duo.

Hoping to get another term from PM Modi at Presidential palace to enjoy life, Congress leader and incumbent president Mukherjee tried to appease and cooperate with the Modi government on most issues and promptly signed bills, he did question the issuing of multiple ordinances on land acquisition bill and summoned Union ministers to explain why this was being done. He also spoke critically about growing intolerance in the country. It would be interesting to see if Kovind would be critical of NDA government on any issue.

New precedents have been set by Presidents over the years. While President Shankar Dayal Sharma called Vajpayee to form the government in 1996 as BJP had emerged as the largest party in the Lok Sabha elections, this practice was not followed by his successors in the wake of this dispensation not lasting more than 13 days.

President APJ Abdul Kalam, who became head of state during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s regime was not a BJP member, had a good run but his decision to sign on the papers imposing President’s Rule in Bihar in 2005 earned him a lot of censure. That he had signed the orders while on an official visit to Moscow and without asking questions to the Manmohan Singh government and Bihar governor Buta Singh made matters worse.

Modi and RSS-BJP’s choice of a low caste RSS Hindu from Uttar Pradesh (UP) in the North means to further target mosque-structure politics for consolidation of Hindutva hold over low cast Hindus. After making a Sanyasi (saint politician) as UP chief minister the Modi government has brought in a low caste Hindu as Indian President. That means, Muslims fear, the RSS-BJP government and RSS-BJP president would jointly coerce the Hon. Supreme Court judges to deliver a pro-Hindutva judgment over reconstruction of grand Babri Mosque pulled by Hindutva criminal gangs belonging most of the Hindu parties of India in 1992 and might even save the false prestige of new Hindutva criminal crops.

This could mean two things. One, the Modi government would speed up judgment and give justice to Muslims and the historic Babri Mosque, illegally destroyed by Hindu criminal elements on fictitious stories spread by RSS with Congress government support.   Two, the Modi government, UP government and President would coerce the Hon. Supreme Court to disallow the reconstruction of the Mosque as the Federal Government of Narasimha Rao promised to the world on January 06, 1992 the day of destruction of the Mosque and let the government to promote RS criminal elements to further advance their Hindutva goals. 

Interestingly, the BJP regime is pushing ahead with the Congress policy of imposition of north Indian language Hindi in all states that would in due course replace the regional language, first by gradually reducing the importance of regional languages. Tamil Nadu opposes the ugly mindset of Indian government now being controlled by RSS.  Congress, the culprit in trying to force Hindi on non-Hindi speaking people of India must be too glad that the BJP which promoted to keep Muslim under check and reduce their presence in governments, assemblies, parliament, government services, government retirement beneficiaries among them. Insignificant Kovind could be expected to be with BJP-Congress duo in forcing Hindi on non-Hindi speaking people saying it could be a link language for national integration but it is indeed the linguistic imperialism. 

Unity of India lies in the hearts and minds of people- not in languages and forcing a language on people is strange. Only a government that has no constructive ideas would try to create problems of people in order to stay in power. Those who want to work in the North India would automatically learn Hindi. But in order to just visit North or other parts of India, no one needs to know Hindi or any other Indian language and necessary communication does take place as people are getting educated.

Hindi is like any other language in India- nothing more or less any attempt to impose it on every Indian would continue to fail, despite huge resources being allocated for propagation of Hindi as “special link” everywhere. Now the BJP government is also promoting another north Indian language Sanskrit in a big way along with Ayurveda pills while many other Indian languages lack central support; for instance, Tulu language does not have scrip and Union government is not serious about such important Indian issues. . . But Indians love their own languages and should have the right to promote their own languages whether BJP or Congress or Indian regime likes it or not.

It would be naive if anyone expects Kovind speaks for the Kashmiris who seek justice and sovereignty. India’s occupation forces have, brutally and through trap techniques, have slaughtered over 100,000 innocent Kashmiris, most of them are Muslims. Will he raise his silent voice against or Sri Lankan criminal assaults and regular atrocities against Indian Tamils at Katchatheevu, elsewhere? He is of course duty bound to support Indian case in Arunachal Pradesh which China is eager to acquire from India by supporting India cause in badminton, etc. China also joins India and Pakistan in occupational cries against Kashmiris. 

APJ Kalam could be a model president of India for every future president to enumerate for state performance. Kovind may have to take a call on matters unforeseen and without past examples and how he goes about it will determine his proper management of political human resources and a place in history of constitutional politics. Otherwise, one need not dwell into the choice of an unknown person for Presidential palace. That is the job of Indian political class to determine. PM Modi thinks India does not have any better person for presidency as Congress government and President Mukherjee thought a cricketer who was promoted by gambling masters and pampered by corporate -media lords should honored with the nation’s heist national honor Bharatratna.

Indian politicians have no shame in undermining and even insulting the national honors, though!

World expects a positive end to the Babri mosque demolition and construction of Hindu structure over the Mosque. Indian media lords think by denying Muslims their legitimate right to have mosques built in India, they would defeat Islam and insult Muslims.  They also insult the Constitution of India by seeking to degrade Muslim minority in place of due protection for them as minority. They have generated fear among Muslims, including those who are anti-Islamic by faith and practice.  They don’t mind more partitions if only that would make India 100% Hindus.

No one knows anything about the new President of India and none now thinks Kovind could be a better or good president.  Kovind’s first concern likely to be to come across as balanced and neutral whenever the opposition knocks on his door. Congress and other opposition parties have been raising objections to the way many governors in the NDA government are conducting themselves.

Continue Reading
Comments

South Asia

Examining the impacts of Globalization: A Case study of Afghanistan

Published

on

Globalization is often considered as one of the most important and transformative events in the 21st century. It has led to the creation of multiple influential actors, rise of the information revolution and the formation of various instruments enabling cooperation and interdependence. Of the key aspects in the concept of globalization is the creation of state institutions which have allowed for monitoring, control and economic investments thus enabling greater connectivity with the people across the globe. The information revolution which came as a result of increase in technological prowess and development of communication technologies has led to the creation of virtual communication spaces. Big technological cooperation’s were able to exercise influence in the social media space and enable a conducive environment of presentation of various discourses. Globalization has also had a significant influence in the manipulation, coordination and control of all manner of discourse directed at various prominent political figures. From state to non-state actors all have been impacted by globalization.

Globalization in 3rd world countries saw an interesting and significant transformation where nations sought to gain advantage of the political and economic expansion which came as a result of increased connectivity of markets and political institutions. For these 3rd World states where political and economic capital was deficient in terms of influencing regional and global dynamics, they sought to further their geo-political objectives through increased trade, cooperation, cultural diplomacy and providing their strategic assets for more influential states to utilize. Countries such as African and South Asian states utilized international institutions, communication technologies in order to further their social, political and economic interests (Hamidi, 2015 ). Afghanistan in this regard hasn’t been averse to the changes effectively induced by globalization. Being a pivotal state in terms of key foreign policy objectives of states such as United States and Soviet Union, Afghanistan has seen change due to globalization. Its influence, in the cultural, political, societal and economic spheres shall be further explored in the ensuing paragraphs of this essay.

The state of Afghanistan has seen consistent and prolonged conflicts throughout its history. It’s political and social landscape has been affected by continuous struggle to attain power by warring warlords. Home to many ethnicities, the Afghan conflict has also impacted various ethnic groups disproportionately with many ethnic minorities becoming victims. Economic woes combined with rigid social norms and values have all contributed to a dwindling state marred by conflict. Afghanistan before the dawn of modernism was home to one of history’s notorious empires. It housed the rulers who invaded across to the rich plains of India in search of arable land for cultivation and for its natural resources. Despite its rich history Afghanistan was primarily distinguished along the lines of a tribalistic society with consistent conflict over land, domestic feuds and scarcity of resources. This all saw a radical change when during the height of the Cold War the Soviet Union, seeking to gain inroads in to South Asia invaded Afghanistan. What followed was a prolonged and protracted conflict in which not only the Afghan people but the people of neighboring Pakistan were also deeply affected in adverse ways. (Britannica , 2021 )

Afghanistan’s ascendancy to the mainstream global political spectrum came as a result of America’s denouncement of terrorism and the beginning of the war on terror. Post 9/11 American coalition forces invaded Afghanistan with the aim of targeting terrorists’ strategic strongholds in hopes of preventing future recurrences of attacks on European states. Another primary objective of the US and NATO coalition forces was to establish a national government enabled by foreign aid of the United States and led by social representatives of the people of Afghanistan. Before the US becoming an entrant in to the Afghan conflict, Afghanistan had largely been unaffected by radical transformations by globalization. Strict adherence to religious and social norms combined with a sense of alienism was one of the dominating factors which rendered Afghanis practically immune to the effects of globalization. Furthermore, economic and social insecurity had led Afghan societies to cluster into communities in hopes of reducing these anxieties which had become a recurrent theme in the pretext of globalization (Kinnvall, 2004 ).

Globalization for Afghanistan has been what is commonly termed as a “mixed bag”. For inviting international bodies to provide aid, relief and security meant a continuous rise in political influence exercised by foreign nations and institutions. Before the advent of American intervention in Afghanistan, foreign influence was mostly restricted to Afghan political elite where several key political stake holders had gained primacy in the eyes of the European governments (EUC paper series , 2017 ). The post 9/11 political spectrum was to radically effect the social political and economic spectrum of the conflict ravaged country. Foreign intervention aimed to radically change the societal fabric of a conservative afghan society and to introduce it to the global financial markets. Economic strife had complemented Afghanistan’s bulging unemployment, increased violence and vilification of what was termed as ‘evil, alien’ concepts of democracy and capitalism. The United States had aimed for re-vitalizing an Afghan society subjugated under Taliban rule.

Afghanistan before 2001 had chronic lapses in communication infrastructure which was largely due to poverty and rigid control by the then Taliban rulers in Afghanistan. Since 2001 the communication bulge came due to a rising influx of international aid and US military deployment. Subsequently Afghan societies were able to connect, report and increase knowledge as a result of the growth in media outlets. Qualitative studies point to the conclusion drawn that content produced by BBC played a significant role in behavioral changes of Afghan society (Adam, 2005 ).  The rich monopoly over the constructive discourses surrounding Afghan societies has also changed through the years as analyzed by various academics. Import of cultural and social identities and appreciation of various political voices came due to the significant influence of globalization.

The Afghan economy is another important aspect which has been significantly affected by the geo-political events and the onset of globalization. Globalization has bought with it the economic interdependence through a global financial market system aiming to liberalize and interconnect regional and state economies. Afghanistan for long had seen a frail economy compounded by elements of corruption, ceaseless conflicts and an influential control of trade routes by the Afghan Taliban. The Afghan Taliban, a pre-dominantly Pashtun organization consisting of multiple influential operating factions has for long controlled the opiate trading routes which form the bulk of Afghan domestic export. Primary trading routes had traditionally also included the Pashtun regions of Pakistan. Afghanistan’s anti-Soviet role was furthered by control over such content flows which not only allowed a vast and complicated network of interconnected guerilla groups but also served as the primary produce generating capital (Mendel, 2019 ).

While many argue that globalization inherently is a positive force aiming to alleviate and provide further economic, social and political stability, contested views argue in terms of empirical evidence against the normative claim. The Afghan perspective under the subject of globalization was seen as largely as a disconnect from the rest of the world. The process of integration, Western scholars argued was through the increased presence of defense forces and international institutions aiming to uplift societal deprivations. Another interesting perspective in this regard comes during the analysis of Al-Qaeda networks which for long operating on a global level. Such a degree of efficiency combined with a global distribution of opium trade was only possible through a systematic interconnectedness with various international networks. These would then allow a vast and lucrative drug business to operate despite chronic lapses in the government institutions on economic policy and implementation of government economic models.

Afghan society under the Taliban was rigidly controlled and monitored. Consisting largely of rural tribesmen, high rates of unemployment and extreme poverty had subjected the society to the will of powerful tribal leaders who worked to further their objective of accumulating power and influence. Religion in Afghanistan has also induced a traditional society to follow principals ascribed in religious texts. Laws and structure of society were decided on the basis of a rigid code of scripture. US department of State in its report argues that “legal change occurs usually when it is followed, not when it is leads public by opinion”. This argument follows in line with the narrative that while although US forces and NATO allies were able to remove a Taliban government, applying US democratic values and legal constitutions would be difficult and would ultimately fail when it came to attaining societal approval (Palmerlee, 2003 ).

Afghani society has followed traditional principals and held on cultural traditions and narratives. With globalization many academics have argued that Afghanistan’s inability or the lack of want to change arises from either a poor system of governance or a strongly entrenched traditional societal structure. Despite having multiple programs and promoting organizations representative of the Afghan people, resistance to change has always come due to deeply held beliefs of the need for religious protectionism and maintaining tribal identity. This ‘counter-global’ stances show a societal push back of what is considered as an interference of foreign media, and institutions as a challenging force to disrupt established social norms and values. US forces therefore ever since entering into Afghanistan have found it difficult to reconcile Afghan societies thoughts and values with Western ideals of democracy and capitalism. It is one of the influential factors which allow organizations such as the Afghan Taliban to continue an armed insurgency where general acceptance of society has created the space for the Taliban to operate for a continuous period.

The political spectrum of Afghanistan has also been affected by globalization. International institutions and states have continuously aimed to impart western form of governance in Afghanistan. Foreign investments and defense deployments have continued with the pursuit of gaining political leverage and to back national governments representative of Afghanistan. Despite the continued inflow of foreign capital and operations conducted by NATO forces, the Afghan conflict has largely remained un-resolved and unchanged. The current government having the backing of powerful NATO forces has been largely unable to gain credibility and acceptability in the eyes of Afghanis. Afghanistan’s continued withdrawal from globalization and a rejection to imparting new and improved means of governance has been a primary factor which hasn’t allowed credible space for forms of governance like this to prosper.

The political spectrum also continues to be shaped by consistent sense of ‘loss of sovereignty’ This concept comes as result of a globalization where the greater influence of international institutions and foreign states is observed to have a negative impact on the states individual sovereignty. Despite the profits gained from having a highly interconnected market system and the creation of institutions to reduce the chance of conflict, such influence has been challenged by developing countries. South Asia is largely populated with people living below the average rate of income established by international organizations such as the United Nations. The people of Afghanistan belong to the poorest strata where people have the lowest levels of income followed by a large scale of unemployment and little to no foreign export except the opiate trade. International organizations and non-state actors have over the years gained increasing levels of control and influence in the governance structure of Afghanistan. Through providing aid, defense and foreign policy strategies Afghanistan government and the role of influential international actors has led to an increasing sense of loss of sovereignty by the Afghan population (Political works , 2009 ). This has allowed the continuing Afghan insurgency to gain traction and acceptance where despite being dislodged from power the guerilla paramilitary force has taken up an aggressive and largely successful campaign against the foreign led forces.

Cultural identity has been at the forefront of the debates surrounding globalization. Common conceptions of globalizations mainly discuss the normative aspects of increased communication and inter-dependence between countries. Globalization has increased interconnectivity and has led to a homogeneity of cultures and traditions. While debatable, the concept remains significant in the debate on globalization. The study on Afghanistan has largely been on political economy and connecting Afghanistan with the global financial institutions. Cultural values of democracy and westernized conceptions on human values have found little acceptance in Afghanistan and in other Muslim countries. This interesting concept can be studied by understanding the radically altering understanding of individual values and identities of Muslim cultures with that of Westernized democratic ideals. This makes it problematic where enforcement or promotion of these values then leads to cultural rifts and becomes the precursor for possible future conflict. In the case of Afghanistan cultural identity is fixated in the identification on the basis of religion and tribal identities. The celebration of the ‘collective’ and the promotion of shared norms and values gains greater acceptance over westernized ideas of the individual. With these fundamental differences cultural identity has been largely unchanged despite continued foreign assistance and commitment in Afghanistan (Weisberg, 2002 ).

Afghanistan for a large part of its history has seen great conflict of different scales. From internal rifts to foreign interventions the complicated and prevailing nexus in Afghanistan continues to invite academic debate till today. Globalization has increasingly allowed greater connectivity and enhanced opportunities of cooperation and increased global/regional ties. For Afghanistan the complicated situation has been further exasperated with an increasingly globalized world. With foreign interventions and rising levels of inequality and influence of non-state actors, the situation of Afghanistan continues to remain in flux. Only time will truly tell how and to what extent has globalization truly impacted Afghanistan.

Continue Reading

South Asia

Why France holds the key to India’s Multilateral Ambitions

Published

on

modi macron

Authors: Prof. Nidhi Piplani Kapur and K.A. Dhananjay

As Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla pitches for permanent membership and reforms at the United Nations (UN), India’s prowess in multilateral diplomacy is tested. Against this backdrop, allies and partners who intend to support India become a critical factor not only to its UN ambitions; but also, areas where India’s multilateral interests are emerging – namely in the European Union (EU) and Indo-Pacific Region. In this regard, India’s multilateral goals are threefold–securing a permanent membership at the UN, enhanced multilateral trade relations with the EU, and enlarged capacity-building in the Indo-Pacific. Yet, for realizing its multilateral endeavours, India’s age-old relationship with France remains the key.

Since the signing of the Strategic Partnership with India in 1998, France has played an enormous role in supporting Indian interests. Whether it is backing India’s stance on Kashmir, collaborating in defence and space, or even pledging solidarity in fighting the second wave of the pandemic, France has assisted India in its strategic and societal causes. Therefore, being a reliable and strategic ally, France is a perfect guide for India in the aforesaid multilateral pursuits primarily because of its credentials as a permanent member in the UN, founding member of the EU, and in recent times, an emerging power in the Indo-Pacific region too.

UN Reforms and Permanent Membership

Ever since India was elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2020, it has constantly batted for organizational reforms within the UN. As India puts it – ‘reformed multilateralism’ is in the need of the hour. It is a fact that the UN is currently beleaguered by an unevenly poised multilateral system, mainly wedged between the politics of the United States, Russia, and China, and hence is proving antithetical to the organisation’s legitimacy and purpose per se. Besides, with China reportedly making inroads within the UN system, India’s call for reforms underpins its cause to arrest Beijing’s influence that could otherwise prove costly to its strategic interests, including territorial disputes along the Line of Actual Control.

At the UN, France has endorsed India’s bid to overhaul the Security Council on numerous occasions. Currently, France and India are presiding over the Security Council in successive terms for July and August respectively. While India has signalled to make ‘best’ efforts to reform the UN during its short stint at the Security Council, France has already called for negotiations with India to explore and expedite the reformation it proposes. Whatever may be the challenges, France provides elbow room for India to set the ball rolling.

Brokering the India-EU FTA

The EU has been an important multilateral partner for India via trade and strategic relations. Post the EU-India virtual summit in May, an event that drew participation from leaders of all the 27 EU member states, there has been a lot of talk on India’s burgeoning importance in Europe. The summit was a positive outcome for India, as negotiations for the long-pending Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the EU were set to restart after a gap of 8 years. Notably, FTA talks with India come at a time when the highly debated EU-China trade deal was frozen by the European Parliament owing to ‘tit-for-tat’ sanctions surrounding China’s human rights violations in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.

For India, the FTA is a watershed for extending multilateral relations with the European continent and an opportunity to consider an alternative to futile Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations. Though the FTA might look vibrant and dynamic, the EU considers India’s policy on market access, intellectual property, and data security unfavourable to pursue a free trade agreement. These issues may not be easy to forego, especially given the socio-economic conditions induced by the pandemic; but there comes the French angle to the discussion.

In the EU, France was one of the main proponents for resuming FTA negotiations with India. Since France has a significant foothold in the EU and a long-standing relationship with India, it has the tenacity to cement the middle ground while both parties deliberate on the FTA. This way, both India and the EU’s interests are not shredded, and if the FTA becomes a reality, France gets to keep the legacy of brokering an otherwise impossible landmark deal.

Enlarged Indo-Pacific Cooperation

The rise of China and the consequent formation of the QUAD has put the Indo-Pacific region in the global geopolitical landscape. The Indo-Pacific is at the centre of India’s strategic and territorial interests. As a prominent state in the region, India pursues a strategy that counters China’s dominance and expands its outreach in the Indo-Pacific. Seeing the political circumstances in the Indo-Pacific, France has also shown a keen interest in exploring its prospects in the region.

From securing membership at the Indian Ocean Rim Association to participating in strategic engagements such as the Australia-India-France Trilateral Dialogue and the QUAD-Plus network, France is gradually expanding its footprint in the Indo-Pacific. Not to forget, through 4 overseas territories, France also has a regional presence in the Indo-Pacific. With the EU also launching its Indo-Pacific strategy, France naturally has a tactical advantage to even pilot European interests in the region.

Ergo, French entry in the Indo-Pacific is good news for India because now it has more partners to restrict China. As a result, multilateral capacity-building and maritime domain awareness operations in the Indo-Pacific look at a major facelift in ensuring maritime security, freedom of navigation, and most importantly – restrict Chinese expansionism. Given the French factor, enlarged Indo-Pacific cooperation is beneficial for India to rise as a pivot as well as keep an eye on China’s incessant effrontery in the region.

Based on what France brings to the table, India is looking at a friend whose promising rapport provides a new prism for its multilateral aspirations. Albeit, the judicial probe ordered on the Rafale deal in France might cause light tremors in Indo-French relations and may also spill out a political limbo. It is a headache for both Paris and New Delhi to eschew, and hopefully, they could steer it in a way mutual interests do not succumb to the looming uncertainty.

Continue Reading

South Asia

Unleashing India’s True Potential

Published

on

As India strives to unleash its true potential to rise as a global powerhouse, it is tasked with a series of challenges that stunt its aspirations. To put this ambition into perspective, Dr. Aparna Pande discusses the various internal issues that have hampered its global aspirations and plagued the socio-cultural, economic, political and military dimensions, in her recent book Making India Great: The promise of a reluctant Global Power.

The book is structured in five chapters besides the introduction and the conclusion. The fundamental argument of the book sets out to delineate India’s ambition of becoming a world power in the 21st century. The author discusses the contradiction that exists within Indian society that is ‘although India aspires to become a global power, it lacks the ability to draw long term strategic plans that are necessary to achieve and realise its ambitions’. To attain this vision, India must overhaul its attitude and mindset to prescribe a course of action that is deemed fit to bridge the gap between India’s potential and its policy outcomes. Dr. Pande rationally deconstructs the reasons behind India’s economic slowdown and sheds light on the country’s pursuit towards realising its true potential.  

In the introductory chapter, the author revisits India’s ancient heritage and modern history and spells out various historical accounts to depict the immature, parochial and tactless decisions and judgments made by the Indian political elite that have repeatedly toyed with India’s ambitions. These vested interests have hindered the country’s progress and fractured its strategic disposition in spite of possessing a robust ethical foundation, a secular religious society, a rich linguistic and cultural diversity. Furthermore, the author elaborates on India’s achievements since its independence while knitting history with contemporary international politics.

By 2024, India will be the most populous country globally (p.X) and will be the world’s third largest economy by 2050 (p.53). The author raises key arguments that address India’s trajectory to become a major global power. She advocates for the need to focus on its important national subjects such as enhancing the country’s defence capabilities, upgrading its military industry and expanding its diplomatic outreach globally, instead of focusing on the traditional problems related to religious vigilantism, caste and ethnic prejudice, and cultural divisions.

In the first chapter, “Ancient Culture, Modern Times”, the author illustrates India’s ancient culture and the faith in Indian exceptionalism. She beautifully explains the ancient history starting with the idea of renaissance and enlightenment and journeys through the social changes brought over time by various reformist movements namely the Arya Samaj and the Brahmo Samaj. The idea of Indianness as conceived by Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore indicates that modern India was built on its rich and ancient heritage. The two different traditions are highlighted within the Indian social order: one discussing India as a vibrant, inclusive and open society, while the other views India as an obscurantist society due to the existence of social practices of patriarchy, feudalism and chauvinist behaviour by Indian society. The country’s progress is impeded by society’s myopic vision and bigoted fabric.

The author opines that legislative decisions and political events in India are scrutinised by the public from the religious and cultural lens that hampers the growth and progress of the country. Rather than investing in strategic planning for defence and education, the Union Government has been spending more resources to protect cows with the intent to safe guard the religious sentiments of its people. Subsequently, these provisions adversely affect beef production countrywide and weakens the leather industry, affecting the Indian economy at large. As alluded by the author, such a comparison of the religious practices with the economic benefits could hurt the sentiments of the public, leading to undermine the majoritarian faith. In the larger context, among the many prevailing social and national issues there are far greater problems that need immediate redress to which the author has failed to shed adequate light on, such as gender inequality, patriarchy, the promotion of women empowerment, improvements to the national literacy rate and addressing the issue of poverty.

The second chapter discusses human capital, which acts as a pre-requisite driver for the modern Indian economy. In the ancient times, the country’s potential for human resource can be viewed through an archaeological lens and has also laid the foundation of the world’s oldest civilisation, the Indus Valley. In addition to the Indus valley, the subcontinent has witnessed the establishment of the well-engineered twin cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro. Dr. Pande supports her argument on the country’s human capital by supplementing the reader with a similar view from Gurcharan Das’ book, where the author conveys that India’s biggest failure has been in building human capabilities. Further, he states that to build human potential and capabilities, there is a need for an investment of human capital particularly in education and the health sector.[i] In concurrence with Mr. Das, Dr. Pande explicates that the failure of building human capabilities is due to misgovernance. Hence, she suggests that the Government should take pragmatic steps for policy formulation and skill development.

The third chapter elucidates about ‘Economic Potential’ of the Indian state. She discusses the success and failures of the Indian economy. Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi accentuated on economic independence and self-sufficiency. The Indian economy has been growing since independence but is insufficient to cater to the needs of its growing population. Despite being a developing economy, there are millions of people in India living below the poverty line. The 1991 reforms were a shot in the arm for the Indian economy through the process of liberalisation and privatisation. As India is on its way to becoming one of the three largest economies by 2050, New Delhi is required to bring more reforms to its land, labour and financial policies. It needs to give up its paternalistic approach which hinders its economic growth. Dr. Pande also highlights India’s obsession with producing everything within the country which leads to hyper-nationalism and proves to be one of the major drawbacks for the Indian economy only weakening its rise as a global power.

In the following chapter, the author analyses the country’s foreign policy and geopolitics.  While debating the geopolitical nature of the country, Dr. Pande enlightens the reader about some of the inevitable features of the Indian state. As one of the oldest standing civilisations, its geographic position is strategic and its vast population is an asset for the country’s growth. The ancient sages have ascribed India as Vishwa Guru (world teacher) and have adopted the philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakkam (the world is one family). Prime Minister, Narendra Modi in his historic speech at the United Nations General Assembly in 2014 underscored the driving force of India’s philosophy, reminding the world community about India’s ancient history since the Vedic era, with the intent to bring reforms to the United Nations (UN), making it more democratic and participatory.

The author presents a case to underline the existence of India’s strategic disposition through an adaptation of the Non-Alignment Movement. To establish and maintain its clout in the world order, India is associated with various organisations like the UN, the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and several other multilateral institutions. The author presents a strong case for the need to introduce new reforms into the UN Security Council (UNSC) but also into the international economic order, including various multilateral economic institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. More importantly, she advocates the need to promote India as a permanent member in the UNSC with the backdrop of India’s rise in contemporary international relations given the country’s growing economic, political and military prowess.

Talking about its foreign policy, India is considered a geographical, socio-cultural and economic centre for South Asia and plays the role of a ‘Big Brother’ within the South Asian region. India has always followed the ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy to maintain strategic relations with its immediate neighbours. Apart from South Asia, the chapter presents a stark contrast regarding India’s relations with China and its economic and military rise which pose a threat to India and South Asia.

The last chapter examines India’s “Military and Grand Strategy” and what India actually requires in order to become a global power. She illustrates the features of great powers as described by Hedley Bull. According to Bull, great powers are identified by ‘comparability of status’, ‘rank in military strength’, and the ability and recognition to ‘play a part in determining issues that affect the peace and security of the international system as whole’.[ii]  To incorporate these factors in its foreign policy, India needs a grand strategy in place which could be formulated through four major strands: Imperial Legacy, Messianic Idealism, Realism and Isolationism, as discussed by the author in her previous work.[iii] To achieve these goals, India can exercise the Kautilyan principles of Saam, Daam, Dand and Bhed (persuasion, temptation, punishment and exploitation respectively) as a means to achieve an end.

To this end, Making India Great is a well-researched handbook with various mesmerising facts but with a contested title which questions the greatness of the country. It allows readers to comprehend various reasons for India’s reluctance and flawed progress on the global stage. The author suggests that the Government of India should introduce new reforms that would enable it, to take pragmatic measures in the economic, military, political and social spheres, which would provide greater impetus to its growing aspirations as a global power. Lastly, Dr. Pande fails to identify and analyse the loopholes existing in both, the decision-making apparatus and implementation process of various policies at the economic, political and military levels. Nevertheless, this work is of immense relevance to understand India’s position as an emerging global power, in the context of the contemporary state of global affairs.


[i] Gurcharan Das, India Unbounded: The Social and Economic revolution from Independence to the Global Information Age, New York: Anchor Books, 2002, p. xviii.

[ii] Hedley Bull, The Anarchial Society: A Study of Order in World Politics, New York: Columbia University Press, 1977, pp. 200-03.

[iii]Aparna Pandey, From Chanakya to Modi: Evolution of India’s Foreign Policy, Noida: HarperCollins India, 2017.

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Trending