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Sense of fear, insecurity growing among Muslims in India

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Outgoing Vice President of India and outstanding Indian educationalist Hamid Ansari has rightly said that India is fast moving toward  a terrocracy as Muslims are being targeted a section of  majority Hindus and  there is a feeling of unease and a sense of insecurity among the Muslims in the country, asserting the “ambience of acceptance” is now under threat. 

Dr. Ansari said a sense of insecurity is creeping in as a result of the dominant mood created by some and the resultant intolerance and vigilantism he shared the view of many that intolerance was growing. In hard-hitting remarks during an interview he ascribed the spate of vigilante violence, mob lynchings, beef bans and “Ghar Wapsi” campaigns to a “breakdown of Indian values” and to the “breakdown of the ability of the authorities” to enforce the law. “…and overall, the very fact that the Indianness of any citizen (is) being questioned is a disturbing thought,” Ansari said.

By targeting Muslims the Constitutional guarantees for the protection of minorities are being violated by the ruling classes and judiciary has no role in protecting the Muslims from majority attacks, either.

Emotional outbursts

A feeling of unease and insecurity is creeping in among Muslims in India, , Vice President Hamid Ansari said in his parting interview to Rajya Sabha TV joining a growing number of leaders who have expressed concerns over attacks on minorities.

Professor Hamid Ansari, whose second five-year term as the Vice-President ended on August 10, made these remarks in the backdrop of incidents of “intolerance” and cow vigilantism. Stating that he had flagged the issue of “intolerance” with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his cabinet colleagues, Ansari, 80, also described the questioning of citizens over their love for India as a “disturbing thought”.

Ansari, who completed two terms as vice president on August 10, said that there is a breakdown of Indian values and of the abilities among authorities at different levels in different places to be able to enforce what should be normal law enforcing work. “Overall, the very fact that Indianness of any citizen being questioned is a disturbing thought,” he said in his parting interview to Rajya Sabha TV.  Congress president Sonia Gandhi MP raised similar concerns during a speech in Parliament where she urged people to not let “dark forces” diminish India’s core values. Neither Ansari nor Gandhi named any party or individual in particular, but their statements can be seen to allude to the leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which the Congress party and other opposition outfits often accuse of pandering to right-wing Hindu ideologies.

On the August 10 Ansari demitted his Vice Presidential office at Hyderabad House in New Delhi that only Philosopher S Radhakrishnan had occupied as long as 10 years. The BJP government, for obvious political reasons, did not want to elevate him to be the president nor was given another term. He ruled out possibilities of Indian Muslims getting influenced by ISI and such other elements but mentioned that it would be a correct assessment to say that the Muslim community is feeling insecure.

Ansari, the only two-term vice president after S Radhakrishnan, also voice advice for Muslim community. “Do not create for one self or one’s fellow beings an imaginary situation which is centuries back, when things were very different. The challenges today are challenges of development, what are the requirements for development; you keep up with the times, educate yourself, and compete…”

To a poser on the situation in Jammu Kashmir, Ansari said, “the problem has always primarily been a political problem. And it has to be addressed politically.”

He agreed to a suggestion that politicians are ducking the problem. “That’s my impression. And I m not the only one in the country…when young boys and girls come out on to the streets and throw stones day after day, week after week, month after month, it’s something to worry about because they are our children, they are our citizens.” “Something is obviously going wrong. What exactly, I am not the final word on it, but I think there are enough people in the country who are worried about it. Eminent people belonging to different political persuasions and their worry must be taken on board,” the Vice President said. 

Muslim community terrorized, alienated

In the interview, Vice President Ansari referred to incidents of lynching and ‘ghar wapsi’ and alleged killings of rationalists as a “breakdown of Indian values, breakdown of the ability of the authorities at different levels in different places to be able to enforce what should be normal law enforcing work and over all the very fact that Indianness of any citizen being questioned is a disturbing thought.” “Yes it is a correct assessment,” Ansari said agreed with the assessment that the Muslim community is apprehensive and that it was feeling insecure as a result of the kind of comments made against them. “Yes it is a correct assessment, from all I hear from different quarters, the country; I heard the same thing in Bangalore, I have heard from other parts of the country, I hear more about it in north India, there is a feeling of unease, a sense of insecurity is creeping in,” he said.

Ansari was of the view that while tolerance is a good virtue, it is not a sufficient virtue. “…therefore you have to take the next step and go from tolerance to acceptance,” he said. Asked whether he felt that the Muslims are “beginning to feel that they are not wanted”, Ansari said, “I would not go that far, there is a sense of insecurity.” Attacks on Muslims and lynching of Muslims directly say that. He said India is a plural society that has for centuries, not just seventy years, has lived in a certain “ambience of acceptance” which is now “under threat”. He was of the view that the propensity to be able to assert your nationalism day-in and day-out is “unnecessary”. “I am an Indian and that is it,” he said.

Asked in an interview why he thought Indian values were “suddenly” breaking down, Vice-President Hamid Ansari answered: “Because we are a plural society that for centuries, not for 70 years, has lived in a certain ambience of acceptance.” He said this acceptance was “under threat”. “This propensity to be able to assert your nationalism day in and day out is unnecessary. I am an Indian and that is it,” he told Rajya Sabha TV.

Referring to the incidents of lynching and ‘ghar wapsi’ and killings of rationalists as a “breakdown of Indian values”, Ansari said, “breakdown of the ability of the authorities at different levels in different places to be able to enforce what should be normal law enforcing work and over all the very fact that Indianness of any citizen being questioned is a disturbing thought.”

On being asked if he agreed with the assessment that the Muslim community is apprehensive and that it was feeling insecure as a result of the kind of comments made against them, Ansari said, “Yes it is a correct assessment, from all I hear from different quarters, the country; I heard the same thing in Bangalore, I have heard from other parts of the country, I hear more about in north India, there is a feeling of unease, a sense of insecurity is creeping in,”  “There is a sense of insecurity,” said Ansari, adding that India is a plural society that for centuries, not for seventy years, has lived in a certain “ambience of acceptance” which is now under threat. The Vice President viewed that the propensity to be able to assert your nationalism day in and day out is “unnecessary”. “I am an Indian and that is it.”

Regarding the issues of tolerance, he mentioned that while tolerance is a good virtue, it is not a sufficient virtue. “…therefore you have to take the next step and go from tolerance to acceptance,” he said. At an event in Bengaluru on Sunday, Ansari said the “version of nationalism” that places cultural commitments at its core promotes intolerance and arrogant patriotism.

He said the issue of Triple Talaq is a social aberration and the reform, if any at all, has to come from within the community leaders of political other parties and religions need not interfere in the personal matters of Muslims. “The religious requirement is crystal clear, emphatic, there are no two views about it but patriarchy, social customs has all crept into it to create a situation which is highly undesirable.”

Threat to nationalism and unity

RSS-BJP duo employs the “patriotism” to insult Muslims as if Hindus are extra patriots. They want Hindu votes to come to power. They don’t mind another division of the nation to make India a “pure” Hindu nation. . At an event in Bengaluru in the South, Vice President Ansari said that the “version of nationalism” that places cultural commitments at its core “promotes intolerance” and arrogant patriotism. Responding to a question on comments made by some BJP leaders related to minorities, he said he would not talk about people in politics or about political parties. “But to me, every time such a comment appeared or came to my knowledge; I mean my first reaction was that the person is ignorant and  that he is prejudiced and he does not fit into the framework that India has always prided to itself on, which is to be an accommodative society,” he said.

Ansari was asked a question on his lecture at the National Law School in Bengaluru earlier this month where he said rejuvenating secularism’s basic principles was becoming a challenge. There is a feeling of unease, a sense of insecurity is creeping in,” he told journalist Karan Thapar during the interview after being asked to reflect on his statement in Bengaluru.

Asked specifically about his speech in which he spoke about a nationalism with cultural commitments at its core being perceived as the most conservative and illiberal form of nationalism, and whether the remark was about the mood of the country in 2017, he replied: “Oh, absolutely.” And he agreed he had felt a personal need to underline that this need to keep proving one’s patriotism, and the intolerance it made for, was unhealthy: “Yes. And I am not the only one in the country; a great many people feel the same way.” Asked if he had shared these apprehensions with the PM or the government, he replied: “Yes… But what passes between the Vice-President and the PM in the nature of things must remain in the domain of privileged information.”

The outgoing vice president also ruled out the possibility of Indian Muslims being influenced by militant outfits.

Political reactions

Ansari said that he shared his apprehensions to the Prime Minister and other cabinet ministers, but refused to divulge details of their interaction on the plank that “what passes between the vice president and the Prime Minister in the nature of things must remain in the domain of privileged conversation.”  Asked in an interview on Rajya Sabha TV whether he shared his concerns with the prime minister, Ansari, who is also the Rajya Sabha Chairman, said that he had. “Yes…yes. But what passes between the Vice President and the Prime Minister in the nature of things must remain in the domain of privileged conversation,” said. He said that he has also flagged the issue with other union ministers. “Well, there is always an explanation and there is always a reason. Now it is a matter of judgment, whether you accept the explanation, you accept the reasoning and its rationale,” he said when asked about the response of the government.

Anti-Muslim forces like BJP-RSS cannot digest plain criticism of Hindutva  mischief  and never admit that they have created a dirty sense of uneasy and insecurity  of for Indian Muslims, His comments drew criticism from the BJP, with party general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya questioning if Ansari was looking for “political shelter” after retirement. In fact, that is how the BJP and RSS add members into their fold who speak against Islam and Muslims or for a Hindutva nation, and promote them for big positions.

Professor Ansari’s comments about the  feeling of unease and a sense of insecurity creeping in among the Muslims in the country against the current backdrop of intolerance and vigilante violence drew criticism from the BJP, with party general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya questioning if Ansari was looking for “political shelter” after retirement.

Ansari’s successor Venkaiah Naidu, who was sworn in on Friday also criticized Ansari, seemingly responded to the comments, dismissing them as “political propaganda”. “Some people are saying minorities are insecure… Compared to the entire world, minorities are safer and secure in India and they get their due,” Naidu said.

A day after outgoing vice president Hamid Ansari said Muslims were feeling insecure, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he (Ansari) will be free to pursue his “core thinking” once he demits office. In the Rajya Sabha, where Ansari was given a farewell on his last day in office, Modi hailed his role in the past 10 years and said Ansari had tried his best to live up to it.

Meanwhile, former union minister Venkaiah Naidu has been elected as his successor and Ansari thinks that the nature of the job of chairman of Rajya Sabha will dictate the response and there is no reason why the Opposition will not get a fair deal under Naidu’s chairmanship

Ansari’s successor an RSS operative Venkaiah Naidu, who was sworn in on Friday, seemingly responded to the comments, dismissing them as “political propaganda”.  “Some people are saying minorities are insecure… Compared to the entire world, minorities are safer and secure in India and they get their due,” Naidu said.

Ghar wapsi, anti-beef and cow worshiping for Hindu votes, lynching of Muslims in the streets by Hindutva criminals – are not propaganda!

PM Modi praised outgoing Vice-President Hamid Ansari for his track record in public service. With Ansari chairing his last session in the Rajya Sabha, Modi led the tributes as Upper House members expressed their heartfelt gratitude and congratulated the political veteran on his efficient contributions. 

A day after outgoing vice president Hamid Ansari said Muslims were feeling insecure, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he (Ansari) will be free to pursue his “core thinking” once he demits office. In his remarks in the Rajya Sabha, where Ansari was given a farewell on his last day in office, Modi hailed his role in the past 10 years and said Ansari had tried his best to live up to it.

Prime Minister Modi referred to the 100 years of public life of Ansari’s forefathers and said they were aligned with the Congress and Khilafat Movement. The Khilafat Movement, launched by Muslim clergy in India to protest against the threat to Islamic Caliphate following the defeat of Turkey at the hands of Britain in World War I, was supported by Mahatma Gandhi and has been seen as among the factors which contributed to the growth of separatist consciousness among the community which led to the country’s partition in 1947. In an interview to Rajya Sabha TV, Ansari struck a note of caution, warning that Muslims in the country are feeling insecure amid a sense of growing intolerance – “the ambience of acceptance” is at risk

Modi recalled Ansari’s diplomatic career during which he spent many years in West Asia and his role on retirement as the Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University and as the Chairman of Minorities Commission. “Many years of your life were spent in that circle. You stayed in that atmosphere, with that thinking and debating with those people. After retirement your engagement mostly remained the same. “…But in the last 10 years, you had a different responsibility. Every moment was spent in the ambit of Constitution and running  Rajya Sabha. You tried your best to run it. “Maybe there was some uneasiness within you. But from now onwards, you will not face that difficulty. You will also feel free and work, think and speak according to your core thinking.”

Responding to a question on comments made by some BJP leaders related to minorities, he said he would not talk about political people or political parties. “But to me, every time such a comment appeared or came to my knowledge; I mean my first reaction was that, A: the person is ignorant, B: that he is prejudiced and C: he does not fit into the framework that India has always prided to itself on, which is to be accommodative society,” he said.

Replying to a question on some BJP leaders comments related to minorities, he aid he would not talk about political people or political parties. “But to me, every time such a comment appeared or came to my knowledge; I mean my first reaction was that, A: the person is ignorant, B: that he is prejudiced and C: he does not fit into the framework that India has always prided to itself on, which is to be accommodative society,” he said.

Ansari also described the questioning of Indianness of citizens as a “disturbing thought.”Asked in an interview to Karan Thapar on Rajya Sabha TV whether he shared his concerns with the prime minister, Ansari replied in the affirmative. “Yes…yes. But what passes between the Vice President and the Prime Minister in the nature of things must remain in the domain of privileged conversation,” the ex officio chairman of Rajya Sabha said. Regarding the government’s response, he said, “Well, there is always an explanation and there is always a reason. Now it is a matter of judgment, whether you accept the explanation, you accept the reasoning and its rationale,” he said.

Profile

Hamid Ansari was born to Mohammad Abdul Aziz Ansari and Aasiya Begum in Calcutta (now Kolkata), West Bengal, India on 1 April 1937 though his family belongs to Ghazipur in Uttar Pradesh. Ansari is the grandson of a brother of former Congress President Mukhtar Ahmad Ansari, a leader of the Indian independence movement. He is the grand nephew of Dr. Mukhtar Ahmad Ansari, the former President of the INC (Indian National Congress) and also the founder of Jamia Millia Islamia- now federal university.

Ansari studied at St. Edward’s School, Shimla, St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata and Aligarh Muslim University where he completed an MA in Political Science in 1959. He started his career as Officer in the Indian Foreign Service in 1961. He was Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations, Indian High Commissioner to Australia and Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia. He was awarded the Padma Shree in 1984. He was also Professor  & Vice-Chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University from May 2000 to March 2002. He is known for his role in ensuring compensation to the victims of the Gujarat riots and pushing for a complete re-look into the relief and rehabilitation for riot victims since 1984.

Ansari was the first person to be re-elected as Indian VP after Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan in 1957. He also presently serves as President of the Indian Institute of Public Administration, Chancellor of Pondicherry University and the President of the Indian Council of World Affairs. Ansari worked as an ambassador and served as the Vice-Chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University from 2000 to 2002.[2] Later he was Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities from 2006 to 2007. He was elected as the Vice-President of India on 10 August 2007 and took office on 11 August 2007. He was reelected on 7 August 2012   His second term ended in August 2017 since he decided not to run for a third term in the 2017 vice-presidential election. Upon the inauguration of Ram Nath Kovind as President of India in 2017, Ansari became the first Indian Vice-President to serve during the terms of three presidents. Longest served Indian vice president

Ansari became the chairman of India’s National Commission for Minorities (NCM) on 6 March 2006.  In June 2007, Ansari, in his capacity as NCM chairman, upheld the decision of St. Stephens College to earmark a small percentage of seats for Dalit Christians. He resigned as NCM chairman soon after his nomination for the post of India’s Vice-President.

On 20 July 2007, Ansari was named by the UPA-Left, the ruling coalition in India, as its candidate for the post of Vice-President for the upcoming election. Ansari secured 455 votes, and won the election by a margin of 233 votes against his nearest rival Najma Heptullah of BJP who is now Governor of Manipur state. Hamid Ansari was re-elected for the second term on 7 August 2012, defeating the NDA’s nominee Jaswant Singh former Finance, External Affairs and Defence minister as well as former Leader of Opposition by a margin of 252 votes. According to the Constitution of India, Ansari, as Vice-President of the Republic, also serves ex officio as Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. Ansari was a member of the Congress before being nominated Vice President in 2007.

Career After completing his Master’s degree from the Aligarh Muslim University, Ansari worked as a lecturer in AMU for two years. He then wrote a UPSC exam and secured the 4th rank. He joined the Indian Foreign Service as a diplomat in 1961. He served the country as an IFS officer in various countries. He served as ambassador to United Arab Emirates from 1976 to 1980 and as Chief of Protocol, Government of India from 1980-1985.

Scholar

Ansari is a West Asia scholar and has written on the Palestinian issue and taken positions inconvenient to the Indian official line on Iraq and Iran. He questioned India’s vote in the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran’s nuclear programme where India voted against Iran. He said that though the Indian Government claimed to have acted on “its own judgment,” this was not borne out by facts Ansari feels that there is a sense of unease among Indian Muslims. He said this on the last day of his tenure as the Vice President of India, one of the highest constitutional posts in the country. [ Ansari quoted, “The language used by the Pope sounds like that of his 12th-Century counterpart who ordered the crusades… It surprises me because the Vatican has a very comprehensive relationship with the Muslim world.” – 15 September 2006, as Chairman of the Minorities Commission of India, on the Pope Benedict XVI Islam controversy

In his illustrious career that spun over forty-five years, Mohammad Hamid Ansari has worked in various disciplines in the offices of the Government of India. He is a seasoned writer in various news dailies and other print media. He is also a Padma Shri awardee. Read on to know more about the life and accomplishments of Mohammad Hamid Ansari.

Later, he rendered his services in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran. He also served as the Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University from 2000 to 2002. He was also a writer in different news papers on various issues. In 2006, he was appointed the Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities. He was also appointed the Chairman of the Petroleum Ministry’s Advisory Committee on Oil Diplomacy for Energy Security. He also served as Chairman of the “Confidence Building Measures across Segments of Society in the State”. This was group a created to focus on issues in Jammu and Kashmir.

Ansari served as a co-chairman of the India-U.K. Round Table Conference and also as a member of the National Security Advisory Board. Ansari is a permanent representative to the United Nations (UN) and is also a trustee of the Bapu Sadbhavana and Shiksha Trust. On March 2007, he surrendered the charge of Vice-Chancellorship of the Aligarh Muslim University and went back to New Delhi to lead a life of retirement.

Contribution

Ansari played a vital role in distributing compensation to the Gujarat riot victims. He also backed a thorough re-look into the rehabilitation of all the riot victims since 1984. He wrote numerous articles on the west Asian crises. His article named “Alternative Approaches to West Asian Crises”, (The Hindu, May 5, 2006), stressed upon the need for the progress of Iran, Iraq and Palestine. In an article named “Et EU, India,” (Outlook, October 10, 2005), Ansari was sceptical about India’s vote in the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran’s nuclear programme. He also edited the book “Twenty Years after the Islamic Revolution”. He played a significant role in distributing compensation to the Gujarat riot victims. Even after his retirement from the IFS, he worked as a visiting professor at the Centre for West Asian and African Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University and the Academy for Third World Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. Ansari’s deep interest in west Asian affairs saw him taking positions that were inconvenient to the stands of Indian officials on matters concerning Iran and Iraq.

Timeline

1937 – Was born in Kolkata, India 1959 – M.A. (Political Science) from Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). 1959-61 – Worked as a Lecturer in the Department of Political Science, AMU. 1961 – Joined the Indian Foreign Service, by securing 4th rank. 1976-80 – Worked as an Ambassador in United Arab Emirates (UAE). 1980-85 – Worked as the Chief of Protocol Officer, Government of India. 1984 – Was awarded the Padma Shri 1985-1989 – Worked as the High Commissioner to Australia. 1989-1990 – Worked as an Ambassador to Afghanistan. 1990-1992 – Worked as an Ambassador to Iran. 1993-1995 – Was a Permanent Representative to the UN, New York. 1995-1999 – Served as an Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. 1999-2000 – Served as a visiting professor, Centre for West Asian and African Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi 2000-2002 – Served as the Vice-Chancellor, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh 2002-2006 – Distinguished Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi 2003-2005 – Served as the visiting professor, Academy for Third World Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi 2004-2006 – Was made Co-Chairman, India-U.K, Round Table Conference 2004-2006 – Member, National Security Advisory Board 2004-2005 – Was made Chairman, Advisory Committee for Oil Diplomacy, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas 2006 – Chairman, Working Group on “Confidence building measures across segments of society in the State”, established by the second Round Table Conference with the Prime Minister, Jammu and Kashmir issue, held at Srinagar. 2007-Present – Becomes the Vice-President of India and ex officio Chairman, Rajya Sabha

Observation

A vicious venomous air is spread across India that makes the innocent Hindus hate Muslims, kill then to appease their masters. In fact the seeds of such anti-Muslim venom were sown by the Congress and other so-called secular parties letting the RSS-VJP to target Muslims for Hindu votes.

In fact, The Congress party which keeps the saffron on top of  its party flag, wanted to make the Hindutva parties to thrive in the country as the top political outfits and to control the government and rule the Indian society.

That has indeed happened RSS operatives are now Indian PM, President and Vice President and federal and many sate governments are now in the hands of RSS-BJP – and the credit for all this goes to Congress party.

Had Ansari seriously tried, Kashmir would have become a soverign once again to pursue its rightful interests freely. But he was supposed to uphold the status quo of the government position so that smooth relationship could be maintained between Hyderabad House and PMO. Kashmiris are not lucky enough.  Their struggle hopefully would achieve that objective. 

Ansari’s painful words certainly made a lot of people think about fate of Indian secularism as there is concern now about genuine secular principles of India. He was speaking on the issues of cow vigilante attacks, mob lynchings and people not shouting “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” being told to leave the country.

It is unfortunate and even ugly that the RSS-BJP elements foolishly question the patriotism of Indian Muslims as a cheap technique of wooing the Hindutva minded people to support the BJP and vote for the party.

It is obnoxious to see that today the Indian political parties especially the saffron wings, try to reform Islam while creating all criminal problems for them. They use prominent and “aspiring” Muslims to achieve their anti-Islamic objectives.

Above all, Ansari is a great humanist. Even as Vice President of India he could try to help the affected individuals but the system does not let the beneficiaries to get the lawful benefits as the government agencies create obstructions to his actions.  The argument only the government is supposed to decide to help anybody or deny any body justice. In Indian system President and Vice President are not above the PM and h they cannot direct the government or PM.

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Pakistan PM’s Saudi affair likely to backfire

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Pakistan’s relations with Saudi Arabia flourished during the previous government headed by Nawaz Sharif, primarily due to his personal business interests in the Kingdom and friendly association with members of the Saudi royal family. Despite the criticism at home, Sharif never missed an opportunity to eulogize the Saudi rulers and support their wrongs.

During Sharif’s tenure as Prime Minister, while Pakistan’s ‘love affair’ with Riyadh blossomed, relations with Tehran plummeted. When the ambitious gas pipeline project was shelved by the Sharif government in 2015 under the Saudi pressure, some experts couldn’t resist the temptation of reading the obituary of Iran-Pakistan friendship. It seemed game over.

But the political transition in Islamabad this year rekindled hopes of a new foreign policy taking shape in Islamabad under the populist premier Imran Khan.

In his victory speech, Khan made it categorically clear that he would like to strengthen ties with allies in the Middle East, including Iran and Saudi Arabia. During his first meeting with the Iranian envoy to Islamabad, Khan reiterated his desire to bolster ties with Tehran and revive important projects that had been put on the backburner by the previous political dispensation, including the gas pipeline.

Experts termed it a “significant shift” in Pakistan’s foreign policy as his predecessor was seen overtly inclined towards stronger Pakistan-Saudi relations than Pakistan-Iran relations. Writing in The New Arab, Dr. Fazzur Rahman Siddiqui, a fellow at Indian Council of World Affairs, said with the exit of Nawaz Sharif, Saudi Arabia had lost a reliable ally who never concealed his affection for the Gulf states in general, and Saudi Arabia in particular “for both personal and strategic reasons.”

It was widely believed that Khan’s approach will be different from Sharif and he will not yield to covert pressures from Washington or Riyadh. At least that is what appeared.
When Khan embarked on his first foreign trip to Saudi Arabia, keeping alive the tradition set by his predecessors, he sought to underscore that Riyadh will remain a priority for Pakistan’s foreign policy. Pertinently, it was President Hasan Rouhani of Iran, not King Salman of Saudi Arabia, who first extended an invitation to him.

But the faith in his leadership or his vision for ‘Naya Pakistan’ (new Pakistan) was not yet dented. The massive army of his followers on Twitter ensured that the public opinion, or at least the opinion of netizens, was firmly in favor of his leadership and policies.

As the country’s fiscal deficit inflated to 6.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in the 2017-2018 financial year, Khan panicked. He boarded the plane to Riyadh again, this time to seek funds. To woo the Saudi rulers, Khan said Riyadh had “always stood with Pakistan in difficult times and the Pakistani government and its people highly acknowledge it.”
Speculation had been put to rest. Khan was walking in the footsteps of his predecessor.

Following his second visit to Riyadh, Saudi regime announced $6 billion in financial support to Islamabad. It corresponded with the international outrage over the cold-blooded murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Even as many world leaders boycotted a Saudi investment conference, the so-called ‘Davos in the desert’, over Khashoggi’s death, Khan attended the event.

On asked why he attended the conference when many other world leaders had turned down the invitation, Khan said Pakistan was “desperate” for Saudi loans to shore up the flailing economy.

“Unless we get loans from friendly countries or the IMF, we actually won’t have in another two or three months enough foreign exchange to service our debts or to pay for our imports. So we’re desperate at the moment,” he was quoted saying by the Middle East Eye.

Khan conceded that his immediate foreign policy priority was maintaining good relations with Saudi Arabia despite unprecedented outrage over Khashoggi’s murder by Saudi officials or the outcry over Saudi’s horrendous war crimes in Yemen.

Pakistan, which had previously maintained a neutral stance on Yemen war, might now be forced to support the Saudi onslaught there, some observers fear. If Khan can ignore a reprehensible crime like the killing of Khashoggi because of Saudi petrodollars, it can be expected that he will support the Saudi war crimes in Yemen also, although he has so far resisted doing that.

While Khan has adopted a strong and unwavering stance against the US, he seems to have succumbed to the temptation of being subservient to the Saudi Kingdom, for funds. That is where he risks losing the goodwill he has earned back in Pakistan and in the international community.

At a time when the world is saying ‘no’ to Saudi Arabia, Khan is part of a tiny minority that is going against the tide. This approach will only isolate Pakistan and it has isolated Riyadh and Washington.

Being subservient to Saudi interests also means that Khan will be forced to toe his predecessor’s line on Iran. If that happens, Islamabad will again be forced to shelve the gas pipeline project, which is being described as critical to Pakistan’s energy requirements.

Khan is walking a tightrope. Wisdom lies in taking informed decisions in the best interests of Pakistan keeping in view long-term goals. In the cricketing terminology, the cricketer-turned-prime minister could do well by playing the forward defensive shot rather than the mistimed stroke in the air.

First published in our partner MNA

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Pakistan a peace loving nation

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Muslims when meeting each other greet “Peace be upon you”. Islam is the religion of Peace and Love, Islamophobia is the creation of a few minds only. There is no doubt that there exists few criminals in every society, every religion, and every country, but such exceptions, may not be used to blame the whole nation, religion or country. Since its independence Pakistan has been promoting peace and stability around the world. Pakistan’s Peace-keeping missions have been playing important roles around the world to maintain peace in troubled areas. We are major contributor to Peace-Keeping Force and have been part of almost all of UN Peace-Missions, during the history of 7 decades. Pakistan is supportive of any efforts by any nation towards promotion or maintenance of peace.

Recently, UNGA’s Disarmament Committee adopted Pakistan’s resolutions with an overwhelming support, in New York on 9th November 2018. Three resolutions proposed by Pakistan were adopted by the UN General Assembly’s First Committee with an overwhelming support. The whole world supported Pakistan’s resolution while India was the only country to oppose them.

In fact, the resolutions highlight the importance of regional approaches to disarmament, which complement global disarmament efforts and stress the need to promote confidence building measures for enhancing regional and international peace and security. The resolution on conventional arms control was adopted by a large majority of 179 countries. India was the sole country to vote against the resolution.

Earlier, a big victory for Pakistan came, on November 1stwhen the Committee also adopted Pakistan’s resolution on assuring non-nuclear weapon states against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons by 122 votes. The First Committee of the UN General Assembly which meets annually deals with disarmament, global challenges, and threats to peace that affect the international community and is mandated to seek solutions to global security challenges by considering all disarmament and international security matters within the scope of the UN Charter. Pakistan’s role in disarmament was admired and non-proliferation of uranium. We strongly condemn biological and chemical weapons and strictly adhere to UN decisions.

Pakistan is a responsible country and always exploring the opportunities of peace. Pakistan has always initiated the peace process with India and sincerely tried best to resolve all issues with India, including Jammu and Kashmir, by a peaceful dialogue. Pakistan respects UN, Respect UN mandate, Respect UN Charter, and wants others to do the same. It believes in diplomacy, and there is precedence that some of the more complicated issues around the world, has been resolved by diplomacy, then why not Pakistan-India issues be resolved by dialogue too.

We support the supremacy of UN and all nations must respect the UN. We always stand with the oppressed and raise voice for the victims. Our struggle for justice and righteousness is always admired. We keep on struggling for global peace and be part of any peace process around the world.

The Indian opposition to Pakistani resolution and persistent refusal to leave Kashmir has exposed the true Indian face. The recent International Amnesty report on Human Right violation in Kashmir was a big blow to India. Indian atrocities against its own minorities and lower caste Hindus is condemned widely. Indian opposition to the UN resolution on Palestine is also an example of India’s international position.

It is time that serious notice is taken by the UN, International Community and all conscious individuals to stand up for International Peace, Justice and Human Rights.  We all should keep on struggling for a better world for our next generation. We should be united for “Peace, Stability and Prosperity” for humanity globally.

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South Asia

The Making of Modern Maldives: A Look at Maumoon Gayoom

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Authors: Srimal Fernando and Pooja Singh

Former Maldivian President Maumoon Gayoom occupies an important place in Maldivian political history largely because he guided this equatorial island nation to unprecedented levels of economic growth and also through tough times when democracy was challenged. Gayoom has a national as well as international reputation that made his name familiar to the rest of the South Asian countries. It was after his return from Nigeria’s Ahmadu Bello University as a lecturer, Gayoom commenced his political journey as a close aid of prime minister Ahmed Zaki in mid-70’s and later as a cabinet minister under Ibrahim Nasir. Gayoom’s leadership embarked on a more reformist approach in the first two terms during his presidency. He was able to take credit for the rise of the tourism sector and an increase in the fish productivity. In Male, as well as in the rest of the Maldivian islands, building of small fisheries harbors were accelerated under the rapid development programs initiated under his presidency. When one looks at the Maldivian foreign policy, Maumoon was credited as one of the key founders of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in 1985. Hence, he raised global awareness on climate change on the international arena. In this context, especially the awareness on small island nations facing rise in sea water levels which affects the livelihood of the islanders was a key theme which brought international attention. On the development side, the Hulhulemale reclamation project and the upgrading of roads and other infrastructure initiatives that he implemented are highly credited for by the Maldivians. In fact, the people’s president who visits the islands regularly was named as “A Man for All Islands” by the famous author in his book about Gayoom’s biography.

Early in his administration, former president introduced socio-economic experiments in reawakening the islands. His administration accelerated the economic growth in the twenty Atolls from Northern Haa Atoll to Southern Seenu Atoll instilling a degree of optimism and enthusiasm among the Maldivians. Yet another economic achievement in the tourism sector was the increase of luxury resorts from two in 1978 to hundred by 2008. Gayoom’s career is most relevant due to his performance and for changing the country’s political system to a multi-party democratic system where the power is vested on the citizens.

Another milestone during his tenure was to expand the average income of Maldivians from US$ 377 in 1978 to US$3,654 in 2008. However, towards the end of his presidency, the first signs of irreconcilable difficulties with the Maldivian opposition led by Mohamed Nasheed, the leader of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) started emerging in 2000. The Maldivian pro-democracy movement started in Male in 2003 and then moved to other Islands. As a result, Maldives adopted a multi-party political system and in 2008. In the same year the presidential campaign came to a climax where in the second phase of the presidential elections, the confident president had felt a constant sense of uncertainty since most of the opposition presidential candidates supported Mohamed Nasheed, the leader of the Maldivian Democratic Party. Gayoom lost the election and Nasheed the opposition leader assumed presidency.  The courageous former president Gayoom transferred the presidential powers to the newly elected president smoothly.

In fact, the reformist former president Gayoom formed the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party and later, he was one of the key founders of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) where his half-brother, Yameen Abdul Gayoom shared powers within the party. Hence, Qasim Ibrahim, a former finance minister under Nasheed’s government and also close confidant of president Gayoom led the Jumhooree Party (JP) which combined with PPM in 2013 presidential elections.

Unfortunately, in 2012 the overthrow of president Nasheed one of New Delhi’s closest allies in South Asia shocked the diplomatic circles on both sides of Asia as well as in the west. It took more than five years for Gayoom’s PPM party under the presidency of Yameen to return to power. However, due to widespread corruption and authoritative rules under Yameen’s presidency, many of the opposition party members such as former Maldivian president Nasheed, Jumhooree Party leader Qasim Ibrahim and many other political leaders who opposed the undemocratic rule were prisoned through unlawful means.

During the darkest period of the Maldivian politics from 2017 to September 2018, the lone voice of the public opposition belonged to a few opposition leaders such as, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih cannot be forgotten. In the same period, former president Gayoom, Nasheed and several opposition members created a united opposition to unseat president Yameen and his majority party rule through democratic non-violent means. One of the major reasons for this change by Gayoom in Yameen’s leadership was the widespread corruption and the authoritative rule. Finally, president Yameen prisoned former president Gayoom and his son, Faris Maumoon. This was one of the main reasons where large number of Gayoom supporters broke away from PPM led by president Yameen. This reason influenced the 23rd September 2018 presidential elections where opposition common candidate Ibrahim Solih saw a massive victory margin against president Yameen.

One could argue that, Gayoom, the president who guided Maldives to economic prosperity was the same charismatic leader who guided the South Asian Island nation towards democratic maturity. Maumoon Gayoom has been the most unpredictable political influencer in the modern political making of Maldives.

*Pooja Singh, a scholar of Masters in Diplomacy, Law, Business at Jindal School of International Affairs, India.

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