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Kashmir for Kashmiris

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India for Indians, Pakistan for Pakistanis and, obviously, Kashmir for Kashmiris and there cannot be two opinions. Pakistan had been a part of India but no more. But India cannot take Kashmir in place of Pakistan which is now an independent nation. And hence annexation and brutal occupation of Jammu Kashmir is illegal. Kashmir cannot be for Indians and Pakistanis.

We Indians cannot say India for Pakistanis or Kashmiris and similarly, Kashmir is for Kashmiris. Many foreign nations o invaded Kashmir before India and its half-brother Pakistan did it in 1947 and all of them had to leave Kashmir before it was too late.  Similarly, Kashmiris know, Indians also would have to quit Kashmir for which a strong popular movement has begun in Kashmir. A restless India is trying all tricks of trade to quell the freedom movement and silence the Kashmiris, but Kashmiri youth is firmly bold and highly resurgent and reasonably resolved to retake their nation.

India went on killing Kashmiris during the last several decades of its illegal occupation and till day over 1000,000 innocent Kashmiri shave been slaughtered in order to silence them from their demand for sovereignty from Indian yoke. India as ruled out referendum, thereby giving slap on the UN. .

When India and Pakistan invaded Jammu Kashmir a soverign nation sandwiched between them, divided it and shared between them according to their military prowess. Britain while quitting New Delhi had left behind its large terror goods with India, the successor state of imperial India.  Indian military prowess continues to exercise its might over the region.

India has been quite tactfully avoiding a UN sponsored referendum to determine the future of Jammu Kashmir as it is damn scared of losing Kashmir forever. A referendum would end the nuclearized South Asian tensions forever and allow peace and prosperity of Jammu Kashmir as a soverign nation. New Delhi under all political outfits, both national and regional, plays dirty but criminal tricks with unfortunate Kashmiris, silencing them, and terrorizing the youth. Kashmiris have lost sovereignty, freedoms, peace as they are the target of Indo-Israeli bullets.

India and Pakistan amassed nukes thanks to their joint occupation of Jammu Kashmir obviously on a secret understanding. Britain helped both India and Pakistan to invade and occupy that nation according their individual military might. In fact, had British government resented invasion of Jammu Kashmir by Indo-Pakistan – the newly freed  South Asian colonies – the Indo-Pak would have immediately stopped its occupational  strategies.  As a colonialist power UK only promoted invasions. This explains as to why both UK and USA refuse to sincerely mediate between India and Pakistan and free Jammu Kashmir. These western powers are indeed the rogue states with democratic façade in front. UK and USA are responsible for the creation of a Zionist criminal state in Mideast to control Arab nations.

Struggle for sovereignty

The turmoil in Kashmir, which got intensified after the fake encounter of Burhan Wani (July 2016), does not seem to abet. It has been worsening as reflected in the ongoing violence leading to low turnout of voters in the by poll (April 2017). Shockingly there was a turn out only of 7.14 percent of voters. The by-polls were also marred by violence in which, many a civilians and security force person also died and lately one witnessed with great horror a Kashmir youth being tied to the military truck to prevent stone pelters from throwing stones on the vehicle. Those pelting stones don’t seem to be stopping despite the lapse of period of time. These young men are being looked at in various ways.

Farookh Abdullah had stated on the eve of elections that those young men throwing stones are doing so for their nation. This statement of his came under scathing criticism from various quarters and section of media and was dismissed by many as a pre election statement.

Who are these boys who pelt stones? Are these merely Pakistan inspired and funded youth? In the aftermath of state crackdown; hundreds have died, thousands have been wounded and many more have lost eyesight! A section of TV and other media is going hammer and tongs about the role of Pakistan and the funding they receive. The question which needs to be introspected is that will young people risk their life, loss of eyesight or other harm to body just for someone’s bidding or some money? Many of them are teenagers, tech savvy and they are so much full of deep hatred that they are willing to risk their lives, not caring about their future. The degree of frustration among them must we horrific.

India media have a duty to  shield the military crimes as their own. Only a small section of media has gone deeper into the real issue and have interviewed some of them. The stories of their experiences and feelings shatter one’s perceptions about law and order in Kashmir. Many belong to families which have given up hope of any type. Most of these young boys have experienced torture, beating, harassments of sorts and often humiliation For many of them stone throwing comes as sort of catharsis, a feeling of having taken revenge of what has happened to them. It is the only strong way of protest they must be feeling is left for them. Many of them are Pro Pakistan for sure but the basic point remains political alienation which is seeping in deepening. This in turn is due to the suffering and pain to which Kashmir has been subjected due to the prolonged military presence in the area.

Post Burhan Wani murder, the Kashmir based PDP, or even national Conference has been able to see the intensity of the situation. Mahbooba Mufti, the Chief Minister of the ruling coalition, wanted to go for a dialogue with the dissenters, but coalition partner and the party leading at center BJP shot down the idea. Mahbooba Mufti felt that dialogue is the only way out but BJP feels that dialogue is a way to befool the people. It seems the ruling BJP wants to take a hard line to deal with dissidence, regards that dissidence is there only due to Pakistan or ISIS and so repression should be intensified.

RSS has a tendency to give birth to more and more offshoots of Hindutva mode to threaten Muslims. BJP and RSS and other Hindutva elements have  gathered Hindutva  extremists, calling themselves  Jana Sena (people’s military),  to fight the Kashmiri Muslims youth  that uses stone as their weapon to  fight the powerful guns of India. 

Claiming to be the wholesale patriotic guys of Indian secular nation, the rich core media lords of Indian English/Hindi TV channels put themselves in the mode of ultra patriotic elements to retain Jammu Kashmir even by forcing the military forces to perform a complete holocaust of Kashmiri race. They advise the government and leaders of national political outfits not to let Jammu Kashmir go away from Indian military control saying that once free Kashmiris would support Pakistan and become another enemy of an “innocent” looking India which has killed over 1000,000 Kashmiri Muslims and yet it is not ready to end crimes in Kashmir.

BJP, RSS and Congress feel badly suffocated by the latest developments in occupied Kashmir as Kashmiris just ignore the military prowess and challenge their domination by stone pelting.  That is unbearable for them because military should have upper hand to decide the fate of Kashmiris. They are indeed sacred that they would lose Jammu Kashmir sooner than alter But they want to frighten them by using  Jana Sena to counter stone pelting in Kashmir by using the military guns and stones alternatively. That would, if implemented, obviously lead to a situation when India would be forced to give away Jammu Kashmir.  .

The BJP government  on the one hand and the RSS-Congress duo on the other keep scheming against Muslims in general and Kashmir in particular while the Hindu media lords, especially those that run TV channels in English on behalf political and intelligence wings consider it their duty to challenge the Kashmiri youth that has resorted to  stone  pelting against the terror attacks of India’s powerful military forces occupying their lands, killing them in a sustained manner, terrorizing everyone in Jammu Kashmir so that Kashmiris salute military  forces and let them do whatever they want to project Indian military prowess the supreme.

On domestic and foreign fronts, BJP has been pursing all Congress policies including on Kashmir issue. Hatred for Islam and Muslims are pushed on heavily by the Hindutva leaders. Targeting the Kashmiris in Kashmir and killing them in a sustained manner by is a part of that anti-Muslim effort. Core Indian media and intelligence wings tell the people that Kashmiris are as much enemies as Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are and they should be made to beg New Delhi for money as Sri Lank and Bhutan have been doing.

It has been a routine scene in many places in Kashmir where women and men, old and young, children inclusive, gather in front of the houses where people mourn the death of their beloved, near and dear ones, and Kashmiri young men are 

Freedom struggle in Kashmir grew thanks to involvement many of the youth. Many believe that today youth are being targeted in Kashmir, which is probably why people are feeling alienated from India.

The fallout of the security forces’ hardening attitude towards the locals has led to the spike in local militancy. As per media reports, since last year’s unrest, 88 local youth have joined the militant ranks. Many attribute this to the growing anger among the youth as “India is not ready to listen to them (Kashmiris).”

Repeated Indian attacks on Kashmiri Muslims leads to counter attacks. With two back to back attacks on security forces, Kashmir’s security situation is spiraling into a new cycle of violence. Even as the news of Kulgam ambush came to light (1 May) in which four policemen and two bank employees were killed by militants in Pumbai village, reports began to pour in of the dastardly attack by the Pakistani special forces and militants on an Indian Army post on the LoC in Krishna Ghati sector of Poonch district in Jammu, which resulted in killing and mutilation of two Indian soldiers. The attacks in Kulgam and Krishna Ghati represent the two major incidents since last year’s attack on the Indian Army brigade headquarters in Uri in north Kashmir.

Naturally, these attacks have shaken Kashmir’s political and security establishment and threaten to push Kashmir on the edge of another spell of unrest and major violence as the summer approaches. The locals that this reporter talked to had very little to say about the attack in Poonch, but offered different viewpoints on the situation in Kashmir. This is in stark contrast to last year, when post-Uri attack and India’s surgical strike, there were widespread fears of an India-Pakistan war.

Many believe that the recent attacks are a result of the excessive force being used by the security forces against the locals. The anger is directed especially towards the use of pellet guns which have destroyed the lives of many civilians.

The recent attack in Kulgam and similar attacks is mostly due to Indian oppression. If we look at the 2008 and 2010 unrest, the violence had not been this intense. People thought that India is not agreeing to anything which has caused resurgence of militancy. It is unfortunate that innocent people are getting killed, but if we look at the history, violence has always been countered by violence only.

There is anger among youth, they have been killed, they have been arrested and even tortured and even when minor things happen, they get angry. Same thing happened when forces entered the college in Pulwama.”

Clarity and perspective are early casualties during turmoil. Yet now more than ever before we are in need of clarity and perspective to deal with the mess in Kashmir. Instead of being swayed by the noise, blood and emotion, decision-makers must be guided by calm, rational judgment. Kashmir is not lost. Nor will it ever be. However, there is no space for complacency and denial. The Valley is suffering from one of the worst periods of crisis in its history and we must acknowledge it, prepare and implement a plan of action.

It is a problem with multifarious dimensions. However, trying to solve everything at the same time is a sure recipe for failure. Therefore, the Indian state must narrow down its focus.

Therefore, the first and foremost responsibility of government stakeholders (and that includes the Centre, state and the entire security establishment) is to restore the writ of the Indian state in Kashmir. Unless there is fear of authority, rule of law and a semblance of order, any hopes of “normalcy” returning to Valley is a pipe dream.

And unless there is even a semblance of normalcy, there can be no hope for “peace” with a final settlement of surrendering sovereignty to Kashmiris once for all. .

This opium-fuelled dream of “peace in Valley” cannot become a reality amid flash mobs resisting counter-insurgency operations, solders attacking the  youth, raising cries of secession, pelting stones, terrorists spraying Kalashnikov bullets and strewing bodies of jawans and Kashmiris alike.

Some students expressed skepticism about the current situation. The student protests make the situation further precarious while the Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP-BJP coalition government is trying to pacify the students and locals. But if the voter turnout in the Srinagar Lok Sabha by-polls and the violence on 9 April is any indication, it is clear that her administration is simply unable to cope with the situation.

The painful truth

Conducting polls regularly tin Jammu Kashmir under Indian occupation o gain legitimacy for its illegal occupation and genocides has not solved the Indian case.  Killing Muslims in Kashmir has not silenced the Kashmiris youth, either. 

For all our blaming of Pakistan, the Indian state cannot shirk its role. If Pakistan is guilty of fuelling insurgency and using Hurriyat groups to keep Kashmir on the boil, the BJP-PDP coalition and the Narendra Modi government have been guilty of incompetence. The insurgency movement has gained in strength because it has failed to read the writing on the walls.

Indian state terror strategists say that since the neutralization of Hizbul Mujaheedin commander Burhan Wani, a series of tactical and policy errors have been committed. The government has appeared all too eager to cede control and have appeared more interested in short-term placatory gestures rather than displaying an iron will in arresting the deterioration of law and order. They argue that every Kashmiri should be murdered with Israeli terror goods and end the crisis once for all.  USA and Russia are now allies of India and they don’t mind the terror operations in Kashmir. 

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has appealed to the youth to help restore normalcy in the Valley so that peace returns.

If we add the recent cancellation of Anantnag bypoll to this mix, the depth of the problem seems clear. It is not one of lack of will and the administration, but the reality of situation in Kashmir.

Indian state terror forces have gone for a comprehensive military action to flush out the Kashmiris, ”terrorists”,  catch and neutralise some of the top commanders to render the outfit headless. The ‘cordon and combing’ operation in south Kashmir launched jointly by the Army and Jammu and Kashmir Police is considered to be a ‘good first step’. It is telling, however, that the “biggest operation in 15 years” have so far failed to nab a single “terrorist”. Restore the authority of Army and the writ of Indian state. The next steps shall follow. Kashmir isn’t going anywhere.

The pressure of military action — initially by eliminating hardcore leaders and subsequently, as a “threat-in-being” — is the catalyst that forces Kashmiri freedom fighters to talk with the government. Once you dilute the fear of authority of the uniformed forces, there is bound to be resistance to dialogue.”

Disappointment

Kashmiris have been looking forward to hearing form Indian PM or President about surrendering of sovereignty to people of Kashmir for remaking their nation. However, all these years Indian government and rulers have steadily refused to mention about that either in the parliament or in cabinet meetings or in the media briefing or in any special statement. It  is like claiming a wicket by the bowlers, even though they know they are wrong in their claim just as a drama,  with overt  firmness so that the drama umpires declare OUT after wasting time in reviewing the scene. Pure dramas.  On the contrary Indian rulers said Jammu Kashmir is now a part of India. In fact, Pakistan wants Kashmir to be handed over to it because most of Kashmiris prefer Pakistan to India. Referendum is a mischief by Indo-Pakistan to deny sovereignty back to Kashmiris.

Neither India nor Pakistan is keen to return sovereignty to Kashmiris with or without due apologies.  

Indian PM Narendra Modi has said that “bullets and abuses” cannot bring peace in Kashmir, as the country celebrates 70 years since independence. In a speech in Delhi, Modi accused Kashmiri separatists of “scheming”. Muslim-majority Kashmir under Indian occupation is at the centre of a decades-old territorial dispute between India and Pakistan. Modi said only “hugs” could solve the problems of the territory, which often sees clashes between protesters and Indian security forces. India is celebrating its 70th Independence Day a day after its neighbour Pakistan.

Modi also criticised people for using religion to incite violence. Vigilantes who portray themselves as protectors of cows  have been frequently attacking people mostly Muslims suspected of smuggling the animal since Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014. The slaughter of cows is banned in several Indian states being ruled by BJP. Nearly a dozen people have been killed in the past two years in the name of the cow. Targets are often picked based on unsubstantiated rumours and Muslims have been attacked and killed for even transporting cows for milk.

Indian government knows Jammu Kashmir does not belong to India and it invaded it soon after its own freedom from Great Britain in 1947 and maybe on its advice. But it never admits and t bluffs that it is a part of India while Indian media lords, who do not want JK to cede form India, creating a vacuum in Indian map, say Kashmir has been a part of India for centuries.

Bluff cannot become truth just because it is forcefully and repeatedly articulated by powerful sources.

Indian forces kill Kashmiri Muslims mercilessly. Targeting the Kashmiri Muslim youth ahs backed fired recently as the people of Kashmir have begun a firm struggle for sovereignty.

As the freedom struggle of Kashmiris gets intensified to regain sovereignty from occupation forces from New Delhi, Indian regime gets panicky and wants to end the new phase of struggle that is forcing India to cede neighboring Jammu Kashmir that its forces occupy since 1947 to Kashmiris themselves. 

Like Israel, India also does not like, rather oppose, any third nation to intervene to end Indo-Pak conflict and get justice for Kashmiris. India has also managed to silence even the USA and other veto powers to postpone the referendum almost permanently, and, cruelly enough, the UN is also silent about its resolution for referendum for Kashmir. UN is even otherwise is a dead rubber being misused by big powers. Obviously, India bribes them with money and other “facilities” to get on board.

Of course, now Indian regime is fully aware of the hard truth that Kashmiris are determined to take back their lost sovereignty from India. Nothing less than that!

Kashmiris firmly seek sovereignty!

As Indian media continue to say Kashmir is marked in Indian constitution and as such it is an integral part of now  the Hindutva set up, Kashmiris do not fight not for bread, nor for more jobs or extra money but they have sacrificed their valuable lives for freedom and sovereignty from brutal Indian military yoke.

Freedom and sovereignty are their birth right as they all want to live as free humans with dignity. 

India has murdered over 100000 Kashmiri Muslims, beside Indian Muslims. Indian claim of ownership of Muslims inside India is one thing but extending the same logic and argument to neighboring Kashmir is nonsensical, ridiculous.

Kashmiris have nothing common with Indians except that all are humans and blood runs through their veins. However, Indian forces, like the Zionist counterparts do,  have no right to drink the blood of Kashmiris. 

Kashmiri Muslims are treated like slaves and underdogs by New Delhi. Indian military guys kill Kashmiris as if they are playing a favorite and fixed cricket game.

Clearly, Kashmiris are on war path to attain independence while India and its media lords remain in a perpetually denial mode while Indian “patriotic” solders continue to kill , and consume Muslims in Kashmir their birth right because Indian parliament ahs allowed them to kill anybody at will. Sad and shame! 

Observation

Both India and Israel, the new strategic leveling partners, want to occupy the “colonies” they have, namely Kashmir and Palestine respectively, and keep murdering Muslims as freely as wild beast do in thick jungles.

Indo-Pakistani conflict and genocides of Kashmiris are old issue but unresolved by the UN and UNSC.

It is high time International community steps in to resolve the South Asia’s deadliest conflict and settle the dangerous Kashmir cum nukes’ issue once for all before it s to late for that.

The situation in Kashmir is critical, and worsening by the day due to the high handed dealings from the center. Even the former Chief Minister of Kashmir and the people like Sheikh Abdulla was ignored by India, leading to a serious conflict.  World needs peace and we want peace in the green valley known as paradise on earth; peace is crucial. The deeper peace can only be won through winning the hearts and minds of the people of Kashmir, pseudo patriotic and ultranationalist formulations don’t work in the long run.

It is fact, military personnel are pad for their “services” both in India and Pakistan and they target innocent Kashmiris for their warm blood.

In view of the unrelenting unrest in Kashmir valley there is urgency for holding a genuine referendum in Kashmir to determine fate of Kashmiris and end the blood bath in Kashmir valley.

Today there can be two approaches one is to recall the treaty of accession and gravitate towards that and take the recommendations of Interlocutors seriously. Nearly seven decades after the accession of Kashmir to India, there is a need to recall that forcible merger; repression of dissent was never the idea of founders of Indian nation. Let’s see what Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel had to say on the matter way back, Deputy Prime Minister Vallabhbhai Patel said at a public meeting in Bombay on October 30, 1948: “Some people consider that a Muslim majority area must necessarily belong to Pakistan. But (India is stronger than Pakistan) and should have Kashmir. They wonder why we are in Kashmir. The answer is plain and simple. We are in Kashmir because the people of Kashmir want us to be there. The moment we realize that the people of Kashmir do not want us to be there, we shall not be there even for a minute… We shall not let the Kashmir down” (Hindustan Times, October 1948)

Now the continued struggle for freedom clearly shows that they want freedom and sovereignty and India must vacate Jammu Kashmir in favor pace in the region.

Time over ripe for Indian military forces to quit Kashmir after or before the referendum. Better India leaves Kashmir without   going through an insulting referendum that would surely ask India to behave. 

India and its intelligence have complete details of how many paid Hindus have died in the war against Kashmir but they have no such details about genocides of innocent real Kashmir Muslims by paid Indian soldiers. New Delhi should make such vital details available to the public.

Military personnel receive salary, many semi-freebies, pension etc, but the freedom fighters get nothing but Indian bullets. Let the UN or Pakistan pay pension to the family of those get killed by paid Indian soldiers until Kashmir gains sovereignty.

South Asia

India’s multi-alignment: the origins, the past, and the present

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rouhani-iran

In the initial two decades following India’s independence, India’s foreign policy was heavily determined by the personal predilections of its first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his protégé VK Krishna Menon, both influenced by British socialism. Nehru himself handled the external affairs portfolio until his death in 1964.

The policy of ‘non-alignment’ which the duo initiated in India’s foreign policy gained world-wide attention since early 1950s, which later became a full-fledged movement and forum of discussion in 1961 (NAM) that consisted of developing and newly decolonised nations from different parts of the world, primarily from Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

But, the policy never meant isolationism or neutrality; rather it was conceived as a positive and constructive policy in the backdrop of the US-USSR Cold War, enabling freedom of action in foreign and security policies, even though many of the individual NAM member states had a tilt towards the Soviet Union, including India.

However, the lofty Nehruvian idealism of India’s foreign policy in its initial decades was not successful enough in integrating well into India’s security interests and needs, as it lost territories to both China and Pakistan during the period, spanning 1947 to 1964.

However, when Indira Gandhi assumed premiership, realism had strongly gained ground in India’s political, diplomatic and military circles, as evident in India’s successful intervention in the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971.

Even at that point of time, India still sticked on to the policy of non-alignment until it was no longer feasible in a changed international system that took shape following the end of the Cold War, which is where the origins of a new orientation in India’s foreign policy decision-making termed as ‘multi-alignment’ lies.

Today, India skilfully manoeuvres between China-led or Russia-led groupings such as the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), along with its involvement in US-led groupings such as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (or the Quad), in which Japan and Australia are also members.

Militarily though, India is still not part of any formal treaty alliance, and is simultaneously part of a diverse network of loose and issue-specific coalitions and regional groupings, led by adversarial powers, with varying founding objectives and strategic imperatives.

Today, non-alignment alone can no longer explain the fact that recently India took part in a US-chaired virtual summit meeting of the Quad in March 2021 and three months later attended a BRICS ministerial meet, where China and Russia were also present.

So, how did India progress from its yesteryear policy of remaining equidistant from both the US-led and Soviet-led military blocs (non-alignment) and how did it begin to align with multiple blocs or centres of power (multi-alignment)? Answer to this question stretches three decades back.

World order witness a change, India adapts to new realities

1992 was a watershed year for Indian diplomacy. A year back, the Soviet Union, a key source of economic and military support for India till then, disappeared in the pages of history, bringing the Cold War to its inevitable end.

This brought a huge vacuum for India’s strategic calculations. Combined with a global oil shock induced by the First Gulf War of 1990 triggered a balance of payment crisis in India, which eventually forced the Indian government to liberalise and open up its economy for foreign investments and face competition.

India elected a pragmatic new prime minister in 1991 – PV Narasimha Rao. The vision he had in mind for India’s standing in the world was quite different from his predecessors. Then finance minister and later PM, Dr Manmohan Singh announced in the Indian Parliament, “No power on earth can stop an idea whose time has come”.

This was during his 1991 budget speech and it marked the beginning of building a new India where excessive control of the state on economic and business affairs seemed no longer a viable option.

At a time when Japan’s economy was experiencing stagnation, China was ‘peacefully rising’, both economically and industrially. The United States remained as the most influential power and security provider in Asia with its far-reaching military alliance network.

As the unipolar world dawned proclaiming the supremacy of the United States, PM Rao steered Indian foreign policy through newer pastures, going beyond traditional friends and partners like Russia.

In another instance, 42 years after India recognised Israel as an independent nation in 1950, both countries established formal diplomatic ties in 1992. Indian diplomats accomplished a task long overdue without affecting the existing amicable ties with Palestine.

In the recent escalation of the Israel-Hamas conflict, it is worth noting that India took a more balanced stance at the United Nations, which was different from its previous stances that reflected an open and outright pro-Palestine narrative.

Today, India values its ties with Israel on a higher pedestal, even in areas beyond defence and counter-terrorism, such as agriculture, water conservation, IT and cyber security.

Breaking the ice with the giant across the Himalayas

China is a huge neighbour of India with which its shares a 3,488-km long un-demarcated border. Skirmishes and flare-ups resulting from difference in perception of the border and overlapping patrolling areas are a regular occurrence in this part of the world.

For the first time after the 1962 war with China, which resulted in a daunting defeat for India, diplomatic talks for confidence-building in the India-China border areas were initiated by the Rao government in 1993, resulting in the landmark Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the defacto border between India and China.

The agreement also provided a framework for ensuring security along the LAC between both sides until a final agreement on clear demarcation of the border is reached out. The 1993 agreement created an expert group consisting of diplomats and military personnel to advise the governments on the resolution of differences in perception and alignment of the LAC. The pact was signed in Beijing in September 1993, during PM Rao’s visit to China.

Former top diplomat of India Shivshankar Menon noted in one of his books that the 1993 agreement was “the first of any kind relating specifically to the border between the Republic of India and the People’s Republic of China … It formalized in an international treaty a bilateral commitment by India and China to maintain the status quo on the border. In effect, the two countries promised not to seek to impose or enforce their versions of the boundary except at the negotiating table.”

The 1993 pact was followed by another one in 1996, the Agreement on Military Confidence-Building Measures. The following two decades saw a number of agreements being signed and new working mechanisms being formalized, even though two major standoffs occurred in the Ladakh sector in 2013 and 2020 respectively and one in between in the Sikkim sector in 2017.

The agreements served as the basis upon which robust economic ties flourished in the 2000s and 2010s, before turning cold as a result of Chinese aggression of 2020 in Ladakh. However, the 1993 agreement still was a landmark deal as we consider the need for peace in today’s increasingly adversarial ties between the two nuclear-armed Asian giants.

Integrates with Asia’s regional architecture

Before the early 1990s, India’s regional involvements to its east remained limited to its socio-cultural ties, even though the region falls under India’s extended neighbourhood, particularly Southeast Asia. But, since 1992, when the Look East Policy (LEP) was formulated under the Rao government, India has been venturing into the region to improve its abysmal record of economic and trade ties with countries the region.

New Delhi began reaching out to the ASEAN or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 1992 and was made a Sectoral Partner of the association in the same year. Thus, India kicked-off the process of its integration into the broader Asian regional architecture.

In 1996, India became a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum, a key platform for talks on issues of security in the wider Indo-Pacific region. India became ASEAN’s summit-level partner in 2002 and a strategic partner in 2012.

A free trade agreement (FTA) was agreed between ASEAN and India in 2010. And in 2014, the erstwhile LEP was upgraded into the Act East Policy (AEP). Today, the ASEAN region remains at the centre of India’s evolving Indo-Pacific policy.

Bonhomie with the superpower across the oceans, the United States

1998 was an important year, not just for India, but for the world. Until May that year, only the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council possessed nuclear capabilities. That year, ‘Buddha smiled again’ in the deserts of India’s Rajasthan state, as India under PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee successfully conducted a series of underground nuclear bomb tests, declaring itself a nuclear state, 24 years after its first nuclear test in 1974 code-named ‘Smiling Buddha’.

The move surprised even the US intelligence agencies, as India managed to go nuclear by bypassing keen US satellite eyes that were overlooking the testing site. Shortly after this, Pakistan also declared itself a nuclear state.

India’s nuclear tests invited severe international condemnation for New Delhi and badly affected its relationship with Washington, resulting in a recalling of its Ambassador to India and imposed economic sanctions, which was a big blow for India’s newly liberalised economy.

But, a bonhomie was reached between India and the US in a matter of two years and then US President Bill Clinton visited India in March 2000, the first presidential visit since 1978. The Indo-US Science and technology Forum was established during this visit and all the sanctions were revoked by following year.

Bharat Karnad, a noted Indian strategic affairs expert, notes in one his books that, “Vajpayee’s regime conceived of ‘strategic autonomy’ to mask its cultivating the US, which resulted in the NSSP”.

The Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP) between the US and India was launched in January 2004 that covered wide ranging areas of cooperation such as nuclear energy, space, defence and trade. This newfound warmth in Indo-US relations was taken to newer heights with the conclusion of the landmark civil nuclear deal between 2005 and 2008.

Today, India is a key defence partner of the United States, having signed all the four key foundational pacts for military-to-military cooperation, the latest being the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for geo-spatial cooperation, signed in October 2020. The two countries are key partners in the Quad grouping and share similar concerns about an increasingly assertive China in the Indo-Pacific region.

Like his predecessors, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been trying to cultivate this special relationship with the United States, reinforced by cooperation in the Quad grouping and also by constantly engaging a 4.8-million strong Indian diaspora in the United States.

The leaders of both countries, from Vajpayee to Modi and from Clinton to Trump have reciprocated bilateral visits to each other’s countries. And, India looks forward to the Biden-Harris administration for new areas of cooperation.

But, a recent military manoeuvre in April, this year, by a US Navy ship (which it calls a FONOP or Freedom of Navigation Operation) in India’s exclusive economic zone, off Lakshadweep coast, casted a shadow over this relations.

The US openly stated in social media that it entered the area without seeking India’s prior consent and asserted its navigational rights. This invited mixed reactions, as it was highly uncalled for. While some analysts consider it humiliating, others think that the incident occurred due to the difference of perceptions about international maritime law in both countries.

Today, along with the US, India skilfully manages its ‘historical and time-tested’ ties with Russia, a strategic foe of the US, and moves forward to purchase Russian-made weapon systems, such as the S-400 missile defence system, even after a threat of sanctions. But, in the past several years, India has been trying to diversify its defence procurements from other countries such as France and Israel and has been also promoting indigenisation of defence production.

A BRICS formula for responsible multilateralism

India is a founding member of the BRICS grouping, formalised in 2006, now consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – the emerging economies of that time with a potential to drive global economic growth and act as an alternate centre of power along with other groupings of rich countries such as the G-7 and the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development).

India always stood for a responsible global multilateral system and rules-based order. Indian leaders have attended all summit-level meetings of BRICS since 2009 unfailingly. Last year, the summit took place in the backdrop of India-China border standoff in Ladakh, under Russia’s chair, a common friend of both countries, where the leaders of India and China came face-to-face for the first time, although in virtual format.

The primary focus of BRICS remains economic in nature, but it also takes independent stances on events occurring in different parts of the world. The grouping also established a bank to offer financial assistance for development projects known as the New Development Bank (NDB) based in Shanghai, China, in 2014, with an Indian as its first elected president.

BRICS also became the first multilateral grouping in the world to endorse the much-needed TRIPS waiver proposal jointly put forward by India and South Africa at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to suspend intellectual property rights on Covid vaccine-making during the duration of the pandemic to provide developing countries that lack adequate technologies with means to battle the virus.

As India gears up to host this year’s upcoming BRICS summit, there is no doubt that being part of the grouping has served the country’s interests well.

Manoeuvring the SCO, along the shores of the Indo-Pacific

The SCO or the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is a regional organisation consisting of eight Eurasian powers, largest in the world both in terms of land area and population covered. It stands for promoting mutual cooperation and stability, where security issues can be freely discussed and conflicts are attempted to be resolved.

India is not a founding member of the SCO, which was created in 2001. Both India and Pakistan were admitted as full members in 2017. The grouping’s members also include Russia, China and four Central Asian countries, excluding Turkmenistan.

Sharing a common platform with Pakistan and China and the presence of a long-term friend, Russia, has helped India diplomatically in key occasions. Using the SCO platform, the existing differences between member states can be discussed and prevented from escalating into major conflicts.

This was evident most recently visible in 2020 when the foreign ministers of India and China agreed on a plan for the disengagement of Indian and Chinese troops from the LAC, as a major step in the diffusion of tensions in Ladakh that had erupted since May that year.

But, Russia and China collectively oppose the usage of the term ‘Indo-Pacific’, something that surfaced into political discourse with the famous speech delivered by the former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in August 2007 in the Parliament of India, calling for “the confluence of two seas” and hinting at a new maritime continuum of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

It is in this context that the grouping of India, Japan, Australia and the United States gained prominence. The four Quad countries came together to offer humanitarian assistance following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the ambit of the grouping’s co-operation ranges from maritime security to cooperation in Covid vaccine production and distribution.

After a decade since the first joint naval exercise of the four Quad countries took place in 2007, the ASEAN’s Manila summit in 2017 provided a platform for the four countries to connect with each other and enhance consultations to revive the four-nation grouping.

The Quad has been raised to the summit level now with the March 2021 virtual summit, and has also conducted two joint naval exercises so far, one in 2007 and the other in 2020. This loose coalition is widely perceived as a counterweight to an increasingly assertive China.

India is the only country in the Quad that shares a land border with China. At the same time, India is also the only country that is not a formal security ally of the United States, meaning if India quits, the Quad ceases to exist, while the other three countries can still remain as treaty allies. However, setting the US aside, cooperation among the other three Quad partners has also been witnessing a boom since the last year.

India and Japan have expanded co-operation in third countries in India’s neighbourhood such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar to improve connectivity and infrastructure in the region and offer an alternative to China’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, which is perceived as having implications of a potential debt-trap aimed at fetching strategic gains.

Amid the pandemic, both the countries have joined hands with Australia to launch a Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI) to diversify key supply chains away from China.

However, India doesn’t perceive a free and open Indo-Pacific as an exclusionary strategy targeted at containing some country, rather as an inclusive geographic concept, where co-operation over conflict is possible. This was articulated by Prime Minister Modi in 2018 at the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore.

Various additions were made to this view in later stages, as the concept evolved into a coherent form, representing New Delhi’s expanding neighbourhood. This vision aligns well with related initiatives such the Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) and the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI), aimed at improving maritime security, trade, connectivity and management of shared resources.

The future

For India, this is an era of complex multi-alignment, different from the Cold War-era international system, where multiple centres of power exist. At different time periods in the past, India has adapted well to the changing circumstances and power dynamics in the international system.

India’s strategic posture today, despite being aspirational, is to have good relations with all its neighbours, regional players, and the major powers, to promote rules-based order, and in the due process to find its own deserving place in the world.

In July, last year, India’s External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar has made it clear that India ‘will never be part of an alliance system’, even though a tilt towards the US is increasingly getting visible, taking the China factor into account. Jaishankar also stated that global power shifts are opening up spaces for middle powers like India.

As the world tries to avoid another Cold War, this time between the United States and China, the competing geopolitics of the Eurasian landmass and the Indo-Pacific maritime region is poised to add up to New Delhi’s many dilemmas in the coming years.

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South Asia

The unrecognized demographic situation of West Bengal and consequences yet to occur

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World’s second large demographic nation India’s state West Bengal is now apparently residence of over 91 million population. At the same time, West Bengal is the fourth-most populous state and the fourteenth-large state by area in India. It is also the seventh-most populous country subdivision of the world. To get an insight into the present situation of West Bengal anyone has to look back in 1947 and later consequences. As being a prominent ethnocultural region of India, West Bengal faced political partition in the year 1947 in the wake of the transformation of British India into two separate independent nations India and Pakistan.  Under the process of partition, the then Bengal province was bifurcated into two segments. The predominately Hindu living area named West Bengal, a state of India, and the predominately-Muslim living area turned as East Bengal and after becoming a province of Pakistan that renamed as East Pakistan and later in 1971, the Muslim-majority country of Bangladesh.

In 1971 at the time of partition, the Muslim population of West Bengal counted 12% and the Hindu population of East Bengal remained 30%. While at present, with continuous Muslim immigration, Hindu persecution, conversions, and less production of offspring, West Bengal’s Muslim population has increased to 30% (up to 63% in some districts). While as per the counting report of 2011 Bangladesh’s Hindu population has decreased to 8%. When at the present situation for Hindus in Bangladesh is certainly dire, then life has become increasingly difficult for Hindus in West Bengal, having a Muslim-appeasing government. The governance of the elected government led to the demographic and cultural shifts in West Bengal. Prevailing of the same governance after the 2021 Bidhansabha election leads to the destruction of Hindu’s belonging everywhere in Bengal. The situation stood worse in the outskirts where media coverage is poor, compelling Hindu families to flee in adjacent states or to hide. A sizable number of Bengali Hindu families already preferred to shift to Assam.

Looking back as per a striking report of July 2014 by Times of India fewer children were born in Bengal and the prediction was there will be even fewer in the next generation. The 2011 Census shows a decadal growth of 13.84% in West Bengal, which was significantly below the national growth average of 17.7%, and the decadal growth was lowest ever and beaten only by the aftermath of the infamous Famine of  Bengal,1942.

While the retrospective study of the demography of West Bengal shows that the culturally dominant Hindu population in West Bengal during the first census of 1951 was around 19,462,706 and in the 2011 census it had increased to 64,385,546. While the percentage of the Hindu population in the state decreased from 78.45% in 1951 to 70.54% in the 2011 Census. The data sharply indicates fewer children birth within families of Hindus only while the population of Muslim counterparts tends to grow over time. Once considered a symbol of Indian culture, what has happened in Bengal for the last few decades is the indicator of West Bengal’s demographic future.

Starting from the diminishing of the Hindu culture, communal riots against the Hindus have started happening for quite some time and the situation has been that the banning of celebrating the festivals of Hindus has started in the last few years. Added to those the recent genocide of Hindus depicting a recent trend of population.

Back in 2015 the famous American journalist Janet Levy has written an article on Bengal and the revelations that have been made in it state that Bengal will soon become a separate Islamic country. Janet Levy claims in her article that civil war is going to start soon in Bengal after Kashmir. Which almost begun in recent times in the wake of the Bidhansabha Election of West Bengal.   

Ushering the prediction of Janet Levy mass Hindus will be massacred and demanded a separate country.

She cited the facts for his claim back in 2015 that the Chief Minister of West Bengal has recognized more than 10,000 madrassas who were privileged to receive funds from Saudi Arabia and made their degree eligible for a government job, money comes from Saudi and in those madrassas, Wahhabi bigotry is taught.

In the recent past Chief Minister started several Islamic city projects where Islamic people are taught also started a project to establish an Islamic city in West Bengal. It’s evident that Chief Minister has also declared various types of stipends for the Imams of mosques but no such stipends were declared for Hindus primarily. Janet Levy has given many examples around the world where terrorism, religious fanaticism, and crime cases started increasing as the Muslim population increased. With increasing population, a separate Sharia law is demanded at such places, and then finally it reaches the demand of a separate country.

Author and activist Taslima Nasreen once became reason to test the ground reality for West Bengal.

In 1993, Taslima Nasreen wrote a book ‘Lajja’ on the issue of atrocities on Hindus in Bangladesh and forcibly making them Muslims.

After writing the book, she had to leave Bangladesh facing the threat of bigotry. The author settled in Kolkata considering that she will be safe there as India is a secular country and the constitution also provided the freedom of expression. Eventually experienced the nightmare that Taslima Nasreen had to face a riot-like situation against her in 2007 in Kolkata. Even in a secular country like India, Muslims banned Taslima Nasreen with hatred. Fatwas issued to cut her throat on the secular land of India.

Upholding the threat the author was also attacked several times in different cities of the country.

But the secular Leftists never supported Taslima, not even the Trinamool government of West Bengal because the Muslims would get angry and the vote bank would face shaking.

That time first attempt was made in which Muslim organizations in West Bengal demanded the Islamic blasphemy (Blasfamie) law. Raising questions on India’s secularism and action of secular parties.

Janet Levy further wrote that for the first time in 2013 some fundamentalist Maulanas of Bengal started demanding a separate ‘Mughalistan’. In the same year riots in Bengal, houses and shops of hundreds of Hindus were looted and many temples were also destroyed by rioters under the safe shelter of government and police.

After the Bidhansava Election 2021 the Hindus of West Bengal facing the same or even worse situation.

Are Hindus boycotted?

Victorious party supremo of West Bengal was afraid that if the Muslims were stopped they would get angry and would not vote and after getting freshly elected her government falls into that vicious circle again.

It is evident from the aftermath of the election result in West Bengal that not only riots but to drive away Hindus, in districts where there are more Muslims, boycotting Hindu businessman. In the Muslim majority districts of Malda, Murshidabad, and North Dinajpur, Muslims do not even buy goods from Hindu shops. This is the reason why a large number of Hindus have started migrating from West Bengal like Kashmiri Pandits, here Hindus leaving their homes and businesses and moving to other places. These are the districts where Hindus have become a minority.

Invoking such incidents Janet, stated that the demand for partition of Bengal from India will soon begin from the land of West Bengal. No demographic theorist interpreted the present demographic situation of West Bengal sabotaging Malthusian theory.

In accord with Janet’s analysis, a few recent sources also indicated the number of the Muslim population, in reality, is much higher than the number on record given to the hiding of numbers of children by Muslim parents when a survey takes place. Implementing CAA, NRC could have been way out for West Bengal to check the proper demographic status and to prevent further population explosion to sustain Bengali Hindus. Perceiving the appeasement politics of government for the last 10 years it’s seeming to be unlikely to get any sharp solution. 

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South Asia

Covid-19 has made Feminist Foreign Policy all the more Relevant to India

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Photo: Amit Ranjan/Unsplash

As the impact of the year long COVID19 pandemic continues to be felt across different parts of India—where patriarchy is entrenched in the social code and inequalities against women are being intuitively practised—the repercussions of the health crisis along with the ever deepening gender gaps are being disproportionately and severely borne by women. Yet, most of the discussions revolving around the pandemic have either been gender-blind or gender-neutral, often resulting in the systemic subjugation or marginalisation of women.

In light of these challenges, the thematic debate on gender equality can no longer continue just on papers, it in fact, needs to be converted into actions by the Indian government in order to deal with the short term consequences of the pandemic as well as to develop long-term sustainable peace. The adoption of a Feminist Foreign Policy (FFP) framework is the best way to achieve this dual goal. A FFP could offer a concrete opportunity for India to build a more inclusive policy making set-up; breakaway from the predominant patriarchal notions; and, address pandemic relief strategies—from the viewpoint of women and other vulnerable or under-represented sections of society.

Gendered Impact of COVID19 in India

Within India’s socio-cultural and economic realms—that have historically been marred by inequalities and rigid stereotypes—the gendered effects of the COVID19 pandemic have been both, intersectional and complex.

To begin with, owing to the rapidly increasing number of COVID-19 patients, health-care workers in India, particularly the nurses of whom approximately 88.9 per cent are women remain much more vulnerable to contracting the deadly virus. The existing problem of shortage of basic equipment for these healthcare workers further aggravates these concerns.

Second, the pandemic has had a detrimental impact on an already shrinking Indian economy resulting in financial cut downs and rising unemployment. Women—either due to the deeply embedded patriarchal attitudes or due to the subconscious bias that arises out of such attitudes—have stood at the forefront of being temporarily or permanently laid-off from their jobs. According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, with the commencement of the nationwide lockdown, the rate of unemployment reached 23.5 per cent in March to April 2020 with higher shares of unemployed women. The unemployment rate for women further reached 12.39 per cent as of February 2021.

Third, women in India are now being confronted with a shadow pandemic where forced proximity, isolation, increased substance abuse, lack of access to justice etc. during the on-going health crisis has resulted in an increasing threat of domestic or gender-based violence.  As per a set of data released by the National Commission of Women in April 2020, there was an almost 100 per cent increase in domestic violence during the lockdown.

Nonetheless, these are only some of the immediate effects of the pandemic on women in India. There are other sequential consequences that will emerge in time including, the problems of depletion in savings and assets, pandemic-related widowhood, etc., which would collaboratively make recovery extremely difficult for women.

Evidently, in India, the pandemic is exploiting pre-existing economic and social inequalities along with social norms that give men embedded advantages, and has been posing a real threat to closing gender gaps. In fact, according to the recent World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap index, India has already slipped down 28 spots to rank 140th among 156 countries in comparison to its 112th position among 153 countries for the year 2019-2020.

But despite bearing a differential impact, women in India have not been included either directly or indirectly in the development of response strategies to deal with COVID19. As such, they remain absent from decision-making tables that involve the shaping of the future of our societies. However, research indicates that the inclusion of women along with other diverse voices makes for better options in policy making and in bringing about comprehensive outcomes that accommodate the needs and concerns of all groupings.

How can a FFP help?

These unfortunate states of affairs demand an adjustment in India’s thinking and strategy, bring about a paradigmatic shift in its traditional policymaking and allow for diverse representation to effectively deal with COVID19 pandemic. The present crisis is therefore, precisely the time to be talking about a FFP in India and for its representatives to make a stronger commitment to mainstream gender at the policy level.

By critically reflecting on the existing international power structures, a FFP framework focuses on protecting the needs of marginalised and female groups and places issues of human security and human rights at the heart of discussions. In doing so, it provides a fundamental shift from the conventional understanding of security to include other arena of foreign policy such as economics, finance, environment, health, trade etc.

With this new perception of health risks and crisis management as a security threat, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, India can potentially explore broadening the humanitarian trade options under its international arrangements to address shortages of medicine and lack of access to personal protective equipment for health workers within its territory— a vast majority of which continue to be women.

The adoption of a FFP could also pave the way for an increased regional cooperation, facilitate regional discussions on myriad issues and enable the development of targeted recovery program designed specifically for the empowerment of women. Such a program would account for the fact that the economic repercussions of crises disproportionately affect women and therefore, help India in securing assistance from its neighbour to address the gendered economic and social effects of the COVID19 pandemic.

Besides, FFP does not only mean considering power structures and managing relations at the global level alone but also evaluating outcomes within the country’s own domestic landscape. In this sense, a FFP could provide India with an important starting point for bringing about an internal shift by focusing more on gender issues, especially in terms of the strictly defined patriarchal gender roles and eliminate barriers that continue to restrict women’s participation in decision-making processes.

An emphasis on women’s participation in India’s leadership positions would in turn catalyse the application a gender lens to the process of domestic policymaking, thereby, achieving comprehensive outcomes that are inclusive of diverse perspectives. Such policies will promote women’s concerns as humanitarian issues, prioritize and safeguard the continuum of sexual and reproductive health and rights, and continue to facilitate the provision of information and education, thus making women better equipped to deal with the consequences of the pandemic.


Adding on to these factors, given that the FFP is an all-inclusive approach, its application could also potentially strengthen cooperation between the Indian government and civil society organisations or women’s network at home as well as abroad to manage the pandemic and its deleterious effect on people, especially women. At a time when the government resources are overwhelmed in their fight against the pandemic, greater involvement of civil society organisations can in fact, play a critical role in advocating social justice, women’s rights, social equity, and provide medical and food support, distribution of hygiene kits, spreading awareness about the virus, etc. These efforts could bring about a considerable improvement in women’s vulnerable position under the current Covid19 crisis in India.

Conclusion

As such, the FFP approach offers huge potential to address some the major institutional and organisational injustices against women in India, and the COVID19 pandemic represents a critical juncture in this regards. A FFP is important not only to ensure that the gendered imbalances inflicted by COVID19 do not become permanent but also for the long term economic and social development of the country, the strengthening of democratic institutions, and the advancement of national security as well as peace. But whether India will adopt or even consider moving towards a FFP in the near future remains to be seen.

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