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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.

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The Not-So-Missing Case of Indian Innovation and Entrepreneurship

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Photo by Anastasia Zhenina on Unsplash

Hitendra Singh and Gauri Noolkar-Oak*

Recently, an article published in Modern Diplomacy caught our attention. The author has cited Mr. Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, and found his famous statement on Indians lacking enterprise and innovation to be ‘music to his ears’. He has then gone on to paint Indians in broad strokes – ironic, for it is something he has accused Indians of doing – and labelled them as a nation lacking entrepreneurial and innovative spirit. While his reasoning certainly has an element of truth and an instant appeal, our response looks to add nuances to his argument and provide a more realistic and complete picture of enterprise and innovation in India.

To begin with, the terms ‘entrepreneurship’ and ‘innovation’ cannot be used interchangeably; not all entrepreneurs are innovators, and vice versa. There are more than 50 million medium and small businesses operating in India which contribute 37% of India’s GDP and employ around 117 million people. These numbers sufficiently prove that entrepreneurship is alive and kicking in the Indian society; Indians are running businesses not only in India but are leading and successful entrepreneurs in many countries of Asia, Africa and rest of the world. Hence, an argument that Indians lack entrepreneurship does not hold much strength.

In the case of innovation and creativity, a different story is emerging. It is slow but is happening and it is solving some of the largest social and developmental challenges in India – from grassroots, to research labs, to top-tier institutions such as ISRO and various DRDO labs. At a global level, India has not only moved up six places in its GII ranking in 2017, but is also ranked second in innovation quality. India has also won international acclaim for its innovative and cost-effective technology; such as its first mission to Mars in 2014, the Mangalyaan, was successful in the first attempt, made entirely with domestic technology, and cost less than the Hollywood movies ‘Gravity’ and ‘The Martian’. It is surprising that the author spots lack of innovation in a household broom but does not see innovation in a nation that sends a successful Mars mission on a budget that is less than that of a Hollywood movie about Mars.

At the national level, grassroots innovation and entrepreneurship are gaining more and more institutional recognition; the National Innovation Foundation (NIF) and the annual Festival of Innovation at the Rashtrapati Bhavan are perhaps the only high-level government initiatives supporting and celebrating innovation in the world. Additionally, many universities and educational institutes across the country host innovation competitions, festivals and incubators.

Several remarkable individuals are nurturing India’s growing innovative and entrepreneurial spirit.Prof. Anil K. Gupta founded SRISTI (Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions) in 1993 and the Honey Bee Network in 1997 to connect innovators from all sections of the society to entrepreneurs, lawyers and investors. For more than 12 years, he has walked around 6000 kilometres across the country, discovering extraordinary grassroots innovations on the way. Dr. Raghunath Mashelkar, an eminent chemical scientist, has led multiple scientific and technological innovations in the country, earlier as the Director-General of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, and now as the President of the National Innovation Foundation.

And then, there are thousands of common men and women, hailing from various walks of life, innovating continuously and creatively to solve pressing everyday problems in the Indian society. There are the famous Arunachalam Muruganantham, who invented a cost-effective way of manufacturing sanitary napkins, and Mansukhbhai Prajapati, who invented a clay refrigerator which runs without electricity. Then there are Mallesham from Andhra Pradesh, who sped up the process of weaving Kochampalli sarees and reduced the physical pains of the weavers, and Shri Sundaram from Rajasthan, who found a way to grow a whole tree in a dry region with just a litre of water. Raghav Gowda from Karnataka designed a cost-effective and painless machine to milk cows, while Mathew K Mathews from Kerala designed a solar mosquito destroyer. Dr. Pawan Mehrotra of Haryana has developed a cost-effective version of breast prosthesis for breast cancer survivors while Harsh Songra of Madhya Pradesh has developed a mobile app to detect developmental disorders among children.

Three women from Manipur, OinamIbetombi Devi, SarangthenDasumati Devi and Nameirakpam Sanahambi Devi invented an herbal medicine that is proven to promote poultry health. Priyanka Sharma from Punjab developed a low-cost biochip to detect environmental pollutants, while Dr. Seema Prakash from Karnataka revolutionised eco-agriculture by inventing a cost-effective plant cloning technique. AshniBiyani, the daughter of Future Group CEO Kishore Biyani, leads the Khoj Lab, which collaborates with the NIF to help commercialise grassroots innovations and ideas.

These and thousands of such examples present a very encouraging picture of the creativity and innovation of Indians. The innovation that the author admires are rooted in a context. Apple and Google (or Lyft or Uber or Spotify) could be created because there was an end consumer who was looking to pay for their products. There are many India innovator-entrepreneurs, such as those mentioned above, who have created products for a necessarily less glamorous but useful India context. Products like brooms and packaged food add convenience to the time-stretched urban and middle and upper middle classes; with a large unskilled and semiskilled workforce competing vigorously for such jobs, does the Indian society have an incentive to invest in innovating them?

Having said that, it is true that upsurge of innovation in India is relatively recent, i.e. about two to three decades old. It is also true that the Indian society has been experiencing socio-economic affluence on such a broad scale only for the past three decades, since the market reforms of 1991. It has been 70 years since Indians have gained sovereignty and control over their resources. The top five innovative countries according to the GII – Switzerland, Sweden, Netherlands, USA and UK – have been sovereign states for about at least two and a half centuries. It would perhaps then be more accurate to compare India’s current innovation scenario with, for instance, the USA’s innovation scenario in the mid-19th century.

Further, given the economic and resource drain faced by the Indian society over centuries, Indian innovation was geared more towards surviving rather than thriving. This explains the ‘group mentality’ strongly rooted in mainstream Indian society; staying and cooperating in a group increased one’s capacity to cope with and survive through all kinds of adversity. Individualistic aspirations, beliefs and actions were then a price to be paid for the security blanket it offered. And yet, once relative stability and affluence began to set in, the innovative and creative instincts of Indians lost no time in bursting forth.

Long story short, both innovation and entrepreneurship are thriving in India. They might not be as “macro” or glamourous as Apple or Uber, but they are solving fundamental problems for the Indian masses. Undoubtedly, there is a lot of room for improvement and growth – India has a long way to go to be recognised as a global leader in innovation and entrepreneurship. However, the scenario is not by any means bleak, as these many examples point out. The trajectory of enterprises and innovation in India is only upward. The future is promising.

* Gauri Noolkar-Oak is Policy Research Analyst at Pune International Centre, a liberal think tank based in Pune, India.

Views expressed by the authors are personal and do not reflect those of the organisation.

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Changing Perceptions: How Pakistan should use Public Diplomacy

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Traditionally in International Relations the concept of “hard power” remained the basic focus for states so as to achieve power and dominance in international anarchic system but with the changing scenarios in the age of globalization, economic interdependency and rapid spreading of information through various tools, “Soft Power” concept emerged which had great impact on states’ foreign policies. This term of soft power was first coined by Joseph Nye in mid-1960’s which could be defined as the ability of the state to influence others without coercion and this soft power technique basically revolves around three major instruments such as Culture, political values, and foreign policies. Apart from soft power concept, there is another basic concept called as “Public Diplomacy”. This could be described as the further dimension of soft power because by practicing Public Diplomacy state can initiate their soft power policies and can achieve the desired outcomes by winning the hearts and minds of foreign audience and non-governmental entities because by doing so it will enable government and decision making bodies of foreign states to act accordingly.

In context of South Asia particularly taking into consideration the important developing state Pakistan whose basic concern is to maintain friendly and neutral relations with other states Public diplomacy could, however, help it to maintain its relations in the regional complex structure where India is seen as the dominant power and alongside India the powerful rise of China as an external actor in South Asia. By efficient usage of Public diplomacy, Pakistan can improve its bilateral ties with the neighboring states.

The image of Pakistan in foreign media is portrayed as the state which is full of many internal and external challenges and it is also not portrayed as the safe country to travel into. In order to improve the image, Pakistan firstly needs to improve its relations with states within the region and for that India which is considered as hostile neighbor Pakistan should effectively use its public diplomacy tool it should introduce exchange programs because by educating youth and by deploying positive image in their minds Pakistan can influence them which could bring change in the coming years and also by increasing tourism activities. This would make foreigners aware of the fact that Pakistan is a secure state. Similarly, cultural activities, sports diplomacy, literature, art, and media could also have a great impact so as to change the perceptions.

Hence it could be suggested that for the development of state it is important for Pakistan to improve its public diplomacy by changing perceptions of public and elite of neighboring states it should take basic steps which could change the negative image which is in limelight since 9/11. Pakistan by enhancing the public diplomacy in other states as the tool to implement its soft power policies would, however, be able to economically, culturally and politically improve its stance in the International arena.

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Rolling back militancy: Bangladesh looks to Saudi Arabia in a twist of irony

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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Bangladesh, in a twist of irony, is looking to Saudi Arabia to fund a $ 1 billion plan to build hundreds of mosques and religious centres to counter militant Islam that for much of the past decade traced its roots to ultra-conservative strands of the faith promoted by a multi-billion dollar Saudi campaign.

The Bangladeshi plan constitutes the first effort by a Muslim country to enlist the kingdom whose crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has vowed to return Saudi Arabia to an undefined form of ‘moderate Islam,’ in reverse engineering.

The plan would attempt to roll back the fallout of Saudi Arabia’s global investment of up to $100 billion over a period of four decades in support of ultra-conservative mosques, religious centres, and groups as an antidote to post-1979 Iranian revolutionary zeal.

Cooperation with Saudi Arabia and various countries, including Malaysia, has focused until now on countering extremism in cooperation with defense and security authorities rather than as a religious initiative.

Saudi religious authorities and Islamic scholars have long issued fatwas or religious opinions condemning political violence and extremism and accused jihadists of deviating from the true path of Islam.

The Saudi campaign, the largest public diplomacy effort in history, was, nevertheless, long abetted by opportunistic governments who played politics with religion as well as widespread discontent fuelled by the failure of governments to deliver public goods and services.

The Bangladeshi plan raises multiple questions, including whether the counter-narrative industry can produce results in the absence of effective government policies that address social, economic and political grievances.

It also begs the question whether change in Saudi Arabia has advanced to a stage in which the kingdom can claim that it has put its ultra-conservative and militant roots truly behind it. The answer to both questions is probably no.

In many ways, Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatism and militancy, violent and non-violent, despite sharing common roots with the kingdom’s long-standing theological thinking and benefitting directly or indirectly from Saudi financial largess, has created a life of its own that no longer looks to the kingdom for guidance and support and is critical of the path on which Prince Mohammed has embarked.

The fallout of the Saudi campaign is evident in Asia not only in the rise of militancy in Bangladesh but also the degree to which concepts of supremacism and intolerance have taken root in countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Pakistan. Those concepts are often expressed in discrimination, if not persecution of minorities like Shia Muslims and Ahmadis, and draconic anti-blasphemy measures by authorities, militants and vigilantes.

Bangladesh in past years witnessed a series of brutal killings of bloggers and intellectuals whom jihadists accused of atheism.

Moreover, basic freedoms in Bangladesh are being officially and unofficially curtailed in various forms as a result of domestic struggles originally enabled by successful Saudi pressure to amend the country’s secular constitution in 1975 to recognize Islam as its official religion. Saudi Arabia withheld recognition of the new state as well as financial support until the amendment was adopted four years after Bangladeshi independence.

In Indonesia, hard-line Islamic groups, led by the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), earlier this month filed a blasphemy complaint against politician Sukmawati Sukarnoputri, a daughter of Indonesia’s founding father Sukarno and the younger sister of Megawati Sukarnoputri, who leads President Joko Widodo’s ruling party. The hardliners accuse Ms. Sukarnoputri of reciting a poem that allegedly insults Islam.

The groups last year accused Basuki Tjahaja Purnama aka Ahok, Jakarta’s former Christian governor, of blasphemy and spearheaded mass rallies that led to his ouster and jailing, a ruling that many believed was politicized and unjust.

Pakistan’s draconic anti-blasphemy law has created an environment that has allowed Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatives and powerful political forces to whip up popular emotion in pursuit of political objectives. The environment is symbolized by graffiti in the corridor of a courthouse In Islamabad that demanded that blasphemers be beheaded.

Pakistan last month designated Islamabad as a pilot project to regulate Friday prayer sermons in the city’s 1,003 mosques, of which only 86 are state-controlled, in a bid to curb hate speech, extremism and demonization of religions and communities.

The government has drafted a list of subjects that should be the focus of weekly Friday prayer sermons in a bid to prevent mosques being abused “to stir up sectarian hatred, demonise other religions and communities and promote extremism.” The subjects include women rights; Islamic principles of trade, cleanliness and health; and the importance of hard work, tolerance, and honesty.

However, they do not address legally enshrined discrimination of minorities like Ahmadis, who are viewed as heretics by orthodox Muslims. The list risked reinforcing supremacist and intolerant militancy by including the concept of the finality of the Prophet Mohammed that is often used as a whip to discriminate against minorities.

Raising questions about the degree of moderation that Saudi-funded mosques and religious centres in Bangladesh would propagate, Prince Mohammed, in his effort to saw off the rough edges of Saudi ultra-conservatism, has given no indication that he intends to repeal a law that defines atheists as terrorists.

A Saudi court last year condemned a man to death on charges of blasphemy and atheism. Another Saudi was a year earlier sentenced to ten years in prison and 2,000 lashes for expressing atheist sentiments on social media.

Saudi Arabia and other Muslim nations have long lobbied for the criminalization of blasphemy in international law in moves that would legitimize curbs on free speech and growing Muslim intolerance towards any open discussion of their faith.

To be sure, Saudi Arabia cannot be held directly liable for much of the expression of supremacism, intolerance and anti-pluralism in the Muslim world. Yet, by the same token there is little doubt that Saudi propagation of ultra-conservatism frequently contributed to an enabling environment.

Prince Mohammed is at the beginning of his effort to moderate Saudi Islam and has yet to spell out in detail his vision of religious change. Beyond the issue of defining atheism as terrorism, Saudi Arabia also has yet to put an end to multiple ultra-conservative practices, including the principle of male guardianship that forces women to get the approval of a male relative for major decisions in their life.

Prince Mohammed has so far forced the country’s ultra-conservative religious establishment into subservience. That raises the question whether there has been real change in the establishment’s thinking or whether it is kowtowing to an autocratic leader.

In December, King Salman fired a government official for organizing a mixed gender fashion show after ultra-conservatives criticized the event on Twitter. The kingdom this week hosted its first ever Arab Fashion Week, for women only. Designers were obliged to adhere to strict dress codes banning transparent fabrics and the display of cleavages or clothing that bared knees.

In February, Saudi Arabia agreed to surrender control of the Great Mosque in Brussels after its efforts to install a more moderate administration failed to counter mounting Belgian criticism of alleged intolerance and supremacism propagated by mosque executives.

Efforts to moderate Islam in Saudi Arabia as well as Qatar, the world’s only other Wahhabi state that traces its ultra-conservatism to the teachings of 18th century preacher Mohammed ibn Abdul Wahhab, but has long interpreted them more liberally than the kingdom, have proven to be easier said than done.

Saudi King Abdullah, King Salman’s predecessor, positioned himself as a champion of interfaith dialogue and reached out to various groups in society including Shiites and women.

Yet, more than a decade of Saudi efforts to cleanse textbooks used at home and abroad have made significant progress but have yet to completely erase descriptions of alternative strands of Islam such as Shiism and Sufism in derogatory terms or eliminate advise to Muslims not to associate with Jews and Christians who are labelled kaffirs or unbelievers.

Raising questions about Saudi involvement in the Bangladeshi plan, a Human Rights Watch survey of religion textbooks produced by the Saudi education ministry for the 2016-2017 school year concluded that “as early as first grade, students in Saudi schools are being taught hatred toward all those perceived to be of a different faith or school of thought.”

Human Rights Watch researcher Adam Coogle noted that Prince Mohammed has remained conspicuously silent about hate speech in textbooks as well as its use by officials and Islamic scholars connected to the government.

The New York-based Anti-Defamation League last year documented hate speech in Qatari mosques that was disseminated in Qatari media despite Qatar’s propagation of religious tolerance and outreach to American Jews as part of its effort to counter a United Arab Emirates-Saudi-led economic and diplomatic boycott of the Gulf state.

In one instance in December, Qatari preacher Muhammed al-Muraikhi described Jews in a sermon in Doha’s Imam Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab Mosque as “your deceitful, lying, treacherous, fornicating, intransigent enemy” who have “despoiled, corrupted, ruined, and killed, and will not stop.”

No doubt, Saudi Arabia, like Qatar, which much earlier moved away from puritan and literal Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatism, is sincere in its intention to adopt more tolerant and pluralistic worldviews.

Getting from A to B, however, is a lengthy process. The question remains whether the kingdom has progressed to a degree that it can credibly help countries like Bangladesh deal with their demons even before having successfully put its own house in order.

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