When India celebrated its 70th anniversary of independence, unfortunately, it also indirectly celebrated the occupation of Jammu Kashmir. One of the achievements of recent history of India in the negative sense is the genocides of Kashmiris- India murdered over 1000,000 Muslims Kashmir while using and protecting Hindus there.
Kashmir today, even on Eid day, remains a nation in protest against Indian occupational crimes. Protests erupted on Saturday in Kupwara district of north Kashmir when a youth went missing while another was severely beaten and has been hospitalised in a critical condition with the locals alleging that were taken into custody by Indian Army. Police has registered two separate FIRs against army, one for attempt to murder and another for kidnapping and abducting in order to murder. Villagers of Kakarpati village of Devar Lolab told news agency GNS that Army picked up two local shepherds from forest area of Trimukh upper reaches of Lolab which is connected to Bandipora district.
The Indian/JK government, controlled by New Delhi, considers their prerogative to kill and deal with Kashmiris for seeking sovereignty back from a powerful military power called India. Two ailing Kashmiri women leaders rearrested despite release orders by Court
As Kashmiris are on agitational mold to regain sovereignty from Indian military yoke, India feels highly embarrassed before world powers while PM Modi feels the pinch in front of world leaders.
Interestingly, one of the Indian islets in Lakshadweep on Arabia Sea disappeared owing to climatic change nearly 20 years ago but Indian government has not yet recognized that it lost a small islet without any population. Indian official gazettes have made any change and as India still reasserts that every islet of India is intact. That is problem of India which refuses to accept the fact it has lost a small part of its territory in the natural process as it simply cannot accept or even imagine that Kashmir that decorates India as its multi-jewel crown on its head
Presumably, Indian strategists in New Delhi and abroad are with latest India maps looking at Kashmir and they cannot visualize India without that crown known as Kashmir on Indian head.
In fact, more than the land, India is concerned about the image of India on Indian map without Kashmir. Indian map without Kashmir looks like a wild animal – not exactly a cow – whose head has been severed. This of course Indian strategists and military experts cannot digest.
Indian strategy for China is one of appeasing that neighbor maybe because Beijing has withdrawn it stop badminton players (women) from the courts, thereby making Indian fight for tittles easier. India may have begun a dialogue with China over parts of Kashmir it occupies. Although China has not invaded Kashmir but got a part of Kashmir as a (paid) gift from Pakistan is not helping Beijing to convince New Delhi which seeks to take back that part of Kashmir from China as well.
That Kashmiris who fight for sovereignty, do not ask both Pakistan and China also surrender their lands makes Indian case difficult but makes India come closer to China easily. India would ask China not to worry about Kashmir as once occupied Jammu Kashmir is now lost for Kashmiris forever. However, the secret talks among India, Pakistan and China – the joint occupiers of Jammu Kashmir- are not revealed to public.
India continues to deal with the besieged Kashmiris the way the military feels best, or rather worst.
Brutality is the key expression that could be used to describe what the Indian solders do in occupied Kashmir day in and day out and at night. India has provided a perpetual blanket approval of every murder and all acts of genocides through fake encounters and all atrocities of making Kashmiris disappear from Kashmir valley once for all.
Obviously, India must have learnt all these murder techniques from its former masters in UK who continue to guide New Delhi in secret state terror operations. Now Israel seems to have accepted Indian appeal to offer terror tips on payment basis to deal with Kashmiris and others who seek sovereignty.
While their occupation masters in New Delhi celebrate 70 years of independence from Great Britain, Kashmiris who lost their sovereignty to then freed India have no choices but to cry loud over their loss of sovereignty under joint UK-India conspiracy with blessings from super power USA and other imperialist capitalist powers.
In fact, no power invades and occupies a weak alien nation to leave the occupation on its own. Invaders quit “subject” nations only under pressure or by force. Great Britain invaded many countries, including USA but had to leave most of them, if not all of them. Interestingly, not only Americans got independence from UK but also have become closest ally of USA today.
India’s easy invasion and quick occupation of Jammu Kashmir was possible because all big powers led by USA and UK supported the illegality behind the “deal” without the endorsement of the people of Jammu Kashmir and none, including China, opposed Indian military action. Neither USA nor UK can approve of invasion without popular consent as that goes against genuine democracy.
India bought problems
While its ruthless occupational crimes in Kashmir as it key policy, India may have good things to claim credit like its music which has made its mark on the world stage. Indian food is cultural given. Indian fashion now competes at the level of haute couture even as Indian fabrics are in demand in both the East and the West as much as the ever increasing Indian demands for western cloths and electronics and fashions. Indian professionalism in media to highlight Indian needs above others, engineering and information technology has formed a swathe and Indian business’ know-how is cutting edge. Bollywood is interested in making big films to match the Hollywood productions. Last November, demonetization was welcomed by NRIs but there is still a lingering suspicion that the truly rich got away.
There are many issues Indians face. Among them, the killings over beef eating make us look savage and primitive. The refusal by the Parliament to revoke Article 377, a vicious law imposed on India by the same foreign yoke which ironically has no such law in its own country. Indian men still decide what women can do with their bodies. But fanatics Hindus only talk about Islam and Muslim religious rights. The Big Brother manifested itself by way of linking Aadhaar cards with PAN cards and no one quite knows why. For NRIs, it’s another hill to climb. Just as there was confusion about demonetisation — rumours of another one are on the way — the public is unclear how GST will play out even as retailers pull back on several items till there is clarity.
With 29 states and seven union territories what are a few more if a sense of identity is assuaged. The seven sisters in the North East were hit by floods and we took far too long to react, an acid commentary on our levels of awareness of an integral part of India.
A dangerous ignorance that China will exploit as it has spent the past two months trying to hector India on the borders of Bhutan and Sikkim. There are fears that a strong conflict is possible.
However, there’s little to celebrate. Since India was ruled for 200 years by a foreign power, Britain, it takes revenge on Kashmiris by occupying their nation since Indian independence.
The tension in Jammu Kashmir does not seem to be lessening as Indian occupation forces keep targeting Kashmir youth.
Indian terror strategists argue that India should never budge and surrender Kashmir to Kashmiris. And, therefore, unless a “hardcore” decision to void Article 370 is made to bring that nation on par with Indians states of the country, the issue will never be resolved. All we will do is confront civilians with guns and widen the chasm. The incessant appeasement as a policy only breeds contempt. The call for Gorkhaland in the east needs to be resolved swiftly.
India believes military action can solve all problems of Kashmiris once for all. In 2016, India imposed terror at IOC by to surgical terror attacks in Uri. Yes, keeping Indian troops’ morale high should be of utmost importance.
Abrogation of Article 35A: Widespread agitation against BJP’s ‘Israel model?
Abrogation of Article 35A: Kashmiris prepare for widespread agitation against BJP’s ‘Israel model’.
From hawkers to grocers, manufacturers and dealers, everyone stands united in their view that abolishment of Article 35A will bring turmoil in the Valley
Article 35A of the Constitution empowers the Jammu and Kashmir legislature to define its “permanent residents” and their special rights and privileges. It was added to the Constitution in 1954 through a presidential order.
In Srinagar’s trade heartland, Lal Chowk, the local cab drivers sound like doomsayers. They are talking about the possible political fallouts in Kashmir, in case the Supreme Court of India, under pressure from the Modi government, abolishes Article 35A of the Constitution of India that restricts any outsider other than state subjects of Jammu Kashmir from acquiring immovable properties or having voting rights.
The others could only offer sighs than to comment or intervene over his ‘no fun’ remark. Such ‘distressed’ talks have overtaken the Valley since long. It is reminding people of those ‘talks of revolt’ that took place in the Kashmir Valley before Burhan Wani’s killing last summer in an encounter with forces.
These discussions are taking place inside offices, shops, streets, buses and inside homes. The idea of losing their permanent residency, employment, property, and scholarship, to outsiders, in case the Article 35A is removed or altered, is keeping Kashmiris on the edge. Kashmiris have lost their sovereignty to India due to a deep rooted conspiracy.
Kashmiris are quite aware of the ‘onslaught on Kashmir’s special status’. “Kashmiris won’t allow tinkering with our state subject law. We still repent the day when our leader Sheikh Abdullah committed a blunder by trusting the Delhi (government),” says an old employee. But now, he says, as a train of tourists comes out of the TRC after registration, “The government of India must know that it isn’t the same Kashmir as before. Any attempts to alter our constitutional status will be opposed tooth and nail.” This defiant mood has to do with the petition filed by an NGO ‘We the Citizens’ in the Supreme Court in 2014, seeking to scrap Article 35A. After serving notices to both, the state as well as Centre, the apex court only received counter-petition filed by the state government.
BJP and PDP rule the JK state, promoting the Hindu, Hindutva and Indian interests in return for money from New Delhi. The BJP-ruled Centre refused to file an affidavit, but instead sought a “larger debate”. The Centre’s posturing has unsettled the mood in the Valley with political commentators asserting that the Narendra Modi-led government is actually clearing all decks to scrap the article to settle outsiders in the Valley.
In fact, a larger sense prevails in the Valley that the BJP government wants to resolve the Kashmir issue through demographic changes.
While the Opposition and separatist camps in Kashmir have threatened an uprising over the judicial tinkering of the Article 35A, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has warned the central government that any such attempts won’t leave any “tricolour upholder” in the Valley.
The commoners in the Valley are getting mentally prepared for putting up a “bigger battle” to safeguard their constitutional positioning. Commenting on the controversy, he says, “On the one hand, the government of India calls for peace in Kashmir, while on the other hand, it threatens the very idea of it by resorting to the courts to achieve its political motives… Now, tell me, who is playing the role of a ‘terrorist’ in Kashmir?”
In restive Maisuma, the stronghold of pro-freedom leader Yasin Malik, the buzz is getting shrill. Many residents who often take the security forces head-on through street protests here see a ‘Hindutva pattern’ in the latest controversy.
Ever since the PDP formed a coalition government with the BJP, every person in Kashmir knew that there would be tension. This is essentially an RSS government led by the PDP madam. “But we will make sure we do not accede to their wishes and demands.”
In uptown Srinagar, many pose a question as to why the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is still in alliance with the BJP. In this ‘new’ Srinagar neighborhood known to house the government officialdom, the mood might not be militant, but the locals are flaying the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP-BJP government. “Every Kashmiri is politically sound as we are living in a political disturbed and conflict zone. How come RSS thinks that they can fool people of Kashmir by resorting to such tactics?” says a trader in Hyderpora.
In Srinagar’s MA Road, which is lately witnessing a string of protests by students of a women’s college, against the security crackdown on Kashmiris, a college-goer blames PM Modi and his government for triggering fresh tensions in the Valley for political changes. “They wish for Kashmir to get disturbed, like in 2016, and that our people should again get killed or injured with pellets, slapped with cases under the Public Safety Act and be taken to the jails and police stations.
In Kashmir’s restriction zone aka Downtown Srinagar, the discussions revolve around Delhi’s (central government’s) “decadal deceit” with the people of Kashmir. “India simply wants Kashmir, not Kashmiris,” says a retired engineer, of Rajouri Kadal, the bastion of Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. “Otherwise, they would have never said that Indians will come and settle here to help change the azadis course. But they are mistaken. Such attempts hardly undo the legitimate demands.”
In the narrow lanes of Habba Kadal, a non-migrant Kashmiri Pandit, who only gives his first name to protect his identity, calls the ‘article 35A controversy’ as New Delhi’s foolishness. “So far, the government of India has not been successful in getting the Kashmiri Pandits back to Kashmir, and now this blatant attempt to create a mini-India out of Kashmir is simply nonsensical,” says Suresh. “They only know how to trigger tensions in Kashmir. They should come and live here for a week as a commoner, and then give these nonsensical statements.”
Now no migrant Pandit wants to return to the Valley, which is affected because of the everyday killings, strikes, and lack of jobs. From hawker to grocers, and from manufacturers to dealers, everyone stands united in their view. “Every Kashmiri wants to fight. I know my business will also suffer, but I can manage with sookhi dal roti (dry rotis) than allowing any federal sinister designs to alter the demography of my Valley,” says an hotelier in Srinagar.
When people are faced with atrocities, it is a natural tendency to fight against it. India should take note that it is a politically disturbed state and if they (the Centre) falter with our law, not only in Kashmir, but more than 80 percent of the state will be affected and there will be violence all around.
Al-Qaeda or USA?
Apparently, Al Qaeda has arrived in Kashmir and the ramification of the development is yet to be ascertained.
Musa is the youngest but first militant from Kashmir who has been linked with a global outfit. He has not pledged his support to the Al-Qaeda yet. But if such a thing happens then it will be bad for both Kashmir as well India.
The statement from Al-Qaeda naming Zakir Musa, the former militant commander of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, as the head of its wing in Kashmir has generated mixed reactions within and outside the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The Al-Qaeda announcement has divided the militant ranks in the Valley with Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba rejecting any role for the international terror organisation in the Valley. Many in the Valley are taken aback, worrying about its impact on the ongoing
Many believe that, India will intensify its policy towards Kashmiris after the Al-Qaeda announcement. “Musa’s exit from Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and subsequent developments in the Valley’s political scenario have created ambiguity here. Musa is being hailed both as an Indian agent and an Islamist, but I think the Kashmir issue is now becoming more complex, moving beyond the Hurriyat paradigm,” a political scientist said.
Freedom fighting militant groups too are reflecting on the new development, assessing its repercussions on Kashmir’s struggle. “There is no space for any international organisation like Daesh (Islamic State) and Al-Qaeda in the state,” said Salahuddin who also cautioned the people to remain vigilant of the conspiracies of India and keep their relations intact with (the) organisation fighting against the Indian Army. They should not become a part of any global agenda,” he said. However, many in the Valley believe that the situation is going to change if Musa, indeed, happens to be affiliated with Al-Qaeda.
Over the years Al-Qaeda has changed a lot. Many of its affiliates have detached themselves from the main wing and become completely indigenous. Kashmir will be no exception. The newly nominated group is likely to work indigenously. It will increase the popularity of Musa and more youths will likely join his group than the others in the near future.”
Al-Qaeda’s announcement also indicates that after years of talking about the travails of Palestine, Kashmir and Myanmar, it has finally mustered courage to come forward for Kashmir’s struggle. But, the separatist leaders in the Valley have already denied any involvement of international groups like Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Kashmir. However, there are others who also disagree on Musa’s involvement.
Some police officers emphasized that if the Al-Qaeda gets involved, it will strengthen the hands of the militants. This kind of development would definitely lead to confusion as well as ideological clashes
The reactions from Kashmir are mixed, but what everyone agrees upon is that Al-Qaeda’s announcement is an interesting development and opens a new chapter in Kashmir’s post-1989 armed local insurgency.
NIA targets Kashmiri
The latest unrest and perpetual demonstrations have dominated the Kashmir streets and affected Kashmiri life. But the new development has upset all calculations of New Delhi the worst way possible.
As a natural response to the emerging sovereignty demand, India has used its National Investigation Agency (NIA) to create problems for the freedom Hurriyet leaders. And NIA is working over night to cripple the freedom movement. India has learned all these tactics from its former Masters in London. It targets mosques and Islamic educational institutions.
The National Investigation Agency on Jul, 18 2017 has sent notice to Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid and an education trust run by separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq to find out whether or not funds collected at the mosque are used to fuel the unrest in Jammu and Kashmir. The state witnessed over seven-month-long unrest after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant commander Burhan Muzafar Wani, in July last year.
The NIA has also issued notice seeking appearance of Mohammad Ibrahim Shah, secretary, Anjuman-e-Nusrat-ul-Islam, an education trust, which is headed by Hurriyat Conference (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. The trust runs Islamic educational institutes in the areas of Rajouri Kadal, Safa Kadal and Bota Kadal in Kashmir. Both the Anjumani Auqaf and Nusrat ul Islam have been asked to furnish their accounts of the last five years.
Besides looking into the role of Hurriyat Conference leaders, the NIA has also written letters to some newspapers asking them to furnish details about stone-pelters whom they had mentioned in their stories. “It is learnt that your newspaper has published some articles/news items mentioning the names and addresses of those involved in cases of stone pelting, burning of schools and damage to government property in the past one year starting from 1 July, 2016. It is requested to direct the concerned to provide the above mentioned documents/photographs/articles for investigation in the instant case,” read the letter issued by the NIA. The NIA is also investigating the role of former militants as well as the political leaders associated with Syed Ali Shah Geelani, chairman, Hurriyat Conference (Geelani), in funding the unrest in Jammu and Kashmir.
The NIA is also looking at the role of close associates of Geelani in fanning the unrest, and has recently summoned National Front chairman, Nayeem Ahmad Khan, in the case. Khan, who was recently in Delhi in connection with the investigation that is being carried out, has termed the investigations “witch-hunt”.
The investigation agency also questioned two retired bureaucrats and relatives of Farooq — Moulvi Shafat and Moulvi Manzoor — in the case. Both Shafat and Manzoor were in New Delhi for over a week and were questioned by the NIA in the case.
Earlier, the state police arrested some local youth for burning schools during the unrest while many others were slapped with the Public Safety Act (PSA) to keep them in judicial custody.
While earlier, India did not take the agitation of Kashmiris seriously, now it has taken unrest by Kashmiris and especially the youth leadership very very seriously. India is for the first time in occupation history is scared. Hence New Delhi is scheming to fix the Kashmiris Muslims in as many ways as time permits.
Kashmiris want total independence first from India, whether Pakistan supports or not. Kashmiris seek to regain all territories lost since 1947, whether China like that or not.
India should read the messages written on the wall and make sincere efforts to surrender sovereignty to Kashmirs and help h them make a home for peaceful existence with property.
It is high time the UNSC wakes up to the occupational reality and realizes the truth about Indian brutal intentions in Occupied Jammu Kashmir and ask India to behave. Kashmiris do not posses weapons, except few pieces of stones being gathered from time to time to defend themselves from Indian military brutality.
Can ordinary stones end Indian military attacks on innocent Kashmiris?
Already India has consumed over 1000,000 Kashmiris and many more have disappeared. Enough of Indian state crimes in Kashmir. India should not be allowed to kill more Kashmiris.
Let the UNSC convene a special UN assembly meeting to grant sovereignty to Kashmiris.
India’s multi-alignment: the origins, the past, and the present
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.
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.
The unrecognized demographic situation of West Bengal and consequences yet to occur
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.
Covid-19 has made Feminist Foreign Policy all the more Relevant to India
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.
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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