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Gender Justice in India: From Substantive Syntactics to Progressive Pragmatics

Dr. Nafees Ahmad

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The idea of gender justice is the substantive recognition of equality in its ethical syntactics, but it remains in a vacuum unless and until it is manifested in pragmatics in the lives of the women and girls. The gender justice is the target to achieve full equality with equity among women and girls and men and boys in all spheres of human development.

The gender justice is the result of men and women jointly defining and shaping the policies and structures on the anvil of equality in the civil society.  The gender justice confronts the discrimination against women and girls that have been affecting the lives of women since time immemorial and is the most widespread and acute human rights violations. Discrimination prevents women and girls from accomplishing their socio-political, eco-cultural and lego-institutional objectives ordained in all regions, all constitutions and based on the ordinary prudence of equity, equality and a clear conscience. The gender justice makes available to women equal rights with men in all spheres of human life including matrimonial relationships that has been an institution of gender abuse, women subjugation, and women exploitation to the hilt among the Muslim community in India. However, other religious communities in India also have the privilege to demean their wives in different departments of life but Muslims in the name of Islam have denied and deprived Muslim women from their lawful claims, entitlements, and rights provided in the Holy Quran particularly their rights in conjugal causes by limiting their ability to access Quranic model of dissolution of Muslim marriage that invokes religious syntactics in interpreting their rights.

The tyranny of Triple Talaq or Triple Divorce has been put in the ground for once and all on August 22, 2017, which was litigated before the highest judicial establishment of India. It is, indeed, a great occasion for an audacious assembly of Muslim women for winning their legitimate rights within the walls of the constitutional sanctity of Quranic idea of annulment of marriage. They have dauntlessly and successfully challenged the parochial, disgraceful and despicable practice of subjugation of Muslim women that too in the name of the un-Islamic orientation of Islam. The Supreme Court (SC) of India delivered a jolt to perpetrators of Triple Talaq practice who circumvented all standards of human civility, spousal equality, and the rule of law. The latest SC verdict in the Triple Talaq Case is capable of addressing the gender justice project across the religious denominations in India. In fact, the beginning of the social justice movement in India against the Triple Talaq initiated on 18 April 1966, in Maharashtra for protecting the Muslim women’s rights. In other parts of the world, for example, there are many countries in the Arab peninsula such as Algeria, Egypt, Iraq,  UAE, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen who have promulgated the laws against the practice of Triple Talaq. Thus, the Triple Talaq is not Islamic, and it is a departure and deviation from the tenets of the Holy Quran to undermine the Muslim women rights on divorce, and it has also been outlawed in many other countries including Pakistan.

Triple Talaq Wiles

Primarily, the Muslim women contended that the practice of Triple Talaq is unconstitutional and it has attained the ugliest form since Triple Divorce is being pronounced by the SMS Text, phone, email, and Whatapps, etc. The SC has viewed that the practice of Triple Talaq is the cruelest, vilest and undesirable form of Muslim marriage dissolution barring few exception of its recognition in some of the schools of Muslim law as observed and practiced in India. Many scholars and academic described the method of Triple Talaq detestable, repulsive, repugnant, and discriminatory to the core that deprives the constitutional right to equality and incompatible with the tenets of the Holy Quran. Therefore, no volume of advocacy can justify its retention. Even GOI had designated all forms of Talaq provided in the Holy Quran such as Talaq-e-Hasan and Talaq-e-Ahsan, as “unilateral” and “extrajudicial” inconsistent with the Constitution of India. However, Kapil Sibal argued on behalf of AIMPLB that the practice of Triple Talaq has been prevalent since 637 AD and cannot be said as un-Islamic and Muslims have been practicing it for the last 1400 years. Unfortunately, that makes it more dangerous and detrimental to the cause of Muslim women’s right to equality. The AIMPLB has behaved arrogantly and irresponsibly in this matter and did not come out with any credible proposal during marathon hearing of the case despite the fact there was opposition to this abhorrent practice in the Muslim community. Therefore, the SC put right a historical wrong that had demeaned the idea of gender equality and perpetuated discrimination based on patriarchal supremacy, bad in theology and sinful and reformed the miasma that was imposed upon the Muslim women.

Gender Justice Law & Sensitization

The people with a preference for homosexuality, lesbianism, gay, transgenderism, and queer (LGBTQ) and cross dressings are illegal in many Muslim countries like Saudi Arab, UAE and a sizable section of Muslim community in India consider these orientations and punishable offensive with prison terms. Therefore, the issue of gender justice in Muslim Personal Law has not been attended sensitively, and it was always entwined with a controversial issue of Uniform Civil Code (UCC) that has deflected the larger issue of gender justice. The UCC has been floated as a plausible alternative to achieve the unachievable in the present circumstances. There is no attempt to decipher and define the contours of the UCC about marriage, divorce, maintenance, inheritance rights, matrimonial property rights and custody of children, etc. Presently, these are the contentious issues simmering in all the religious communities, and all communities consider their religious laws and practices inviolable and unimpeachable to the hilt. For example; the position of Hindu community is dicey and volatile on the dilution of HUF (Hindu Undivided Family) that brings them huge tax concessions and exemptions and other benefits. Therefore, there cannot be utopian UCC likely to be a launch pad for social reforms and gender justice in future. The women movements and organizations like AIDWA (All India Women’s Democratic Association) have been spearheading the cause of equal rights and equal laws for the women and girls to ensure gender parity in all communities in India. AIDWA has supported the significant movement led by Mary Roy for women’s inheritance rights of the Syrian Christian Women. However, a large section of the Christian clergy has started a campaign to demand that the Christian Personal Laws relating to marriage, divorce, and inheritance must be reformed while taking into global norms of gender justice. Among the Muslims, after the Triple Talaq, the practices of Halala, and polygamy must also be addressed with greater vehemence and vitality.

There are many relevant provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 like Sections 294 [singing lewd songs and demanding sexual favours], 354 (A) [Making unwanted physical contact] (C) [Voyeurism] & (D) [Stalking], 503 [Criminal Threat], 499 [Morphing pictures of women], 509 [Making sexually coloured remarks against women], Section 67 [posting any obscene or defamatory material on online platforms] of the Information Technology Act, 2000,    There are some legislations enacted like Domestic Violence Act, 2005, Prohibition of Dowry Act, 1961, and the Sexual Harassment of the Women at Workplace-Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal-Act, 2013 and other laws and judicial guidelines against sexual harassment; rape and incidental offences laid down in the matter of Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan & Others that have been appreciated through the lenses of gender equality. The SC had perceived sexual harassment in the workplace as a social problem of considerable magnitude based on discriminatory tendencies against women. The court stated that “Gender equality embraces protection from sexual harassment and the right to work with dignity, which is a universally recognized fundamental human right.” In reality, it is the Libidinal Perversion Gratification (LPG) mindset of the menfolk that works against the women in the public space as well as on the internal walls. All these laws have been enacted under the mounting pressure, but there are many violations of these statutes than the compliance with their provisions. The implementation of these laws has become the biggest challenge in the wake of entrenched patriarchy in all the religious communities in India. The patriarchal mindset has seeped deep into the government and its instrumentalities resulting in the incremental incidences of crimes against women. Thus, it is time to implement these legislations without brooking an iota of discrimination and to establish India as a modern liberal democracy.    

Supreme Court of India

The constitution bench of five-judges of the Supreme Court (SC) of India has delivered the historical and unprecedented judgment and rightly banned and declared the practice of unilateral Triple Talaq (also known as Talaq-e-Biddat—Innovative Divorce) unconstitutional and ultra-vires of the Constitution of India. It is now unequivocally established that Triple Talaq is not fundamental to the religion of Islam in India that has often been misused whimsically against Muslim women contrary to gender jurisprudence evolved by the SC and principles of equality as ordained in the Constitution of India, international human rights law, and Holy Quran. The judgement has the guidance from Muslim Law in India and Abroad by Prof. Tahir Mahmood, and SC has identified as many as 19 countries including Egypt, Pakistan, and Turkey and other nation-states from Arab peninsula, South-East Asia, and South Asia that have abolished Triple Talaq and SC has consulted and cited the laws of these countries. This judgment is not against any individual or any institution, organization or religion of Islam rather the true meaning and spirit of the Holy Quran has been delineated on the idea of individual rights, the rule of law, and human rights enunciated in the Constitution of India.

The constitution bench consisted of judges from different religions—Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Christianity and Parsi headed by CJI Justice J.S. Khehar, and other Justices U.U. Lalit, S Abdul Nazeer, Kurian Joseph, and R.F. Nariman and they had examined a bunch of seven petitions including the five individual petitions filed by Muslim women challenging the practice of Triple Talaq in the Muslim community. The bench set aside the cruel practice of Triple Talaq by a 3-2 majority. Justice Nariman and Justice Lalit set it aside by terming it unconstitutional and contravening the Article 14 while Justice Joseph also set it aside on the ground of its being against the teachings of the Holy Quran. The CJI Mr. Justice J.S. Khehar and Justice Abdul Nazeer supported the Triple Talaq and recognized that the Triple Talaq was part of Muslim Personal Law and, thus, enjoys the status of fundamental rights.

The Holy Quran & International Law

The Triple Talaq verdict has created a new space for gender justice, and the court treated the women’s rights as human rights under International Human Rights Law. Therefore, the court has recognized the Quranic injunctions on gender equality that Muslim women lacked for centuries. In the Holy Quran, the Triple Talaq is pronounced by a man with the word Talaq speaking thrice over the period of three months. In such a manner, a person may withdraw his word of Talaq twice before finally pronouncing it to end the spousal relationship. Therefore, the Marriage Dissolution under Quranic Mechanism has a justification to establish that a marital union does not conclude by uttering Talaq thrice in one go due to sudden provocation, intoxication, and anger. However, during the life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) three or more than three utterances of Talaq in one sitting were regarded as one statement. But, the second Caliph of Islam Hazrat Umar, the Great has taken a different view of Triple Talaq due to administrative reasons for a temporary period to bind Muslim men who rush into instant and final Talaq by uttering word Talaq three times in one go. However, the step of Second Caliph was against the principles of Holy Quran. Though, Caliph Umar had put off the impugned practice by flogging the man who resorted to the Triple Talaq. But, unfortunately, the practice of Triple Talaq got embedded into the Islamic Law based on the authoritarian analysis adjudicated by the later Imams particularly Imam Abu Hanifa and it has wrongly been presented to ordinary Muslims as the inalienable part of Islamic law.

India is a signatory to many international human rights instruments to endorse its global obligations and commitments and to address the gender justice matters in the absence of comprehensive and consolidated municipal laws. The court stated that India is a signatory to the CEDAW (UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women-1979) that prohibits discrimination at the workplace and laid down specific state obligations to eliminate all forms of discriminations:

  • To protect the right to work, the right to health and right to safety in the conditions at the workplace including the safeguarding of the function of reproduction under Article 11(1) (a) and (f) of the CEDAW;
  • To undertake the adoption of all necessary measures at the national level to achieve the full realization of the rights recognized in the Article 24 of CEDAW; and
  • To adhere to the General Recommendation No. 19 on the elimination of violence against women under the CEDAW.

Therefore, the Government of India has enacted the domestic legislation called the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act-2013 to adequately address sexual harassment in the workplace to achieve gender equality and non-discrimination as enshrined in the universal human rights norms and standards.

The Holy Quran & the Constitutional Law of India

The SC for the first time has made Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India “absolute” despite their being subjected to restrictions. However, the Triple Talaq Judgment (TTJ) has not been a unanimous decision and two judges dissented including the CJI Justice J.S. Kehar who regarded the Triple Talaq inalienable part of Muslim personal law in India and opined that Triple Talaq does not contravene Articles 14, 15, and 21 of the Constitution of India while majority judgment held the view that instant Triple Talaq is an un-Islamic practice and Justice Kurien’s judicial construction of Shamim Ara Judgment as the decisive law of divorce in India that should have been followed. However, the dissenting judges have taken a cautious approach to balancing the whole gamut of Triple Talaq by outlining the fact the practice is not prevalent even in Muslim theocracies. Therefore, dissenting judges have directed the Government of India (GOI) to frame the appropriate law in this regard. The GOI must demonstrate the political will to come out with a concrete legislation to lay down the quantum of punishment that shall be meted out to the offenders otherwise this judgment would remain a pyrrhic victory. The TTJ has been welcomed as a milestone for unprecedented social change by every progressive section of the civil society institutions including Amnesty International India and international human rights organizations.

Conclusion 

Now, political discourse on Triple Talaq must be set at rest and ways must be rummaged to implement the SC decision in its letter and spirit without brooking any pressure from organizations like All India Muslim Personal Board (AIMPLB) who played the politics of procrastination on this issue for its political ends. The AIMPLB is a conglomerate of so-called Muslim leaders and does not represent diverse voices of the Indian Muslims. There are multiple religious practices and beliefs which Indian Muslims follow in their daily life. Among the Indian Muslims, there are 90% Sunni Hanafi and remaining 10% belong to Ahle-Hadees and Shafaiis and Shafaiis support the Hanafi stand on the validity of Triple Talaq in one go.  However, one sect called Ahle-Hadees does not subscribe to the practice of Triple Talaq. Moreover, TTJ has clarified that all personal laws must conform to the Constitution of India regarding marriage, divorce, property, and succession. It has rightly been contented by the GOI before the SC that it is not “majority community” v. minority community” discourse but an intra-Muslim community power struggle between fundamentalists and the subjugated Muslim women.

It is, now, evident that the political will of the highest order in the Government of India is needed to take necessary measures for enforcing the judicial dicta. August 22, 2017, would be regarded a defining moment and turning point in the legal history of India when gender equality attained its zenith in the lives of Muslim women. India’s Muslim women have achieved what was considered unattainable since independence. The latest SC decision has established the supremacy of constitutional guarantees in upholding the gender equilibrium in human relationships within the religious structures including of Islam. Now, the time has come to reform the unjust and obsolete religious practices under the new laws across the communities while expanding the horizons of gender justice. Therefore, progressive codification of Muslim Law must be commenced while taking into primacy of the jurisprudence expounded by the Supreme Court, Constitution of India and the Holy Quran for once and all.   

Ph. D., LL.M, Faculty of Legal Studies, South Asian University (SAARC)-New Delhi, Nafees Ahmad is an Indian national who holds a Doctorate (Ph.D.) in International Refugee Law and Human Rights. Author teaches and writes on International Forced Migrations, Climate Change Refugees & Human Displacement Refugee, Policy, Asylum, Durable Solutions and Extradition Issus. He conducted research on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from Jammu & Kashmir and North-East Region in India and has worked with several research scholars from US, UK and India and consulted with several research institutions and NGO’s in the area of human displacement and forced migration. He has introduced a new Program called Comparative Constitutional Law of SAARC Nations for LLM along with International Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law and International Refugee Law & Forced Migration Studies. He has been serving since 2010 as Senior Visiting Faculty to World Learning (WL)-India under the India-Health and Human Rights Program organized by the World Learning, 1 Kipling Road, Brattleboro VT-05302, USA for Fall & Spring Semesters Batches of US Students by its School for International Training (SIT Study Abroad) in New Delhi-INDIA nafeestarana[at]gmail.com,drnafeesahmad[at]sau.ac.in

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South Asia

The “Neo-Cold War” in the Indian Ocean Region

Kagusthan Ariaratnam

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Addressing an event earlier this week at London’s Oxford University, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said some people are seeing “imaginary Chinese Naval bases in Sri Lanka. Whereas the Hambantota Port (in southern Sri Lanka) is a commercial joint venture between our Ports Authority and China Merchants – a company listed in the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.”

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe has denied US’ claims that China might build a “forward military base” at Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port which has been leased out to Beijing by Colombo. Sri Lanka failed to pay a Chinese loan of $1.4 billion and had to lease the China-developed port to Beijing for 99 years. Both New Delhi and Washington had in the past expressed concerns that Beijing could use the harbor for military purposes.

Image courtesy of Google

The USA, China, and India are the major powers playing their key role in the “Neo-Cold War” in Central Asian landmass and the strategic sea lanes of the world in the Indian Ocean where 90% of the world trade is being transported everyday including oil. It is this extension of the shadowy Cold War race that can be viewed as the reason for the recent comment made by the US Vice President Mike Pence that China is using “debt diplomacy” to expand its global footprint and Hambantota “may soon become a forward military base for China’s expanding navy”.

According to some analysts, the deep-water port, which is near a main shipping route between Asia and Europe, is likely to play a major role in China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

In his book “Monsoon” Robert D. Kaplan (2010), a senior fellow at the Centre for a New American Security notes the following:

[…] the Indian Ocean will turn into the heart of a new geopolitical map, shifting from a unilateral world power to multilateral power cooperation. This transition is caused by the changing economic and military conditions of the USA, China and India. The Indian Ocean will play a big role in the 21st century’s confrontation for geopolitical power. The greater Indian Ocean region covers an arc of Islam, from the Sahara Desert to the Indonesian archipelago. Its western reaches include Somalia, Yemen, Iran, and Pakistan — constituting a network of dynamic trade as well as a network of global terrorism, piracy, and drug trafficking […]

Two third of the global maritime trade passes through a handful of relatively narrow shipping lanes, among which five geographic “chokepoints” or narrow channels that are gateway to and from Indian ocean: (1) Strait of Hormuz (2) Bab el-Mandab Passage (3) Palk Strait (4) Malacca and Singapore Straits and (5) Sunda Strait.

While Lutz Kleveman (2003), argues that the Central Asia is increasingly becoming the most important geostrategic region for the future commodities, Michael Richardson (2004) on the other hand explains that the global economy depends on the free flow of shipping through the strategic international straits, waterways, and canals in the Indian Ocean.

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA)  report published in 2017, “world chokepoints for maritime transit of oil are a critical part of global energy security. About 63% of the world’s oil production moves on maritime routes. The Strait of Hormuz and the Strait of Malacca are the world’s most important strategic chokepoints by volume of oil transit” (p.1). These channels are critically important to the world trade because so much of it passes through them. For instance, half of the world’s oil production is moved by tankers through these maritime routes. The blockage of a chokepoint, even for a day, can lead to substantial increases in total energy costs and thus these chokepoints are critical part of global energy security.  Hence, whoever control these checkpoints, waterways, and sea routes in the Indian Ocean maritime domain will reshape the region as an emerging global power.

In a recent analysis of globalization and its impact on Central Asia and Indian Ocean region, researcher Daniel Alphonsus (2015), notes that the twists and turns of political, economic and military turbulence were significant to all great players’ grand strategies:

(1) the One Belt, One Road (OBOR), China’s anticipated strategy to increase connectivity and trade between Eurasian nations, a part of which is the future Maritime Silk Road (MSR), aimed at furthering collaboration between south east Asia, Oceania and East Africa; (2) Project Mausam, India’s struggle to reconnect with its ancient trading partners along the Indian Ocean, broadly viewed as its answer to the MSR; and (3) the Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor, the USA’s effort to better connect south and south east Asian nations. (p.3)

India the superpower of the subcontinent, has long feared China’s role in building outposts around its periphery. In a recent essay, an Indian commentator Brahma Chellaney wrote that the fusion of China’s economic and military interests “risk turning Sri Lanka into India’s Cuba” – a reference to how the Soviet Union courted Fidel Castro’s Cuba right on the United States’ doorstep. Located at the Indian Ocean’s crossroads gives Sri Lanka the strategic and economic weight in both MSR and Project Mausam plans. MSR highlights Sri Lanka’s position on the east-west sea route, while Project Mausam’s aim to create an “Indian Ocean World” places Sri Lanka at the center of the twenty-first century’s defining economic, strategic and institutional frameworks. Furthermore, alongside the MSR, China is building an energy pipeline through Pakistan to secure Arabian petroleum, which is a measure intended to bypass the Indian Ocean and the Strait of Malacca altogether.

A recent study done by a panel of experts and reported by the New York Times reveal that how the power has increasingly shifted towards China from the traditional US led world order in the past five years among small nation states in the region. The critical role played by the strategic sea ports China has been building in the rims of Indian Ocean including Port of Gwadar in Pakistan, Port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka, Port of Kyaukpyu in Myanmar and Port of Chittagong in Bangladesh clearly validates the argument that how these small states are being used as proxies in this power projection.

This ongoing political, economic and military rivalry between these global powers who are seeking sphere of influence in one of the world’s most important geostrategic regions is the beginning of a “Neo-Cold War” that Joseph Troupe refers as the post-Soviet era geopolitical conflict resulting from the multipolar New world order.

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South Asia

IMF bail-out Package and Pakistan

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Pakistan may approach IMF to bail-out the current economic crisis. It is not the first time that Pakistan will knock the doors of IMF. Since 1965, Pakistan has been to IMF 17 times. Almost all of the governments has availed IMF packages. Usually, IMF is a temporary relief and provide oxygen for short time so that the patient may recover and try to be self-sustained. The major role of IMF is to improve the governance or reforms, how the ill-economy of a country may recover quickly and become self-sustained. After having oxygen cylinder for 17 times within 5 decades, Pakistan’s economy could not recover to a stage, where we can be self-sustained and no more looking for IMF again and again. This is a question asked by the common man in Pakistan to their leadership.  People are worried that for how long do we have to run after IMF package? The nation has enjoyed 70 decades of independence and expects to be mature enough to survive under all circumstances without depending on a ventilator.

The immediate impact of decision to approach IMF, is the devaluation of Pakistani Rupees. By depreciating only one rupee to US dollar, our foreign debt increases 95 billion rupees.  Today we witness a depreciation of rupee by 15 approximately (fluctuating), means the increase in foreign debt by 1425 billion rupees. Yet, we have not negotiated with IMF regarding depreciation of Rupees. Usually IMF demand major depreciation but all government understands the implications of sharp devaluation, always try to bargain with IMF to the best of their capacity. I am sure, Government of Pakistan will also negotiate and get the best bargain.

IMF always imposes conditions to generate more revenue and the easiest way to create more income is imposing tax on major commodities including Gas, Electricity and Fuel. Pakistan has already increased the prices of Gas, Electricity and Fuel. It has had direct impact on basic necessities and commodities of life. We can witness a price hike of basic food, consumer items and so on. Except salaries, everything has gone up. While negotiating with IMF formally, we do not know how much tax will be increased and how much burden will be put on the common man.

We believe, our rulers know our capacity and will keep in mind the life of a common man and may not exceed the limit of burden to common man beyond its capacity. We are optimistic that all decisions will be taken in the best interest of the nation.

It is true, that Pakistan has been to IMF so many times, so this might be a justification for the PTI Government to avail IMF package. But, there are people with different approach. They have voted for change and for “Naya” (new) Pakistan. They do not expect from PTI to behave like previous several governments. If PTI uses the logic of previous governments, may not satisfy many people in Pakistan.

Especially, when Pakistan was in a position to take-off economically, we surrendered half way, may not be accepted by many people in Pakistan.

The government has explained that other options like economic assistance from friendly countries was also very expensive, so that they have preferred IMF as more competitive package. I wish, Government may educate public on the comparison of available options, their terms and conditions, their interest rate, their political conditions, etc. There might be something confidential, Government may avoid or hide, one may not mind and understand the sensitivity of some of the issues. But all permissible information on the terms and conditions of all options in comparison, may be placed on Ministry of Finance’s website or any other mode of dissemination of knowledge to its public.

Against the tradition, people of Pakistan have voted Imran Khan, who so ever was given ticket of PTI, public has voted him or her blindly in trust to Imran Khan. A few of his candidates might not be having very high capabilities or very good reputation, but, public has trusted Imran Khan blindly. Imran Khan is the third most popular leader in Pakistan, after Jinnah the father of nation, and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the Former Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1970s.

People of Pakistan have blindly trusted in Imran Khan and possess very high expectations from him. I know, Imran Khan understands it very well. He is honest, brave and visionary leader and I believe he will not disappoint his voters.

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Now India denies a friendly hand: Imran Khan debuts against arrogant neighbors

Sisir Devkota

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Imran Khan is facing the brunt for overly appeasing its arch rival-India. On September 22, Khan tweeted that he was disappointed over India’s arrogant reply to resume bilateral talks in the UNGA and that he had encountered many “small men” in big offices unable to perceive the larger picture.I am observing a south Asian order changing with Khan’s rise in Pakistani politics. We in Nepal need to grasp the possible reality before circumstances shall engulf our interests.

Observation 1

Narendra Modi was undoubtedly “The Prince”of South Asia from Niccolo Machiavelli’s 16th century classic political narrative. I sense the old prince acting in distress over the rise of a new one. Imran Khan’s invitation for a ministerial level meeting in New York; amidst the eyes of foreign diplomats could not have been a better approach by Pakistan in a long time. Instead, Indian foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj dismissed the offer, blaming Pakistan’s double standard in killing Indian forces and releasing Burhan Wani’s (India’s terrorist and Pakistan’s martyr) postal stamps. Khan did not sanction the postal release, but as the Prime Minister of Pakistan, he must be held accountable for failing to stop the killings,just when talks were supposed to happen. He should have addressed the highly sensitive Indian government. But, I do empathize with Khan’s statement, “small men in big offices”; as he clearly outlined the exact problem. He directly called upon the Indian government to think bigger and escape circumstances to solve historical problems. Narendra Modi has developed a new rhetoric these days; that India is not going to keep quiet over Pakistan’s actions. It fits the nature of Machiavelli’s Prince as an authority which can maintain national virtue. Unfortunately, I do not buy Modi’s rhetoric. The Prince has come a bit late in his tenure to act for Indian virtues. I am sure many at the UNGA would have noticed India’s apprehension in the same manner. I suspect that the ex-prince is facing insecurities over the fear of losing his charisma. Nepal, in particular was charmed by his personality when he first visited our capital, with promises that flooded our heart. And then, we faced his double standard; right after the massive earthquake in 2015. Nobody in Nepal will sympathize with Swaraj’s justification of cancelling the meeting.

Observation 2

Let me explain the source of insecurity. Modi has thrived by endorsing his personality. A tea man who worked for the railways under great financial hardships, became the poster man of India. He generated hope and trust that his counterparts had lost over the years. His eloquent stage performance can fool the harshest of critics into sympathizing his cause. People have only realized later; many macro economists in India now argue that demonetization was, perhaps, one of the worst decisions for India’s sake. Narendra Modi is India sounds truer than Narendra Modi is the Prime Minister of India.

Imran Khan, a former cricketer does not spring the same impression as Modi. Khan, a world champion in 1992, is known for his vision and leadership in Cricket. Comparatively, Khan does not need to sell his poster in South Asia. He does not cry over his speeches to garner mass euphoria. Ask anybody who’s into the sport and they will explain you the legend behind his name. I suspect that Modi has realized that he is going to lose the stardom in the face of Pakistan’s newly elected democratic leader. After all, the Indian PM cannot match Imran’s many achievements in both politics and cricket. I suspect that Modi has realized the fundamental difference in how his subjects inside India and beyond are going to perceive Imran’s personality. I expect more artificial discourses from India to tarnish Imran’s capabilities.

Nepal & Pakistan

You will not find Pakistan associated with Nepal so often than with India. Frankly, Nepal has never sympathized with Indian cause against Pakistan. We have developed a healthy and constructive foreign relations with the Islamic republic. However, there has always been a problem of one neighbor keeping eyes on our dealings with another. Indian interests have hindered proximity with past governments. Now, Imran Khan has facilitated the platform for deeper relations. He does not carry the baggage of his predecessors. He is a global icon, a cricket legend and a studious politician. He is not the result of mass hysteria. Imran Khan has pledged to improve Pakistan’s economy, reinstate foreign ties and boost regional trade. For me, he is South Asia’s new Machiavellian prince; one that can be at least trusted when he speaks.

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