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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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Geopolitics, the black swan in Saudi-Indian relations

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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When Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi next week, the elephant in the room is likely to be what weighs more: the issues the two men agree on or the ones that divide them.

As a matter of principle, Prince Mohammed and Mr. Modi are likely to take their strategic partnership to a new level as a result of changing energy markets, a decline in American power, the rise of China and the transnational threat of political violence.

Discussions with the crown prince and his delegation of Saudi businessmen on energy and investment will prove to be the easy part. Saudi Arabia is investing US$44 million in a refinery in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri and supplies 20 percent of India’s crude oil. India, moreover, expects the Saudis to invest in ports and roads while Saudi Arabia is interested in Indian agriculture that would export products to the kingdom.

At first glance, security issues should be a no-brainer. The two countries hold joint military exercises, share intelligence and cooperate on counterterrorism. They are also working to counter money laundering and funding of political violence. Things get complicated, however, when geopolitics kicks in. Prince Mohammed arrives in Delhi on the back of a visit to Pakistan, where he is expected to sign a memorandum of understanding on a framework for $10 billion of investments, primarily in oil refining, petrochemicals, renewable energy and mining.

The memo follows significant Saudi aid to help Pakistan evade a financial crisis that included a $3-billion deposit in Pakistan’s central bank to support the country’s balance of payments and another $3 billion in deferred payments for oil imports.

The tricky part are the investments in the memorandum that include a plan by the Saudi national oil company Aramco to build a refinery at the Chinese-backed port of Gwadar, close to Pakistan’s border with Iran and the Indian-backed Iranian port of Chabahar. Both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are closely monitoring Chabahar’s progress.

A potential Saudi investment in the troubled Pakistani province of Balochistan’s Reko Diq copper and gold mine would strengthen the kingdom’s hold in the strategic province that both Prince Mohammed and US president Donald J Trump’s hardline national security adviser John Bolton see as a potential launching pad for efforts to destabilise Iran. Taken together, the refinery, an oil reserve in Gwadar and the mine would also help Saudi Arabia in efforts to prevent Chabahar from emerging as a powerful Arabian Sea hub.

Saudi funds are flowing into ultra-conservative anti-Shiite, anti-Iranian Sunni madrassas in Balochistan. It remains unclear whether the money originates with the Saudi government, Saudi nationals of Baloch descent or the two million-strong Pakistani diaspora in the kingdom.

The money helps put in place building blocks for possible covert action should the kingdom or the US — or both — decide to act on proposals to support irredentist action.

Such covert action could jeopardise Indian hopes to use Chabahar to bypass Pakistan, enhance its trade with Afghanistan and Central Asia and create an antidote to Gwadar, a crown jewel in China’s Belt and Road initiative.

Pakistani analysts expect around $5 billion in Afghan trade to flow through Chabahar after India in December started handling the port operations. It could also further strain ties with Pakistan that accuses India of fomenting nationalist unrest in Balochistan.

The funds take on added significance in the face of Saudi concerns about Chabahar and India’s support for the port. The money continues to flow even though the crown prince has significantly cut back on the kingdom’s global funding of ultra-conservative Sunni Muslim groups to bolster his assertion that the kingdom is embracing a more moderate, albeit as yet undefined, form of Islam.
The money started coming in at about the time the Riyadh-based International Institute for Iranian Studies published a study that said Chabahar posed a “direct threat to the Arab Gulf states” that called for “immediate countermeasures”.

Written by Mohammed Hassan Husseinbor, a Washington-based Iranian Baloch lawyer and activist, the study warned that Chabahar would allow Iran to step up oil exports to India at the expense of Saudi Arabia, raise foreign investment in the Islamic Republic, increase government revenues and allow Tehran some muscle-flexing in the Gulf and the Indian Ocean. Noting the expanse of Iran’s Sistan and Balouchestan province, Mr. Husseinbor said “it would be a formidable challenge, if not impossible, for the Iranian government to protect such long distances and secure Chabahar in the face of widespread Baluch opposition, particularly if this opposition is supported by Iran’s regional adversaries and world powers”.

Published in a country that tightly controls the media as well as the output of think tanks, the study stroked with a memorandum drafted a year later by Bolton before he assumed office. The memo envisioned US support “for the democratic Iranian opposition”, including in Balochistan and Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan province.

Iranian officials believe that Saudi Arabia and the US have a hand in a string of recent attacks by Baloch, Kurdish and Iranian Arab nationalists but have so far refrained from producing anything beyond allegations. Most recently, they point to a rare suicide bombing in Chabahar in December that targeted a Revolutionary Guards headquarters, killing two people and wounding 40.

Writing in the Pakistan Security Report 2018, journalist Muhammad Akbar Notezai said, “to many in Pakistan” concerns about Indian support for the Baloch “were materialized with the arrest of Kulbushan Jadhav, an Indian spy in Balochistan who had come through Iran. Ever since, Pakistani intelligence agencies have been on extra-alert on its border with Iran”.

The journalist warned that “the more Pakistan slips into the Saudi orbit, the more its relations with Iran will worsen… If their borders remain troubled, anyone can fish in the troubled water”.

Mr. Notezai implicitly put his finger on the pitfalls Prince Mohammed and Mr. Modi will have to negotiate to ensure that their ever closer economic, energy and security relations can withstand the challenges posed by the escalating and intertwined rivalries that link West and South Asia.

Author’s note: This article appeared in Firstpost

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Tapping potential of connectivity through BCIM-EC

Sultana Yesmin

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The Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridor (BCIM-EC) is a sub-regional initiative, earlier known as “Kunming Initiative”, or BCIM Regional Economic Cooperation, was established in August 1999 in Kunming, capital of China’s south-western Yunnan Province by the scholars from China, India, Bangladesh, and Myanmar.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang proposed the BCIM-EC initiative during his visit to India in May, 2013. The Joint Statement between China and India officially proposed the establishment of the BCIM-EC, while later Bangladesh and Myanmar offered strong and positive responses towards the development of economic corridor across the sub-region.

The proposed BCIM economic corridor aims to construct a 2,800-km economic corridor connecting 20 major cities and towns of the BCIM countries. Starting from Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, the corridor is planned to end in Kunming, capital of China’s Yunnan Province via Bangladesh’s Jessore, Dhaka, and Sylhet; Imphal of Manipur and Silchar of Assam in North Eastern part of India, and Myanmar’s Ka Lay, Monywa, Mandalay, Lashio and Muse.

The BCIM Forum was primarily initiated with the aim of building regional cooperation among the four participating countries as well as integrating the BCIM economies through building overland economic corridor along the routes connecting the sub-region of South Asia, Southeast Asia, and East Asia.

The overland connectivity aside, over the years, the objectives of the BCIM-EC expanded in the areas of poverty alleviation, people-to-people connectivity, cross-border energy trade, tourism, human resource development, sustainable development as well as trans-border security.

Significant progresses have already been witnessed towards the achievement of these objectives. As for example, starting from 1999 to 2015, total 12th BCIM Forums have been arranged by the BCIM countries. The idea of the construction of Kunming-Mandalay-Dhaka-Kolkata (K2K) economic corridor was first proposed in the 9th BCIM Forum held in Kunming, China from January 18 to 19, 2011, which marked significant milestone in the development of the economic corridor across the BCIM sub-region.

The 10th BCIM Forum held in Kolkata, India from February 18-19, 2012 was also crucial for taking the decision about the Kolkata to Kunming (K2K) Car Rally along the BCIM routes. As per the consensus, the historical Kolkata to Kunming (K2K) Car Rally in February 2013 was warmly received in four countries that underscored the construction of BCIM economic corridor across the sub-region.

Subsequent to these developments, strengthening the working relationship between Track II and Track I and the initiation of Track I diplomacy through the consensus in 9th Forum and the 11th BCIM Forum respectively injected noteworthy impetus into the development of multimodal connectivity across the BCIM sub-region.

So far, three Joint Study Group (JSG) meetings have been conducted among the representatives of the four countries to foster physical connectivity, facilitate trade in goods, services, and investment; promote economic integration; and also to enhance people-to-people contacts among the BCIM countries.

The 1st JSG was held in Kunming, China from December 18-19, 2013, while the initiative was undertaken for the official launch of intergovernmental process of BCIM-EC. The 2nd JSG held in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar from December 17-18, 2014 gained momentum after the consensus of the four countries to prepare separate country reports on the concept, scope and elements; principles and modalities of cooperation; and framework of cooperation. And, during the 3rd JSG meeting which held on 24- 25 April 2017, in Kolkata, the four countries agreed on upgrading of the talks on BCIM-EC to the intergovernmental level.

The significance of the BCIM-EC is enormous. Geo-strategically, the economic corridor is the gateway to three sub-regions, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and East Asia. It is also the hub of blue economy and international maritime trade with the endowment of the Bay of Bengal and its adjacent areas, Indian Ocean, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The geo-economic significance of the BCIM-EC is also immense. The BCIM sub-region with the enhanced transport connectivity can be a zone for international trade and business. The free flow of goods and services as well as cross-border trade and investment through the seamless connectivity will facilitate equitable sharing of benefits among the BCIM countries.

The proposed BCIM-EC attempts to build multimodal connectivity in order to accelerate all round development across the sub-region, goodwill, peace, and the stability in the sub-region based on the principles of mutual interest, trust and respect, and equitable sharing of benefits.

Though there is a prevalence of some security, economic, and political factors remaining as key challenges, the countries need to come up with concrete measures to fully tap the immense potentials of connectivity through the successful establishment of the BCIM-EC across the sub-region.

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Kashmir: Aftermath of Pulwama attack?

Amjed Jaaved

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India quickly blamed Pakistan for Pulwama attack. .Indian media reports reflect that India’s accusation, if anything, was a knee-jerk reaction to pander to sentiments of fanatic gallery. It would have sounded credible, if the accusation had been corroborated with evidence.

The allegation was made even before forensic-lab and National Investigation Agency teams `visited the site of the attack at Lethpora, some 30 km from Srinagar on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway, took photographs and videos and collected samples from the 15-mile area for forensic examination’. (Indian Express February 16, 2019). Indian Express dated Feb. 15, 2019 speculated `High-grade RDX explosive, weighing about 80 kilogram, was used in the suicide attack’. The Hindu dated February 16, 2019 estimated `100-150 kg of the explosive was used’. Investigating `agencies have also taken tower dumps of the attack area to filter out suspicious calls and those made in around the same time as the attack’ (Hindustan Times dated February 16, 2019). No word yet from the investigators.

The Standing operating procedure required movement of up to 100 persons in a convoy.  But `the CRPF had been moving such convoys, comprising more than 2,500 personnel each, on the Srinagar-Jammu highway. In the past fortnight, two such convoys had moved from Jammu to Srinagar. The latest was on February 4 with a convoy of 91 vehicles and 2,871 personnel’. Why the convoy could not spot the lonely suicide vehicle trailing behind? How the terrorists knew that the convoy movement was delayed by two days? How they remained undetected loading the vehicle with explosives whole day?

Obviously, some demoralized security personnel provided information to `militants’. There are frequent suicides and desertions in forces. A few days back a soldier was abducted and killed by freedom fighters. Later an inquiry blamed some of his companions of collusion with `terrorists’. Critics including Kashmiri leaders have questioned why the CRPF personnel were not air-lifted. They pointed to IAF’s showcased `airlifts of record 463 tonnes to Ladakh from Chandigarh within hours’. `The effort was accomplished with the aid of a fleet of 16 fixed wing transport aircraft comprising of C-17 Globemaster, the Ilyushin-76 Gajraj and the Medium  lift Tactical aircraft, Antonov-32 (Indian Express dated December 19, 2018).

To demonise Valley-based Kashmiris, government encouraged fanatic Hindus to stage violent rallies in Jammu. To forestall plunder of Valley based Kashmiri living in Jammu and save their lives, Centre had to impose curfew. There was a veritable, though alarming possibility, that Valley-based Kashmiri would do tit for tat to Jammu residents living in the Vale. Spectre of a civil war between various regions of Kashmir alarmed the central government. Its dignitaries rushed to Srinagar to hold all-party conference.  The Kashmiri leaders are already rueful at creation of Ladakh as a separate divisional headquarter. Fearing internecine clashes, Kashmiri leaders, including Hurriyat’s Gilani had to appeal to government for security of Kashmiris marooned outside Valley and in Indian states. Kashmiris are furious that the Centre could not airlift even the students `imprisoned’ in Srinagar University because of cut-off of road-rail links.

Kashmiri leaders assail about Pulwama attack. They point out similar attacks took place in Chhattisgarh. But, they received no limelight.  In 2010, Naxals ambushed Indian troops in Dantewada in Chhattisgarh killing 76 personnel. On April 24, 2017, 25 Indian soldiers were killed at  Sukma, Chhattisgarh. India is using the Pulwama attack as an excuse to escalate tensions with Pakistan. It made no bones about using air force in future surgical strikes. It wants to attack Azad Kashmir at 25 points (Happymon, Line on Fire: Ceasefire Violations and India-Pakistan Escalation Dynamics). India wants to revive mukti bahini experience in Balochistan, Sindh and Khybr Pakhtunkhwa. Hindustan Times Feb 16, 2019 recounts `official line’ is that `the 1971 war was started by Pakistan on December 3 by attacking Indian airfields in Punjab. But now there is enough historical evidence to prove that this is not true’

India wants to isolate Pakistan, particularly from the USA. But, days before the attack, the USA in its travel advisory used the word Azad Kashmir for `Pakistan occupied Kashmir’. Pakistan’s leverage in Afghan peace is undeniable. India ratcheted the pressure on Pakistan by withdrawing the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status, largely symbolic. In fact, it could also lead to increased illegal trade between the two countries.  The gesture is unlikely to affect bilateral trade, which is $2 billion by the usual route and another $6 billion via Dubai and Singapore. Pakistan is yet to give India MFN status and maintains a list of 1,200 items that are banned for import from India. The word `most’ in the term, MFN, is not used as a superlative degree of adjective.  It simply means reciprocal bilateral relationships following both GATT and WTO norms of reciprocity and non-discrimination. In such relationships a particular privilege granted by one party only extends to other parties who reciprocate that privilege.  In contradistinction, the non-discriminatory component of the GATT/WTO applies a reciprocally-negotiated privilege to all members of the GATT/WTO without respect to their status in negotiating the privilege. Readers may refer to Dictionary of Economic Terms or other sources. Most Favoured Nation status is given to an international trade partner to ensure non-discriminatory trade between all partner countries of the WTO.

A country which provides MFN status to another country has to provide concessions, privileges, and immunity in trade agreements. It is the first clause in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Therefore now, India will withdraw all such privileges accorded to Pakistan in the wake of the attack. According to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) guidelines, a member country is not allowed to discriminate between trade partners and if special status is granted to one trade partner, the country is required to extend it to all members of the WTO. It only ensures non-discrimination – which means treating virtually everyone equally.

India’s tough  talk of `surgical attacks’ is hollow as  Pakistan reportedly used US Raytheon TOW 2A anti-armour missiles , TOW-2 anti-tank guided missiles and  120 mm heavy mortars to target Indian army bunkers in the Rajouri and Poonch  sectors. If Indian army advances on international border, it will have to face Pakistan’s Nasr TNW missiles and Chinese Sh-15 Howitzer (TNW) Guns (American equivalent M-777).

The surge in Kashmir violence is due to political vacuum. More and more youth are being attracted to violence. Indian Express dated February 16, 2019 reported `Over the last three years, the total number of freedom fighters  killed, both local and foreign, climbed from 130 in 2016 to 200 in 2017 and 240 in 2018. Most of them were local youth. In the first 46 days of 2019, 31 militants have been killed in the Valley. In 2018, there were 99 operations in the Valley, with 28 civilian casualties. At least 57 of these operations took place in South Kashmir, and civilian deaths were reported in Shopian, Pulwama and Kulgam in South Kashmir, police officers said. They attributed the many operations to a sharp spike in the number of local recruits to militant ranks since mid-2015, after a relative drop in militancy-related incidents between 2008 and 2013’.

Let India stop blaming Pakistan and look to ground reality. Reminisce what historian Pundit Kalhana, in his twelfth century magnum opus Raja Tarangni (River of Kings). Says `Such is Kashmir, the country which may be conquered by the forces of spiritual love but not by armed forces’ (Ganguly Rajat, India Pakistan and the Kashmir Dispute, Asian Studies Institute and Centre for Strategic Studies, Victoria University of Wellington, Australia).

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