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Can India End the Scourge of Corruption?

Maria Amjad

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Records tell that India has a long distance to cover to contribute to the BRICS recent plan of working together to combat corruption. However, if the promise of corruption-free India till 2022 is taken seriously, India would be used as a model to follow in rest of the Asia.

Corruption still drags on India and China

Earlier this month, BRICS countries wrapped up their ninth summit, “Stronger Partnership for a Brighter Future” in Xiamen, China. The summit resulted in a concrete declaration to support international cooperation against corruption, including through the BRICS Anti-Corruption Working Group. The move comes as new developments from India and China show that it will be a long time before either of the association’s biggest members can truly contribute to the plan. However, recent initiatives to combat corruption in India have shown real promise – and can be duplicated elsewhere in Asia and other developing countries.

India: black money and bribery

Despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pledge to end corruption by the country’s 70th birthday, India passed the mark with a slew of missed goalposts and disappointed expectations. Most recently, the Reserve Bank of India said that its move to ban large bank notes last November as part of an effort to crack down on bribery only appears to have accomplished the opposite. In the end, 99% of the demonetized 500- and 1,000-rupee notes were deposited or exchanged for new money. And the demonetization initiative didn’t only backfire; it also resulted in a wider slowdown of economic growth that affected agriculture, the rural economy, and property.

The failed scheme arrived soon after another major corruption scandal that laid bare the continued problem of rampant bribery in Indian hospitals. The issue was exposed following the deaths of 60 people in Uttar Pradesh hospital over five days due to insufficient oxygen supplies. The company providing the oxygen reportedly cut off the supplies after the hospital had repeatedly failed to pay their bills. In India, public officials frequently push their vendors for “commissions.” It’s common knowledge that even after public contracts are handed out, vendors still have to beg for payment, and the best way to guarantee a steady flow of compensation is to hand the officials in charge a “bonus”. When they were asked whom they blamed for the deaths, several parents of children who died due to lack of oxygen said “corruption.” The head of the medical college, who has now quit, was already suspected of mishandling public funds.

The China example

Like Modi, President Xi Jinping has also been leading a much-publicized campaign to crack down on bribery among civil servants and corporations in China – which, despite the prosecutions of thousands, has had mixed results so far. For instance, China’s new anti-corruption “super agency” will start work in March 2018, but the draft State Supervision Law that sets up that body has not been made public. What is known about the agency and the law signals that the government will only entrench a broken system, not fix it. According to Human Rights Watch, the agency will consolidate anti-corruption powers that are currently distributed among different government agencies, gain new powers of detention, and most worrisome of all, share space and staff with a powerful Communist Party body that is charged with enforcing Party rules. At a time when even China’s own regulatory officials continue to be charged with graft, consolidating anti-graft bodies in such a way seem no way to tackle the problem.

Not surprisingly, the same corruption that seeps throughout government agencies has affected the private sector, as well. One of the biggest cases involved British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline. Mark Reilly, the former China boss of the company, and two other colleagues were charged with corruption in 2014 following a 10-month investigation into how the firm made billions of dollars by bribing medical staff and hospitals. Because of cases like this, healthcare has become the main focus for the president’s campaign against corporate graft, with global and Chinese healthcare companies including Bayer and Nestlé becoming the subject of probes for corruption.

Possible solutions

In his address to the Indian people during Independence Day celebrations last month, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi insisted that there would be a New India by 2022 – one that would be “free of casteism, terrorism, corruption, nepotism.” In order to fulfil these promises, however, New Delhi will need a more realistic plan to tackle graft by the time it celebrates three-quarters of a century. One promising new initiative comes from a number of large firms, which are joining up in support of better ethics and business practices in India and South Asia. The firms plan to work with the business ethics advocacy group Ethisphere Institute to create a strategy to make anti-corruption a regular part of everyday business considerations and conversations. If successful, such a plan could be duplicated in other Asian countries, not least China.

On top of such private-driven initiatives, New Delhi and Beijing alike must enforce broader, international initiatives, like the OECD’s Anti-Corruption Action Plan for Asia and the Pacific. The plan, which was originally formed in 2001, is formally endorsed by 31 countries today including India and China. But endorsing the plan simply won’t be enough. Both countries must do more to carry it out effectively, such as crafting and enforcing more laws to proscribe conflicts of interest and simplifying mechanisms for anonymously reporting instances of bribery.

These private- and public-driven initiatives to combat corruption are only some of the many tools at the disposal of India and China. Now, with both countries continuing to score low in international measures of transparency, it’s up to them to not only issue declarations about the importance of combatting corruption, but also to take concrete action. Otherwise, statements like those issued at the BRICS summit will remain nothing but that.

Maria Amjad has graduated from Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), Lahore, Pakistan, with a Political Science degree. Her interests include the history and politics of the South Asian region with a particular interest in India-Pakistan relations. The writer can be reached at mariaamjad309[at]gmail.com

South Asia

Excellency Narendra Modi when will you become Affectionate Neighbour?

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Slavery was abolished in Islam 1500 years ago. Against this backdrop the Muslims of Indo-Pak subcontinent revolted against the “British Rule” to get rid of their clutches / slavery. The Muslim political thinkers and Ulemas reached to the conclusion that Muslims cannot live with Britishers and Hindus on the basis of “Two Nation Theory” in line with Allama Muhammad Iqbal (late) and Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (late) political wisdom. The revolt against British was culminated into “War of Independence” in 1857. This laid stone and paved the way for an Islamic state now known as “Pakistan”. The Hindus were also benefited with the creation of Pakistan and thereafter a Hindu sate “India” also came on the world globe. After the independence in 1947 Pakistan is maintaining cordial relations with neighbouring and other countries of the world. Unfortunately the Hindu psyche and their Slave Mentality could not be changed even after 70 years and the Indians still owe allegiance from core of their heart to her Majesty the Queen of Great Britain (UK). Even today the Indian Prime Minister HE Narendra Modi pay homage to British Government and submit reports on  daily basis. The classic example is the recent visit of Narendra Modi to London (April 2018) in which he in a question and answers session at Central Hall Westminster (London) revealed before the audience regarding surgical strikes carried out by Indian Army against Pakistani troops deployed along LoC.

Indian PM in a bid to muster support and financial assistance from British Government for his forth coming election’s 2019 propagated and boosted his concocted version that Indian authorities kept on calling Pakistani counterparts in Islamabad to collect dead bodies of Pakistani soldiers from LoC. The information disseminated to the Britishers against Pakistan was false and far from truth.

Unfortunately, the Indian Intelligence Agencies, its Army and Foreign office have made it a routine to interfere in the internal matters of the peripheral countries in a bid to accomplish  their hegemonic designs which the Indian leadership has been claiming  from time to time including Narendra Modi false / tall claim of creation of Bangladesh in 1971. The Indian Army is also following the foot prints / aggressive policies of Indian political leadership. General Bipon Rawat (Indian Army Chief) and Lt Gen AK Bhaat, Corps Commander Srinagar in their media briefings have been threatening Pakistan Armed Forces and Kashmiri Muslim freedom fighters / organizations of dire consequences, they committed atrocities / brutalities on the innocent Muslims / minorities by using lethal weapons including Anti-Tank Guided Missiles, Mortar guns and chemical agents.

India to fulfill its hegemonic designs in South Asia and enhance its influence, the Indian Defence Minister Mst Nirmala Subramanian visited various foreign countries to purchase military equipment worth US 5.6 billion including SA-400 missile system F-35 fighter aircraft from Israel and 80 MI-70 helicopter to augment mobilization of Indian troops and LEA’s to crush innocent Muslims of IHK and Sikhs of Khalistan movement. Indian government in addition to further enhance the barbaric activities of its  intelligence / security agencies, RAW, Intelligence Bureau, Bureau of Investigation, Special protection group and National Security Guards are allowed to import i arms, / ammunition, telescopic silencer short guns, with night vision capabilities and hand grenades from US / Israel without the scrutiny and permission of Indian parliament and Indian Defence Ministry. These sophisticated arms / ammunition will be smuggled and supplied to various terrorist groups in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nepal by RAW / MOSAAD / CIA. In Nepal RAW has established a front organization by the name of Islami Sangh Nepal and in Bangladesh Faleh-e-Insaniyat Foundation to impart training to terrorists in fabricating improvised explosive devices. The arms / ammunition are also supplied from RAW establishments to dissident / terrorist groups to carry out violence and instability in the peripheral countries.

Excellency Modi we have tried to highlight the chronological   sequence of events  and nefarious activities being carried out by your Government, Senior Army officers, RAW / Intelligence Bureau and Law Enforcing Agencies. The scrutiny / analysis for the reasons behind aggressive behavior pattern / attitude are the outcome of Hindu mechanism of hereditary, aggression, frustration and anxiety in Indian society. They have fallen prey to psychotic disorder and negative Edipis Complex. To live in the “Global Village” of civilized nations it is high time on the part of Indian Government to change its policies and attitude in order to prove themselves as a civilized mature and affectionate nation towards its neighboring countries.

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South Asia

What to do with Pakistani militant Hafez Saeed? Pakistan and China grope for ambiguity

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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Recent remarks by several senior Pakistani officials suggest that Pakistan and China are groping with how to deal with globally designated Pakistani militant Hafez Saeed as the South Asian nation gears up for elections expected in July and risks being next month put on an international terrorism finance and money laundering watchlist.

The Pakistani-Chinese dilemma stems from a China-backed Pakistani refusal to fully implement designations of Hafez Saeed by the United Nations Security Council and the US Treasury.

The United States has put a $10 million bounty on the head of Mr. Saeed, who is believed to lead the outlawed militant group, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) as well as Jamaat-ud-Dawa, an alleged LeT front, and is suspected of being the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks in which 166 people were killed.

Pakistan has repeatedly put Mr. Saaed under house arrest, only to release him on court orders that asserted that there was insufficient evidence against him. The government has half-heartedly sought to seize Jamaat-ud-Dawa assets and prevent it from collecting donations through its charity arm, Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation.

Pakistan’s election commission has so far refused to register a political party established by Jamaat-ud-Dawa in advance of the elections. The refusal would not prevent party members from running as independents.

To reduce focus on Mr. Saaed, a senior aide to Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that Chinese President Xi Jinping had asked Mr. Abbasi during a meeting on the side lines of last month’s Boao Forum to explore relocating Mr. Saaed to a Middle Eastern country.

“At a 35-minute meeting, at least 10 minutes of the discussion dealt with Saeed. The Chinese President was keen on pressing the Prime Minister to find an early solution to keep Saeed away from the limelight,” The Hindu quoted the aide as saying.

In separate remarks, Major General Asif Ghafoor, a spokesman for Pakistan’s intelligence service, Inter Services Intelligence, told Indian Express that “anything (Mr. Saeed) does, other than violence, is good. There is a process in Pakistan for anyone to participate in politics. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has its rules and laws. If he (Mr. Saeed) fulfils all those requirements that is for the ECP to decide.”

The divergent proposals to either remove Mr. Saeed from the limelight or mainstream him by integrating him into the political process are unlikely to satisfy either the United Nations or the United States.

They are also unlikely to prevent the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global financial watchdog that monitors the funding of political violence and money laundering, from next month putting Pakistan on its watchlist.

The FATF action could negatively affect the Pakistan economy. Pakistan risks downgrading by multilateral lenders such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) as well as by international credit rating agencies Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch.

Mr. Xi’s suggestion to Mr. Abbasi reflects Chinese ambivalence towards those Pakistani militants that both Islamabad and Beijing see as useful tools to keep India off balance. China protected Mr. Saeed from UN designation prior to the Mumbai attacks and has since prevented another Pakistani militant, Masood Azhar, from being designated by the Security Council.

At the same time, China refrained in February from shielding Pakistan from censorship by FATF.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson nonetheless argued at the time that “in recent years, Pakistan has made important progress in actively strengthening financial regulations to combat terror financing… China highly recognises that and hopes all relevant parties of the international community could arrive at an objective and fair conclusion on that.”

Implementing Mr. Xi’s proposal to remove Mr. Saeed from the limelight is easier said than done. Its hard to see what Middle Eastern nation would risk international criticism by granting Mr. Saeed asylum without tacit approval by the United States and/or the United Nations. By the same token, its unlikely that either would agree to the scheme.

Similarly, neither the UN nor the United States are likely to be persuaded by a belief within the Pakistani military that the best way of blunting militancy that has over the decades been woven into the fabric of significant segments of the armed forces, intelligence and society is by mainstreaming militants and integrating them into the political process.

Ousted Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif kicked up a storm when he earlier this month appeared to confirm the pervasiveness of militancy by suggesting that the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks had been supported by Pakistan.

“Militant organisations are active. Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai? Explain it to me. Why can’t we complete the trial? It’s unacceptable. This is exactly what we are struggling for. President Putin has said it. President Xi has said it. We could have already been at seven per cent growth (in GDP), but we are not,” Mr. Sharif said.

The remarks by the Pakistani officials suggest that both Pakistan and China are attempting to square circles.

Pakistan needs to be seen as cracking down on militancy while considering the domestic influence of ultra-conservative religious groups as well as seemingly misguided beliefs that support for anti-Indian militants serves its purpose.

For its part, China’s justification of its hardhanded crackdown in the north-western province of Xinjiang as a bid to counter jihadism and nationalism among, Uighurs, a Turkic people, is weakened by its reluctance to be equally firm in countering militants in Pakistan.

The problem for both countries is that 1 + 1 = 2, whichever way one looks at it.

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South Asia

How the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal affects India

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Authors: Tridivesh Singh Maini & Sandeep Sachdeva*

While India was guarded in it’s response to the withdrawal of US from the Iran Nuclear Deal, it surely realizes the implications of the US withdrawal. Iran is India’s third largest source of crude oil (after Iraq and Saudi Arabia) . Between April 2017 and January 2018, New Delhi imported well over 18 million tonnes of crude oil.

New Delhi has also invested in the development of the Chabahar Port Project, which will provide India, access to Afghanistan and Central Asia. This project is extremely important for India, since it will help in bypassing Pakistan, which has continuously kept India out of the Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA). During Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s Iran visit in May 2016, India had signed an agreement, committing 500 Million USD for the development of Chabahar. During Modi’s visit,  a trilateral transport and transit partnership was also signed between India, Afghanistan and Iran.

In February 2018, during Iranian President Rouhani’s visit  to India, a lease agreement was signed between India and Iran. The lease agreement gave operational control of Phase 1 of Chabahar Port (Shahid Beheshti port) to India. The Modi, Hassan Rouhani Joint statement mentioned the need for making Chabahar part of INSTC project and PM Modi further emphasised that “We will support the construction of the Chabahar-Zahedan rail link, so that Chabahar gateway’s potential could be fully utilised.”

Here it would be pertinent to point out, that to enhance connectivity with Afghanistan, India has also set up an India Afghan Air Corridor, two flights are currently operational; one connecting Mumbai with Kabul, and another which connects Delhi with Kabul.

Indian hopes

For the time being, New Delhi has rested its hopes on the fact, that European countries are trying to keep the deal intact, and US will also not impose sanctions on allies, including India, for engaging with Iran. Defence Secretary James Mattis in a Congressional hearing held by the Senate Armed Services Committee, had categorically stated,  that the US should be careful with regard to imposing sanctions against allies, under Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

Mattis said, that allies like India should be provided a national security waiver, against imposition of sanctions for the purchase of S-400 air defence missile system from Russia.

A number of US Congressmen and Senators too have echoed Mattis’ views saying that India is valuable ally and should be exempted from sanctions

What India needs to be cautious about

While India does have time to react to the sanctions re-imposed, and the fact that European countries are keen to keep the deal alive are important. Recent statements by the US National Security Advisor, John Bolton saying that Europe will not be immune from sanctions, and would ultimately fall in line needs to be closely watched.

Said Bolton in an interview with ABC’sThis Week:“Europeans are going to face the effective US sanctions — already are, really — because much of what they would like to sell to Iran involves US technology, for which the licenses will not be available.”

Bolton also stated, that these countries will ultimately realise that it is in their interest to go along with the US.

Earlier US Ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell advised Germany to re-consider business ties with Iran:‘German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately”.

New Delhi needs to strike a balancing act between Iran and US, but it also needs to have a clear plan of action to deal with US sanctions against Iran. In the past few years, India has successfully managed to balance relations between Iran and US, and Iran and Israel. Given the recent sanctions and the hawkish approach of the Trump Administration, it may be tough.

China factor

In the meanwhile, New Delhi would be well advised to follow closely China’s reaction to the withdrawal of US from JCPOA. Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited three important countries Russia, China and Europe to save the JCPOA. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said “it was hard-earned  deal, and China will take an objective, fair and responsible attitude, keep communication and cooperation with all parties concerned, and continue to work to maintain the deal”.

The China factor doesn’t end here for India. Off late, ties between India and China have witnessed an improvement, during PM Modi’s recent China visit, it was decided. that both countries will undertake a joint project in Afghanistan. In recent months, there seem to be some indicators of lowering of tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad as well.  Could, Beijing get New Delhi and Islamabad to discuss the issue of  transit trade to Afghanistan?  An opinion piece, ‘Pakistan’s military reaches out to India’, published in RUSI (Royal United Services Institute) discusses the willingness of Pakistan to discuss this issue, but India had turned down the offer in October 2017. Maybe New Delhi, could explore this option, and Beijing could support such an effort.

Conclusion

In conclusion, New Delhi will need to handle the current situation with great dexterity, while US is an important strategic partner, India has also got an opportunity to send an unequivocal message to Washington, that its own interests are paramount, and it will not blindly follow any one camp. In spite of all the challenges and upheavals likely to result from Trump’s decision, this also provides a golden opportunity for re-shaping the narrative within South Asia.

*Sandeep Sachdeva, Independent Foreign Policy Analyst

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