The mass shooting at Las Vegas on October 01, the most gruesome and deadliest of all mass shootings in US history, segued, predictably, into a debate about gun control. Liberal/leftist entities renewed their chants for increased gun control citing the rampage that results due to lax gun ownership legislation, while pro-gun-rights activists rallied behind the claim that firearms in the hands of law-abiding citizens save lives and that such incidents are extreme outliers.
Regardless, I am of the opinion that on balance, guns in the hands of trained, law-abiding citizens protect lives. It’s also important to emphasize that guns don’t kill; malevolent people with access to guns do, and it takes firearms to subdue such people. Of note is the fact that strict gun regulation doesn’t necessarily make it difficult for the offender to obtain firearms, it simply disarms the innocent and makes for a field day for the unhinged loons.
Anyway, I don’t wish to reiterate the merits of gun ownership and make a case against undue gun control and regulation. There are several outstanding and credible sources on the web that make the above argument in a cogent manner.
The following piece is on the possible merits of a law in India along the lines of the 2nd Amendment to the US Bill of Rights. Bear in mind that gun ownership is not enshrined in the Constitution of India and the current gun laws on the books are built up on the disarmament drive during British colonial rule. Disarmament of Indian subjects became an imperative to establishing colonial rule after the armed mutiny of 1857 against growing British takeover of territory, trade, and governance.
India’s bureaucratic culture, corrupt law enforcement agencies, and tardy criminal courts often result in under-reporting and under-trying of offenders, protracted courtroom battles, and, in some cases, withdrawal of charges by the victim. Much of this sorry state of affairs is the result of political pressure or existential threats brought to bear upon the victim.
The above is especially true in the northern states of India, with political power concentrated in the hands of a few well-connected families, prevalence of a lawless culture, and a tacit acceptance of criminal conduct as a daily routine.
This reflects in day-to-day acts of injustice towards those who aren’t well connected and don’t have the means to take legal action. Young women pay a dearer price in this thuggish northern culture with stories of gang rapes, molestation, forced marriages, and dowry-related deaths making frequent headlines in local newspapers.
In 2012, India garnered negative attention in international media for the gruesome gang rape and aggravated assault of a young girl on a public bus. Her male companion was assaulted with a metal rod, which was also used subsequently to penetrate the female victim. It took the court around two and a half years to give a verdict in what had become a high-profile court case.
In the following years, other cases of sexual assault sprung up across the country, with a shocking incident of gang rape in Bombay (Mumbai), known for its nightlife and its low incidence of gory sexual crimes.
It’s not just women whose lives are under direct threat. Journalists, especially those whose opinions are unsavory, have to keep an eye out for danger lurking around the corner. While receiving death threats might be a part and parcel of a profession that engages in political dogfighting with the powers that be, recent years saw the political execution of notable journalists, the recent being that of Ms. Gauri Lankesh.
Minorities, especially Muslims, have come in the cross hairs of Hindu nationalists, especially, with the indirect beef ban instituted across most of India. Past few months saw harassment, lynching, and stabbing of law-abiding citizens over religion and their connection to either consumption of or transportation of beef.
Even businesses aren’t safe if they are on the wrong side of the fence. Hindu fanatics associated with Shiv Sena – a bunch of delinquents that masquerade as a political party – recently forced, under threat, butchers and eateries serving meat to close down for nine days owing to a Hindu festival. This is not the first time this political party has used their muscle to disrupt commerce. The 1990s and early 2000s saw the party’s youth wing vandalize gift stores and harass couples on Valentine’s Day in a bid to maintain and enforce ‘cultural purity.’
The state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) in northern India is presently reeling under the worst form of institutionalized moral policing, with its chief minister, Yogi Adityanath – whose understanding of a secular state is hazy at best – having installed ‘anti-Romeo squads’ to crack down on socializing between opposite sexes. Penance is left at the discretion of police officers or the rag-tag militia in charge with patrolling and ranges from harassment to physical assault.
The ever-growing power of the state is tightening the noose around individual liberty, choice, tolerance, and free commerce – some of the hallmarks of a liberal society. The law enforcement is either complicit with the politicians or ineffective and the courts are sluggish and marred in bureaucracy.
The presence of several fault lines in the Indian demographic, thanks to its multicultural and multiethnic foundations, add fuel to fire.
The Modi administration, fully aware of the fault lines and with intentions to pre-empt insurgencies, doubled down on gun regulation and introduced stricter laws. Under the new law, not only will it be more time consuming and difficult to obtain a gun license, equipment like air-guns, blank-firing guns, and paint ball guns will also require a license.
While it seems that Modi wishes to cut down firearms-related violence, he seems to be willfully ignoring the fact that in 2014, only 14% of the victims of gun violence were killed by licensed guns. A sizeable chunk of these fatalities occurs at the barrel of unlicensed guns, of which there is a thriving underground economy.
Disarming law-abiding citizens only makes them susceptible to being browbeaten by predators, religious fanatics, and political goons.
Could the possession of a firearm by a prospective victim deter the assailant?
“Yes!” says a study out of Chicago that looks at crime deterrence and gun ownership. In fact, the dissuasive effect is more pronounced in crimes like aggravated assault, rape, murder, and robbery.
With courses on safety and use made mandatory for obtaining license, a firearm can be used to level the playing field between the victim and the assailant. Might we see lower incidence of rapes, sexual assaults, disruption of commerce, and infringement of individual liberties? The study does seem to answer this question in the affirmative.
Will Modi and his political mandarins realize this vital fact and loosen up gun regulation for lawful men and women? It doesn’t seem so. A well-regulated citizen militia that doesn’t need to be in his thrall will run counter to his political ambitions and statist principles.
India has a long way to go until she gets her own ‘second amendment.’
The “Neo-Cold War” in the Indian Ocean Region
Addressing an event last 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.
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 chockpoints, 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.
IMF bail-out Package and Pakistan
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.
Now India denies a friendly hand: Imran Khan debuts against arrogant neighbors
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.
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.
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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