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Time to upgrade India-Russia relations

Niranjan Marjani

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Vladimir Putin visits India on October 4-5 for the 19th Annual India-Russia Bilateral Summit. The expectations and anticipations from this summit are principally regarding the defence deal concerning the S-400 missile system. Russia is a major defence supplier of India and a long time close friend. But now India and Russia should focus on upgrading their relations. This summit is important from three perspectives – reshaping India-Russia relations, balancing India’s relations with Russia and the United States (US) and forwarding India’s strategic outreach.

Reshaping India-Russia relations

Russia (which was erstwhile USSR) has been a close friend of India during the entire Cold War period when India’s relations with the US were not very cordial. Since the end of Cold War India’s relations with the US have improved significantly while friendship with Russia has continued. Despite America’s proximity to Pakistan, India-US ties have strengthened in economic as well as in defence sector. Disagreements between India and the US at bilateral and global level have not affected the progress of their relations. While India-Russia relations have been overall cordial for the past seven decades, changing geopolitical circumstances and individual interests demand that both the countries evaluate their relations and try to reshape these. The need for reshaping the relations arises from Russia’s growing proximity to China and also Pakistan. This development presents a challenge for India. It is important to see if both India and Russia can work their relations around China and Pakistan and can still be relevant partners to each other. The progress of India-US relations could act as a guide to India-Russia. For India it would be better to consider Russia as a part of a multilateral order than look at it as a traditional partner. Competing at international level to gain Russia’s cooperation could benefit India to promote its multilateral policy.

Balancing between Russia and the US

The balancing act for India between Russia and the US is that if it can keep the choice factor out of the equation. India’s decision to go ahead with purchase of S-400 Missile System despite reservations from the US is more about keeping options open. India’s stand on the S-400 should be form a strong basis for reshaping of the India-Russia relations. India’s action is also an important step towards multilateralism that is not particularly directed against the US. The US considers India as an important partner in the Indo-Pacific. For India cooperation with the US is an opportunity to mark its presence in the Indo-Pacific. Similarly Russia could be an important partner for India in Central Asia.

Forwarding India’s strategic outreach

The future of India-Russia relations also depends to a great extent to which both the countries are willing to be strategic partners. India’s relations with Russia offer the former an opportunity to expand its strategic outreach.

Putin’s visit to India comes close on the heels of India’s two diplomatic engagements with the Central Asian Region. Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani visited India on September 19 while Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev visited India on September 30-October 1. India and Russia can take their strategic relations to a higher level if India is able to increase its footprint in Central Asia with Russia’s cooperation. But India’s entry into Central Asia depends on whether India’s decision on oil purchase from Iran. While Iran has assured continuity in oil supply to India it remains to be seen if India defies the US on this issue as well.

Putin’s visit to India comes one month after the India-US 2+2 meeting. Both Russia and the US are valued partners for India. While all the three countries share different world views, India’s world view of multi-polar order allows space for co-existence without conflict. India’s recent diplomatic engagements, especially with Central Asia, must be looked at as an effort towards creating a strategic space to meet India’s interests. With Putin’s visit, India and Russia can step towards being a part of an order and not a separate order in itself.

Niranjan Marjani is an Independent Researcher and Columnist based in Vadodara, India follow on twitter @NiranjanMarjani

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The Likely Outcome of Narendra Modi’s Unconstitutional Seizure of Kashmir

Eric Zuesse

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An independent fact-finding mission into the now military-ruled constitutionally autonomous Indian state of Jammu-Kashmir (commonly referred to simply as “Kashmir”) reports that “The whole of Kashmir is, at the moment, a prison, under military control.” That’s not on account of any rebellion which had occurred there (none did); it is instead simply because of an unprovoked blitz unconstitutional invasion, on August 5th, of virtually only Hindu Indian troops, into the now Hindu-totalitarian-run nation of India’s, only majority-Muslim state, so as to conquer that state totally, and thus to now turn India itself into an apartheid-supremacist regime, much like Israel is over Palestine. Kashmir has suddenly been turned into India’s own Palestine. That land was suddenly grabbed and turned into a huge prison for Muslims.

The longer any Constitution is, the more unmanageable and less just the country or other state tends to be, and India unfortunately has one of the world’s two longest Constitutions. Wikipedia says that “The Indian constitution is the world’s longest for a sovereign nation.[b][3][4][5] At its enactment, it had 395 articles in 22 parts and 8 schedules.[16] At about 145,000 words, it is the second-longest active constitution – after the Constitution of Alabama [that’s the American state of Alabama] – in the world.[34]”

When Narendra Modi suddenly announced on August 5th that the Constitutionally guaranteed autonomy of India’s only majority-Muslim state, Kashmir-Jammu, or “J&K,” is now past history, no longer in effect, the brilliant “Moon of Alabama” blogger immediately headlined — and explained why — “India Will Come To Regret Today’s Annexation Of Jammu And Kashmir”. He provided this historical background:

In July 1949, Sheikh Abdullah and three colleagues joined the Indian Constituent Assembly and negotiated the special status of J&K, leading to the adoption of Article 370. This article limited the Union’s legislative power over Kashmir to the three subjects in the Instrument of Accession. If the Union government wanted to extend other provisions of the Indian Constitution, it would have to issue a Presidential Order under Article 370. The state government would have to give prior concurrence to this order. Moreover, the constituent assembly of J&K would have to accept these provisions and incorporate them in the state’s constitution. Once Kashmir’s constitution was framed, there could be no further extension of the Union’s legislative power to the state. This secured J&K’s autonomy.

Incidentally, this was the reason for listing the provisions of Article 370 as “temporary” in the Indian Constitution: the final contours of the state’s constitutional relationship with the Union were to be determined by the constituent assembly of J&K.

Today Amit Shah, the leader of India’s Upper House, announced the unilateral revocation of Article 370 (and the related Article 35a).

Shah did this by calling Article 370 “temporary” and ignoring that that appellation (“temporary”) had referred only to its being temporary until J&K would officially concur in it, which J&K quickly did. Ever since then, it has been, and remains, permanent (according to the Supreme Court of India ruling on 16 December 2016, reaffirming that same Court’s earlier ruling, on 10 October 1968). Therefore, it is clear that only by means of amending India’s Constitution can J&K’s autonomy be undone.

That anonymous blogger (whom I consider to be one of the world’s greatest investigative journalists) then continued:

It is inevitable that the actions today will lead [to] a new insurgency in J&K and beyond. Even if Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan does not want to support a new guerilla army in J&K, the military and other nationalist Pakistanis will push to supply it with everything that is needed [in order to support such an army].

So: at least unless and until India’s Constitution is amended, Modi’s grab for Kashmir not only is unConstitutional, but if this military occupation continues, then it is likely to spark a war in Kashmir, which could quickly become a war between Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan, next door to India.

How likely is India’s Constitution to be amended so as to allow this military occupation to continue indefinitely?

Wikipedia says:The procedure [to amend] is detailed in Article 368. An amendment bill must be passed by each house of Parliament by a two-thirds majority of its total membership when at least two-thirds are present and vote. Certain amendments pertaining to the constitution’s federal nature must also be ratified by a majority of state legislatures.

Whether all of that can be done is highly questionable. So: not only is Modi’s action unConstitutional, but it could remain so — and produce a huge war.

No matter how bad India’s Constitution might be, Modi is far worse, because he is violating it by means of this brutal and entirely unjustifiable military crackdown.

On the same day as the crackdown, Indian Hindus in other parts of the country announced online that they now planned to relocate to Kashmir. The expectation is that the Muslims in Kashmir will be driven out and replaced by Hindus. This is widely believed to be the Indian Government’s plan, and the reason for this crackdown: an ethnic-cleansing of J&K for the benefit of India’s Hindus.

On August 10th, the New York Times detailed how horrific the crackdown is. Headlining “Inside Kashmir, Cut Off From the World: ‘A Living Hell’ of Anger and Fear”, they reported, from the city of Srinagar in Kashmir, that:

A sense of coiled menace hung over the locked-down city and the wider region on Saturday, a day after a huge protest erupted into clashes between Kashmiris and Indian security forces.

Shops were shut. A.T.M.s had run dry. Just about all lines to the outside world — internet, mobile phones, even landlines — remained severed, rendering millions of people incommunicado.

The New York Times gained one of the first inside views by a news organization of life under lockdown in Kashmir and found a population that felt besieged, confused, frightened and furious by the seismic events of this week. …

Tens of thousands of troops from the Indian Army, the Central Reserve Police Force (a paramilitary unit) and the Kashmiri State police have been deployed in just about every corner of the valley. In some villages, even remote ones, a soldier was posted outside the gate of each family’s home. …

Mr. Modi has said the new status will make Kashmir more peaceful and prosperous. In a televised speech on Thursday, which most Kashmiris could not watch because their television service had also been cut, he insisted that turning Kashmir into a federal territory would eliminate corruption, attract investment and move it “forward with new hopes.’’

Narendra Modi had risen to power in India by imposing a 3-day anti-Muslim “pogrom” or “ethnic cleansing” in the state of Gujarat, from 27 February through 1 March of 2002, during which, approximately 150,000 people were driven to refugee camps. So, there is clear reason for India’s 15% Muslim minority to fear the country’s 80% Hindu majority, who, in 2014, elected this bigot, Modi, to lead India. And, now since August 5th, that bigot has an iron grip on India’s only Muslim-majority state, J&K.

The pressure upon Pakistan’s leader, Imran Khan, to respond militarily, against the Modi-led bigots, can only rise, as long as Modi’s unConstitutional aggression, perhaps amounting to an even bigger ethnic cleansing, now against the residents in J&K, continues. A mass-exodus of Muslims from J&K is likely and expected, especially into adjoining Pakistan. As those refugees accumulate there, the pressure on Khan can only rise even further. Already on August 11th, Khan tweeted that “Attempt is to change demography of Kashmir through ethnic cleansing. Question is: Will the world watch & appease as they did Hitler at Munich?” 

As of yet, there is no actual discussion in the now totalitarian Indian media, regarding a Constitutional Amendment, in order to legalize Modi’s August 5th action. His Government’s official position is:

Whatever its legal or historical status, the time has come to amend, if not end Article 370. We must not forget that the continuance of Article 370 is the biggest hurdle to a lasting solution to the Kashmir conundrum. As such, it is the other side of the Pulwama massacre. Strikes across the border are only one way to avenge or redress the latter. But the internal rectification required is the full and complete integration of Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of India. In order to accomplish this, Article 370 must go.

So, they aren’t actually saying that Article 370 “is gone,” but that it “must go.” They are, right at the start, setting up the possibility for an Amendment-resolution, by asserting that “the time has come to amend, if not end Article 370.” They are not actually saying Article 370 has ended. This lacuna is their existing policy’s escape-valve. The regime’s goal is to act as if  Article 370 is already simply gone, until the public overwhelmingly assumes that it has somehow been Constitutionally removed — even though it hasn’t. The regime’s control over its press is sufficient to exclude, for now, any public debate about that central issue — it is a non-issue, currently. It is an issue that’s thus being held in abeyance. 

But, also, the official position asserts that, come what may, Article 370, and 35A both must no longer continue in force; and specific condemnations of the Muslim faith and of Muslim traditions are prominent in this part of the Government’s official position, such as:

abrogation of laws like Article 370 and 35A will be opposed by vested interests. It has taken decades to rid the Muslim daughters of India of the evil and ignominy of tripletalaaq — a pernicious custom whereby a Muslim male could divorce his wife by a simple rendering of the word talaaq, three times, by any means. Here too, the Muslim clergy, all male dominated, termed such a judgement by the apex court as an assault on their faith, conveniently forgetting that Muslim countries such as Pakistan have already enacted such laws decades ago. It is, thus, time for India to move on and not be held hostage to blackmail and threats from religious power brokers.

So: the Hindu regime is now officially damning Islam, and calling Muslim clergy “religious power brokers.” This is blatantly in violation of India’s 471-page Constitution. Here is from the Constitution’s Table of Contents:

PART III 

FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS 

General 

12. Definition …………………………………………………………………. 6 

13. Laws inconsistent with or in derogation of the fundamental rights. …

Right to Equality 

14. Equality before law ………………………………………………………………….. 6 

15. Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth … 7

Among the reasons for the Constitution’s extraordinary length are its many exceptions, such as, for example, Article 371A, which says that nothing in the Constitution “shall apply to the State of Nagaland unless the Legislative Assembly of Nagaland by a resolution so decides.” 

However, what will happen if the Government’s promise that its August 5th action will bring ‘peace’ to Kashmir turns out to become too blatantly false in order for that lie to be able to be successfully continued? Perhaps the ‘news’-media will then receive changed instructions, so as to allow a public debate about whether, maybe, there ought  to be a Parliamentary initiative to put forth such an Amendment to the Constitution, for consideration. And, if the Government by then has decided to cancel the August 5th action, that failed initiative would be the best possible excuse for doing this: the failure of the initiative to revise Article 370 would become the excuse for cancelling the August 5th action. And, then, the peace-negotiations, could begin, between the J&K state, and the Indian Government. Modi has not locked that exit-door from his policy; and, if he walks through it, he’ll be able to blame the legislature, for failing to remove Article 370.

Every dictatorship thrives on the continuing inability of the public to examine and analyze reality in the way that a scientist does in the practice of his/her particular profession; and that’s the reason why these intellectual skills, the most basic ones of all — thinking in the way that a scientist does — are not being taught in all of public education, but instead the popular myths are taught to children, and are being reinforced in India and other dictatorships. That makes the public controllable, by the dictators. And so it is, in India today.

As regards the Constitutionality of the measure that the Modi regime is applying so as to impose this theft of control over J&K from J&K’s majority-Muslim residents, that measure is Presidential Order C.O. 272, which was issued on August 5th. The chief blog of India’s Constitutional lawyers, “Indian Constitutional Law and Philosophy”, headlined on August 13th “Guest Post: Article 370: The Constitutional challenge”, and the author, “Nivedhitha K.”, opened that “The Presidential Order C.O. 272 … is the genesis of the subsequent events,” and closed that “the Presidential Order C.O. 272 and all the subsequent activities that have … genesis in the presidential order are unconstitutional.” The logical process between the opening and ending was flawless; and, so, there can be no honest legal question about the unConstitutionality of what Modi has been doing to J&K ever since August 5th — Modi’s traitorism to India’s Constitution, and thus to all Indians. The only real question is instead whether India’s ‘news’-media will start to publicize this important fact. Meanwhile, the Government races forward with its rape of India’s Constitution, in the hope that enough J&K Muslims will evacuate that land so as to enable Hindus ‘democratically’ to impose some sort of apartheid anti-Muslim regime there. It’s simply a race against time, all in clear violation of Indian law, to achieve Hindu control there. Modi seems to be as bold as Hitler was. Fascists everywhere are traitors to their country, and this is now being made manifestly clear in India. No nation where the Constitution is unenforced can be a democracy — not even if the Constitution itself might be thought, by some people, to be, itself, democratic.

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Indian Subcontinent Independence and Economies Lagging Counterparts

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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Mid-August is when the subcontinent celebrates independence from Britain.  Born in a cauldron of hate 72 years ago, India today is again filling it to the brim.

In one fell swoop, Mr. Modi has denuded Kashmir of the flimsy shroud purporting to preserve its cultural and territorial integrity through articles 370 and 35A in the constitution — the latter empowering the state legislature to define permanent residents while Article 370 ensured special status allowing a state flag, a separate constitution and autonomy over internal administration.

The proverbial velvet glove masking the iron fist has been removed.  It allowed a certain pretense by the quisling generations of leadership while they shielded their ears from the sound of military boots.  All the while, restive young men tired of fetters and humiliation surrendered to the desire for freedom and paid the price … in blood.

How many have died?  No one really knows but in the decades since the 1980s, estimates run to a hundred thousand, perhaps more, although Delhi’s figures are naturally lower.  And a new cycle of death is about to commence.

The question of which particular central government is in overall control matters less when the residents of a state/province/territory are free to run their own daily lives.  In Kashmir they are not, because Delhi does not agree with their wants.  As a matter of fact, the whole Indian subcontinent has been fractious, often at war, and wars have a cost.

In 1950, three years after independence, India had a per capita GDP placing it in the middle range among the countries in the world.  Now despite its ‘economic miracle’ it is near the bottom preceding only destitute African nations and war-torn Syria and Afghanistan.  Pakistan and Bangladesh are similar.

In one of the world’s hottest (but clearly not hot enough) economies, almost 80 percent of India lives on less than a half dollar a day or 20 rupees.  So reported Reuters in 2007, drawing on the report, “Conditions of Work and Promotion of Livelihoods in the Unorganized Sector,” published by India’s “National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganized Sector” or (NCEUS).

It identifies most of those having to live on less than 20 rupees (or 50 US cents in 2007) as from the informal labor sector, providing day labor with no job security.  Worse, 26 percent were living below the then poverty line of 12 rupees per day, until the gate posts for poverty were changed to burnish the country’s image.  Meanwhile, the rupee has nearly halved in value to its present 71 to the dollar.  The fate of Pakistan and Bangladesh are not dissimilar.

But compare the subcontinent to other countries that were not too different economically seven decades ago.  In 1950 India had a per capita GDP of US $597. Pakistan $650; Indonesia, Thailand and South Korea in the mid $800 range.  The figures for 2018 from the World Bank tell their own story:  India $2016, Pakistan $1473, Indonesia $3894, Thailand $7274 and South Korea an off the scale $31,363.  Why are India, Bangladesh and Pakistan not even close to any of them? 

Pakistan has been damaged by the spillovers of the Afghan war but that is a small part.  What about India?  Kashmir and its other insurgencies drain resources.  Moreover, military expenditures driven by the mistrust of each for the other, and India’s search for some undefined and unattainable glory are also part of the problem. 

The major cause by far are incompetent governments unable to deliver sound economic policy … starting first with a decent education system.  The wealth of a country in our modern world lies with the capabilities of its work force, not last century’s divisive nationalist rhetoric.  If it is not clear enough to the governments in the subcontinent, then Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore (current per capita GDP over $58,000) has a blueprint. 

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The Kashmir crisis spotlights what a civilizational world looks like

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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India’s decision to deprive Kashmir of its autonomy, alongside a clampdown in the troubled north-western Chinese province of Xinjiang and US-backed Israeli annexation of Arab land, is the latest indication of what a new world order led by civilizational leaders may look like.

In dealing with recent conflicts, US President Donald J. Trump, Israeli and Indian prime ministers Benyamin Netanyahu and Narendra Modi and Arab and Muslim leaders have put flesh on the skeleton of a new world order that enables civilizational leaders to violate with impunity international law.

It also allows them to cast aside diplomacy and the notion of a nation state as the world has known it since the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia and ignore national, ethnic, minority, religious and human rights.

Fulfilling a longstanding election promise, Mr. Modi’s unilateral withdrawal of Kashmir’s right to govern itself fits the mould of Mr. Trump’s unilateral recognition of Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

The recognition was enabled by Arab and Muslim leaders who have abandoned any pretence of Islamic solidarity and credibility in their increasingly selective lip service to the plight of their ethnic and or religious brethren.

The actions and policies of Messrs Modi, Trump and Netanyahu are those of civilizational leaders who define the borders of their countries in terms of historical claims; representation of a civilization rather than a nation whose frontiers are determined by internationally recognized demarcation, population and language; and rejection of the rights of others.

Recalling the principles of Indian policy in India’s first years as an independent state, historian of South Asia William Dalrymple noted how far Mr. Modi has moved his country away from the vision of a pluralistic, democratic nation state envisioned by independence activist and first Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

“Kashmir is not the property of India or Pakistan, (it) belongs to the Kashmiri people. When Kashmir acceded to India, we made it clear to the leaders of the Kashmiri people that we would ultimately abide by the verdict of their plebiscite. If they tell us to walk out, I would have no hesitation in quitting Kashmir. We have taken the issue to the United Nations and given our word of honour for a peaceful solution. As a great nation, we cannot go back on it,” Mr. Nehru said in 1952.

Indian polls have shown that as many as two thirds of the residents of the Kashmir valley, one of the world’s most militarized regions, want independence.

Mr. Modi signalled that he knew that he was playing with fire in what former US president Bill Clinton once dubbed “the most dangerous place in the world.”

Anticipating that his move would be rejected by India’s Muslim community, already on the defensive as a result of Hindu nationalist assaults, Mr. Modi sent ten thousand troops to Kashmir in advance of the revocation, detained scores of political leaders, ordered tourists to leave the region, closed schools and shut down telephone lines and the Internet.

To be sure, the timing of Mr. Modi’s move was likely propelled by Mr. Trump’s recent offer to mediate the Kashmir dispute that India rejected out of hand and US negotiations with the Taliban that could lead to a US withdrawal from Afghanistan and potentially to a Taliban takeover. Both developments would strengthen India’s arch-rival Pakistan.

Nonetheless, Mr. Modi, aided and abetted by likeminded civilizational leaders, has redefined Mr. Nehru’s notion of greatness by framing it in terms of Hindu rather than Indian nationalism, an approach that allows him to go back on the promises and legal, political and moral commitments of his predecessors.

So has Mr. Netanyahu even if Israel’s legal annexation of Arab territory conquered during the 1967 Middle East war was enacted by his predecessors.

Mr. Trump may have emboldened Mr. Modi by setting a precedent for violation of international law by recognizing Israel’s unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem conquered from Jordan and the Golan Heights captured from Syria as well as de facto endorsing Israeli settlement activity on the West Bank.

Most likely, so did Chinese president Xi Jinping who has been able to ensure that the Muslim world has remained silent, and in some cases even endorsed his brutal clampdown on Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang in what constitutes the most frontal assault on a faith in recent memory.

Civilizational moves in Kashmir, Xinjiang and Israeli-occupied territories risk in the short and/or longer term sparking violent conflict, including a confrontation between nuclear powers India and Pakistan and mass popular unrest.

Some ten thousands Kashmiris spilled into the streets in recent days to protest against the revocation of self-rule the moment India eased a government-imposed curfew.

Splits in the Islamic world on how to respond to civilizational moves in long-standing disputes involving Muslim communities could prove to be a double-edged sword for Arab and Muslim leaders who increasingly prioritize what they see as their countries’ national interest above Islamic solidarity and the defence of the ummah, the Muslim community of the faithful.

Like with Xinjiang and Israeli-occupied Arab territory, Turkey and Malaysia were among the few Muslim nations to publicly criticize the Indian move.

The United Arab Emirates went out on a limb with its ambassador to India describing the revocation of Kashmir’s autonomy as an internal Indian matter that would help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of administration and socioeconomic development in the region.

UAE minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar bin Mohammed Gargash subsequently sought to bring the UAE in line with most Muslim states who called for restraint and a peaceful resolution.

The Islamic world’s varied responses to multiple crises that target the rights of Muslims suggest not only impotence but also a growing willingness to sacrifice causes on the altar of perceived national interest and economic advantage.

The question is whether that is an approach that would be popularly endorsed if freedom of expression in many Muslim countries were not severely restricted. The risk is that leaders’ inability to gauge public opinion or willingness to ignore it eventually will come to haunt them.

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