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South Asia

The Indo-Pak Conundrum: Victims to their Own Narratives

M Waqas Jan

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As tensions between nuclear armed India and Pakistan once again escalate in the wake of the devastating attack on Indian paramilitary personnel in Pulwama, one can’t help but bemoan the Sisyphean manner in which both countries seem locked in extolling the same narratives over and again. This applies not only to those aiming to broker some semblance of peace between the two age-old rivals, but also those capitalizing on the ensuing discord and enmity for their own benefit. There seems as a result an inescapable script which both the Indian and Pakistani sides seem condemned to follow.

For those unaware of the above reference, it is perhaps better to give a brief account of Sisyphus in order to understand its relevance to Indo-Pak ties. Sisyphus of Ancient Greek legend was condemned by the Gods to rolling a giant boulder up-hill only to watch it roll back down, repeating the tasked infinitum. This punishment, meted out to Sisyphus against his hubris has since often come to denote the futility of human action, in a harsh and unforgiving world. This idea has since been presented by many artists and thinkers in relation to mankind’s own search for the very meaning of existence.

In the near timeless case of India and Pakistan, Sisyphus’s punishing task which he is doomed to carry out eternally, bears a striking resemblance to the futility faced by statesmen and policy-makers from both sides in reaching an agreement over Kashmir. Their inability to break free from the decades old vitriol and bad blood, and to resort to the same threats of war and retaliation have come to characterize the narrative underlying Indo-Pak ties following every major Kashmir linked attack that has taken place in India. The Pathankot and Uri attacks from two years back, the Gurdaspur attack from 2015, the 2008 Mumbai attacks as well as the 2001 attacks on the Indian Parliament in New Delhi have all served to crystallize the animosity between both countries.

All and any efforts made towards even just normalizing relations have been as a result instantly derailed. It’s as if the recent strides made at the ground-breaking ceremony of the Katarpur corridor, the designation of Most Favored Nation (MFN) status with regard to trade, and the decades of people to people ties built around cultural and cricket diplomacy by countless artists, writers, poets musicians and professional athletes from both sides of the border; has all been rendered meaningless in just a matter of days following Pulwama.

It is extremely unfortunate that based on these dynamics, the very idea of brokering a sustainable and lasting peace between the two countries has itself reached mythic proportions. This gap has further widened based on the willful construction of a nationalist identity and narrative that is directly premised on the politics of ‘otherness’ both within and across the borders dividing India and Pakistan.

In the case of India, this aspect of otherness has reached an unprecedented scale with the rise of far right nationalist discourse premised on the principles of the BJP led Hindutva movement. In direct tension with the secular foundations of Indian democracy, many have attributed India’s descent into a religious inspired nationalism as a worrying precursor to regional instability. As the ruling BJP government comes to increasingly resort to the politics of otherness as part of its bid for re-elections, many have accused it of willfully spurring anti-Pakistan sentiments in an attempt at uniting a diverse and divisive electorate against a singular common enemy.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, in his recently televised official statement on Pulwama, addressed this very issue and directly attributed it to the reason behind the bellicose rhetoric being espoused by Indian leaders. In the same speech he also reiterated Pakistan’s resolve to retaliate and defend itself should tensions escalate to the point of military conflict.

This entire diplomatic exchange represents thus the same narrative that both sides have remained locked in as a result of Kashmir. The BJP led government in India, constrained by its inability to move beyond pandering to its core electorate, seems perhaps more unable than unwilling to break free from its own set narrative. On the other side, Pakistan’s position has more or less been characterized as being dominated by its influential military to which its foreign policy on India has widely been accused of being held hostage from its civilian government. Both narratives are in turn deeply ingrained in the above discussed politics of otherness, to which both sides seem condemned to repeating over and again.

However, if one was to go back to Prime Minister Khan’s inaugural speech from September last year, he has repeatedly claimed that both the Pakistani government and its military are on the same page with respect to its regional interests and foreign policy. Even in his statement on Pulwama, he offered in clear terms Pakistan’s commitment to working with India against terrorism across the region. He has clearly indicated that he is willing to move beyond these set narratives and work towards attaining the much illusive peace between the two countries. Whether Imran Khan is successful in bridging this ever growing divide between the two countries remains to be seen. However, the fact that he has willfully acknowledged and taken up this Sisyphean task for what it is, presents some hope for those worryingly looking at the war clouds looming over the South Asian region once again.

Research Associate and Program Coordinator for the China Study & Information Centre (CS & IC) at the Strategic Vision Institute, a non-partisan think tank based out of Islamabad. He can be reached at waqas[at]thesvi.org

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South Asia

India’s fury at Moeed Yousaf’s interview?

Amjed Jaaved

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In an interview with Indian media outlet The Wire, Moeed Yusuf , revealed that India had expressed a “desire for conversation” but said that Pakistan’s agreement to talks would be conditional (Talks with India only possible with Kashmir as third party, says SAPM Moeed Yusuf,  Dawn 14 Oct 2020) . India quickly denied any offier for talks. Moeed as also his interviewer were quickly dubbed anti-India  jihadi.

A leader becomes a traitor the moment he stops singing paeans for “secular democracy”. Take Sheikh Abdullah. Barkha Dutt recalls (This Unquiet Land, p. 154) `In a 1948 speech to the United Nations, Sheikh Abdullah … made a blistering defence of the accession to India. Sher-e-Kashmir (Lion of Kashmir) roared, :`I had thought all along that the world had got rid of  Hitlers…but what is happening in my poor country I am convinced that they have transmigrated their souls into Pakistan…I refuse to accept Pakistan as a party in the affairs of Jammu and Kashmir’

Dutt says, “Sheikh Abdullah [later] began to talk about possibility of independent Kashmir…Soon after he changed his stance he was jailed and dismissed from office and was not able to lead the state for another twenty years’.

While talking to Cyril Al Maeda in  an exclusive interview that appeared on 12th May, Pakistan’s  former prime minister Sharif had  said  `Militant organizations are active. Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai?’ During Kalbushan jhadav’strial, Indian counsel used the MNS statement ` to blame Pakistan for its alleged involvement in sponsoring terrorism in India’.

The factual position is that gullible  Sharif  had relied on statement  by  then serving ISI chief Shuja Pasha. Even Pasha’s statement was grossly misinterpreted. Pasha never asaid that it was ISI who in any way sponsored the Mumbai operation. Even the USA never trusted interrogation of David Headley who was `linked’  to the Mumbai incident. 

Let me quote   Mohammed Adobo  and   Etgar  Ugur  (eds.), Assessing the War on Terror, 2013, Lynne Reiner Publishers, Inc., Colorado 80301 (USA). Chapter V: Pakistan Perfidious Ally in the War on Terror, C. Christine Fair, p. 85)

According to Indian officials who interrogated him after his indictment, David Headley, an American involved in the Mumbai attacks conceded ISI involvement (Jason Burke, “ISI chief aided Mumbai terror attacks: Headley”, The Hindu October 19, 2010; Jane Perlez, Eric Schmitt and Ginger Thomson, “US had  warnings on Plotter of Mumbai Attack”, New York Times, October 17, 2010). US officials have not endorsed this claim. Bt, according to some reports, the current director general of the ISI Shuja Pasha, acknowledged that the persons connected to the ISI were involved in attacks (Woodword, Obama’s Wars, pp 46-47). Documentary analysis shows secretive Mumbai trials were translucent (Davidson, Betrayal of India: Revisiting the 26/11 Evidence).

It is a documented fact that India is stroking insurgencies in neighbouring countries. Unlike Kashmir, Bangladesh was not a disputed state like Jammu And Kashmir State. It was an integral part of Pakistan. But, harboured, nurtured, trained and armed Bangladeshi ‘freedom fighters’… Some Indian diplomats and RAW cover officers have made startling revelations in their books about involvement in insurgencies or terrorism in neighbouring countries. . For instance, RK Yadav, and B. Raman (The Kaoboys of R&AW: Down Memory Lane) make no bones about India’s involvement in Bangladesh’s insurgency. They admitted that India’s then prime minister Indira Gandhi, Parliament, RAW and armed forces acted in tandem to dismember Pakistan. Raman recalls ‘Indian parliament passed resolution on March 31, 1971 to support insurgency. India Gandhi had then confided to Kao that if Mujib was prevented from ruling Pakistan, she would liberate East Pakistan from the clutches of the military junta. Kao, through one R&AW agent, got hijacked a plane Fokker Friendship Ganga of Indian Airlines from Srinagar to Lahore. India’s security czar Doval publicly claims that he acted as a spy under a pseudonym in Pakistan for 11 years. India’s then army chief, SAM Manekshaw confessed in video interview that India Gandhi ordered him to attack erstwhile East Pakistan. (YouTube: Indian Army Stories of the Indo-Pak War 1971 by Sam manekshaw).

United Nations’ view of `accession:  Aware of India’s intention to get the ‘Instrument of Accession’ rubber-stamped by the puppet assembly, the Security Council passed two resolutions to forestall the `foreseeable accession’ by the puppet assembly. Security Council’s Resolution No 9 of March 30, 1951 and affirmative Resolution No 122 of March 24, 1957 outlaws accession or any other action to change status of the Jammu and Kashmir state.

Under hypnotic spell of Indian propaganda, readers naively accept IHK’s `assembly’ and preceding `instrument of accession’ as fait accompli. No sir, they aren’t. Aware of India’s intention to get the ‘Instrument of Accession’ rubber-stamped by the sham assembly, the Security Council passed two resolutions to forestall the foreseeable` accession’ by the puppet assembly. Security Council’s Resolution No 9 of March 30, 1951 and confirmatory Resolution No 122 of March 24, 1957 outlaws accession or any other action to change status of the Jammu and Kashmir state.

`Accession instrument’ is a myth, unregistered with the UN. Alastair Lamb, in his book Incomplete Partition (Chapter VI: The accession Crisis, pp.  149-151) points out that Mountbatten wanted India not to intervene militarily without first getting `instrument of accession’ from maharajah Hari Singh.  Not doing so would amount to `intervening in the internal affairs of what was to all intents and purposes an independent State in the throes of civil conflict’.  But, India did not heed his advice. It marched its troops into Kashmir without maharajah‘s permission _ an act of aggression. Lamb says `timing of the alleged Instrument of Accession undoubtedly affected its legitimacy'(p.172, ibid). She adds `If in fact took place after the Indian intervention, then it could well be argued that it was either done under Indian duress or to regularise an Indian fait accompli’.

He argues that the maharajah was travelling by road to Jammu (a distance of over 350 km). How could he sign the instrument while being on the run for safety of his life? There is no evidence of any contact between him and the Indian emissaries on October 26, 1947. Actually, it was on October 27, 1947 that the maharajah was informed by MC Mahajan and VP Menon (who had flown into Srinagar) that an Instrument of Accession is being fabricated in New Delhi. Obviously, the maharajah could not have signed the instrument earlier than October 27, 1947. The instrument remains null and void, even if the maharajah had actually signed it. The reason, as pointed out by Alastair is that the `signatures’ were obtained under coercion. Under law, any undertaking secured through coercion or duress is null and void. She points out Indian troops had already arrived at and secured Srinagar airfield during the middle of October 1947. On October 26, 1947, a further airlift of thousands of Indian troops to Kashmir took place. She questions: “Would the maharajah have signed the Instrument of Accession, had the Indian troops not been on Kashmiri soil?” Isn’t it funny that, in the summer of 1995, the Indian authorities reported the original document as lost or stolen?

Lamb concludes (p. 191, ibid):`According to Wolpert, V. P. Menon returned to Delhi from Srinagar on the morning of 26 October with no signed Instrument of Accession.  Only after the Indian troops had started landing at Srinagar airfield on the morning of 27 October did V. P.   Menon and M. C. Mahajan set out from Delhi from Jammu. The Instrument of Accession, according to Wolpert, was only signed by Maharajah Sir Hari Singh after Indian troops had assumed control of the Jammu and Kashmir State’s summer capital,  Srinagar’.

It is time the Kashmiris woke up and grab the opportunity to correct their historical blunder. It is `Now or Never’. No more palliatives.

Conclusion: India is unqualified to become a permanent member of Security council as it has flouted international treaties. India is wedded to `might is right’ (Noam Chomsky, Rogue States: The Rule of Force in World Affairs). It should be shunned as a rogue state and punished as a pariah states ( Tim Niblock, Pariah States and Sanctions in the Middle East).

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South Asia

Tripartite dialogue over Kashmir: Only Way out

Dr.Ghulam Nabi Fai

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Women walking past Indian security forces in Srinagar, summer capital of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Nimisha Jaiswal/IRIN

Dr. Moeed Yusuf, Special Advisor to Prime Minister of Pakistan on National Security and Strategic Policy disclosed in an interview with senior Indian journalist, Karan Thapar (October 13, 2020) that India sent us a message for a desire to a conversation. He added that Pakistan stands for conversation that moves us forward. He however emphasized that there are three parties to the dispute, Pakistan, India and there is a principal party, called Kashmiris.  The only thing that matters is the wishes of the people of Kashmir.

We whole heatedly welcome the articulation of Dr. Yusuf to include the Kashmiri leadership in the talks. The people of Kashmir will welcome any talks between India and Pakistan as long as the genuine leadership of the people of Jammu & Kashmir is the part of process of negotiations. They steadfastly maintain that tripartite talks are the only way to resolve the Kashmir issue that has dominated the South Asian region for over 73 years. They maintain this constructive position, despite the outrage caused and the indescribable suffering inflicted on them, by the barbarities of the Indian occupation forces.

The people of Kashmir want to emphasize that as the dispute involves three parties –Government of India, Government of Pakistan and the people of Kashmir who are the most directly affected – any attempt to strike a deal between two parties without the association of the third, will fail to yield a credible settlement. The contemporary history of South Asia is abundantly clear that bilateral efforts have never met with success. The agreement between India and pro-India Kashmiri leaders, like Sheikh Abdullah failed because they sought to bypass Pakistan. Similarly, the agreements between India and Pakistan, like Tashkent Declaration and Simla Agreement failed because they sought to by pass the Kashmiri leadership. All these attempts served only to prolong the dispute, leaving the basic issue unsettled and preserved the stalemate. Although the Simla Agreement of 1972 is irrelevant to the Kashmir dispute, yet it did visualize a ‘final settlement’, but failed for a concrete course of action toward determining Kashmir’s status by the will of its people.

No longer can the mere holding of talks between India and Pakistan defuse the situation. It is a matter of record that during the 72 years history of dispute, India has merely used the façade of talks to evade settlement and ease internal or external pressure. In 1962, when India was facing grave difficulties because of war it had launched against China, it agreed to a round of ministerial talks only to delude two eminent emissaries sent by the United States and the Great Britain. The six seemingly serious sessions were simply exercise in futility. After the end of the 1965 war, when the Security council had committed itself to address the underlying cause of the India – Pakistan conflict – which was none other than the Kashmir dispute – Indian secured the support of its ally, the former Soviet Union and the tacit acquiescence of others to help consign the dispute to limbo as far as the United Nations was concerned. Today, India is again in confrontation with China on one side and with Pakistan on the other. We earnestly hope that the Indian Government’s message to Pakistan ‘for a desire to have a conversation’ will not be one more step in that direction to sabotage the real intent of the talks through diversionary tactics.

Dr. Moeed Yusuf’s approach is based on pragmatism when he said that there can be no progress in talks if they are not accompanied by practical measures, like:

i. To release all political prisoners; ii. Reverse military siege in Kashmir, iii. Pull back the Domicile Law that changes the demography of Kashmir; iv. End human rights violations; and v. Stop Indian state terrorism.

In the past, India has not desisted from its human rights violations while announcing its intent to talk. India has to be told in an understandable language that peace cannot be held, nor continued as long as terror reigns over Kashmir and India remains at war with Kashmiris.

The people of Kashmir believe that the conversion of Line of Control (LoC) into an international border is a non-solution. Such an idea is an insult to the intelligence of the people of Kashmir. They fought against status quo and as Dr. Moeed Yusuf said ‘Line of Control is a problem and cannot become a solution.’

We hope that the Secretary General of the United Nations maintains and intensify his watch over the situation in Kashmir and not be lulled into the belief that India and Pakistan will initiate any meaningful dialogue over Kashmir unless there are some mediatory initiatives by an impartial third party. Third party could be the United Nations itself or a person of an international standing who could be delegated by the United Nations to bring all the three parties together.

The policy that aims at merely defusing the situation, whatever that may mean, and not encouraging a credible settlement has not paid in the past. It is likely to do even less now.

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South Asia

How the India-Bangladesh Cooperation can overcome challenges in the Agricultural Sector

Mozammil Ahmad

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The majority of South Asia is still an agrarian society depending on agriculture for livelihood and survival. Approximately, 60% people in India and Bangladesh are involved in agricultural activities to earn their livelihood. Out of them, over 87% and 70% of rural people in  Bangladesh and India respectively derive their income majorly from the agrarian sector. Therefore, it plays a crucial role in the economy of the developing countries.

Being the most prominent sector of the economy, bilateral cooperations in the agricultural sector can pave the way to overcome the current economic challenges in India and Bangladesh.

Challenges faced by India & Bangladesh in Agriculture

The coronavirus pandemic has affected the already agonized agriculture sectors in South Asia. With the spread of virus, disrupted labour and transportation during the lockdown, it is not an unknown fact that the agricultural sector has taken a hit.

Being neighbours and sharing one of the longest land borders with each other, India and Bangladesh faces similar kinds of challenges in agriculture. These are –

Coronavirus pandemic

Around the world, the coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on economies. Both India and Bangladesh are no exception to this. India’s GDP shrank 23.9% in the second quarter of 2020 even though the gross value added (GVA) from agriculture, forestry & fishing grew by 3.4% at constant prices in April-June 2020. Meanwhile, the agricultural sector in Bangladesh saw a decline to 3.11% in FY 2020 from 3.92% in FY 2019. These were the impact of the countrywide lockdown placed to reduce the spread of the Covid-19. Both of the countries being agrarian in nature, 60% of total population derives their livelihood from agriculture. Hence, it remains one of the most hit sectors in both the countries.

With the lockdown and restrictions in movement of goods and transport services, farmers struggled to harvest and sell their winter crops, hence facing widespread losses.

Mass Exodus of Migrant Workers

The workers of India and Bangladesh have faced double effects of the pandemic with the mass exodus of migrant workers and their humanitarian struggles. Millions of workers were forced to go back to their native places in both the countries due to lockdown. Many Bangladeshi workers who used to work in India also returned under the dire situation.

In India, when the lockdown announced in March 2020 put the migrant workers from rural areas in harm’s way both physically and economically. With factories and transportation shut down, and no mode for survival, migrant workers took to take long walks to their homes.

Bangladesh also witnessed a similar mass exodus of migrant workers from urban areas of Dhaka, Chittagong, Narayanganj,etc. A large number of Bangladeshi migrant workers also returned from abroad. These workers have lost their source of income and cannot return until the crisis brought by the Covid 19 could be handled. Even though the government of Bangladesh introduced various initiatives to reintegrate the migrant workers into the workforce, however, the stigmatization of Covid-19 being brought by outsiders still remains in Bangladesh.

With the mass migration, there are labour issues due to which there is farm labour scarcity in some areas and excess in others. In Bangladesh, for instance, farm wages have been rising steadily in the past decade but with migrants returning to their villages, wages have gone down. In the Indian state of Punjab, farmers are ferrying migrants who have gone to their native places in Bihar, UP, Madhya Pradesh back to Punjab to work on paddy farms. Since paddy sowing depends heavily on manual labour, the shortage due to the earlier exodus has led to a rise in wages, which will impact farmer’s profit margins.

Cyclone Amphan

On 20 May 2020, one of the dangerous cyclones, Cyclone Amphan hit the Bay of Bengal, affecting both India and Bangladesh. With a wind speed of 210 km/hr,  it first hit the land of the Indian states of Odisha and West Bengal. In India, it affected more than 4 million people. Amphan hit particularly at the Sundarbans at the border of India-Bangladesh. Though the storm was weakened when it hit land in Bangladesh, it still impacted more than 55,600 homes and displaced over 100,000 people. Amphan was the most powerful cyclone ever to form in the Bay of Bengal, and though it weakened before making landfall, it caused widespread damage in both countries. Cyclone Amphan is considered to be the costliest disaster in the Bay of Bengal.

According to Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee, Amphan destroyed over 28 percent of the Sundarbans, damaging a significant portion of the area’s mangrove forests. In addition to causing livelihood and human ramifications of the cyclone, it has also impacted the agriculture in both India and Bangladesh. There will be a long lasting impact on coastal communities’ livelihood. The storm has surged and salinized large portions of cropland making it unusable for yielding crops in the coming years.

Monsoon Flooding

In June 2020, the monsoon flooding added additional woes to the agricultural sectors of both India and Bangladesh. Both of the countries are still facing the effects of the pandemic, the migration, cyclone and a flood on top of that, just adds to the complexities.

The monsoon floods affected eight states in India. Odisha and Madhya Pradesh were the most affected states of India. There were 17 and 19 deaths recorded so far in Odisha and Madhya Pradesh respectively. There have been over 10,382 houses and 168,904 hectares of crop area affected due to these floods.

The excessive rains in Bangladesh has opened widespread havoc impacting food insecurity, livelihood and disruption of agricultural production. Around 7.53 million people were exposed to moderate flooding causing 700,000 households requiring food security and agricultural livelihoods support. There have been severe losses of crops, poultry, livestock and fisheries in 92 percent of the total affected unions. It is estimated that 125,459 ha of agricultural land require rehabilitation.

Bilateral Cooperations for Mutual Benefits for India and Bangladesh

The ongoing crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic and the additional challenges both countries face due to monsoon floods, mass exodus of migrants, cyclones are common to both the countries. As  neighbouring countries with quite a close diplomatic relation and porous land border, the need for a bilateral cooperation could be stressed between India and Bangladesh.

In a webinar on ‘Regional Cooperation in Trade and Development of Agriculture: Perspectives from Bangladesh and India’, the executive director of South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM), Selim Raihan said that bilateral cooperation and political willingness were most important in improving the trade in agriculture. The economic shutdown is hampering movement of products between the two countries and affecting farmers of the countries. With the opening up of the land ports, reviving the marketplaces along the borders of Bangladesh and North East India, can strengthen business-to-business communication. Hence, the enhanced cooperation will help farmers of both countries to market their agricultural products. This kind of cooperation can benefit farmers of both countries, increase regional trade and assist in export earning.

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