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Pulwama Attack and Indian Diplomatic Offensive against Pakistan: Achievements and Limitations

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On 14thFebruary 2019, Pulwama district of Indian occupied Kashmir witnessed a deadly suicide attack killing 40 CRPF soldiers and numerous injured. The attack was most dreadful after the Mumbai attacks of 2008 which left 195 peoples dead.  Right after the attack, India followed the traditional culture of blame game and once again accused Pakistan for planning and executing the deadly attack and announced to retaliate with strong force. India claims that Pakistan is a nerve center of terrorism and New Delhi will not tolerate any infiltration made by Islamabad. The Indian authorities made announcement to damage Pakistan politically and economically. In such a move, Water Resources Minister Nitin Gadkari announced that his government has decided to stop the flow of its share of water to Pakistan from rivers under the Indus Water Treaty. The Indian decision is a serious violation of the treaty signed back in 1960. Indian Union Minister for External Affairs General VK Singh pointed out that after concerted diplomatic efforts, Pakistan has been isolated internationally. He claimed that more than 40 countries condemned the heinous attack in Pulwama. He further goes on highlighting Indian retaliatory plans by referencing that India will choose time and place on its own for retribution.

However, Pakistan out rightly rejected the Indian allegations and said it was conceived, planned and executed indigenously. The Prime Minister of Naya Pakistan (a slogan promoted during the election campaign) Imran Khan a cricketer converted politician warned India to restrain from any offensive. He stated in a video message to nation that India is accusing Pakistan without any evidence, and offer joint investigation. Contrary he highlights the grave human rights violations committed by the Indian security forces in Jammu and Kashmir and pointed out that India must think that what makes Kashmiri youth to take arms and lost their fear of death. On Thursday, 21th February, Prime Minister convened the National Security Council meeting to discuss the geopolitical scenario after the Pulwama attack. The statement of NSC reaffirms commitment to fight against terrorism and banned the Jammad ud Dawa (JuD) and Falah-i-Insaniyat (FIF) organizations led by Hafiz Saeed. The PM also directed the senior decision makers to accelerate the National Action Plan which was convened in 2014 to combat terrorism. Simultaneously, the NSC also gave formal authorization to the armed forces “to respond decisively and comprehensively to any aggression or misadventure by India”.

Lobbies are the frontiers of nation states to procure their national interests in anarchical international system. There are different forms of lobbying groups including: the diaspora, business and educational groups, journalists, and public diplomacy groups. However, the most important is the official diplomatic missions of state, which effectively defend the national interests. In recent years, India has invested huge money and strength in lobbying groups to secure its interests in the United States and other European states. The Indian diaspora is playing the fundamental role in bridging the gap between Indian and the United States. Meanwhile Indian official diplomacy also made remarkable success in winning friends and allies. For example, Pakistan’s traditional friends Saudi Arabia and UAE had started to pay special attention to New Delhi over Pakistan which was a grave concern for policy making circles in Islamabad.

India also tried to hit hard Pakistan after Pulwama attacks by approaching various nations. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman paid a state visit to India where he was highly welcomed. During his meetings with Indian leadership, he announced to invest billions of dollar in India and in a joint statement he reaffirmed Saudi commitment to fight against terrorism. He stated that terrorism is a big threat to both India and Saudi Arabia and two countries would work hard to dismantle the terror infrastructure. Although, he shared the concerns over terrorism and condemned the Pulwama attack, but he skillfully made no mention of Pakistan in sponsoring terrorism, which was India’s erstwhile wish. Similarly Saudi FM Adel Al-Jubeir in an interview with Indian News Channels praised the Pakistan army to curb terrorism. He said Pakistan did a lot of work against terrorism and thousands of its soldiers and civilians sacrificed their lives to win the war against terrorism. The anchor repeatedly questioned him to speak against Pakistan, but he continued to appreciate the Pakistani efforts. In another interview with India Today, when anchor inquired that why Saudi Arabia reluctant to name Pakistan for terrorism in Pulwama. He said that he is not sure who is responsible for terrorism and therefore is not in a position to address the issue. But he emphasized that Saudi Arabia has worked hard to designate a number of terrorist groups including some in Pakistan. The anchor persistently dragged him to name Pakistan for terrorism but the Saudi Minister carefully avoided his trap by stating that he is not aware about the situation. Therefore not in a position to comment.

In recent past the US and India have developed close strategic partnership and announced to work together. In last year, President Trump used stern language against Pakistan for offering safe heavens to terrorists and stopped the military and economic assistance. But after Pulwama, the language of US president suggests a balancing approach towards both South Asian rivals. President Trump termed the current situation between India and Pakistan very dangerous. He said “it’s a terrible thing going on right now between Pakistan and India … it is a very, very bad situation and it’s a very dangerous situation between the two countries. We would like to see it stopped. A lot of people were just killed and we want to see it stopped”. Meanwhile, he claimed that his administration has developed a much better relationship with Pakistan even after cutting the $1.3 billion financial assistance to Islamabad.  The American response on Pulwama attack exposed that Indian diplomacy failed to persuade President Trump to hold responsible Pakistan. While it also confirm that Pakistan won the trust of United States for its anti-terror efforts.

Turkey also rejected the Indian accusations for involvement of Pakistan in cross border terrorism. Turkish Foreign Minister expressed complete understanding of Pakistan’s position in a meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi. The UN is an international body responsible to maintain peace and security. After a week on Thursday the UNSC issued a statement condemning the terrorist attack and expressing the solidarity with India. The UNSC also urged all nations around the globe to work together to get rid the menace of terrorism. Describing the attack as a “heinous and coward suicide bombing” the UNSC statement noted that “Jaish-e-Mohammad has claimed responsibility” for it. The JeM is already banned in Pakistan. Diplomatic observers in Washington stated that Islamabad and its allies, particularly Beijing, had worked hard to keep any reference to Pakistan out of the Security Council statement. To vanish the misunderstanding, on Friday China’s foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters in Beijing that the reference to Jaish in the UNSC statement was only in “general terms” and “does not represent a judgement”.

The European Union spokesperson also issued a statement on heinous attack in Pulwama. In the statement, EU expresses its deep sadness and condolences to the victims’ families and reaffirms its full solidarity with India. But contrary, European Parliament’s sub-committee on human rights hosted an official exchange of views on the situation of human rights in Indian-occupied Kashmir. It is first time in a decade that EU members publicly discussed the grave human rights violations in IOK. The discussions paid special attention to June 2018 UN report on human rights situation in Kashmir. The author of the report was invited by the committee where she highlighted the dire human rights situation in the IOK and recommended for establishing a commission of inquiry. The sub-committee Chair Pier Antonio Panzeri expressed the EU’s commitment to uphold and protect human rights throughout the world. However, he pointed out that the event was focused on the human rights situation in Kashmir and the plight of Kashmiris. At the end members called on India to immediately put a halt to its atrocities in occupied Kashmir and carry out investigations into the incidents of grave human rights violations.

The Pulwama attack was a test case for newly established government of Imran Khan. In the past decade, governments of former President Asif Zardari and PM Nawaz Sharif largely failed to project the Pakistani viewpoint on international forums. The primary reason was absence of foreign minister, as the two leaders reserved this critical post for themselves, which in turn seriously damaged the national interests. During this period, India had made remarkable success on diplomatic fronts by winning support from the United States, EU, and Islamic States around the globe. However, PM Imran Khan immediately observed the importance of foreign minister and appointed Mr. Shah Mahmood Qureshi as external minister of Pakistan, who is experienced, vigilant and committed to national interests. Mr. Qureshi’s team worked very hard to shun off Indian malign policy after Pulwama through reaching out friends and allies across the globe. The foreign office team under Qureshi worked round the clock and convinced the world that Pakistan is a responsible state and have no connections with terrorists. On the other hand, Indian diplomacy ultimately met with mixed results and failed to sell Pakistan terror sponsoring mantra.  Majority of the nations refused to include Pakistan behind the terror attack in IOK, which left Modi government in somber embarrassment.

In concluding remarks, we claim that Indian rhetoric to isolate Pakistan is meeting with failure as Islamabad skillfully painting its achievements in the fight against terrorism. At the end, it is recommended that India must change its thoughts for Pakistan as confrontation is not rational for both nuclear powers, whereas only cooperation can bring mutual benefits for this region. War is not a solution for disputes as history of modern Europe tells us that even after longest wars, states settled down their disputes through negotiations and dialogue. So the vigilant leadership of both countries must opt the path of peace and dialogue, which ultimately leads them to peace and security.

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South Asia

Seventy-Five Years of India’s Independence

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If anyone had asked Jawaharlal Nehru as he made his midnight speech on August 15 and freedom dawned, how he visualized India 75 years hence, he would have described a Fabian paradise of equality and plenty.  Would he be disappointed?

The neo-liberal agenda, far removed from socialism, introduced by Manmohan Singh a few decades later was designed to invigorate the economy.  He lowered taxes, privatized state-run industries and encouraged foreign investment.  It did spark an economic boom but the withdrawal of the state from healthcare, education, banking and credit made it a country obsessed with profit.

If cities boomed, rural areas were left to stagnate.  GDP grew but the growth favored the upper 50 percent — the lower half did not enjoy a similar access to education or healthcare or have the same mobility.

According to the World Food Programme (WFP), a quarter of the world’s undernourished people now live in India and a fifth survive on less than $1.90 per day.  WFP has been working in India since 1963, and it reports that in the last two decades per capita income tripled yet the minimum dietary intake fell, and the gap between rich and poor actually increased despite this high economic growth.

Nehru’s ideal was a country of different faiths and different ethnicities, speaking many languages but living harmoniously and sharing a common Mother India.  Instead, unbalanced growth at the cost of the lower half of the population has led to scapegoating and the major target is the sizable Muslim minority.

The blame game now includes historical revisionism blaming Mughal emperors from India’s glory days when the exquisite Taj Mahal was constructed, the arts flourished and India generated almost a quarter of the World GDP.

This game also chides the Hindu Rajput princesses that Mughals married or the respected Hindu advisers that served the Emperors.  The much decried last great Mughal emperor in this blame game is Aurangzeb who extended the empire to almost India’s southern tip, ruling a vast area stretching into Afghanistan and its borderlands in Central Asia. 

The Aurangzeb narrative excludes a simple fact:  the majority of Aurangzeb’s advisers were Hindu.  A Hindu chronicler, Bhimsen Saxena, penned a memoir titled Tarikh-i-Dilkusha or a history that warms the heart, describes life as a soldier in service to the Emperor for more than a quarter century.  He may rail at Aurangzeb’s tactical or strategic errors but is forever loyal.  Hindu generals, nobles and advisers … they were not on the outside looking in, they were an integral part. 

For centuries, religion was not a divider.  Adherents of the two principal faiths worked together, lived together, married each other, and fought together including in 1857, during what the British called the Indian Mutiny and Indians refer to as the First War of Independence.

Thereafter, the British instituted systems and processes to develop rivalry and resentment, including quotas for intake into the prestigious Indian Civil Service as well as the lower level jobs.  The rivalry progressed into mistrust, then riots and killings, eventually into two countries fighting wars, and then to a nuclear stand-off and a divided Kashmir.

North versus South, East versus West, a continent is difficult to govern.  Have we heard this story before?

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The two Punjabs

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Even in the midst of tensions between India and Pakistan, people to people linkages between both countries – with both Punjabs (Indian and Pakistani) as key stakeholders – have given reason for cautious optimism.

While cultural commonalities and the emotional attachment on both sides has been the driving force for Punjab-Punjab initiatives, the potential economic benefits of improved relations have been repeatedly reiterated not just by the business communities, but political leaders (especially from Indian Panjab)

In recent years, ties between both countries have steadily deteriorated. After the Pulwama terror attack in 2019, economic linkages between both countries have got severely impacted, and this has taken its toll on the economy of Panjab (India). India imposed tariffs on Pakistani imports, and revoked Most Favoured Nation MFN status to Pakistan in February 2019, while in August 2019, trade links via the Wagah (Pakistan) -Attari (India) land crossing were snapped after the revocation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir. The suspension of trade ties between both countries has had a serious impact on the economy of the border belt of Punjab (India) with over 9,000 families being impacted as a result of job losses in the tertiary sector.

Developments of the past few months

The one glimmer of hope has been the Kartarpur Religious Corridor which was inaugurated in 2019 (in 2020 this was closed due to the covid 19 pandemic but re-opened in November 2021). The Corridor connects Dera Baba Nanak (Panjab, India) with Darbar Sahib (Kartarpur, Narowal, Pakistan) which is the final resting place of Guru Nanak (the founder of the Sikh faith). Devotees from Panjab (India) can pay obeisance at Darbar Sahib (Kartarpur) without a visa, though they do need to carry their passports. While the number of people crossing over, via the corridor, is way below the initial target of 5000, it has helped in promoting people to people ties as well as re-uniting a number of separated families. There has been a growing demand for easing out visa procedures for individuals over the age of 75 years and those from separated families (some of the individuals reunited at Kartarpur have been issued visas) which has been backed strongly by civil society organisations – as in the past.

 The phase from 2019-2022 has been witness to people to people linkages, especially with regard to religious tourism, but interactions between state governments of both the Punjabs, or what is referred to as ‘paradiplomacy’ unlike earlier years has been restricted. After the re-opening of the corridor in  November 2021, then Chief Minister of Panjab (India) Charanjit Singh Channi, and other political leaders from the state, paid obeisance at Darbar Sahib (Kartarpur), while also flagging the need for resumption of trade via the Wagah-Attari land crossing — though to no avail. 

There have however been calls for resumption of trade from sections of Punjab’s political class, business community as well as farmers from Indian Punjab. Pakistan which has been buying essential commodities including wheat at exorbitant prices could purchase the same from Panjab (India) and the Punjabi farmer could benefit by getting much higher prices for his produce.

Conclusion

In conclusion, even in the midst of strained ties between both countries, the Punjab has played an important role in trying to reduce tensions and build bridges between both countries, and the role of civil society, business community on both sides and the diaspora needs to be acknowledged. In the 75th year of independence while ties between New Delhi and Islamabad remain strained developments of the past few months, in the realm of people to people contact have given reason for hope as a result of the tireless efforts of civil society and some individuals committed to peace. The next stage of this should be easing out of visa regimes especially for certain categories of individuals – specifically those over the age of 75 who want to visit their ancestral homes. Resumption of trade via the Wagah-Attari land crossing will benefit not just Panjab (India) but other parts of North India and the Pakistani consumer. If both countries can focus on giving a greater fillip to people to people linkages and economic ties — with the Punjabs taking the lead – ties  between India and Pakistan could be less frosty.

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South Asia

The Need for Feminist Foreign Policy in India

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As more and more research is being done, there is a definitive link that connects gender equality with international prosperity and welfare; giving an equal opportunity for half the population can’t be just out of moral obligation. It is necessary for the economy and security of a nation. Currently, with resources that are in short supply, the way to maintain a good governance, growth in the economy, health, peace and security is to invest in women and girls. Various countries are promoting gender equality through development, diplomatic and security activities. Countries like Sweden, Canada, France and Mexico have adopted a comprehensive foreign policy that advances gender equality called “Feminist Foreign Policy.” India as a rising great power has to consider a more inclusive foreign policy.

Gender is hardly recognized or given importance when it comes to policy conversations, even though it plays a significant role in peace and security. It is often considered that it side-tracks the main problems with regard to international security and great power competition. However, there is no need for the contradiction between the two. A sign to see how far gender equality is embedded in society is to know the number of women in leadership positions, specifically in departments of security or even the academic study of security where the number of women is less.

According to research, women’s engagement in economics, politics, peace, and security procedures will result in stronger economic development, fewer human rights violations, and peace. Women empowerment is important for a country that aims to promote global security, increase the use of their foreign aid and continue to support stable and democratic allies. In the previous decade, numerous nations have adopted gender mainstreaming in their foreign policy. The critical areas of progress that have systematized gender equality are administration, strategy, and resource management. This comprehensive effort of bringing in gender equality in foreign policy is called as Feminist Foreign Policy. A foreign policy with a political framework focused on the security and safety of the marginalized community can be defined as a Feminist Foreign Policy.

The approach for defining and adopting a Feminist Foreign Policy will vary between counties and regions, depending on their lived experiences. However, that a conversation on Feminist Foreign Policy is an important one is under no debate, happening at a time when gender norms are evolving in our society. In the present-day scenario, there are countries around the world have laws preventing women from carrying out jobs in sectors like mining, manufacturing and construction, and millions of women live in countries where domestic violence is not punishable, gender mainstreaming in broader policy objectives and wider adoption of FFP can shape the future of our civilization.

In India’s foreign aid and assistance gender can be highlighted in bilateral as well as through multilateral institutions, directly impacting the neighborhood, as well as partners in Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean and Pacific and Small Island countries.

In a historic feat, India was elected as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council on June 18, 2020.  Following that, India also became a member of the prestigious UN Commission on the Status of Women in September 2020. India committed to pay attention to its efforts on peacekeeping, peacebuilding and women’s inclusion. In August, 2021 India assumed a month long UNSC presidency where it ended with its first resolution being passed on the Afghanistan situation demanding that the territory not be used for training terrorists. India’s diplomatic framework has embraced tools for soft power. The strategic moves taken up by India can be seen as step towards uplifting women.

A feminist foreign policy would give India a chance to create a beneficial surrounding for peace, remove domestic barriers against women, and also help in building strong bilateral partnerships. With India being surrounded by adversaries along its borders, this approach would also allow India to show itself as a nation that gives importance to various issues; have a better performance in indicators and indexes that are curated to assess the development of countries and gender gap such as the Global Gender Index and Gender Inequality Index; set an example for other nations and contribute continuously towards women empowerment.

It could also be a starting point for an internal shift with regards to India’s domestic context, particularly in terms of preconceived patriarchal gender roles, in which women are seen to be inferior to men. Empirical research has mentioned that for a progressive social and economic development of a nation, gender equality is a requirement. By removing the prevailing barriers that restrict the participation of women and other communities that are marginalized, India would develop a more inclusive policy. Domestic policies need to have a gendered lens that can protect the marginalized. Without having a balance internally, a feminist foreign policy will not sustain.

An FFP will give a major boost to the country’s international relations when its committed to women empowerment and extensively build a stronger partnership with countries that have adopted feminist foreign policy, for example, countries like Mexico, Canada and Sweden or those that are supporters of gender equality. Thus, FFP would allow India to deepen its commitments and make an impact as an emerging power.

Giving importance to human security and gender issues, would put India in a better position to achieve its international power ambitions. India slipped to 140th rank from 112th in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index 2020 – 2021. This is primarily due to the lack of political representation, absence of technical and leadership roles, inequal income, reducing women labour force participation rate, lack of proper health care and the literacy ratio gap between men and women.

A major boost for India would be a significantly better performance in the Global Gender Gap Index. This would lead to India becoming a role model for various countries. India can be an example by achieving gender parity in a variety of social indicators that is very important to assess a country’s development.

India’s record on women’s rights—or rather, women’s oppression—makes it far-fetched to quickly and successfully take on an FFP structure. Man-centric qualities are so profoundly instilled inside Indian culture that India has barely figured out how to achieve an adjustment of the arrangement of disparity at home. Subsequently, it does not have the credibility to take up feminist qualities in its international partnerships. An FFP approach may not just help India in cultivating imaginative ways of reasoning, yet in addition permit it to expand upon its traditional perspective on security, work with various representations, and develop strong bilateral partnerships.

Before adopting a Feminist Foreign Policy, India also needs to bring a change within the policies of the country. It is crucial for women to shape the outcomes and can’t just be receptacles, especially in peacebuilding, reconstruction and rebuilding. There are more women joining the Indian Foreign Service, but the Ministry has to make sure that they are taken up to the highest rank. The thought that women can’t handle challenging issues must be changed.

A feminist foreign policy would provide equal opportunity and basic human rights to women, girls, and other marginalised communities. A feminist foreign policy will aid India’s bilateral and multilateral alliances, as well as its attainment of great power status. For a feminist foreign policy to succeed, a country must first establish gender equality within its borders.

 Gender is clearly a significant factor in India’s development assistance. It must, however, be expanded to include other aspects of economy and security. Gender equality must be implemented within India. More women in government are needed.

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