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India’s purblind opposition to Belt and Road Initiative

Amjed Jaaved

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China intends to host second global Belt-Road-Initiative (BRI) meet next month. China expects delegates from over 100 countries to attend the moot. The initiative has become the world’s largest platform for international cooperation. Some 123 countries and 29 international organisations have signed the BRI agreements with China. To extract `extra mélange’ from China, India and USA have expressed reservation about the imminent meet. The BRI includes US$ 60-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which India opposes as it traverses through Azad Kashmir (Freed Kashmir).  India calls Freed Kashmir Pakistan-administered or Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The so-called `constitution’ of the India-occupied Kashmir (valley, Jammu and Ladakh), provides seats for Azad Kashmir area. This gimmick is purported to convey the impression that Azad Kashmir is also part of India-0ccupied Kashmir. Practically India can’t trespass into Azad Kashmir as the Line of Control is heavily guarded by the two neighbours, at daggers drawn. Crossfire among bunkers is an everyday phenomenon.

The first BRI meeting was held in 2017. It was, among others, attended by 29 heads of state and government, the United Nations’ Secretary General and heads of World Bank. After dilly-dallying on various pretexts, India boycotted it. India and the USA have a mélange (sovereignty, debt trap, etc.) of objections against the BRI.

Geographic structure

The BRI initially included six corridors with landmass connectivity besides proposed Maritime Silk Road (MSR):  (a) New Eurasian Land Bridge, running from Western China to Western Russia through Kazakhstan. (b) China–Mongolia–Russia Corridor, running from Northern China to Eastern Russia. (c) China–Central Asia–West Asia Corridor, running from Western China to Turkey. (d) China–Indochina Peninsula Corridor, running from Southern China to Singapore. (e) China–Myanmar–Bangladesh–India Corridor, running from Southern China to Myanmar, and (f) China–Pakistan Corridor, running from South-Western China to Pakistan. When India decided not to participate in the Chinese President Xi Jinping’s inaugural Belt and Road Forum held in 2017, there emerged a dominant feeling among the supporters of BRI that New Delhi would be isolated. India never hesitated to share its concerns and always stood the ground.

No veto power to China

China despite being a stakeholder has no veto power. India is sanguine that Chinese initiative in Indian Ocean region (IOR) will not succeed unless and until India supports the BRI, even if in a piecemeal manner.

EU’s Perspective on BRI

China is an extremely important economic and trade partner for the European Union (EU). The EU is currently China’s largest trading partner, while China is the EU’s second largest trading.  Italy supports BRI. According to informed estimates, China’s Navy, for instance, plans to build 400 warships and 100 submarines by 2030.

India’s qualms about BRI’s impact on Indian Ocean

India is fearful that BRI would exacerbate Sino-Indian tension in the subcontinent and the Indian Ocean region.  India is worried about four specific corridors that constitute major components of the BRI and run across India’s South Asian neighborhood.  BRI includes the Trans-Himalayan Economic Corridor, Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor (1990s), Twenty-First Century Maritime Silk Road (MSR), a combination of bilateral infrastructure projects in the Indian Ocean region, besides the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. India perceives these corridors and the associated infrastructure projects are detrimental to India’s strategic interests. They run close to India’s continental and maritime borders and may affect its security interests and strategic environment.

As an example of strategic implication, India quotes strategically located Sri Lankan port of Hambantota. The port was built using Chinese loans but, due to the high interest rates, Sri Lanka was unable to repay and incurred a burgeoning debt burden. Unable to pay debts, Sri Lanka was forced to lease the port to China for ninety-nine years in 2017 (lease rescinded under pressure prematurely).

Indian Ocean in a state of flux

Recent International Court of Justice advisory opinion on Chagos Islands has catapulted Indian Ocean into limelight. The `advisory’ is a blow to UK’s forcible occupation of Chagos Islands, including the strategic US airbase of Diego Garcia atoll. Many countries, including India are trying to dominate the Ocean

India’s interest

Forty seven countries have the Indian Ocean on their shores. The Indian Ocean is the third largest body of water in the world. It occupies 20 per cent of the world’s ocean surface – it is nearly 10,000 kilometers wide at the southern tips of Africa and Australia and its area is 68.556 million square kilometers, about 5.5 times the size of the United States

India’s motto is ‘whoever controls the Indian Ocean dominates Asia’. US Rear Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan says that ‘this ocean is the key to the seven seas in the twenty-first century; the destiny of the world will be decided in these waters’. This Ocean includes Andaman Sea, Arabian Sea, Red Sea, Flores Sea, Java Sea Great Australian Bight, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, Savu Sea, Timor Sea, Strait of Malacca, Bay of Bengal, Mozambique Channel, and Persian Gulf.

Indian Ocean is rich with living and non-living resources, from marine life to oil and natural gas. Its beach sands are rich in heavy minerals and offshore placer deposits. India is actively exploiting them to its economic advantage. It is a major sea lane providing shipping to 90 per cent of world trade. It provides a waterway for heavy traffic of petroleum and petroleum products from the oilfields of the Persian Gulf and Indonesia, and contains an estimated 40 per cent of the world’s offshore oil production.

Admiral Alfred T. Mahan (1840-1914) of the United States Navy highlighted strategic importance of the Indian Ocean in these words: “whoever attains maritime supremacy in the Indian Ocean would be a prominent player on the international scene. The Indian peninsula (i.e. the Deccan and below) juts 1,240 miles into the Indian Ocean. 50per cent of the Indian Ocean basin lies within a 1,000 mile radius of India, a reality that has strategic implications. India possesses the technology to extract minerals from the deep sea bed. Under the law of the sea, it has an exclusive economic zone of 772,000 square miles. Chennai is a mere 3,400 miles away from Perth in Australia, slightly more than the distance between New York and Los Angeles.

The Ocean is a major sea lane connecting Middle East, East Asia and Africa with Europe and the Americas. It has four crucial access waterways facilitating international maritime trade, that is the Suez Canal in Egypt, Bab-el-Mandeb (bordering Djibouti and Yemen), Straits of Hormuz (bordering Iran and Oman), and Straits of Malacca (bordering Indonesia and Malaysia). These ‘chokepoints’ are critical to world oil trade as huge amounts of oil pass through them.

Any disruption in traffic flow through these choke-points can have disastrous consequences. The disruption of energy flows in particular is a considerable security concern for littoral states, as a majority of their energy lifelines are sea-based. Since energy is critical in influencing the geo-political strategies of a nation, any turbulence in its supply has serious security consequences. Most of the ships approach the straits through the 10 degree channel between the Andaman and Nicobar islands. To dominate these straits, India established its Far Eastern Marine Command at Port Blair in the Andamans. It has developed Port Blair as a strategic international trade center and built an oil terminal and trans-shipment port in Campal Bay in the Nicobar islands.

China’s interest

In view of the spiraling demand for energy, China is sensitive to the security of the sea lines of communication and choke- points of the region. Sixty per cent of China’s oil supplies are shipped through the Straits of Malacca.

India and China: Eyeball to eyeball

Indian Ocean is fast emerging as the new hot-spot of Sino-Indian rivalry. Indian desire to expand its navy manifold to dominate the Indian Ocean has triggered shockwaves to China and other littoral states. Whether it is controlling piracy or use of sea resources, boats of the two countries face each other eyeball-to-eyeball. As is obvious from capital outlays in India’s defence budget, India wants to convert its navy into a blue-water navy as early as possible. The first item on Indian-Navy agenda is getting new aircraft carriers. In their media interviews, the chiefs of Indian Navy have lamented ‘dominance of smaller ships in the naval fleet imposes limitations of reach’. He asserted that ‘the Navy had to be built around three aircraft carriers, at least 30 destroyers and frigates, 20 submarines and replenishment ships’. The present Navy chief’s plans are no less grandiose.

One chief said, “We are looking at a fleet of 140 warships and 300 aircraft” (The News behind the News, April 6, 2009, pp.14-15). What the chiefs of Indian Navy said in the past, or the present chief says is no swagger. Dominating the Indian Ocean has been India’s long-cherished dream since its independence. George K Tanham, in his Indian Strategic Thought, a RAND research, observes that India wants to establish its hegemony over Indian Ocean by establishing Pax Indica, on the lines of Pax Britannica. He adds, India wants to ‘approach world-power status by developing nuclear and missile capabilities, a blue water navy, and a military-industrial complex, all obvious characteristics of the superpowers’ (page vii).

Commodore (Retd) Uday Bhaskar of the Society for Policy Studies says, `India needs to project itself as a credible and long term partner in a more persuasive manner, than what has been the experience in recent years’. He added, `Islands in the Indian Ocean Region have acquired distinctive strategic relevance and India will have to step up its appeal and comfort index, more so since it is pitted against China’s deep pockets.

Barry Desker, Director Institute of defence and Strategic Studies, Singapore says, `The emergence of new powers like China and India is expected to transform the regional strategic landscape in a fashion that could be as dramatic as the rise of Germany in the 19th century and the United States in the 20th century’.

To counter Indian hegemony, China is intends to have six aircraft carriers. When New Delhi deployed one ship in the Gulf of Aden in October last year with great fanfare, China deployed two warships to the same area. The presence of the Chinese and Indian warships underlines Beijing’s and New Delhi’s intense economic and strategic interests in the world’s third largest ocean.

India is acquiring several nuclear-powered submarines to augment its 155 military vessels in the ocean that it calls its property. India has transformed its Karnataka Bay into an advanced naval installation. To counter New Delhi Beijing is constructing naval stations and refueling ports around India, including in Burma, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

As is obvious from capital outlays in India’s defence budget, India wants to convert its navy into a blue-water navy as early as possible. India wants to ‘approach world-power status by developing nuclear and missile capabilities, a blue water navy, and a military-industrial complex, all obvious characteristics of the superpowers’.

The Ocean is a major sea lane connecting Middle East, East Asia and Africa with Europe and the Americas. It has four crucial access waterways facilitating international maritime trade, that is the Suez Canal in Egypt, Bab-el-Mandeb (bordering Djibouti and Yemen), Straits of Hormuz (bordering Iran and Oman), and Straits of Malacca (bordering Indonesia and Malaysia). These ‘chokepoints’ are critical to world oil trade as huge amounts of oil pass through them.

Any disruption in traffic flow through these choke-points can have disastrous consequences. The disruption of energy flows in particular is a considerable security concern for littoral states, as a majority of their energy lifelines are sea-based. Since energy is critical in influencing the geo-political strategies of a nation, any turbulence in its supply has serious security consequences.

India is acquiring several nuclear-powered submarines to augment its 155 military vessels in the ocean that it calls its property. India has transformed its Karnataka Bay into an advanced naval installation. To counter New Delhi Beijing is constructing naval stations and refueling ports around India, including in Burma, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

India’s troubles in Maldives, Seychelles and Agalega Islands

India denies that its projects in Indian Ocean neighbourhood have never been acquisitive or “colonial”. However, it faced severe resistance, for instance, in Seychelles and Maldives and the Agalega Islands. After facing resistance over placing its helicopters in the Maldives’ Addu atoll and the virtual cancellation of its project to develop the Assumption Island in the Seychelles, New Delhi moved swiftly to ensure its US$87 million project in the Mauritius does not run into trouble. The project involved constructing a jetty, rebuilding and extending the runway, and building an airport terminal. Mauritian vice prime minister explained in the parliament that `the jetty is being improved to be able to receive ships and to extend the runway, which is in very poor condition, from the existent 1,300 metres to 3,000. At present, `only emergency medical evacuations are allowed due to the poor surface of the runway’. While the vice prime minister claimed ` she did not know “of India’s military plans, Indian Naval sources confirmed their involvement in the project. Mauritian opposition members point out lack of transparency in the project.  Mauritian government is still to answer why it has exempted the project from any Environmental license process (EIA clearances).

Indian view is that `unlike the military bases run by other countries [like Diego Garcia], the Indian model is of a soft base’. India does not ` bar locals from moving through any Indian-made project’. So `these governments get more control over their domain, without diluting their sovereignty’. Even when AFCON and RITES engineers visited the islands `they are greeted by the locals, who took their boats up to the ship that brought them in and even accommodated and feed them during their stay’.

Mauritian prime minister faced tough questions in the National Assembly over Indian involvement in the project, its costs and military implications. Mauritian vice-prime minister had to declare, `Agalega is and will remain a Mauritian territory’. `This is an important project. We don’t want the jetty and the airstrip to remain in poor condition,” she added. Even local people protested when they saw Indian naval and coastguard’s setting up transponder systems and surveillance infrastructure. Several Islanders, including some from Agalega, which has a tiny population of 300, formed the “Koalision Zilwa Pou Lape” (Islanders Coalition for Peace), to lobby against the Agalega project.

A similar situation led to Maldivian President’s decision to cancel the loan of two Indian military helicopters and the visas of about 28 naval personnel. `The Agalega islands, with land of only about 25 square kilometres is now in the crosshairs of similar concerns, although most officials aware of developments believe India’s “softer” methods will ensure the success of the project.

Adversaries’ view of `debt trap’

Smaller countries who received China’s bounteous loans are incapable of paying them back. India thinks BRI may militate against India’s strategic interests. India mulls connectivity offers a set of tools to influence other countries’ foreign policy choices

China’s view of BRI benefits

Chines aid helped build East Africa first-ever expressway, and Maldives’ first-ever inter-island bridge. Belarus was enabled to produce sedans, Kazakhstan connected to the sea, and Southeast Asia provided a high-speed railway (being completed). Eurasian continent gifted the longest distance freight train service.

China’s predecessors Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom, the United States have played role in development of Asia. They were the primary donors for development projects in Asia since World War II The Asian Development Bank estimates that between 2016 and 2030 developing countries in the region will need to spend $1.7 trillion per year to build the infrastructure required to “maintain its growth momentum, eradicate poverty, and respond to climate change.”

One Belt One Road was announced by Chinese President Xi Jinxing in 2013. It envisaged constructing a continental road (or the economic belt) connecting China to Europe through South and Central Asia. In addition, it envisioned creating a sea-corridor between China and Europe by way of the Indian Ocean. Regarding the continental route, India’s primary concern is the CPEC and increasing unease about Chinese connectivity inroads in Nepal. The MSR horrifies India as this project could dilute Indian influence in the Indian. China’s  

 connectivity and infrastructure involves  four areas: transport infrastructure, port infrastructure, aviation infrastructure, and energy infrastructure. Besides, it includes Information Silk Road through the construction of “cross-border optical cables,” “transcontinental submarine optical cable projects,” and “spatial (satellite) information passageways.”

China answers suspicions

China says there is no hidden strategic agenda to use this initiative as a means to gain sphere of influence, or to violate other’s sovereignty. Aside from verbose statements, US, Japan or India has not offered any BRI-alternative. Some estimates project that China will invest up to $4 trillion to realize its vision for the BRI. Some of India’s neighbors were among the countries that thronged the forum (Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, and Afghanistan).

The China-Pakistan Economic corridor

The US $62 billion CPEC begins at Kashgar in China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region and ends at the port of Gwadar in Pakistan’s Balochistan Province. It would build  a network of highways, roads, railways, pipelines, ports, and information technology parks along the route. It would facilitate movement of Chinese goods from China’s western provinces to the Arabian Sea across the Indian Ocean.  Karakoram Highway between Pakistan’s Punjab Province and Gilgit-Baltistan will be modernised. The corridor aims to connect Gilgit in northern Pakistan to Gwadar in the south. Chinese entities have invested approximately in the CPEC.

India’s narcissist objection to  Karakoram Highway

Earlier, India ineffectually objected to construction of the Karakoram Highway through Gilgit –Baltistan that India described as Pakistan occupied Kashmir. India’s then defence minister A. K. Antony noted in 2012, “Indian territory under occupation by China in Jammu & Kashmir since 1962 is approximately 38,000 [square kilometers]. In addition to this, under the so-called China-Pakistan ‘Boundary Agreement’ of 1963, Pakistan illegally ceded 5,180 [square kilometers] of Indian territory in [Pakistan-occupied Kashmir] to China.”  

Speaking at the seventieth session of the UN General Assembly in 2015, the Indian representative noted, “India’s reservations about the proposed China-Pakistan Economic Corridor stem from the fact that it passes through Indian territory illegally occupied by Pakistan for many years.” India alleges allowing the CPEC to continue would undermine India’s sovereignty and bolster Pakistan’s claim to the disputed territory.

So-called sovereignty over disputed territories?

India’s real bogeys are denial of Kashmir, and Arunachal Pradesh as disputed territories.

Mythical militarisation of  Gilgit Baltistan and Gwadar

Without corroborative evidence, India claims that there are 30,000 Chinese army personnel to protect its economic interests in occupied Kashmir. Any further increase in Chinese troops along India’s borders would further jeopardise India’s security.

New Delhi expects Gwadar to emerge as an important naval base for China. If this turns out to be the case, Chinese access to Gwadar’s port would allow the Chinese navy to sustain a presence in the Indian Ocean, threatening pax indica.  Similarly another

Corridor would connect the Chinese city of Kunming with the Indian city of Kolkata through Dhaka in Bangladesh and Mandalay in Myanmar, seeking to boost trade, build infrastructure, and foster connectivity among these nations.

Pulwama ploy

India’s prime minister Narendre Modi pounced upon Pulwama-suicide attack (February 14, 2019) to project it into international limelight. With general 2019 elections in his mind, he pandered to voter’s sentiments, blaming Pakistan. As a ploy to show India’s chagrin, it launched a `counter-terror’ air strike in Balakot on February26, 2019. The strike foundered as Pakistan Air Force downed a MiG-21 in an aerial combat and captured its pilot the very next day (handed back on 1 March, 2019).

India attributed Pulwama attack to Masood Azhar (Jaish-e-Mohammad). China blocked India-sponsored effort, spearheaded by the US, the UK and France, to get Azhar declared ` a global terrorist’.

India-China-Border (Doklam) standoff

In June 2017 Chinese troops were spotted extending a road through a strip of land disputed between China and Bhutan. India perceived this as an unacceptable change to the status quo and crossed its own border to block those works. The Doklam plateau slopes down to the Siliguri Corridor, a narrow strip of Indian territory dividing the Indian mainland from its north-eastern states. Were China able to block off the corridor it would isolate India’s north-eastern region from the rest of the country, a devastating scenario in the event of war. The Doklam standoff ended with disengagement on 28 August. Troops from both countries remain in the area, but are now separated by a few hundred metres.

Myth of India’s sovereignty over Kashmir

Kashmir is a simmering cauldron. For about seven decades, India denied Kashmiris’ their right of self-determination. It claims that the occupied Kashmir’s constituent assembly has voted for accession of disputed Kashmir to India. As such, it is no longer necessary for her to let the promised plebiscite be held in Kashmir. Is India’s argument tenable? Does history or documents corroborate India’s stand? Let us look a bit closely at India’s stance.

Kashmir’s accession to India

It is the Treaty of Amritsar (1846) which entitled Gulab Singh to rule Jammu and Kashmir State. This treaty stands lapsed under Article 7 of the Independence Act. The Act was passed by British Parliament on July 18, 1947 to assent to creation of independent states of India and Pakistan. The aforementioned Article 7 provides that, with lapse of His Majesty’s suzerainty over Indian states, all treaties, agreements, obligations, grants, usages and sufferance’s will lapse.

Mountbatten deliberately kept mum about this reality for considerations of political expediency. The Independence Act required intention of accession to be absolute and crystal-clear. But, a stray glance at the ‘Instrument’ would make it clear that it is equivocal. The ‘Instrument’ expresses ‘intention to set up an interim government and to ask Sheikh Abdullah to carry the responsibilities’ with maharajah’s prime minister. The last sentence in the ‘Instrument’ is ‘In haste and with kind regards’. Handwritten corrections on the text of the ‘Instrument’ speak volubly about the wavering state of the maharajah’s mind. The instrument, extracted under coercion and duress, is invalid under law.

Subsequent accession resolution, passed by the occupied Kashmir’s ‘constituent assembly’ is also void. This resolution violates the Security Council’s resolutions forbidding India from going ahead with the accession farce. 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 confirmatory Resolution No 122 of March 24, 1957 outlaws accession or any other action to change status of the Jammu and Kashmir state.

Renowned journalist Alastair Lamb also regards the Instrument of Accession, ‘signed’ by the maharajah of Kashmir on October 26, 1947, as fraudulent (Kashmir – A disputed legacy 1846-1990). 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. 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. He questions: “Would the maharajah have signed the Instrument of Accession, had the Indian troops not been on Kashmiri soil?”

It is eerie to note that India has never shown the original `Instrument’ in any international forum. If India was truthful, it should have the temerity to present the document to Pakistan or to the UN. Isn’t it funny that, in the summer of 1995, the Indian authorities reported the original document as lost or stolen? This fact further beclouds authenticity of the document. India took the Kashmir issue to the UN in 1948 under article 35 of Chapter VI which outlines the means for a peaceful settlement of disputes. India avoided presenting the Kashmir case under the UN Chapter VII which relates to acts of aggression. Obviously, it did so because it knew that the Kashmir was a disputed state. And, issue of its integration with India or Pakistan remained to be resolved.

From the foregoing, it is evident that the Instrument of Accession does not exist. The `accession’ of the disputed state, through a resolution of the puppet assembly, is null and void. This `resolution’ violates the Security Council’s directive forbidding India to forge unilateral ‘accession’ of the state.

India’s connectivity alternative

Chinese initiative is backed up by her surplus capital.  But rueful India has not been able to dangle an alternative to the BRI. Italy’s endorsement of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) hasn’t had much impact on Indian officials, who have long objected to the initiative, as media reports said the South Asian country signaled it might boycott the upcoming second Belt and Road Forum, to be held in Beijing.

In fact, the United States, has responded to BRI by launching similar blueprint by recruiting Japan and any other country who feel less comfortable dealing with China.

China, the new global hegemon

Historians, like Ibn-e-Khaldun, Toynbee, and Arrighi, have postulated a life cycle for fall of nations. For instance, Arrighi thinks wealthy hegemonic centres of civilisation last for about a century and then collapse.  If USA collapses, China is likely to take her place. Much to India’s chagrin, Pakistan would remain her steadfast ally.

India’s myopic efforts to isolate Pakistan

India has now publicly stated its intention to isolate Pakistan in comity of nations. An isolated country is a weak target. India made holding the SAARC conference in Pakistan impossible.

India’s developmental assistance to six neighbouring countries in South Asia over the last four fiscal years amounted to over Rs 211 billion. The countries are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka.   India extended developmental assistance to six neighbouring countries. The total aid to Afghanistan from 2014-15 to 2017-18 was Rs 22.32 billion, to Bangladesh it was Rs 5.14 billion, and to Bhutan it was Rs 156.8 billion. The developmental assistance to Maldives during the same period was Rs 2.7 billion, to Nepal it was Rs 13.22 billion, and to Sri Lanka it was Rs 10.8 billion. India has built a dam in Afghanistan and making 11 more there. She has committed Rs 45 billion for Bhutan’s 11th Plan – about 68 per cent of the total external assistance received. Another Rs 5 billion came in from India as part of the economic stimulus plan.

Modi visited only such countries that benefited India internally or externally. Between 2014 and 2018,  over Rs 2,021 crore was spent on chartered flights, maintenance of aircraft and hotline facilities during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visits to top 10 countries from where India has received the maximum FDI inflows. Foreign Direct Investments grew from USD 30,930.5 million in 2014, to USD 43478.27 million in 2017. A total of Rs 1,583.18 crore was spent on maintenance of Modi’s aircraft and Rs 429.25 crore on chartered flights during the period between June 15, 2014 and December 3, 2018. The total expenditure on hotline was Rs 9.11 crore. Modi visited over 55 countries in 48 foreign trips since taking over as prime minister in May 2014. Over Rs 1,346 crore was incurred on chartered flights, maintenance of aircraft and hotline facilities during Manmohan Singh’s foreign visits from 2009-10 till 2013-14 during UPA-II. The cumulative FDI inflows between 2014 and June 2018 stood at USD 136,077.75 million, compared to USD 81,843.71 million recorded cumulatively for the years between 2011 and 2014.

Kashmir’s current inferno is of India’s own making

While India blames Pakistan for her Kashmir troubles, it is pertinent to recall what India’s former defence minister George Fernandez (June 30, 1930 to January 29, 1930) said about Kashmir. I quote from Victoria Schofield on page 293 of her book Kashmir in the Crossfire (IB Taurus, London/New York, 1996.). `I do not believe that any foreign hand engineered the Kashmir problem’, stated George Fernandez in 1990. `The problem was created by us, and if others decided to take advantage of it, I do not believe that one should make that an issue; given the nature of the politics of our subcontinent, such a development was inevitable’. (Source:  George Fernandez. 12 October 1990, India’s Policies in Kashmir: An Assessment and Discourse, in Thomas, ed. Perspectives of Kashmir.).

Pacifist Kashmiri

An adage about pacifist Kashmiris reflects how timid they were. A Kashmiri youth joined army but never fired a shot. Asked by a Punjabi sikh (assumed to be scion of a martial race), he replied tapsi tey thus karsi.  That is, when my gun heats up it will automatically fire.

How the pacifist Kashmiri is turned into human missiles?

Humiliation

`Credit’ goes to reign of terror by 7,80,000 Indian forces in disputed state for punishing Kashmiri stone pelters with live bullets or pellets that blinded them (Washington Post July 12, 2016, New York Times dated August 29, 2016) . William Lukens, Bluemont (USA) clarified in Washington Post `To most Americans, a pellet gun is an air-powered pistol or rifle firing a single pellet. It is rarely able to kill or even wound a person hit with the pellet. As used by Indian police, “pellet gun” is a 12-gauge shotgun using shells that contain dozens of pellets propelled by gunpowder. There is a huge difference. When Americans read “pellet gun,” they think of “you’ll shoot your eye out.” Even girls and babies in laps are not spared.  Most of the pellets, fired from a high-velocity pump-action guns (outlawed by Amnesty International) hit above chest, usually face. India’s ladla (pampered) army chief (a general’s son) has so far displayed a fight-or-flight response to insurgency rooted in Kashmiris ’multifaceted deprivation. Just recall Indian army chief awarded commendation certificate to Major Leetul Gogoi who drove his jeep with a Kashmiri protester, tied to his jeep front. Gogoi was later caught red handed with an 18-year-old girl in a Srinagar hotel. (The Hindu dated September 19, 2018).  The ladla let the offender off the hook by charging with mild charge `fraternization with a woman’. The army chief is a misogynist who publicly rebuked women and declared them unfit for military service.

Humiliation of Kashmiris motivates them to become human missiles. The Pulwama Fedayeen, a schoolboy, was forced to rub his nose on ground by a `soldier’.

Roads were blocked to prevent mourners from attending funeral prayers of Pulwama bomber. Even dead bodies of stone-throwers are mutilated, paraded unzipped in body-packs, and photographed by way of memorabilia. Renowned writer Barkha Dutt reminisced (Outlook India dated February 20, 2019) a sensible local police officer’s directive `Bodies of those killed in encounters were to be properly zipped in covers and not paraded. At post-mortems of killed terrorists, no photographs were to be taken or distributed.’

A Kashmiri newspaper reported that army mercilessly beats even peaceful Kashmiri `for not hoisting Indian flag on their cars, bikes and even bicycles’, `even for selling or buying a pencil battery for a radio or wall clock’ .The presumption is that  `these batteries will be used in the wireless sets or bombs’.

Persecution of Kashmiri students and traders in Indian states

Kashmir students and traders are being attacked or looted in schools and colleges, at bus stops and in railway apartments throughout India. About 700 students, including girls, fled to Valley. Even holders of PM Modi’s merit-based competitive scholarships had to rush back to Valley for safety.

Some retired generals and RAW’s former chief AS Daulat cautioned Modi against brutal use of force India stayed united while Pakistan broke apart for lack of resilience and political myopia. At the time of partition, India was embroiled in many virulent insurgencies: Dravidian South movement, seven angry sisters of North East, Khalistan movement. India overcame the insurgencies through talks with Laldenga, Master Tara Singh, Dr. Phizo and others. It accepted demand for creation of new states. Gradually the incendiary states merged into Indian Union. But, India stands alienated in Kashmir. Lest India breaks up into `a congeries of states’ (Sir John Winthrop Hackett, The Third World War), it should free Kashmiris before next war with Pakistan.

India buckles on issues

Taiwan

China considers self-ruled Taiwan as a breakaway province that it has vowed to reunite with the mainland even if it has to resort to force. China warned the US, India and other countries against transferring defence technology to Taiwan for producing submarines. Air India even removed logos showing Taiwan as an independent entity.

Boycott of Chinese goods

Following Pulwama incident, India’s Confederation of All India Traders, which represents 70 million traders, said it would burn Chinese goods on March 19 to “teach a lesson” to China. Swadeshi JagranManch, the economic wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a Hindu nationalist group with close ties to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), also called for a boycott of Chinese goods. Chinese products like mobile phones made by companies such as Xiaomi Inc and toys are ubiquitous in India. 

Trade between the countries grew to nearly US$90 billion in the year ending March 2018. Aside from gung-ho, India’s trade ministry said in an email the country can’t take any unilateral punitive action against a fellow member of the World Trade Organisation.

India could not boycott import of China-made transistors that accounted for 81.9 percent of India’s transistor imports in 2017. The transistors are an input to almost all Indian electronic goods and machinery. India cannot afford to switch to home-made expensive alternative. These imports also contain embodied technologies, particularly semiconductors, fertilizer and pharmaceutical.

CPEC

India is yet to snatch back the Kashmir territory that China has occupied. No strike on Gwadar so far.

Inferences

Sagging US support

India can’t rely on Trump as bulwark against China. Trump values economic issues more than strategic issues. It may even slap tariffs on imports from India. Then there is the Afghan-exit nightmare.

No aid

There is no alternative to BRI for smaller countries. Gone are UNCTAD (UN conference on Trade and Development) or Lester Pearson’s trade, not aid, days. Countries are fighting for economic survival.  Like it could not stop BRI in other countries, India can’t stop CPEC.

Kashmir is not an intractable problem. Soon, India will have to revert to its foreign secretary Jagat S Mehta’s Kashmir proposals (soft borders). Trade across divided Kashmir, was agreed by India and Pakistan’s Musharraf within Mehta’s framework. It flourished until Modi recently stopped it to convert Kashmir into a veritable prison.. Mehta’s proposals are contained in his article, ‘Resolving Kashmir in the International Context of the 1990s’ (quoted in Robert G. Wirsing, India, Pakistan and the Kashmir Dispute (1994, St Martin’s Press). India’s sovereignty mantra is a hoax to disguise its weak case on Kashmir and Arunachal Pradish.

WTO and BRIC

China’s role under World Trade Organisation and in BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) would force India to shun its spurious repugnance to BRI. In 1990, BRIC countries accounted for 11% of global gross domestic product (GDP), by 2014 nearly 30%. These countries are not a political alliance, like the European Union or a formal trading association. Yet they have power as an economic bloc.

By 2050 (with China as a sole hegemon), these economies, including India, would be wealthier than most of the current major economic powers. Columbia University established the BRICLab, where students examine foreign, domestic, and financial policies of BRIC members. China and India are destined to become the world’s dominant suppliers of manufactured goods and services by 2050. Brazil and Russia will become dominant suppliers of raw materials. BRIC expanded to include South Africa as the fifth nation in 2010.

Writing on wall

Advice to India

India’s ambition to dominate the Indian Ocean does not augur well for the region. It should let Indian Ocean remain the zone of peace.Besides, India should mend its fence with Pakistan, sincerely support BRI and BRIC, or economically perish.

Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been contributing free-lance for over five decades. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, et. al.). He is author of seven e-books including Terrorism, Jihad, Nukes and other Issues in Focus (ISBN: 9781301505944). He holds degrees in economics, business administration, and law.

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South Asia

Curfewed Night- Book Review

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Curfewed Night by Basharat Peer, Vintage by Random House India, 2009

Kashmir – A Paradise Lost?

In ‘Curfewed Night’, Basharat Peer, launches his core narrative, with the remark, that it was from a very early age that he had a “sense of the alienation and resentment that most Kashmiri Muslims felt and had against Indian rule” (p.11). It is from this vantage point that the reader is catapulted in to an evocative account of a Kashmir he knows (so intimately), in a style which seamlessly switches between nostalgic reminiscing and straightforward reportage. As he tells us, it was the absence of “books about the Kashmiri experience” (p.95) which invoked in him the desire to “write about the people and places that had haunted him for years” (p.96). Basharat spent his formative years under the watchful eyes of his grandfather enjoying the company of books introduced to him by his father. It was January 1990, when he was 13 years of age that his war of adolescence began and events were set in motion which were to change Kashmir forever.  

In this intensely personal account of Kashmir, Basharat, goes on to describe the transformation of Kashmir from a land of immense natural beauty, into one where “armoured cars and soldiers” (p.229) were now casting an ominous shadow on the once idyllic landscape. According to him, the night of January 20,1990 marked a watershed in the Kashmiri demand for freedom, from an oppressive central government. On that night the paramilitary  had come down heavily to crush what was seen to be an “incipient rebellion” (p.14) and the infamous Gawkadal Bridge massacre was to follow just a day later(Haq, 2019).  Starting with the consequent spurt in growth of home grown militancy under the aegis of the pro-independence JKLF, he in the course of the book then traces the changing complexion and complexity of militancy as it moved to one which endorsed a pro-Pakistan stand as advocated by Hizbul Mujahideen and later the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed. As a concomitant we are exposed to his references to the growing presence of the Indian Armed Forces and the consequent, at times unspeakable atrocities.    

While still in school, Basharat Peer, could have said to have been lucky when he heeds the words of his grandfather, who tells him that “you don’t live long, in a war son”(p.28). This takes place when he aspires to join the militants in a moment of boyish hero worship, only to be thwarted in his attempt through active intervention by his family. The irony lies in the fact that in the same time frame, Tariq, his cousin meets a violent end after having embraced militancy. This inevitability of a violent end, in case of militancy, is later underlined by Basharat when he mentions that, “even Yusuf had not gotten out alive” (p.221). Yusuf was his childhood acquaintance who had various dalliances with the law, militancy and politics before being gunned down. It is indeed thought provoking and sad to find that the graves of those killed in the conflict were mostly those of the young, really young.

With this early brush with militancy, it is not long before, Basharat is sent away to study at the Aligarh Muslim University followed by enrolment at a university in Delhi. This leads him to a job as a reporter and a mellowing phase in his personal development when he discovers, the “various Indias that existed” (p. 69). All along visiting and keeping in touch with the valley it is a militant attack on his parents which unnerves him and prompts his return to the valley after having resigned from his job as a reporter. Wanting to write an intimate account of Kashmir, he now spends his time tracking down events and people with “militants and soldiers” becoming “ghost like presences”(p.206). This marks an extremely traumatic, tumultuous phase of intensely felt emotions, just as we are witness to the paralytic pain that engulfs him in his failed attempt to visit Kunanposhpora where twenty women were raped by armed forces.  

There is also a sense of the tragic especially in the latter half of the narrative, when Basharat poignantly reminds us (repeatedly)of the tremendous human cost brought upon his beloved valley which gradually became a conflict zone before his very own eyes. Whether it is the reference to the ‘Association of the Parents of the Disappeared’ (p.132) or his schoolmate Mubashir’s falling victim to a grenade attack as an innocent bystander, the pain is searing. Even his own grandfather’s brother Nabi suffers from “fear and paranoia” (p.77) after his brush with militants and is resigned to taking anti-depressants in order to cope with the trauma. This psychological distress does not take sides and even an army officer is quoted to say, “I was a different man before I joined the force and came to Kashmir” (p.232). It is no wonder that Basharat writes sub consciously or otherwise about the “violence of a shoe brush” and his aeroplane is seen to execute a “violent sprint on the runway” (p. 235).  

All said and done, whatever one’s political orientation, ‘Curfewed Night’, is undeniably a rich tapestry of reportage, personal experiences, reminiscences while at the same time it works as a social commentary on the Kashmir of our times. Basharat Peer does not always shy away from the unpleasant, though his narrative does shy away from digging deeper in to some uncomfortable truths like the forced migration of 100,000 or more Kashmiri Pandits following the events of the night of January 19,1990 (India Today , 2016). Also brushed aside is the role played by Pakistan when it meddles in matters of the sovereign state of India through its active and complicit involvement in an ongoing state sponsored proxy war(Towle, 1981).

To end on a more positive note, looking to “return, leave, return, leave, and return again” (p.234), an emotional Basharat looks for erasure of the “lines of control” (p.239) and a return to a world where individuals are not just suspects or military targets. He does indeed sum it up so well with his heart rending expression of the hope that the war in his valley “would disappear like footsteps on winter snow”! (p.223)

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Proxy War and the Line of Control in Kashmir

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Who has not heard of the Vale of Cashmere, with its roses the brightest that earth ever gave.Thomas Moore

The Backdrop

Kashmir has a way of arousing strong emotions, even among those like the Irish poet Thomas Moore, who never set foot on its soil. At the time of partition of British India, Kashmir was one of the largest princely states and like the rest of the princely states, it had the option of joining either of the two dominions of India and Pakistan or else declare independence. Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir had a similar choice to make but unable to take a stand he chose to sign a Standstill Agreement with Pakistan in order to buy time. India delayed signing such an agreement. It was following this agreement, that Pakistan with an eye on taking over Kashmir, started to act up and enforced a virtual economic blockade of this landlocked state, in a bid to force the Maharaja to accede to Pakistan (Singh, 1989).

The Maharaja desperate for supplies turned to India for help and matters soon took a turn for the worse, when Pashtun Tribals funded and equipped by Pakistan, invaded Kashmir, in October 1947(Haque, 2010). Facing imminent takeover of his state, Hari Singh again turned to India for help, but the Indian Government expressed its inability to intervene militarily in the absence of an Instrument of Accession. The Maharaja had dithered for too long to his detriment, he then signed the agreement and Indian troops were airlifted to the valley, immediately. The Indian Army successfully routed the tribal force,code named ‘Operation Gulmarg’,and it was the Pakistani Army which now took up the slack and stepped in continue the battle. 

With winter creeping in, fighting was resumed only in the spring of 1948. It was to be almost a year before a UN sponsored cease fire took effect in January 1949, and the cease fire line became the de facto border pending resolution of the dispute. In retrospect, the Pashtun invasion was in effect the first proxy war waged by Pakistan and the resulting cease fire line was to become the Line of Control in a later ‘avatar’. It is in the context of Kashmir that we shall examine the coming in to being of these twin concepts of ‘Line of Control’ and ‘Proxy War’ and see how they created and shaped the flow of events as they un folded, in the intervening decades. Also examined, will be the role of the two state actors in a bid to identify likely outcomes and possible course corrections.

Proxy War and Kashmir

Proxy wars cannot be understood, unless they are placed in the context of their existence and usage. For Pakistan, the benefit in this manner of engagement, lies not only in its deniability (for political reasons) but also because it minimises the chances that such a conflict could escalate into a full blown act of war (Byman, 2018).

 As an added corollary, there is the added incentive of reduced financial and human costs. Contextually, of even more significance, is the fact that India has military superiority which Pakistan would find hard to counter, if it were to engage in direct combat in a bid to annex Kashmir. Moreover, from a strategic point of view, when Pakistan plays the religion card for motivation, the results exceed expectations as it radicalises Islam in a Kashmir which originally subscribed to Sufi Islam. The incentive of ‘Azaadi’ is just a metaphor for annexation.

In Kashmir, there is a chain of causality, that began when, Major General Akbar Khan, a serving Pakistani Army officer, used Pashtun Tribals to stage an armed insurrection in Kashmir in October 1947 (Haque, THE KASHMIR CONFLICT: WHY IT DEFIES SOLUTION, 2010). The tribals in this operation were the first in a long list of non -state actors used by Pakistan in the relentless proxy war being waged, across the line of control, till today. Praveen Swami chooses to call this an “informal war” and rightfully says it has had a greater impact than both the 1947 and 1965 wars, as it set the stage for a seemingly endless engagement (Talbot, 2007).

Line of Control and Kashmir

In international parlance there was no such term like the line of control, until it was coined in 1972, when the Simla Accord was signed between India and Pakistan, after the post war (1971) negotiations between the two countries. The physical origins of the line of control, date back to the first Indo-Pak war in 1947, an invasion, gone wrong. Pakistan had committed this act of aggression, covert and overt, in spite of having signed a standstill agreement with the Maharaja of Kashmir, and for no identifiable reason except to further Jinnah’s interpretation of the Two Nation Theory. In spite of speculation about the exact timing of the signing of the Instrument of Accession by the Maharaja, the fact remains that Indian troops intervened with this accession instrument in place and the UN mediated a cease fire between the two countries and the cease fire line was formalised in a Karachi agreement signed in July 1949. Approximately one third of Kashmir was now with Pakistan and India had the balance two thirds. In the following years, there were three major wars with Pakistan and out of them it was the 1971 war which metamorphosed the cease fire line in to the Line of Control (LOC), as part of a larger political settlement. This line of control was in effect ‘cordon sanitaire’ based on military realities and political exigencies. Virtually unaffected by the wars of 1965 and 1999, the 742 km LOC still traverses majorly mountainous terrain with the Siachen Glacier as its end point. It has now been fenced over much of its length to discourage infiltration from Pakistan.

Proxy War and Line of Control

 In Juxtaposition

Regardless of nomenclature, with the war of 1947, the matters of proxy war and the line of control, became inextricably linked to the very existence of the countries of India and Pakistan. Just like the first war of 1947, Pakistan, unsuccessfully tried the proxy route again in 1965, with ‘Operation Gibraltar’ but the infiltrators could not garner local support and ‘conventional’ war broke out. The UN then negotiated a cease fire, and the Tashkent Agreement restored the sanctity of the 1949 cease fire line. In subsequent years, the 1971 war mutated the cease fire line, in to the LOC, and this war was more to do with the liberation of East Pakistan, anyway. Finally, it was Zia, who ultimately formalised this bid to “bleed India with a thousand cuts”(Katoch, 2013). The juggernaut he set rolling in 1988, never quite stopped and the Kargil war of 1999, was to see the pattern repeated, in terms of the use of non-state actors.

In the intervening years, since, only the ‘face’ of proxy war has changed and evolved, the heavily militarized LOC is a constant. To start with, in the eighties, it was the pro-independence JKLF with indigenous recruits, which held sway, only to be replaced by a pro-Pakistan, Hizbul-Mujahideen and later the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-Mohammed. Even now, the youth of Kashmir, is being radicalised and trained in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, for ‘Jihad’, but ‘terrorism fatigue’ is setting in. Militants are losing support of the local population, more and more, just as Pakistan uses its Afghan experience to use different nationalities as cannon fodder. Peace talks make no headway in this paradigm and there are no winners in this war, social and economic development is the casualty, damaged goods abound amongst the public and the security forces, alike.   

 In Search of a Settlement

Taking the time of partition as a point of reference, Pakistan was convinced in its mind that given geographical contiguity, and the fact that the state was predominantly Muslim, Kashmir should be its own. Clearly this was a political issue which Pakistan turned in to a military conflict. From thereon, Pakistan’s strategies ensured that the situation was turned in to a regional conflict with international dimensions. So much so Clinton referred to the LOC as the “most dangerous place in the world”(Popham, 2000). Playing its cards well, Pakistan turned a political stalemate in to a militaristic, socio-religious and political quagmire. With no noteworthy democratic institutions to speak of, Pakistan wants to liberate Kashmir, choosing to forget that accession was the instrument of choice when the princely states decided their fate at the time of partition. How was Kashmir’s choice being invalidated if this was so.

Today, the Kashmir Valley is a land transformed. From a paradise of untold natural beauty, it is a landscape of concertina wire fences and concrete bunkers. Its residents are in a state of siege, emotionally scarred, unable to cast off the twin yokes of militancy and counter-insurgency, with the military and militants lurking at every corner (literally). Brutality abounds. Opportunistic politicians, flawed elections, corrupt bureaucrats, a protecting force which behaves like an occupation force, are faces of this brutality that have been  unleashed on the people of Kashmir. This was not always so.

Clearly, somewhere along the way India lost her bearings. It failed to take in to account the aspirations of the people. Kashmirayat, was secular, but it was not taken seriously and it did not take much to ignite the flames of ‘Azaadi’ which almost engulfed the valley. The secular bond was broken with the forced migration of the Kashmiri Pundits out of the valley. Regardless of the prevailing political dispensation, over time, with the growth of militancy, repression was the dominant reaction and the ‘mailed fist’ gained precedence. Radicalised Islam began to replace Sufi Islam((RETD), 2018).  Fear and suspicion ruled the psyche of the people. The youth felt disenfranchised. India had fallen in to the trap of enforcing a siege instigated by Pakistan. Kashmiris felt betrayed. Article 370 which granted unprecedented autonomy, had been diluted until it was just symbolic, when it was abrogated in 2019, by a fiercely nationalistic government which had only just snapped ties with an electoral partner perceived as soft on separatists.

Coming back to the time of independence, Dionisio Anzilotti, former President of the Permanent Court of International Justice, says that Pakistan’s invasion in 1947 was “against all canons of international law” and “a clear violation of the Charter, the Security Council’s resolution of 17 January, 1948” (Pan, 1998).Just as interesting is the fact that, the accession document is deemed to be legal under international law even if it is signed under duress(Ayoob, 1967). As for the oft touted failure to institute a plebiscite, the UNSC resolution signed by both countries, clearly calls for first off withdrawal of Pakistani troops from Kashmir, with India keeping its forces at a minimum. Pakistan will never pull back and the stalemate therefore continues.

Clearly, there is an impasse and an impossibility for either side to blink. In Pakistan, the army cannot possibly abandon a conflict through which it exercises control over the body politic that sustains its economic, political and economic interests. It is almost as if, Kashmir is the very reason for the existence of the army and for the public of Pakistan, Kashmir’s liberation and annihilation of its bête noire, India, is the only national priority. Muhammad Shaffi Qureshi, a Kashmiri politician put it well when he said, that the Pakistan Army has “been feeding the tiger for a long time” for it to just walk away(Kifner, 2001). The danger in proxy warfare being that after a time proxies begin to “act according to their own interest and impulses”(Byman, ORDER FROM CHAOS Why engage in proxy war? A state’s perspective, 2018)(ibid).Pervez Musharraf and others have realized this truth much to their chagrin.

 India, too is riding its own tiger, as it is caught in a ‘low-level equilibrium trap ‘in terms of being, in a state of no war accompanied by no peace(Carciumaru, 2015). The fear being that any let up in military presence will escalate militancy. The abrogation of Article 370 and the division of the state of Jammu & Kashmir in to centrally administered divisions, has destabilized already vulnerable democratic processes, turning Kashmir in to a simmering cauldron. The current political dispensation at the centre is still going ahead andrapidly making changes in domicile laws, in a bid to alter the demographics of the region. Previous state governments had done this for different reasons when they allowed the settling of Rohingya refugees in Jammu and thereabouts, for obvious reasons. Admittedly, matters can take a serious turn from hereon, with resentment boiling over among the populace at large.

Attempting to deal with the abrogation of Article 370, Pakistan is consequently changing its strategy. A leaked policy document from the ‘Green Book 2020’,indicates that the proxy war will now move towards, a‘non kinetic domain’(Osborne, 2020).Cyber warfare and psychological warfare being  used to aid and abet a native uprising, so as to be able to defend Pakistan’s position on international forums. With a defensive and weakened Pakistan,   India, too must move differently and realize that it cannot have a decisive win against militancy, using brute force. With militancy, currently at an ebb, the time is in fact opportune to move towards a ‘negotiated settlement’ as the militants are politically discredited in a scenario where India has the moral high ground as it does not believe in building terror launch pads on its soil.  Its people of Kashmir are decidedly at an advantage economically, when compared to their ‘compatriots’ across the LOC and they have a ‘voice’, in a country where rule of law still prevails. Aberrations like the AFSPA, can surface in any dispensation, you don’t throw the baby with the bath water.

In Conclusion

Bashir Manzar wrote on twitter, “From Geelani to Farooq Abdullah, we have a luxury to say anything and everything against India, ridiculing it for rejecting our right of self-determination,independent Kashmir, autonomy, self-rule etc. But when Pakistan rejects all these things, we turn into non-speaking species. Are we more scared of Pakistan than India?”

Seven decades later, peace is still intractable in the Kashmir Valley.Violations across the line of control continue, by both sides and the proxy war initiated and sustained by Pakistan, has been a constant for long.Kashmir  is ina ‘mutually hurting-stalemate’(Carciumaru, Beyond the ‘Low-Level Equilibrium Trap’: Getting to a ‘Principled Negotiation’ of the Kashmir Conflict, 2015) (ibid).Perhaps, the most elegant solution to this imbroglio would be acceptance of the line of control as an international border with greater autonomy for Kashmir (as suggested by Farooq Abdullah)so that the people of Kashmir couldthen move on with their lives, which in a paradoxical manner seem to be in a state of suspended animation, as long as the conflict continues to play itself out. This is not utopian, all it needs is political will and some give and take(Sharma, 2017).

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Increasing Need for Global Cooperation and Solidarity- Interview with Dr. Tandi Dorji

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Covid-19 has invoked challenges worldwide that require us to formulate innovative solutions. Dr.Tandi Dorji , the foreign minister of Bhutan talks about the need to foster and increase transnational cooperation during these trying times.

Dr. Tandi Dorji has played a significant role in fostering Indo-Bhutan relations, and in the interview, he discussed future areas of collaboration, cultural understanding, and international engagement among the youth of the two countries. Having been a public health researcher before, Dr. Dorji reflects that the pandemic has rendered the population of Bhutan really vulnerable, and thinks that a challenge of such nature and scale can be surmounted only with global solidarity, cooperation and diligent efforts.

Some nations have a lot of financial, technical and human resources to tackle the pandemic, but others with weak public health systems and constrained by lack of resources cannot be sustained by sole efforts. There is a need to recognize this disparity and acknowledge that a weak link could jeopardize efforts aimed at global collaboration. Governments, health organizations, private sectors, scientists and researchers need to work with a common aim.

Countries that have research and financial capabilities need to come forward and support organizations like WHO that are responding to the current crisis through vaccine research. The collaborations in vaccine research need to be speeded up, and in order to make them more accessible and affordable for all countries, there needs to be a proper regulatory framework put in place.

This calls for a renewal in diplomatic efforts and increased funding programs by nations that already possess resources to tackle the crisis.

As someone who studied and lived in India for more than 15 years of his life, Dr. Dorji really appreciates the cultural richness and diversity present across states in India. He says that cultural understanding can play a very vital part in creating empathy within a population for the other side’s paradigm and mindsets. Being informed of a person’s or a culture’s peculiarities enables us to comprehend them better.

Cultural differences, according to him, have not prevented people from working together. Rather, the fact that different countries in the past have come together under the purview of common international frameworks has provided opportunities to different cultures to reach out to one another, and to understand as well as accept the differences among them.

Dr. Dorji also believes that the principles and values that construct out society play a crucial role in informing our education system, so the need of the hour is to collectively create an environment that would make the youth feel more involved and develop the ability in them to engage in constructive discussion and exercise other forms of proactive citizenship, including in the areas of foreign affairs and international relations.

From politics to economics to health, the world has become a lot more interconnected than before, and to succeed in this global age it is very important to instil in students the ability to think globally, communicate across cultures, and act on issues of global significance; and while school education could play a role by incorporating foreign affairs and international relations in the curriculum, to foster greater awareness and intercultural empathy among nations we would also need to enable young minds to understand how the foreign policy objectives constructed by a nation affects their daily lives and the society at large.

More exchange programs between the schools and colleges of India and Bhutan in the fields of sports, culture and science and more youth-focused programs is one way to enhance the probability of intercultural understanding.

Dr. Dorji also says that India being one of the largest economies of the world, and predicted to become the second largest by 2050, there is much scope for collaboration between India and Bhutan within sectors such as Science, technology, tourism, Information technology, space and satellites, and pharmaceuticals. Indian investments in such sectors could be explored in the near future.

His Majesty the King of Bhutan (Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk) has particularly stressed the importance of STEM in harnessing technological advances, which can only happen by investing in these subjects. Economies are progressing and the world is gradually becoming more digital, so the national labour market is also going to require skills with an added emphasis on technical abilities, and it is highly important that our children are prepared to participate in discoveries and technologies that would unfold in future. One of them is space, and although Bhutan lacks resources and is a small country, it is important for more Bhutanese young people to realise the value of, and take up space studies.

The government, as per Dr. Dorji, shall be ready to encourage and promote the same.

Dr. Tandi Dorji concluded by saying that he appreciates the strong cultural heritage of India and how the country has managed to preserve and promote it.

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