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India’s purblind opposition to Belt and Road Initiative

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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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India’s Extended Neighborhood and Implications for India’s Act East Policy

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Governments in India have come and gone, however what remains perpetual is the dynamic foreign policy construct of India. The concept of the “extended neighbourhood” has been woven into India’s foreign policy, which is now becoming multidimensional and omnidirectional – a 360-degree view necessitated by a rapidly changing world – particularly after 1997 (Atal Bihari Bajpai) or 2004 (Manmohan Singh). The historic change of power in the world provides a compelling backdrop for India’s gradually growing emphasis on “extended neighbourhood” in its foreign policy practice and projection. Historically speaking, the extended neighbourhood has influenced India’s foreign policy since its independence. Philosophically, the idea of “Vasundhara Kutumbakam,” or “the world is one big family,” is intricately entwined with the word “extended neighbourhood.” 

The Look East policy and the beginning of India’s economic reforms in the early 1990s paved the way for a multifaceted acceleration of economic and strategic interaction with East and South-East Asia, which are home to some of the region’s most dynamic economies and innovation hubs. India edged closer to the energy-rich regions of West Asia and Central Asia during the next 10-15 years as its need for hydrocarbons developed rapidly. Various geo-economic and geo-strategic imperatives fuel India’s expanding involvement with its wider neighbourhood. The geo-economic imperative requires greater economic integration through trade, investment, technology transfer, and innovation. Additionally, it entails creating a network of connected free trade agreements throughout the area. Engaging and collaborating more frequently to tackle a wide range of intertwining concerns, such as terrorism, maritime piracy, transnational crime, disaster mitigation, and countering transnational pandemics.

INDIA’S INTERESTS IN THE EXTENDED NEIGHBOURHOOD

India’s interests extend beyond its borders, its fixation on the South Asia-centric notion of neighbourhood can no longer be deployed as a useful analytical framework to evaluate India’s regional diplomacy. India’s extended neighbourhood, therefore comprises of the South Asia, Indo-Pacific, South-East Asia, West Asia and Central Asia. Each of these neighbourhood comes with its own opportunities and challenges as far as India is concerned.

BIMSTEC/ACT EAST/ INDO-PACIFIC:  India’s preference for BIMSTEC over South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) stems from the diplomatic strategy to ‘isolate Pakistan’ which translates to keep Pakistan out of its strategic interests in the region given the turbulent past of the two countries. However, this isn’t necessarily the only reason for India to focus on BIMSTEC more. Both internal and external strategic considerations prompt India’s involvement in the sub-regional conference for the Bay of Bengal[1].

Internally, countries in the Bay of Bengal subregion are involved in the development and security concerns of India’s eastern shore, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and the Northeast region. Externally, three key policy initiatives—the “Neighbourhood First” policy, the “Act East” policy, and the “Indo-Pacific” construct—direct Delhi’s present regional strategy, which involves the BIMSTEC subregion.

The frontier regions of India, such as the Northeast and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, are far from the country’s main economic centres. With other BIMSTEC members, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, and Nepal, India shares sea and land borders (maritime boundaries with Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand). The Bay of Bengal subregion is being envisioned as a result of the BIMSTEC summit, which makes the Neighbourhood First policy more vital than ever. This suggests that the sub-regional grouping plays a crucial role in the efficacy of this approach. India’s “Act East” foreign policy strategy is launched in the BIMSTEC subregion. India’s journey to the east will proceed smoothly if it maintains good relations with the BIMSTEC countries[2].

As far as the Indo-Pacific is concerned, it is a relatively a new concept. Despite being an American initiative, India adopted the Indo-Pacific framework to expand its hub-and-spoke network beyond its current alliance structure and integrate India into the new security system led by the US. The development of the strategic alliance between Japan and India, which served as the foundation for the Indo-Pacific region, has had the fervent support of the US. India’s prominence on security concerns in the area has improved as a result of India’s growing strategic engagement with the Pacific littoral countries. The idea that major nations should assume more responsibility for maintaining peace and stability in the region has culminated with the creation of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) framework.[3]

India’s interest in the Indo-Pacific framework is largely due to the prominent position that other nations have given it in the Indian Ocean region (IOR). How other major countries see India will play a role in determining its position within the larger international power system. India is also confident that cooperation with the US, particularly in the Indo-Pacific area, will help it acquire the state-of-the-art defence technologies needed to counter threats from its long-time adversaries like Pakistan and China. India benefits naturally from its proximity to the Bay of Bengal subregion, but it also means that major powers are becoming more interested in its backyard. Long-term strategic problems for India are posed by China’s expanding influence in the wider Indian Ocean region as well as the Bay of Bengal subregion. Beijing has proposed numerous projects as part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), including the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, the China-Laos-Thailand Railway Cooperation etc[4].

WEST ASIA: In 2005, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced the “Look West’ policy as an extension of India’s economic hinterland and widening strategic cooperation. Indian interests in the Gulf have continued to be primarily focused on trade, energy security, and protecting the rights of the Indian diaspora in the area. India is actively promoting its culture and educational system in the area with a focus on cooperation and exchange. Strengthening the relationship in the fields of education and culture has been intended to maintain India’s soft power dominance by promoting Indian culture and assisting human resource development in the region. By forging strategic alliances and fostering the region’s crucial energy and trade relations, India has made clear that it wants to incorporate the Gulf region in all practicable new industries[5].

When Modi was elected in 2014, the broad outlines of India’s Middle East strategy were well established. Instead of choosing a different direction, the new administration continued along the same road but reinforced the “Look West” policy by concentrating on three key areas: the Arab Gulf states, Israel, and Iran.

Fast forward 2022, the I2U2 group of countries, ‘I2’ standing for India and Israel and ‘U2’ representing the United States (US) and United Arab Emirates (UAE), held their first summit level virtual meet on 14 July, during US President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel. The summit-level talks come as a welcome push since the meeting of I2U2 foreign ministers in October 2021 was followed by a lull despite many analysts christening this new setup as the ‘Middle East Quad’ (or ‘West Asia Quad’).[6]

Each of the four member countries has emphasised one of the six focal points of collaboration that will serve as the beginning of the next stage of this engagement. The first batch of pilot projects will focus on cooperation in the fields of water, food security, health, transportation, and space cooperation. These initiatives will operate under broader global issues like climate change, international economic stability, volatile energy markets, and food markets that have disproportionately impacted the Global South in comparison to the more developed regions of the world. The foundation of these projects is geoeconomics. As far as India is concerned, joining the I2U2 allows India to take use of its favourable relations with Israel, the Gulf, and the US to develop economic exchanges that are mutually beneficial and have virtually no potential drawbacks.

CENTRAL ASIA: The Silk Road provides the basis for the history of India’s relations with Central Asia. However, as time progressed, India’s ties to Central Asia continued to weaken, which is also apparent from the fact that India didn’t have any sizable post-independence policy aimed at Central Asia. With India’s economy growing, so did the demand for energy, necessitating a diversification of suppliers outside of the Gulf. In order to lessen its reliance on pipelines through Russia, Central Asia also thought about how it could supply energy to Asia’s fast rising countries, such as India and China. India’s “Connect Central Asia Policy” is the result of its growing fascination with the region. E. Ahamed, who was the minister of External Affairs for the State at the time, drew attention to the increasing political and economic integration of Central Asia with the rest of the world in 2012 and noted the region’s proximity to India. India’s “Connect Central Asia Policy” was enhanced when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited all five in 2015, making him the first Indian head of state to do so[7]. This renewed interest is due to the region’s altering geopolitical landscape, particularly the growth of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), as well as the external security concerns the region faces. India has strengthened the institutional underpinning for its bilateral defence cooperation in the region. Notably, agreements and memorandums of understanding (MOUs) relating to defence and military technology cooperation were signed between India and Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan during Prime Minister Modi’s trips to those nations in 2015. In order to safeguard its energy interests, India has also boosted its civil nuclear cooperation with the region.

KEY CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES VIS A VIS INDIA’S ACT EAST POLICY

India has been engaged in the South-east Asian region on all fronts since 1992, when Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao announced a “Look East Policy” to engage with Southeast Asia. These fronts include diplomatic, security, economic, and people-to-people engagement. Building on Narasimha Rao’s foundation, Prime Ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh developed a solid partnership with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Following this strategy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi transitioned his Look East strategy into an Act East strategy. 

Challenges:

The northeastern region has seen slow development on the AEP overland connection strategy, even though the majority of the 4Cs (commerce, connectivity, capacity-building, and culture) under AEP are classed as “anticipated” or “ongoing” with a flexible/infinite timeframe approach. Despite being in charge of a vital strategic overland connecting point to Southeast Asian countries, Modi continues to have a serious strategic flaw in his determination to play a significant role in world events at the expense of ignoring fruitful engagement in the North East Region and with India’s close neighbors[8].

The Indo-Pacific Strategy of 2017 strengthened the hedging of a China-counter strategy through the AEP, but the incoherent and vague China policy of the Trump administration was marked by uncertainties in terms of priority and emphasis, leading to a “worrying” policy situation in Modi’s strategy against China

According to Sanjaya Baru, many ASEAN nations wanted India to counterbalance China’s expanding power, which was initially sparked by China’s rapid rise after the transatlantic financial crisis and the Xi Jinping regime’s increasing assertiveness. Regional business was dismayed by India’s economic slowdown and inward focus, which were indicated in its decision to renounce the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) pact. While the ASEAN and Indian governments worked to maintain positive ties, Southeast Asia’s influential corporate communities—mostly Chinese—started to become less interested in India[9].

OPPORTUNITIES

When the world was perhaps dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak, India in its extended neighborhood offered COVID-19 related assistance by supplying HCQ and Paracetamol and other medical equipment’s to almost 123 countries including US, Germany Spain etc. India’s stand on Act East policy is perhaps diminishing. Although during the peak COVID-19. Modi’s broad spectrum diplomatic approach is appreciated, it overlooked its key foreign policy interests in the region that is BIMSTEC and ASEAN which emerge as India’s key interests in the ambit of India’s Act East policy. The long-term effect of continued Indian cooperation with ASEAN would bring stronger, more effective, and more outcome-oriented AEP would automatically involve greater engagement, including easier physical connectivity and more interpersonal contact. This should act as a strong incentive for both parties to set up a robust joint pandemic response structure, preventing quicker pathogen transmissions from being caused by improved connection. In order for India to fortify its credibility in the region and given the China question, India should actively pursue a more serious and concrete Act Est Policy.


[1] Beyond the South Asia-centric notion of neighbourhood

Beyond the South Asia-centric notion of neighbourhood | ORF (orfonline.org)

[2] Beyond the South Asia-centric notion of neighbourhood

Beyond the South Asia-centric notion of neighbourhood | ORF (orfonline.org)

[3] Indo-Pacific: Evolving perception and Dynamics

‘INDO-PACIFIC’: EVOLVING PERCEPTIONS AND DYNAMICS – National Maritime Foundation (maritimeindia.org)

[4] Beyond the South Asia-centric notion of neighbourhood

Beyond the South Asia-centric notion of neighbourhood | ORF (orfonline.org)

[5] Accelerating India’s Look West Policy in the Gulf: IDSA

[6] The I2U2 summit: Geoeconomic cooperation in a geopolitically complicated West Asia

[7] Realising India’s Strategic Interests in Central Asia

[8] India’s Act East Policy: Warning to China or Flawed Strategy?

[9] What’s going wrong with India’s Act East Policy

Sanjaya Baru writes: What’s going wrong with India’s Act East policy? (indianexpress.com)

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Is genocide against the Indian Muslims a myth or a tangible reality?

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A professor at the Manipal Institute of Technology in Udupi district asked a student for his name and then said, “Oh you are like Kasab”. Ajmal Kasab was the sole surviving gunman from the 26 November 2008 “terror” attacks in India’s financial capital, Mumbai. He was convicted and hanged in 2012. This incident reveals that anti-Muslim propaganda has percolated minds of even educated people.  

Genocide warning

Genocide Watch, a global organisation, dedicated to the prevention of genocide, has issued two warning alerts for India. One is for the occupied territory of Kashmir and the other for Assam state.  According to the website, a ‘Genocide Watch’ warning is declared by the NGO when there are signs of the early stages of genocide in progress.

The NGO was founded by academic Dr Gregory Stanton in 1999Genocide Watch objective is to predict, prevent, stop, and punish genocide.

The most recent genocide alert issued by the organisation was for occupied Kashmir, in which it identified the genocidal process, based on Dr Stanton’s 10 Stages of Genocide. These stages are mentioned heretofore.

Genocide stages

Classification: The fanatics first begin to believe myths that they are an endangered species threatened by the other. In the case of India, Hindus constitute about 79 percent of India’s population. Being in majority they have nothing to fear. The Hindutva government of Narendra Modi is there to protect their interests. Yet, they presume that Muslims are more virile than them. They can take up to four wives, As such; a Muslim household would have invariably more siblings than a traditional Hindu household. Hinduism is monogamous. A so-called Hindu religious assembly exhorted Hindu community to produce the maximum number of kids lest Muslim population exceeds Hindu population in a few years. The religious assembly called upon Hindus to buy the latest state-of-the-art arms and ammunition to kill Muslims. The local police at Haridwar were reluctant to file First Information Reports. When they, at long last, filed the FIRS, the Hindutva influenced courts bailed out the fiery speakers. The bailees received a heroic welcome back home.

Symbolisation: All Muslims are traitors as “they” look towards Mecca. Their prayer caps, dress and food habits distinguish them from “US”, Hindus. Muslims have Muslim names (on ID cards). Similarly Kashmiri Muslim is distinguished by their dress.  Muslims mock our gods. They slaughter and eat cows.

Discrimination: Hindu Pandits were economically dominant until 1990. The congress government initiated a number of schemes to ameliorate the lot of the pauper Muslims.

Dehumanisation: Muslims are called “terrorists”, “separatists”, “criminals”, “insurgents”. Even members of a peaceful Tablighi  Jamaat (Preachers’ Party) visiting India were hounded, harassed and expelled.

Organisation: Extremist Hindu organisations like the RSS, Bajrang Dl, etc are imparting military training to their recruits. They indulge in arson, shooting, and looting whenever riots break out. They enjoy police connivance.

Polarisation: Extremist Hindu organisations incite anti-Muslim hatred. They are very active on social media to spread falsehoods.

Preparation: Around nine lac Indian army and security personnel dot every nook and corner in occupied Kashmir. They kill Kashmiris in fake encounters, in police custody and in so many other ways. An Indian army major tied a Kashmiri to bonnet of his jeep and paraded him in several villages to create “terror”. BJP leaders speak of the “Final Solution” (holocaust) for Kashmir

Persecution: Muslims in India are persecuted in multifarious ways. They are not allowed to offer prayers at mosques. The Supreme Court has declared that a mosque is not essential to Muslim mode of worship. Muslim s offering prayer at Gurgaon open space was beaten up. Even those offering group prayer within houses were beaten. Thousands of loudspeakers were removed from mosques on ground that they disturb peace people living in the vicinity.

Extermination: Since 1990, there have been at least 25 massacres by Indian troops as well as Muslim fighters with death tolls over 25

Denial: Modi and BJP say their goals are to “bring prosperity” and “end terrorism”; they deny any massacres. No Indian Army troops or police are ever tried for torture, rape or murder

In view of these developments, Genocide Watch has called upon the United Nations and its members to warn India not to commit genocide in occupied Kashmir.

Assam

Genocide Watch has also issued an alert for Assam state in India, where millions of Bengali Muslims face losing citizenship status.

Over seven million people in Assam State, mostly Muslims of Bengali descent, may lose their Indian citizenship and risk imprisonment in special “foreigner detention centers”. A process is now underway to “verify” the citizenship of all 32 million inhabitants of Assam state, which requires each person to affirmatively prove that they are Indian and not an “illegal migrant”.

“At the urging of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist central government, Assam is updating its master list of ‘citizens’ […] Anyone not on the final ‘citizen’ list will be presumptively declared a ‘foreigner’, subject to statelessness and indefinite detention.

“Assam’s Muslims are especially likely to be excluded from the ‘citizen’ list as part of a decades-long pattern of discrimination. The word ‘foreigners’ is a common term of dehumanization used to exclude targeted groups from citizenship and the exercise of their fundamental civil and human rights,” said Genocide Watch.

“The Home Minister of India called Bengali Muslims (“foreigners”) living in North eastern states ‘termites’. Anti-Muslim propaganda has polarised the Assam population.

According to Genocide Watch “Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has requested additional Indian government troops and police to arrest ‘foreigners’. The Assam state is building ten new ‘foreigner’ detention centers to add to the six prisons already in existence.”

“If India imprisons Bengali Muslims in Assam, it will be violating its obligations under the UN Refugee Conventions. If it expels them from India, it will be perpetrating ‘forced displacement’, a crime against humanity. If genocidal massacres occur, India will violate its obligations to prevent genocide under the Genocide Convention,” added the watchdog.

Genocide Watch called upon the UN Secretary General, the UN Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and key UN member states to warn India “not to strip citizenship from, imprison, and forcibly displace millions of Bengali Muslims, many of whom have lived their entire lives in Assam state”.

Concluding remarks

The Genocide Watch has announced that India has completed eight out of ten genocide stages. Yet the Indian government shrugged off their warnings.

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Pakistan’s Efforts for Protection of Minorities’ Rights, Facts on Forced Conversions and Blasphemy Convictions

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It can be argued that the binary construction, inherently divisive and discriminatory, of ‘self’ and ‘other’ is an outcome of the conditioned and egoic state of humanity. It reminds of the French philosopher Jacques Derrida who said that ‘self’ and ‘other’ are different, but mutually constitute each other. Indeed, majority-minority group identities are constituted in a way where ‘majority self’, excludes ‘minority other’.

Therefore, the protection of the national cultural, ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities is a prerequisite for the establishment of a just, democratic and harmonious state and society. This was recognized by the founding father of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah when he said “You are free! You are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed—that has nothing to do with the business of the state,”. This set the framework for future national outlook and legislation with respect to the rights of minorities in Pakistan. Indeed, the establishment of such a framework for minority rights was based on the recognition that minorities are in a vulnerable situation in comparison to majority groups in society, and aims to protect members of a minority group from discrimination, assimilation, prosecution, hostility or violence, as a consequence of their status.

Notwithstanding its commitments to ensure minority rights in accordance with national and international laws and need for the preservation of the pluralistic social composition, Pakistan like any other country has faced challenges in the past. The deleterious effects of instrumentalizing religion and Islam during the Afghan Jihad against Soviet occupation in 1979 and later the US-led war against terrorism is well recognized and efforts are made to undone the damage. It is reassuring and commendable to see Pakistan achieving great strides in promoting and protecting minority rights. However, in this age of information warfare, Pakistan’s laudable efforts have not been duly appreciated as Indian propaganda machinery is in full swing to discredit and malign Pakistan’s global image. By presenting factually wrong statements and statics on the issue of minority rights in Pakistan, India has been trying hard, albeit unsuccessfully, to portray itself as the ‘safe heave’ for minorities and deflect international attention from its own worst record of suppressing minorities.

So, let’s consider if ‘forced’ conversions are indeed forced conversions or its more a hyperbole to malign Pakistan. The facts on the issue will help make an unbiased opinion. Consider this, since 2019 a total of 1169 cases of conversions occurred.  The percentage of these conversions with respect to different groups are follows: Hindus (88%), Christians (9%), Sikh (less than 1%) and Qadianis (2%). Interestingly, of the 1169 conversions, individual conversions are only 17%, while 83% are family/ collective conversions. Less than only 1% are forced conversion cases in which girls are sent back to parent’s custody. Pakistan has enacted the Hindu Marriage Act 2017 to address the issue which extends to the whole of Pakistan except Sindh as Sindh government has passed the Sindh Hindu marriage Act 2016 (amended in 2018), to facilitate the Hindu community to solemnize their marriages in accordance with the Sindh Hindu marriage Rules, 2019.

To dispel the negative projection of conversion issue, Pakistan Hindu Council and Ulema reached an agreement according to which any Hindu approaching Ulema for conversion will be reported to local Hindu Community leader and his/ her meeting with parents will be arranged (in absence of Ulema). When it comes to the protection of minority rights, the response of the state has been swift and uncompromising. For instance, 117 suspected including 7 main instigators who set ablaze the Hindu Temple were arrested within 2/3 days of event. 12 police officials were dismissed and 92 police officials suspended for negligence in duties to protect mob on Hindu temple in Teri. In such cases the government also releases funds for the reconstruction purposes. Another case at hand is the state’s swift response for Protection of Minorities on Old Qilla Rawalpindi. On 27 Mar 2021, 15 religious motived individuals attacked and tried to damage under renovated temple at Purana Qilla Rawalpindi. FIR was registered against individuals and they were arrested. Unsurprisingly, over 6000 Pakistani Hindus launched a protest campaign against India for its smear campaign against Pakistan on the issue of minorities and 133 Hindus returned in last one year from India amidst improving conditions for minorities.

The response on Blasphemy Laws/ Cases is indiscriminate and since 2005, 56 individuals were convicted on blasphemy offense. 45 Muslims, 7 Christians, 2 Hindus, and 2 Qadianis (Muslims 80%, minorities 20%).  Minorities convicted on blasphemy are given fair trial and rights of appeal in higher Judiciary. Acquittal of 5 Christians including Asia Bibi and Shagufta Kausar, Shafqat Emaneul etc by higher Judiciary are cases in point.

In fact, minorities in Pakistan are free to practice religion. There are 2652 Churches (1 church per 664 Christians), 732 Temples (1 Temple per 2734 Hindus) and 167 Gurdwaras (1 Gurdwara per 55 Sikhs) exist. If we draw a comparison in UK there is only one mosque for 2249 Muslims. Pakistan is committed to mainstream and empower the minorities. They are provided with equal rights to education, jobs and business opportunities (Reserve seats in Parliament, minorities on senior positions in bureaucracy, army etc). There are four reserved seats in the Senate and ten in National Assembly of Pakistan for minorities besides the proportional reserved seats in all Provincial Assemblies. The proportional reserved seats for minorities across the four provinces include Balochistan (3), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (3), Punjab (8) and Sind (9).

In pursuit of preserving the pluralistic composition and ensuring equal rights to minorities, Pakistan re-constituted The National Commission for Minorities (NCM) and increased membership of minority communities, who are new in the majority. Moreover, Mr. Chela Ram Kewlani, a member of the minority community, has been appointed as Chairman of the Commission. In terms of quota for Minorities in Services, Pakistan has allocated 5% Job Quota for minorities in all Federal Govt Services, in addition to open merit. On the directions of National Commission for Minorities, implementation of the job quota is being strictly observed by Provincial Governments, Federal Ministries/ Divisions, FPSC, Islamabad, however, Pakistan needs to address any shortcomings in realizing this by addressing the lack of education and awareness.

The Single National Curriculum introduced in consultation with faith scholars at primary level in educational institutions of Pakistan for seven non-Muslim communities (Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Kalash, Bahai, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism) is praiseworthy. Besides that, different welfare measures are being taken, including the creation of Endowment Fund in line with the bill passed by KP on December 8, 2022, increase in scholarships for minority students with effect from March 2014, and provision of free vocational education for Hindus and Sikhs approved by Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) on 15 January 2021.

Apart from the Interfaith Harmony Policy at the Federal level, the Ministry of Religious Affairs has taken a number of initiatives to promote interfaith harmony. These include Declaration/ Celebration of Minorities Day, Public holidays for minorities on their festivals of (Christmas and Easter for Christians, Holi and Diwali for Hindus, Biasakhi and Birthday of Guru Nanak for Sikhs, Nauroze of Zoroastrian, Eid-e-Ridvan for Bahai’s, Festival of Lights for Buddhist community and Chelum Jhust for Kalash people) at official level. The government has also established “District interfaith Harmony Committees” throughout the country and is holding “Interfaith Harmony Conferences” to promote interfaith culture, throughout the county. To mainstream Minorities, Minorities Welfare Fund was established, under which “Small Development Schemes” are carried out for the repair/ maintenance of the religious/ worship places of minorities. Also, Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) established on 16.04.2019 facilitates the Sikh Yatrees from India and across the word on their religious festivals in Pakistan.

Also, the Ministry of Human Rights introduced Hindu Marriage Act, 2017 which extends all over Pakistan except Sindh. This Act is the personal law and contains various provisions specially to protect Hindu women against abused in marriages. Ministry of Human Rights in consultation with Christian Minorities has also prepared a Christian Marriage and Divorce Act. However, certain factions of Christian communities want further deliberation over this draft bill. Once the bill is finalized it will be introduced in Parliament without any delay.

Pakistan has also taken incredible steps to promote Religious Tourism by opening historical Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib Corridor and its operationalization for Sikh community, holding of 550th birthday celebration of Baba Guru Nanak, initiation of Baba Guru Nanak Scholarship for deserving talented student form Hindu & Sikh community, hosting of more than 60,000/- yatrees form across the word, opening of Shewala Teja Mandir and Gurdawara Choa Sahib, Jehlum, filling up of Amer Kund (Holy Water) at Katas Raj, printing and distribution of Books and other promotional material on Sikh & Hindu Heritage. The security of minorities, especially during religious festivals is being strictly ensured. A grievance cell has been set up to resolve complaints of non-Muslims to ensure their democratic and fundamental right to practice their religion without any fear.

In the nutshell, if history is any guide, the protection of national minorities is essential to stability, democratic security and peace. Pluralist and genuinely democratic society should not only respect the ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious identity of each person belonging to a national minority, but also create appropriate conditions enabling them to express, preserve and develop this identity. The various measures adopted by Pakistan reflects its unwavering resolve to realize the dream of its founding father and to preserve the pluralistic composition of society.

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