After several rounds of US Taliban Peace Talks in Doha, the reluctantly agreed upon ‘so-called intra-Afghan dialogue’ scheduled on April 19, 2019 was abruptly cancelled on April 18 amid seemingly insignificant disagreements about the size and composition of the Afghan delegation, which Taliban objected to.US State Department conveyed their disappointment to President Ghani on April 21 and condemned the Taliban’s announcement of starting another offensive in the spring. It however was waiting to happen, as Taliban was in no mood to talk to present Afghan Government calling them a puppet Government of foreign powers. Afghanistan current regime is also not too happy with a sense of isolation in various rounds of US – Taliban Peace Talks without their participation, as Taliban continued terror attacks on them.
The Reality of Afghanistan
After 17 years of war Taliban seized more territory and controls at least 50% of the country. Taliban cannot be relied upon for any kind of peace settlement for the time being with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar as their Chief negotiator, released from Pakistani jail last year, who has political ambitions, and has held various appointments in erstwhile Taliban Government prior to US invasion. They will eventually find reasons to rule the country, even if they promise to allow a peaceful democratic solution. The Government in power under President Ghani and CEO Abdullah do not give the confidence of being on the same page or being strong enough to face Taliban all by themselves. Taliban is unlikely to give up the ambition of ruling through Sharia laws, irrespective of the liberalised wordings they have been using during peace talks, because they have radicalised cadre, which needs to be satisfied by their leaders. The people may not be too happy as a large segment of population has got used to some liberties like women working at common place with men. Afghan military is not yet strong enough to take on Taliban in the entire country. It still needs lot of training, capability and military hardware. With continuous attacks by Taliban and splinter groups of Daesh getting into Afghanistan, peace is a distant dream.
Significance of US-Taliban Peace Talks
During US- Taliban Peace talks, there seemed to be some consensus regarding ‘Issues of Framework Agreement’. In principle US has agreed for phased withdrawal from Afghanistan after the final agreement. Timelines for withdrawal however have not been agreed as Taliban wants withdrawal in eighteen months and US is suggesting a period of five years linking it with implementation of agreement. Taliban have agreed to not to allow any terrorist group to operate from Afghan territory including getting rid of all foreign terrorist groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda. This however is unrealistic and in my opinion, unlikely to happen. A comprehensive ceasefire to pave way for electoral process was commonly agreed to but is lacking implementation. The main issues still under discussion had been withdrawal of US and its allies’ troops from Afghanistan in a phased manner from Afghanistan along with implementation of other clauses of the final peace agreement. Taliban had declined talks with present Afghan Government, but later reluctantly agreed to Intra Afghanistan Talks with all stake holders including present Afghanistan Government to reach consensus amongst all, which have now been called off.
The US Taliban exclusive peace talks have isolated the present regime in power under President Ghani. It is clear that unless the present democratically elected Government is on board, no peaceful elections can take place, even after expiry of its term in September this year. The democratic peaceful elections are unlikely in near future unless intra Afghanistan talks take place. The ingress of pockets of Daesh in Afghanistan make situation even more complex. US want to withdraw as per their time table and President Trump wants to make such announcement before the next election. President Trump’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan will definitely alter the strategic balance in favor of Taliban, Pakistan, China and Russia. It however poses a question mark that is US willing to concede this important strategic space in Af-Pak region to its competitors so easily, after 17 years of war, knowing that China and Pakistan are waiting to grab it? Is domestic pressure on President Trump is so heavy due to election promises made by him. In an interview to CNN he had indicated that Russia, China, India and Pakistan should replace US troops in Afghanistan and resolve this problem as a regional issue. In my opinion treating it is a regional issue may not be realistic, because with radicalisation of Pakistan, growing strength of Taliban, and some existence of al Qaeda, Haqqani network and Daesh, I see a large caliphate in making, with levers of power with radicalized organisations. If the entire globe had to put in synergised effort to deal with Taliban and Daesh earlier, it is going to be even more difficult when the new grouping of radicalised elements emerges again.
The Position of Other Stake Holders
There are conflicting interests of each of the stake holders. Pakistan nurtured Taliban and al Qaeda, hence would be happy if Taliban is in driving seat, but it will not compromise on Durand line because it wants strategic depth. Taliban also will not compromise on border issue with Pakistan, as they did not do so earlier. US is fed up of fighting there, but if it withdraws from this strategic space, it will be lost forever to China, which has plans to develop communication links with China Pakistan Economic Corridor there, exploit all natural resources of Afghanistan including developing cross communication links up to Iran and preferably use their port as well. Russia had entered Afghanistan earlier to deny the US influence there during cold war period. US helped Mujahedeen to counter Russia. Later Russia found the occupation unsustainable and withdrew unilaterally. I do not think that they will do the same mistake again. Russia however has been considering establishment of second military base in southern flank of Tajikistan and Turkmenistan bordering Afghanistan to fulfill its strategic interest. Russians also hosted Peace Talks on Afghanistan with all stake holders and invited India. I learnt was that some observers did attend it, but not as a formal participation by the Indian Government.
Sino- Pak Interest
China has been actively engaging with Taliban in the recent past and Pakistan harbored them even when Multi-national Forces were fighting with them earlier. I therefore see no reason why Pakistan will not be amenable to Afghanistan under Taliban Islamic rule. If Taliban guarantees China’s that it will not support ETIM operating in Xinjiang, and if Chinese feel that they can manage Taliban, they may also be amenable to Taliban Islamic rule. If China is comfortable with Islamic Republic of Pakistan, I see no reason why they will not accept Islamic rule under Taliban, so long it meets Chinese national interest. China and Pakistan will definitely see a Taliban government as a major strategic gain against USA and India. Taliban will have to be managed by China, financially or otherwise for stability of China´s New Silk road and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, because even Chinese will not trust a jihadist group for stability of its economic assets. Pakistan will expect Taliban as a facilitator of new strategic depth against India, but it cannot take them for granted because the last Taliban Regime did not compromise with Pakistan on border issue. Pakistan will celebrate if Indian investments in Afghanistan go waste, but any government in Afghanistan is likely to welcome Indian assistance. Taliban if brought to power will be interested in development of Afghanistan and the New Silk road, but I have my doubts that China and Pakistan will believe Taliban’s guarantee that it won´t be a safe haven for terrorists and jihadist and won´t interfere in internal affairs of China in Xinjian or question the Durand line, because both these countries are well familiar with ideology of Taliban. In my opinion Taliban may accept these conditions on paper to come to power, but will subsequently do what it suits them most.
Implications for India
India is the largest regional donor to Afghanistan and fifth largest donor globally with over $3 billion in assistance. It has helped the country in infrastructure and capacity building of the nation and invested over $10 billion cumulative amount since 2002 in doing so. Construction of Salma Dam, Parliament building, various connectivity and power projects and supply of some military hardware are examples of the assistance provided by India. India is the largest export destination of Afghanistan and their exports stood at $ 740 million to India in 2018. The new route through Chahbahar has been activated bypassing Pakistan, to which US had granted exception from sanctions imposed on Iran, post withdrawal from JCPOA, for humanitarian assistance and rebuilding Afghanistan. Any new dispensation in Afghanistan involving Taliban if not friendly to India may jeopardize India’s investments in Afghanistan, but it will be at a huge loss to its people. Indian investment in Afghanistan including Chabahar port, connectivity projects to Afghanistan and onwards to CAR republics would require the support of Afghanistan Government; therefore a friendly regime is desirable. Increased influence of Pakistan in Afghanistan is detrimental to Indian and US interest. US withdrawal will embolden Taliban and other terrorist groups and may influence the ongoing militancy in Jammu and Kashmir also. Turkmenistan- Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) project passes through Afghanistan and Pakistan, hence its success or otherwise is dependent on Indo-Pakand and Indo Afghanistan relations amongst many other factors. All four countries are stake holders in this project; hence any obstruction in the project is going to be a collective loss for all. India´s has worked with all Afghan governments so far; hence I visualise that India will continue to deal with the Government of the day, as hither to fore, even if there is any change.
Taliban may not want to speak to Afghan establishment/their representatives but the talks with US only have no meaning if Afghan Government is not part of it, as the electoral process cannot begin otherwise. Peace talks should not mean that Afghanistan be handed over to Taliban unanimously by all stakeholders, despite their continued offensive and power of militancy, which will be construed as a victory against super power and global community through terror. The gesture of Taliban talking about bringing a women representative for talks is good optics, but does not make them moderates or believers in democratic institutions or equality to women. The US on their part is not going to give up its efforts to create conditions for its smooth pull out from Afghanistan. Their special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, is already on new regional trip to Qatar for a new round of negotiations with the Taliban, aiming to find a political solution to the Afghan war despite the disappointment of cancellation of ‘Intra-Afghan dialogue’.
Walking the tight rope: India’s Diplomatic Strategy in the Middle East
India’s diplomatic corps have been resolutely articulating India’s stances and furthering its interests in the international fora where multiple challenges emanating from historical and contemporary contexts are being faced. One important factor which India’s astute foreign policy makers have faced is the complicated and crucial engagement with the Middle East. There are multiple facets to India’s engagement in the contemporary context that add to this complexity. One, India’s old adversary and neighbor Pakistan has upped the ante in its diplomatic blitzkrieg especially within the Muslim world. Second India’s has varied strategic interests in the warring Middle East factions. Third, the economic interdependencies and the crisis in the international trade in the Trump era has further complicated India’s position as an economic actor in the region. While there are various constituent elements of India’s Middle East outreach, the contemporaneous concerns relate more to its relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Turkey.
India and Saudi Arabia have historically engaged in deep and multi-dimensional political, economic, cultural, defence and strategic cooperation. Saudi Arabia has long been an important Indian trade partner; the Kingdom remains a vital source of energy for India, which imports almost a fifth of its crude oil requirement from Saudi Arabia. Enhanced security cooperation has added a new dimension in the bilateral ties between New Delhi and Riyadh. Recently, Indian PM Narendra Modi was conferred with the highest civilian award of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia even as the top leadership continues to send signals of deep comradarie and solidarity.
With the ascent of the crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman, various layers in this important diplomatic relationship have surfaced. This has happened in a particularly peculiar geopolitical and geostrategic context where both countries have faced tough challenges to their internal stability and international position. While Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is still emerging from the consequences of the massive attack in its oil fields as well as the widespread criticism of humanitarian crisis in Yemen at the international fora, India is grappling with international criticism and discourse about the situation in Kashmir in context of dilution of its political autonomy as well as prolonged information and communication blackout.KSA has had a mediating role in the Indo-Pak tussle since Pulwama and how this hyphenation has led to competitive photo-ops of diplomatic support. Even as KSA has stood by Indian leadership’s vital interests. However, the Pakistani leadership has been relentless in its attempts to appeal to the leader of the Islamic world for vital economic and diplomatic support, especially in context of the Kashmir situation. Even as Saudi Arabia has managed this delicate equation with deftness, it has given in to Pakistan’s economic demands while making a symbolic gesture of closeness by offering the private jet to Pakistani Prime Minister for his visit to the West. It doesn’t help that the Indian economy is going through a rough phase. However, the audacious announcement to invest $100 Billion in the fledgling Indian economy is a bold testament of the veritable and vibrant economic partnership between New Delhi and Riyadh. It is pertinent to note that in the contemporaneous challenges that the countries face, Iran as well as Pakistan emerge as key actors that affect the bilateral engagement in a pronounced manner.
Iran is India’s historic ally and third largest supplier of crude oil. However, the India-Iran relationship transcends oil. India, with an investment of $500 million, aims to develop Iran’s Chabahar port as a transit hub for Afghanistan, Central Asia, and the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC). Additionally, India is developing two gas fields, namely Farzad-B gas field located in Tehran and the South Pars field located between Iran and Qatar. These projects clearly highlight India’s long-term engagement with Iran. However, India’s muted response to US pressure has been causing slight tension in the bilateral relationship. Even though the top-level bilateral meeting between Indian premier Modi and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani was successful to diffuse tensions to an extent. The crisis in Yemen, oil trade and even India’s action in Kashmir continue to affect the relationship.
In this context, the challenges emanating from Turkey are also a sign of worry. Even as Turkey has remained an old ally of Pakistan and a supporter of the ‘Kashmiri’ cause, its open support for a rather lonely Pakistan should cause some worry in India’s strategic circles. This is because India has fine diplomatic relations with Turkey and has considerable economic and trade interests.
However, oil being an important consumer and agricultural good in India’s economy, it is important to secure its interests to have access to reliable and affordable Iranian crude oil. The trade negotiations and engagements with the US haven’t had any headway even as the threat of sanctions for buying oil from Iran continues. India could emerge as a trouble-solver in this context especially since this KSA-Iran conflict in oil supply context has global implications. PM Modi’s personal chemistry with the US leadership could be useful in this context.
From Ancient Era to Imperial Era: Indian Ocean in Historical Lenses
“Whoever controls the Indian Ocean will dominate Asia, the destiny of the world will be decided on its waters,” Alfred Mahan
Authors: Rana Danish Nisar & Ali Nagri*
Among the oceans of the world, The Indian Ocean is third largest covering 70,560,000 km that is approximately twenty percent of the water on the earth. This is bounded by Asia on the north, Australia in the east and Africa in the west and the Southern Ocean which is situated in the south. Its borders were defined in 1953 by Hydrographic Organization. The average depth of Indian Ocean is 3741 m and the Sunda Trench (earlier known as java trench) is the deepest point of it that has a maximum depth of 7906m. The important points are Bab el Mandeb, Strait of Hormuz, the Lombok Strait, Strait of Malacca and the Palk Strait. Its seas are Gulf of Aden, Andaman Sea, Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal, Great Australian Bight, Gulf of Oman, Persian Gulf and Red sea. It is artificially connected to the Mediterranean Sea through the Suez Canal. The whole Indian Ocean is lies in the Eastern Hemisphere. It is the warmest ocean of the world and its warming is the largest among the tropical oceans. This essay attempts to discuss the history of Indian Ocean from ancient period to imperial period.
Prehistoric and Ancient Era
It is not easy to date back the human history of the world; same is the case with the Indian Ocean. Early rock art in India as in other places like Africa and South East Asia is very difficult to date to a specific period. The rock art designs found in caves are believed to be 10,000 and 6,000 years back. This art shows a row of animals outlined in red ochre crayon and filled with crisscross lines. According to scientists, around 8000 years ago the first modern humans left Africa and it was through Indian Ocean. They were originated from a single woman from East Africa and therefore named ‘mitochondrial Eve’ as she was ancestor of many Africans tribes and groups of migrants who populated the rest of the world. Bronze Age is some 3500-1100 BC named after a durable metal made by combining copper and tin together. In southeast Asia bronze spearheads, bells, axes and jewelry have been discovered and some archaeologists argue that Thailand bay have been one of the first centers of Asian bronze industry. Cowries shells (small, oval mollusks, found in many varieties) are very smooth sea shells only found in Maldives, a chain of islands in Arabian Sea, became very important in world trade as these were used as money around the Indian Ocean. Cowries have been found in ancient Harappa and in tombs in China in second millennium and later. These were not only used in Asia but also found in West Africa where these were used as money. These also provide proof of seagoing Indian Ocean Trade networks and their connection to land routes. Monsoon Winds blow in Indian Ocean in a regular pattern and are playing its important role in sea trade. Since the beginning of trade and travel monsoon are very important as in one season a ship could sail from Arabia or East Africa towards coast of India and in other season when the wind change its direction this ship will sail back. Merchants are using monsoon winds roughly since 2000 BC and these winds encouraged regular trade, communication and migration across the Indian Ocean.
Classical and Medieval Era
By the end of Classical Era Sugar was very wonderful luxury for cooking and sweetening in Persia. During the next few centuries, sugar spreader widely in the world through Indian Ocean trade. The Isthmus of Kra is a narrow strip of land that connects the Malay Peninsula to continent of Asia. It separates the Indian Ocean form the China Sea. Traders of Indian reached the rest of Southeast Asia by crossing the Isthmus of Kra rather making the longer and more difficult journey around the entire Malay Peninsula. By the first century CE, traders from Arabia and Africa regularly transported across the Indian Ocean, overland through the Isthmus of Kra and up to China. Merchants even continued to use this trade route when political disputes made land travel dangerous throughout the second and third century. Muziris was also an ancient port city in today’s Indian state of Kerala. It was famous trading market for Roman-Indian merchants in India. Around 100-200 CE, in Roman Empire pearl jewelry was very popular. Pearls which were produced by oysters and fished out of sea were very favorite of wealthy Romans. Pearls were very ideal trade good because it takes very little room on ships but were very precious and commonly used for jewelry and decoration. These were also used for medicine. The world’s best pearls came from the water of the Persian Gulf, near Bahrain, UAE, Qatar and Oman.
The pearling industry was very important to these countries as to export to Roman Empire. Ibn Battuta a very famous traveler and historian also contribute towards Indian Ocean. He tells a lot about Maldives Islands of Indian Ocean and their exchange of unique resources of their islands that directly lie on the Arabian Sea for necessities and food, metals and brass goods and textiles. Two products were particularly important one was coconut fiber rope very important for shipping industry and second was cowrie’s shells used as currency at that time. Cowries are known to have been used as money for Indian Ocean trade from the earliest periods to the 19th century. Ivory was another important product highly traded at that time from India and Southeast Asia but African ivory was highly prized because of shapes and very large tusks of African elephants. These were also very soft for carving. Greek and Roman geographers reported the trade of ivory from East Africa as early as 4th century BC.
As trade with east Africa expanded, gold rhinoceros horn, mangrove poles with ivory tusks from the Africa were goods traded through Swahili cities of East Africa. Interestingly, Bananas have been cultivated since 6000 BC or even earlier in Southeast Asia, and were spread to Indian and China and major sea routes of Indian Ocean by 1000CE. As Islam spread and its contact along the land and water routes, bananas were also spread across the Mediterranean, in Palestine and Egypt, and from North Africa it moved to Muslim Spain and to the West Africa. Bananas could not be grown in Europe, but later in the 1500s, the Portuguese carried the banana to the New World, where it has been grown since the 1500s. Biruni a very famous historian and geographer contributed a lot with the efforts and help of Caliph al Ma’mun to measure the meridian in the 9th century. Al Biruni advanced the technology to determine the positioning and coordination of earth and different places. An advanced form of this is known as Global Positioning System (GPS) today. He also writes a book “The Determination of the Coordinates of Positions for the Correction of Distances between Cities” in 1025 CE by using the mathematical geography. Al Biruni work was very accurate at that time and modern measurements confirm it.
Global Era 1500 to 1770 CE
Among the famous explorer of this era a famous name is Ferdinand Magellan from Portugal born in 1480. When he was younger he worked as a helper in the Queen’s palace where he heard the fantastic adventures of great sailors like Vasco da Gama, Christopher Columbus and Bartholomew Dias, and their discoveries. Magellan sailed under the Portuguese flag form years until he got a dispute with the Portuguese King. After it Magellan approached the Spanish King join his fleet with an idea to find a western passage to Spice Islands and to compete with the Portuguese trading system in Indian Ocean. At the time explorers believed that the Strait of Magellan only opened up into a bay rather than the Pacific Ocean but Magellan believed otherwise. He sent a small crew to explore the western parts of the strait. Magellan named the strait as Estrecho de Todos los Santos (the Strait of all Saints) but the Spanish King renamed it in the honor of Magellan as a Strait of Magellan. Magellan set sail from South American coastline into Pacific Ocean; he named it Pacific as he found it very calm as compared to the Atlantic where he spent the most of time.
The crew continued the journey for three months without fresh food and many died but ultimately reach to eastern Asia. This era cannot be concluded without mentioning the Captain Cook. James Cook is probably the most accomplished European mariner of the 18th century. He went on three official voyages and spent over a decade at sea from 1766 to 1778. His first voyage was scientific in nature to Pacific Ocean in 1766 to observe and record the transit of Venus across the sun. After his return from first voyage Cook was commissioned to lead another scientific expedition on behalf of Royal Society to search the Terra Australia. His last voyage was to locate a Northwest Passage around the continent of America. The purpose of the voyage was to find a Northwest route that many believed led back to Europe. In 1778 captain James Cook became the first European that has formal contact with the Hawaiian Islands. Cooked named this archipelago the “Sandwich Islands”. Captain Cook was also murdered in 1779 on a Hawaiian island by local villagers on his final voyage when Tensions rose, and a number of quarrels broke out between the Europeans and Hawaiians. His voyages are best known for their contributions to geographic discovery, science, and the arts.(Rumely. d, 2007) He brought back plants, animals, and collections of art along with maps he made of his South Pacific voyages.
Captain Cook is credited for mapping New Zealand, some Polynesian islands, the eastern coast of Australia and was the first to circumnavigate Antarctica while searching for a southern continent. Captain Cooke was among the first to use the newly perfected chronometer on his Antarctic voyage, a device which allowed him to measure his longitude with precision. The Dutch East India Company also known as The United East Indian Company was founded in 1602 as a charter company by Dutch Government granting it monopoly over Dutch spice trade business. This company came Indian Ocean later than the Portuguese but it dominated the spice trade of Indian Ocean by taking complete control of cloves, nutmeg and mace. On the other hand, although pepper was most important good of trade for this company yet company failed to control the pepper its sale and shipment as it grew in many places and Dutch East Indian Company could not control ever source of pepper. According to a rough estimate Europeans, in the seventeenth century, carried out almost seven million pounds of pepper shipment from Indian Ocean to Europe every year. In addition to spices, printed fabrics with fantastic flowers of many colors were very important goods of trade. These were originally printed in France. But during the 17th and 18th centuries, Indian style chintz fashion was very popular.
These were hand painted on smooth cotton fabric with fast color dyes and imported from the India from Gujarat province and were sold in France by British East Indian Company. Their demand was so high that French lawmakers were afraid that it would hurt French weaver industry so they banned it by law to import and forbidden to wear it. But amazingly, they continued to be popular, even though the French law included the death penalty. The reason was that the Mediterranean port of Marseilles was exempted from all such laws and it became the heaven for smugglers of Indian cottons and from here it was imitated into other parts of France and people wear these cloths secretly in their homes instead of public places. Ultimately on the pressure of public these fabrics were made legal by lifting up all laws. During this era when the Ottomans conquered Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1453, they established a center point for navigation for their territories around the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, and the Indian Ocean.
The Ottomans were well aware of the growing competition from Italy and other European powers. The King, Sultan Mehmet, built a naval ship building arsenal on the Golden Horn, known as Halic in modern Turkey a waterway of Istanbul, and appointed a Commander of the Navy. At the arsenal, galleys, or ships with oars, were built, repaired and equipped with supplies. This arsenal was consisting of more than 200 buildings for preparation and repair of ships, ammunition depot, a mosque, a prison, kitchens for preparing food for working labor and to store on ships, water reserves for fresh water supply for voyage and administration buildings including studios for artisans related to shipping and outfitting. There was no match Istanbul maritime Arsenal but only one in Arsenal of Venice. A large Ottoman fleet which expanded in sixteenth century was built in the arsenal. Sultan announced that he would build 500 warships in addition to already existing hundreds of war ships to threaten other powers. They were already controlling the ports in Syria and Egypt, and wanted to hold major Eastern Mediterranean islands. Thousands of men from all over the Ottoman Empire were employed in Ottoman navy. They were organized into Officers and crews. The commanders and seamen who sailed and other were the workers and managers of the Arsenal, and both braches were headed by the Grand Admiral of the Fleet who directly reported to the Sultan. The whole operation was highly organized and well financed.
The Ottoman Navy kept it organized for centuries and ensure its presence it three major seas. The people living on the Malabar Coast of Kerala province of India are known as Mappilas. This community was grown by intermarriages of Arab traders and local Hindus on the coast of Malabar. This community maintained peaceful trade relations for centuries with other communities of India and Indian Ocean. These links with traders of Arab and Persia dated back to centuries. According to a legend, the King Chera Manperumal Malabar had a vision during the time when Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) lived and the king departed to visit Makkah. King Chera Manperumal embraced Islam and supported its spread on the Coast of Malabar. The Malabar mosque, built in 629 CE, is the oldest on the continent of India. It still exists today. The community of Mappilas developed their own culture in dress, food music and in dance also. They lived in a peaceful and beneficial way with other groups and communities and Hindu king of Malabar Coast treated them as a merchant caste, who gained wealth and status from their activities as traders. Famous explorer like Ibn Battuta and Marco Polo mention this community as a peaceful trader. When Vasco da Gama entered the Indian Ocean he was amazed to know that Muslims were prominent merchants in Africa and Asia and Portuguese had fought against Muslims traders to gain control of trader routes. They anchored on Malabar Coast with cannons and demanded the Hindu rulers to expel the Muslim traders from the coast.
The Hindu rulers were stunned and refused to do so. Portuguese bombarded the towns and demanded the control of seas also authority to allow the passage by special permission. This situation was very awful for Mappilas so they retreated inland and became farmers or involved into fishing business. Others used their maritime skills and fought against Portuguese ships, captured them and continue trading. To the Portuguese the Mappilas were pirates and smugglers. The Europeans used the Carracks to take the control of all trade in Indian Ocean. They also armed these ships and attacked major ports of Indian Ocean for example Mombasa and Kilwa in Africa, and Calicut and Malabar Coast in India. They also attacked on Arab merchant’s ships and other ships that have not trading permits form Portuguese government. This was to take all the trade control of Indian Ocean trade and to control the ports. However, they only had limited success and they met a great resistance from Ottoman Empire Navy and from other Europeans. Besides, the Indian Ocean was too large to control by this way.
The Opium became also an important product for trade. Opium poppies are natively grown in Mediterranean region from thousands of years. From this it traveled to Greek, China and also to India by sea routes before 12th century. Opium poppies were grown also in India and the Mughal Empire controlled the trader of Opium. The Narcotic property of opium was used as a medicinal plant and its use can be found in Greek and Arabic manuscripts. When Muslim medical work was translated in European languages it also became known to Europeans. The trade of opium increased extensively after the entry of Europeans into Indian Ocean region in 16th century. It was imported to Europe as a popular medicine. Portuguese also trader the it from India to China and the Dutch brought into China and Japan the practice of smoking opium through tobacco pipes. After the weakened the Mughal Empire the British gained power in India and British East India Company gained complete control of trade also of opium and started taxing the sale of Indian Opium. European also gave very importance to opium by using it as an exchange commodity for trading of tea, silk and porcelain instead of gold and silver. They expectant Chinese merchants to buy opium they bought in India as an exchange for trade. Soon the Chinese became addicted of it and by seeing all this situation Chinese government banned its import and use. But on the other hand British started its smuggling and increased opium production as it was most profitable crop. This all situation leaded to Opium Wars between China and British East India Company.
Industrial and Imperial Era
During 19th century the Royal Geographic Society of Britain announced a prize competition to find and chart the Nile’s source. Two explorers Captain John H. Speke and Captain Sir Richard F. Burton found this in 1858. Captain Speke named the lake after the Queen Victoria. James Bruce a Scottish explorer also claimed to be the first from Europe to reach to Nile source.The people working on ships of British were known as Lascars. The word Lascar is drawn from the Persian language that means army. This term was used by the East India Company for the persons who were working on their ships. These persons were skillful seamen, rope makers, ship carpenter and other crew needed on the board belonging from different regions of coastal areas of Asia. These were free men who sold their services for wages mostly came from Indian Ocean region. These people were later settled. There life was not easy and they had to do all the chores of the shipping life. The Lascars worked long shifts in the dark, hot, dangerous engine rooms and coal furnaces that powered the ships. By 1928, there were more Lascars employed on British ships. Slave trade was common in regions associated to Indian Ocean. Slavery in the Indian Ocean was consisting of a wide variety of peoples of scattered cultural and backgrounds.
Peoples were involved in different capacities as slaves, slave traders and owners of slave’s form regions of Africa, Arab, Asia and Europe. Male slaves were indulging in the business of pearl divers, ship crew, employed into trade, working in agricultural fields and as soldiers of wars while female slaves often worked in homes as maids, nannies and nurses. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries African slaves demand was rapidly increased because of less price and hard working. British worked hard to end slavery. British Empire declared protect zone for slavery. But unfortunately, till to date, slavery is persisting is some sorts of forced labor, especially involving women, children and poor population of third world countries and refugees. Suez Canal was also built during this era. This is the artificial waterway is 163 km long, running north to south across the Isthmus of Suez in northeastern Egypt and shorted the distance between the Red Sea and Mediterranean Sea. This canal is one of most important water ways of the world. This is also known as crossroads of Europe, Africa and Asia because it is interlinking these three continents. It was built in 1856 by a French company after ten years’ hard work. This made trade easy as traders had not to sail around the Africa or carry goods overland and gained its importance to European Imperial powers. in combination with the expansion of the American transcontinental railroad, the canal permitted the world to be circled in record time. The Suez Canal was not initially a financial success for Egypt, nor for France. Due to the growing debt required to finance it, Egypt was forced to sell the canal to Great Britain in 1875.
The English controlled the Suez Canal until shortly after Egypt regained its independence from Britain and nationalized the canal. Steamships changed the Indian Ocean trade by opening new routes that were not dependent on the winds. By the mid to end of the 19th century, the British Empire had the largest and most successful naval force in the world powered by steam. Steam power allowed for expanded exploration of the continents, the mass movement of people around the world, and caused great changes in the trade system. During the period of the steam engine ships grew larger and faster, but they had to refuel often. The ships were first used for short and regular service, like mail and wealthy passengers. These first ships had a huge advantage over sailing ships, in that they were much easier to navigate upstream and this made rivers and canals more accessible. Steam-driven railways also transformed the British Empire, and the Indian Ocean region, increasing business activity, and giving consumers access to cheaper goods. In 19th century the most important and the busiest port of Arabian Peninsula was the city of Muscat in Oman. Being an international port, the city was heavily populated, having different religious, and multi-ethnic. Muscat was the crossroads of trade between East Africa, the eastern shores of the Gulf, and western India. In the 19th century every kind of merchandise could be found, silk and linen, spices, dates, coffee brought across the desert by caravans, pearls, grapes, bananas, figs, butter, fowl, and many more. Muscat was known for being supreme in trade and military power, and the city produced a lot of wealth for the Omani nation. Omani rulers carried out careful associations with customary Indian Ocean trading partners and with the European powers. They even concluded a trade treaty with the Americans.
*Ali Nagri, PhD Candidate, School of Politics and International Studies
‘HowdyModi’ event makes India’s Soft-Power credibility at stake
The BJP led NDA government thinks that they are cleverly playing politics by diverting the people’s attention into sensitive issues rather than important matters of the country. At present the Indian economy is in bad shape hurting everyone. The finance minister also acknowledge that they perceived the negative sign in the economy before the general elections. However, the BJP pushed the voters to sink in the issue of the terrorist attack on the CRPF and the following events. It is a setback to our youth that during the election campaign none of the BJP leaders talked about India’s economy and at the same time the youth of the country’s mood also penetrated to sensitive matters but not about India’s declining economic growth. The BJP captured the second innings by speaking lies after lies but can’t contain the truth of the economy which is exposed now.
Hence, the ruling elite use the government machinery like the CBI, ED to suppress the opposition voice by creating the atmosphere to put them in jail. Moreover, the BJP is searching for new events to hide the negative side of the government by attracting the people with some magic. The magician is understandably Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The recent new event was the ‘Howdy Modi’ show at Houston, the US. Why does Modi acts like a new campaign manager to President Donald Trump? We don’t have the correct information when did he get this new position? I think now he left the NDA’s job as the campaign manager. Modi’s new position have greater implications on India’s non-interference on another country’s elections. The prime minister is doing all the unnecessary jobs except the prime minister’s duty.
The Indian prime minister’s chair is inactive since the 2014 general elections. The Indian economy is alive but in ICU. If the finance minister believes that only the stimulus package will wake up the Indian economy, it indicates that she is trying to find the road which leads to nowhere. Ventilator only helps the patient to be artificially alive. However, perceiving the disease and the reason for that will help the physician to give the right medicine. This process will help the patient to get healed. The finance minister does not know what she is doing and the real issue hurting the economy. That was the reason she is mentioning ‘Ola’ and ‘Uber’ for the declining of the automobile sector.
At this crucial time the ‘Pradhan Sevak’, what Modi described about his prime minister position again had taken a world tour. Well, participating in the UNGA meeting is imperative. But what makes him to attend the ‘Howdy Modi’ event? What does India has gained from this? Has the outstanding trade divergence between India and the US sorted out? Has Modi so far said any word about the issues related to H1B visa which matters to Indians?
Modi’s ill strategic policies now gave a space for the Pakistan prime minister to cash up the Kashmir issue in the international stage. His repeated attempts now push the Kashmir issue to be taken for discussion in the US Foreign Affairs subcommittee. Could his appearance with Trump in the ‘Howdy Modi’ event stop this? Absolutely no.
Throwing his responsibility and campaign for another country’s president would have greater implications on New Delhi’s relations with Washington, if a democratic candidate win the U.S. presidential elections. Already the Democratic president candidate hopeful Mr,Sen. Bernie Sanders highlighted about his concern on Kashmir issue particularly New Delhi’s recent detention of Kashmir political party leaders. India has the history of not interfering in another country’s domestic affairs. Does the prime minister will accept if the Bangladesh prime minister will campaign for the West Bengal chief minister? If it happens, would not the BJP make a foul cry?
It is utter shame that some leaders from the ruling elite and from the opposition side without knowing India’s foreign policy history blindly air their view that ‘Howdy Modi’ event was the great moment of India’s soft-power diplomacy. During 1950s and 60s when India’s capacity on military or economy was not accredited the first prime minister of our country had proved that a pluralist India has naturally have all the tools as a soft-power. Further, he articulated 60 years back in a better way in the international arena. Hence, there is no demand to prove India’s soft-power capability.
After India detonated nuclear test in 1974 and 1998 along with India’s growth trajectory demonstrated India’s hard-power capabilities. It would be good at least the present government should not spoil the image of India’s greater leverage as a multi-cultural society which is giving credibility for our soft-power source. The BJPs friends unleashing violence against minority, lynching, cruelty on women and children which is shaking the idea of India. If the idea of India get disturbed then perceptibly it has serious stakes on India’s soft-power.
What is required at the moment? Since the ill thought policy of demonetization and hastily implemented GST without a rational approach completely wiped out the small scale industry. As former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan described the impacts will be spread for the next couple of years in the economy. Now it is true that the GDP growth has declined to 5 percent and the economic indicators are showing negative sign on all important sectors of the economy. Along with increase in unemployment, Kashmir issue, oppressing the opposition voice, decline in agricultural production and automobile industry indicates that the economy is in bad shape and directly affecting the youth of this country. Seeing these catastrophic moment the senior BJP MP Dr Subramanian Swamy lambasted on Modi, “This government has no economic policy”.
While the house is in disorder the leader of the house has the moral responsibility to keep the house in order. Since 1991 the new industrial policy was announced by the Congress Government, India’s growth story had increased our space in global politics. Strong economy will give source to have a strong military. So let the ‘Pradhan Sevak’take some holidays from his international tour to peacefully seated in his chair to listen to the stakeholders of the economy. It is also disappointed that the BJP did not have an economist from their training camp to take care of India’s finance. Even the BJP’s supporter economists like Prof Arvind Pangariya, Arvind Subramanian and the RBI Governor Urjit Patel have run away from Modi’s administration during the midway of their tenure. This proves that the BJP leaders don’t have any economic wisdom. They can capture power, do scientific corruption and rule the country in undemocratic way but not by human touch.
What should be the motive of our prime minister’s visit to the US? The prime motive should be our diplomacy effectively demonstrated to makes the US policy to accept India’s interest. However, keeping this important assignment set aside to give focus only to speak in NRIs events would not give any benefits to India’s interest in the US soil. Further, this kinds of provocative events would give an opportunity or uncertainty about India in the Democratic Party camp.
As I indicated earlier the independent India naturally got all the parameters to be a strong soft-power. It is our strength. Any prime minister can now easily articulate it. Now who could care about soft-power capability of us while India’s hard-power resource ‘the economy’ going on a difficult path? A responsible prime minister will work to bring back the economy on the growth track. Better the prime minister should avoid these kinds of controversial occasions on the international stage which is not going to give any strategic advantage to India’s interest. Especially the ‘Howdy Modi’ event makes India’s Soft-Power credibility at stake. The people of this country are desperately expecting the prime minister and his team to rescue the economy by suitable policy measures not his empty words and dummy dances.
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