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Reshaping Indian Foreign Service should be the priority of Modi 2.0

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India has once again reposed its faith in Prime Minister Narendra Modi despite the Poll pundits, Lutyens Media and Exit polls predicting an edge to opposition alliance, Modi has managed to sway voters with his idea of new India and developmental politics. A young and aspirational India is crafting a new political narrative. This mandate is indeed historic. BJP has not only showed the opposition how electioneering is done in style but also forced them to dismantle their opportunistic political ambition and imagination. As many members of the Government said, 2014 was an election of hope but 2019 was an election of trust.

With India rapidly evolving as a global economy, this trust is not limited demographically. Modi’s foreign policy has brought India respect and stature in the global arena. India under his regime has become a major global player. It is apparent from India’s influence in the global diplomacy that no vital discussion or treaty – may it be related to trade or climate change or human rights – can be implemented without India backing it. Modi as a global leader will be far more powerful than he was during his last term in a manner Vladimir Putin is powerful in Russia and Xi Jinping is powerful in China. This command for respect in the global space can be seen by the responses by world leaders rushing to congratulate Modi even before the results of the parliamentary election were formally declared. Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu has stood out for his enthusiastic message in Hindi. Xi Jinping’s elaborate message stands out for the speed with which it was issued. Donald Trump said India is lucky to have Modi as Prime Minister.

Foreign policy and Indic diplomacy have been one of the core areas of the Modi Government. We may see a new Foreign Minister in a couple of days, but what we may also see is the long-lasting problem of Indian Foreign Service (IFS). The IFS is one of the most prestigious services in the country and those who desire to be a part of this service and become a career diplomat needs to clear the Civil Services Examination (CSE) first. A diplomat is a representative of his country and a foot soldier of its foreign policy. Good armies fight wars and win. Good diplomats deter wars and win. In spite of the bureaucratised entry system, many of the former Indian officials have come out and stated that an understaffed and underprepared foreign ministry is holding back Modi’s plan to seek greater global influence in line with his country’s fast-growing $2.6 trillion economy. India has 1.3 billion people, but fewer than 1,000 diplomats. With roughly around 940 foreign service officers, India has one of the most understaffed diplomatic corps of any major economy just moderately higher than New Zealand’s 885 officers, or Singapore’s 850. It is to a great extent outnumbered by the Japanese and Australian foreign services of around 6,000 people, the estimated 7,500 diplomats of rival China and the United States’ State Department’s service of nearly 14,000.

Lack of diplomats restricts the Ministry of External Affairs from processing all the information it receives from various embassies and consulates, and a large number of small countries that are deemed as less strategically important are neglected. Deficiency also hinders the MEA’s capacity to manage multiple negotiations at the same time. Between 1998 and 2005, there was a drastic cut-down in recruitment. The total intake through the UPSC exam across services came down to approximately 200 per year. In the early 2000s, no more than eight IFS officers were inducted each year. Between 2008 and 2018, a Ministry of External Affairs expansion plan was put in place. This looked at two aspects – to increase the intake through the UPSC civil services exam and also to fast-track promotions on merit, which meant there were several promotes from group B services who held important diplomatic posts like ambassadors. Over the last six to seven years, the intake through the UPSC exam has been 35-40 IFS officers each year. The total number of recruitments, across services, was close to 1,200 last year.

The Ministry of External Affairs in a written reply to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs in 2016 had said, “India has a pool of about 2,700 diplomatic rank officers in our Missions/Posts abroad and at Headquarters, including those from the feeder service and other Ministries and Services. In contrast, China has 4,500 diplomats, Japan has 5,700 diplomats, Brazil has 2,000, Italy has 910 and Korea has 1,250. The United States is known to have about 20,000 diplomats. We are, therefore, not among the smallest of the diplomatic services, but are also not among the largest.”

BJP’s 2019 election manifesto promises to “increase the strength of the diplomatic and allied cadres to keep pace with our increasing global engagement”. The idea should not be limited to increasing the size of foreign service but also implement lateral entry, an idea that has been opposed fervidly by the civil service cadre in the past. Lateral entry is a sine qua non to restructure the IFS. The MEA’s ongoing Expansion Plan 2.0 has a special provision for lateral entry but here lateral entry will mean officers on deputation for 3-5 years.

India’s interpretation of “Lateral entry” is to involve posting an officer from any other All India service to an overseas mission to execute a specific job. For instance, a railway service official is posted for executing railway projects in a neighbouring country, or a Commerce Ministry official is posted to handle complex trade negotiations. But lateral entrants are not given an opportunity to grow into the service. They have had to return to their parent service after the completion of assigned tasks. A better option would be to introduce the ‘revolving door’ concept. Experts in academia, think-tanks, scholars, research professionals or industry experts should be given an option to serve in the diplomatic ranks. The veil between these fields and diplomacy need to be lifted and interoperability needs to be tested. The United States and European Union have been following this kind of inter-operability for decades, and with success. 

Another major step would be to depart from the colonial system of examination for Foreign services. A completely different exam and selection procedure focussing on international relations, diplomacy, economic history, global governance, negotiation skills and the law should be introduced so that area-specific meritocratic professionals come into foreign diplomacy services and policy making. India has a lot to contribute towards global policy making and for India to maintain its position as a global power, reshaping and revamping of IFS is an immediate necessity.

Adithya Anil Variath is a lawyer based in Mumbai, India. He writes frequently on issues of Law & Policy, AI and International relations

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South Asia

Kashmir: The Unconquerable Will of Kashmiris is still Alive

Syeda Dhanak Hashmi

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Every dictatorship flourishes more on the continuing incapacity of the public to examine and evaluate reality in the way that a scientist does in a practical manner; and that’s the reason why these skills, are not being taught in public education in order to keep them ignorant of the truth. In India, the children are reinforced with hatred for minorities especially Muslims, which develops into uncontrollable animosity, instilled in the minds of the masses by the dictators, without logical grounds. This is what has been happening in India since decades and now transformed into the genocidal agenda of RSS. The actual issue is actually with the Muslim identity that the people of Kashmiri have.

Kashmir, at the moment, is a prison under military control, not because of any rebellion which had happened there (none did); rather it is simply because of a senseless unconstitutional invasion, on August 5th, to conquer the valley (Muslim majority state) totally by Hindu Indian troops, to practice the nefarious designs of Hindu-totalitarian BJP government. Thus, turning India itself into an apartheid-supremacist regime, much like Israel is over Palestine. India has made this abrupt move to turn Kashmir into India’s own Palestine, grabbing the lands of Kashmiris by revoking Article 35A and turning it into a huge prison for Muslims.

Decades have passed, however, and the plebiscite promised was never held. Kashmir is the most militarized region in the world, with armed Indian troops deployed in the Indian-administered Kashmir for more than three decades. They have occupied Kashmir through the use of colonial war measures acts, including the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Public Safety Act that have given Indian troops complete impunity. The Genocide Watch, which keeps an eye on disputes across the world, gave a brief history of Kashmir in its alert while detailing the reasons which led it to issue the warning. The report was issued for Occupied Kashmir in the wake of India’s ongoing suppression in the Muslim majority region following revocation of its special status.

While explaining the reasons behind issuing the alert, the organization also recalled the Indian atrocities in Kashmir where occupation forces have carried out genocide and massacres, killing people mercilessly. The people of Kashmir have been suffering the human rights violations which include gang rapes and mass disappearances of thousands of people. As many as 100,000 Kashmiris have been killed and several thousand wounded, blinded with pellet guns and maimed, including through torture tactics in custody.

Though the imperialistic forces have tried their best to silence and suppress the Kashmiris, yet they have been fighting for self-determination for hundreds of years. Today, the Hindutva ideology disguised in the mask of nationalism to control the valley continue crushing the Muslims without any ignominy. Hence, India’s decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, is nothing other than yet another act of shameless imperialist aggression.

There can be no legal justification of Modi’s traitorism to the Indian Constitution which he has been doing to J&K ever since August 5th. The only real question is instead whether Indian media will start to publicize this important fact or will it follow the path of yellow journalism as ever. Meanwhile, the Indian government races forward with its rape of India’s Constitution, in the hope that the Muslims of J&K will evacuate that land so as to enable Hindus ‘democratically’ to enforce some sort of apartheid anti-Muslim regime there, which is a clear violation of Indian law merely to implement the RSS wicked strategies to achieve the Hindu control there.

There is no denying the fact that fascists everywhere are traitors to their country, and this is now being made manifestly clear in India where Modi seems to be like Hitler. Hence, the status of India as a democracy has been badly derailed because a country where the constitution is illegally exploited does not deserve to be called a democratic country. There is a procedure to be followed (to amend) any constitution i.e., an amendment bill must be passed by each house of Parliament by a two-thirds majority of its total membership when at least two-thirds are present and vote.

Therefore, Modi’s hold of Kashmir is unconstitutional, at least unless and until India’s Constitution is amended. Moreover, if Indian military continues its occupation there, then it is likely to spark a war in Kashmir, which could quickly become a war between Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan, next door to India.

Pakistan is the loudest to voice its opinion against change. Pakistan has always responded promptly when it comes to Kashmir and stated, ‘’Pakistan will exercise all possible options to counter the illegal steps. Kashmir is the jugular vein of Pakistan, and anyone laying a hand on our jugular vein will meet a frightful end.”

In a nutshell, the BJP government is openly violating the international humanitarian law by means of this brutal and entirely unjustifiable military crackdown. The attempt to change demography of Kashmir through ethnic cleansing by India is being watched by the world and the international organisations are helpless in playing their role on Kashmir issue. Furthermore, it is unfortunate that the important Muslim countries including Saudi Arabia and UAE have not condemned Indian atrocities in IHK. It is only Pakistan which has always played a positive role and made constructive efforts to resolve Kashmir issue, where India has always responded back with aggression. But India should keep in mind that Pakistani forces are fully prepared to respond any Indian aggression in a befitting manner.

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‘Six weeks of Indian Disinformation in Kashmir Lockdown’

Ramla Khan

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The Indian curfew in Srinagar, capital to Jammu and Kashmir territory climbs to six weeks. Not only are the roads concealed with military troops but the reality and misery of eight million people remains unexposed plus disinformed to the world. Despite of all international media spelling in unison the perturbed lifestyle of Kashmir, alas New Delhi’s state media still presents a rare tranquil plot of the region. Only state centric news is transmitted with favorable changes and molds. Kashmir crisis is not an Indian debut with disinformation operations instead the Modi dominion is today termed a pro in this regard. The ‘Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) landslide’ in 2019 electoral is largely credited to his ‘bundle of lies’ which induced the Indian general public to vote on the ideological lines of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).As supported by the popular American magazine ‘The Atlantic’- many of India’s misinformation campaigns are developed and run by political parties. Another Washington based institute labels ‘What’s more alarming is that political parties, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP, are behind most of these disinformation campaigns’.  The critique and accounts of Pakistani leadership are pronounced as a tool of forged propagandaby Indian press -Zee TV and ‘The Economic Times’.

Repression of truth with oppression

Discrete vistas have appeared between the on aired news from international broadcasting and New Delhi. The normalcy and ease of restrictions has been claimed in Srinagar since August as mentioned by ‘The Economic Times’ – Restrictions eased in J-K; life returning to normal. whereas AI Jazeera – the leading Qatar pay television channel repetitively discusses the torment of stranded people in lockdown. Al Jazeera, identifies back to back ‘ average 20 protests each day’ which explicitly notifies that the curbing termed curfew is alive.

According to DW, a German news network the ‘truth cannot be verified’ as the security forces turn the camera away, ‘the right to speak freely will not simply be restored when the phones start ringing again’ as the newspaper editors in Srinagar complain being dictated what to write and what not to. Under the fascist policies of Narender Modi people are detained from speaking actual situation on media and are facing harassment from Indian troops resting all over the roads since August 5,2019.  The few days back episode of Dr. Omer Salim  is an exemplar who on spot during his interview to a BBC reporter was captured by Indian police. The video clip is a vivid demonstration that how the truth is delayed from reaching world. The doctor had merely requested the government to reopen the communication infrastructure and treatment facilities for chemotherapies and patients who needed urgent dialysis sessions. Another broadcasted report by DW television identifies untreated patients due to closed operation theaters.

The fingers are raised on Indian ideals of democracy by the foreign media. New Delhi can dub the Islamabad news sources as self-fabricated so lets take in the statement of Urmila Matondkar, an Indian actress converted politician: “The question is not only about abrogating Article 370. It was done in inhuman manner,”. IAS Officer Kannan Gopinathan, resigned from his reputed post last month with his utterance on India Today, “I joined civil service with the hope that I can be the voice of those who have been silenced. But here, I lost my own voice.”

Concealed tragedy of Kashmir

The Times of India’ mentions “not a single bullet has been fired” in the state since August 5″. Al Jazeera in its September apprise jots ‘Electric shocks, beatings’: Kashmiris allege abuse by India army. New York Times registers ‘Asrar was known as a smart young boy who stayed away from protests, hedied after security officers hit him in the face with buckshot. As stated by ‘The Guardian’,the 16-year-old, Asrar Ahmed Khanwas fired with a pellet gun on 6 August and due to severe injury deceased in the following month. The news remained uncovered by any prominent channels in New Delhi. According to TRT World, Turkish press network, Lieutenant of Indian army Jeet Singh Dhillon has denied to use any weapon despite of medical verification his conference professed  that a stone was hit to the young teen.

The criterion of justice

Under the present adopted stratagem of New Delhi against the Muslim community in Kashmir, Modi government is highly defamed at various platforms except in India which still nominates it as a hero of nation. The world needs to define its justice criterion with exception of caste creed and color. Unfortunately the ethical code remains absent throughout the globe.

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South Asia

Abrogation of Article 370 and Pakistan’s Pathetic Response

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Pakistan, which is a party to Kashmir dispute could not make significant move after the Indian decision to scrap Article 370. The fragile economy, conventional military asymmetry and limited influence in international community restrict the options for Pakistan to take any strong stance against Indian illegal decision.

A month ago the government of BJP illegally dissolved the special status of Jammu and Kashmir through demolishing the Article 370. The article provides immunity to Jammu and Kashmir from Indian laws except foreign affairs, finance and communications. The decision is profoundly rejected by masses of Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan. In the mean time the opposition parties in India also expressed strong dissatisfaction against decision and predicted severe repercussions for Indian state. The decision has also been challenged in the Indian Supreme Court and hearing has already been started. Yet, since the 5th August Kashmir is under siege, curfew has been imposed, communication network, medical and health facilities have been blocked. The international human rights organizations and defenders issued a genocide warning and warned India not to commit genocide.

In this critical situation which is developed by India, Pakistan took stance to stand by Kashmir. Pakistan highlighted the violent action which engulfed the rights and lives of Kashmiri people’s. Although Pakistan expressed strong resistance and proclaimed to use all the means to give Kashmiri’s their right, but there is a huge difference in words and deeds. On behest of Pakistan, China called UN Security Council meeting to discuss the issue and Chinese ambassador strongly condemned the Indian action and urged both parties to resolve the dispute through peaceful means. Yet it is important to point out that permanent members of UNSC refused to issue a post meeting joint   statement.

Here it is wise to highlight that the international politics is dominated by the self-interests of dominant powers and weak states have no say in the system. Pakistan could not compete with Indian power in international relations. After scrapping the article, India immediately sought foreign support and Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to different states. Modi visited France, Bahrain and UAE, while Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan only made phone calls to seek support against Indian action. This clearly disclosed the inefficiency of Pakistan to counter the Indian narrative.

Indian economic and investment potential is another factor behind cool response of international powers. India is trading partner of many countries and most prominent among them are USA, UK, UAE, China, European Union and Australia. The US has invested 9 million in India during the 2016 and UK has signed the commercial deals of 9.3 million recently. Australia is benefitted from Indian students and its education export is 2 billion dollars. EU a group of 27 independent states is another major investor and trade partner of India with 2.5 % international shares.

In contemporary international politics, diaspora is a backbone of any nation and same is true for India. It is observed that Indians are residing almost every influential state. More than 3.5 million Indians are working in UAE. During the 2015, Indian share was 16% in expats residing in the US, and Saudi Arabia host 1.9 million Indians. Kuwait having 1 million Indian workers and Oman 777,632 Indians. Europe also host the 1.2 million Indians.

The bilateral trade of India with US, China, EU, Japan, and Australia is impressive. In 2019, bilateral trade of India-China crossed the 100 billion, which expects to grow further. The US is second largest trading partner of India in goods, and the single largest export destination of Indian exporters. The bilateral trade has been grew at 7.59% annually from 68.4 billion in 2008 to 142.1 billion in 2018.

The 8.8 million Pakistanis are residing in western states, 4.7 million are living in EU and 1.2 in U.K. But Pakistan failed to activate its diaspora to promote national interests of the state. The Pakistani leadership never paid serious attention to engage diaspora, which resulted in poor representation of Pakistan in international community. On the other hand, Indian diaspora is much influential and have strong say in policies of US and EU. Their skills and education help them to climb the ladder of success and influence. So, it is high time for Pakistan to devise an effective strategy to lobby the national interests and engage diaspora. The diaspora is considered the defense line as they bridge the gap between their parent and host state. 

Pakistan’s economic structure is fragile with rising debt and prices of commodities. The country is dependent on international monitory institutions to repay its debt which crossed over 100 billion dollars. It is on 150thposition in poverty index among 189 countries according to UN Human Development Indicators. The value of rupee is decreased to lowest level and government is losing its credibility. Pakistan is spending its 20% budget on Army which is higher than education, health and social development allocation. The fragile economy, poor coordination in policy making and influence of military in foreign policy making has reduced the role of other state institutions. Although, current civilian government claims that civilian and military leadership is on same page, but the poor and ill-coordinated response exposed the fault lines. The top hierarchy of civilian and political leadership did not bother itself to convey Pakistani position on Kashmir, except making statements.

If Pakistan really want to influence the international community, then it needs to fix its poor economy, to improve its human and social system, engage diaspora, make effective and inclusive foreign and security policy. The economic, political and military power can guarantee the national interests of the country. So Pakistan work tirelessly on all the fronts to achieve the status of major power.

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