The peaceful celebration of Eid although at reduced scale, demolishes the propaganda fueled by countries/media houses/politicians, who stand disappointed as they were waiting for violence to break out in Kashmir, post abrogation of Article 370. The historic moment revoking Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), happened on 06 August 2019, when the bill was passed by more than two third majorities in both houses of parliament, through the laid down democratic process in consultation with Sadr-e Riyasat vested in Governor of the erstwhile state. The bill reorganizes the erstwhile state of J&K into two separate Union Territories (UTs), J&K being one and Ladakh being another UT. Prime Minister Modi has clarified in his address to the nation that once there is peace, statehood will be returned to J&K. Ladakh, however, will remain a UT. This reorganization is purely an internal matter of India; however few countries seemed to be extremely rattled over this development, while most of them chose to treat it as a bilateral/internal matter. While the discomfort of Pakistan and to some extent China was unwarranted, but expected, it was regrettable that some segments of global media chose to carry propaganda stories, based on fake news propagated by interested parties. While India has no reason to be concerned about their desperation, for ill conceived reasons, some of the facts to mitigate some common international misperceptions need to be highlighted.
Facts versus Propaganda
After partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, the state of J&K was an independent state under Maharaja Hari Singh, which was attacked by Pakistani razakars to capture it by force. Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession to India for the entire state (including Pakistan occupied Kashmir, Gilgit- Baltistan, Shaksgham Valley and Aksai Chin) and Indian Forces were flown in which saved the remaining state of J&K. One of the global daily in its article quoted “Article 370 had been considered a cornerstone of Kashmir’s inclusion in India during the 1947 partition that separated India and Pakistan following the end of British colonial rule”. The fact is that there was no Article 370 in 1947, as part of Instrument of Accession. It was introduced later, drafted on 05 Mar 1948 and amended on November 15, 1952. The same daily quotes “Parts of Kashmir are controlled by India and Pakistan, both of which claim the strategic region in its entirety”. The instrument of Accession signed on 27 October 1947, does not give any claim to Pakistan. Some global news channels chose to air fake videos of atrocities to people of J&K, in last few days, whereas the reality is that the Kashmir valley has been quite peaceful, after India strengthened the security force level in the terrorist threat prone area, to ensure safety of citizens and not a single bullet was fired. Pakistan & terrorists are rattled because it was done with such a speed that it caught them by surprise and made their efforts to disrupt peace unviable Incident free Eid celebrations, although on low key, are enough to demolish the claim of propaganda oriented fake media coverage indicating heavy violence.
Why was Article 370 Revoked Now?
Indian resolve to revoke temporary Article 370 and 35a in J&K was a national call, in the national interest and the ruling party was voted with thumping majority (including people of J&K) with this cause in their manifesto. These provisions were made by decision makers in 1952 purely under Indian Constitution. Article 370 was drafted in Amendment of the Constitution section, in Part XXI, under Temporary and Transitional Provisions. In last few decades it was seen that these provisions have been hurting India and common people of Jammu and Kashmir since many decades. Kashmiri Pandits, who are natives of Kashmir were forcibly pushed out by a motivated groups, which was the biggest abuse of power, which left India helpless in mitigating their grievances, due to such provisions. They were being misused by few local politicians, separatists, elite businessmen aligned to them, terrorists and their supporters, at the cost of brewing inequality, depriving of legal benefits and welfare related laws for common people, thus proving to be a hindrance in inclusive growth of the country. It was well realized that these provision had not given anything except separatism, corruption and family rule to the erstwhile State, with Pakistan using it as a tool to spread terrorism, which claimed over 42000 innocent lives. It’s abrogation was desired by many governments, but could not be executed due to inadequate political will/ democratic mandate or bogey of grave repercussions thrown up by ruling families of erstwhile state and separatists/terrorists. Revoking of Article 370 and 35a will allow all J&K citizens to vote for J&K Assembly and Panchayat elections, a democratic right denied to many residents in the state. It will restore rights of daughters to parental property, rights of safai karmacharis and their children to government jobs, education and make them eligible for many social benefit schemes of India.
Why is Pakistan Rattled?
Pakistan, despite being an aggressor in 1947, seems rattled with abrogation of Article 370 and 35a in J&K to an extent that it took certain reckless actions. Lowering of diplomatic relations with India, scrapping trade ties, stopping rail communication and blocking few air routes are some examples. The main reason of Pakistan’s frustration is that its terrorists fuelling proxy war in Kashmir will be devoid of political patronage, the separatists will be exposed to central security forces and laws, and its terror industry/infrastructure built in Kashmir over decades will start weakening. Pakistan’s effort of approaching UNSC has no future, as is evident from the factual analysis above. If they still approach UNSC, then as per United Nations Security Council Resolution 47, adopted on 21 April 1948, there is no case for motion in UNSC, because Pakistan and China will have to be reminded to vacate PoK, Gilgit-Baltistan and Shaksgham as first step of UNSC Resolution47, which may not suit either of them. In any case the President of UNSC made no comments and the secretary General indicated bilateral settlement under Simla Agreement, with an advice to exercise restraints. While Pakistan may keep advertising China’s anticipated help in seeking justice for Pakistan, but there is no legally viable case with Pakistan and China. India is well aware of fake news and propaganda attempts by Pakistan on the issue, glimpses of some of them are visible in this article. The recent survey reveals that more than 70% of Kashmir has welcomed new administrative arrangement bringing them at par with rest of the country in terms of legal and administrative rights/benefits, denied to them by local governments under the shield of Articles 370 & 35a. In any case being an internal matter of India, no foreign interference will be accepted.
Other International Responses
Pakistan’s efforts to garner support of other nations have not been that successful except China, which has its own interest to protect, in terms of CPEC, which passes through the territory acceded to India by Maharaja of J&K. China reacted to Ladakh being made a UT, indicating that it undermined China’s sovereignty, soon after Home Minister’s statement in the Rajya Sabha. Later China indicated to Pakistan that “It should be properly and peacefully resolved based on the UN Charter, relevant UN Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreement.” MEA had given a befitting reply to China highlighting that India does not interfere in internal affairs of any other country and expects the same from other countries. The same has also been reiterated by Indian Foreign Minister in Beijing, who happens to be there for a bilateral meet.
US State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said there was no change in the country’s policy on Kashmir, and called for restraint. The restraint is applicable to Pakistan establishment as they have threatened Pulwama like episode and DG, ISPR has indicated to adopt every possible measure to assist in freedom struggle of Kashmir (which can well be interpreted as refueling proxy war). Taliban when approached by Pakistan chose to stay away from this issue, as they know the terror game of Pakistan better than others, having been a beneficiary sometimes.
What Next for India?
Abrogation of Article 370 and 35a was a big leap forward for inclusive growth of India, but the implementation of promised reforms and a positive environment in the valley will still take some time. The first priority will continue to be the safety and security of all Indian citizens in J&K and Ladakh, for which the methodology seems to have been well thought through. India should continue with tight restrictions on potential problem creators and flash spots at least till 15 August, even at the cost of some inconvenience to people and relax it in graduated manner. In democracy, the criticism against restrictions by opposition parties and activists is natural, but if it can save lives of innocent people then it is worth it. To enable the promises of inclusive growth to be implemented, the people of both the newly formed UTs have to come forward to find genuine representation amongst themselves and work towards reaping benefits from newly found freedom from archaic laws. The countrymen have to invest in these regions for mutual prosperity. Regarding Pakistan, all actions taken by them were well anticipated and thought through. Whatever it does to interfere in Kashmir, it is going to harm itself. J&K remains integral part of India and the country is well poised to handle any awkward situation.
Fifty Years OF India-Bangladesh Ties: Sky’s The Limit
Bangladesh and India are two neighboring countries of South Asia and these two countries have historically had very close relations. After the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, present day Bangladesh was part of the Republic of Pakistan as East Pakistan. The people of Bengal will never forget the assistance rendered by the late Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi and her government when the people of East Bengal under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman took part in the war of independence against the West Pakistani military rule.
The role that Mrs. Gandhi played in the international arena, including providing shelter and military assistance to nearly one crore East Pakistani refugees, accelerated Bangladesh’s independence. The generosity shown by Mrs. Gandhi in withdrawing the Indian Allied forces from independence-North Bangladesh in a very short time at the request of Bangabandhu is rarely seen in the case of the newly independent countries.
The unity between the two countries since independence has continued to this day. However, despite the existence of negative relations between Bangladesh and India for some time, the relations between the two countries have reached a certain height in the last 12 years. Many important problems have been solved in the last 12 years, including the solution of enclave problems. Relations between the two countries have been further strengthened by India’s assistance in various projects.
On an annual basis, India’s exports to Bangladesh increased by 46 percent. As of January-March 2021, India’s total exports to Bangladesh amounted to US 3.16 billion. In other words, during this period, Bangladesh was the fourth largest exporter to India. Bangladesh was preceded by the United States (US 15.40 billion), China (US 5.92 billion) and the UAE (US 5.34 billion).
What is clear from these statistics is that trade between the two countries has greatly improved. However, despite the increase in Indian exports to Bangladesh, the desired target for products exported from Bangladesh has not yet been achieved. However, since 2011, the trade deficit between the two countries has been reduced, albeit to a lesser extent, as a result of the Government of India’s decision to allow duty-free trade of Bangladeshi products in the Indian market, except for 25 products. Even then, in order to improve relations, the two heads of government should reach an agreement to reduce the trade deficit.
In the field of culture, very friendly relations exist between the two countries. Just as Bangladeshi cultural groups display their cultural activities in India, so Indian cultural groups often present their activities to the people of Bangladesh. Through this, a strong bridge has been created in the cultural arena of the two countries. It is worth mentioning here that since Bangladesh and India are two states of the subcontinent, there are many similarities between the cultural worlds of the two countries.
The scholarships that the Government of India has introduced for Bangladeshi students in various fields to further enhance the relations between the two countries have had a positive impact on the relations between the two countries. Along with scholarships under the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, the Government of India has introduced scholarships for Bangladeshi students in several other sectors. Among these are the Friendship Scholarship, the Scholarship for the Children of the Freedom Fighters and the Bangabandhu Chair Scholarship on the occasion of Bangabandhu’s birth centenary. The fact that a large number of people from Bangladesh travel to India every year for medical treatment sends a positive message to the relations between the two countries.
In addition, the governments of the two countries are seriously considering launching a regional inter-country road link. If this communication starts, there will be huge potential for expansion of trade and commerce between the two countries. It is expected that this will open new doors for Bangladesh’s trade not only with India but also with our neighboring countries. Many try to view inter-country road connectivity in a negative light, arguing that Bangladesh would then become India’s corridor.
Such an argument is entirely motivated, because if such efforts are successful in the age of globalization, it will bring benefits to both countries. Providing duty-free trade and visa-free travel with this communication will benefit both countries as well as strengthen the people-to-people ties between the two countries as we see in Europe. Many European countries can be entered under Schengen visa.
There is no denying that the governments of Bangladesh and India have reached a consensus on a number of issues since the post-independence period. Important among these were the Padma water sharing agreement, the solution of enclave problems and duty-free access to goods to reduce the trade deficit. However, although the relations between the two countries are very deep, it has not been possible to reach a consensus on a number of issues so far. The most important of these are the Teesta water sharing agreement and the killing at the border.
Although the Indian government has a positive attitude towards the Teesta water treaty, it is not possible to do so due to opposition from the West Bengal government. To complete the contract. If this agreement is reached, it will not only have a positive impact on the relations between the two countries, but will also alleviate the suffering of the people of northern Bangladesh due to the lack of Teesta water.
On the other hand, despite high-level talks between the two countries to reduce the number of killings on the border to zero, such killings have occasionally negatively affected relations between the two countries. The killings should be reduced, especially as the people of Bangladesh may have a negative impact on India.
Bangladesh-India relations are on such a strong foundation that many countries of the world have started envying this relationship. Various leaders are trying to bridge the gap in this relationship. The two heads of government should be aware of this.
We must remember that the relationship between the people of Bangladesh and India stands on a very strong foundation. Thus, the main theme of this year’s Friendship Day may be the conviction to move the relationship forward by reaching consensus on the issues on which consensus has not yet been reached.
Pakistan slips on a slippery slope of religious militancy
Pakistani political and military leaders have vowed to eradicate ultra-conservative religious extremism that drove a mob to torture, brutally lynch a Sri Lankan national, and burn his body in the eastern city of Sialkot. Some 900 cases have been filed with police and 235 people arrested in connection with the killing.
“Let me make this clear: I have decided that from now we will not spare those who resort to violence in the name of religion, especially in the name of the Holy Prophet (PBUH),” Prime Minister Imran Khan said at a commemoration of Priyantha Kumara Diyawadana, a 48-year-old textile factory manager.
The mob accused Mr. Diyawadana of removing a sticker of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) or ‘I am Present Pakistan ‘(TLP), a far-right militantly religious group, from machinery before a visit by foreigners.
Some reports claimed that a dispute between Mr. Diyawadana and workers sparked the lynching. It was not clear whether the argument may be connected to the stickers.
The TLP condemned the Sialkot killing but has often turned unfounded blasphemy allegations into a violent crusade in a country where punishment for it is a mandatory death sentence.
Whatever sparked the killing, the government’s response seemed aimed to project determination to tackle a festering problem. It is a claim that rings hollow, despite Mr. Khan’s strong words, in a country where government policies are inconsistent or appear to even encourage religious ultra-conservatism and intolerance.
“We’ll see the truth of this soon enough when the next Pakistani — be he or she Muslim, Hindu, Christian, or otherwise — is lynched in the name of blasphemy.,” said journalist Zarrar Khuhro. “Because that’s going to keep happening no matter what becomes of those arrested in the Sialkot lynching. You know it, and I know it too.”
Despite acting against Mr. Diyawadana’s killers, government and military leaders failed to censor defense minister Pervez Khattak for downplaying, if not justifying, the killing.
Speaking after Mr. Diyawadana’s killers proudly admitted their crime in front of TV cameras and posted selfies with his mutilated body online, Mr. Khattak described them as boys entering adulthood who were “ready to do anything” and learn with age how to control their emotions. “So, this happens among kids; fights take place and even murders. Does this mean it is the government’s fault?”
Most of the suspects in Mr. Diyawadana’s killing were under the age of 30.
Mr. Khattak’s remarks seemed a throwback to four years ago when the military appeared to openly support the TLP as its staged a mass protest against the government of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
Dawn, Pakistan’s flagship English-language newspaper, summed up the state of affairs in an editorial. The paper said that “such a statement from a federal minister should come as a shock, but unfortunately, we are accustomed to our public officials being in denial about the realities of extremism and violence in the country.”
Weeks earlier, the government had initially caved in to demands of the TLP under pressure from a mass protest march of thousands of the group’s followers on the capital Islamabad. The demands included the reversal of a decision to outlaw the group and releasing its leader and followers from jail. However, a week later, the government backed out of the deal with the group.
Days before the killing, Mr. Khattak’s colleague, information minister Fawad Chaudhry, sought to shield from criticism religious seminaries or madrassas, an influential segment of Pakistan’s education system. Mr. Chaudhry, who unambiguously condemned Mr. Kumara’s killing, did so by blaming the spread of extremism in Pakistan primarily on public schools rather than on madrasas.
“The institution of the madrassa has become the primary political base for religious groups and religious-political parties and continues to strictly adhere to its potentially explosive sectarian character. It is expanding and encroaching on the formal education sector, and the state has failed to regulate the institution,” said Pakistani analyst Mohammad Amir Rana.
Countering Mr. Chaudhry’s assertions, Mr. Rana noted that “formal education institutions have not produced a fraction of the number of militants who enter the ranks of various national and international terrorist organisations which the madrassas belonging to different banned militant organisations have produced so far.”
Mr Rana made his remarks days before the Sialkot killing, but he could have been writing after the incident when he noted that successive Pakistani governments had sought to depoliticise education on public campuses “while the madrassa students remain politically and ideologically charged and vulnerable to be exploited for street protests and recruitment for military purposes.”
Mr. Chaudhry got it right when he pointed to the public system but failed to mention that it was because the government was increasingly hiring madrassa graduates as teachers in the public sector.
“The madrassa mindset is at its full play in society and is responsible for promoting two major socio-political conflicts…first, the sectarian divide, and second, ideological radicalism,” Mr. Rana warned.
That mindset is gaining further ground with the introduction of a singular national curriculum that gives greater importance to religious education. A court in Lahore has ordered that all school students in Punjab be checked for Quran reading skills.
“Preliminary reports suggest province-wide confusion and chaos and a state of fear among children, teachers, and school principals. Magistrates accompanied by rifle-bearing policemen are pouncing upon schools, interrogating seven- to 12-year-old children,” reported nuclear scientist and human rights activist Pervez Hoodbhoy.
“Grim-faced magistrates swooping down upon schools, destroying the authority of teachers and school principals, and putting terror into the hearts of all is a disgrace to the notion of education. It may not end here,” Mr. Hoodbhoy warned.”
“How we dress, speak, and think is going to be increasingly policed. Imran Khan’s Pakistan is racing down the path to Talibanisation,” he added.
Quaid-e-Azam: The Protector-General of minorities
Lynching and setting people was a phenomenon peculiar to India under Modi. But, in a shocking incident , a Sri Lankan factory manager in Sialkot was lynched and later burnt alive. Not only the Pakistan government but also the religiously-oriented parties condemned the incident. Government announced to confer Tamgha-e-Shujaat to the lone voice who tried his utmost to save the victim’s life.
It is heartening that Pakistan immediately apprehended dozens of suspects. In case of India such gory acts go unnoticed.
The incident brought into limelight the bitter fact that ordinary people have a purblind view of blasphemy. They could have avoided taking the law into their own hands. They could have handed over the victim to the police for prosecution if there was any credible shred of evidence against him.
Need for soul searching
While celebrating the Quaid’s birthday on 25th December, the people should refresh their memories of the Quaid’s vision. Did he visualise Pakistan to be an enlightened democracy or a theocracy? The Quaid’s whole political struggle was against fanaticism, then spearheaded by Hindus.
The 1916 Lucknow Pact was acknowledged as a pillar of Hindu-Muslim friendship. However, Motilal Nehru, at the behest of the fanatic Hindus, shattered the spirit of peaceful coexistence by formulating his Nehru Report (1928). His son Jawaharlal, outwardly liberal, regarded the creation of Pakistan as a blunder. His rancour against Pakistan reached a crescendo in his remark ‘I shall not have that carbuncle on my back’. Jaswant Singh, in his book, Jinnah: India, Partition, and Independence reveals that Jinnah shelved the idea of independent Pakistan by putting his signature to the Cabinet Mission’s recommendations. This Mission envisaged keeping India undivided for ten years. The constituent assemblies were to consider the question of division after 10 years. When Congress refused to accept the recommendations of the Cabinet Mission, the British government decided to divide India.
Pacifist Jinnah versus jingoist Nehru and Patel
Despite the lapse of over 70 years, India still has to reconcile with Pakistan as a reality. When Jinnah left India on 7 August 1947, the Quaid said, ‘The past has been buried and let us start afresh as two independent sovereign States. In contrast, Nehru, an outwardly liberal leader, said ‘I shall not have that carbuncle on my back’. These remarks have been quoted by D. H. Bhutani in his book, The Future of Pakistan (page 14). Vallabhai Patel said, ‘The poison had been removed from the body of India’. RSS’s Mohin Bhagwat and India’s prime minister Narendra Modi have declared to undo partition by doing away with Pakistan.
Not a theocracy
In a broadcast addressed to the people of the USA (February 1948), he said, ‘In any case Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic State to be ruled by priests [mullahs] with a divine mission. We have many non-Muslims, Hindus, Christians, and Parsees– but they are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizen and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan’ When an over-ebullient admirer addressed him as `Maulana Jinnah’, he snubbed him. Jinnah retorted, ‘I am not a Maulana, just plain Mr. Jinnah’. About minorities, the Quaid often reminded Muslim zealots ‘Our own history and our and our Prophet(PBUH) have given the clearest proof that non-Muslims have been treated not only justly and fairly but generously. He added, ‘I am going to constitute myself the Protector-general of the Hindu minority in Pakistan’. Till his last breath, the Quaid remained an ardent supporter of rights of minorities as equal citizens of Pakistan. Our official dignitaries shun rituals and customs of minorities. But, the Quaid participated in Christmas celebrations in December 1947 as a guest of the Christian community. He declared: ‘I am going to constitute myself the Protector General of Hindu minority in Pakistan’.
One member of his post-Partition cabinet was a Hindu. A Jewish scholar, Mohammad Asad, who embraced Islam, held important positions in the post-Partition period in Pakistan.
The following extracts from the Quaid’s speeches and statements as Governor General of Pakistan epitomise his vision: “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques, or to any other place 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…We are starting in the days when there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed or another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of the one State”.
The Quaid visualised that `in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State”. A. K. Brohi, in his The Fundamental Law of Pakistan, argues that Pakistan is an Islamic state, but not a theocracy. Jinnah’s address to the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947, also, epitomises his vision.
Stanley Wolpert paid tributes to the Quaid in following words, “Few individuals significantly alter the course of history. Few still modify the map of the world. Hardly anyone could be credited with creating a nation State. Muhammad All Jinnah did all three”. Pakistan overcame insurmountable problems of influx of 1947 refugees, skimpy finances and myriad other problems to emerge as a viable entity. We welcomed refugees, while India is all set to drive out 4.7 million refugees from its eastern state of Assam.
Isolated intermittent incidents of religious extremism in Pakistan do not reflect the ethos of the majority. However, there is need to make the masses aware of the vested interests who want to exploit them by warping their beliefs.
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