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.
As Sri Lanka struggles with Chinese debt-trap, Maldives moves closer to the Quad
The Indian Ocean’s geopolitical currents have witnessed drastic transformation this year, particularly in the past three months, with India shedding the exclusive right of its sphere of influence over the Indian Ocean, by allowing the United States in its own backyard. Washington and New Delhi seems to have entered into what few analysts call a ‘soft alliance’.
Sri Lanka and Maldives are strategically located in the northern section of the Indian Ocean, and have long been historically, culturally, and geopolitically under India’s sphere of influence. But, things are beginning to change as Chinese debt-trap looms over these islands.
The Quad grouping, consisting of India, Japan, the United States and Australia, has demonstrated its collective military might in the maritime sphere of India with the recently concluded annual Malabar naval exercise. It also led to the emergence of new dynamics of cooperation in previously reticent areas, built upon confidence in each other’s abilities and consciousness of where it stands in the newly unravelling geopolitical equation.
India’s new strategic comfort with bringing in partners from the Quad partners lying external to the Indian Ocean Region, namely the US and Japan into its long-held exclusive sphere of influence signals a tilt in strategic imperatives for New Delhi in favour of the US that too in an evolving cold war-like situation involving Washington and Beijing with different set of countries rallying behind each side.
India has recently welcomed the US-Maldives Defense Cooperation Agreement signed in September, this year. The following month saw US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Male where he announced Washington’s intent to open an embassy soon.
Less than three months after the defence pact with Washington, Male signed a new agreement with Tokyo this month, for availing a Japanese grant of $7.6 million to strengthen the archipelago’s Coast Guard capacities, in a second major pact with a Quad member.
New Delhi’s newfound willingness to work with external actors in the Indian Ocean is a sign of strategic comfort stemming out from realist foreign policy considerations to expand its circle of friends and coalition partners in its own backyard against a common and more powerful adversary, Beijing, with which it also have decades-long tensions in the Himalayan frontiers.
Even though both these two countries succumbed to disproportionately superior Chinese economic might since the past one decade, it seems Maldives has somehow managed to come out of its dangerous level of dependency on China since Ibrahim Mohammed Solih of the Maldivian Democratic Party assumed presidency of the island nation two years back in November 2018.
The Sri Lankan economy went into a tailspin since the civil war ended in 2009. The country’s exchequer was badly in need of financial support to sustain itself. It was also the time when Beijing just began to project its military and economic power in its neighbourhood and beyond as the flamboyant 2008 Beijing Olympics concluded.
The island of Sri Lanka soon acquired new geoeconomic significance when President Xi Jinping launched the most ambitious infrastructure project of this century in 2013, the Belt and Road Infrastructure, connecting three continents with the Indian Ocean as its epicenter of vitality.
With BRI, a tangled web of debt-trap rapidly began to loom over Sri Lanka as Beijing pumped-in investments into the war-battered island with malicious intentions.
The story of handover of Hambantota port, strategically located in the southern tip of Sri Lankan coast, to China for a 99-year lease in 2017, and the Colombo Port City project being built with Chinese assistance are just examples of how economic leverage gained geopolitically advantageous positions for Beijing overlooking the Indian Ocean. These assets are going to play a significant role in the connectivity of BRI’s ‘Maritime Silk Road’ aspect.
Chinese-led projects are built and managed by Chinese workers themselves as they do in any other part of the world, naturally bringing presence of Chinese personnel to the areas where it operates.
The BRI, however, enhances Sri Lanka’s significance in what theorists call the String of Pearls, wherein Beijing attempts to encircle India by a series of ports and maritime installations under its control in the Indian Ocean such as the overseas military base in Djibouti, Gwadar in Pakistan, and the ports in Bay of Bengal under Chinese influence hosted by either Bangladesh or Myanmar. Chinese submarine presence is also a new reality, particularly in areas surrounding the Malacca Straits.
All these factors naturally brought New Delhi closer to Washington to formulate a ‘collective strategy’ against the expansionist tendencies manifested by Chinese behaviour. At the same time, India has been taking proactive steps in its individual capacity to boost ties with other island and littoral states in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), like Mauritius and Seychelles where India’s listening posts to monitor sea-lanes also operate.
The Indian Navy has always been the first responder to any HADR (Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief) situations in the IOR which earned significant soft power and respect for India in the countries of the region. This vision has been immortalized in India’s maritime doctrine for regional cooperation in the Indian Ocean, SAGAR (Security and Growth for all in the Region), that was unveiled in 2015.
With the entry of the US, which already has its presence in the British Indian Ocean Territory of Diego Garcia lying mid-way of the ocean, that too with India’s approval, and France in Reunion in the western Indian Ocean, the geostrategic picture of IOR is beginning to change.
Maldives stands as a good example of how to overcome Chinese dominating agenda by boosting cooperation among democracies. But, the Abdullah Yameen-era nightmare of Chinese debt burden is still far from over. In fact, Sri Lanka too is well aware of the Chinese trap from which it yearns to decouple itself. But, Colombo is left with limited options or alternatives to do so.
The renewed Indo-US strategic cooperation, if not translated into offering a viable solution to the debt-trap conundrum, Sri Lanka might irreversibly evolve into another extension of Beijing’s legs in the Indian Ocean threatening the sovereignty of democracies in the region.
Recent steps in the strategic realm are welcome, but the Indo-Pacific democracies, particularly India and the US, should cooperate with these two key island states more in the economic realm as well, if possible near to the extent of Beijing as a collective move.
The Dysfunctional Pakistan’s Legislature
The legislature of Pakistan has several problems and because of this very reason governments are unable to make any landmark laws for the state that can prove to be effective in resulting some socio-political or economic changes in the society. The noncooperation among the parties in the house is the major problem that leads no healthy debate. People have never seen the political parties having a healthy debate among the political parties on some key matters that need to address. Political parties prefer crosstalk on each other that mostly ends up on the dismal of legislature. Mostly in the house the opposition and the party in power never each on consensus on anything that shows their no seriousness towards the legislation.
In my opinion the opposition of Pakistan perceives its role to be negative always. The opposition perceives as their duty to walk out from the house, make fun of their fellow colleagues, bringing our historical facts to propagate negativity about the agenda. This attitude results in no fruitful law-making.
The scenario of national assembly of Pakistan is that if the ruling party does not has two-third majority in the house they will be paralyzed as the opposition has imagines role of not supporting the government to pass laws and bills that can benefit their reputation among the public. In this game of interest the parties forget the importance of legislation and national interest rather they are more focused on protecting their own interests and interests of their political parties.
The tussle between the government and the opposition is endless that is negatively impacting the legislative system of Pakistan.
Another factor that weakens the legislative process of Pakistan is the issues within the upper house. This plays a vital role in enacting the laws without senate’s cooperation legislation cannot improve and strength.
The sustained bitterness and confrontation with the government and opposition leads to no progress in the making of legislation and strengthening the rule of law. For example the PTI coalition passed the bills and introduced 8 ordinances in its first year of government.
The ten bills passed by national assembly faced a new challenge which was the Senate of Pakistan where PTI also does not hold the majority. Ten out of 4 bills sailed through Senate whereas 3 remained pending in Senate. Only 7 bills turned into acts in the first year of PTI government.
The lack of coordination and seriousness in the parliament is affecting the progress of Pakistan. Without rules and making of new legislation how can the country progress? In a democratic system the rule of law is one of the pillars for true democratic practices but unfortunately in Pakistan we only see leg-pulling and blame game between the institutions. The lack of political consensus among the parties is another problem. On the other hand the formation of Standing Committees of national assembly is important for the functioning of the system. According to the Rules of Procedure of national assembly the members of Standing Committees has to be elected within 30 days after the elections of the leader of house but according to the data of PILDAT previous assembly managed to form these in 3 months instead of 30 days. This indicated lack of seriousness of the members.
The current government has only got the executive authority and not the legislative competence that makes them dysfunctional as they are dependent on the opposition and then Senate for passing of the legislation and making it a law.
Another factor that weakens the legislative system of Pakistan is the overactive judiciary and the intervention of the military in law making. Through this intervention the legacy of the military rule is still being kept alive. Most of the time the Supreme Court and the judiciary intervene in the legislation to serve their interest and weaken their opponents sitting in the government. The overactive judiciary encroaches the governance agenda, legislative advice etc. the legislative procedure in Pakistan is still developing its institutional identity.
The duty of the legislature is to respond to its public needs and also exercise oversight of the executive, but there is not engagement in the civil society and no research is being conducted on the public policy for better and effective policy making.
In the end it can be concluded that the system is also faulty but the attitude of the parliamentarians is more disappointing and discouraging. The whole system is unsuitable for a less educated population of Pakistan as most of the parliamentarians are unaware of policy-making and its importance for the state. The process is also complex and complicated as it has to go through several steps for making a bill a law.
Through this process, law-making on controversial issues is nearly impossible because in Pakistan people protect their interest instead of their state. Even if the government is serious for law-making the judiciary, military and bureaucracy will not allow the government to do its job. This is high time to adopt a new system in this country and draw lines for every institutions particularly judiciary that is the most rigid institutions and creates hurdles for every government by interrupting them.
Reinforcing the Role of the International Community in Resolving the Rohingya Crisis
Bangladesh is hosting more than 1.1 million Rohingya refugees since August 2017. The United Nations defined Myanmar’s August 2017 atrocities to the Rohingyas as “Textbook case of ethnic cleansing”. On July 02, 2018, during his visit to Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General noted that “I have no doubt that the Rohingya people have always been one of, if not the, most discriminated people in the world, without any recognition of the most basic rights starting by the recognition of the right of citizenship by their own country – Myanmar”. Thus, the severity of the Rohingya crisis is well-recognized by the international community. This article focuses on the necessity of the international community’s role in facilitating a safe and sustainable Rohingya crisis solution.
The ironic story is that though it is already three years passed, no concrete action is manifested to facilitate the Rohingya refugee repatriation. In the United Nations Security Council, Russia and China applied veto power in the case of Rohingya refugee resolution, which made strong impediments to the repatriation process. Russia and China did this calculating their narrowly defined interest rather than humanity which is in fact, ironic for the world. Thus, the United Nations could not play a crucial role in facilitating the Rohingya refugee repatriation.
Bangladesh is one of the densely populated countries in the world. Though Bangladesh is a rising economic power, feeding more than 170 million people is not an easy task. Also, more than 1.1 million Rohingya refugees have added extra socio-economic pressures in the country. For Bangladesh’s continued growth, prosperity, and stability, there is no alternative to repatriate the Rohingya refugees in Myanmar as early as possible. Since Myanmar committed ethnic cleansing to the Rohingyas, and the country is not interested in taking back the Rohingyas, only the international community including the United Nations, the European Union, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) can pressurize Myanmar to ensure a safe and sustainable repatriation.
Bangladesh strongly believes that the international community can play an essential role in resolving the Rohingya refugee crisis permanently. For instance, at the 72nd United Nations General Assembly, Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, offered five points proposal including the full implementation of recommendations of the Kofi Annan Commission, and the establishment of civilian monitored safe zone in the Rakhine State to the international community to resolve the issue. Similarly, at the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Sheikh Hasina offered a four points-proposal to resolve the Rohingya crisis highlighting the role of the international community. Sheikh Hasina emphasized that the international community must ensure that the root causes of the Rohingya problem area addressed and the violation of human rights and other atrocity crimes committed against the Rohingyas are accounted for.
The good news is that the on November 19, 2020, the United Nations has adopted a resolution on “The Situation of Human Rights of the Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar” while Bangladesh seeks a peaceful solution to the Rohingya crisis. The Resolution called for taking concrete actions by Myanmar to address the root causes of the Rohingya crisis, i.e. granting them citizenship, ensuring the safe and sustainable return of the Rohingyas to their homes by creating a conducive environment. Bangladesh Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Rabab Fatima notes that “As a country that hosts over 1.1 million forcibly displaced Rohingyas, Bangladesh continues to seek a peaceful solution to this crisis, which lies in their safe and dignified return to Myanmar”.
Notably, Germany on behalf of the European Union and Saudi Arabia on behalf of the OIC co-tabled the Resolution which was sponsored by the 104 member states including the USA, Canada, and Australia. It is also a positive development that a total of 132 countries voted in favour of the Resolution while nine countries voted against and 31 countries abstained. It demonstrates that most of the countries in the world want a permanent, sustainable and peaceful solution to the Rohingya crisis. It also signifies that these countries care for the humanity while the nine countries who voted against the Resolution only care for their narrowly defined interest. The future generations will undoubtedly read and know the actions of those nine countries who do not care for humanity. Those nine countries need to know that despite several domestic challenges, Sheikh Hasina has shown kindness, humanitarian gesture and thus protected and sheltered those Rohingyas from killing by the Myanmar armies.
Notably, Bangladesh is one of the top ten countries in the world in terms of hosting refugees. This will remain as a humanitarian example in the world. One also needs to keep in mind that the socio-economic realities of Turkey (who is the top in hosting refugees), and Bangladesh is not the same. While the GDP (per capita) of Turkey is US$ 9043, Bangladesh’s GDP (per capita) is US$ 1856, the population density of Turkey is 108 per square kilometres, and Bangladesh’s population density is 1116 per square kilometres. Thus, considering the contexts, and socio-economic realities of Bangladesh, the international community needs to reinforce the Rohingya refugee repatriation process. Most importantly, the international community needs to execute the adopted Resolution as early as possible for the sake of humanity, for the sake of a just cause. The future world will certainly note the noble actions taken by the international community for such a just, and reasonable cause.
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