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‘HowdyModi’ event makes India’s Soft-Power credibility at stake

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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.

Antony Clement is a Senior Editor (Asia-Pacific), Modern Diplomacy an online journal. He is a researcher in Indian Foreign Policy. He consults on academic development and he is currently working on two books - “Discover your Talents” and “Diplomacy in Tough Times”. His research centres on India’s diplomacy & foreign policy and extends to domestic politics, economic policy, security issues, and international security matters, including India’s relations with the US, the BRICS nations, the EU and Australia.

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South Asia

Pakistan puts press freedom at the core of struggle for new world order

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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Sweeping new regulations restricting social media in Pakistan put freedom of expression and the media at the heart of the struggle to counter both civilizationalist and authoritarian aspects of an emerging new world order.

The regulations, adopted without public debate, position US social media companies like Facebook and Twitter at the forefront of the struggle and raise the spectre of China’s walled off Internet with its own state-controlled social media platforms becoming the model for a host of illiberals, authoritarians and autocrats.

The regulations, that take effect immediately, embrace aspects of a civilizational state that defines its legal reach, if not its borders, in terms of a civilization rather than a nation state with clearly outlined, internationally recognized borders that determine the reach of its law and that is defined by its population and language.

The regulations could force social media companies to globally suppress criticism of the more onerous aspects of Pakistani law, including constitutionally enshrined discrimination of some minorities like Ahmadis, a sect widely viewed as heretic by mainstream Islam, and imposition of a mandatory death sentence for blasphemy.

The new rules force social media companies to “remove, suspend or disable access” to content posted in Pakistan or by Pakistani nationals abroad that the government deems as failing to “take due cognizance of the religious, cultural, ethnic and national security sensitivities of Pakistan.” The government can also demand removal of encryption.

Social media companies are required to establish offices in Pakistan in the next three months and install data servers by February 2021.

The government justified the rules with the need to combat hate speech, blasphemy, alleged fake news and online harassment of women.

The Asia Internet Coalition, a technology and internet industry association that includes  Facebook and Twitter, warned that the regulations “jeopardize the personal safety and privacy of citizens and undermine free expression” and would be “detrimental to Pakistan’s ambitions for a digital economy.”

The introduction of the regulations reflects frustration in government as well as Pakistan’s powerful military with social media companies’ frequent refusal to honour requests to take down content. Pakistan ranked among the top countries requesting  Facebook and Twitter to remove postings.

On the assumption that Facebook, Twitter and others, which are already banned in China, will risk being debarred in Pakistan by refusing to comply with the new regulations, Pakistan could become a prime country that adopts not only aspects of China’s 21st century, Orwellian surveillance state but also its tightly controlled media.

The basis for potential Pakistani adoption of the Chinese system was created in 2017 in plans for the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a US$60 billion plus crown jewel of the Belt and Road, an infrastructure, telecommunications and energy-driven initiative to tie Eurasia to China.

The 2017 plan identifies as risks to CPEC “Pakistani politics, such as competing parties, religion, tribes, terrorists, and Western intervention” as well as security. The plan appears to question the vibrancy of a system in which competition between parties and interest groups is the name of the game.

It envisions a full system of monitoring and surveillance to ensure law and order in Pakistani cities. The system would involve deployment of explosive detectors and scanners to “cover major roads, case-prone areas and crowded places…in urban areas to conduct real-time monitoring and 24-hour video recording.”

A national fibre optic backbone would be built for internet traffic as well as the terrestrial distribution of broadcast media that would cooperate with their Chinese counterparts in the “dissemination of Chinese culture.” The plan described the backbone as a “cultural transmission carrier” that would serve to “further enhance mutual understanding between the two peoples and the traditional friendship between the two countries.”

Critics in China and elsewhere assert that repression of freedom of expression contributed to China’s delayed response to the Coronavirus. China rejects the criticism with President Xi Jingping calling for even greater control.

Pakistan’s newly promulgated regulations echo Mr. Xi’s assertion during the Communist party’s January 7 Politburo Standing Committee meeting  that “we must strengthen public opinion tracking and judgment, take the initiative to voice, provide positive guidance, strengthen integration, communication and interaction, so that positive energy will always fill the Internet space… We must control the overall public opinion and strive to create a good public opinion environment. It is necessary to strengthen the management and control of online media.”

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South Asia

Kashmir burns as lockdown continues

Aneeqa Tanveer

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The valley is on fire again, and it is engulfing the whole region. It is not just about Pakistan or India but the onus remains on the world, every person, every country, and every individual as Kashmir suffers from these flames.

It is burning everywhere. The dispute of Pakistan-India is not new. It has elevated from its dormant levels. From the disruption of peace-talks to election fueled border skirmishes, every action and every other effort in the region is worsening the situation.

Time has stood still. It has stopped healing wounds and only the lacerations have increased. As the lockdown persists, the agony persists and continues to darken the skies.

The cries of innocent Kashmiris (nine million of them) scream on the loss of their loved ones. The arrests under the Public safety Act (PSA) has demeaned its meaning in Kashmiri eyes and in the eyes of the world. Everyone arrested under this act have gone under detention without trial for a maximum of two years. As absurd it sounds, the trauma is more horrific.

And all of this began with the passing of Article 370. And it has raised many questions in the minds of the people living in these areas

Voted by the majority of Indian parliament members, that is,351 votes in favor and only 72 against, on 5th of August. The timing, the stunts being played by the restraining government are to be questioned. Prime Minister Narenda Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has claimed to normalize the abnormal situation in the state of Jammu Kashmir. But the truth cannot be further from this. In the six months since, the state could not have destabilized more had Pakistan directly intervened. At its lowest ebb of the past 40 years, the situation needs to be normalized.

And in this manner Modi and the current Indian government have set the template for every dictatorial regime. Arrest all possible voices of a region, cut all communications, blockade the region and you are on your way.

Internet, tele-communication and any sort of media coverage was limited to say the least. As millions suffered badly with each passing day of the curfew. The valley burnt and there were no witnesses as a complete lockdown continued as the government tried to normalize the state.

But the images of the valley made their way out and the stories they tell do not need much interpretation. They support their tales without much context. It will be wrong to assume their context but there was no one to state it. Such was the stranglehold of the government. And this was in stark contrast to what was aimed at.

To revive Kashmir’s economy and make it come at par to rest of the country, a lot of different directions were available. So why mess with the hornets nest.

The necessary steps that Modi’s government had to take were promote local governance and encourage new investment plans in the state. Outdated plans had to be set aside and a renewed focus on ones that bring the state to the forefront after lagging behind rest of India for so many years.

What Mr. Modi does is anyone’s guess. After all, he has been the face of RSS backed BJP known for its neo-Nazi politics. The great face of secular India maligned by the idiosyncratic visions of a deranged lunatics.

And it has not played out well in Kashmir. The state’s lack of governance has had a detrimental impact on its development and the current legislature change will not help its case. All these measures were strongly criticized by the international media and on political forums.

The need to stabilize the region of Indian occupied Kashmir becomes very frequent question in the minds who follow the news update on the region. For Pakistan and India, the claim of Kashmir could not be more skeptical than in current situation. And impact current affairs situations in the geography.

From America taking out its soldiers from Afghanistan, to unrest in Iran and middle-east. The noisy neighbors and Kashmir issue impacts everyone. And as we learn from Soviet retreat from Afghanistan and its ensuring unrest, South Asia is not going to stabilize for some time. And Kashmir will be the talking point.

Wisdom would suggest that this issue should be decided sooner rather than later. Even if India’s claim of Kashmir being an unresolved matter of India, it should be resolved at the earliest. This has to be done some day, and with American troops leaving Afghanistan, doing it before will be a good time.

The freedom fighters have been engaged in Afghanistan for the better part of two decades and the focus will return on Kashmir. The suffering of millions of Muslims cannot be overlooked and the region will not be able to stabilize. It is in the best interests of all parties involved, especially India.

On the other side of the border, Pakistan is watching eagerly and getting support for its international claims. Peace talks have been proposed and they would mutually benefit both the countries and stabilize the region. But no movement has been seen on this front. Both Islamabad and Delhi are far from sitting across each other.

Pakistan itself has unilaterally changed the structure of Azad Kashmir government. And they did it by changing the status of the Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Kashmir territories last year. Any kind of the unrest in the Kashmir state has a direct effect on the Azad Kashmir.

And Pakistan cannot keep a blind eye on a region as close as the Indian Kashmir.It has openly talked about freedom of Kashmir from India and demands from the world to support its rights. And as Pakistan supports the Kashmir issue on all forums indiscriminately, the pressure is piling on Delhi.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has announced solidarity with Kashmir. His government is taking the issue to every forum possible including the human rights forums in United Nations (UN).Islamabad knows the significance of this period and has highlighted the violations happening under Article 370.Pakistan’s support Kashmir is firm and is not budging.

As the issue takes rage, other countries also got involved in it as sitting back and ignoring the matter is out of question.

The United States (US) senate committee on foreign relations has called to bring an end to this type of “humanitarian crisis” in Kashmir. Even Donald Trump has offered to support in any way to solve this “complex issue”.

Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping has shared that he is personally keeping abreast with the situation in Kashmir and would “support Pakistan in issues related to its core interests.”Xi, however, added that both India and Pakistan should resolve the dispute through peaceful dialogue.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan took up the issue in the UN General Assembly. He called to resolve it through peace dialogues as they ensure the safety, equity and happiness of the people of the region rather thana rmed collisions.

Even Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom stated that the people of Kashmir “must be included” in decisions concerning their future.

Decades have passed and there is a dire need to resolve this issue as the time flies it brings more anger in the residents. Open dialogues area solution which is in the best interest of Kashmiri people. Other repercussions are hard to fathom and difficult to digest.

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South Asia

How Internal Political Instability Risks Threatening Pakistan’s International Commitments

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Dharna (Mass sit-ins) politics in Pakistan is not a new phenomenon as it has happened several times by various political parties and other entities. Yet, it is the “timing of such Dharnas” that is the most important thing for the success and failure of such methods when pressurizing governments. Currently Pakistan faces numerous problems ranging from an unstable economy, terrorism, staunch opposition from other major political parties such as the PML (N) and PPP, the Kashmir issue, the Afghanistan matter and mounting Western pressure regarding CPEC.  Any misadventure created by a Dharna or any other issue could cost the present government a heavy price in the form of regional commitments considering the current situation of the country.

Recently Bilawal Bhutto announced a Dharna to be held in March in addition to the one planned by Fazul Rehman this month. Both parties through Dharna politics want to pressurize the incumbent government via politicizing the widespread inflation plaguing the Pakistani economy. They also aimed to further build on how Fazul Rehman through his previous Dharna the previous year had tried to pressurize the Imran Khan government along similar lines. One of his top demands then was calling for a re-election because he considered the election of July 2018 rigged. This demand was favored by wide swathes of the opposition because of their resentments against the existing government and its policies.

As is the current situation within Pakistan is already unstable because of various problems. The most pressing being Western pressure being applied through the FATF and IMF in key development projects such as CPEC. Under the current circumstances, the government cannot afford any kind of strike or resentment by political parties which can diminish its image at the national as well as global levels.

This is apparent in how, the United States and India through the FATF and other means have been pressurizing Pakistan on the pretext of clamping down on money laundering which is allegedly being used by various terrorist organizations within Pakistan. In this regard, any kind of trouble generated within the country through Dharna politics or any other means would lead to the country gaining further unfavorable international attention. The resulting political instability could further bring Pakistan closer to being placed on the FATF black-list. If that happens then Pakistan would suffer immensely giving birth to a whole host of new political and socio-economic restrictions for the whole nation.

According to the present government, it has already been struggling to control the list of demands given by the FATF to avoid being put on the blacklist. This was evident in the recent visit by Imran Khan and the Army Chief to the US where a whole range of issues were clarified with the US government. These included the internal situation within Pakistan along with other regional concerns such as terrorism, the Afghan peace process, the Kashmir dispute and Chinese involvement through CPEC. Moreover, the statement by American president Donald Trump should be taken seriously by the present government that America with the cooperation of various nations will protect human rights violations throughout the world and fight against radical Islamic terrorism. There are many precedents where America has been intervening within various regions of the world under the pretext of protecting human rights and eradicating terrorism.

In addition, there is no denying that India wants to exploit the situation further by projecting the Pakistani state as the mother of terrorism at multiple regional and global forums. There can be various motives behind this move in which the Kashmir issue and RSS ideology hold immense importance. It is widely believed that PM Narendra Modi wants to divert the attention of Pakistan as well as other regional and global forums from the atrocities and human rights violations taking place in Jammu and Kashmir.

In this regard, Imran Khan has been trying his best to halt Dharna politics through multiple strategies by calling for political unity to help alleviate the current difficult situation in the country. This for instance has been evident in his attempts to prioritize the threat from India regarding the Kashmir issue well as India’s designs to portray Islamabad as a terrorist state, above the internal politics being waged within Pakistan. Such concerns have made the situation of the country considerably sensitive hence the government has to behave and act sensibly to control the emerging situation. If such issues are not going to be solved skillfully and efficiently, then the entire nation is likely to bear the consequences and repercussions of the troubles generated through such internal instability.

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