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Simple Indo-Pak border disputes: Complicated by lack of political will

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Once again, Pakistan’s prime minister has stressed that `the President must continue his efforts for [the] facilitation of a peaceful solution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute’. Besides Kashmir, there are Sir Creek and Siachen Glacier issues. These issues were almost resolved, but Indian politicians left them in limbo at last minute.

Siachen Glacier and Sir Creek: India’s former foreign secretary Shyam Saran, in his book How India Sees the World (pp. 88-93) makes startling revelations about how this issue eluded solution at last minute.. India itself created the Siachen problem.  Saran reminisces, in 1970s, US maps began to show 23000 kilometers of Siachen area under Pakistan’s control. Thereupon, `Indian forces were sent to occupy the glacier in a pre-emptive strike, named Operation Meghdoot. Pakistani attempts to dislodge them did not succeed. But they did manage to occupy and fortify the lower reaches’.

He recalls how Siachen Glacier and Sir Creek agreements could not fructify for lack of political will or foot dragging. He says ‘NN Vohra, who was the defence secretary at the time, confirmed in a newspaper interview that an agreement on Siachen had been reached. At the last moment, however, a political decision was taken by the Narasimha Rao government to defer its signing to the next round of talks scheduled for January the following year. But, this did not happen…My defence of the deal became a voice in the wilderness’.

Similarly, demarcation of Sir Creek maritime boundary was unnecessarily delayed. Saran tells ` if we accepted the Pakistani alignment, with the east bank of the creek as the boundary, then Pakistan would get only 40 per cent of the triangle. If our alignment according to the Thalweg principle was accepted, Pakistan would get 60 per cent. There was a keen interest in Pakistan to follow this approach but we were unable to explore this further when the Siachen deal fell through. Pakistan was no longer interested in a stand-alone Sir Creek agreement’ (Thalweg principle places the dividing line mid-channel in the river).

Saran says, `Kautliyan template would say the options for India are sandhi, conciliation; asana, neutrality; and yana, victory through war. One could add dana, buying allegiance through gifts; and bheda, sowing discord. The option of yana, of course would be the last in today’s world’ (p. 64, ibid.). It appears that Kautliya’s last-advised option, as visualised by Shyam Saran, is India’s first option nowadays.

Kashmir dispute

Kashmir issue has remained unresolved since creation of two independent states, India and Pakistan, in 1947. This issue led to wars between the two countries in 1948, 1965, 1971 and 1999, besides a quasi-war or military stand-off (operation parakaram) in year 2001-02.  Kashmir is considered a dangerous flashpoint as both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers.

In his memoirs In the line of fire (pp.302-303), president Musharraf has proposed a personal solution of the Kashmir issue.  This solution, in essence, envisions self-rule in demilitarised regions of Kashmir under a joint-management mechanism.   The solution pre-supposes reciprocal flexibility.

 The out-of-box Musharraf Kashmir solution is in fact a regurgitation of Mehta’s proposals.  He understood that plebiscite was the real solution.  But, India was not willing to talk about it. So, he says, before seeking a solution, `requirements prelusive to a solution’ should be met. He presented his ideas in his article, ‘Resolving Kashmir in the International Context of the 1990s’ (Hindustan Times editor Verghese also gave similar autonomy-inclined proposals).  Some points of Mehta’s quasi-solution are: (a) Conversion of the LoC into “a soft border permitting free movement and facilitating free exchanges…” (b) Immediate demilitarisation of the LoC to a depth of five to 10 miles with agreed methods of verifying compliance. (c) Pending final settlement, there must be no continuing insistence by Pakistan “on internationalisation, and for the implementation of a parallel or statewide plebiscite to be imposed under the peacekeeping auspices of the United Nations”. (d) Final settlement of the dispute between India and Pakistan can be suspended (kept in a ‘cold freeze’) for an agreed period. (e) Conducting parallel democratic elections in both Pakistani and Indian sectors of Kashmir. (f) Restoration of an autonomous Kashmiriyat. (g) Pacification of the valley until a political solution is reached. Voracious readers may refer for detail to Robert G. Wirsing’s book India, Pakistan and the Kashmir Dispute (1994, St Martin’s Press).

 Text-books are full of solutions that could apply to the Kashmir scenario: (a) Status quo (division of Kashmir along the present Line of Control with or without some local adjustments to facilitate the local population, (b) Complete or partial autonomy of Muslim-majority tehsils of Rajauri, Poonch and Uri with Hindu-majority areas merged in India, (c) Trieste’-like solution, (d) Indus-basin-related solution (Chenab solution), (e) Aland-island-like solution, and (f) Plebiscite.

Let us look more closely at some of the tentative solutions. Status quo is now no longer a solution.  It is not acceptable to any of the ‘necessary’ parties (particularly Kashmiris) to the dispute. This solution had envisaged a boundary that followed peaks of Pir Panjal Range in northern Jammu and included districts of Riasi, Kotli, and Poonch in Pakistan. India was to control Riasi and parts of the other two districts. Riasi was to include the middle reach of Chenab River, vital to Pakistan. Indian foreign minister Swaran Singh offered to cede to Azad Kashmir and the Northern Area additional 3,000 square miles of territory from India-controlled Kashmir. However, the negotiations between India and Pakistan remained inconclusive. As for autonomy proposal, it suggested that both, India and Pakistan, should grant independence to disputed areas under their control and let Kashmir emerge as a neutral country. The Trieste’-type solution, as agreed between Italy and Yugoslavia after the World War II, partitioned the territory around the port of Trieste’. The Security Council’s resolutions guaranteed demilitarisation of the free city of Trieste’.  The citizens of Trieste’ enjoyed unhindered access to neighbouring Yugoslavia and Italy.  Applied to Kashmir situation, the Trieste solution meant division of the Kashmir state on communal lines. Under this solution, the Hindu majority areas of Jammu and the Buddhist-dominated region of Ladakh would join India. The Northern and the Kashmir Valley (under India’s control), along with Azad Kashmir, would join Pakistan. Free access would be given to people living on both sides of Kashmir. In historical context, the short-lived Trieste’ solution is considered an ineffective solution.  To India, autonomy as well as joint control, also, is Utopian solutions.

Some writers have suggested an Indus-Basin-based solution: The Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab Rivers, along with their basins, would join Pakistan. The Sutlej, Ravi, and Beas Rivers and their basins, as well as the remaining parts of Kashmir, would join India. The basin of the Jhelum would fall within the exclusive domain of Pakistan. Aland’s international accord settled the territorial dispute between Finland and Sweden. The problem got solved as Finland was sincere, unlike India. When the dispute with Sweden arose after the First World War, Finland’s Parliament passed an autonomy law on May 6, 1920 for Aland.  Two other autonomy laws were passed on December 28, 1951 and August 16, 1991 to give greater autonomy to Aland, allow it to use its own flag and coat of arms, and appoint governors. On December 31, 1994, Aland joined the European Union voluntarily.

 The South -Tyrol agreement between Australia and Italy provided an autonomy framework (vouchsafed by Paris Peace Agreement 1946). The framework accommodated aspirations of ethnic inhabitants of the region.

Now, a few words about the United Nations’ solution.  There are fifteen United Nations resolutions guaranteeing right of self-determination to the Kashmiris. Despite its best efforts, India has not yet been able to get the ‘India-Pakistan Question’ deleted from the UN agenda.  The UN observers are still posted along the two sides of the Line of Control.

The inhabitants of the state of Kashmir would themselves decide to accede to India or Pakistan (UNCIP Resolution1949). India’s attitude negates the cardinal principles in inter-state relations, that is, pacta sunt servanda `treaties are to be observed’ and are binding upon signatories.  Sir Owen Dixon’s plebiscite’s proposal is the best solution, preceded by demilitarisation and self-governance. Demilitarisation of Kashmir has been the basis of United Nations Security Council resolutions on Kashmir. The UN Security Council stipulated 30 days’ period for India and Pakistan to agree on demilitarisation. This deadline was incorporated in UN Security Council Resolution No 98 of 23 December 1952. The resolution called upon India to reduce its troops in Kashmir to a range between 12,000 to18, 000. Pakistan was required to reduce her troops to between 3000-6000. History tells that the demilitarisation, and, by corollary, plebiscite, could not be held in Kashmir because of India’s obduracy. India kept insisting upon keeping a minimum of 21,000 troops. India, currently, has over seven lac troops in the occupied Kashmir. The demilitarization proposals were based on General McNaughton’s and Australian prime minister, Robert Gordon Menzes’ proposals (Korbel, Danger in Kashmir, pp.159, 168, 176-177 and186).

India’s successive defence minister ruled out demilitarisation . India’s home minister told India’s house of peoples (lok sabha) that ‘there is no question of withdrawal of forces and certainly no question of demilitarization’. Former prime minister Manmohan Singh also considered the existing LOC as sacrosanct.

Then there is Ireland’s  Good Friday Agreement of 1998 model to Kashmir situation. The agreement had five main constitutional provisions. First, Northern Ireland’s future constitutional status was to be in the hands of its citizens. Secondly, if the people of Ireland, north and south, wanted a united Ireland, they could have one by voting for it. Thirdly, Northern Ireland’s current constitutional position would remain within the United Kingdom. Fourthly, Northern Ireland’s citizens would have the right to “identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both.” Fifthly, the Irish state would drop its territorial claim on Northern Ireland and instead define the Irish nation in terms of people rather than land. The consent principle would be built into the Irish constitution. The Andorra model also offers food for thought.

Andorra, is a small principality in the Pyrenees whose heads of state are the President of France and the Bishop of Urgell, called the Coprinceps. Andorra has its own government and constitution and freedom in most internal matters; in external relations the Coprinceps play a major role. The ideal is that while the status quo on the other regions can be maintained (the Northern Region with Pakistan, Jammu and Ladakh with India), in the Valley, whose overwhelmingly Muslim population have for long been agitating against Indian rule, the Andorra model can be applied. This means India would retain some control, jointly with Pakistan, over matters of defence and external affairs, but in internal and cultural matters, the Valley would be more or less completely autonomous.

Ibarretxe Proposal for the Basque conflict in Spain also offers insights. The Basque agreement is supported by three basic premises:(a) The Basques are a People with their own identity; (b) they have the right to decide their own future; and (c) it is based on respect for the decisions of the inhabitants of the different legal political spheres in which they are situated.

At present, the Basque people are organised in three legal-administrative communities. On the one hand are the Basque Autonomous Community, composed of the provinces of Alava, Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa, and the Province of Navarre, both of which are situated within the Spanish state. On the other are the territories of Iparralde (Lapurdi, Zuberoa and Benafarroa) situated within the French state that do not have their own political administration.

 Another creative example is the Sami Parliamentary Assembly, established in 2000, as a joint forum of the parliaments of the Sami indigenous people who reside in the northern regions of Norway, Sweden and Finland. The Sami have been demanding greater control over the land, water and natural resources of their ancient homeland. They elect representatives to their own regional parliaments but are now trying to develop a pan-Sami political institution to better protect their rights. The three Nordic countries have all been pulled up by the UN for their treatment of the Sami and many issues—such as Norway’s decision to allow expanded bombing ranges for NATO warplanes—affect the indigenous population cutting across sovereign state borders. The Sami example is a case of an attempt by a partitioned people to craft meaningful political institutions from below, often in the face of indifference from above.

New Caledonia Model Noumea Agreement has fine advice for disputed Kashmir. In 1774, the island was discovered by English captain James Cook. In 1853, under Napoleon III, France officially took its possession. The 1999 Noumea agreement on New Caledonia, where the indigenous Kanaks are now outnumbered by the descendants of European settlers and by other non-Melanesians, maintains French nationality over the colonial possession while establishing the idea of New Caledonia citizenship over a 20-year transition period till a referendum on final status. This example is unappealing in the South Asian context because Kashmir is not a colonial possession. Nevertheless, the notion of shared sovereignty is an interesting one.

Inference: Given sincerity, there is nothing intractable about the Kashmir issue (Dawn December 31, 2017).  It is a simple problem involving right of self-determination.  An independent Kashmir, as a neutral country, was the favourite choice of Sheikh Abdullah and from the early 1950s to the beginning of the crisis in 1989.“Sheikh Abdullah supported ‘safeguarding of autonomy’ to the fullest possible extent” (Report of the State Autonomy Committee, Jammu, p. 41). Abdullah irked Nehru so much that he had to put Abdullah behind the bars. Bhabani Sen Gupta and Prem Shankar Jha assert that “if New Delhi sincerely wishes to break the deadlock in Kashmir, it has no other alternative except to accept and implement what is being termed as an ‘Autonomy Plus, Independence Minus’ formula, or to grant autonomy to the state to the point where it is indistinguishable from independence”. (Shri Prakash and Ghulam Mohammad Shah (ed.), Towards understanding the Kashmir crisis, p.226).

India should heed advice by its own two foreign secretary J.N. Dixit. He says it is no use splitting legal hair. “Everybody who has a sense of history knows that legality only has relevance up to the threshold of transcending political realities. And especially in inter-state relations… so to quibble about points of law and hope that by proving a legal point you can reverse the process of history is living in a somewhat contrived utopia. It won’t work.” This is a quote from V Schofield’s Kashmir in the Crossfire. Let India begin to talk.

True, honesty, not legal rigmarole will solve the Kashmir tangle.

Sans sincerity, the only Kashmir solution is a nuclear Armageddon. Or, perhaps divine intervention.

Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been contributing free-lance for over five decades. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, et. al.). He is author of seven e-books including Terrorism, Jihad, Nukes and other Issues in Focus (ISBN: 9781301505944). He holds degrees in economics, business administration, and law.

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Why Nepal’s Maoist finance minister is talking about legalizing black money?

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Despite being the oldest sovereign nation in South Asia, Nepal is also the most unstable nation of the subcontinent. For example since Nepal’s republican era of 2006, Nepal has got 12 Prime Ministers in 15 years. Even during multiparty democracy and constitutional monarchy from 1990 to 2006, Nepal saw 15 Prime Ministers in 16 years. This tendency is reflected even in times of nondemocratic and transitional periods of past. If constant political history is an indication, Nepal is prone to repeated governmental build-ups and break-ups.

Nepal’s volatile governments naturally mean volatile plans and policies, which is reflected in the budgetary announcements. Interestingly, it is only Maoist and Maoist-background Finance Ministers in Nepal who have introduced budgetary provisions making provisions whitewashing black money.

Recently, Janardan Sharma, the Finance Minister representing CPN (Maoist Center) party of the coalition government led by Sher Bahadur Deuba, the President of Nepal’s oldest surviving party Nepali Congress, introduced a controversial provision for black money. On 10 September, while presenting his replacement bill to replace budget announced by erstwhile Government led by KP Sharma Oli, Finance Minister Sharma said investments in mega projects  such as international airports, tunnels, roadways and railways do not necessarily require to disclose their sources of revenues.

Such provision, main opposition CPN-UML leaders and majority of Nepal’s economic experts say, would whitewash all black money assembled by Nepal’s power elites and comprador capitalists.  Nepal’s largest-selling English daily The Kathmandu Post has termed it the ‘Thief’s Route’.  Post editorial has talked about its domestic and international implications. It has written, ”this move comes at a time when the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG), a regional, inter-governmental, anti-money laundering body of which Nepal is also a member…. The ramification can be disastrous for Nepal.”

This budgetary provision of incumbent Maoist Finance Minister Sharma has gained critical uproar from all quarters. However, this gains vocal support from Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, the Maoist ideologue and former Vice-Chair of Maoist who defected Maoist in 2015 to form his party. During his tenure as Finance Minister when the Government was led by Maoist’s Chair Prachanda for the first time in Nepal in 2008, Bhattarai has also introduced similar provision. He had legalized illegal property of individuals by self-declaring the worth of their property. This specific program was called ‘Voluntary Disclosure of Income Source’ (VDIS).

Though not implemented owing to widespread ire, Dr. Bhattarai had introduced plans of hydropower investments with no mandatory provisions of revenue source disclosure. Supporting the provision of his former comrade, Dr. Bhattarai has said, ”It is nice to legalize black money. Here is the tendency to do illegal works by black money. Whether it is black or white, it is right to invest in productive and employment-generating sector.”

It was the 180-degree departure in Maoist principle coined by its ideologue Dr. Bhattarai himself.  Before launching 10-year-long Maoist violent armed insurgency in 1996 which resulted in killing of more than 17 thousands Nepali, Bhattarai had handed over 40-point demand to the then PM Sher Bahadur Deuba on 4 February. In 39th. point, Dr. Bhattarai had written, ”Corruption, smuggling, black marketing, bribery and the practices of middlemen and so on should be eliminated.”

This starting demand opposing black money and ongoing defense of the same in the name of ‘productive investment’ displays how Nepali Maoist comrades have deviated from their own principles. Another coincidence is that they are the coalition partner of the Government led by the same Prime Minister Deuba to whom they have put forth their 40-point demand before launching violent Maoist armed insurgency before coming into mainstream politics in 2006.

Why Maoist and Maoist-background leaders are vocal supporters of black money?

Revenue nondisclosure provision mainly comes in tenures of Maoist Finance Minister like Janardan Sharma and Baburam Bhattarai. Other political parties have not vocally supported such malicious programs in Nepal.

Many suspects Maoist have huge illegal money grabbed in times of their 10-year-long violent armed insurgency when they did loot banks in capital Kathmandu and other economic centers of Nepal. Maoist had levied their ‘revolutionary tax’ to all working people and business activities in their vast swatches of base area. Forced donations and extortion further increased their revenues.  Bartil Lintner, a famed Swedish journalist-turned-author, in his Oxford University-published book titled ‘China’s India War’described Nepali Maoists as ‘one of the wealthiest rebel movement in Asia.’

Maoists, even after their entry into mainstream politics after Comprehensive Peace Accord of 21 November 2006 and terrorist delisting by State Department of the US on 6 September 2012, have not disclosed their party transactions. Nor there is any extensive research about net worth accumulated by Maoist during their underground violent armed insurgency in Nepal.

This legislation, if implemented, will force Nepal to sleepwalk towards money laundering, black money funneling and possibly terrorist financing. If big chunk of black money is invested in big income-making and employment-generating productive sections, its long-term impacts would be skyrocketed. This results in opaque financial activities.

 As an aid-dependent and remittance-receiving country from almost all economic powers of the world, legalizing black money  does not bode well not just for Nepal but also for its immediate giant neighbors-India and China. Nepal does not deserve to be the South Asian heaven of black investment and terrorist financing in the name of mega infrastructural projects.

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Kabul: Old Problems are New Challenges

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Source: Twitter

It has been some three months since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, precipitously and without large-scale bloodshed. This came as a complete surprise for the global community—but for the Taliban just as well, although this was what they had long been striving for. Perhaps, this could explain the contradictory situation in the country as of today.

On the one hand, the Taliban leadership is supremely confident in their ultimate victory, and they are determined to keep the power at any cost. The Taliban proceed from the premise that the way the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) existed throughout 1996 to 2001 never ceased to exist, with the last two decades marked by the fight against foreign military intervention and a puppet regime. Accordingly, this is the basis for the Taliban to consolidate their power through rigid theocratic institutions. There is hardly reason to believe they would take a different approach, which means foreign actors could only advocate a certain “liberalization” of these institutions, accounting for the current trends in international development.

On the other hand, the Taliban’s activities tend to ignore the economic aspects, which are still of fundamental significance as they are instrumental to resolve the pressing problems that the Afghani face, while having an impact on the country’s domestic stability and the long-term viability of the regime. So far, the Taliban have mostly been “patching up the holes” welcoming relief efforts from abroad. The recently announced “food for work” programme requires material support rather than mere slogans.

This can be explained by the following reasoning. Caught in the grip of conservative religious, ideological and political views, the Taliban lack any meaningful experience in modern state-building. As for the subjective circumstances that need be accounted for, these include the Taliban’s heterogeneity, contradictions between orthodox believers and pragmatists in the movement’s leadership, and close to none of sufficient control over the Taliban’s “rank-and-file”. The confrontation between the conservatives holding key offices in the government and the pragmatists continues, and it may even grow worse. Further changes in the government’s configuration will testify to the dynamics of Afghanistan’s overall domestic evolution amid the new circumstances.

Persisting historical contradictions between the Taliban (mostly ethnic Pashtuns) and the many ethnic minorities (Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras) are potentially dangerous for the new regime in Kabul. With the Taliban being reluctant to form a truly inclusive government rather relying on one that only purports to be such and with ethnic minorities willing to establish something like a front of resistance to the new authorities, these contradictions are becoming ever more visible.

Both the new government in Kabul and the global and regional communities are increasingly concerned with the spike in subversive activities in the country perpetrated by militants of various ethnic backgrounds affiliated with ISIS and Al-Qaeda. All this negatively affects the domestic situation, with a potential to undermine the Taliban regime itself, while posing additional risks for regional stability. The situation is gravely exacerbated by the deplorable state of Afghanistan’s economy, which could lead to famine in the very near future. Taken together, these circumstances demand that the Taliban take decisive steps to normalize the situation. As Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, recently noted, events in Afghanistan may lead to a catastrophe if the Taliban do not act in a timely manner.

At the same time, it is obvious that such an Afghanistan would not survive without external aid and assistance. Internationally, the situation is rather favorable for the new Afghanistan regime, particularly with the Taliban engaging in dynamic international activities. It is crucial for today’s Kabul to handle three principal tasks:

  • establishing working relations with the neighbouring states as well as regional and global powers with a view to having the Taliban struck from UN sanctions lists and obtaining official international recognition for the new authorities;
  • securing a positive international image of Kabul under the Taliban;
  • receiving large-scale foreign humanitarian aid.

The Taliban miss no opportunity to make statements at all levels, claiming they are ready to engage with the global community in comprehensive cooperation, abandoning support for international terrorism and extremism and willing to attract foreign investment from a wide range of countries into Afghanistan’s economy.

If we explore the stances taken by various members of the international community as regards the new regime in Afghanistan, we will notice that their positions have several points in common, all of which are important for a peaceful and stable situation in the region. These principles include preventing instability in Afghanistan from exacerbating, the need to form an inclusive government that represents the interests of all ethnic and political forces, building a state on the foundations of respect for contemporary human rights, putting an end to terrorism and extremism proliferating outward from Afghanistan, etc.

At the same time, countries demonstrate significantly different approaches to the Afghanistan profile. The United States and the European Union have taken the toughest stance with regard to the Taliban, although both are ready to launch relief efforts to avoid a humanitarian disaster that is fraught, among other things, with new waves of refugees. Unlike Europe, Washington regards the Taliban issue as more complex and complicated. First, the United States needs to “come to grips,” both politically and psychologically, with the shock and humiliation brought by the inglorious end to the Afghanistan escapade, which delivered a huge blow to the image and reputation of the U.S., both among its allies and worldwide. Washington also needs to resolve the issue of Afghanistan’s assets being relieved as quickly as possible—something that the Taliban, as well as many members of the international community, including Russia, insist on.

As far as Moscow and a number of other countries are concerned, the United States should be the one to provide a significant amount, if not the bulk, of foreign financial aid to Afghanistan moving forward. We should keep in mind that the practical steps taken by the United States concerning Afghanistan will largely serve as a model for the entire collective West. Everyone in Washington is aware of this. However, the United States is still pondering as to the best modes of interaction with the Taliban, exploring the possibility to participate in humanitarian and other programmes in Afghanistan. This is evidenced by the contacts that have already taken place.

Unlike the leading Western nations, many countries in the region, primarily Afghanistan’s neighbours, have de facto begun to foster active and dynamic links with the Taliban. Pakistan has become the main lobbyist for the recognition of the new regime in Kabul, as Islamabad hopes to ensure its place as the primary external influence on the new government in Afghanistan. Beijing has taken a similar stance. Many experts argue that China may come to be the leading external force in Afghanistan, seeing as it is ready to develop economic ties with Kabul provided the latter prevents anti-Chinese Uyghur Islamist militants from penetrating into China from Afghanistan. A stable Afghanistan accords with Beijing’s long-term interest in actively involving the country in implementing its strategic Belt and Road Initiative.

Turkey is now eyeing the opportunities for bolstering its standing in Afghanistan. Central Asian nations, particularly Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, are visibly active in the area as well. Tajikistan is sounding something of a discordant note, openly proclaiming that it does not recognize Afghanistan’s regime in its current iteration. Dushanbe’s concerns are easy to understand especially if one recalls its negative experiences from the 1990s. However, the OSCE and the SCO cannot help but be concerned over the aggravation in Tajikistan–Taliban relations. India is also wary of the new regime in Kabul. Iran, like Pakistan, has long-standing historical ties with Afghanistan, and it is taking a “favourable pause” while striving to assist in advancing international cooperation in Afghanistan affairs. In the Islamic Middle East, the regime change in Kabul has been met with an equivocal response, ranging from enthusiasm of radical Islamists to restraint and certain wariness.

The way the situation in Afghanistan will evolve is a matter of fundamental importance for Russia’s national interests, primarily when it comes to ensuring security in Central Asia, within the SCO as well as in the greater Eurasian context. Long-term stability in Afghanistan cannot be ensured without a truly inclusive government and without the Taliban taking on clear commitments to counteract instability, terrorism, extremism and drugs flows spreading outwards and to prevent mass migration into adjacent regions. Kabul and the entire regional community need a peaceful, stable, and neutral Afghanistan, a country that lives in peace and harmony with its neighbours and a nation that is actively involved in economic cooperation in the region.

The international community may benefit from Russia’s experience in promoting domestic consensus in Afghanistan. Several international formats have great importance in this regard, such as the Moscow Format, the extended “Troika” (Russia, the United States, China + Pakistan), which was particularly highlighted by President Vladimir Putin in his recent address at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is particularly important that these formats complement each other rather than compete in terms of their influence on the processes.

From our partner RIAC

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Is Nepal an Indian colony?

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photo: Wikipedia

In yet another dictation, India has told Nepal that nationals of other countries will not be allowed to use the new 35-km rail link between Jaynagar in Bihar and Kurtha in Nepal, due to “security reasons” (The Print, November 25, 2021). The 34.9-km narrow gauge section was converted into broad gauge by India and handed over to Nepal in October this year.  Nepal protested India’s dictation resulting in operational delay. Ultimately India softened its “order” to the extent that “third country nationals can travel on the railway within Nepal, but they won’t be allowed to cross over to India,”

Nepal is perhaps the only country where the head of India’s premier intelligence, Research and Analysis wing is accorded a red carpet welcome as he calls on the Nepalese prime minister (amid popular protests). Not only the RAW’s chief but also the external affairs minister and army chief often visit Nepal with a handy list of  les choses a faire (things to be done). For instance when the Indian army chief visited Nepal, he reminded the PM that there are 136,000 pensioners in Nepal whose pension bill is disbursed by India. The army chief freely intermingled with pensioners as if Nepal was a colony and he was viceroy.

There are about 32,000 Nepalese Gorkhas currently serving in the Indian Army’s seven Gorkha Rifle regiments (1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 8th, 9th and 11th), each of which has five to six battalions (around 800 soldiers each).

Nepal resents its image as a contributor of mercenary soldiers to India and Britain. So it wanted to stop sending Gurkhas for recruitment to the two countries by amending the tripartite In 1962, Sino Indian conflict, the Gorkhas stayed loyal to India though  the Chinese used loudspeakers daily against the company of Major Dhan Singh Thapa, PVC,  to withdraw as they were from Nepal. The Nepalese troops returning to their native villages were pooh-poohed on their journey back home.

The total pension bill for the 1, 27,000 pensioners (90,000 defence and 37,000 Central and State Government as well as paramilitary), and serving soldiers remitting home money is around Rs 4,600 crore. It works out to Nepalese Rs.  6400, which is larger than the NR 3601.80 crore defence budget of Nepal.

The Nepalese still resent India’s hand in assassinating Nepal’s king Birendra and his family (‘Indian hand in Nepal massacre’. The Statesman January 11, 2010).

Nepal’s predicament

Nepal is a landlocked country dependent on India in many ways. In the past India blocked supplies to Nepal at least four times forcing it to capitulate to India’s diktat to stave off starvation.

Nepal is contiguous to Tibet. So it has to balance its relation with both India and China. As China has influence on Nepalese communists so India can’t dare subdue Nepal fully. India always regarded Nepalese prime minister Oli a hard nut to crack. It was Oly who amended national map to re- exhibit areas annexed by India within Nepalese territory. India heaved a sigh of relief when Nepalese Supreme Court ousted Oli and appointed Sher Bahadur Deuba as the prime minister until the next general elections.   Deuba remained listless to popular protests against the Supreme Court’s decision.

Conspiracies to oust Oli

To topple Oli’s government, the Indian embassy in Nepal had been bankrolling corrupt politicians and other members of Nepalese society. Aware of India’s underhand machinations,  Oli

debunked India’s conspiracies during a ceremony to commemorate the sixty-ninth anniversary of the Party’s popular leader Madan Bandari. Oli “accused India of trying to destabilize his government” and alleged “Indian embassy in Nepal was conspiring about the same” He claimed, `Conspiracies were being plotted against him since the constitutional Nepali map amendment’.  He further added, `There is an open race to remove me from the post. No-one thought that a prime minister would be removed from office for printing a map’.

Be it observed that Nepal amended its map when its objections fell flat on India. India’s defense minister Rajnath Singh, went ahead to inaugurate an 80-kilometer-long road connecting the Lipulekh Pass in Nepal with Darchula in Uttarkhand (India). The Indian army chief insinuated that Oli was being prodded by China against India.

India’s ongoing annexation

Besides annexing the three new territories, India had already annexed 14000 hectares (140 km square) of territories in Susta, Tribeni Susta, Lumbini Zone, near Nichlaul (Uttar Pradesh).

Nepal being no match for India could not stop India by the use of force. But, to express its dissatisfaction, it printed 4000 copies of the updated version of the new map and distributed it to India, United Nations, and also Google. Additional 25,000 copies of the map were distributed throughout Nepal.

Concluding remarks

Gorkhas fought well in India’s post-independence wars (Indo-Pak 1965, 1971 and 1999 Kargil War, besides 1962 Sino-Indian War and peace keeping mission in Sri Lanka. Their battle cry is jai maha kali, ayo gorkhali. Three Indian army chiefs (SHEJ Manekshaw, Dilbri Singh and Bipin Rawat) served with Gorkha Rifles.

Nepali citizens have a right to apply for recruitment in Indian armed forces or civil services. Yet, they hate India and find more comfort with China as an ally. Whenever India blockades transit trade to Nepal, the latter fall back upon China for its economic needs. India also forced Nepal to grant citizenship to Indians illegally residing in Nepal.

Despite its economic woes, Nepal is ferociously independent minded. When Oli enacted a new map of Nepal, he was vehemently supported by most politicians including the present prime minister. India is unlikely to compel Nepal to toe its dictates fully. 

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