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South Asia

Indian Diplomacy: Aligning with the nation’s interests

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India has been aiming higher and bolder since the arrival of the Narendra Modi government in 2014. One area where this is visible since the inception of this government is in the domain of foreign policy. The government has expanded the scope of its foreign policy to include national and economic security.

Indian diplomacy has been careful enough to understand its limitations and has not tried to punch above its weight. It is exercising its art of diplomacy by engaging with different foreign powers more vigorously than ever before but also not conceding its strategic autonomy. Instead it has decided to let go of some fruitless battles and is prioritizing what seems to be essential to its nations well-being. As India’s Foreign Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar has said, India is cultivating the United States, steadying Russia, managing China, enthusing Japan and attending to Europe.

It has shed its Cold War era thinking and its explicit Non-Alignment attitude. India now co-operates and also competes with its international partners at the time of its choosing. India respects the multilateral rule based global order but at the same time is bold enough to exercise its right to prioritize its national interests.

In the wake of the Pathankot attacks in early 2016, India was quick in its response through a carefully calibrated Surgical Strikes through which it entered Pakistan occupied Kashmir and neutralized terrorists nurtured and harbored by Pakistan. This was a sweet diplomatic victory for India as every major power responded with responses such as asking both India and Pakistan to ‘exercise restraint and increase communication’ and India faced no major frictions with the diplomatic community.

The Surgical Strikes as a response to the abovementioned attacks showed the evolution of how India was changing its outlook on foreign policy. This showed that the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of External Affairs were all now in sync with one another and that there was more open and frequent exchange of ideas and priorities of the nation.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has instilled a feeling of nationalism into India’s foreign policy. The foreign ministry no more works in silos. It takes India’s domestic concerns more seriously than ever before and has accepted that it has to function abroad and at home with the aim of fulfilling the national aspirations of Indians. This is also because Prime Minister Modi has made diplomacy very public wherein, he has increased the space of the common man to decide what our foreign policy priorities should be.

This was visible when India recently pulled out of the RCEP Free Trade Deal involving China, ASEAN and other countries. The Prime Minister took serious note of the concerns that the domestic farmers and industrialists raised against the deal and the foreign ministry readily accepted and backed out of the deal to ease the pains of the citizens.

Indian Diplomacy has also embraced social media and other technological advancements to better the lives of its citizens abroad. Started by the former foreign minister Late Sushma Swaraj, Indian diplomats actively scout through Twitter and Facebook to immediately respond to its citizens abroad who are in distress and this has won praises world over.

Another time where the Indian Diplomacy worked over-time and seamlessly with the Ministry of Home Affairs was after the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution of India in August 2019 which had granted Temporary Special Status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. This came at a time when the UN General Assembly was to commence soon in New York, and India’s actions could be interpreted and criticized in endless ways on the international stage. Despite Pakistan’s vociferous criticism, coupled with the backing by China and the wobbly position of the United Kingdom on the issue, it is an accepted fact today that India did not succumb to any international pressures.

It received full support from the US, Russia and France and was hence able to curtail China’s intent to publicly shame India through any UN resolutions. The first public victory came when the UN consultations on the issue were held in the form of a closed-door meeting wherein our partners in there stated Kashmir as a matter of internal reorganization within India. Since then, India has been selective in its response on the issue and has staved off any international media pressure. India surprised the world when it allowed an unofficial delegation of 27 EU Members of the Parliament in October 2019 to visit Kashmir who went and got a ground reality of how tough it is for India to tackle terrorism. They concluded and agreed with India’s long-standing position that Kashmir is an internal matter of India.

Not wanting to view this diplomatic victory as an isolation tactic against China, the diplomats were quick enough to arrange for a rapprochement between President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Modi at Mahabalipuram in Chennai through informal talks between the leaders. The Indian diplomats have also expressed their regards to the Russians through signing up for renewed arms deals with Russia and an informal summit between President Putin and PM Modi at Vladivostok, Russia. And with the United States, we agreed with the demands by President Trump for the cancellation of the Generalized System of Preferences for India in the area of trade. Clearly everything has come at a price, but the Indian Diplomacy has been willing to pay the right price instead of remaining in inertia as in the past and letting the international community dictate terms for India.

The domestic demands of India are now the trend setters of India’s foreign policy and this was again visible with India’s amendment to its Citizenship Act of 1955, wherein the Government of India has amended the Act to grant citizenship to minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, who have come to India seeking refuge from religious persecution or the fear of it. This Act has caused visible disappointment with Bangladesh which has been manifested in the form of their Foreign Minister and Home Minister having cancelled their visits to India. While many have seen this as an exclusion of granting citizenship to Muslims from these countries through the Amendment, the Indian Government and the Foreign Ministry have been unshaken by in their stand. The Government has stated that this Amendment has been made to correct the historical injustices faced by the minorities of these countries during the bloodshed experiences of Partition of India during 1947 and the period ensuing that up to December 31, 2014.

India has always treated its neighborhood very generously. It has been philanthropic in the Free Trade Agreements that it has signed with them, voluntarily provided access to its achievements in science and space technology and has renewed engagement and hence importance to the region through groupings like ISA, BIMSTEC and IORA. Co-operations of this nature must convey to the neighbours that while India is more than willing to provide developmental assistance and co-operate in many other areas, today, it has reclaimed its space to prioritize its domestic agendas too. Our neighboring countries must not view India’s internal matters as a threat or lack of concern to regional integration. Just like the rest of the world, India is simply not willing to bear some burden which it believes as historical injustice or detrimental to its domestic agenda. India has never and will never involve in acts which resembles ‘beggar thy neighbor’ attitude.

Also, Indian Diplomats today walk around with a loaded gun in their holster fully aware of the happenings around the world. Whether it is of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudis, Treatment of the Uighurs in Xinjiang, the misadventures of the Assad Regime in Syria, Treatment of the Rohingyas in Rakhine State of Myanmar or of the inhuman treatment meted out to the Kurds in North East Syria by Turkey— they see it all in real time and maintain a measured silence on all issues not from a place of weakness but a position of strength. India is not a global policeman and has neither intended to be one. Although the home to the largest democracy in the world, it does not preach to any nation about how one must govern themselves. It is pragmatic of the evolving morals of the world and changing political and national ambitions of major powers and is evolving with it.

Whether it is the EU, US or the likes of Turkey, India issues statements regularly when it finds any criticism inaccurate or unwarranted. The Ministry of External Affairs has expressed displeasure recently through a press release with regards to the statement made by the USCIRF on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019. Also, it took a bold call to criticize Turkey on its handling of the Kurds after the US vacated its troops and co-operation with the Kurds in Syria.

To sustain such a growing clout in the international multipolar world, India must concentrate more on the economic front and work harder towards a $ 5 trillion economy. Most countries today maintain their support for India because of its growing trade and economic activity with them. Hope this increases in the days to come in order to maintain the momentum that we have gained in the international space as a serious voice.

Studying Master of Arts (Diplomacy, Law and Business) at Jindal School of International Affairs, O.P. Jindal School of International Affairs

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South Asia

The man who saved the world from Pakistan

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image source: voices.transparency.org

But for a few brave souls like Frits Veerman, Pakistan would have become the world’s most frightening nightmare. Not that it is not today but it could have been worse: we could have been facing a nuclear Armageddon now.

Veerman, a professional photographer in Amsterdam, was one of the first to ring warning bells about Pakistan’s skullduggery in stealing nuclear documents, materials and technology to build its own nuclear bomb. His warnings were brushed aside, he was forced to keep quiet, sacked and harassed to no end for speaking the truth. In a just world, he should have been hailed as an icon of courage. He died in relative obscurity recently.

His story will, however, continue to live, a story of courage to speak out in a world where truth often falls to realpolitik. When Pakistan was running a big nuclear smuggling ring from its diplomatic missions and other agencies, governments and security officials in different parts of the world chose to look the other way. In fact, many connived in the colossal thievery.  They  knew  what  Khan  and his  associates  were  doing  but business and political interests trumped over reason.

Veermen was the only one to say that `the emperor was naked`. He could have easily succumbed to pressure or greed but he did not, and even at a great cost to his life, he chose to speak out, rather than keep quiet.

Veerman discovered the Pakistani game when he was a   young professional photographer in Amsterdam. He used to work at a consultancy firm, FDO (Fysisch-Dynamisch Onderzoek), as a technical photographer. An important client of FDO was   Ultra Centrifuge Netherlands which was part of a top secret project run by a consortium of Dutch, British and German scientists at a nuclear plant in Almelo. In May 1972, a young and charming Pakistani scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan joined the team as a translator of technical documents. He soon became friends with Frits Veerman. He took pictures of centrifuges for him. The two shared an office and met at dinners in the evening. Veermen was introduced to Khan’s wife and two daughters and often went to their house for dinner.

Khan quickly expanded his circle of friends and he would freely access areas at the nuclear plant which were hitherto prohibited. It was sometime in 1973,  a year  after the Pakistani joined the consultancy firm,  that Veermen had his first doubts. He thought there was something fishy about the manner in which the Pakistani was charming his way through the rank and file of the establishment.

It was two years later that Veermen’s suspicions became stronger. He realised that the young Pakistani was in fact a thug–he was stealing classified papers from the plant. This happened one day when he went to Khan’s house near Schiphol airport for dinner.

What he saw took his breath away. He saw top secret centrifuge drawings lying around in Pakistani scientist’s house. They were supposed to be at the plant and locked up in vaults. As Veerman later recalled in an interview with BBC, “That was my biggest worry, what was he doing with those drawings? All the little pieces of the jig-saw put together made me come to the conclusion that Abdul was spying.“ Khan asked him to photograph the documents for him but Veermen refused. He also happened to overhear a telephonic conversation between the Pakistani and his old professor in Leuven about sensitive centrifuge matters. Veerman lost no time in reporting the matter to his superiors. His seniors heard him out and told him to keep quiet. He was asked not to speak about what he saw and found to anyone.

In late 1975, when AQ Khan realised that he was coming under greater scrutiny from a multitude of agencies, he took leave from the office, and along with his family flew back to Pakistan. He never returned. What many did not realise for some time was that Khan had smuggled out precious drawings and a no less useful rolodex of key suppliers of nuclear material and technology in Europe and elsewhere.

But Veerman had not heard the last of Khan. From Pakistan, his former friend wrote to him frequently seeking answers to technical questions about nuclear technology. When he showed one such letter to his superiors, he was asked to burn it. Less than a year after Khan fled Amsterday, FDO held a meeting on the issue where Veerman repeated his assertion that Khan was a spy. Veerman later gave a statement about Khan to Dutch police. But, as Veerman were to find out later, his blunt accusations did not endear him his superiors or others in the government. In fact, the nuclear consortium and consultancy firm, FDO, were delighted when Khan sent his emissaries with a long list of items and work he wanted to contract to European firms. Soon after, Khan’s technicians began arriving at FDO to take a “ “a course in ‘how to build an ultracentrifuge’’, Veerman commented.

In 1978, Veerman lost his job. No reasons were given but he knew he was being sacrificed for speaking out against Khan’s smuggling ring and the complicity of the nuclear plant officials as well as government authorities. The powerful nuclear industry lobby did not want any investigation because it would have exposed its laxity and complicity. The government too was not keen on any probe because it would have been embarrassing and would have impacted diplomatic relations with some countries. So they all kept quiet. The one man who spoke was asked to shut up.

In 1983, during a meeting with FDO officials, when he realised that his only crime was his outspokenness, Veerman was furious and decided to tell the story  to a Dutch newspaper. But nothing came out of his expose and he quietly retreated to a lowly paid job and into obscurity. The state, however, chose to punish him further–he was put on an international watch list and for many years questioned by police whenever he travelled abroad. He was stalked by the police. In one such instance, his family in a car was stopped by armed police.

It was only in 2016 that his role in breaking the world’s most dangerous nuclear smuggling network  was acknowledged by the authorities. The Whistleblowers Authority, a Dutch institution created in 2016, came to the conclusion that Veerman was unfairly treated at the time, as it considered it likely that whistleblowing was the reason for firing him in 1978. A recent report of the Huis voor Klokkenluiders, the Dutch Whistleblowers Authority, showed that the agency had finally absolved Veerman of any charges and in fact pointed out hy he, and not Khan, was punished.

In many ways, Veerman’s honesty and tenacity saved the world from even a more dangerous Pakistan. His act of courage deserves international recognition.

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South Asia

Pakistan and Germany are keen to Sustain Multifaceted and Mutually beneficial Cooperation

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Pakistan has varied history of relationship and cooperation with other countries in international arena. Despite of proactive foreign policy Pakistan has been struggling to acquire global or regional status as a major power. Now in the age of globalization, the foreign relations between states have become more significant than before. Global and regional organizations, societies, economic zones and countries have network to attract and develop relationship among them. A major goal of Pakistan’s foreign policy is to develop good relations with international community and to handle global and regional issues. Activism of Pakistan‘s foreign policy reflects on the domestic socio-economic development. The national interest of Pakistan also support to regulate inputs from the external atmosphere into internal situation and to strive security and territorial integrity in the region and glob which always remained top concern of Pakistan. As bearing geo-strategic position, Pakistan seeks good relations with regional and global powers like America, China and European Union. Within European Union Germany has emergence as the developed economy in Europe. It is not only playing vital role within European Union but at the global level. Pakistan is also enjoying cordial relations with Germany on the base of common interest and perception on all international issues. Germany is also very keen to see sustainable development in Pakistan and acknowledges that the Pakistan is playing constructive role for regional peace. Germany greatly values Pakistan intense to strengthen multifaceted and mutual beneficial cooperation. Both the countries have been engaged on political, economic and socio-cultural partnership.

In past, East and West Germany had tilted towards forming alliance with India in 1950s but in 1960s, President Ayob Khan‘s visit to West Germany established economic relation between both the countries. Post Pak-India war 1971, East Germany was the first country of the Europe who recognized Bangladesh. During 1990s, Pakistan and Germany established Pakistan German Business Forum and Germany had become the fourth largest trade partner of Pakistan in 2000.  Germany also was ally of Pakistan in the war against terrorism in the north-west part of the country. Since the last few years, both the countries developed trade relations as well as Germany invested in the field of science and technology in Pakistan. On August 24, 2014, Germany built Pakistan Gate in Berlin to provide business and trade facilities to the businessmen of both the countries.

In November 2018, Pakistan offered Germany to join CPEC and to invest in the Special Economic Zone (SEZs). The mutual trade between both the countries enhanced to 3.0 billion euro in 2019.In 2021, Both Pakistan and Germany are celebrating 70th anniversary of establishment of bilateral relationship. Both the countries are planning to undertake several activities in this regard. Last month German Ambassador visited Karachi Chamber of Commerce and industries to call German companies, entrepreneurs and investors to earn from the potential and opportunities which are available in Pakistan and to bring business communities of both the countries more closer as well. Foreign minister of Pakistan has visited to Germany and meeting with business and members of Pakistani community. The foreign Minister held meetings with the leadership of Germany and repeated the desire of expansion of bilateral economic activities and exchange of technology. Both sides also discussed rapidly changing situation of Afghanistan and South Asian region. During the discussion, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Foreign Minister of Germany Heiko Mass, Pakistan and Germany agreed to review the entire gamut of Pakistan-Germany relationship and tools of further deep bilateral cooperation in the field of trade, investment security and defense, health, education, tourism. The mass of both the countries want to utilize the potential of good relationship but it is observed that both sides have lack of political hierarchy, dedication and sincerity in past. The development and expansion of bilateral relationship lies on the path of peaceful coexistence and serious changes in the socio-economic structure is needed. Peace process with the neighboring countries like Afghanistan and India may attract Germany to invest in CPEC projects and other local project of education, vocational training, dam construction, tourism and economic activities in Pakistan. There is a need to organize a forum for the students and scholars of both the countries could interact and exchange their expertise for academic, economic and technology growth. There is potential of people to people interaction and development of cooperation between Pakistan and Germany. Pakistan may be more benefit from the relationship with Germany if the serious efforts be made on government level.

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South Asia

Modi’s Illiberal Majoritarian Democracy: a Question Mark on the Future of Indian Minorities

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india democracy

The word majoritarian is an adjective which relates to or constitutes a majority, majoritarian politics, or majoritarian democracy. It can be defined as a traditional political idea, philosophy or a practice according to which any decision whether political, social, or economic of an organized society should be made by a numerical majority of that society or it can be defined as a traditional political philosophy that stresses that a majority usually branded by religious, language, social class that also includes other recognizing factors of individuals in a society are subject to a level of superiority in a society because of which they have a say in every affair of a society. The concept of majoritarian dispensation in India under Narendra Modi has deep links with four other political philosophies i.e. Populism, Nationalism, Authoritarianism, and Sultanism. Before exploring Narendra Modi’s majoritarian policy of governance in India and its effects on the future of Indian minorities, I will first uncover the link of majoritarianism to political philosophies as mentioned.

A majoritarian leader is actually a populist leader who works hard for the concerns of people that who thinks are being ignored by the established elite groups in a society, and who always present himself as a new man mostly of a modest and plebeian background against old political establishment, in spite of the fact that who is a seasoned political figure, but usually not centre stage. This is exactly what Narendra Modi is, because in his 2014 election campaign, he presented himself as a new man against the Ghandi’s family’s old political system despite the fact he was CM Gujrat at that time. He also presented himself as someone who belongs to a very plebeian background that he had to work in his father’s tea shop when he was a child. Whereas, nationalism is a political idea or a philosophy that promotes and protects the interests of a particular nation, nationalism is the bedrock of most of the populists and NarendraModi is no exception. NarendraModi is a majoritarian national-populist leader who since his childhood has been the member of RSS, and now is a full time pracharak of RSS ideology that stresses that Hindu are the true and only sons of this Indian soil.

Majoritarian national- populist leaders like Narendra Modi are basically authoritarian leaders who reject political pluralism, and this is exactly what Modi is doing in India.Modi  and the BJP has made it clear that no other party should compete with it, or is even needed, as indicative from its slogan of a ‘Congress Mukt Bharat’ (a Congress-free India).Whereas, Sultanism is a form of authoritarian government and according to Max Weber NarendraModi is a new sultan of India who is pushing India towards illiberal democracy by rejecting all kind of civil liberties particularly of Indian Muslim minority.

Modi’s majoritarian policy of governance in India is basically the promotion of majoritarian democracy that asserts Hindus a special and superior status in India because they constitute 80.5% of total Indian population and that this majoritarian policy protests Hindutva ideology  that stresses that Hindus are the only sons of this soil and that strengthen the Hindu community. This majoritarian democracy is a big question mark on India as the world biggest liberal democracy because continuous violence, rejection of civil liberties, and crimes against the minorities that are Muslims, Sikhs, and Christians have been on the increase. About 1.8 million people who are minority communities are tortured in police custody every year. The word murder of minorities has been replaced by the term encounter killings. Torture have increased to such a huge extent that it questions the credibility of the rule of law and criminal justice. Hindu nationalists are revolting all around India especially against Muslims because they are the largest minority in India constituting 13.4% of total population and because Hindus have resentment toward their religion, Christians and Sikhs are no exception to their violence because they too constitute 2.3% and 1.9% of total Indian population.

Unfortunately, India under Narendra Modi is crawling from the world’s biggest liberal democracy to illiberal majoritarian democracy which is promoting and safeguarding only Hindu’s civil rights and liberties and that which is negating minority’s civil liberties and civil rights especially rights and liberties of Muslims of India. One such example of this is the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB).Under the act, for the first time in India, religion is a basis for granting citizenship. According to some this citizenship amendment bill by BJP is an intentional act in order to marginalize Muslims from mainstream politics. In addition to this, Muslims are not only being tortured at their religious places for their religious affiliations, but they are also being tortured at their educational institutions which is evident from a video of 15 December 2020, where Delhi police brutally tortured Muslims students of Jamia Millia Islamia university.

Keeping in mind Narendra Modi’s illiberal majoritarian democracy, the future of liberal democracy or pluralistic India appears to be gloomy, where the future of Indian minorities especially Muslims is a big question mark. 

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