Connect with us

South Asia

Pakistan-Iran Relations

Published

on

Establishment of Bittersweet Relations

Pakistan and Iran share strong historical, religious, cultural, and linguistic bonds. The relationship witnessed ups and downs, but despite all that the two countries tried to maintain a smooth path. Soon after Pakistan’s independence, Iran was the first country to recognize its independence from the British raj.  The diplomatic ties started with the visit of the then PM Liaqat Ali khan in 1948. The relationship took a good flight with the visit of the Shah of Iran in 1950. Both the countries enjoyed cordial relations until 1996 but then due to divergence of interest in Afghanistan both moved apart. Pakistan was pro-Taliban whereas Iran supported the anti-Taliban alliance (i.e. Northern Alliance). Pakistan’s post 9/11 policy had further increased the void. Islamabad’s pro-Saudi and West policy added salt to the recipe. Being partner of United States of America in WoT, and under a great American and Saudi Arabia’s influence, Pakistan and Iranian relations suffered a lot. The General Zia’s regime with a strong pro-Saudis attitude also negatively impacted the two. However, the land connection between the two gave an opportunity to revive the relationship.

Adding Economic dimension

Being immediate neighbors, Muslim states and once good partners tried to fill-up the gap through non-economic means. However, in the age of development, both the states have to analyse the level of their relations through the lens of economic means as well. As, both the states have huge potential. Both Pakistan and Iran look towards the untapped the economic opportunities in order to have a strong regional bond. In addition, history also witnessed that both the states have extended their support to each other in worst times as well.

With the help of China and smooth development of CPEC, United States’ influence in the region could be countered. Convergence of interest in this very case is of utmost importance. The impetus behind the closer relations between the two should be prospered in  developed state system.

Pakistan as a growing state needs to meet the energy deficiency, and for that Iran could be a good option, being a neighbor rich in natural resources especially oil and gas is vital for an energy deficient state. On the other hand, Pakistan, a country of 209 million people with a per capita income of $1,480, is a developing economy with a GDP of $312.57 billion and an estimated real growth rate of 3.3% (2019). Pakistan has to strengthen its trade relations with Iran and vice versa for a prosper future. To that end, both states have to utilize economic means as well, an element of soft power, to further deepen the economic dependency for development and growth.

Trade Amount US Dollars
Pakistan Exports To Iran Rice, Meat, Paper and Paper Board, Chemicals, Textiles, Fruit & Vegetables 22.86 million
Pakistan Imports From Iran Iron Ore, Hide & Skins, and Chemical Products 369.23 million
Total Trade Volume 392.08 million

Table 1: Pakistan – Iran Trade Volume

Other spheres of cooperation

The people to people contact between the Pakistani and Iranian community is unique. Religion, Sufism, and Persian language all have a deep imprint. The state relations currently are in transformative phase. Positive state attitude tip-offs that both Iran and Pakistan desires to work together for a brighter future. In the recent history, and under the current government of PTI, the relations took a new height. Exchange of high profile visits including Iranian Foreign Minister Dr. Javad Zarif (August 2018, October 2018, May 2019) and Pakistan’s Foreign Minister (Dec 2018), and Prime Minister Imran Khan(21-22 April 2019) all are a start of new beginning. Moreover, helped enhance mutual understanding on political, economic and security sectors. Strong communication links between the two also facilitated policy formation for a consistent and mutually beneficial diplomatic, political, and trade ties. Pakistan and Iran signed Declaration for Cooperation in Healthcare Sector; opening of new crossing points, initiation of the process for release of a number of Pakistani prisoners; and call for peaceful solution of Jammu &Kashmir dispute.P akistan’sbacking on Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and commitment towards Tehran in the face of U.S.’s unilateral sanctions has been a great source of strength and applauded by Iran too.

Iran’s Standing in the Middle East

Iran has a long history and is an important regional player, one of well-known Middle Eastern power bloc. Iran survived and is surviving despite of all the International sanctions. Power politics is not only western dream but is admired by the eastern countries too. Iran has a good regional connection and time and again has played its role in a very smart manner. Its affiliates are everywhere, from Palestine to Iraq and Syria, Afghanistan, & Pakistan.

Since, Iran played a major role in Middle East, a strong Iran is always seen as a challenge not only to the Middle Eastern power machines but also world’s superpower U.S. A fragile Iran favours of all those. To this end, even America played its card well and hence tried to put it under pressure.

Iran vs USA

To this lead, even killing of Quds Force commander Qasem Solemani in January is also a move to further weaken Iran. U.S. instead of acting wisely, start frivolous acts, for instance trade war with China, assassination of Solemani, zero response on Kashmir and Palestine, just to keep itself up.

U.S. was well aware of that in wake of Solemani’s murder, Iranians would fight back. Though Iran would not indulge in any straight conflict but proxies. Hence, U.S. tried to influence regional states even Pakistan to be part of its dirty games. Pakistan as already trapped in Afghanistan, and lost so much in terms of human life and economics, doesn’t want to support the Big Might this time. Hence, Islamabad refused to be part of a problem that would be a havoc for the regional peace and stability. One reason behind U.S.’s all these efforts is also to disturb China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). CPEC a game changer for the region which is also perceived by the world community is a problem for U.S. China’s rise and economic influence in the region is wearisome for U.S.

U.S. wanted to have a permanent presence in Balochistan near Iran, not only to keep an eye on Tehran but also Beijing and Gwadar. The impetus was to destabilize the CPEC progress through its presence there. As, if the conflict erupts and U.S. start operating for Balochistan, there would be no moment and no development and hence will indirectly hinder CPEC.

Pakistan’s stance on the emerging conflict

Pakistan’s establishment and political parties were well aware of this odd game and hence were on the same page; therefore sent a straight message to Washington that it will not be part of any ferocious act. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi conveyed the message that, “Pakistan’s soil will not be used against any other state, and nor will Pakistan become a part of this regional conflict and doesn’t endorse any unilateral action”.

Pakistan’s strong position on that fortunately hoarded the region from another Afghanistan to happen.  Pakistan is trying to correct its already complex relations with Iran.

Power shift in Iran

Iran just had the first round of its parliamentary elections in last week, the second round is yet to happen in May most probably, but the results have clearly indicated the patterns and the ones sliding into the power corridors are been identified. However, a number of factors are responsible for these “obvious results” as some citizens are calling them to be.

Giving a brief account of the ideologies into play, Iran had a coalition for reformists and another of principlists. There was the right wing, the left wing and the centrists i.e. the ones with a moderate approach. In 2016, the 120 seats were won by the reformists while 113 were taken up by the principlists or conservatives. The remaining ones were distributed between the independents largely and others. However, the emerging picture of results in 2020 is very different from what it was four years back.

The parliamentary elections 2020 for Iran had made it easy for the conservatives or the hardliners to get to power. In Islamic Republic’s Majlis of 290 seats, 219 are already won by them. Primarily, because of the fact that only a small number of participants are allowed to run for the office or contest the elections. Prior to elections the contestants are supposed to go through a scrutiny by the Guardian Council. It is a body that includes six jurists and six clerics who are appointed by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. This time, the GC had disqualified more than fifty percent of the total 14,000 applicants who had applied to run for the office. Most of these disqualified names were those of the reformists or the moderates.

So far, the canvas seems clyster the brush is in hand of conservatives with the lead of 219 seats in the majlis. The lowest voter turnout since 1979 was also alarming however, even though it favoured conservatives, it will have an impact until the next parliamentary elections. Whatever excuse or loopholes one may identify, the point to notice is now that the conservatives appear to be at the driving seat, how can the outcome for the internal as well as external Iranian affairs can easily be contemplated.

Domestic issues

Another factor to understand here is that Iran experienced lowest voter turnout since the Iranian revolution of 1979. Less than half of the total voters is said to have voted in the recent elections. It is said that some people didn’t participate because of the economic situation. The most important reason for those people is the sanctions by the USA and so they have became hopeless as of anything can be changed. However, the good news is that if the new representatives would do anything against the illegal sanctions, the domestic situation can be changed in favor of the government. It has been said that people have shown dissatisfaction over the clerical rule particularly after the Ukrainian plane massacre. If conservative proceed with narrower scope to function there is likely a chance that they can face fallout of the mass protests leading to the worsening of the situation for Iran.

In bag for Ruhani

The new parliament will not be an ally for Ruhani. Because conservatives are not so fond of him and reformists. They cannot forget his politics and political rhetoric about their opinions and principles. Also, it seems they will put more pressure on him in order to get more privileges. So, Ruhani should be prepared for new critics and hard domestic situation.

In all, the foreign policy of Ruhani toward the west will be more weakened because the new parliament is not expected to be on the same page as him. Although, Ruhani has shown a flexible political opinion which made him able to work with all parties of Iran, the new era of Iran’s domestic affairs are not so clear. So it’s a little soon to predict the future!

Who could be the next supreme leader?

The struggle for power is already into play admist US sanctions. Iran’s Supreme Leader, Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei’s failing health and increasing age has led to the speculations of who could take his place. His resign or death can altogether reshape Iranian politics. The most likely names in this regard are Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, Sadeq Larijani and Ebrahim Raisi.

Vague future

The imminent question rises that next president off course would be from conservatives, how they will orientate state cogs when it comes to dealing with Washington? Will they behave in same manner or worse?  Or there is any minute chance that they will behave in an opposite manner and try to men the ties with international community and Oval? While it this point in time, the parliamentary elections cannot directly have an impact on the foreign policy but after the presidential elections, where the same conservative parliament can elect their president things can get a little shaky. The conservatives apparently are not so fond of the direct negotiations and can lead to re-imposition of sanctions as well. At this moment when the global economy is on a gamble in post corona outbreak, Iran being affected by this terrible news too, needs to secure their economic interests. There is likely a chance that conservative would act in a liberal and a quite understanding manner when it comes to dealing with Washington.

Pak-Iran and the West

As both the states have new political elites, it is time to counter the western influence in the region, both states have to entrust working closely with each other in different sectors. Following are some points highlighting the Pakistan – Iran convergence of interest:

  1. Pakistan – Iran cooperation and collaboration in Afghanistan
  2. Combating terrorism, extremism, & separatism
  3. Countering Epidemic Disease
  4. Iran – Pakistan Gas Pipeline
  5. Trade: Iran – Pakistan Economic Corridor
  6. CPEC
  7. Promotion of Tourism
  8. Gwadar – Chabhar Junction
  9. Marine Investment
  10. Defence/Military Relations
  11. Energy Sector
  12. Counter border Corruption
  13. Controlling illegal goods and human trafficking
  14. Vocational/Professional trainings
  15. Joint working groups on regional strategic stability

To conclude, Pakistan doesn’t want to be part of any game that could have a negative impact on Pakistan. Pakistan, a sectarian sensitive state could have severe internal civil consequences. Being part of U.S. against Iran could have triggered an upsurge in sectarian tensions of the region especially Pakistan and Afghanistan. So, it opted to be neutral. Pakistan, has to work on its foreign policy viz-a-viz Middle Eastern states. Both Pakistan and Iran as to realize the importance of their positions and relations in the region and also have to reap their full economic potential. It’s time to come to workable agreements and negotiations in order to show need for cooperation and collaboration.

Sabah Aslam is the Founder & Executive Director of Islamabad Institute of Conflict Resolution (IICR), and member visiting faculty Dept. of Peace & Conflict Studies, NUML, and School of Politics & IR, Quaid-I- Azam University, Islamabad.

Continue Reading
Comments

South Asia

The Taliban-Afghanistan Dilemmas

Published

on

Source: Twitter

The Blitzkrieg winning back of Afghanistan by the Taliban with the concomitant US pullout established Taliban 2.0 in Kabul. But this has created a number of dilemmas for the stakeholding states. The latter include Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours, viz. Iran in the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north, China in the northeast and Pakistan to the east. Russia is also affected since it considers former Central Asian Soviet republics like Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as its backyard and since Moscow has its own share of extremist-secessionist problems in Chechnya. It is also worried about Islamic fundamentalism spreading to its Muslim population concentrated around its major cities and the Caucasus.

The dilemmas are as follows:

I. If the US-led withholding of economic aid and international recognition continues in essence, then conditions– as it is they are bad enough in Afghanistan—will further deteriorate. This will lead to greater hunger, unemployment and all-round economic deprivation of the masses. Such dystopia will generate more refugees in droves as well as terrorists who will spill out to seek greener pastures beyond the country’s borders.

Such condition will in turn mean a life-threatening headache for not only Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours like Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, China and Pakistan but also for more distant lands. The liberal democracies of Europe. Germany, France, Italy, the UK and others have already had their share of refugees—and terrorists—when waves from an unsettled Syria hit them way back in 2015. Chancellor Angela Merkel even decided to act magnanimously and opened Germany’s doors to a million fleeing the civil war in Syria. Such acceptance of refugees from Asia and Africa in Europe, however, boosted right-wing parties like the Alternative for Germany (AfD) and other movements throughout that continent. As a result the easy cross-border movements within the European Union came to be partly restricted in order to keep unwanted refugees out. Calls went out for hardening the external borders of the EU against more refugee invasion. The EU also made arrangements with Turkey to absorb and manage the refugee onrush in exchange for fat amounts of the Euro.

The prospects of a second such wave of refugees desperate not only to escape the clutches of the medieval Taliban but to find a promising future and remarkably better living conditions in the advanced lands of Europe are giving nightmares to the governments of the latter countries.

There seems to be a growing consensus among many in the international community that not only purely humanitarian but also larger economic aid to the Taliban-run Afghanistan should be extended—and without delay, if only to keep a lid on refugees—and terrorists—spilling across the borders. Islamabad apparently scored a remarkable ‘victory’ over New Delhi when its protégé Taliban replaced the pro-Indian Ghani government. Nevertheless, it is worried about the spillover into its territory across the Durand Line to its west. Pakistan, hence, leads this school of thought most vociferously[i]. It fenced its border with Afghanistan to a significant extent in anticipation of more refugees pouring in.  It has been joined in the chorus by Russia, the EU, China, and others. China, for instance, has emphasized the need for releasing funds to Afghanistan at its talks with the G-20 on 23 September.[ii] However, no such stipulation is seen in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) declaration released at the Tajik capital Dushanbe on 17 September, though the document mentions explicitly the need for an “inclusive” government that includes the left-out minorities. India’s presence at the meet may have prevented the inclusion of a funds-release clause.

II. But even if the US unfreezes the $9.25 billion Afghan assets under its control, and allows the IMF and the World Bank to make available other funds and assets to the funds-starved Taliban’s Kabul, a major problem will still linger. This is the question of ‘inclusive’ government, which the Taliban had promised among other things in its February 2020 agreement with the USA at Doha. The composition of the current Taliban government shows the mighty influence of the hardliners within the Taliban, elements like the Haqqani network and the secretive hardcore Kandahar Shura—as opposed to the seemingly more moderate Pakistan-based Quetta Shura. The Prime Minister of Taliban 2.0, Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, is on a UN-designated blacklist; its Interior Minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is on the top of the FBI’s most-wanted list with a multi-million dollars reward hanging over his head.  

Although the Taliban did not officially take a formal position, a member of the new government in Kabul has also defied calls from Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and from other quarters for forming a more ‘inclusive’ government. That would mean more Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras and women holding important positions in the government, a phenomenon markedly absent in the current governmental setup dominated by male Pashtuns. The Taliban member shot back that the current government was as much ‘inclusive’ as it was possible to make and that the Taliban did not care for others to dictate to it what kind of government would suit Afghanistan.

If Taliban 2.0 remains essentially as it is today, with the minorities ignored, this would still create unrest and insurgency in the country. A civil war in the not too distant a future cannot be ruled out. This is the reason that even Pakistan, which certainly would not like to see its protégé Taliban’s power diluted, keeps harping on the ‘inclusive’ clause along with Russia and others.

A civil war will not be confined within the boundaries of Afghanistan but will attract intervention by neighbouring states and other more distant stakeholders like the USA.  Tajikistan will continue to back the Tajiks living astride its southern border with Afghanistan. Uzbekistan will do the same with the Afghan Uzbeks. Shia Iran will  stand up for the Shia Hazaras while the Western world will, in general, wish to see ‘human rights’ and especially ‘women’s rights’ given full leeway. The Chinese seemed to have cut a deal. They would extend economic aid to Kabul in exchange for assurances that no terrorism or separatism would go out of Afghan territory.

But Taliban 2.0, despite its smooth assurances at Doha and elsewhere, shows no signs of stretching significantly from its understanding of the Sharia law, which it said it wished to uphold as a framework within which all these rights would be respected. There are reports that the US is in talks with Russia seeking a base on Russian territory or again in Tajikistan for its future ‘over-the-horizon’ operations in Afghanistan, starting with monitoring purposes.

In sum, while option I, outlined above, promises an immediate disaster for South Asia and even beyond, option II holds out  only marginally better prospects. It still has the Damocles’ sword of the probability of a civil war hanging over the head. The ideal solution would be to widen the Taliban 2.0 government to include the deprived minorities with an eye on keeping an effective lid on social instability. But the prospects for such a solution seem far-fetched, given the apparent domination of the hardliners in Taliban 2.0 and the long-standing animosity between the northern non-Pashtun Afghans and the Pashtun Taliban.. Also, the attacks by other extremist groups like the Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K), al Qaeda, and the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) and so on will unlikely cease, even if option II is fully implemented. These extra-Taliban extremist groups will only encourage the radical elements within the Taliban to opt for more aggressive actions, both within and outside Afghanistan’s borders.

The future in and around Afghanistan looks grim indeed.


[i] Incidentally, the Pashtuns living on both sides of the British-drawn Durand Line of 1893  do not recognise it, and that includes the Taliban)

[ii] Reid Standish report, gandhara.org of rfe/rl.org, 27 September 2021, accessed 14 October 2021, 09.07 Indian Standard Time (IST)… All times henceforth are in IST.

Continue Reading

South Asia

How India utilised the AFSPA to suppress freedom movements?

Published

on

The freedom movements in the volatile north-eastern state of India predate the Partition. The Englishman realised importance of the North East as it could provide a corridor to the Japanese in World War II. India applied the Armed forces Special Powers Act first to the north eastern states of Assam and Manipur, a cauldron of unrest. The act was amended in 1972 to extend to all the seven states in the north eastern region of India. The states affected by the draconian law included Assam. Manipur, Tripura, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland, also known as the seven sisters. The forces brutally applied the AFSPA to the states. It ignored outcry by people against has mounting incidents of arbitrary detention, torture, rape and looting. Indian government continued to extend the initial period for imposition of the law ad infinitum sometimes with ex post facto notifications. Its pleas were without AFSPA all the north eastern states will secede from India.  

Gunpoint diplomacy

A large part of the original region that constitutes the seven states of the republic of India had strong political, economic and socio-cultural links with South East Asia. The great Hindu and Muslim empires that reigned over the Indian subcontinent never extended east of the Brahmaputra River. The British colonists were the first to repress freedom movements. . In the early nineteenth century they moved in to check Burmese expansion into today’s Manipur and Assam. The British, with the help of the then Manipur king, Gambhir Singh, crushed the Burmese imperialist dream and the treaty of Yandabo was signed in 1828. Under this treaty Assam became a part of British India and the British continued to influence the political affairs of the region.

The resentment against the Englishman led to the bloody Anglo-Manipuri Conflict of 1891. The British were subdued by the fighting spirit of the local people. So, they preferred not to administer directly but only through the King.

During the Second World War, the Japanese tried to enter the Indian sub continent through this narrow corridor. But back home when Hiroshima and Nagasaki were A-bombed they retreated from the Imphal and Kohima fronts.

A buffer zone

Before leaving India, the British pondered over many proposals for post-Partition of India. The local people were however never consulted. Finally the British divided the region such that some parts went to Pakistan but the lion’s share to India.

Over the years local democratic movements erupted as the people aspired to a new social and political order. One important example is a strong popular democratic movement against feudalism and colonialism in Manipur, led by Hijam Irabot Singh.

The treacherous annexation of Manipur

The post-Partition India reconstituted the kingdom of Manipur as a constitutional monarchy by passing the Manipur Constitution Act 1947. Elections were held under the new constitution. A legislative assembly was formed. In 1949 V.P Menon, a seminar representative of Government of India, invited the king to a meeting on the pretext of discussing the deteriorating law and order situation in the state in Shillong. Upon his arrival, the king was forced to sign under duress. The agreement was never ratified in the Manipur legislative Assembly. Rather, the Assembly was dissolved and Manipur was kept under the charge of a Chief Commissioner. There were strong protests but using violent and brutal repression the Government of India suppressed the democratic movement in Manipur and has continued applying the same methods ever since.

Colonisation of Nagaland

The inhabitants of the Naga Hills, sprawling across Indo-Burmese border, formed Naga National Council (NNC) aspiring for a common homeland and self governance. During 1929, the NNC petitioned the Simon Commission for independence. The Commission was examining the feasibility of future of self governance of India.

The Naga leaders forcefully articulated the demand of self governance once the British pulled out of India. Gandhi publicly announced that Nagas had every right to be independent. Under the Hydari Agreement signed between NNC and British administration, Nagaland was granted protected status for ten years, after which the Nagas would decide whether they should stay in the Indian union or not. However, shortly after the British withdrew, the new Indian rulers colonized Nagaland and claimed it to be Indian Territory.

The Naga National Council proclaimed Nagaland’s independence in retaliation, and the Indian authorities arrested the Naga leaders. The AFSPA was used to violently suppress the democratic aspirations of the people of North East. In 1975, some Naga leaders held talks with the Government of India which resulted in the Shillong Agreement. Democratic forces of Nagaland smelt a rat in this deceptive agreement and rallied the people for national liberation of Nagas. One of the organizations which articulated the democratic demand of Naga people is National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN).

Mizoram

Mizo National front was a phenomenal product of a famine. In the Lushai Hills of Assam in the early sixties a famine broke out. A relief team requested for help from the Government of India. But there was little help. The relief team organised themselves into the Mizo National front (MNF) to liberate themselves from the neo-colonial occupation of India. Against the democratic aspirations of the people Indian army moved in. The rebellion was so strong, that the Indian air force had to bomb the villagers. The armed forces compelled people to leave their homes. This devastated the structure of Mizo society. In 1986, the Mizo Accord was signed between MNF and Government of India. This accord was as deceptive as the Shillong Accord made with the Nagas earlier. To promote dominance by high caste Hindus, India clubbed poor non-feudal ethnic groups with Adivasis, cheating them in the name of scheduled tribes and in the process forcing them to be marginalized and stigmatized by the upper caste ruling elites of India.

Gradually it became the neocolonial hinterland for exploitation by the Indian state, where local industries were made worthless and now the people are entirely dependent on goods and businesses owned predominantly by those from the Indo-Gangetic plains. The new Indian unscrupulous businesses pull the economic strings of this region.

Tripura

In Tripura the indigenous population has been reduced to a mere 25% of the total population of the state because of large scale immigration from the North east and Bangladesh.

A series of repressive laws were passed by the Government of India in order to deal with this rising National liberation aspiration of the people of North east. In 1953 the Assam maintenance of Public Order (Autonomous District) Regulation Act was passed. It was applicable to the then Naga Hills and Tuensang districts. It empowered the Governor to impose collective fines, prohibit public meetings, and detain anybody without a warrant. Indian atrocities from 1980 onwards include: the massacres of civilians at Heirangoi thong (Manipur) in 1984, at RIMS Manipur in 1995, at Malom (Manipur) in 2000; the horror of army torture and violence on civilians during operation Blue bird (Manipur) in 1987 and operation Rhino (Assam) in 1991. Indiscriminate firing on civilians by armed forces personnel when their own vehicle burst in the town of Kohina (Nagaland) in March 1995, the shelling and destruction of the town of Makokchung (Nagaland) in 1994, the enforced disappearances of Loken and Lokendro (Manipur) in 1996, and the rape of Miss N Sanjita (who subsequently committed suicide) (Manipur) in 2003.

Concluding remark

After the Partition, India emerged as the new-colonial power. The North East still yeans for freedom.

Continue Reading

South Asia

The myth of “shared values”

Published

on

PM Narendra Modi and US Vice-President Kamala Harris during a press statement. (Photo: Twitter/@MEAIndia)

The Indian prime minister’s visit to the USA underlines a paradigm shift in the United States’ policy: a shift from Europe to Asia. The shift is dictated by India’s constant pressure on the US to do its part of the quid pro quo for India’s joining the Quad, a conglomerate to corner China. Like the USA, India also is embarrassed at the fall of Kabul. India wants that the Taliban would shut their eyes to the reign of terror in the occupied Kashmir. In its disappointment, the USA, like a rueful baby, is doing everything on India’s bidding to further isolate Pakistan.

Still the portents are that not everything is hunky-dory with Indo-US relations. The US wants India to cancel its deal to purchase the S-400 air defence system from Russia. The US has given India a muffled message that unless the deal is cancelled India may face sanctions. India is hopeful of getting a waiver.After all, India became a member of the nuclear club without signing the Non-Proliferation Treaty. India has been a recipient of the US favours in the past also.  In July 2003 India turned down the US request to provide 17,000 troops to shore up America’s war in Iraq. Then, India under prime minister Manmohan Singh also refused to support any US attempts to isolate or topple the Iran government. Manmohan wished Russian diplomacy on Iran’s nuclear programme would succeed.The US companies have invested $ 200 billion in China. Yet, she is perceived as the number one competitor to the US. The reason is that China may surpass the US in terms of Gross Domestic Product growth in the near future.

US ennui
To Modi’s chagrin, the US president Joe Biden and vice-president Kamala Harris underscored the importance of democratic values in their meetings. Biden quoted Mahatma Gandhi’s message of tolerance to allude to prevailing intolerance of BJP’s government, an avatar of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Harris stressed the need for democratic countries to “defend democratic principles and institutions. Her remarks amounted to a diplomatic nudge to the Indian leadership amid concerns about “democratic backsliding” in India (Freedom house and the Economist downgraded India).
Before Biden and Modi joined their delegations for bilateral talks, the US President had made opening remarks: “Our partnership is more than just what we do. It’s about who we are…. It’s rooted in our shared responsibility to uphold democratic values, our joint commitment to diversity, and it’s about family ties, including four million Indian Americans who make the United States stronger every single day.”
Harris said at a joint media appearance with Modi before their first in-person meeting at the White House: “As democracies around the world are under threat, it is imperative that we defend democratic principles and institutions within our respective countries and around the world, and that we maintain what we must do to strengthen democracies at home.
She had earlier openly differed on Twitter with Jaishanker when he refused to attend a meeting with the House foreign affairs committee because the US legislators had rejected his request to exclude Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who had been critical of the Modi government’s Kashmir policy.
“It’s wrong for any foreign government to tell Congress what members are allowed in meetings on Capitol Hill,” Harris had tweeted in December 2019.
Shared values
As for “tolerance”, the US invasions of Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan leave no doubt about how much the US believes in what it professes.

India’s democratic “tolerance”

Since British raj days, India’s north east had been a simmering cauldron of freedom movements. British colonists held sway over the North East at gun point. In footsteps of the British colonists India suppressed freedom movements in the volatile North East through a slew of draconian laws. The most atrocious law applied to the region was the Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1958. It was later extended to the disputed Jammu and Kashmir state also.

The AFSPA violates the fundamental constitutional rights of right to life, liberty, freedom of speech and expression, peaceful assembly, free movement, practice of any profession, and protection against arbitrary arrest and freedom of religion, as enshrined in Articles 21, 14, 19, 22 and 25 of the Indian Constitution.   AFSPA has been used in these regions to inflict thousands of deaths, custodial deaths and rape, torture, encirclement of the civilian population, combing operations, looting of private citizen’s property etc. Thousands of youth have simply disappeared.

Onus of proof on the accused

The AFSPA holds an accused guilty until proven innocent. This law violates legal maxim Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat (“innocent until proven guilty”).

A quasi-emergency

A governor of an Indian state could through a notification declare a state to be “disturbed” without consulting the state legislature. The law gives armed forces immunity from any accountability. The law is not “in aid of civil authority” but “in place of civil authority”.

Powers of officers

Section 4 gives the following special powers to any commissioned officer, warrant officer or non commissioned officer of the armed forces in a disturbed area: (a) If in his opinion, it is necessary for maintenance for public order to fire even to the extent of causing death or otherwise use force against a person who is acting in contravention of an order prohibiting the assembly of five or more persons or the carrying of weapons or of things capable of being used as weapon. (b) If in his opinion, it is necessary to destroy any arms dump or fortified position, any shelter from which armed attacks are made or are likely to be made, and any structure used as training camp for armed volunteers or as a hideout for armed volunteers or as a hideout for armed gangs or absconders. (c) Arrest without warrant any person who has committed a cognizable offence and to use whatever force is necessary to affect the arrest. (d) To enter and search without warrant any premises to make an arrest or to recover any person wrongfully confined or to recover any arms, ammunition, explosive substance or suspected stolen property.

Section 2 (c) of the Act also clearly shows the close affinity between AFSPA and those laws governing the military such as the Army Act (1950). It reads, ‘All other words and expressions used herein but not defined in the Air Force Act 1950, or the Army Act 1950, shall have the meaning respectively assigned to them in those Acts’.

A war against own people

The act applies toacts that are ‘likely to be made’ or ‘about to be committed’. This presumption is characteristic of war zones. In a war situation, any officer whether he is a commissioned, junior commissioned or non-commissioned officer-leading his men in the field is the judge as well as part of the body that executes his judgments.

The AFSPA grants armed forces personnel the power to shoot to arrest, search, seize and even shoot to kill. Thus it violates the Right to Life enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution of India which guarantees the right to life to all people. The AFSPA also violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). India signed the ICCPR in 1978, taking on the responsibility of securing the rights guaranteed by the Covenant to all its citizens. In particular, the Act is in contravention of Article 6 of the ICCPR guaranteeing the right to life.

Concluding remark

India is often called “the world’s largest democracy” by the West. Western notion of democracy (Westminster model) is that it is government of the people (masses, not classes), for the people and by the people.  In truth, Indian democracy is in name only, not in substance. The “shared values” are a ruse.  

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Tech News2 hours ago

Standards & Digital Transformation – Good Governance in a Digital Age

In celebration of World Standards Day 2021, celebrated on 14 October every year, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)...

Economy5 hours ago

Accelerating COVID-19 Vaccine Uptake to Boost Malawi’s Economic Recovery

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries including Malawi have struggled to mitigate its impact amid limited fiscal...

Human Rights7 hours ago

UN: Paraguay violated indigenous rights

Paraguay’s failure to prevent the toxic contamination of indigenous people’s traditional lands by commercial farming violates their rights and their sense of “home”, the UN Human Rights...

Economy9 hours ago

An Airplane Dilemma: Convenience Versus Environment

Mr. President:  There are many consequences of COVID-19 that have changed the existing landscape due to the cumulative effects of...

Development11 hours ago

Vaccination, Jobs, and Social Assistance are All Key to Reducing Poverty in Central Asia

As the pace of economic recovery picks up, countries in Central Asia have an opportunity to return to pre-pandemic levels...

Africa13 hours ago

Wagner: Putin’s secret weapon on the way to Mali?

France is outraged at the prospect of Russian mercenaries from the Wagner group arriving in Mali. However, Paris is seeking...

st st
Finance14 hours ago

Why Traders Should Never Miss Forex Trading Investment Opportunities

Trading forex is a great opportunity to make money if you know how to do it right. Some of the...

Trending