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India-Iran Relations and the U.S. Factor

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Authors: Muneeb Yousuf and Tariq Ahmad Lone*

In the wake of changing regional dynamics, India-Iran relations have occupied greater significance. The relations between India and Iran can be traced back to 1950 when both signed a Treaty of Friendship and Perpetual Peace. However, Iran’s joining of Baghdad pact in 1954 and the Cold War politics separated New Delhi and Tehran in converging their relations until 1990s. The Islamic revolution that swept through Iran in 1979, followed by hostage of U.S. diplomats, Iran-Iraq War and Tehran’s support for Hezbollah and Hamas among others increasingly led to a range of political and economic sanctions, thereby isolating Iran at the global level.

After the end of the Cold War which led to the breakdown of erstwhile Soviet Union a ‘new world order’ began to shape. The end of the Cold-War drastically transformed the bi-polarity of World Politics which had ensued for nearly four decades, setting the ground for a ‘new order’ that initially looked unipolar in character but with passage of time facilitated the rise of new global powers like China–– a multipolar one. After the end of the Cold War, Liberalization, Globalization and Privatization got momentum. India’s internal economic pressures and taking cue from the changing world, India also opened its economy. That does not signify that the new world only ushered benefits and opportunities, also new challenges that were exceedingly new to the modern states.

In the 1990s the interests of both India and Iran converged around energy, Central Asia and security mostly around Pakistan-Afghanistan region. The relations began to shape up in the early 1990s and India and Iran’s relations finally began its strides in post-2002 after both entered into a defense cooperation agreement. Those relations continued with fluctuations in between due to the recurrent hostile relations between the U.S. and Iran. Tehran’s strategic aim for developing nuclear weapons has come under strong criticism from the Trump regime leading to greater sanctions. Iran is also seen as a major regional threat by many Gulf neighbors including Israel. The larger political and economic sanctions that the Trump regime has imposed on Iran, has led pressure on New Delhi to curb diplomatic ties with Iran. While pressures from India’s allies hinder the cultivation of greater relations with Tehran, New Delhi has never completely curtailed engagement with the former.  As it could be argued that New Delhi is treading a fine path despite Tehran’s strong and persistent criticism from Washington. New Delhi’s policy of not parting ways with Tehran is guided in the rationale of geopolitical, geostrategic and geo-economic interests in the region for which Iran is an indispensable player.

Iran: The connecting Link for India’s Extended Neighborhood

Iran is not only geo-economically important for India per se but also places a connecting link between India and its extended neighborhood-gulf region and Central Asia. Iran’s Chabahar port is vital for India’s geopolitical interests not only in West Asia but also in Afghanistan and Central Asia that is part of India’s extended neighborhood. The importance of the port has significantly increased due to China’s bid to increase its influence in India’s immediate and extended neighbourhood through “Belt Road Initiative” and “cheque book” diplomacy and investment on ports like Gwadar. Keeping in view the significance of Chabahar port, New Delhi has invested huge money on the Chabahar port. In December 2018,in a concrete step towards India’s role in Chabahar Port expansion, India Ports Global Limited company opened its office in Chabahar and took over operations at the Shaheed Beheshti port at the Iranian city. The port will provide seal and connectivity to Afghanistan and Central Asia.

India and Iran have committed for the “prosperity through greater connectivity.” Moreover, the focus of the bilateral relations between Tehran and New Delhi is on bilateral cooperation in the fields of energy, trade, connectivity and promotion of people to people contacts. India and Iran along with Afghanistan have trilateral agreement on the development of Chabahar port. The trilateral agreement is motivated to promote connectivity and economic development of the region particularly Afghanistan. Iran has a critical role in India’s emergence as a great power. It is not crucial for securing India’s economic interests but also crucial to increase India’s influence in its extended neighbourhood in westwards which include gulf region and Central Asia. Iran is critical for India’s access to Central Asia and Afghanistan and can help in mitigating China’s growing influence among India’s neighbors.  In an endeavor to consolidate India’s presence in Afghanistan and Central Asia, Tehran plays a pivotal role.

Geo-economic Significance of Iran for India

Iran’s economy is considered as an economy with a large hydrocarbon sector. Iran’s has abundant energy resources with significant oil and natural gas reserves which are second in the world after Russia. India and Iran’s economic ties accelerated following the opening of India’s economy in the early 1990s. However, due to US sanctions on Iran in 2014, the trade has decreased dramatically to the lowest. As per the Exim Bank India Report, India’s imports from Iran are dominated by crude oil, accounting for 85.9 per cent of India’s total imports from Iran. In 2014, India was the second-largest market for Iran’s exports of crude oil…India has steadily cut imports from Iran as the sanctions from the US and other Western countries blocked payment channels and crippled shipping routes.India’s economic interests in Iran are mainly attached to energy and connectivity to Afghanistan and Central Asia.

The bilateral trade between India and Iran during 2017-18 was US Dollars 13.76 billion. The trade was in 2016-17 US dollars 12.89 billion. Bilateral trade has increased by 6.8% as compared to 2016-17. Indian exports increased by 11.4% and were US dollars 2.7 billion. The imports from Iran also increased by 5.8% and reached to US dollars 11.11 billion. As per Ministry of External Affairs Annual report 2019-20, the bilateral trade between the two reached to US dollars 17.3 billion as compared to US dollars 13.76 billion in 2017-18. This shows an increase of 23.8%. Moreover, Indian exports increased by 32.3% and accounted for US dollars 3.5 billion. Imports from Iran also increased by 21.8% and amounted to US dollars 13.5 billion.  India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. There is a tremendous increase in the demand for energy in India. Energy is also vital input across all the sectors of the economy. India’s high growth in gross domestic product (GDP) results in a climb in the output of goods and services. As a result, the requirement of energy needs in the country is ever increasing. The energy consumption in India is fourth biggest after China, United States of America and Russia. India’s contribution is more than any other country to the estimated rise in worldwide energy demand. In 2040 demographic expansion makes India the world’s most populous state. As per the Global Investment & Business Center report 2015, “Oil demand increases by more than in any other country, approaching 10 million barrels per day (Mb/d) by 2040. India steps up its deployment of renewables, led by solar power, for which India becomes the world’s second-largest market. Three-quarters of Indian energy demand is met by fossil fuels, a share that has been rising as households gradually move away from the traditional use of solid biomass for cooking…India was the world’s third-largest importer of crude oil in 2014 but is also a major exporter of oil products.”

As per the India’s energy outlook report 2015, natural gas consumption triples to 175 cm (although, at 8% in 2040, it still plays a relatively limited role in the overall energy mix)…This mainstay of the rural energy economy is the primary cooking fuel for some 840 million people in India today; its use in traditional stoves is a major cause of indoor air pollution and premature death. Its gradual (albeit not complete) displacement by alternative fuels in our projections to 2040 is achieved thanks to rising incomes and supportive policies; these include one of the world’s largest cash transfer programs, which subsidizes the purchase of LPG cylinders via payments to individual bank accounts, rather than via an intervention affecting end-user prices…India’s urbanization is a key driver of energy trends: an additional 315 million people are expected to live in India’s cities by 2040. This transition has wide ranging effects on energy use, accelerating the switch to modern fuels, the rise in the appliance and vehicle ownership and pushing up demand for construction materials.

The challenge for India will be to set up long term supplies at reasonable prices as anchor gas customers-fertilizer and power industries- may not be able to pay market determined prices.Iran, the repository of huge gas reserves, can ensure increasing India’s LPG demand. To meet the growing demand for energy and sustain the growth rate of economy India needs to plan the sources of the energy supply. Iran is one of the countries that can meet India’s increasing demand for energy resources like crude oil and natural gas. Iran is not only in proximity with India, but India has geopolitical and geostrategic significance for India.

Geopolitical and Geostrategic Significance of Iran for India

India and China are emerging simultaneously as great powers. Consequently, their interests are conflicting at various levels in their immediate neighborhood and Indian Ocean region- strategically and geopolitically vital to global powers. Both want their influence in Iran and around the region. Both pursue the connectivity projects to gain a strong foothold in the immediate and extended neighborhood. China is focusing on the revival of the ancient silk route through its belt road initiative. India, on the other hand, is pursuing connectivity projects like Chabahar port and the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC). These efforts are motivated to connect Central Asia and Afghanistan. Both these regions are gaining significance since the 1991 development in the international order. The changing world order has led to the emergence of important geographical locations and Central Asia is one among them, that emerged after the collapse of the erstwhile Soviet Union 1991. On the other hand, Afghanistan, geo-strategically very vital, became the important country particularly after the 9/11 attacks in the USA. The region was the part of the “Great Game” between Russia and British empires in the 19th century. The region came into limelight again after the conspicuous withdrawal of the USA from Afghanistan. As it is expected to emerge as a power vacuum in Afghanistan for which already significant movements have begun on the part of great powers like China, Russia, Pakistan. India is more concerned about the post-US withdrawal from Afghanistan due to the larger national security attached to the region. India lacks direct connectivity with Afghanistan and Central Asia. Therefore, Iran becomes vital for India to secure its interests in Afghanistan and Central Asia. Moreover, to reduce Pakistan’s influence in Afghanistan, combat extremist groups and contain strategic encirclement by China, Iran can play a vital role. Despite India has all these vital interests attached to Iran, external pressures and internal challenges have constrained India’s relations with Tehran. New Delhi faces a challenge of chasing a side with USA or Iran in times of bitter hostility between the two.

Iran-India cooperation is critical for their mutual interests in a transitional world. However, their relations are sometimes shadowed by the Indo-US proximity. US-India proximity is motivated primarily to protect US interests in India and India’s neighbourhood.  The conspicuous USA withdrawal from Afghanistan after the Doha Deal between USA and Afghanistan Taliban, there is an apprehension of Civil war and instability in Afghanistan. The US wants India’s presence in Kabul to fight terrorism and to strengthen the civilian government. However, this is not possible without the proper access of India to Afghanistan. India has access to Afghanistan via Pakistan and Iran. The hostile relations with Pakistan will not allow it to reach Pakistan. But Iran is critical in India’s presence and influence in Afghanistan. That is why the USA waive sanctions on India’s investment on Chabahar. Moreover, waiver was obtained from the US which enabled the continued imports of Iranian oil and separate mechanisms were evolved for payments and marine insurance.”

India seems reluctant to work with Iran after the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal. India not only stopped purchasing Iranian oil in May 2019 but also reduced budget on the investment on Chabahar. Soltaninejad, Assistant professor in, the University of Tehran argues that “Tehran is convinced that India cannot be the partner it needs to counter US sanctions”. India owes its rising power status, in part, to its increasingly close relationship with the United States. No matter how valuable Iran is for India, New Delhi would not endanger its relations with Washington for the sake of preserving its friendship with Tehran. Soltaninejad further argued that “although Iranians are well aware that Beijing would not sacrifice its relations with the United States for its partnership with Iran, they still believe that China will support Iran more strongly than India”. China’s continuing trade with Iran and the purchase of Iranian oil is proof of that. From an Iranian perspective, China’s rise is quite different from that of India’s. India’s economic and military development contributes more to preserving the pro-US international status quo, while China’s rise is seen to come at the cost of the United States’ global position and points towards a balanced global power distribution. However, Iran is well aware of the risks of its proximity to China and does not want to be over-dependent on China.

Conclusion

Ever since Donald Trump has come to power in Washington, the so-called liberal international order has witnessed divergence from the key path. Some analysts have better called it a ‘fuzzy order’. As the New Delhi strives to increase its political influence in its immediate neighborhood and also shape up ‘the emerging regional structures’, it becomes essential for New Delhi to tread a fine path. A multilateral approach in its foreign policy will remain key for New Delhi’s road to major power. India has been caught in a quagmire of balancing the relations between both Washington and Tehran and it cannot afford to embrace one at the cost of others. And here, balancing its relations both with Washington and Tehran with due care for its interests will determine India’s political trajectory. In the level of analysis framework, good relations with Tehran will not only enfeeble Pakistan’s greater strategic depth in Afghanistan but will also provide leverage to New Delhi in deciding the things in Kabul–– a push for a say in the emerging regional situation. On the other hand, a good relationship with Washington will provide good incentives and a vital push for New Delhi to be an important player of the current order. The end of the “Cold War” has certainly ushered a new political order where states need to engage multilaterally and realizing this situation, New Delhi is sending the political message to both Washington and Tehran of cultivating better relations with both despite a greater tension between the two.

*Tariq Ahmad Lone is a Doctoral Candidate at Academy of International Studies, New Delhi.

Muneeb Yousuf is a Doctoral Candidate at Academy of International Studies, New Delhi. He tweets at @MuneebYousuf6

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South Asia

Shaking Things Up: A Feminist Pakistani Foreign Policy

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Almost eight years ago, under Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom in 2014, Sweden created its first of a kind feminist foreign policy and released a handbook later on about how it has become a part of the entire Swedish Foreign Policy Process i.e. initiation, formulation and implementation. Consequently commendable results were achieved covering rights, representation and resources. The handbook states that such a foreign policy propels the idea of application of a systematic gender equality perspective throughout the whole foreign policy agenda of the Swedish government.

A feminist foreign policy is a framework which uplifts the day-to-day lived experience of ostracized communities to the forefront and delivers an expansive plus profounder analysis of international issues. Moreover, it takes a step beyond the black box approach of customary foreign policy discerning. It provides an alternate coupled with an intersectional rethinking of security and that too from the viewpoint of the most marginalized strata of the society on military force, violence, and domination. Furthermore, it is a multidimensional policy framework that aims to elevate women’s and marginalized groups’ experiences and agency to scrutinize the destructive forces of patriarchy, capitalism, racism, and militarism. The Swedish Feminist Foreign Policy is designed to enhance women’s ‘rights’, ‘representation’ and ‘resources’ in every facet of its operations using a facts-based methodology, indicating out the hard numbers and statistics behind systemic inequalities that exist between men and women in rights, representation and resources, while remaining stranded in the fourth concept — the ‘reality’ of where these females live, which is an affirmation to the feminist notion of intersectionalism.

Considering the principle of these four R’s, Pakistan is a great candidate for following the footsteps of Swedish foreign policy as the citizens of Pakistan are still struggling to believe in the central principle of the Feminist Foreign Policy which is to enjoy while having the same power to shape society and their own lives by both men and women. Furthermore, based upon Pakistan’s patriarchal status quo, the principles of inclusion and removal of gender parity in the fields of diplomacy, foreign policy, economics, decision making and especially Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) are need of the hour. For reference, it is pertinent to note that Pakistan secured a position of 153rd out of 156 countries in the Global Gender Gap Report 2021 published by the World Economic Forum (WEF). Regretfully, the country got placed at 7th position among eight countries in South Asia, only better than Afghanistan.

Pakistan had a female prime minister (11th and 13th PM), a female foreign minister (21st FM) and quite recently a couple of days ago, the country sworn in its first female judge of the Supreme Court. The latest development sounds promising as it brings in a new ray of light to ensure a more gender sensitive shift in decision making lens of the apex court in the judicial hierarchy of Pakistan. However, this is just a single piece of jigsaw puzzle due to which the bigger picture still remains incomplete and awaits a proper addressing mechanism. The simple math tells evidently that if women are not part of decision-making and leadership especially in underrepresented and highly patriarchal provinces of Pakistan such as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Balochistan where conflict also adversely affects the women’s lives, it affects society as a whole. In Pakistan, where the reserved seats for women in parliament are also questioned amongst some facets of society, it is highly necessary to formulate foreign policies based upon the footsteps of Swedish government to inculcate a sense of importance of women participation in diverse areas following the principle of ‘representation’.

For starters, Pakistan should start with strengthening women participation domestically and then move towards achieving global objectives through its foreign policy. Working on the footsteps of Swedish government these goals to be achieved are to provide globally, by the Pakistani foreign ministry through promotion of  women’s full enjoyment of human rights; freedom from violence; participation in conflict resolution and peace-building; political participation and influence; economic rights and empowerment; most importantly sexual rights along with reproductive health. Moreover Pakistani foreign policy makers should recognize the link between certain treaties and acts which are directly or indirectly related to gender-based violence since women are the largest sufferer of violence resulting through use of force either through state or non-state actors as women are the first to be affected by power dynamics during and after conflict. The best example of such sensitiveness towards marginalized strata was set by the Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallström when she declared the revocation of a 37 million euro arms deal with Saudi Arabia back in 2015 over human rights issue. Pakistan should do likewise in similar situations to establish a firm stance.

A feminist perspective has been implemented in academic scholarship throughout, but less so in policy practice. Lessons should be drawn from key critical scholarships into tangible policy development and discussions should be made on how to make foreign policy more accessible and democratic. In order to do this, Pakistan must challenge the dominant narratives of international political discourse and push for structural and hierarchical change to challenge systems that perpetuate the status quo; the intertwined structures that sustain global patterns of oppression and discrimination must end. Pakistan must ask difficult questions and engage those who have traditionally not been included in foreign policy in order to elevate the voices of those who’ve suffered from global injustices. This means emphasizing historicized, context-specific analyses of how destructive dichotomies play out in practice, as well as interrogating domestic and foreign policy decisions to push for a more just global order.

A feminist approach to foreign policy will provide a powerful lens through which we can interrogate the hierarchical global and national systems of power that have left millions of people in a perpetual state of vulnerability. Looking at foreign policy of countries such as Pakistan from the feminist perspective, will not only bore fruits to the women but also other nations as a whole. The future is promising under the ambit of such a foreign policy but it requires cultural and policy shifts in the country. Much evidently, the idea of a secure and just world will remain a utopia without a feminist foreign policy.

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India’s Unclear Neighbourhood Policy: How to Overcome ?

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India has witnessed multiple trends with regards to its relations with its neighbours at a time vaccine diplomacy is gaining prominence and Beijing increasing the pace towards becoming an Asian superpower, whereby making these reasons valid for New Delhi to have a clear foreign policy with respect to its neighbourhood.

Introduction

The Covid Pandemic has led to increased uncertainty in the global order where it comes to power dynamics, role of international organisations. New Delhi has tried to leave no stone unturned when it comes to dealing with its immediate neighbours.  It has distributed medical aid and vaccines to smaller countries to enhance its image abroad at a time it has witnessed conflicts with China and a change in government in Myanmar. These developments make it imperative for New Delhi to increase its focus on regionalism and further international engagement where this opportunity could be used tactically amidst a pandemic by using economic and healthcare aid.

According to Dr. Arvind Gupta, New Delhi has to deal with threats coming from multiple fronts and different tactics where it is essential for New Delhi to save energy using soft means rather than coercive measures.. India under Vaccine Maitri has supplied many of COVAXIN doses to Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka where many have appreciated this move. The urgency of ensuring humanitarian aid during these periods of unprecedented uncertainty are essential in PM Modi’s Security and Growth For All ( SAGAR) initiative, which focusses on initiating inclusive growth as well as cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region.

This pandemic witnessed various threats coming in India’s neighbourhood through multiple dimensions which include maritime, land, cyber as well as air threats where adversaries are using these to put pressure on New Delhi to settle land as well as marine disputes as per their terms.  These encirclement strategies have made it necessary for India to open up various options such as holding maritime joint exercises with like-minded countries, developing partnerships, providing economic as well as healthcare support to weaker countries plus having a clear insight about changing global dynamics and acting as per them.

This piece will discuss about various changing tactics, pros and cons which India has with respect to developing its national security vis-à-vis its neighbourhood, why should it prioritise its neighbourhood at the first place?

Background

India’s Neighbourhood is filled with many complexities and a lot of suspicion amongst countries, some viewing India because of its size and geography plus economic clout as a bully where it is wanting to dominate in the region putting others aside. This led to New Delhi play an increased role in nudging ties first with its neighbours with whom it had multiple conflicts as well as misunderstandings leading to the latter viewing Beijing as a good alternative in order to keep India under check.

Ever since PM Modi has taken charge at 7 RCR, India’s Neighbourhood First Policy has been followed increasingly to develop relations, to enhance understandings and ensure mutual cooperation as well as benefit with its neighbours. The relations with Islamabad have not seen so much improvement as compared to other leaders in the past. Even though former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was invited for PM Modi’s 1st Swearing In ceremony in 2014, terrorist activities have never stopped which could be seen through Pathankot, Uri and Pulwama terror attacks which killed many of the Indian soldiers. Even though surgical strikes were conducted on terror camps in retaliation to these bombardments, Islamabad has not changed its heart at all about its security or regional demands. New strategies and friendships are being developed where Beijing has played a major role in controlling power dynamics.

The Belt and Road initiative, first time mentioned during President Xi’s 2013 speech in Kazakhstan, then officially in 2015,  lays emphasis of achieving a Chinese Dream of bringing countries under one umbrella, ensuring their security, providing them with infrastructure projects such as ports, railways, pipelines, highways etc. The main bottleneck is the China Pakistan Economic Corridor when it comes to India’s security threats, passing through disputed boundaries of Gilgit and Baltistan in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir till Gwadar. Other projects have been initiated in Chittagong, Hambantota, Gwadar , Kyapkyou. These projects form a String Of Pearls in the Indo Pacific where New Delhi is being balanced against through economic plus development incentives being given to the member countries under the project. That’s why in the recent past, New Delhi is asserting its influence in the region, looking at new dimensional threats where Beijing’s threats in the maritime domain in the islands in East as well as South China seas are not being seen favourably in many countries such as ASEAN, US, Australia and Japan which is giving India an opportunity to look towards countries with a common threat. Amidst this great power struggle between Washington and Beijing, New Delhi is stuck between a rock and hard place i.e., having a clear and strong foreign policy with its neighbours.

In this region, India has a sole threat which is mainly Beijing where the latter has achieved prowess technologically and militarily where New Delhi lags behind the latter twenty fold. So, there is a need for improvising military technology, increase economic activities with countries, reduce dependence on foreign aid, ensure self-reliance.

Situation

South Asia is backward when it comes to economic development, human development and is a home to majority of the world’s population which lives below poverty line. The colonial rule has left a never-ending impact on divisions based on communal, linguistic and ethnic grounds. Even, in terms of infrastructure and connectivity, New Delhi lags behind Beijing significantly in the neighbourhood because the latter is at an edge when it comes to bringing countries under the same umbrella. Due to these, many initiatives have been taken up by New Delhi on developing infrastructure, providing humanitarian aid to needy countries.

There have been numerous efforts made by India with respect to reaching out to the Neighbours in 2020 through setting up of the SAARC Covid Fund where many Neighbourhood countries such as Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka gave contributions to ensure cooperation, joint scientific research, sharing information, healthcare kits where the countries contributed USD $ 18 million jointly towards this fund where New Delhi made an initial offer of USD $ 10 million.

New Delhi has even mustered ties with the Association of Southeast Asian countries during the pandemic under its Act East Policy where proper connectivity through the Northeast could be useful in easing movement of goods but currently, the infrastructure in Northeast needs more improvement where issues such as unemployment, poor connectivity are prevalent whereby disconnecting it from rest of the other states. This region could play an important role in linking Bangladesh, Myanmar to New Delhi along with the proposed India-Thailand –Myanmar Trilateral Corridor. Focus has also been laid to develop inland waterways, rail links and pipelines to ease connections between countries, making trade free and more efficient.

India is focussing on developing the Sittwe and Paletwa ports in Myanmar under the Kaladan Development Corridor, at the cost of INR 517.9 Crore in order to provide an alternative e route beneficial for the Northeast for getting shipping access

Summing Up

 These above developments and power display by a strong adversary, give good reasons for New Delhi to adopt collective security mechanisms through QUAD, SIMBEX and JIMEX with a common perception of having safe and open waters through abiding to the UNCLOS which China isn’t showing too much interest in, seen through surveillance units, artificial islands being set up on disputed territories which countries likewise India are facing in context to territorial sovereignty and integrity. These developments make it important for India to look at strategic threats by coming together with countries based on similar interest’s vis-à-vis Chinese threat.

There is a need for India to develop and harness its strength through connectivity and its self reliance initiative ( Aatmanirbharta ) so that there is no dependence on any foreign power at times of need . Proper coordination between policy makers and government officials could make decision making even easier, which is not there completely because of ideological differences, different ideas which makes it important for the political leadership to coordinate with the military jointly during times of threats on borders. Self-reliance could only come through preparedness and strategy.

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India is in big trouble as UK stands for Kashmiris

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 A London-based law firm has filed an application with British police seeking the arrest of India’s army chief and a senior Indian government official over their alleged roles in war crimes in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Law firm Stoke White said it submitted extensive evidence to the Metropolitan Police’s War Crimes Unit on Tuesday, documenting how Indian forces headed by General Manoj Mukund Naravane and Home Affairs Minister Amit Shah were responsible for the torture, kidnapping and killing of activists, journalists and civilians – particularly Muslim – in the region.

“There is strong reason to believe that Indian authorities are conducting war crimes and other violence against civilians in Jammu and Kashmir,” the report states, referring to the territory in the Himalayan region.

Based on more than 2,000 testimonies taken between 2020 and 2021, the report also accused eight unnamed senior Indian military officials of direct involvement in war crimes and torture in Kashmir.

The law firm’s investigation suggested that the abuse has worsened during the coronavirus pandemic. It also included details about the arrest of Khurram Parvez, the region’s most prominent rights activist, by India’s counterterrorism authorities last year.

“This report is dedicated to the families who have lost loved ones without a trace, and who experience daily threats when trying to attain justice,” Khalil Dewan, author of the report and head of the SWI unit, said in a statement.

“The time has now come for victims to seek justice through other avenues, via a firmer application of international law.”

The request to London police was made under the principle of “universal jurisdiction”, which gives countries the authority to prosecute individuals accused of crimes against humanity committed anywhere in the world.

The international law firm in London said it believes its application is the first time that legal action has been initiated abroad against Indian authorities over alleged war crimes in Kashmir.

Hakan Camuz, director of international law at Stoke White, said he hoped the report would convince British police to open an investigation and ultimately arrest the officials when they set foot in the UK.

Some of the Indian officials have financial assets and other links to Britain.

“We are asking the UK government to do their duty and investigate and arrest them for what they did based on the evidence we supplied to them. We want them to be held accountable,” Camuz said.

The police application was made on behalf of the family of Pakistani prisoner Zia Mustafa, who, Camuz said, was the victim of extrajudicial killing by Indian authorities in 2021, and on behalf of human rights campaigner Muhammad Ahsan Untoo, who was allegedly tortured before his arrest last week.

Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the past two decades in Kashmir, which is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both in its entirety.

Muslim Kashmiris mostly support rebels who want to unite the region, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

Kashmiris and international rights groups have long accused Indian troops of carrying out systematic abuse and arrests of those who oppose rule from New Delhi.

Rights groups have also criticized the conduct of armed groups, accusing them of carrying out human rights violations against civilians.

In 2018, the United Nations human rights chief called for an independent international investigation into reports of rights violations in Kashmir, alleging “chronic impunity for violations committed by security forces”.

India’s government has denied the alleged rights violations and maintains such claims are separatist propaganda meant to demonize Indian troops in the region. It seems, India is in big trouble and may not be able to escape this time. A tough time for Modi-led extremist government and his discriminatory policies. The world opinion about India has been changed completely, and it has been realized that there is no longer a democratic and secular India. India has been hijacked by extremist political parties and heading toward further bias policies. Minorities may suffer further, unless the world exert pressure to rectify the deteriorating human rights records in India.

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