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A Movement Undead

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Maoism as an ideology originated in China as a form of Communist theory derived from the teachings of the Chinese political leader Mao Zedong. This theory was developed in the 1950`s-60`s and was widely applied as the political and military guiding moto of the Communist Party of China till 1977-78. But soon it evolved as a way of living and was widely accepted around the world. The idea started off in China and soon spread across the world where democratic nations face an imminent threat from the maoist organizations who have blatantly turned radical in their methods for acquiring their needs.  

Maoism`s aim is to take control of the government and fundamentally transform the country to socialism. As Aristotle one said “The mother of revolution and crime is poverty”, the rise in poverty became one of the biggest drivers of instigating the movement not only in India but in China as well. China encountered a situation where its workers (rural area) revolted against their masters and landlords against marginalization of the poor in rural areas. The Naxalbari Movement lead by Charu Majumdar in 1967, was the first uprising in India  to mark the stepping stone of the ideology. Since then the Indian subcontinent has widened its line of sight for maintaining the internal security of the country which is hampered by these so called “naxalites”.

The current situation is the continuous influx of tribal converted in this region that is helping sustain their fight by supplying them with intelligence and more insurgent members. The years of 2001-14 have been the most active for Naxalites in India for carrying out attacks and building up their relations with support groups. This first started in early July 2001, when naxalite groups all over South Asia announced the formation of a Coordination Committee of the Maoist Parties and Organizations of South Asia (CCOMPOSA). This was the first formal international coalition formed under the umbrage of one ideology to acquire their targets and attain better results. What had raised concerns was that the most dreaded Naxalite groups in India, the People’s War Group (PWG) and Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) were contributing participants to the newly formed CCPMPOSA.

The naxals work on inspiring themselves with ideas from Marxist or Leninist or theories fostered by both. They identify pressure points for targets from sympathizers and intelligence groups and most importantly mobilize funds to carry out attacks. The theories which stir the movement create a simple distinction in the founding years of the political parties. The Communist Party of India Marxist-Leninist (CPI-ML) was formed by All India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries (AICCCR) in 1969. While the Maoist Communist centre of India (MCCI) was formed in 1975 when the some groups chose to maintain a separate identity from the CPI-ML. Another formal political party was the Communist party of India Marxist-Leninist People`s war commonly known as the People`s War group, an underground communist organization which started off in April, 1980 with the same intentions of serving the poor class. Though the militant group worked under its own discretion in the first two decades, but soon joined hands with the Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCCI) in 2004. The merger of the Peoples War Group, with the Maoist Communist Centre in September, 2004, founded the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) which completely changed the internal security scenario in the country. The merger was able to establish the so called Compact Revolutionary Zone or Red Corridor connecting the Dharmapuri forest area of Tamil Nadu with Nepal, covering the entire forest tracts in between. Home Ministry reports say that the dreadful insurgency has till now spread to 165 districts in 16 states[1].

The 21st Century has proved to be extremely advantageous for the Maoists as they were successful in recognising tactical alliances and adopt precise strategies for attaining their targets. The acts of brutality and anti-government notion soon started surging in their areas of activity. In response the Central government banned the CPI (Maoist) on 23rd of June, 2009[2]. This belated action came three days after the Central Para-military forces had gone to Lalgarh area of West Bengal which is still virtually under the siege of Maoists. Former Home minister P. Chidambaram also exclaimed similar nations in 2010 that left-wing extremism would be crushed within three years, but yet successive governments have been witness to Naxal acts of aggression which even continued in 2019. Over 20 years to 2017, Naxal/ Maoist violence claimed more than 12,000 lives, including 2,700 security forces personnel[3].

Various leaders have vowed to tame the Maoist menace by bringing in numerous urbanised developments to improvise connectivity and achieve better growth. But the aggressive enthusiasm of the Naxalites is fuelled by such actions of the government. Though there might be various other reasons for this revolution to still sustain which include deteriorating human development indexes, social discrimination, poor governance and loss of identity, the most important one of them being the increasing income gap in the country[4]. The crux of the problem in the naxal affected regions is the unequal distribution of the assets which majorly is the land. The incapability of the government to match up with the proper land reforms for the tribal people is something which adds on to their idea of how the government is trying to snatch away their land and give it to Multi-National Companies (MNC`s) for production purposes. The inefficiency of the land reforms has been a traditional policy inherited from the colonial period. This reform changed India`s land ownership patterns to ease the acquisition of land at low prices for mines, plantations, and other enterprises[5].

Main Years of Operation

Maoists since a long time have built their relations on cross border counterparts in neighbouring countries. This interconnected system of financial and strategic support between communist driven groups has helped them grow and sustain the revolution. Such extremist based organisations include Liberation of Tamil Tigers Eelum (LTTE) from Sri Lanka, Islamic state of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Lakshar-e-Taiba (LeT), The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and many more. Maoists mainly function through jungle hideouts where they expand their area of control by using the jungle as an advantage. The pattern of luring security personnels and targeting them with explosives is quite similar to these radical organisations and other radicalists in the neighbouring countries. A senior Naxal leader who surrendered in Maharashtra claimed that a warfare expert from the Philippines had visited once in 2001 and stayed in a Bastar Naxal camp in Abujmad for about a month to train cadres[6]. This was in collaboration to the Maoist insurgent groups in Philippines which had challenged the security agencies of the Indian subcontinent on such claims made by former-Naxal Leader. It was surely as arduous gamble to get a Philippines warfare expert on ground, with no probability of getting exposed to intelligence networks and security agencies. The Filipino taught them how to carry out mass attacks and mobilize sympathizers in times of need.

 Since then naxalites have not only improved their attack strategy but have also involved technology and concrete intelligence as one of the most important element of showing aggression. In the years 2005-06, Maoists spiked up their number of attacks to retain their number of insurgents to gather a strong working army. These attacks were extremely well timed with a series of guerilla attacks in different regions to shock central security personnels. This was mainly to lag their reaction time, thus there are instances where militants have hours of time to gather ammunitions and loot them over. Attacks were usually carried out in the night time, when the comrades could easily outnumber and strategically utilise the element of surprise to strike deeper. One of the biggest loots carried out by the Naxalites was the February 6, 2004 Koratpur ambush where 300 extremists loaded in two trucks, two jeeps and five motor cycles first reached the Koratpur Bus stand and clarified their intentions to the commoners of no harm to civilians while conducting the attack. The ultras spend around an hour collecting ammunitions from the armoury and then decamped with 1000 sophisticated guns and 1000 other weapons worth INR 50 crore. Further investigations by police personnels revealed that the extremists disbanded lower technologically advanced weapons in the forest but recent developed technology still remain in their possession. It was interesting to observe that these attacks displayed clear intentions of an upcoming radically aggravated event. These swarming attacks were shortly followed by jail breaks or attacks of a higher magnitude. Since the Koraput raid in 2004, Orissa witnessed only another three ‘swarming attacks’ involving the Maoist ‘people’s militia’ till the Nayagarh attack, out of 50 such attacks recorded in various states[7].

List of Ambushes for retaining ammunitions and captured comrades

DateArea of attackComrades attackingComrades freedDeaths and captives takenAmmunitions
6.2.2004Koratpur, Orissa3002002 CRPF Jawans500 weapons 30,000 rounds of ammunition
11.11.2005Home Guard Training centre Giridih, Jharkhand200  186 rifles 2,000 bullets
13.11.2005Jehanabad Jail, Bihar10003401 prison guard, 20 Ranvir Sena activists taken captive16 rifles
24. 03.2006Udayagiri town, Orissa80 ultras402 security officials; 3 bodies taken by naxalites 
16.12.2007Dantewada jailbreakEscaped on their own299 prisoners including 110 naxalites3 prison guards injured 
15.2.2008Nayagarh, BiharMultiple points 14 police personnel, 2 civilians2,150 arms 200,000 rounds of ammunition
15. 2.2010Silda, West Bengal  24 JawansAK-47, SLR and mortars 

Source: Institute of Peace and Conflict studies and other news reporting sources.

For instance, naxalite swarming attacks in Home Guard Training centre Giridih, Jharkhand was to refill their armoury for the attack carried out two days later in the Jehanabad Jail break. This created their essence to retain militants in command which are usually captured by state police. Ajay Kanu, state secretary of the CPI-Maoist was one of the targeted escapees of the Operation Jailbreak. The CPI-Maoist would project the Jehanabad attack as a resounding victory of the underprivileged, Dalits over the “feudal, oppressive and exploitative landlords”. Together all the militant cadres performed in a synchronised manner and strike at multiple points to successfully carry out an entire attack.

Suspected International Collaborations

Liberation of Tamil Tigers Eelum (LTTE)

 Attacks carried out by Maoists summarised self initiated efforts by utilising every advantage at their disposal to threaten and curb government led developments in their region of activity. But there are facilitators which have orchestrated the larger significant outgrowth of the organisation and helped them challenge and compete with India`s strategy to growing naxalism. Maoist leaders have been known to collaborate with their counterparts across the border in Nepal and also occasionally with sympathisers elsewhere in South Asia. The collaborations date back in the 1980`s when experts were send in from different regions of South Asia. In a sensational disclosure made by Azad, a spokesman of the naxal outfit’s central committee, while addressing media persons at a remote village in Bihar’s Supaul district bordering Nepal, 2005. “The Maoists learnt new warfare tactics from the on-the-run and purged LTTE military commanders in 1986-87,” he said, adding, “LTTE’s commanders gave them training of mine production and its laying techniques[8].

Their interests have expressed their needs of integration of two factions of the movement- the Bal Militia Wing and the procurement of advanced arms. These convergence of interest have resulted in a fillip to Naxal presence in southern Tamil Nadu districts like Theni, Tirunelveli, Thuthookudi and Ramanathapuram. Traditionally, Naxalites are confined to Dharmapuri, Vellore, and the northern districts of Tamil Nadu bordering Andhra Pradesh. The Periyakulum forests of Theni district has become the new home for Naxal training camps, officials on the Naxal trial said[9]. The LTTE had suffered serious backlashes in 2009, when they started infiltrating into Indian territories and started fueling their aspirations through resources in the country. Hence, the likelihood of the LTTE infiltrating into India to escape from the crackdown of the Sri Lankan security forces was high. In addition, they would also be looking to set up new training camps for their cadre.

Recent measures by the government to tackle the naxalites have sprouted even more urges for the naxalites to seek LTTE support. The Government has proposed to use aerial surveillance in forest regions of Chattisgarh which could have prompted them to seek training as the Tigers were the only recognized outfit to man such capabilities. The Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is prospecting new techniques which involve the deployment of highly sensitive radar provided by Swedish defense and aerospace outfit Saab. This is to be carried on board with the Indian made Dhruv Advanced light helicopter (ALH). This can help in detecting Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) used widely and extensively by Naxalites. The helicopter mounted CARABAS radar weighs about 150 kg. The smaller version of the radar, which has been developed for UAVs, weighs just 50 kg. Connections of the Naxals with the LTTE is suspected to be the most strategic as confirmed the allegation of the Sri Lankan Government that the LTTE had constructed an airstrip near Iranamadu in the Wanni area under its control in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka[10]. The Sri-Lankan government had identified at least two aircraft which looked like the Czech-built Zlin Z-143 and an active airstrip through Sri-lankan military helicopters[11].

Intelligence later suggested the Maoists are also prepared for aerial attacks as in one of the biggest CRPF ambush in April 2010, they were suspected to preserving Anti-aircraft missiles which they had probably smuggled in through the Indo-Bangladesh Border.

Bangladesh and ULFA (United Liberation Front of Asom) facilitators

The United Liberation Front of Asom was a political and military organisation functioning for a sovereign socialist Assam. During its initial years, Paresh Baruah was one of the leading members of the military wings as the outfit`s ‘commander in chief’. The ULFA is another such organisation which has been extremely successful in fostering its international connections. The ULFA has previously established contacts with the then unified National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), Kachin Independence Army (KIA) of Myanmar for training arms. It also enjoys its support from Pakistan`s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Afghan Mujahideen. Interrogation with various arrested activists revealed that the Defense Forces Intelligence (DFI) of Bangladesh had also trained ULFA cadres in the Sylhet District.

The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) was responsible is carrying out one of the biggest arms haul in the history of cross-border terrorism. This terrorist outfit, operating in northeast India, had teamed with an embassy, to pay Taka 7 billion (99. 4 million dollars) for transhipment of 10 truckloads of arms, ammunition and explosives, said detained former state minister for home Lutfozzaman Babar[12]  There are suspicions of ULFA`s top leaders hiding in Bangladesh who carry out operations through local authorities. Ten truckloads of submachine guns, AK-47 assault rifles, other firearms and bullets were seized at the Karnaphuli coast in Chittagong April 2, 2004. The cache, detected by guards at a warehouse where it was hidden, was meant for the ULFA that was then staging violent attacks from Bangladeshi soil. The arms, purchased from China, were brought in a ship owned by a company belonging to Salahuddin Qader Chowdhury, a lawmaker and senior leader of Zia-led Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)[13].

Another such incident captured two former Bangladesh army generals, who headed the National Security Intelligence (NSI), facilitating the landing of Chinese arms meant for insurgents in India’s northeast and for trying to smuggle these arms into India. 27,020 grenades, 840 rocket launchers, 300 accessories of rocket launchers, 2,000 grenade launching tubes, 6,392 magazines and 1,140,520 bullets were recovered in 2004 from from the jetty of the Chittagong Urea Fertilizer Limited April 2, 2004[14]. Now the illegal infiltration from Bangladesh is also a source of enormous strength to the Maoists. Bangladesh serves as a sanctuary to the Maoists as well. They are also fully exploiting the strategically situated Chicken Neck for moving freely into Nepal and Bangladesh. It is suspected that ISI supplies arms to north-east insurgents and asks them to pass on them to naxals. Taking the cue from LTTE regarding the advantage of overseas support, the CPI (Maoist) have identified cells for logistical support in establishing linkages other extremist outfits[15].

Lashkar-e-Taiba

Maoists have also taken a step ahead in recognising other organisations where international journalists have mentioned about their developments. In an analysis for an American geopolitical Intelligence platform, Ben West on November 18, 2010 reported an alleged meeting between the Maoists and members of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). Two LeT operatives had attended a Naxalite meeting in April or May 2010. Though direct evidence of ISI-Maoist collaboration has been hard to discern, the unholy influence of ISI as a third-party entrant through the north-eastern gateway of India is quite plausible. Two LeT operatives attended a CPI-Maoist central committee meeting as observers, held sometime in April-May this year. They met in a jungle inside Orissa, close to Bastar,” said Vishwa Ranjan, Director General of Police of the state worst affected by Leftist insurgency in India[16].

In the preceding year, 2009, a LeT operative Mohammed Umer Madani (chief recruiter in Nepal and India) was arrested in Delhi. Madani was carrying foreign currency including USD 8,000 which he had received from Italy to carry out terror activities in the country at the time of his arrest. Meanwhile, the police also received the details of his two accounts at Himalayan Bank and Everest Bank in Nepal and learnt that there had been several transactions over past few months, amounting to more than Rs 25 lakh. He had already distributed US $ 22,000 and Rs 9.5 lakh to sleeper cells in Bihar and UP. He also revealed his plans of training recruitments from other parts of India in Maoist strongholds before sending them to Pakistan for further training[17].

Expenses

Funds form an important section of sustaining the revolution. Operations carried out by central security agencies reveal that the Left-wing extremists who earn several lakhs of rupees annually through levy, extortion and threats have their own “corporate style” accounting system, central security agency officials said. A small portion of the finances is being spent on propaganda and development work in their base areas where they are running a parallel government, which they term Janatana Sarkar. Further, in villages where the Janatana Sarkar is functioning they are collecting what they call as ‘revolutionary taxes’ from the people. Besides, they term their extortion as ‘collection of levy’ and ‘imposition of fine’ on defaulters[18]. The ‘dalams’ or groups (which usually consist of about 20-40 cadre) give their tabled income and expenditure details on a half-yearly basis to the zonal command which is then forwarded to the next level[19].

Further expenditure details seized from one of the Naxals’ zonal commands show that Rs50,668 were spent on uniforms, Rs60,100 on medicines, Rs2,79,000 on jail and court expenses, Rs21,200 for helping comrades and Rs 44,500 for people’s organizations and public programmes among others.The total expenditure for the six months as shown in the record was Rs 9,20,624 and the income under different heads was Rs 24,05,000. As per an entry made in a separate register dated February 13, 2007, Rs 11, 05,000 were spent on buying 13 pieces of .315 rifle and Rs 13,65,000 on seven pieces of  30.06 rifles. The entries are also made for various ammunitions and pistols and the total expenditure shown by the zonal command was Rs 31,71,250 . Maoist groups in Bihar, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh use foreign small arms, including from China, as compared to states like West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh where the ultras use local arms[20].

The Maoists have been collecting not less than Rs 140 crore annually from a variety of sources: businesses –– big and small –– industry, contractors engaged in various trades, corrupt government officials and political leaders. The largest and principal sources of income for the Maoists are mining industry, PWD works and collection of tendu leaves. The Maoists have been able to put in place a well organized mechanism to extort money on a regular basis. Besides, they have conceived ingenious ways to store money and ensure its safety. Even as they have issued guidelines for the collection of money, the Maoists have, similarly, also circulated guidelines on expenditure and maintaining fiscal discipline.

The Movement is still reviving

John. F. Kennedy once said: “Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind.” However, the truth is that the war on terror is unlikely to end. Man is in relentless pursuit of bringing an end to the existence of homo-sapiens, either in the name of righteousness or religion. The Maoist movement in India began three decades ago and many Indian states still reverberate with sounds of gunfire and explosives, resulting in the death of hundreds every few months[21]. As the Lok Sabha polls came to an end in 2019, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Bhima Mandavi and four security personnel were killed in an IED explosion attack suspected by the Maoist in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada. This movement has certainly not died down in actuality and there seems to be a spike in the number of attacks carried out recently around the region by its proponents, most of the recent ones centered on the Red Corridor. Security personnels still lack the training and the technological requirements in tackling the insurgency. It is still alarming to notice that, these movements are getting fuelled by international support. The number of people getting affected due to this is escalating till date where South Asia Terrorism portal recorded the 53rd attacks and around 107 killed in the left wing violence[22]. One of the most tragic events was the IED blast in Gadchiroli. More than 30 kilograms of explosives were used in the IED blast which killed 16 security personnels.

A movement still climbs it way to hamper the internal security of the country. The amounts of explosives used by them denote the continuous support by unknown groups and individuals for a very long period of time. Though there have been no proofs for international support but there surely is one that exists.


[1]  (Pashchimbanga, 2010)

[2]  ((MHA), 2017)

[3]  (Joseph, 2001)

[4]  (V.K.Ahluwalia, 2013)

[5] (V.K.Ahluwalia, 2013)

[6] (Despande, 2009)

[7] (Routray, 2008)

[8] (Sahay, 2005)

[9] (Rao, 2007)

[10] (Raman, 2005)

[11] (Raman, 2005)

[12] (IANS, 2010)

[13] (IANS, 2010)

[14] (IANS, Dhaka to prosecute 2 former spy chiefs smuggling arms for Indian rebels, 2009)

[15] (Pashchimbanga, The Great Saga of ABVP Braving Naxal Terror, 2010)

[16] (Sharma, 2010)

[17] (PTI, 2009)

[18] (P.V.Ramana, 2014)

[19] (PTI, Naxal groups spend huge money to buy weapons, reveal seized records, 2009)

[20] (PTI, Naxal groups spend huge money to buy weapons, reveal seized records, 2009)

[21] (Ipood, 2016)

[22] (SATP, 2019)

Shrrijiet Roychowdhary is a student of International Affairs at O.P.Jindal Global University. He has done past internships at the Centre of Land Warfare Studies, Delhi and also publication houses like The Times of India. He has also worked in post-conflict regions in the Indian district of Assam, near the Indo-Bhutan Border.

South Asia

Looming Humanitarian Crisis – Millions May Die in Afghanistan

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A mother and her child in the Haji camp for internally displaced people in Kandahar, Afghanistan. © UNICEF Afghanistan

There is a dire need for massive funds transfer to Afghanistan in present circumstances where banks and businesses have collapsed, the hunger crisis is also rising while the prices of basic commodities like shelter, fuel, and food have increased. There is a clear warning from World Health Organization (WHO) that within one year over 3 million children may suffer from malnutrition. UN World Food Program has also issued multiple warnings of deteriorating food insecurity in Afghanistan. The Winter season will also become too risky for the survival of one million children as the temperature will drop to an extremely low level. 

There are numerous cases of acute shortage of money, where families are compelled to even sell their babies and daughters as child brides. Public hospitals are facing a shortage of medical equipment; the nurses and doctors are not paid prompting them to quit. The majority of Afghans want to move to other countries for life security and a better future. Heavy human traffic from Afghanistan has gathered on borders with Iran and Pakistan. UNHCR has called on authorities of Afghan neighboring countries to cease the forced return of Afghans, noting that many of them may require refugee protection.

The private sector, which works for the progress of the country, has halted due to uncertainty. There is a serious and shocking analysis by UNDP that by July next year 97% of the Afghan population may fall under the poverty line. Millions of people are living hand to mouth and will face harsher economic crises due to troubling economies. 

Even $1.29 billion aid, recently announced from US and EU for Afghanistan & its refugees living in surrounding countries cannot solve the economic crisis permanently. This aid will only be able to postpone the human disaster for some time but it is not a permanent solution.

The world’s best economists are constantly warning that the present economic situation will lead to anarchy and chaos in Afghanistan. Abdallah Al Dardari, UNDP’s Afghanistan head, said, “I’m comparing Afghanistan with Venezuela, Lebanon, and so on; we haven’t seen such an immediate, abrupt drop”.

After the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, the first step by the Biden administration was to freeze the $9.5 billion foreign reserves. Taliban recently called on the US delegation in Doha for the unconditional and immediate unfreezing of Afghanistan’s financial assets.

IMF has also warned that this year Afghan economy will get contracted to 30%. During Ghani’s government, US aid accounted for 75% of the government budget and 45% of the country’s GDP. The majority of sectors of Afghanistan were run by foreign aid including a majority of public-sector jobs in the medical, teaching, policing, and legal sectors.

From the last few months, the life of millions of daily wagers/ working class has become hopeless. They gather in various downtowns for the sake of work but as the construction industry has halted so they get back without getting any work. They are unable to buy food for themselves and their families and live miserable lives. Another fact of the matter is that Afghanistan has long been dependent on imports of basic utensils.

In Ashraf Ghani’s government, the Afghan economy was fragile because of poverty and corruption. Customs, administration, and traffic officers, who have gone unpaid for months, are asking for more bribes. Things have become highly disorganized in all segments of the country.

Taliban have placed withdrawal limits on currency ranging from 200-400$ per week to counter complete currency collapse. Taliban have appealed to fill its billions of dollars vacuum from Qatar, Turkey, Pakistan, and China. Taliban are also pressing the US for the release of its frozen funds and they think that the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is increasing as a result of their frozen funds. Afghans are facing a shortage of crucial goods due to trade disruptions and the collapse of financial services which have supplemented traders’ woes that depend on U.S. dollars and bank loans for imports. Issuance of sanctions’ exemption, by the Biden administration at the end of September to ease out the process of aid, is still not enough.

Afghan interim government has to find the best economic team from inside and outside the country which should be able to bring some fruitful strategies and planning to solve this economic crisis. The International community needs to come together to join hands with the Afghan interim government to avoid the worst-case scenario in Afghanistan. The international community should also play its role in bringing “explicit humanitarian exemptions” for the delivery of aid to prevent a “catastrophe”.  Watchdogs like UNSC and the US government should do their utmost to raise the living standards of the Afghan people.

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South Asia

What ails Modi’s relations with its own people and neighbours?

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The veneer of “democracy” cloaks “autocratic and hypocritical” style of Modi’s government. Modi first tried every Machiavellian trick to suppress the farmers’ protest movement against the three farms laws. He tied to sow seeds of discord among them by portraying them as “Khalistani” through a multitude f fake social media accounts.  He then tested the protester’s patience by letting the movement linger on for a years. He allowed police to beat them mercilessly. Tried to turn the Supreme Court hostile to them. And finally a farmer was mowed down under a vehicle (Lakhimpura incident).  About seven hundred farmers including some women lost their lives. But, Modi shrugged off the claim saying their deaths were due to natural causes. He kept insisting that the laws were enacted for farmers’ welfare. And they would repent their repeal. The farmers saw through the ruse and stayed put. The laws were finally withdrawn without any discussion. This gesture strengthened the opposition’s allegation and farmers’ perception that the laws were meant to surreptitiously benefit the crony capitalism (Adanis, Ambanis, et al).

Modi deprived the disputed Jammu and Kashmir of even its nominal statehood without caring a fig for sentiments of the common man or the politicians. He is unwilling to repatriate the Occupied Kashmir widows or wives of so-called militants. Instead of repealing draconian laws, he is killing innocent Kashmiris in fake encounters (Hyderpora encounter being the latest). In 1990s, India’s reign of terror forced large number of Kashmiri natives to cross over into the Azad Kashmir.  India launched operation ‘Sadbhavana’ to lure back the refugees. Some refugees even married the Azad Kashmiri nationals.  Those who returned mostly wives or divorcees had been suffering immeasurably being without nationality documentation. Indian government could have deported them back to Azad Kashmir. But, India flouted its own promise of rehabilitation and international norms by denying them nationality.  Defying restrictions, hundreds of wives protested in Srinagar and held a press conference (November 21, 2021) to highlight their plight. Modi is unwilling to repatriate the widows or wives. Be it observed that Pakistan immediately returns innocent border crossers back to India.

Modi imposed a corrupt friend (Patel) as governor of Lakshadweep (32 square kilometers), a predominantly Muslim archipelago of 36 islands (10 of which are uninhabited). It is sparsely populated with population of 63000, growing at about six per cent against national average of 17 percent.

The governor issued many orders which were perceived as anti-Muslim. For instance, no-one could slaughter a cow without a permit but liquor was allowed in all the islands ostensibly to promote tourism. The government could acquire any piece of land from inhabitants in national interest.  The isles are in COVID grip and the people used to airlift the sick to nearby Kerala. The governor ordered that no sick shall be flown out without the governor’s permission. The people interpreted the governor’s move s as an effort to impair their life style and links with Kerala. He wanted to facilitate the isles link with Mangalore (Karnataka). The islanders are convinced that the Centre is trying to depopulate the island and convert into a naval base. Within framework f QUAD, the Modi government wants to strengthen “Chagos-Lakshadweep-Maldives choke”.

India’s volatile North East

At the time of partition, India was in grip of countless insurgencies and separatist movements (Dravidstan, Khalistan, Bodo, Nagas and Mizos). It is still a simmering cauldron. India’s north east was a porous border. Through deceit, coercion, and financial incentives, India mellowed some of the insurgencies. Ambushes and confrontations still take place in some north eastern states. Indian bowed to insurgents’ demands for the creation of new states. And, insurgency leaders became chief ministers! India forgot yesteryear when they used to burn to ashes copies of the Indian constitution and uproot rail tracks. Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Nagaland and East Punjab merged into the Union.” India has become synonymous with a thousand insurgencies waged by mysterious outfits, known only by their acronyms. It has become synonymous with grandiose announcements by successive prime ministers of many thousand crore packages that disappear without trace, leaving a handful of political brokers very rich. And in the Indian bureaucracy, a posting in the Northeast is treated on par with incarceration in Siberia” (Swapan Dasgupta, India’s Siberia, Rediff dated October 2004).

Neighbourhoods

Pakistan

Modi‘s “might is right” style is conspicuous from India’s policies towards her neighbours. India’s former foreign secretary Shyam Saran (How India sees the World) thinks none of the disputes with Pakistan are intractable. They were almost solved except for lack of political will to sign the final draft deals. To pander to the galleries, India’s home minister Amit Shah roared in Parliament that “Aksai Chin and POK (Azad Kashmir) are part of India. And we would lay down our lives to get them back”.

Nepal

To topple KP Sharma Oli’s government, Indian embassy in Nepal had been bankrolling corrupt politicians and other members of Nepalese society. Oli was ultimately ousted by Supreme Court of Nepal and appointed the new prime minister until the next elections. Oli

debunked India’s conspiracies during a ceremony to commemorate sixty-ninth anniversary of the Party’s popular leader Madan Bandari. He claimed, `Conspiracies were being plotted against him since the constitutional Nepali map amendment’.  No-one thought that a prime minister would be removed from office for printing a map’.

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

After being ousted by the Nepalese Supreme court, Oli continued to criticise India’s machinations. Inaugurating the 10th general convention of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) in Chitwan, Oli claimed if his party comes back to power it will “take back the disputed territories such as Limpiyadhura, Kalapani and Lipulek from India through dialogue”. The Lipulekh pass is a far western point near Kalapani, a disputed border area between Nepal and India. Both India and Nepal claim Kalapani as an integral part of their territory — India as part of Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district and Nepal as part of Dharchula district. (‘Will ‘take back’ Kalapani, Lipulekh from India, If…’ KP Sharma Oli. One India, November 27, 2021).

Maldives

Indo-Maldivian relations are no longer hunky-dory. They are rather in a state of flux. India reneged on contract to supply a hundred thousand doses of corona virus vaccines to Maldives. So did India despite that fact that it views the current president Solih as pro-India as compared to Yameen the previous president. India withheld supplies thoughMaldives had already paid the cost.  In perhaps a tit-for-tat, Maldives banned all Indian tourists including films stars.

Fluid political situation in Maldives

There is a widespread impression in Maldives that India has subjugated the country’s sovereignty through a host of treaties. The present president Solih is perceived as an Indian stooge. People resent granting immunity to Indian forces in Maldives and allowing construction of military infrastructure. The subsurface resentment led to “India out” social media campaign. The Indian High Commission became terrified of the ferocity of the protests. And, it sent a note verbale to the Maldivian government for protection of its staff.

President Solih is up against opposition from within his party. Through a tweet, Nasheed, the former President and at present Parliament Speaker, has highlighted corruption scandals against President Mohamed Solih9 (‘ventilator-import scam). Nasheed tweeted “I see the government colluded in this… I do not want the MDP to stand by a government that steals,” adding that he would ‘not budge’ against attempts to put a lid over the scandal.  He alluded to the Health Ministry  MVR 34.50 million (US$ 2.2 million) contract to Dubai-based Executors General Trading to procure 75 ventilators. The Auditor General’s office found out that nearly 90 percent of the contracted amount was paid in advance without any ‘performance guarantee.’ It was found that only 15 of the 75 ventilators were received.

The ruling party’s internal rift portends that it may be ousted in next general elections. Mr. Nasheed is likely to put himself as a presidential candidate. Already, the -ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) could not sweep the municipal elections. It  secured 43 percent of all seats, with opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) having won 34.9 percent.

Bangladesh

India is not sincere even with Bangladesh. At India-Bangladesh Business Forum, in Delhi, Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina expressed grief (Oct 4, 2019) on the onion crisis in her country. Hasina taunted, `We are facing crisis on the onion issue. I don’t know why you have banned onion export. Maine cook ko bol diya ab se khana mein pyaaz bandh kardo. (Indian Government had banned export of Onions on September 29).

India is the biggest supplier of onions to Bangladesh, which buys a yearly average of more than 350,000 tons. India abruptly slapped a ban on onion exports to Bangladesh. Following the export ban, onion prices in Bangladesh jumped by more than 50 per cent, prompting the government to procure supplies from elsewhere.

In retaliation, Bangladesh’s involved the Chinese in a proposed $300 million project in the downstream of Teesta River.

India claims that Bangladesh is her close strategic and economic friend within its `Look East, neighbour’s-first policy”. But, the history of broken promises indicates that India looks to its own interest. A raft of issues from water disputes to religious tension mask mistrust in the relationship.

India backed out of its agreement (December) with Bangladesh to supply 30 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine, developed by Oxford University in cooperation with the Pune-based Serum Institute of India. The Institute announced that India had barred Serum from selling doses on the private market until everyone in India had received the vaccine.

Later, Salman F. Rahman, a Cabinet minister and co-founder of the Beximco Group, a Bangladeshi conglomerate, took over the responsibility to distribute three million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Bangladesh.

Concluding remark

Modi government is insincere not only in dealing with its own people but with also its neighours. 

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South Asia

China’s rise in power and India’s rise in fear: Strategic hedging amidst growing threat

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India, the nation long being under colonial oppression started its journey of foreign policy with the ideology of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru’s Non-Alignment; abstaining from taking sides of the bipolar power blocs and securing its newly gained national sovereignty and independence. But soon after, it realised the crux of surviving in the internationally interlinked world that the countries were fast approaching towards. Therefore, in 1971, India joined hands with the Soviet Union in a Treaty of Friendship, but with the disintegration of Soviet Union in 1991 and the United States emerging as the sole superpower, India felt back into the state of isolation and helplessness.

As the famous saying goes on to say “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”, India soon learnt from its mistakes to not put all its might and trust into one entity as concepts such as ‘trust’ and ‘no strings attached’ are non-existent elements of global politics and international relations.

Today, the 21st century is largely seen as an ‘Asian century’, the century where Asia’s burgeoning economy and demographic dividend will make it rise to everyone’s notice and be the talk of the center stage. This is what is envisioned by experts and to no surprise it is what is slowly molding to be the fact; a fact that is greatly favoring the People’s Republic of China.

Despite the pandemic’s birth from Wuhan and the global economic stagnation in 2020, China managed to log 2.3 percent growth for 2020, becoming the only major economy that grew during a year when the virus exacted a devastating global toll (Gerry Shih, 2021). This shows the success rate of the country into turning its far-sighted ‘China Dream’ a reality. It is of no surprise that the rise of China is rampant, aggressive in some instances, strategic and far-sighted into changing the existing world order; posing a threat to the rest of the major power houses today.

India, being the largest rival neighbour to China has a lot at stake, for which it has shifted its foreign policy from hedging for to strategically hedging against the collective threat imposed by China. Contemporary geopolitical and strategic circumstances present a multifaceted challenge to India’s foreign policy, with regards to its neighbourhood, border and the Indian Ocean region, for which incorporating a pragmatic realpolitik approach is the need of the hour.

What balancing China means is to strengthen India’s capacity and linkages in order for it to be well-equipped to counter Chinese aggression. India has been working towards this aspect in the following ways-

-India has embarked on its own “Diamond Necklace” policy to counter China’s ‘String of Pearls’ through which it is building ports in strategic points such as Singapore, Indonesia, Oman, Seychelles and Iran and strategically cooperated with Mongolia, Japan, Vietnam and the Central Asian regions.

-India-Russia and Indo-Pak relations although sour, have been tried to reconcile in the recent past as maintaining a somewhat cordial relationship with China’s ally should be one of India’s priority as both the nations are militarily heavy. India has built its defence cooperation with Russia and Putin recently told that “there is no contradiction in the relationship with India”, giving it a stronger tie. Russia has also managed to show great support to India during its fight for Pandemic. Maintaining this cordial relationship is of great benefit to both and is a way towards balancing relations.

-In addition to all this, what is more important today to withstand international threat is the coming together of like-minded states that are willing to support each other and target China with a common motive. India has therefore, signed bilateral and multilateral agreements on different fronts to achieve its hedging goals, which will be further looked upon ahead in the paper

-Along with external ties, India needs to be well-equipped domestically as well by building up its defence capabilities. It is here that India’s ‘atmanirbhar’ (self-reliant) initiative plays importance.

However, on the flip-side, India cannot manage independently without China. The two being giant players in Asia with the two largest populated countries in the world and more so, being geographically in close proximity and economically dependent on each other, it is inevitable for them to have zero contacts. Therefore, whilst battling China’s String of pearls and border disputes, India must also be wary of having a middle ground with China wherein it can conduct its peaceful coexistence and continue its trade relations.

Overall, it can be said that New Delhi’s policy of strategic hedging works on a mode of attempting to find a modus vivendi with Beijing, while also slowly moving towards building security and political links with other regional and international powers as an insurgence against China. The Modi government has adopted a mixed strategy towards asymmetric rival China by maintaining a relationship of cooperation at the regional level (the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank), competition at the regional level (Indo-Pacific), rejection of China’s unilateral initiatives (Belt and Road Initiative), and deterrence along the Himalayas and in the Indian Ocean (Manjeet S. Pardesi, 2021).

When the survival of a state is threatened by a hegemonic state or a coalition of stronger states, they seek to join forces with other states and establish an alliance to preserve its own independence by keeping in check the power of the other state. This is the Balance of threat theory (Stephen M, 1985), wherein the threat levels can be affected by geographical proximity, offensive power, and aggressive intentions and when all this is together met with one nation alone, the severity of forming coalition and strategically hedging speaks for itself.

The United States

If the rise of China poses a direct threat on someone, it is United States’ hegemony. US being the super power in the globalized multipolar world, while India being the largest democracy, an emerging economy and a key important player in Asia proves both the states to be in a mutually benefitting coalition.

The two biggest democracies have joined hands on various fronts such as pursuing the joint interest in freedom of navigation in the highly contentious South China Sea where China has shown a great deal of interest as well. The US recently has shown a shift in their focus to the Asia-Pacific region through its new policy of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and its decision to station 2500 marines in Australia. This has been regarded by China, who staked claim over South China Sea, as a hedging strategy if not outright containment by the USA. In 2020, Indo-US ties have elevated to a “comprehensive global strategic partnership”. This has been a great achievement in India’s vision for development. Moreover, both the nations have successfully concluded three 2+2 dialogues, wherein USA reiterates to support India in defending its territorial sovereignty against the “greater threat”, referring to China. In addition to these, the highlights also follow the four foundational agreements between the two nations, which are – Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA) and Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA). The two nations have also released a Joint Statement on shared Indo-USA goals in the Asia-Pacific region. The developments so far have been quite beneficial on both sides and are a great strategic hedging handling on India’s part. And to top this policy of strategic hedging is the establishment of QUAD (Quadrilateral Strategic Dialogue) between the four members- United States, Japan, Australia and India with their common vision of securing global order, liberal trading and freedom of navigation between the countries. The informal dialogue between these four nations has seen to be a driving force is curtailing a ‘rising China’.

Japan

India’s foreign policy is built on its three foundational pillars, which are security, economic development and status and Japan plays quite a significant role in all three aspects. This bilateral relation is of great benefit to India. Japan and India’s upward trajectory gives it a status of being ‘Special Strategic and Global Partnership’, transforming the relation into a ‘cornerstone of India’s Act East Policy’. The relationship between Asia’s largest democracies is deemed to be Asia’s fastest growing relationship as well. Japan was the first country with which India held its 2+2 ministerial level dialogue which along with military and defence talks, also shared concerns of China’s rise in the region.  As Japan acquires world class navy and high-tech capabilities; if the two countries continue to add concrete securities, a high hope is instilled in this strategic relationship of becoming a game-changer in Asia. The two countries have already deepened ties in the field of maritime defence and infrastructure such as the construction of India’s first high speed railway corridor between Mumbai and Ahmadabad.

Australia

The two nations have had a cordial relationship even before independence and continue to share common interests in trade, sustainable development, and student-to-student ties. It has been building its strategic partnership and recognizes India’s critical role in the Indian Ocean and therefore, the two nations are committed to working together to enhance maritime cooperation, along with engaging in a naval exercise called AUSIDEX since 2015. Trilateral engagements with crucial nations like Indonesia and Japan, deeper engagement with regional groups like the Indian Ocean Rim Association and East Asia Summit and the very efficient quadrilateral dialogue with Japan and US have all contributed in strengthening the ties between India and Australia. A cordial relation with Australia will help India in the long run as by 2027, India is expected to have world’s largest population and henceforth require the up-skilling of 400 million people. Australia is well-equipped to assist with this huge need for knowledge-sharing, education and skill development. The two countries also have enormous potential to build on their people-to-people links and thus their soft power influence (Parakkal, 2018). India is the third largest source of immigrants to Australia and the second largest source for skilled professionals. The pandemic is seen to have exacerbated Sino-Australian relations and this further strengthens Australia’s relations with India is managing China.

European Union

The recent past has seen a reboot in the relations between India and EU which have both embarked on the journey of resuming the long stalled talks on a free trade deal with an aim to strengthen their economic cooperation in the face of an increasing Chinese assertion.

In 2013, trade talks suspended between the two nations but today it rises together to hedge strategically amidst the pandemic. The nations aim to double the trade by 2030 which shows the optimism it withholds for the future endeavours.

In a speech, Indian Foreign Minister Jaishankar highlighted how the pandemic has shown the necessity of diversifying supply chains, especially for the EU.  He says “Europe is looking at strategic autonomy, looking at a multipolar world, which is actually hedging its risk” (Jaishankar, 2021). This was told in the backdrop of repercussions faced by EU and more so, for the majority of the world for being overly dependent on China for trade. Glorifying on this aspect, India has an edge to build connections in the European world and sustain Chinese growth.

In addition to the trade boon, EU countries also signed the “Indo-Pacific Strategy” that aims to impose greater European influence in areas of Chinese superiority. Keeping this in hand, the two nations remain steadfast on building infrastructure across Europe, Asia and Africa in the name of “connectivity” partnership. It doesn’t brand it to be an “anti-Beijing” plotting, but a mere alternative to the Belt and Road Initiative of china, a way of disallowing Chinese investments.

Conclusion

Today it can be said that the world has come up together, galvanised in order to counter China in the changing world order. This pushback against China has been manifesting itself in multiple ways and in particular, by the regional players who have been successful in persuading more coordinated actions along the way so as to create a more stable balance of power in these highly tumultuous world that we live in.

The complex rivalry between India and China has led to hedging strategically by a mixed approach of cooperation, deterrence and balancing, which is seen to be working efficiently for India till now. After all, India’s ultimate aim is to build its own capabilities without overtly provoking China and silently transform itself to be a competition. To achieve this, India is building its relation with China’s neighbours such as South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, along with maintaining a cordial relationship with Russia and mending relations with Pakistan and ultimately gaining support from the western nations in strategic cooperation with a common aim.

It is evident today how China’s belligerent agenda on regional states has caused it a greater pushback with the unity of the rest of the world against it. The BRI is confronted with numerous fault lines, the Indo-Pacific is well-established, QUAD resurrected and various regional players are beginning to engage with each other much more cohesively.

The only concern that remains today is the growing influence China has over India’s neighbours through its ‘debt-trap diplomacy’ and its ‘aggressive wolf-warrior diplomacy’, for which India needs to make sure to make the neighbouring countries believe in the hidden agenda and bring unity with India in countering the spread and rise of China. India’s ‘vaccine-maitri’ initiative was a good way of handling the neighbourhood, but more needs to be done in this aspect.

The way forward is to accept each other’s legitimacy in certain aspects and hedge accordingly in others. Military escalation such as in 2020 Ladakh is to be prevented in order for both to maintain its relations. To paraphrase Deng Xiaoping (1988), “unless China and India are able to co-exist peacefully, “there will be no Asian century.”

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