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Riots in India: Trends and issues

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Recent Delhi violence left 36 persons dead. In the past also, India witnessed riots. By studying them we could ferret out a pattern, if any. In its ordinary sense, a `riot’ is conceived to be a disturbance of peace in a locality, by means of non-lethal means like brickbats, by a crowd of three or more persons.  In historical context of Indian riots, this meaning has undergone a metamorphosis.  Transformed meaning of a `riot’ in terms of recent experiences is `attacks by organized incensed majority groups against the targeted minority through all available means, lethal and non-lethal’. 

Narendra Modi, then Gujarat Chief Minister demanded a nation-wide ban on cow slaughter (Hindu, November 21, 2005). His demand was bolstered by India’s Supreme Court’s judgment (October 26, 2005) that had reversed a 36-year-old ruling, and upheld the constitutional validity of a Gujarat law imposing the ban on slaughtering of bulls, and bullocks.  172 million people

Islam is the second-largest religion in India, with 14.2% of the country’s population or approx. 172 million people identifying as adherents of Islam (2011 census). It makes India the country with the largest Muslim population outside Muslim-majority countries.

Divided into several ethno-linguistic groups, the Indian Muslims are generally poor, mostly small peasants, landless labourers and artisans in the villages. Only in some cities, they constitute middle and lower middle class.  Some Muslims are exceptionally rich, but they are few in ocean of Hindu noveau riches. India’s home minister Amit Shah called them `termites’.

History: Anti-Muslim riots are not a new phenomenon in India. There used to be such riots in pre-partition days also on flimsy issues.  There were anti-Muslim riots in 1707 after the death of  Moghul emperor Aurangzeb.

In 1714, anti-Muslim riots on issues of cow slaughter took place.  Alleged attack on religious processions or other excuses triggered anti-Muslim riots in Kashmir (1719), Delhi (1729), and Bombay (1786). In Benares (1809), bloody anti-Muslim riots were due to a mosque allegedly having been built by Aurangzeb atop a temple (quasi-Babri-Masjid issue).  When the Muslim functionaries were unfairly downgraded, riots took place at different places in Uttar Pradesh (Koil 1820, Moradabad 1833, Shahjahanpur 1837, and Alahabad 1837-52).

The riots in the 1990s were due to Advani’s Rath Yatra (chariot procession), resulting in death of over 200 people mostly Muslims.  In January 1993, over 3000 Mulims were killed in Bombay by Shiv Sena in collusion with the police.

Causes: Efforts have been made in the past to ferret out causes of communal riots in India.  Past inquiry reports into major riots (Delhi 1984, Bhagalpur 1989 and Ayodhya 1992) lament poor governance in preventing or controlling the riots, and prosecuting the rioters.  Those having academic interest in details may refer to analysis by V. N. Rai, N. C. Saxena, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch/Asia, besides reports of the Commissions of Inquiry into Disturbance at Bhiwandi (1970), Tellicherry (1971), and Jamshedpur (1979). For further insights, one may look into reports of seminars, titled “State Protected Lawlessness from Ayodhya to Bombay” and Communal Riots and the Role of Law Enforcement Agencies”, convened  at Bombay by Iqbal A. Ansari  and Dr Asghar Ali (founder secretary general of  Minorities’ Council of India).

It appears that the past studies are post-mortem reports.  They do not try to determine statistical correlation between cause (economic, political or communal), issues and places of riots to formulate a testable hypothesis about probable causes and venues of riots in future.  Lack of futuristic orientation or reliable data may have been fetters to the researchers’ feet.

In the past, fanatic Hindus have started riots to snatch or destroy well-to-do Muslims’ properties.  The economic motive behind starting the riots is the foremost in Hindus’ minds.  Let us look into the past trend of riots, and the issues on which they were started.

Trends: Hindutva: Anti-Muslim violence in India has risen pari passu with upsurge in Hindutva.  The leading politicians side with the Hindu extremists for myopic electoral gains.  Even Congress leaders have been distributing tridents (trishul) on plea that their party’s policy placed no bar on it. 

In 1991, BJP’s LK Advani, later home minister, undertook Rath Yatra (chariot journey) from a Hindu temple in Gujarat to Ram Janam Bhoomi (birth place of Hindu god Ram).  That symbolic journey engendered Hindutva upsurge, which resulted in destruction of Babri Masjid in 1992.  Subsequently, the BJP, then a marginal group with only two seats in Indian parliament witnessed the party’s cataclysmic rise into a ruling party, as of now.

Hindutva influence has permeated not only into the bureaucracy but also in armed forces, security agencies as also the judiciary. Hindutva influence on Indian armed forces became manifest in the national elections of 1991 when India’s top 25 former military officers joined the BJP. Stephen P Cohen in “The Indian Army” says that India’s three wars with Pakistan contributed to the communalisation of its armed forces, as exemplified by an Indian general’s characterisation of Indo-Pakistan wars as ‘communal riots with armour’.In the 1990s, India’s top 25 generals joined the BJP.

To preclude police brutality who acts in unison with mobsters, Khushwant Singh suggested in 1969 drafting a substantial number of Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Anglo-Indians and Parsis into the Indian police forces.  Police force of Punjab and Haryana should be non-Sikh, and that of Kashmir being non-Muslim, so on.

Battle cries used in the army are Ha Har Maahadev (Shivaji’s slogan), Bajrang Bali ki Jai, Bol Javala Man ki Jai.   Hindu mobs attacking the Muslims also use the same slogans.  How could the army jawans control the mob chanting the same slogans?

The Ayodhya case judges ordered excavation of the site in disregard of res judicata principles.  Possession is nine-point ownership. Existence of Babri Masjid for centuries debarred the Hindus from invoking their right to ownership of the site under Limitation Act, enshrining   the principle `equity helps the vigilant, not the indolent’.

Professor M. Mohanty of Delhi University is of the view that `Increasing intolerance among the Hindu fundamentalist organisations, which pose a grave threat to democracy, are an indication of the rise of fascist forces in India.  Professor Kanti Bajpai of Jawaharlal Nehru University agreed, `The rise of right –wing politics in India is far more advanced and violent than in Austria’.

The Economist: World in 2003 (page 77) states, ‘The coming year will witness a war between Hindu nationalists and secular modernists for the soul.  It is a battle that should command the world’s attention.  On the one hand are hundred of millions of Inidans who thrill to an extremist version of Hindu nationalism: nothing so pleases as burning of a few Muslims, the prospects of war with Pakistan and revenge for Muslim invasion of India many centuries ago.  On the other Indian secular modernists…The first battleground will be the state of Gujarat…’  (The secularists have lost the battle there).

Gujarat state has lifted the ban on government employees’ becoming members of RSS.  Uttar Pradesh state’s legislature has placed restrictions on building and use of places of worship. After approval of the parliamentary committee, Savarkar’s portrait has been hung in Indian parliament.  Savarkar thus stands resurrected as a hero of the freedom movement.  Savarkar wanted India for the Hindus only.

Economic Gains.    The riots in the 1990s (e.g. destruction of Babri Masjid in 1992) are markedly different from those in pre-1990s period (e.g., 1948 Hyderabad riots against takeover by India). The pre-1990s pogroms affected mainly slum-dwelling poor Muslims. But, the riots in 1990s hit poor and rich Muslims alike.  The stimulating motive was to pauperize the affluent Muslims by looting away their life-long earnings.  The affluent and influential Hindus no longer tried to play the role of mediators (unlike the case of previous riots in some industrial cities).

In the Hyderabad riots of 1990, Indian cricketer Azharuddin was attacked in his hometown.  During January 1993, Mrs Rahi Masum Raza, wife of script-writer of TV-series Mahabharata fled uptown Bombay for refuge in Bhendi Bazar.  In 1991, Muslim professors of Delhi University ran away from their houses to seek safety elsewhere. There are countless other instances of harassment of Muslim prodigies like Dilip Kumar, Saira Bano, Shabana Azmi, Farah Khan, and Ali Sardar Jaafri (poet with Padma Shri award) who was asked by the police to prove his nationality.

Prediction: From the recent trends, it is obvious that future riots are more likely to take place in localities where the Muslims are economically competitive and affluent.  Muslim-owned industrial and business establishments will be the targets. 

In fact, Nehru had foreseen this changing pattern of riots, as reflected in his letter September, 1954 to a chief minister (Nehru’s letters to Chief Ministers, Vol. IV, edited by G Parthasarthy, New Delhi Oxford University Press, Delhi). He wrote: “There is also a new motive which previous to the partition was not present.  This is the lure of property.  In the pre-partition days, whatever communal trouble took place, no one ever thought of driving out the other party from their houses or shops.  No one ever thought of profiting by any such action.  Now this element has come in and is thought that if the Muslims in a particular area are frightened and made to leave, that property would naturally come to the Hindus”. 

Nehru’s observation is borne out by Jabalpur riots in 1961 which aimed at hounding out the Muslim bidi magnate from the local market. Bhiwandi (Maharashtra) riots of 1970 and 1984 were aimed at dispossessing the Muslim of their control of power loom industry. Moradabad riots of 1980 were outcome of jealousy against prosperity of Muslim brassware artisans.  Riots of 1984 in Andhra Pradesh destroyed $ 10000 worth of Muslim businesses.

Riots usually take place in urban areas, particularly in industrial cities, like Bombay, Bhewandi, Baroda,  Surat , Kanpur, Moradabad, Meerut, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Bhopal. Refugee or Bengali migrants dominated areas are particularly riot prone.

They occur usually at places where Muslims are numerically and economically competitive and do not reconcile with an inferior status.  No riots take place in areas with thin downtrodden Muslim population, resigned to subjugated fate because of perceived vulnerability, e.g. in coastal areas of Andhra Pradesh, or in the hill districts of Uttar Pradesh.

 Anti-Christian Violence:  The Hindutva has engulfed the Christians also. The New Delhi based United Christian Forum for Human Rights has documented more than 120 attacks against Christian individuals, churches or schools by Hindu fundamentalists in the past year. Half of these incidents occurred in Gujarat.

Anti-Conversion Bills passed by Tamil Nadu and Gujarat legislatures, and house-to-house surveys of Christian dwellings in certain states indicate that the Christians also are an uncongenial minority. Christianity is India’s third-largest religion after Hinduism and Islam, with approximately 28 million followers, constituting 2.3 percent of India’s population (2011 census).

In Orissa, Australian missionary graham Stains and his two sons were murdered Later, the Local Govt.  passed an amendment in Orissa Freedom of Religion Act, in November 2002, prohibiting conversion without permission of local police and a district magistrate.

Issues Triggering Riots:  Cow slaughter (actually, if not politicized, it is a non-issue).  Hindu extremists desire to enforce a uniform civil code ostensible under Articles 44 and 48 of the Indian Constitution, but actually in violation of Articles 14 (no religious discrimination), 16 (equal opportunities for minorities), 26 to 28 (minorities freedom to manage their own religious affairs), 30 (maintaining minorities educational institutions), 345, 347, 350, 350-A (rights of linguistic minorities). Loud music and Bhajan singing before mosques.  Non-traditional routes of processions.  Reservation of jobs, and seats in educational institutions. Elopement of Hindu girls with Muslim boys. Characterisation of one by the other community as Malichh and Kafir.  Routes of Religious processions. Conversions from one religion to another.  Singing or playing Vande Matram aloud before mosques.  The de facto status of Urdu especially in Uttar Pradesh.  Muslim Personal Law and Uniform Civil Code. Suspicions about Muslims loyalty to India.

Inference: In light of the aforementioned trends, the Indian Muslims should, through cooperative action, continue to improve their education, economic potential, their association with their brethren in foreign countries, particularly in the Middle East.  They could visualise from the past trends where the future riots would take place, and on what issues. 

Violence against Muslim protesters in North East Delhis is upshot of police apathy to accumulation of arms and BJP’s connivance. Military training in private and public schools by retired and serving soldiers engenders serious concern for Muslim safety. It caricatures Modi 2.0’s slogan sab ka vishwas (everybody’s trust).

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

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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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S. Jaishankar’s ‘The India Way’, Is it a new vision of foreign policy?

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S. Jaishankar has had an illustrious Foreign Service career holding some of the highest and most prestigious positions such as ambassador to China and the US and as foreign secretary of India. Since 2019 he has served as India’s foreign minister. S. Jaishankar also has a Ph.D. in international relations from JNU and his academic background is reflected in this book.

His main argument is simplistic, yet the issues involved are complex. Jaishankar argues that the world is changing fundamentally, and the international environment is experiencing major shifts in power as well as processes. China is rising and western hegemony is declining. We are moving away from a unipolar system dominated by the US to a multipolar system. Globalization is waning and nationalism and polarization is on the rise (p. 29). The old order is going away but we cannot yet glimpse what the future will look like. This is the uncertain world that Dr. Jaishankar sees.

Dr. Jaishankar also argues that India too has changed, it is more capable and more assertive. The liberalization program that began in 1991 has made the Indian economy vibrant and globally competitive and it is well on track to becoming the third biggest economy in the world, after China and the US.  The war of 1971 that liberated Bangladesh, the liberalization of the economy after 1991, the nuclear tests in 1998 and the nuclear understanding with the US in 2005, Jaishankar argues are landmarks in India’s strategic evolution (p. 4). So given that both India and the system have changed, Jaishankar concludes, so should India’s foreign policy.

But his prescription for India’s foreign policy, in the grand scheme of things, is the same as before – India should remain nonaligned and not join the US in its efforts to contain China. India will try to play with both sides it seems in order to exploit the superpowers and maximize its own interests (p. 9). But he fails to highlight how India can find common ground with China other than to say the two nations must resolve things diplomatically. He also seems to think that the US has infinite tolerance for India’s coyness. In his imagination the US will keep making concessions and India will keep playing hard to get.

Jaishankar has a profound contradiction in his thinking. He argues that the future will be determined by what happens between the US and China. In a way he is postulating a bipolar future to global politics. But he then claims that the world is becoming multipolar and this he claims will increase the contests for regional hegemony. The world cannot be both bipolar and multipolar at the same time.

There is also a blind spot in Jaishankar’s book.  He is apparently unaware of the rise of Hindu nationalism and the demand for a Hindu state that is agitating and polarizing India’s domestic politics. The systematic marginalization and oppression of Muslim minorities at home and the growing awareness overseas of the dangers of Hindutva extremism do not exist in the world that he lives in. He misses all this even as he goes on to invoke the Mahabharata and argue how Krishna’s wisdom and the not so ethical choices during the war between Pandavas and Kauravas should be a guide for how India deals with this uncertain world – by balancing ethics with realism (p. 63). Methinks his little digression in discussing the ancient Hindu epic is more to signal his ideological predilections than to add any insights to understanding the world or India’s place in it.  

One aspect of his work that I found interesting is his awareness of the importance of democracy and pluralism. He states that India’s democracy garners respect and gives India a greater opportunity to be liked and admired by other nations in the world (p. 8). Yet recently when he was asked about the decline of India’s democratic credentials, his response was very defensive, and he showed visible signs of irritation. It is possible that he realizes India is losing ground internationally but is unwilling to acknowledge that his political party is responsible for the deterioration of India’s democracy.

This is also apparent when he talks about the importance of India improving its relations with its immediate neighbors. He calls the strategy as neighborhood first approach (pp. 9-10). What he does not explain is how an Islamophobic India will maintain good relations with Muslim majority neighbors like Bangladesh, Maldives, and Pakistan.

The book is interesting, it has its limitations and both, what is addressed and what is left out, are clearly political choices and provide insights into how New Delhi thinks about foreign policy. So, coming to the question with which we started, does India have a new foreign policy vision? The answer is no. Dr. Jaishankar is right, there is indeed an India way, but it is the same old way, and it entails remaining nonaligned with some minor attitudinal adjustments.  

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