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India-China: Boycott, rhetoric and realities

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The chorus for boycott of Chinese goods in India, has grown as a result of the brutal killing of 20 Indian soldiers, by the PLA,in a violent face off, along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley on June 15, 2020 (it is for the first time after 1975, that India-China violence has resulted in fatalities).

Tensions along the LAC are unlikely to die down soon, if one were to go by statements emanating from the Chinese and Indian side on June 25, 2020 (India has sought restoration of the status quo, and disengagement of troops). China which has  recently faced global criticism for its lack of transparency with regard to covid19, has been exhibiting belligerence in recent weeks not just in South Asia, but South East Asia as well. It does not seem to have an iota of interest in reducing tensions across the LAC, instead it wants to achieve its objective of ‘salami slicing’ without too much effort.

Over the past week there have been hashtags of #boycottgoodsfrom China on social media, in India, and images of individuals breaking TV sets in Gujarat have been telecast on Indian TV channels.

Steps taken by the government

One of the first steps, the Government of India took to send a tough message to the China post the violent clashes at the India-China border, was the decision that BSNL and MTNL would shun the use of Chinese equipment for the upgrade of 4G technology.

Other measures, which the central government has taken with the aim of reducing Chinese imports is that  will soon be compulsory for ecommerce companies to display clearly, whether a product being sold on their platform is made in India or not. A list of non-essential items is also being prepared by the Government for which dependence upon Chinese goods is being reduced. Traders bodies have also listed commodities which can be boycotted.

The Delhi Hotel and Restaurant association (which represents budget hotels and guest houses) has also announced, that it will not provide accommodation to Chinese tourists, at any of the hotels or guest houses associated to it, nor will it use Chinese goods as a mark of protest against the killing of soldiers.

Senior ministers including Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Ram Vilas Paswan called for a boycott of Chinese goods, while one Minister Ramdas Athawale called for a boycott of Chinese food.

In the midst of the chorus, there were some voices of sanity, Former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda. Gowda in a statement issued for the all party meeting stated  ‘reactionary’ language of economic boycott. “Its implications are deep. We should be guided by pragmatism,”

The Former PM, being a mass leader understands the perils of a hyper- nationalist discourse better than many who are proposing drastic solutions

Numerous commentators have highlighted the point, that a boycott of Chinese goods will harm India, more than China.

First, India is China’s 12th largest partner, while China happens to be India’s largest partner. India’s imports from China (that is, China’s exports) are just 3% of China’s total exports, while China’s imports from India are less than 1% of its total imports. China accounts for 5% of India’s exports and 14% of India’s imports.

Second, cheap Chinese goods have meant that many consumer items, especially electronic goods, like Air Conditioners, LCD’s, mobile phones have become more affordable for the middle class. Not only has the middle class been able to get access to items which it would have been unable to, if not available at reasonable prices, but because it has spent relatively lesser on these items, its own economic condition has improved.

Third, even if one were to move beyond finished goods, India is dependent on China for intermediate products. For instance, a large percentage of active pharmaceutical ingredients (nearly 2/3rd) come from China the rest of them come from countries like Germany, Sweden and Italy. China provides these ingredients at cheaper prices than other markets. India is looking to increase production of pharmaceutical ingredients domestically, ramping up domestic production of these ingredients is likely to take time and can not happen over night.

Sectoral Approach

A boycott of goods is fine in terms of rhetoric, but a better way of sending China a clear message would be to introduce restrictions in specific sectors, and to introduce anti-dumping laws. This point has been made by a number of commentators. US, UK for instance are trying to reduce their dependence upon China for medical supplies, and the US has brought in some strict laws with a view to reducing it’s dependence upon China. The approach of reducing imports of non-essential Chinese items is the route which India should also take, as mentioned earlier the government has indicated that it is likely to adopt such an approach.

Even politically, a blanket boycott sends a wrong message as though India is not self-confident and has not moved beyond the ‘1962 syndrome’. This in spite of the fact, that it has made impressive strides in the past 58 years, and is an important player on the world stage.

Conclusion

There is a difference between rhetoric and realities,  experienced commentators and senior politicians, like Former PM HD Deve Gowda with their ears to the ground, understand the implications of rash decisions and jingoism. While it is important to take a firm stance, and not kowtow to China, it is important not to fall into the trap of a hyper nationalist narrative, set by a handful of strategic commentators and sections of the electronic media who are just seeking to increase their TRPs. India needs to deal with the China threat at various levels. Apart from dealing with the current issues at hand, it needs to come up with a long term strategy both in the economic and strategic context. In addition to bolstering security ties with the US, Australia, Japan and Vietnam, there is a need to get the domestic economy back on track. Arvind Panagriya, Professor of Economics at Columbia University and a former Vice Chairman of the Niti Aayog, in an article for Times of India reiterates this point. Said Panagriya:

….. India’s urgent economic problem is to rebuild the economy and return it to the 7.5% growth trajectory on which it had been traversing before the disruption in the financial sector derailed it. Under such circumstances, piling up yet more disruption on the real economy through trade sanctions is hardly a wise step.

A simplistic approach towards Beijing is unlikely to be successful. It is important for India to understand the Chinese mindset. According to Sun Tzu ‘all warfare is based on deception’ and Beijing will continue to indulge in ‘deception’ and to contain India. Rather than being reactive, India needs to be nuanced, imaginative, resolute and united while dealing with Beijing’s stratagems.

Tridivesh Singh Maini is a New Delhi based Policy Analyst associated with The Jindal School of International Affairs, OP Jindal Global University, Sonipat, India

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South Asia

Kashmiri Lives Matter

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Inspired by the movement “Black Lives Matter” after the murder of George Floyd, on 25 May 2020. Many other movements are gaining momentum against discrimination around the world. Kashmiri movement for their legitimate right of self-determination, also gained momentum. Kashmiris are struggling for their rights for 72 years, but India not only denying their legitimate right but using accessive force to suppress them.

Starting from Times Square, New York, on the 5th of August 2020,  to almost all capitals of Europe and other parts of the world, Kashmiri people staged protests, agitations, demonstrations, to express their anger and dissatisfaction with the situation in Indian Occupied Kashmir. They were displaying banners with various slogans like Kashmir Lives Matters, Freedom for Kashmir, Condemned India atrocities, Respect for human lives, etc. Not only the Kashmiris, but local people also joined them in such protests. Mainstream Media, around the world, has covered their protests and published or broadcasted the Indian atrocities and brutalities in Kashmir. Seminars, Conferences, were held to address the Kashmir issue in many countries.

PM Narendra Modi, won the Elections based on anti-Muslim and Anti-Pakistan slogans and it was expected that his policies will be anti-Muslims and Anti-Pakistan. But PM Narendra Modi has not calculated well the consequences. Today, the Indian economy collapsed, society has been divided, law and order situation deteriorated, Government rit has weakened, insurgencies go momentum. Simply India as a country may not survive long and may disintegrate soon.  PM Modi is pushing India toward disaster. His Nazi thinking and extremist policies have ruined India already. India used to be known as a secular state, but today India is an extremist Hindu state, with no rights to minorities and low caste Hindus.

One year ago, on the same day, the 5th of August 2019, India revoked its own constitution Articles 370 and 35A and annexed Kashmir. The merger of Kashmir and Ladakh to Union territory ends the special autonomous status of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh, which is a disputed territory, recognized Internationally. The UNSC passed dozens of resolutions to resolve the Kashmir Issue. But India is not implementing the UNSC resolutions and became defaulter to the UN, which is a criminal act.  Kashmir is a disputed territory among China-Pakistan and India. The Unilateral actions taken by India angered the stakeholders and offended the international community.  It is a clear breach of international law and fair practices of the civilized world. It was Indian international commitment, the legal binding under Delhi agreement 1952, to implement the UNSC resolutions.

India is spoiling the peace of the whole region. It has initiated arms race in this region and procuring more and more lethal weapons. It should be known that the region is heavily armed with nuclear weapons. India, China, Pakistan, and Russia, al are nuclear countries. Any misadventure may cost the human lives of almost half of the world population.

Indian cross-border terrorism and aggressive acts are increasing and threatening the neighboring countries. India has disputes with all of the regional countries, like Nepal, China, Bhutan, Sikkim, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives.

Almost nine hundred thousand troops of the Indian army, empowered with draconian laws,  have illegally occupied the territory and are keeping the 8 million people of Kashmir under siege while violating with impunity the International Humanitarian law and practices. Kashmir has become the largest jail. Indian troops are using lethal weapons, cluster bombs, pallet guns, and perpetrating Sexual offenses, destroying Muslim religious and private properties. Whereas the Kashmiri civilians are innocent and unarmed. They are protesting and agitating peacefully for their legitimate right of self-determination, sanctioned by UNSC in 1948. Although UNSC resolutions are legally binding on India, but, India is delaying and not implementing UNSC resolutions passed in 1948. 

Estimated killings so far are said to be 352, including 75 unarmed civilians, 196 freedom fighters, and also 81 from the occupational forces. 170000 persons have been arrested including old-aged, women, and under-aged children. The top political leadership has been arrested or house arrest. The activists and youth are arrested are shifted to detention camps. Children are separated from parents and messed in detention camps. It’s now a year since the curfew was clamped. There is a severe shortage of food, medicines, fuel, and electricity and the basic necessities of daily life. The phone and internet services are suspended. Travelling is restricted, especially media persons and foreigners.  Kashmir is totally cut-off from the rest of the world, and blacked-out, with no flow of information. Only state media is reporting the censored reports. Whatsoever is reported in the International media is only a fraction, as leaked information is always limited only. The actual situation on the ground is rather much more severe and dangerous. Kashmir is split into two Indian union territories as Kashmir and Ladakh.Against the wishes of the stakeholders. This is the worst type of tyranny being faced by the helpless people of Kashmir in the history of humankind.

For 72-years of Indian atrocities and brutalities, have forced Kashmiris to seek a merger with Pakistan. The more force India will use to suppress Kashmiris, the more hate will increase against India, and the more love for Pakistan will increase. The ultimate solution to Kashmir is the merger with Pakistan according to UNSC resolutions through holding a plebiscite. India is granting domicile to non-Kashmiris, especially Hindus from other parts of India, to change the demography of Kasmir. India wanted to change the Muslim majority of Kashmiris which stands 87% to the Hindu majority. India failed to control Kashmir for 72-years, and will never keep occupation forever. India has to leave Kashmir, the sooner, the better. The spirit of Kashmiris can not be suppressed by any means, they are determined to keep their struggle till victory. People of Kashmir are brave, bold, and committed. No one can suppress them.  Salute to the brave men and women from Kashmir, who are fighting with the huge Indian Army and yet not surrender. Their struggle will reach a logical end with Victory only.

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South Asia

Indian Imbalanced Balance

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A serious crisis is looming over journalism in India, which is increasingly vested in the hands of authority. On the one hand, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee asks for “discussion and dissension” for a vibrant democracy. “There should always be room for the argumentative Indian, and not the intolerant Indian. The media must be the watchdog, the mediator between the leaders and the public,” Mukherjee said while paying his regards to Ramnath Goenka – former press baron. On the other hand, Indian media has lost its credibility regionally as well as internationally owing to quality of Indian public discourse. According to criminal lawyer Rebecca Mammen, “The true test of a robust democracy is the independence of its media. Over the past few years our media has become the mouthpiece of the party in power. Coupled with the fact the corporate owners of media houses share close links with the government, the Indian media has tragically lost its voice.”

The mainstream media is vested in the hands of a selected few and refuses to question authorities.         The ‘Reporters Without Borders’ annual Press Freedom Index, which was released on April 20, has ranked India at 142 among 180 countries reflecting poor credibility due to pressures by government. According to the Report, the Indian media is reeling under a Hindu nationalist government, which has time and again tried to gag journalists. Moreover, India’s influential TV news channels function largely as government mouthpieces.A European non-governmental group “EU disinfo lab” had uncovered a network of 265 ‘fake’ news outlets sponsored by an Indian network to influence the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) with content against to Pakistan.

The crisis in the Indian media will have deeper impacts on Indian democracy. With a feeble opposition, weak institutions, and an inadequate media, Indians have no checks and balances. For instance, maligning Pakistan High Commission, Colombo(PAHIC) during a recent Indo-China conflict was an Indiangovernment instructed media strategy to divert public opinion from their failures in North. In other words, media strategy inadvertently defines poor political will of India to stand up to China while feel strong enough to bully the smaller neighbourhood.

The sane voices in Indian media have continuously shrinking space.Having almost 400 news channels, Indian media has failed to highlight serious matters, such as beef ban, human rights violations in Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IoJK), and numerous discriminations against Indian Dalits. “Over the last few years – especially after Prime Minister Narendra Modi won the general election of 2014 – the Indian mainstream media has allowed itself to be undermined by the transcendent political power that he represents,” said Pamela Philipose, The Wire. “A new note of muscular nationalism has crept into media discourse.  Also conspicuous is the curbing of dissent and the rise of the surveillance state – developments that bode ill for the independence of the Indian media,” says Philipose.

In a similar manner, a political scientist Giles Vernier argues that “a new note of muscular nationalism has crept into media discourse.  Also conspicuous is the curbing of dissent and the rise of the surveillance state – developments that bode ill for the independence of the Indian media.One reason why we don’t see much criticism in the media is that the government, in the person of the Prime Minister, has the ability to completely dominate the media’s agenda, by saturating the public and media sphere with the message, image, and his voice.”

Journalists should be critical of government’s handling of its internal and external matters to keep it on the right track. TV channels will call speakers of their choice, who would heavily lean to one side of discussion and pretend that it is balanced.

In the current atmosphere, with enraptured legislative issues and social perspectives, with populist political leadership, with developing bigotry against minorities and dissenters, the media can and ought to be an encouraging sign for liberal, mainstream and law based thoughts, yet additionally to guarantee that outrageous perspectives does not get into the papers or on TV. Rather, the media in India has become some portion of the issue, either excitedly partaking in preparing of contempt against the helpless, or carrying on in an insincere path by permitting the most exceedingly terrible components a free run of significant reality on their foundation. Whole ages of columnists are growing up with the possibility that they are playing out an important help; they have scarcely any good examples to gaze upward to, since their own managers, who should know better, are either sold out, ideologically dedicated to fanaticism or are indecisive, without firm feelings or just fearful. In any case, Indian reporting is in a profound emergency, all for the sake of ‘balance.’

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South Asia

This is Pakistan

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With an unprecedented progress in politico-socio-economic domains, Pakistan has a new face in the world. It has not only successfully corrected misplaced perceptions about it, but the internal and external circumstances around it have also changed, which has helped shaping Pakistan its renewed look according to changed regional and international environment. The successes at the security front has also led to the economic progress in Pakistan.

In result of Pakistan’s fight against terrorism and anti-extremism operations, it lost tens of thousands of people, including soldiers and civilians. Pakistan’s strong resolve together with sustained military operations against terrorist elements, however, brough back peace and stability in the country. According to Security Report 2019 by Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS), “Pakistan witnessed a further decline in the number of terrorist incidents and consequent casualties… terrorist attacks this year decreased by around 13 percent as compared to 2018.” The report clearly depicted a gradual decrease in terrorist attacks and casualties since 2009. In this regard, Pakistan’s National Action Plan (NAP) helped eliminating the menace of terrorism from the country. The improved security situation in the country resulted in the economic dividends in the shape of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Pakistan is also appreciated for its nuclear material safety. In its annual report, the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) – a leading United States non-proliferation watchdogdivulged that “Pakistan’s improvements in the Security and Control Measures category are significant because strengthened laws and regulations result in durable boosts in Pakistan’s score as well as provide sustainable security benefits.” While appreciating Pakistan’s further improvement in nuclear materials’ safety, Laura Kennedy, a former United States diplomat, tweeted that “one welcome bit of news reported by #NTIindex is that #Pakistan ranked as most improved in security of those countries holding nuclear materials.”

Pakistan’s fight against Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19) is used as a role model by developed countries of the world. The Government of Pakistan (GoP) revealed a PKR 1.13 trillion relief package to help to the powerless and securing industry and other organizations. The concept of ‘Smart Lockdown’ also reaped its dividends and Pakistan has come out from the dangers of this deadly virus.

On the socio-economic front, Pakistan is making progress as well. For instance, the current account deficit has reduced from US$ 20 billion to US$ 3 billion together with a significant decrease in trade and fiscal account deficits. The stalled construction of Diamer-Bhasha dam has also been approved, which will result in additional water supplies for better agricultural production. There has been increase in the rights activism i.e., Transgender Pride March, Aurat March, Climate March, and Student Solidarity March. Women sports stars of Pakistan won international medals and recognitions.For instance, 8-year-old Pakistani Taekwondo star Ayesha Ayaz won a bronze medal for Pakistan at the 7thFujairah Taekwondo Open Championship in United Arab Emirates (UAE); Hajra Khan won 3 Guinness World Records; Mahnoor Shahzad won the Annapurna International Badminton Tournament; Nida Dar became the first Pakistani woman to sign a deal with an international cricket league, Sydney Thunder; Shahida Abbasi from Hazara won one of the total two gold medals for Pakistan at the South Asian Games 2019; and Mallak Faisal Zafar won first position in the Basic Novice Girls II category at the 24th International Eiscup Innsbruck 2019. Test cricket also returned to Pakistan.

Culturally, Pakistan is projecting itself more prominently. Pakistani celebrities are mamking it to international fashion weeks – Mushk Kaleem and Alicia Khan walked the ramp for Milan Fashion Week 2019. Pakistani film Laal Kabootar won the Vancouver International South Asian Film Festival for the Best Feature Film Award. ActressMahira Khan was appointed National Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, strengthening the bond between the people of Pakistan and the international community. Moreover, Mehwish Hayat was appointed ambassador to UK based international humanitarian charity, Penny Appeal.

On the entrepreneurial front, 9 Pakistanis made it to Forbes’ coveted 30 under 30 Asia list: Ahmed Rauf Essa: Founder, Telemart; Karishma Ali, President, Chitral Womens Sports Club; Laila Kasuri, Water Analyst, Global Green Growth Institute; Hanaa Lakhani, Hasan Usmani,Gia Farooqi and MoneebMian, Cofounders, Roshni Rides, Zain Ashraf, Founder, Seed Out; and Zainab Bibi, Founder, Pakistan Society for Green Energy (PSGE).

Regionally, Pakistan’s foreign policy is paying its dividends. Pakistan’s relations among Iran, Afghanistan, Sri-Lanka, Russia, United States and others has improved significantly. Overall, there is many encouraging events happening in and around Pakistan.

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