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Bangladesh’s golden jubilee of independence and 1971 wounds

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The writer is of the view that India should avoid marring BD’s independence celebrations by creating ill-will against Pakistan.

Bangladesh is celebrating its golden jubilee of Independence from 17-27 March 2019. India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, will visit Dhaka in March to join the celebrations marking 50 years of Bangladesh’s independence and the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries. 

Earlier Indian prime minister has virtually inaugurated a string of projects including an ease-of –business  bridge between Tripura and India.

The way, India is utilizing the occasion to foment hatred against Pakistan is unfortunate. There is a tripartite agreement (1974) among India, Bangladesh and Pakistan to “forget and forgive” bitter memories of the 1971War.

At India’s bidding, Bangladesh even tried some Bengali politicians at its “international” court and later hanged them. Though the tripartite agreement specifically outlawed such acts. The Agreement inter alia provided “having regard to the appeal of the Prime Minister of Pakistan to the people of Bangladesh to forgive and forget the mistakes of the past, the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh stated that the Government of Bangladesh had decided not to proceed with the trials as an act of clemency. It was agreed that the 195 prisoners of war may be repatriated to Pakistan along with the other prisoners of war now in the process of repatriation under the Delhi Agreement”.

Unmasking the India-Bangladesh bonhomie

India claims that BD 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.

Issues: Vaccine, onions, Water woes

India backed out of its agreement (December) with BD 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 responsibility to distribute three million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Bangladesh.

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 BD. Following the export ban, onion prices in Bangladesh jumped by more than 50 per cent, prompting the government to procure supplies from elsewhere.

In December 2020, both countries held a virtual summit where they discussed topics like boosting trade, investment and transportation links, but avoided the real issue of sharing the water of the Teesta River. It flows into Bangladesh from the Indian states of Sikkim and West Bengal.

Bangladesh, being the downstream country, wants India to share more water from the Teesta. India parries the issue on the plea that water sharing with BD would result in drought in West Bengal like the Ganga did (Ganga water sharing deal in 1996).

India claims, “Kolkata port has now become dead because of the diversion of water to Bangladesh. In addition, arsenic is being found in several areas as the ground water level has gone so low, endangering millions of lives”.

Porous border

Many a time skirmishes take place between the two countries resulting in casualties. In the past, India even accused the BD of providing safe conduit to Kashmiri freedom fighters or Al-Qaeda.

According to the Press Trust of India datelined New Delhi, May 11, 2003 and Zee News, India gave a list of 155 ‘terrorist training camps’, allegedly operating in Bangladesh with the help of ISI and Al-Qaeda and asked her to shut them down. Bangladesh denied the existence of any ‘terrorist camps’ on her soil operating with or without Pakistan’s ISl’s help.

At a high-level security meeting between the two countries, India also demanded that: (1) BD should exterminate fundamentalist groups supporting ‘terrorists’ in India’s. North East, (2) Deport to India 85 insurgents hiding in Bangladesh. The ‘Wanted’ include top ULF A leaders Anup Chetia and Babul Sarma, and several other activists from Assam, Nagaland, Tripura and Manipur. 

At the talks, India claimed, “We have information that ISI activities directed against India are on the rise in Bangladesh. ISI men along with Al Qaeda operatives are imparting training at several of the camps. Even terrorists operating in Jammu and Kashmir are also being sent via the Bangladesh border because of it being a porous frontier than the Western border. Earlier, the list of 155 militant training camps in Bangladesh, with pinpointed locations, had been submitted at the foreign-secretary-level meeting as also at a meeting between the Director Generals of BSF and Bangladesh Rifles recently”. 

The training camps, whose list was prepared by the Indian security agencies, including those run by the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT), All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF) and National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM. The list also includes training camps run by People’s Liberation Army (PLA), United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), Muslim United Liberation Tiger of Assam (MULTA), Achik National Volunteer Council, Chakma National Liberation Front (CNLF), and Dima Halam Daoga. 

Reckoning of 1971 ead skeletons

The myth of Pakistani forces having killed three million people during the 1971 war is being propagated by India. This allegation was first made by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on January 8, 1972.

Earlier, Serajur Rahman, then a journalist and broadcaster with BBC Bangla Service had earlier debunked the myth in his 2012 article for The Guardian. He stated, `On 8 January 1972,  I was the first Bangladeshi to meet independence leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman after his release from Pakistan. He was brought from Heathrow to Claridge’s by the Indian high commissioner Apa Bhai Panth, and I arrived there almost immediately. Mujib was puzzled to be addressed as “your excellency” by Mr Panth. He was surprised, almost shocked, when I explained to him that Bangladesh had been liberated and he was elected president in his absence. Apparently he arrived in London under the impression that East Pakistanis had been granted the full regional autonomy for which he had been campaigning. During the day I and others gave him the full picture of the war. I explained that no accurate figure of the casualties was available but our estimate, based on information from various sources, was that up to “three lakh” (300,000) died in the conflict. To my surprise and horror he told David Frost later that “three millions of my people” were killed by the Pakistanis. Whether he mistranslated “lakh” as “million” or his confused state of mind was responsible I don’t know, but many Bangladeshis still believe a figure of three million is unrealistic and incredible.”

Sayyid A. Karim, Bangladesh’s first foreign secretary, in his  book “Sheikh Mujib: Triumph and Tragedy” gives a different explanation. He says, `As for the number of Bengalis killed in the course of the liberation war, the figure of 3 million mentioned by Mujib to David Frost in January 1972 was a gross overstatement. This figure was picked up by him from an article in Pravda, the organ of the communist party of the Soviet Union.”.

But where did Mujib get his hands on Pravda in London? That answer lies in an article written in “The Bangladesh Observer”, which was published on January 5, 1972 (and was a prosecution exhibit in the Golam Azam case) entitled, “Pak Army killed over 30 lakh people”. It reads:

“The Communist party newspaper ‘pravda’ has reported that over 30 lakh persons were killed throughout Bangladesh by the Pakistan occupation forces during the last nine months, reports ENA. Quoting its special correspondent stationed in Dacca, the paper said that the Pakistan Military forces immediately before their surrender to Mukti Bahinis (freedom fighters) and the Allied forces had killed about 800 intellectuals in the capital city of Bangladesh alone.”

Obviously, Pravda (Truth) spread out disinformation.  It banks on its special correspondent, which in turn is quoted by the Bangladesh Observer. In a television interview, retired KGB Psychological Warfare Officer Yuri Bezmenov explains in detail how the USSR aided Mujib by using India. 

Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chief and former Prime Minister of Bangladesh Khaleda Zia herself has questioned the validity of the three million claim.  “There is a debate about how many hundreds of thousands were martyred in the Liberation War. Different books and documents give different accounts.”

Sarmila Bose’s book “Dead Reckoning: Memories of the 1971 Bangaldesh War” is skeptical of the figure. Bose  has done a case-by-case body count. She  estimates that between 50,000 and 100,000 people were killed on all sides, including Bengalis, Biharis, West Pakistanis and others. Dr. M. Abdul Mu’min Chowdhury, in his book “Behind the Myth of 3 Million”, points out that  Pakistan Army was carrying out a limited counter-insurgency in East Pakistan, not a genocide. After the creation of Bangladesh, the de facto government offered to pay 2000 Taka to every family that suffered loss of life. Only 3000 families claimed such compensation. Had there been three million Bengalis dead, a lot more families would have come forward. Above all, the actual army in East Pakistan was 40,000 not 93,000. As such, when India invaded East Pakistan, the army was at a 50:1 disadvantage.

Conclusion

India should not mar the celebration by resuscitating the 1971 skeletons. India’s neighbours first policy is a ruse. It is actually acting on Chanakya’s Matsynyaya (‘way of the fish’) policy (big fish eats the small one) and Mandal. The crux of the MandaI policy is that all neighbouring countries are actual or potential enemies. As such, immediate neighbours should be estranged and distant neighbours (like the USA) should be befriended. 

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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South Asia

Pakistan and Germany are keen to Sustain Multifaceted and Mutually beneficial Cooperation

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Pakistan has varied history of relationship and cooperation with other countries in international arena. Despite of proactive foreign policy Pakistan has been struggling to acquire global or regional status as a major power. Now in the age of globalization, the foreign relations between states have become more significant than before. Global and regional organizations, societies, economic zones and countries have network to attract and develop relationship among them. A major goal of Pakistan’s foreign policy is to develop good relations with international community and to handle global and regional issues. Activism of Pakistan‘s foreign policy reflects on the domestic socio-economic development. The national interest of Pakistan also support to regulate inputs from the external atmosphere into internal situation and to strive security and territorial integrity in the region and glob which always remained top concern of Pakistan. As bearing geo-strategic position, Pakistan seeks good relations with regional and global powers like America, China and European Union. Within European Union Germany has emergence as the developed economy in Europe. It is not only playing vital role within European Union but at the global level. Pakistan is also enjoying cordial relations with Germany on the base of common interest and perception on all international issues. Germany is also very keen to see sustainable development in Pakistan and acknowledges that the Pakistan is playing constructive role for regional peace. Germany greatly values Pakistan intense to strengthen multifaceted and mutual beneficial cooperation. Both the countries have been engaged on political, economic and socio-cultural partnership.

In past, East and West Germany had tilted towards forming alliance with India in 1950s but in 1960s, President Ayob Khan‘s visit to West Germany established economic relation between both the countries. Post Pak-India war 1971, East Germany was the first country of the Europe who recognized Bangladesh. During 1990s, Pakistan and Germany established Pakistan German Business Forum and Germany had become the fourth largest trade partner of Pakistan in 2000.  Germany also was ally of Pakistan in the war against terrorism in the north-west part of the country. Since the last few years, both the countries developed trade relations as well as Germany invested in the field of science and technology in Pakistan. On August 24, 2014, Germany built Pakistan Gate in Berlin to provide business and trade facilities to the businessmen of both the countries.

In November 2018, Pakistan offered Germany to join CPEC and to invest in the Special Economic Zone (SEZs). The mutual trade between both the countries enhanced to 3.0 billion euro in 2019.In 2021, Both Pakistan and Germany are celebrating 70th anniversary of establishment of bilateral relationship. Both the countries are planning to undertake several activities in this regard. Last month German Ambassador visited Karachi Chamber of Commerce and industries to call German companies, entrepreneurs and investors to earn from the potential and opportunities which are available in Pakistan and to bring business communities of both the countries more closer as well. Foreign minister of Pakistan has visited to Germany and meeting with business and members of Pakistani community. The foreign Minister held meetings with the leadership of Germany and repeated the desire of expansion of bilateral economic activities and exchange of technology. Both sides also discussed rapidly changing situation of Afghanistan and South Asian region. During the discussion, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Foreign Minister of Germany Heiko Mass, Pakistan and Germany agreed to review the entire gamut of Pakistan-Germany relationship and tools of further deep bilateral cooperation in the field of trade, investment security and defense, health, education, tourism. The mass of both the countries want to utilize the potential of good relationship but it is observed that both sides have lack of political hierarchy, dedication and sincerity in past. The development and expansion of bilateral relationship lies on the path of peaceful coexistence and serious changes in the socio-economic structure is needed. Peace process with the neighboring countries like Afghanistan and India may attract Germany to invest in CPEC projects and other local project of education, vocational training, dam construction, tourism and economic activities in Pakistan. There is a need to organize a forum for the students and scholars of both the countries could interact and exchange their expertise for academic, economic and technology growth. There is potential of people to people interaction and development of cooperation between Pakistan and Germany. Pakistan may be more benefit from the relationship with Germany if the serious efforts be made on government level.

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Modi’s Illiberal Majoritarian Democracy: a Question Mark on the Future of Indian Minorities

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The word majoritarian is an adjective which relates to or constitutes a majority, majoritarian politics, or majoritarian democracy. It can be defined as a traditional political idea, philosophy or a practice according to which any decision whether political, social, or economic of an organized society should be made by a numerical majority of that society or it can be defined as a traditional political philosophy that stresses that a majority usually branded by religious, language, social class that also includes other recognizing factors of individuals in a society are subject to a level of superiority in a society because of which they have a say in every affair of a society. The concept of majoritarian dispensation in India under Narendra Modi has deep links with four other political philosophies i.e. Populism, Nationalism, Authoritarianism, and Sultanism. Before exploring Narendra Modi’s majoritarian policy of governance in India and its effects on the future of Indian minorities, I will first uncover the link of majoritarianism to political philosophies as mentioned.

A majoritarian leader is actually a populist leader who works hard for the concerns of people that who thinks are being ignored by the established elite groups in a society, and who always present himself as a new man mostly of a modest and plebeian background against old political establishment, in spite of the fact that who is a seasoned political figure, but usually not centre stage. This is exactly what Narendra Modi is, because in his 2014 election campaign, he presented himself as a new man against the Ghandi’s family’s old political system despite the fact he was CM Gujrat at that time. He also presented himself as someone who belongs to a very plebeian background that he had to work in his father’s tea shop when he was a child. Whereas, nationalism is a political idea or a philosophy that promotes and protects the interests of a particular nation, nationalism is the bedrock of most of the populists and NarendraModi is no exception. NarendraModi is a majoritarian national-populist leader who since his childhood has been the member of RSS, and now is a full time pracharak of RSS ideology that stresses that Hindu are the true and only sons of this Indian soil.

Majoritarian national- populist leaders like Narendra Modi are basically authoritarian leaders who reject political pluralism, and this is exactly what Modi is doing in India.Modi  and the BJP has made it clear that no other party should compete with it, or is even needed, as indicative from its slogan of a ‘Congress Mukt Bharat’ (a Congress-free India).Whereas, Sultanism is a form of authoritarian government and according to Max Weber NarendraModi is a new sultan of India who is pushing India towards illiberal democracy by rejecting all kind of civil liberties particularly of Indian Muslim minority.

Modi’s majoritarian policy of governance in India is basically the promotion of majoritarian democracy that asserts Hindus a special and superior status in India because they constitute 80.5% of total Indian population and that this majoritarian policy protests Hindutva ideology  that stresses that Hindus are the only sons of this soil and that strengthen the Hindu community. This majoritarian democracy is a big question mark on India as the world biggest liberal democracy because continuous violence, rejection of civil liberties, and crimes against the minorities that are Muslims, Sikhs, and Christians have been on the increase. About 1.8 million people who are minority communities are tortured in police custody every year. The word murder of minorities has been replaced by the term encounter killings. Torture have increased to such a huge extent that it questions the credibility of the rule of law and criminal justice. Hindu nationalists are revolting all around India especially against Muslims because they are the largest minority in India constituting 13.4% of total population and because Hindus have resentment toward their religion, Christians and Sikhs are no exception to their violence because they too constitute 2.3% and 1.9% of total Indian population.

Unfortunately, India under Narendra Modi is crawling from the world’s biggest liberal democracy to illiberal majoritarian democracy which is promoting and safeguarding only Hindu’s civil rights and liberties and that which is negating minority’s civil liberties and civil rights especially rights and liberties of Muslims of India. One such example of this is the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB).Under the act, for the first time in India, religion is a basis for granting citizenship. According to some this citizenship amendment bill by BJP is an intentional act in order to marginalize Muslims from mainstream politics. In addition to this, Muslims are not only being tortured at their religious places for their religious affiliations, but they are also being tortured at their educational institutions which is evident from a video of 15 December 2020, where Delhi police brutally tortured Muslims students of Jamia Millia Islamia university.

Keeping in mind Narendra Modi’s illiberal majoritarian democracy, the future of liberal democracy or pluralistic India appears to be gloomy, where the future of Indian minorities especially Muslims is a big question mark. 

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CoVID-19 Control: Can Pakistan Learn From China?

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It has been over a year since the first case of CoVID-19 was confirmed in Pakistan. The tally has reached 721,018 confirmed cases, 15,443 have died and 4,143 critical cases by 11thApril2021. Across many countries, since January 2020, a massive surge of research into CoVID-19 had enabled the scientific and medical community to better understand how to manage and eliminate the virus through public health interventions. Today, we have learned, CoVID-19 causes acute symptoms and death. We have learned, immunity lasts at least eight months and we also have five licensed vaccines. We have learned, the long-term effects of CoVID-19 and the morbidity attached to having this virus. We have learned, virus transmission occurs through droplets and aerosols spread through coughing, sneezing, breathing and speaking. We also have learned, stopping the spread of CoVID-19 requires people to avoid mixing though restrictions on social life. We have learned, the virus can mutate into various strains that can be more transmissible – and we also have understand cat-and-mouse game between vaccine and variants.

To alleviate the destructive effects of CoVID-19 on the economy, Pakistan has sought debt relief of slightly around $2 billion from its G20 creditors. In addition to the G20 countries, China was the largest bilateral creditor with $9 billion, followed by Japan with $5 billion. By early April 2020, when there were just about 2,000 CoVID-19 positive cases in Pakistan, the World Bank approved $200 million package to help Pakistan. Likewise, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had approved the payout of $1.386 billion as financial support to Pakistan to meet its urgent balance of payment needs halting from the CoVID-19 outbreak. Further, to support Pakistan’s public health response to the CoVID-19 and allow to meet the basic needs of the vulnerable and poor segment of society, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved $500 million emergency assistance loan to Pakistan. Similarly, The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) also provided a $650 million financial package to support Pakistan in its efforts against the CoVID-19. All these grants were provided to Government of Pakistan to assist in effective and timely action in response to the spread of the CoVID-19. The objective was to strengthen Pakistan’s public health infrastructure and to alleviate socioeconomic disruptions due to the pandemic. Despite huge grants and substantial endowments, Pakistan’s response to the CoVID-19 has been unsatisfactory. Lack of basic healthcare infrastructure, disease surveillance and management system,  and inconsistent implementation of policies and SOPs resulted in the rapid and incessant spread of third-wave of CoVID-19 throughout the county.

China’s extraordinary organized and preventive risk management approach, established on coalition between government officials, virologists, epidemiologists and public health experts, has demonstrated to be successful in containing and controlling CoVID-19.The experience in China emphasized the significance of listening to science and public health experts during pandemic event. Firstly, China’s response demonstrates the value of national research and public health capability. Huge investment in research and development rendered China much better prepared for CoVID-19. China’s experience indicates the value of investing in national health and research scheme to boost laboratory capacity along with workforce. They are essential to a rapid and effective national response to health emergencies and to national health security. Secondly, a strong foundation of research and development cannot ensure effective control without powerful top-level political dedication to use science to confront the outbreak. Government and leaders must respect science, understand its significance, and act on science-based advice in a way that is best for society. Thirdly, attaining speedy and successful implementation of control measures for CoVID-19 requires extensive community engagement. Public solidarity during the CoVID-19 outbreak in China had been unprecedented. Control measures that could sacrifice personal freedom were accepted readily by the nation.

To be brief, cricket is to South Asia and football is to Europe. In fighting CoVID-19, everyone is equal. Everyone has the identical liability and shares the equal threat. The effective implementation of prevention and control measures in China is a model for Pakistan other parts of world to follow. From the beginning, a science-based, risk-informed and phased approach was taken, with a clear appreciation and enthusiasm. Today, China has restarted its economy, reopened and almost returned to normality. The key of success story is to make everybody responsible, get every single division involved and held executives accountable. These are the most prominent lessons Pakistan could learn from China at national and local levels. After the failure of “Smart-Lockdown” strategy, Pakistan needs to choose a strict strategy, should follow the example of China and continue the lockdown until the number of CoVID-19 infections is brought close to zero; the strategy should then be to maintain infection rates at very low level until vaccination is done. China’s epidemic management provides an important experience from which countries such as Pakistan can learn. This applies in particular to Pakistan, which would risk to lose many of its achievements in case of a severe third wave of the epidemic. Government of Pakistan should involve not only public health experts, virologists and epidemiologists, but also scientist and respect science advice when making any decision that is required to keep the epidemic under control. The rest of the world can also learn from China’s success in bringing outbreak under control.

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