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India, A Flawed Democracy: Reality or Hypocrisy?

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Coming close on the heels of an uncontrolled, un co-ordinated and questionable farmers’ agitation continuing in areas around Delhi, there have been a few developments that must have somehow embarrassed the government of the largest democracy in the world. India has been degraded to a “partially free democracy,” by the US-based Freedom House. Within days, the Sweden-based V-Dem Institute went a step further and in its latest report on global democracy, described it as an “electoral autocracy,”. The Democracy Index of the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) however, came up with a more objective analysis in which it described India as a “flawed democracy.”

Some of the major reasons that have been outlined for sudden and aggressive political downgrading of India, is the supposed increased pressure on human rights group, intimidation of journalists and activists and a spate of attacks on Muslims. As expected, the Indian Foreign Minister, S Jaishankar questioned the very basis of these assumptions and described them as, ‘hypocrisy.’

It would however be interesting to note that human rights activities continue unabated in India. According to one submission made by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to the Supreme Court in 2015, there remain more than 31 lakhs of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) who are continuing with their activities in various parts of the country. This number is more than double the number of schools and much more than number of hospitals in the country. This number is indicative of the fact that the civil society activism is very much alive and kicking in the country and that NGOs are being freely allowed to operate.

There have been allegations of harassment to global human rights organisations like Greenpeace, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the like. The relevant CBI report to Supreme Court further clarifies that only 10 percent of the active NGOs have complied with the legally mandated requirement of submitting respective income-expenditure statements, balance sheets and receipt of foreign contribution under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), 2010. It is astonishing that when notices have been sent and appropriate legal actions have been taken against some of them, allegations of witch-hunting and victimisation are being played up against the government by some of the most cash-rich national and global NGOs in India.

In addition to, some of the bigger NGOS in India have been up in arms against some of the very important strategic projects being worked on in certain parts of India. While their clamour formally relates to the issue of environment and land acquisition from the poor, one cannot ignore the fact that there have been instances of such protests being stage-managed, foreign-funded and politically motivated. Further when one comes across the recent revelations of the involvement of Chinese security agencies in creating political, economic, scientific and strategic disruptions in countries like the US, Europe, Japan and India, one really cannot overlook such activities from the NGOs, howsoever big their names could be. And most importantly, the right to legal course remains available to one and all and if and when the government is accused of doing something that goes beyond the ambit of law, such organisations are very much empowered to approach courts. In most cases, they have not and used media to attack the government instead of substantiating their alleged facts.

Then there is a big issue being played up regarding alleged intimidation of journalists and activists. As of March, 2018 there are more than one lakh publications operating in India with a combined circulation going beyond 240 million copies. According to media reports, 47 journalists have been killed in the country during 1992-2020 while in the last six years, 21 journalists have lost their lives allegedly for their professional investigative work.

 The recent ‘Getting Away With Murders” report of Thakur Foundation that has been widely used to paint the current government as dictatorial, authoritarian,’ has acknowledged that out of these killings, only one has been traced to the involvement of assailants having links with the ruling party while most have been attributed to criminals, mafia, terrorists, communists and personal enmity.

In its analysis on World Press Freedom Index (WPFI) by Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF), India has been placed at lowly 142 in 2020. One needs to realise that while the current government has specifically been targeted on this score, under the previous government which was highly regarded by many of the global media outlets, India’s ranking on WPFI slipped from 122 in 2010 to 131 in 2012. A decline of Nine rankings within two years whereas under the current incumbent, the ranking has gone down further Nine in six years.

As for the intimidation of journalists, a closer look onto the India media scene will show that the ruling party and the Prime Minister Modi is being routinely chastised and even abused by many of the opposition politicians, journalists and intellectuals. And none of them have been put behind bar on that ground. In fact, the much disgraced Sedition Law has been used by some of the opposition-ruled states including Punjab. There have been incidents of attacks on academicians and journalists including states of West Bengal, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu (ruled by non-BJP governments) and it indicates that the malaise of intolerance to media criticism, is not limited to the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) but is prevalent across the political spectrum.

As for the RSF rankings, its portrayal of countries like Afghanistan, Kuwait, UAE, Chad, Uganda, Mozambique, Malaysia and many others with a very limited and broadly regulated media, much ahead of India, seems questionable and needs to be critically assessed.

As for the action against activists, in spite of the very militant and illegal activities committed by a section of agitators in Delhi in January, the fact that they are still being not disturbed, in spite of blocking roads/highways for months and creating illegal civil, health and sanitary issues, shows that the government in fact has been giving too much leeway to them. A year ago, the government did not take stringent action against protestors, on the passing of Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) issue who violated several civil laws. In fact, wherever activists have been detained or arrested by local police authorities, including Disha, they have gone through the usual legal process and given relevant relief as per the law.

As for the alleged killing of Muslims, supposedly responsible for the ‘downgrade’ of India as a democracy, actual figures reveal that while communal violence has indeed increased 28% under current Indian government, the law and order issue as per the Indian law is a state subject and each of the constitutionally elected government of states are responsible for the safety and security of citizens. A good number of atrocities committed against Muslims as well as women have taken place in states, both ruled by BJP and non-BJP governments.

While Uttar Pradesh (UP) currently ruled by PM Modi’s party tops the list with 1488 incidents of communal violence during 2010-2020 with 321 deaths, it was ruled by other opposition politicians before 2017. And importantly, the highest number of communal deaths 943 in one single year, was reported under the Indian National Congress (INC) regime way back in 2008. As for the many reported incidents of mob lynching, many of them have occurred in tribal/rural regions on issues of suspicious child-lifting and only few of them were specially targeted against Muslims. Also, such incidents took place in states like Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Punjab and West Bengal, all ruled by non-BJP governments.

In the backdrop of such analysis, one cannot help but question the very credibility of exercises conducted by such prestigious institutes. Such exercise needs to be more objective, serious, fair and unprejudiced. Only then, the governments in whichever nations they are, will be compelled to stick to the basic principles of freedom and liberty while citizens will get a fair and equal treatment, in line with the laws of the land.

Rajesh Kumar Sinha, MA, MLISc, MPhil, PG Diploma in Journalism is a serving Librarian with the Indian Railways, INDIA. He has worked in print and web media for seven years and writes for Foreign Policy News (US), South Asia Journal (US), Indian Railways (India), OPEN Journal and Rail Journal (India).

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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South Asia

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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South Asia

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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