The protesting farmers have announced to hold a countrywide protest to demand annulment of the newly enacted farm laws on May 26, 2021. Despite having seen the havoc of the Kumbh congregation, Modi government is stone-wall silent to the ultimatum. Twelve opposition parties have pilloried Modi government for its obduracy.
India spent the sum of Rs. 41 lakh on the ceremony to induct the first batch of Rafale aircraft (Anbala airbase) under contract to purchase 36 aircraft costing Rs. 59000 crore. Apathetic to plight of the people, Indian army chief talked to US army chief to enhance cooperation under Basic Exchange and
Cooperation agreement to hit Pakistan’s land and surface targets in real time. There being no freebies, the BECA equipment will cost billions.
About 4000 COVID patients are dying each day for want of beds or oxygen. Poor people dump dead bodies of their loves ones in Holy Ganges River as they can’t afford costly wood to cremate them. In just one day 150 dead bodies were recovered to save them from vultures and stray dogs. There is only one electric incinerator/cremator in India at Calcutta yet to be operated.
Shobhaa Dea asked `What’ll it take for Modi to stop playing ostrich? (Deccan Chronicle May 15 2021). The national students’ union registered an FIR against “missing” home minister Amit Shah
It is time India diverted its resources to stop the third wave.
Because of insanitary conditions and infested oxygen, the scourges of white and black fungi have emerged adding to COVID fatalities. , White fungus is also known as candidiasis. The Black fungus is called the Mucormycosis. Steroid treatment can cause white fungal infection in Covid patients while unsterile use of oxygen cylinders can also be a reason. White Fungus infection is more dangerous than black fungus because it affects vital organs including the lungs, brain, kidney and private parts along with the mouth, stomach and skin. Symptoms of white fungus infection are similar to that of corona virus infection. Chest pain and low oxygen levels are seen in critical patients while white patches in the oral cavity, white discharge and skin lesions are also seen among patients.
Medicines like caspofungin or micafungin are used to treat critically ill patients. But besides vaccines there is shortage of almost everything, beds, oxygen, and even wood to cremate the dead bodies. Media reported 100 to 150 dead bodies floating in the River Ganges.
Criticism stifled under the National Security Act
Instead of facing the truth, The BJP states prosecute even social posts about COVID situation under India’s National Security Act. For instance, journalist Kishorchandra Wangkhem and activist Erendro Leichombam were booked under the NSA for Facebook posts that point out that cow dung or urine cannot cure COVID-19. Cow sheds are being used as COVID19 clinics. Oxygen and concentrators are being sold at exorbitant prices. Even en fire-extinguisher cylinders were sold as oxygen cylinders (Fire extinguishers painted and sold as oxygen cylinders, 3 arrested, India Today May 6, 2021).
Modi impervious to warnings
Engrossed in holding “mammoth” rallies during the state-assembly elections, the Narendra Modi government shrugged off warnings of imminent upsurge in COVID19 wave. For instance, on May 1, Reuters released a story headlined “Scientists say India government ignored warnings amid corona virus surge”. It claimed some scientists from the government-appointed consortium of national laboratories tasked with genome-sequencing, had “warned Indian officials in early March of a new and more contagious variant of the corona virus taking hold in the country”. But, the government was in no mood to impose social restrictions to prevent the contagion.
The Modi-Amit Shah duo was shouting “oey Didi” “oey Didi” (contemptuously calling Bengal chief minister) when the pandemic had assumed alarming proportions. On April 17, the cases started growing by over 260,000 a day. Yet, the BJP government did not truncate its elections rallies. Instead, he applauded the massive turnout of milling unmasked throngs at the Asansol rally.
The Rashtraya Swayamsevak Sangh supported the Modi government in election rallies. Yet, even it was compelled to admit neither the people nor the government cared a fig for social-distancing norms.
Why Modi was obdurate
Less than two months before Pulwama, a survey by the Association for Democratic Reforms, a New Delhi-based non-profit body, found, that most of the voters gave top priority to employment followed by primary health care and drinking water. Only 3.6 per cent of the 27, 3000, people surveyed gave importance to issues of terrorism.
The people were more concerned about the government’s lackluster performance in the realm of welfare.
But, the so-called surgical strikes altered people’s perceptions. They began to image Modi as
“The strongman who avenged the Pulwama killings by bombing the terrorists inside Pakistan”. The image change brought dividends in the 2019 lok sabha (house of the people. Jingoism reigned supreme. In five pre-election speeches he made in Moradabad, Panaji, Bhagalpur, Buniadpur and Kendrapara, Modi used the word ‘chowkidar’ a whopping 106 times. The reference to development was a mere 31 times in comparison. Poverty was mentioned only thrice and unemployment did not find any mention at all.
Continued chest thumping and jingoism
Starting his campaign on March 28, 2019, from Meerut, he referred to the First War of Independence that began from Meerut in 1857. He drew a parallel between the soldiers killed during the Pulwama attack and martyrs of the War of Independence. He paid homage to Pulwama martyr Ajay Kumar in Meerut, and claimed: “Whether it is the land, the sky or the surgical strikes, your chowkidar has done it all. The opposition had to retort “chowkidar chor hai” (the guard is himself a thief).
India and Chin has signed accords not to use firepower in case of any conflagration. Modi admitted at an all-party conference that China has not annexed an inch of India’s territory. Yet. The tiff between the Chinese and Indian troops was portrayed as a landmark achievement.
In view of the pandemic, India should have diverted its troops from borders to pandemic duty. But, no such initiative is visible. Even in May there was a faceoff between the Chinese and the Indian troops.
Through propaganda onslaught, Modi’s government has brought home the message that Congress is unpatriotic and bent upon disintegrating India (tukreh tukreh gang).
Referring to self-professed patriots, in 1774, Samuel Johnson had said that patriotism was the last refuge of the scoundrel. The irony in calling the Congress (or other BJP opponents) “anti-national” is that politicians of the Congress (and others too) had actually gone to jail fighting for India’s freedom from the British. Leaders of the BJP’s ideological predecessors did little during the freedom movement.
No clash during incident in no-patrolling zone in early May, say officials
There was a minor face-off between Indian and Chinese troops in the no-patrolling zone at Galwan Valley in Eastern Ladakh in the first week of May, a senior government official told The Hindu. However, no clash occurred and the two sides disengaged quickly.
There was some talk to pull back Indian troops to deploy them on COVID-19 duty. However that was later ruled out,” On April 2, the Ministry of Defence in a communication to Konchok Stanzin, councillor, Chushul said that “due to the present operational situation in Ladakh, grazers have been asked to restrict their cattle movements.”
Time for détente and divert military outlays to welfare
India should mend its fences not only with China but also with Pakistan. Many Pakistan rulers including Parvez Musharraf offered out-of box solutions to resolve the lingering Kashmir dispute. But, India shrugged off the offers with disdain. In his memoirs In the line of fire (pp.302-303), president Musharraf proposed a personal solution of the Kashmir issue. This solution, in essence, envisions self-rule in demilitarised regions of Kashmir under a joint-management mechanism. The solution pre-supposes reciprocal flexibility.
The out-of-box Musharraf’s Kashmir solution is in fact a regurgitation of former Indian foreign secretary Jagat S. Mehta’s proposals. Mehta presented his ideas in his article, ‘Resolving Kashmir in the International Context of the 1990s’. Some points of Mehta’s quasi-solution are: (a) Conversion of the Loc into “a soft border permitting free movement and facilitating free exchanges…” (b) Immediate demilitarisation of the Loc to a depth of five to 10 miles with agreed methods of verifying compliance. (c) Pending final settlement, there must be no continuing insistence by Pakistan “on internationalisation, and for the implementation of a parallel or statewide plebiscite to be imposed under the peacekeeping auspices of the United Nations”. (d) Final settlement of the dispute between India and Pakistan can be suspended (kept in a ‘cold freeze’) for an agreed period. (e) Conducting parallel democratic elections in both Pakistani and Indian sectors of Kashmir. (f) Restoration of an autonomous Kashmiriyat. (g) Pacification of the valley until a political solution is reached. Voracious readers may refer for detail to Robert G. Wirsing’s book India, Pakistan and the Kashmir Dispute (1994, St Martin’s Press).
Besides Kashmir, there are Sir Creek and Siachen Glacier issues. India’s former foreign secretary Shyam Saran, in his book How India Sees the World (pp. 88-93) makes startling revelations about how this issue eluded solution at last minute. Saran says India itself created the Siachen problem. He reminisces, in the 1970s, US maps began to show 23000 kilometers of Siachen area under Pakistan’s control. Thereupon, `Indian forces were sent to occupy the glacier in a pre-emptive strike, named Operation Meghdoot. Pakistani attempts to dislodge them did not succeed. But they did manage to occupy and fortify the lower reaches’.
He recalls how Siachen Glacier and Sir Creek agreements could not fructify for lack of political will or foot dragging. He says ‘NN Vohra, who was the defence secretary at the time, confirmed in a newspaper interview that an agreement on Siachen had been reached. At the last moment, however, a political decision was taken by the Narasimha Rao government to defer its signing to the next round of talks scheduled for January the following year. But, this did not happen…My defence of the deal became a voice in the wilderness’.
Similarly, demarcation of Sir Creek maritime boundary was unnecessarily delayed. Saran says ` if we accepted the Pakistani alignment, with the east bank of the creek as the boundary, then Pakistan would get only 40 per cent of the triangle. If our alignment according to the Thalweg principle was accepted, Pakistan would get 60 per cent. There was a keen interest in Pakistan to follow this approach but we were unable to explore this further when the Siachen deal fell through. Pakistan was no longer interested in a stand-alone Sir Creek agreement’ (Thalweg principle places the dividing line mid-channel in the river).
The Modi government should turn a new leaf in India’s relations with its neighbours by shunning the strong-man image.
Opposing Hindutava: US conference raises troubling questions
Controversy over a recent ‘Dismantling Global Hindutava’ conference that targeted a politically charged expression of Hindu nationalism raises questions that go far beyond the anti-Muslim discriminatory policies of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and ruling party.
The conference and responses to it highlight a debilitating deterioration in the past two decades, especially since 9/11, of the standards of civility and etiquette that jeopardize civil, intelligent, and constructive debate and allow expressions of racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic attitudes to become mainstream.
Organizers of the conference that was co-sponsored by 53 American universities, including Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Columbia, Berkeley, University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers, insisted that they distinguish between Hinduism and Hindutava, Mr. Modi’s notion of Hindu nationalism that enables discrimination against and attacks on India’s 200 million Muslims.
The distinction failed to impress critics who accused the organizers of Hinduphobia. Some critics charged that the framing of the conference demonstrated a pervasiveness of groupthink in academia and an unwillingness to tackle similar phenomena in other major religions, particularly Islam.
The campaign against the conference appeared to have been organized predominantly by organizations in the United States with links to militant right-wing Hindu nationalist groups in India, including some with a history of violence. The conference’s most militant critics threatened violence against conference speakers and their families, prompting some participants to withdraw from the event.
Opponents of political Islam noted that Western academia has not organized a similar conference about the politicization of the faith even though powerful states like the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt have lobbied Western capitals against the Muslim Brotherhood and its Turkish and Qatari supporters with notable successes in France, Austria, Belgium and Britain.
Academia was likely to have been hesitant to tackle political Islam because Islamophobia is far more prevalent than Hinduphobia.
Moreover, perceptions of political Islam, are far more complex and convoluted. Islam is frequently conflated with political expressions and interpretations of the faith run a gamut from supremacist and conservative to more liberal and tolerant. They also lump together groups that adhere and respect the election process and ones that advocate violent jihad.
Scholars and analysts declared an end to political Islam’s heyday with the military coup in Egypt in 2013 that toppled Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim Brother, who was elected president in Egypt’s first and only free and fair poll. Political Islam’s alleged swansong loomed even larger with this year’s setbacks for two of the most moderate Islamist political parties in Tunisia and Morocco as well as hints that Turkey may restrict activities of Islamists operating in exile from Istanbul.
A more fundamental criticism of the framing of the Hindutava conference is its failure to put Hindutava in a broader context.
That context involves the undermining of the social cohesion of societies made up of collections of diverse ethnic and religious communities since Osama bin Laden’s 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.
The attacks fueled the rise of ultra-nationalism and politicized expressions of religious ultra-conservatism not only in the Hindu world but also in the worlds of other major religions.
These include politicized ultra-conservative Islam, politicized Evangelism and Buddhist nationalism. Right-wing religious nationalism in Israel, unlike Islamism and politicized Evangelism, is shaped by ultra-nationalism rather than religious ultra-conservatism.
The worlds of religious ultra-nationalism and politicized expressions of religious ultra-conservatism are often mutually reinforcing.
Scholar Cynthia Miller-Idriss’s assessment of the impact of Al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks on the United States is equally true for India or Europe.
“In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the rise of violent jihadism reshaped American politics in ways that created fertile ground for right-wing extremism. The attacks were a gift to peddlers of xenophobia, white supremacism, and Christian nationalism: as dark-skinned Muslim foreigners bent on murdering Americans, Al-Qaeda terrorists and their ilk seemed to have stepped out of a far-right fever dream,” Ms. Miller-Idriss said.
“Almost overnight, the United States and European countries abounded with precisely the fears that the far-right had been trying to stoke for decades,” she added.
The comparison of politically charged militant nationalist and ultra-conservative expressions of diverse religions takes on added significance in a world that has seen the emergence of civilizationalist leaders.
Scholar Sumantra Bose attributes the rise of religious nationalism in non-Western states like Turkey and India to the fact that they never adopted the Western principle of separation of state and church.
Instead, they based their secularism on the principle of state intervention and regulation of the religious sphere. As a result, the rejection of secularism in Turkey and India fits a global trend that conflates a dominant religious identity with national identity.
Sarah Kamali, the author of a recently published book that compares militant white nationalists to militant Islamists in the United States, notes similar patterns while drawing parallels between far-right xenophobes and militant Islamists.
Militant Islamists’ “sense of victimhood […] is similar to that of their White nationalist counterparts in that [it] is constructed and exploited to justify their violence… Both mutually – and exclusively – target America for the purpose of claiming the nation as theirs and theirs alone, either as a White ethno-state or as part of a global caliphate,” Ms. Kamali writes.
Similarly, the Taliban defeat of a superpower energized militant Islamists, as well as proponents of Hindutava, with Islamophobic narratives spun by Mr. Modi’s followers gaining new fodder with the assertion that India was being encircled by Muslim states hosting religious extremists.
“Modi is essentially helping the recruitment of…jihadist groups by taking such a hard, repressive line against the Islamic community in India, who are now being forced to see themselves being repressed,” said Douglas London, the CIA’s counter-terrorism chief for South and South-West Asia until 2019.
Panjshir – the last stronghold of democracy in Afghanistan
The Taliban’s rapid advance in Afghanistan has briefly stalled only in the face of strong resistance mounted by the people of the country’s recalcitrant mountainous province of Panjshir. Whoever controls the region’s passes controls the routes leading to China and Tajikistan, but to seize this mountain valley and, most importantly, to keep it permanently under control has always been a problem for all invaders. Eager to let the international community see for the first time in 40 years a united Afghanistan as a sign of their final victory, the radical Islamists were prepared to make any sacrifices, including filling the approaches to the Panjshir Valley up with dead bodies. Moreover, the Taliban’s longtime ally Pakistan, which, regardless of its status of an ally of the United States, has provided them with direct military support. In fact, Islamabad admitted its less than successful role when it proposed signing a truce to find and take out the bodies of its special Ops forces who had died during the attack on the valley. However, drones flown by Pakistani operators, professional commandos (possibly once trained by the Americans), air support and other pleasant gifts from the allies eventually bore fruit letting the Taliban be photographed in front of the mausoleum of Ahmad Shah Massoud Sr., the famous “Lion of Panjshir,” who controlled the valley from 1996 to 2001. The Islamists also took control of the province’s central city of Bazarak.
Having deprived the province much of its Internet access, the radicals, who control most of the Afghan territory, found it easier to wage an information war. Their claims of victories were now more difficult to contest, even though information about their retreat did reach the outside world. Reflective of the heavy losses suffered for the first time by the Taliban and their allies – the Haqqani Network and other remnants of al-Qaeda, as well as by the regular Pakistani army is the brief truce arranged by Islamabad. Looks like the mountain passes leading to Panjshir were literally filled up with corpses…
As for Massoud Jr., the young lion of Panjshir, and his supporters, they retreated to the mountains. In fact, they had nowhere to fall back to. The problem of Afghanistan is its ethnic diversity. Thus, the country is home to 23 percent of ethnic Tajiks, most of whom live in the Panjshir Valley. However, the Taliban rely mainly on the Pashtuns, who account for over 50 percent of the country’s population. As for the new masters of Afghanistan, they are ready to carry out ethnic cleansings and even commit outright genocide in order to bring the valley into submission. To make this happen they are going to resettle there their fellow Pashtun tribesmen. Local men aged between 12 and 50 are already being taken away and, according to the National Resistance Front, no one has seen them again. However, due to the information blockade, the Taliban will not hesitate to refute such facts. One thing is clear: Massoud’s Tajik fighters and the government troops that joined them are fighting for their lives, and there will be no honorable surrender!
The main question now is whether the young lion of Panjshir will receive the same support as his father once did, or will find himself without ammunition and food. After all, the Taliban leaders have reached certain agreements with the United States. Suffice it to mention the numerous remarks made, among others, by President Biden himself about the Taliban now being different from what they were 20 years ago.
But no, the Taliban`s remain the same – they have only hired new PR people. Meanwhile, hating to admit their defeat, Brussels and Washington will have to engage in a dialogue with those who are responsible for the tragedy of September 11, 2001, and for the numerous terrorist attacks in Europe. The Taliban are pretending to make minor cosmetic concessions. Minor indeed, since they are still depriving women of the opportunity to work and study, destroying higher and secondary education and brutally clamping down on people who simply do not want to live according to religious norms.
The United States is actually helping the “new-look” Taliban. Their potential opponents, including the famous Marshal Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek, left the country under various guarantees, and Washington is trying to keep them from any further participation in the conflict. Democratic politicians naively believe that by creating an Islamic state and ending the protracted civil war in Afghanistan the Taliban will ensure stability in the region and will not move any further. Uzbekistan and Tajikistan do not think so and are strengthening their borders and preparing to protect their Afghan compatriots, because they know full well that the Taliban`s are not a national political party; they are a radical Islamist ideology.
It knows no borders and spreads like a cancerous tumor, destroying all pockets of Western culture. It can only be stopped by force. However, the two decades of US military presence in Afghanistan showed that Washington, which quickly took control of the country in 2001, simply had no strategy to keep it. The Afghans were given nothing that would appear to them more attractive than the ideas of radical Islam. As a result, the few Afghans who embrace European values are fleeing the country, and those who, like Massoud Jr., decided to fight for their freedom, now risk being left to face their enemy all by themselves.
Misjudgements in India’s Afghan policy
India’s Afghan policy has always been obsessed with the desire to deny Pakistan the “strategic depth” that Pakistan, according to India’s perception, yearns. If India had a pragmatic policy, it would not have found itself whimpering and whining like a rueful baby over spilt milk.
India supported the invasion of Afghanistan by both the former Soviet Union and the USA, both losers. President Trump mocked Modi for having built a library for the Afghan people. Trump expected India to contribute foot soldiers, and by corollary, body packs to the Afghan crisis. India played all the tricks up its sleeves to convince the USA to make India a party to the US-Taliban talks. But the USA ditched not only Modi but also Ashraf Ghani to sign the Doha peace deal with the Taliban.
India’s external affairs minister still calls the Taliban government “a dispensation”. Interestingly, the USA has reluctantly accepted that the Taliban government is a de facto government.
The United Nations’ Development Programme has portrayed a bleak situation in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is faced with multifarious challenges. These include prolonged drought and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, upheaval caused by the current political transition: frozen foreign reserves, and rising poverty.
About 47 per cent of its people live below the dollar-a-day poverty line. If the poverty line is pushed to $2 a day, 90 per cent of Afghans would be poor. About 55 per cent of Afghans are illiterate.
Ninety seven percent of the population is at risk of sinking below the poverty line, As such, Afghanistan teeters on the brink of universal poverty. Half of the population is already in need of humanitarian support. The UNDP has proposed to access the most vulnerable nine million people by focusing on essential services, local livelihoods, basic income and small infrastructure.
Currently, the gross national product of Afghanistan is around $190 billion, just a little more than the $160 billion economy of Dhaka city. The country’s legal exports of goods and services every year account for $1 billion. It imports$6 billion worth of goods and services every year.
About 80 per cent of world production of opium comes from Afghanistan. Every year, Afghanistan produces nearly 10,000 tons of opium and the revenue generated from it amounts to $7 billion approximately. About 87 per cent of the income of opium producing farmers comes exclusively from this single product. The illicit opium export by Afghanistan is worth $2 billion every year. The role of opium is significant.
About 80 per cent of public expenditure in this country is funded by grants. Since 2002, the World Bank has provided Afghanistan with a total of $5.3 billion as development and emergency relief assistance. The IMF earmarked for Afghanistan $400 million in Special Drawing Rights (SDR) for combating the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.
The United States has frozen about $10 billion worth of Afghan assets held at various banks in Afghanistan. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has withdrawn the $400 million worth of SDRs allocated earlier to Afghanistan for addressing the Covid-19 crisis. The World Bank has not said anything as of yet, but it may also put restrictions on its funding to Afghanistan.
India’s lip service to Afghanistan
India provided around $3 billion in aid to fallen U.S.-backed Afghan government. It trained the Afghan army and police. But now it is not willing to pay or pledge a penny to the Taliban government. Look at the following Times of India report:
“India did not pledge any money to the Taliban ruled Afghanistan probably for the first time in 20 years. That it has not done so as Jaishanker declared … (At UN, India offers support to Afghanistan but does not pledge money. The Times of India September 14, 2021).–The Hindu, September 11, 2021
India’s tirade against Afghanistan
Indian policymakers and experts say they see no guarantees that Afghanistan won’t become a haven for militants. “Afghanistan may be poised to become a bottomless hole for all shades of radical, extremist and jihadi outfits somewhat similar to Iraq and Syria, only closer to India,” said Gautam Mukhopadhaya, who was India’s ambassador in Kabul between 2010 to 2013. He added that the Taliban victory could have an “inspirational effect” not only for Kashmir’s rebels but wherever religiously-driven groups operate in the broader region… Lt. Gen Deependra Singh Hooda, former military commander for northern India between 2014-2016, said militant groups based across the border in Pakistan would “certainly try and push men” into Kashmir, following the Taliban victory in Afghanistan (With Taliban’s rise, India sees renewed threat in Kashmir, Star Tribune September 14, 2021). “Meanwhile, Rajnath Singh conveyed to Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton that the rise of the Taliban raises serious security concerns for India and the region. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has appealed for an injection of cash into Afghanistan to avoid an economic meltdown that would spark a “catastrophic” situation for the Afghan people and be a “gift for terrorist groups.”). Afghan economic meltdown would be ‘gift for terrorists,’ says U.N. chief” (The Hindu, September 11, 2021)
India’s former envoy to Kabul, Ambassador Gautam Mukhopadhyay is skeptical of the conciliatory statements by the taliban government. He advises: “We should welcome recent statements by Stanekzai and Anas Haqqani that suggest some independence from the ISI. But we should also ask some hard questions and judge them by their actions and words, and not let down our guard, both with regard to our multiple security concerns such as whether they can protect us from the Ias and ISI, sever ties with other terror groups, especially those supported by the ISI against India, deny Pakistan strategic depth, and preserve and build on our historic P2P and trade ties; and a genuinely inclusive govt in Afghanistan that accommodates the majority of Afghans who want the rights and freedoms enshrined in the 2004 Afghan Constitution or at least acceptable to the Afghan people.” (Taliban move to form govt, Naya Afghanistan brings new challenge for India, September 2, 2021).
India wants a “central role’ to be given to the UN in Afghanistan. India’s mumbo jumbo implies that Afghanistan should be made a UN protectorate. Indian media is never tired of calling the Afghan government a bunch of terrorists. They have even launched video games about it.
India needs to rethink how it can mend fences with Afghanistan that it regards a hothouse of terrorists.
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