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Much Deeper Meanings of Afghanistan

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“Happy are those who know that behind all speeches are still the unspeakable lies….”-Rainer Maria Rilke, Possibility of Being

Rilke, the Dionysian poet, is generally associated with dense philosophical matters of “being” (in German, “Existenzphilosophie”), but he also acknowledged “the unspeakable lies” of politics. From one historical epoch to the next, the grievous particulars of such lies vary from moment to moment and place to place. Nonetheless, the generality of their core meanings is overriding, and remains conspicuously and unshakably constant.

 Generality, as we may learn from refined analytic philosophy, is important. In science, inter alia, it represents an essential trait of all serious meaning

There is more. Were he alive today, Rilke would likely observe, among other things, that war and peace are merely transient reflections of assorted untruths.[1] What we see mirrored in the daily news reports on Afghanistan, therefore, are “just” the latest human struggles for primacy (individual and collective), belonging and life-everlasting. In essence, it is these timeless struggles for power, membership and immortality[2] that best define the deeper and more consequential meanings of Afghanistan.

For the moment, public attention is being focused elsewhere. As usual, the key questions being asked are superficial. These questions concern narrowly partisan disagreements on presidential decision-making or policy-making error. Though it is reasonable in any democracy that the citizenry be offered an informed opportunity to allocate legal competences and responsibilities, it is also necessary that this body politic look for and elucidate variously deeper meanings.

 In Afghanistan, the “political” matter at hand, it is noteworthy that although “we have been to this movie before,” there still exist certain core commonalities. These commonalities are meaningfully relevant to wider truths, Now, they warrant disciplined theoretical study.

“Theories,” observed another German poet, Novalis, “are nets. Only he who casts, will catch.”[3]

 More than anything else, Afghanistan demands more coherent and comprehensive theorizing. To begin, the ongoing crisis in that beleaguered country has deeper import than what is currently being suggested by “experts.” Afghanistan represents much more than “just” another current catastrophe. It offers an opportunity to discover what “really” ails this imperiled planet; that is, to identify those still-remediable factors[4] that are most patently and durably causal.

Afghanistan has many “sides.” It is both microcosm (war;[5] religious conflict; crimes of war;[6] irrational prejudices; bitter rancor) and macrocosm (the individual human being: non-rational; death-fearing; anti-intellectual;[7] superstitious; self-destructive).  Taken together, these bewilderingly intersecting elements can easily become synergistic. Here, by definition, the “whole” of combining elements will be greater than the sum of all separate “parts.” Further, this entirety will become substantially greater if scholars and policy-makers can quickly learn to approach this current Afghanistan crisis as metaphor.

 Big questions will have to be answered. “Why do entire nation-states put themselves in harm’s way again and again, sometimes (increasingly) in the path of existential harms”?  “Why do countries that may finally access the tangible benefits of science and education insistently fall back upon myth, ignorance and civilizational regression?” “Why do peoples continue to prefer certain exterminatory paths in national and international affairs to the always available mechanisms of international law[8] and humane peacemaking?”

These questions ought not be disregarded as “collateral damage” of day-to-day US foreign policy. In The Law of Nations (1758), classical Swiss jurist Emmerich de Vattel observes: “The first general law, which is to be found in the very end of the society of Nations, is that each Nation should contribute as far as it can to the happiness and advancement of other Nations.”[9] Though a “general law,” this imperative is routinely swept under the rug. Why?

Though tangible and current policy issues are most urgent, Afghanistan is best approached as metaphor for the longer term. It should be studied accordingly.

Afghanistan can provide scholars and policy-makers with a real-world and real-time “laboratory.” What this laboratory can reveal to us is a visceral and plausibly overriding human death fear. Wherever we might choose to look on this earth, such primal terror splits all human civilizations into “us” and “them,” into adversarial camps of individuals who can wittingly discover in the systematic slaughter of certain “others”[10] the key to their own personal immortality.

From time immemorial, this has been an incomparably tragic discovery. To recall a clarifying lyric by Bob Dylan, what matters most to individual human beings and nation-states is to have “God on our side.” [11]

               There is more. Unless we finally take concrete steps to implement an organic planetary civilization – one based on the immutably central truth of human “oneness” –  there will be no civilizations at all. The time-urgent imperative of this portent is magnified by our species’ steady “advances” in the creation of mega-weapons and infrastructures.[12] Augmenting this “progress,” some major states are now committing themselves to nuclear deterrent strategies based not “only” on threats of “assured destruction,”[13] but upon recognizable capacities for nuclear war fighting.[14]

                Let us be candid; in such matters, planet earth is still at the beginning. Until now, in such primal matters, we humans have consistently managed to miss what is most important. Nonetheless, the central truth here is simple: There exists a latent but determinative “oneness” to all world politics.[15]  

               There is more. Human beings often fear solitude or “aloneness” more than anything else on earth, sometimes even more than death. Amid the palpably impending chaos that is stampeding across Afghanistan, already-suffering individuals will still offer unswerving loyalties to the corrosive claims of “tribe.” Always, everywhere, people desperate “to belong” subordinate themselves to various predatory expectations of nation, class and (above all) faith.

               In Afghanistan and other places, such subordination may carry with it belligerent celebrations of “martyrdom.” The veneer of all human civilization remains razor thin. As will likely be revealed again in Afghanistan, swaths of loyal “members” are prepared to support ancient practices of “sacrifice.” Significantly, such atavistic dedication lies at the heart of both war and terrorism.

                To survive on this human-imperiled planet, we may learn from Afghanistan.  Most fundamentally, all must sincerely seek to survive together, and to rediscover individual lives that are detached from patterned obligations “to belong.” It is only after such an indispensable rediscovery has become widespread that humanity could plausibly hope to reconstruct world politics on a sound basis. In the end, we must give birth to a witting foundation of global interdependence and human “oneness.”

               Unrealistic? Of course. But “in the end,” as we may learn from Italian film director Federico Fellini, “The visionary is the only realist.”

                In The Decline of the West, a modern classic first published during World War I, Oswald Spengler commented: “`I believe'” is the great word against metaphysical fear, and at the same time it is an avowal of love.'” The correct visionary would finally accept that suffocating conflicts of life on earth can never be undone by improving global economies, building larger and larger missiles, fashioning or abrogating international treaties, replacing one sordid regime with another or “spreading democracy.”

               These traditional “remedies” would be insufficient for good reason: The planet as a whole will still remain on its unswervingly lethal trajectory of belligerent nationalism and tribal conflict.[16] To wit, reminds French Jesuit thinker Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in The Phenomenon of Man: “The egocentric ideal of a future reserved for those who have managed to attain egoistically the extremity of `everyone for himself’ is false and against nature.”  Still, throughout history, what is perfectly obvious to calculations of human Reason has been undermined by more insistent claims of anti-Reason.[17]

               Before the tortuous drama is all over, humankind will need to take much more seriously that global survival requires escape from the eternally contentious spirit of competitive tribes. The likelihood of meeting such a daunting requirement of human “oneness” is portentously low, but foreign policies (e.g. America in Afghanistan) can no longer be constructed according to outdated assumptions of power politics. Finally, aware that the entire system of world politics displays the same fragility as an individual life –  that is, the irremediable fragility of not being immortal – an extraordinary shudder should run through “powerful” states. Even if the Afghanistan crisis should end more quickly and successfully than was first expected, it will inevitably be revealed as just another lethal milestone on the open road to species self-destruction,

               A concluding thought dawns. A shared theology will be indispensable to human survival, but this belief-system cannot be just another chanted affirmation of superior divinity. Whether we presently believe that a transcendental supreme being created a cosmos or a chaos,[18] ultimate survival responsibilities will be humankind’s alone. “In the end,” warns Goethe succinctly in Faust, “we must depend upon creatures of our own making.”[19]

               For the moment, it is less important that we agree on the preferred nature of such “creatures” than that we share a sincere commitment to the “world order” process.[20] Whatever else we might find generally agreeable or disagreeable, one fact will remain incontestable: Everything depends upon the individual human being, the “microcosm.” No nation or society can ever be better than the sum total of its constituent “souls.” Expressed differently, but not wholly without optimism, Carl G Jung has summed it all up with enviable candor and simplicity: “Every civilization is the sum total of  individual souls in need of redemption.”[21]

               As a long-delayed beginning, nothing more needs to be said. After Afghanistan, we may also learn from the poet Rilke that those who can lead in variously needed directions will be “those who know that behind all speeches are still the unspeakable lies.” Though not easy to make as a practical political argument in the United States (at the 2016 Republican national convention, “Duck Dynasty” was the presidential candidate’s “keynote speaker”), this basic knowledge could represent an indispensable sort of understanding.

               “Unspeakable lies” can never be a proper foundation of human governance.


[1] Plato’s theory, offered in the fourth century B.C.E, explains politics as an unstable realm formed by lies, half-truths and distorted reflections.  In contrast to the stable realm of immaterial Forms, a realm from which all knowledge must be derived, the political realm is dominated by always-multiplying uncertainties of the sensible world.  At the basis of Plato’s political theory is a physical-mental analogy that establishes correlations between head, heart and abdomen, and the human virtues of intelligence, courage and moderation. 

[2] Prima facie, there can never be any greater power in world politics than power over death. See, by this author, Louis René Beres, at Horasis (Zurich):  https://horasis.org/realpolitik-and-power-over-death-unceasing-delusions-of-world-politics/

[3] This citation is used by philosopher of science Karl R. Popper as the epigraph to his classic text, The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1959). At the same time, we cannot be allowed to forget that theoretical fruitfulness must always be achieved at some more-or-less tangible costs of “dehumanization.” Goethe reminds in Urfaust, the original Faust fragment: “All theory, dear friend, is grey, And the golden tree of life is green.” Translated here by the author, from the German: “Grau, theurer Freund, ist alle Theorie, Und grun des Lebens goldner Baum.”

[4] In fairness, of course, all determinations of what is “remediable” must be inherently subjective and problematic.

[5] Under international law, the question of whether or not a condition of war actually exists between states is often left unclear.  Traditionally, a “formal” war was said to exist only after a state had issued a formal declaration of war.  The Hague Convention III codified this position in 1907.  This Convention provided that hostilities must not commence without “previous and explicit warning” in the form of a declaration of war or an ultimatum.  See Hague Convention III on the Opening of Hostilities, Oct. 18, 1907, art. 1, 36 Stat. 2277, 205 Consol. T.S. 263.  Presently, a declaration of war could be tantamount to a declaration of criminality because international law prohibits “aggression.” See Treaty Providing for the Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy, Aug. 27, 1948, art. 1, 46 Stat.  2343, 94 L.N.T.S.  57 (also called Pact of Paris or Kellogg-Briand Pact); Nuremberg Judgment, 1 I.M.T.  Trial of the Major War Criminals 171 (1947), portions reprinted in Burns H. Weston, et. al., INTERNATIONAL LAW AND WORLD ORDER  148, 159 (1980); U.N. Charter, art. 2(4).  A state may compromise its own legal position by announcing formal declarations of war.  It follows that a state of belligerency may exist without formal declarations, but only if there exists an armed conflict between two or more states and/or at least one of these states considers itself “at war.”

[6] The law of war, the rules of jus in bello, comprise: (1) laws on weapons; (2) laws on warfare; and (3) humanitarian rules. Codified primarily at The Hague and Geneva Conventions, these rules attempt to bring discrimination, proportionality and military necessity into all belligerent calculations. Evidence for the rule of proportionality can also be found in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) at Art. 4. Similarly, the American Convention on Human Rights allows at Art. 27(1) such derogations “in time of war, public danger or other emergency which threaten the independence or security of a party” on “condition of proportionality.” In essence, the military principle of proportionality requires that the amount of destruction permitted must be proportionate to the importance of the objective. In contrast, the political principle of proportionality states “a war cannot be just unless the evil that can reasonably be expected to ensure from the war is less than the evil that can reasonably be expected to ensue if the war is not fought.” See Douglas P. Lackey, THE ETHICS OF WAR AND PEACE, 40 (1989). modified only by a subsequent norm of general international law having the same character.” See: Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, Done at Vienna, May 23, 1969. Entered into force, Jan. 27, 1980. U.N. Doc. A/CONF. 39/27 at 289 (1969), 1155 U.N.T.S. 331, reprinted in 8 I.L.M.  679 (1969).

[7] Notes French poet Guillaume Apollinaire, “It must not be forgotten that it is perhaps more dangerous for a nation to allow itself to be conquered intellectually than by arms.” See his The New Spirit and the Poets (1917).

[8] The obligations of international law are also generally binding obligations of US law. In the words of Mr. Justice Gray, delivering judgment of the US Supreme Court in Paquete Habana (1900): “International law is part of our law, and must be ascertained and administered by the courts of justice of appropriate jurisdiction….” (175 U.S. 677(1900)) See also: Opinion in Tel-Oren vs. Libyan Arab Republic (726 F. 2d 774 (1984)).The specific incorporation of treaty law into US municipal law is expressly codified at Art. 6 of the US Constitution, the so-called “Supremacy Clause.”

[9] The same point is made in William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England – a work of incomparable importance to the creation of US law.  The first volume of Blackstone’s Commentaries appeared in 1765, the fourth in 1769. An American edition of the full work was printed in Philadelphia in 1771-72

[10] One form such slaughter can take is genocide. Still, neither international law nor US law specifically advises any particular penalties or sanctions for states that choose not to prevent or punish genocide committed by others. All states, most notably the “major powers” belonging to the UN Security Council, are bound, among other things, by the peremptory obligation (defined at Article 26 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties) known as pacta sunt servanda, to act in continuous “good faith.” This pacta sunt servanda obligation is itself derived from an even more basic norm of world law commonly known as “mutual assistance.” This civilizing norm was famously identified within the classical interstices of international jurisprudence, most notably by eighteenth-century Swiss legal scholar, Emmerich de Vattel, in The Law of Nations (1758).

[11]See, Louis René Beres,, at Horasis (Zurich): https://horasis.org/an-ironic-juxtaposition-global-security-and-human-mortality/

[12] The Devil in George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman observes: “Man’s heart is in his weapons….in the arts of death he outdoes Nature herself…. when he goes out to slay, he carries a marvel of mechanism’s that lets loose at the touch of his finger all the hidden molecular energies.” Interestingly, Shaw warned of these “hidden molecular energies” before the start of the Nuclear Age.

[13] Pakistan is an example familiar to this author. See Pakistan Ministry of Defense, review of nuclear strategy works by Professor Louis René Beres: https://defence.pk/pdf/threads/surviving-amid-chaos-israels-nuclear-strategy.452097/

[14] On probable consequences of nuclear war fighting by this author, see: Louis René Beres, Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016; 2nd. ed., 2018); Louis René Beres, Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); Louis René Beres, Mimicking Sisyphus: America’s Countervailing Nuclear Strategy (Lexington MA:  Lexington Books, 1983); Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: US Foreign Policy and World Order (Lexington MA; Lexington Books, 1984); and Louis René Beres, ed., Security or Armageddon: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Lexington MA:  Lexington Books, 1986).

[15]We may learn from Epictetus, the ancient Greek Stoic philosopher: “You are a citizen of the universe.” A still-broader idea of human “oneness” followed the death of Alexander in 322 BCE; with it came a coinciding doctrine of “universality” or interconnectedness. By the Middle Ages, this political and social doctrine had fused with the notion of a respublica Christiana, a worldwide Christian commonwealth, and Thomas, John of Salisbury and Dante were looking upon Europe as a single and unified Christian community. Below the level of God and his heavenly host, all the realm of humanity was to be considered as one. This is because all the world had been created for the same single and incontestable purpose; that is, to provide secular background for the necessary drama of human salvation. Here, only in its relationship to the universe itself, was the world considered as a part rather than a whole. Says Dante in De Monarchia: “The whole human race is a whole with reference to certain parts, and, with reference to another whole, it is a part. For it is a whole with reference to particular kingdoms and nations, as we have shown; and it is a part with reference to the whole universe, which is evident without argument.” Today, the idea of human “oneness” can and should be fully justified/explained in more purely historical/philosophic terms.

[16] Regarding this trajectory, we will require certain antecedent modifications of Realpolitik or power politics. In his posthumously published Lecture on Politics (1896), German historian Heinrich von Treitschke observed: “Individual man sees in his own country the realization of his earthly immortality.” Earlier, German philosopher Georg Friedrich Hegel opined, in his Philosophy of Right (1820), that the state represents “the march of God in the world.” The “deification” of Realpolitik, a transformation from mere principle of action to a sacred end in itself, drew its originating strength from the doctrine of sovereignty advanced in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Initially conceived as a principle of internal order, this doctrine underwent a specific metamorphosis, whence it became the formal or justifying rationale for international anarchy –  that is, for the still present global “state of nature.” First established by Jean Bodin as a juristic concept in De Republica (1576), sovereignty came to be regarded as a power absolute and above the law. Understood in terms of modern international relations, this doctrine encouraged the notion that states lie above and beyond any form of legal regulation in their interactions with each other.

[17] See especially Karl Jaspers, Reason and Anti-Reason in our Time (1952). Jaspers also probed these core issues more specifically in his modern classic, The Question of German Guilt (1947).

[18]Thomas Hobbes’ seventeenth century Leviathan may still offer us an elucidating vision of chaos in world politics. During such chaos, which is a “time of War,” says the English philosopher in Chapter XIII (“Of the Natural Condition of Mankind, as concerning their Felicity, and Misery.”):  “… every man is Enemy to every man… and where the life of man is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” At the actual time of writing Leviathan, Hobbes believed that the condition of “nature” in world politics was less chaotic than that same condition extant among individual human beings. This was because of what he had called the “dreadful equality” of individual humans in nature concerning the ability to kill others. But this once-relevant differentiation has effectively disappeared with the continuing manufacture and spread of nuclear weapons, a spread that could soon be exacerbated even further by the ongoing dissolution of Afghanistan.

[19] In the language of world politics, such creatures must, at minimum, be rational. Today, in pertinent analytic studies, rationality and irrationality have taken on very precise meanings. A state is presumed to be rational to the extent that its leadership always values national survival more highly than any other conceivable preference or combination of preferences. An irrational state is one that does not always display such a markedly specific preference ordering. On pragmatic or operational grounds, however, ascertaining whether a particular state adversary is actually rational or irrational would be a sorely difficult task.

[20] The term “world order” has its contemporary origins in a scholarly movement begun at the Yale Law School in the mid- and late 1960s, and later “adopted” by the Politics Department at Princeton University in 1967-68. The present author was an early member of the Princeton-based World Order Models Project, and wrote several of the early books and articles in this once still-emergent academic genre.

[21] See Carl G. Jung, The Undiscovered Self (1957).

LOUIS RENÉ BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is Emeritus Professor of International Law at Purdue. His twelfth and most recent book is Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel's Nuclear Strategy (2016) (2nd ed., 2018) https://paw.princeton.edu/new-books/surviving-amid-chaos-israel%E2%80%99s-nuclear-strategy Some of his principal strategic writings have appeared in Harvard National Security Journal (Harvard Law School); International Security (Harvard University); Yale Global Online (Yale University); Oxford University Press (Oxford University); Oxford Yearbook of International Law (Oxford University Press); Parameters: Journal of the US Army War College (Pentagon); Special Warfare (Pentagon); Modern War Institute (Pentagon); The War Room (Pentagon); World Politics (Princeton); INSS (The Institute for National Security Studies)(Tel Aviv); Israel Defense (Tel Aviv); BESA Perspectives (Israel); International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence; The Atlantic; The New York Times and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

South Asia

India’s Unclear Neighbourhood Policy: How to Overcome ?

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India has witnessed multiple trends with regards to its relations with its neighbours at a time vaccine diplomacy is gaining prominence and Beijing increasing the pace towards becoming an Asian superpower, whereby making these reasons valid for New Delhi to have a clear foreign policy with respect to its neighbourhood.

Introduction

The Covid Pandemic has led to increased uncertainty in the global order where it comes to power dynamics, role of international organisations. New Delhi has tried to leave no stone unturned when it comes to dealing with its immediate neighbours.  It has distributed medical aid and vaccines to smaller countries to enhance its image abroad at a time it has witnessed conflicts with China and a change in government in Myanmar. These developments make it imperative for New Delhi to increase its focus on regionalism and further international engagement where this opportunity could be used tactically amidst a pandemic by using economic and healthcare aid.

According to Dr. Arvind Gupta, New Delhi has to deal with threats coming from multiple fronts and different tactics where it is essential for New Delhi to save energy using soft means rather than coercive measures.. India under Vaccine Maitri has supplied many of COVAXIN doses to Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka where many have appreciated this move. The urgency of ensuring humanitarian aid during these periods of unprecedented uncertainty are essential in PM Modi’s Security and Growth For All ( SAGAR) initiative, which focusses on initiating inclusive growth as well as cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region.

This pandemic witnessed various threats coming in India’s neighbourhood through multiple dimensions which include maritime, land, cyber as well as air threats where adversaries are using these to put pressure on New Delhi to settle land as well as marine disputes as per their terms.  These encirclement strategies have made it necessary for India to open up various options such as holding maritime joint exercises with like-minded countries, developing partnerships, providing economic as well as healthcare support to weaker countries plus having a clear insight about changing global dynamics and acting as per them.

This piece will discuss about various changing tactics, pros and cons which India has with respect to developing its national security vis-à-vis its neighbourhood, why should it prioritise its neighbourhood at the first place?

Background

India’s Neighbourhood is filled with many complexities and a lot of suspicion amongst countries, some viewing India because of its size and geography plus economic clout as a bully where it is wanting to dominate in the region putting others aside. This led to New Delhi play an increased role in nudging ties first with its neighbours with whom it had multiple conflicts as well as misunderstandings leading to the latter viewing Beijing as a good alternative in order to keep India under check.

Ever since PM Modi has taken charge at 7 RCR, India’s Neighbourhood First Policy has been followed increasingly to develop relations, to enhance understandings and ensure mutual cooperation as well as benefit with its neighbours. The relations with Islamabad have not seen so much improvement as compared to other leaders in the past. Even though former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was invited for PM Modi’s 1st Swearing In ceremony in 2014, terrorist activities have never stopped which could be seen through Pathankot, Uri and Pulwama terror attacks which killed many of the Indian soldiers. Even though surgical strikes were conducted on terror camps in retaliation to these bombardments, Islamabad has not changed its heart at all about its security or regional demands. New strategies and friendships are being developed where Beijing has played a major role in controlling power dynamics.

The Belt and Road initiative, first time mentioned during President Xi’s 2013 speech in Kazakhstan, then officially in 2015,  lays emphasis of achieving a Chinese Dream of bringing countries under one umbrella, ensuring their security, providing them with infrastructure projects such as ports, railways, pipelines, highways etc. The main bottleneck is the China Pakistan Economic Corridor when it comes to India’s security threats, passing through disputed boundaries of Gilgit and Baltistan in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir till Gwadar. Other projects have been initiated in Chittagong, Hambantota, Gwadar , Kyapkyou. These projects form a String Of Pearls in the Indo Pacific where New Delhi is being balanced against through economic plus development incentives being given to the member countries under the project. That’s why in the recent past, New Delhi is asserting its influence in the region, looking at new dimensional threats where Beijing’s threats in the maritime domain in the islands in East as well as South China seas are not being seen favourably in many countries such as ASEAN, US, Australia and Japan which is giving India an opportunity to look towards countries with a common threat. Amidst this great power struggle between Washington and Beijing, New Delhi is stuck between a rock and hard place i.e., having a clear and strong foreign policy with its neighbours.

In this region, India has a sole threat which is mainly Beijing where the latter has achieved prowess technologically and militarily where New Delhi lags behind the latter twenty fold. So, there is a need for improvising military technology, increase economic activities with countries, reduce dependence on foreign aid, ensure self-reliance.

Situation

South Asia is backward when it comes to economic development, human development and is a home to majority of the world’s population which lives below poverty line. The colonial rule has left a never-ending impact on divisions based on communal, linguistic and ethnic grounds. Even, in terms of infrastructure and connectivity, New Delhi lags behind Beijing significantly in the neighbourhood because the latter is at an edge when it comes to bringing countries under the same umbrella. Due to these, many initiatives have been taken up by New Delhi on developing infrastructure, providing humanitarian aid to needy countries.

There have been numerous efforts made by India with respect to reaching out to the Neighbours in 2020 through setting up of the SAARC Covid Fund where many Neighbourhood countries such as Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka gave contributions to ensure cooperation, joint scientific research, sharing information, healthcare kits where the countries contributed USD $ 18 million jointly towards this fund where New Delhi made an initial offer of USD $ 10 million.

New Delhi has even mustered ties with the Association of Southeast Asian countries during the pandemic under its Act East Policy where proper connectivity through the Northeast could be useful in easing movement of goods but currently, the infrastructure in Northeast needs more improvement where issues such as unemployment, poor connectivity are prevalent whereby disconnecting it from rest of the other states. This region could play an important role in linking Bangladesh, Myanmar to New Delhi along with the proposed India-Thailand –Myanmar Trilateral Corridor. Focus has also been laid to develop inland waterways, rail links and pipelines to ease connections between countries, making trade free and more efficient.

India is focussing on developing the Sittwe and Paletwa ports in Myanmar under the Kaladan Development Corridor, at the cost of INR 517.9 Crore in order to provide an alternative e route beneficial for the Northeast for getting shipping access

Summing Up

 These above developments and power display by a strong adversary, give good reasons for New Delhi to adopt collective security mechanisms through QUAD, SIMBEX and JIMEX with a common perception of having safe and open waters through abiding to the UNCLOS which China isn’t showing too much interest in, seen through surveillance units, artificial islands being set up on disputed territories which countries likewise India are facing in context to territorial sovereignty and integrity. These developments make it important for India to look at strategic threats by coming together with countries based on similar interest’s vis-à-vis Chinese threat.

There is a need for India to develop and harness its strength through connectivity and its self reliance initiative ( Aatmanirbharta ) so that there is no dependence on any foreign power at times of need . Proper coordination between policy makers and government officials could make decision making even easier, which is not there completely because of ideological differences, different ideas which makes it important for the political leadership to coordinate with the military jointly during times of threats on borders. Self-reliance could only come through preparedness and strategy.

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South Asia

India is in big trouble as UK stands for Kashmiris

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 A London-based law firm has filed an application with British police seeking the arrest of India’s army chief and a senior Indian government official over their alleged roles in war crimes in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Law firm Stoke White said it submitted extensive evidence to the Metropolitan Police’s War Crimes Unit on Tuesday, documenting how Indian forces headed by General Manoj Mukund Naravane and Home Affairs Minister Amit Shah were responsible for the torture, kidnapping and killing of activists, journalists and civilians – particularly Muslim – in the region.

“There is strong reason to believe that Indian authorities are conducting war crimes and other violence against civilians in Jammu and Kashmir,” the report states, referring to the territory in the Himalayan region.

Based on more than 2,000 testimonies taken between 2020 and 2021, the report also accused eight unnamed senior Indian military officials of direct involvement in war crimes and torture in Kashmir.

The law firm’s investigation suggested that the abuse has worsened during the coronavirus pandemic. It also included details about the arrest of Khurram Parvez, the region’s most prominent rights activist, by India’s counterterrorism authorities last year.

“This report is dedicated to the families who have lost loved ones without a trace, and who experience daily threats when trying to attain justice,” Khalil Dewan, author of the report and head of the SWI unit, said in a statement.

“The time has now come for victims to seek justice through other avenues, via a firmer application of international law.”

The request to London police was made under the principle of “universal jurisdiction”, which gives countries the authority to prosecute individuals accused of crimes against humanity committed anywhere in the world.

The international law firm in London said it believes its application is the first time that legal action has been initiated abroad against Indian authorities over alleged war crimes in Kashmir.

Hakan Camuz, director of international law at Stoke White, said he hoped the report would convince British police to open an investigation and ultimately arrest the officials when they set foot in the UK.

Some of the Indian officials have financial assets and other links to Britain.

“We are asking the UK government to do their duty and investigate and arrest them for what they did based on the evidence we supplied to them. We want them to be held accountable,” Camuz said.

The police application was made on behalf of the family of Pakistani prisoner Zia Mustafa, who, Camuz said, was the victim of extrajudicial killing by Indian authorities in 2021, and on behalf of human rights campaigner Muhammad Ahsan Untoo, who was allegedly tortured before his arrest last week.

Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the past two decades in Kashmir, which is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both in its entirety.

Muslim Kashmiris mostly support rebels who want to unite the region, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

Kashmiris and international rights groups have long accused Indian troops of carrying out systematic abuse and arrests of those who oppose rule from New Delhi.

Rights groups have also criticized the conduct of armed groups, accusing them of carrying out human rights violations against civilians.

In 2018, the United Nations human rights chief called for an independent international investigation into reports of rights violations in Kashmir, alleging “chronic impunity for violations committed by security forces”.

India’s government has denied the alleged rights violations and maintains such claims are separatist propaganda meant to demonize Indian troops in the region. It seems, India is in big trouble and may not be able to escape this time. A tough time for Modi-led extremist government and his discriminatory policies. The world opinion about India has been changed completely, and it has been realized that there is no longer a democratic and secular India. India has been hijacked by extremist political parties and heading toward further bias policies. Minorities may suffer further, unless the world exert pressure to rectify the deteriorating human rights records in India.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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