Over recent years, there have been growing concerns in Russia over India’s foreign policy being increasingly tilted towards the United States. The pivot is evidenced in a number of developments, ranging from the build-up of the once-stagnant four-party Quad partnership (featuring the U.S., India, Japan and Australia) to Washington’s expanded share in India’s weapons procurement. There are many reasons for New Delhi’s rapprochement with its overseas partner. The main point is clear, though: India’s mounting concerns over sustained economic and military rise in China, its close neighbor.
While India could set out to single-handedly counterweigh China some fifty years ago, the situation today is that economic discrepancies and the military-strategical gap between the two great powers in Asia have widened so much that it is not possible to strike a balance within the foreseeable future, even in hypothetical terms. India needs powerful external leverage, one that could, if partially, offset New Delhi’s relative weakness in its bilateral ties with Beijing.
Under other circumstances, Russia could have played this role. However, there are currently no politicians in New Delhi who cherish the hopes they once laid in their partners from Moscow. With Russia still putting a premium on a privileged partnership with India and Russia’s most recent National Security Strategy placing India on the same level as China, geopolitical realities and economic markers speak to a strikingly different dynamics within the Moscow–Beijing–New Delhi triangle. Any aspect of bilateral relations—be it the overall volume of trade, the number and scale of joint military drills or the number of summits held—demonstrates that China vastly outstrips India on Russia’s current foreign policy case. Moscow tends to remain neutral in the disputes between India and China; however, this very neutrality is rather playing into China’s hands given the magnitude of existing imbalances.
These developments have many experts in Russian and abroad to conclude that as the international system is all the more moving towards a new U.S.–China bipolarity, India’s leadership will have no realistic alternatives but embark on a closer rapprochement with Washington, while Russia will be forced to drift further towards Beijing. This will allegedly result, albeit not in the near future, in the official establishment of Russia–China and India–U.S. political and military alliances—or, as far as the latter case goes, in the Quad transforming into a multilateral alliance similar to the recently established AUKUS (between Australia, the UK and the U.S.).
Pessimists believe that Moscow and New Delhi do not share perspective on the future of global politics, with the gap becoming ever larger. They go on to claim that the “privileged” bilateral relations linger under their own momentum accumulated over the decades of strategic partnership. If this is the case, we will sooner or later see the Russia–India partnership fade into twilight, at least the way it had been since the Soviet era.
Certainly, there can be no denial of the profound shifts India’s foreign policy has exhibited over the last two decades. It is equally evident, however, that New Delhi’s rapprochement with Washington has its limits. There appear to be at least five factors working against a full-fledged U.S.–India political and military alliance. Their cumulative influence throws into question whether such an alliance would be possible in the years or even decades to come. Moreover, these factors place quite specific constraints on the current mode of India–U.S. cooperation. In this vein, drawing direct parallels between India–U.S. and Russia–China relations seems rather improper: the latter partnership is free of the limitations inherent in the former. We shall now briefly describe these limitations.
India is reluctant to act as America’s junior partner
First of all, the U.S. has never been engaged in establishing or managing truly equal political and military alliances. Since the aftermath of World War II, the U.S. has played first fiddle in any bilateral and multilateral frameworks, while all other nations have had to contend themselves with being junior partners who are to follow in Washington’s foreign policy footsteps. This role will hardly satisfy India’s elites as they have foreign policy ambitions of their own, relishing India’s sovereignty and independence. At the same time, it is highly doubtful that the U.S. is ready to change its old habits and form an “alliance of equals” with India. It will be long before this readiness could ever be displayed, since this requires a fundamental change in the views held by the American elites as regards the role and place the U.S. enjoys in global politics.
This is exactly why it is rather hard to imagine the Quad to be at some point remolded into a full-fledged AUKUS-like alliance, where the two other members do not challenge Washington’s senior leadership. Other modes of cooperation between the four powers—be they joint naval drills or collective diplomatic démarches—will persist to possibly be expanded; but the limitations of the Quad’s further institutionalization, as we would argue, have already been exposed. It is not by chance that some influential analysts in India advocate for greater emphasis on the prospective areas of cooperation between the Quad members—ones that lack an inherent anti-Chinese bias, such as innovative technologies, artificial intelligence, climate change, combating the COVID-19 pandemic, managing the global Internet, and others.
A broader agenda for “the four” would ensure greater stability for the multilateral cooperation, fostering it through involving the nations of Southeast Asia (the so-called Quad+) that are interested in engaging the Quad but are reluctant to jeopardize their current relations of partnership with Beijing. Apparently, India’s leadership will adopt a similar stance on Quad-2, the emerging multilateral collaboration in West Asia featuring the U.S., India, Israel and the UAE. India’s leadership clearly intends to make active use of multilateral formats to expand its Eastern and Western footprints—however, New Delhi will refrain from assuming rigid allied commitments, which would cap India’s leeway or undermine the nation’s sovereignty.
Naturally, Moscow and Beijing share the same problem since they, too, lack the historical experience needed to build political and military alliances among equals, which is something that constitutes a significant obstacle to any formalized Russia–China alliance. The existing asymmetries in Russia–China relations are arguably not so evident as those that inform the relations between India and the U.S. Besides, for the last twenty years, Moscow and Beijing have consistently been working towards taking utmost account of each other’s stances to promptly respond to any conflicts of interest. We may therefore suppose that the current collaboration between Russia and China is marked by a greater strategic depth and stability than is the India–U.S. partnership, which is especially true given the high levels of uncertainty and unpredictability typical of Washington’s current foreign policy.
New Delhi and Washington still have a gap in values
The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was similar to the former U.S. President Donald Trump in many respects—so much so that the two leaders had a good personal relationship and shared views on the nature of global politics. India’s leader once went as far as to speak in support of Donald Trump during the 2020 US presidential campaign. Apparently, Modi does not have and will hardly develop such an affinity with Joe Biden or Kamala Harris, who has Indian origins on her mother’s side.
New Delhi and Washington diverge on many fundamental issues of democracy and human rights. Naturally, no one in the U.S. would deny India the status of “the world’s largest democracy.” Yet, the Biden Administration is sharply critical of the policies encouraging Indian nationalism or of the attempts to impinge on the rights of India’s Muslim community. Nor does Washington support India’s decision to change the status of Kashmir. It is probably no coincidence that Washington has never earnestly raised the question of India joining G7, a group comprised of “mature” Western democracies.
The U.S. and India also have divergent approaches to the climate agenda. Today, India is the third-largest carbon emitter after the U.S. and China. Yet, as regards per capita emissions, India (1.58) is well behind not only the U.S. (15.5 tons) and China (6.9 tons) but also Russia (10.19), Germany (8.93), Japan (8.99), Canada (15.32), Australia (15.83) and South Korea (11.58). Washington is prompting New Delhi to commit to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, while India is calling upon the developed nations to curb their emissions ever more radically to redistribute the structure of global emissions to the benefit of the developing economies. Since, in the foreseeable future, India will continue to ramp up carbon emissions, it appears virtually unavoidable that India–U.S. tensions on the issue will subsist.
The Indian society retains certain mistrust towards the U.S. that stems from the complicated history of bilateral relations. This mistrust is fueled by the U.S. policies in the region, which are not always discreet. For instance, the decision to hastily withdraw the American troops from Afghanistan was taken without any consultations with the partners in India, which put the latter in a difficult position. Another frequent cause for frustration is maneuvers of U.S. warships in close proximity to the Indian coast, sometimes without preliminarily coordination of their activities with India. We should not underestimate the influence pro-American groups have on Indian intellectuals, though, much as the influence the large and successful Indian diaspora has on the relations between the two countries, but this influence should not be overestimated either. The Indian diaspora in the U.S., for instance, is rather fond of criticizing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s domestic policies.
A similar “gap in values” is not emblematic of the cooperation between Russia and China. With Russia positioning itself as a democratic state with a market economy and China remaining a socialist country with the Communist Party playing a major role, the recent years have nevertheless seen a clear convergence in the political development of the two countries. Moscow and Beijing are sympathetic to the measures taken by each of them to protect their sovereignty and traditional values. Russia and China’s political leaders are united in their determination to stand firm against what they perceive to be an information war waged by the West against their countries.
India will be unwilling to lose its traditional partners
India is not—and will not be in the foreseeable future—prepared to sacrifice partnerships with countries important to New Delhi and seen by the U.S. as geopolitical rivals. These primarily include Russia but also Iran. Moscow has traditionally been of key significance for India in the military and technical area, and Tehran has held a similar importance in terms of energy. While Washington was forced to be somewhat flexible concerning the military-technical cooperation between Russia and India, America’s harsh sanctions imposed on Iran’s oil and gas sector caused major damage to a number of Indian companies, presenting obstacles to India’s multidirectional foreign policy. Evidently, India will not wish to stand together with the U.S. in its approach to Tehran or Moscow and will avoid complying with U.S. sanctions whenever possible.
India’s membership in the Quad or Quad-2 does not suggest that India will somehow curtail its involvement in such well-established structures as BRICS or the SCO, although it is hard to imagine New Delhi as the principal driver of these organizations. It is plausible that India’s diplomacy will attempt to balance these two areas, supplementing them by establishing new multilateral structures in South Asia and in the Middle East to work on the specific issues present in these regions. New Delhi’s decision to refrain for the time being from participating in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) that includes ASEAN nations, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand hardly allows to conclude that this priority has decisively been put to rest.
Pessimists claim that Russia’s significance as one of India’s principal partners is dwindling. This view does not hold universal sway in either Moscow or New Delhi. Yet, even if we suppose this is the case, we should not forget the significant cooperation momentum accumulated over seven decades of successful partnership between Moscow and New Delhi. This is particularly relevant for military-technical cooperation, where Russia remains India’s principal partner.
It is crucial for Russia and India alike not to lose their traditional partners in Asia as the two promote their cooperation with China. Yet, there is every reason to believe that it will be easier for Moscow in this matter to find common ground with Beijing than for New Delhi to reach certain understanding with Washington. This can be evidenced by the simple fact that Beijing is far more restrained than Washington in imposing unilateral sanctions and that China’s sanctions, unlike those of the U.S., are not explicitly extra-territorial. Nonetheless, seeking to strike and maintain the optimum balances between the diverse directions of bilateral relations remains an important objective for Russia’s foreign policy in Eurasia and one that has not fully been attained.
How reliable are U.S. security guarantees?
Recently, especially in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, there have been growing doubts in Asia, let alone in India, over how reliable are the security guarantees Washington offers to its allies and partners. There is reason to believe that the U.S. will not be willing to come to the aid of its friends amid a major crisis, particularly if this entailed significant risks and potential costs for the U.S.
Even if U.S.–India relations were upgraded to the level of an allied partnership, it is far from apparent that Washington would be ready to extend direct military support to New Delhi in the event of another escalation of the India–China border conflict. An even less likely scenario is that the U.S. would decisively endorse India should it a military confrontation with Pakistan play out. As an example of America’s “low profile” in such matters, we could cite its extremely cautious reaction to the acute crisis between Russia and Turkey in November 2015 after the Turkish Air Forces downed a Russian ground attack aircraft over the Syrian-Turkish border.
In the meantime, if Beijing somehow succeeds in resolving the long-standing problem of “unification with Taiwan” on terms acceptable to Beijing, China will have additional capabilities to put pressure on India—both along the lines of China–India confrontation in the East and at the “Pakistani theater” in the West. The balance of power in the U.S.–China confrontation in East Asia is evolving over time, and not in Washington’s favor. This means that the “final solution” to the Taiwan issue, when and if it so happens, will undermine the credibility of U.S. security guarantees in the Indian and Pacific oceans all the more. Therefore, if India were seeking allied relations with Washington at this stage, it would be forced to relinquish part of its sovereignty without receiving any adequate compensation in return.
In this respect, we should note that Russia tends to associate the notion of “the Indo-Pacific” with U.S. endeavors to preserve its strategic hegemony in the Pacific and Indian oceans in the face of China’s growing power. However, India has a somewhat different perspective on this, believing “the Indo-Pacific” to be an opportunity to expand its political and economic presence east of the Strait of Malacca. As far as this standpoint goes, the central place in the emergent mega-region is assigned to the ASEAN nations rather than to the U.S. Obviously, India will not give up on fostering closer ties with its numerous partners in the Asia-Pacific, ranging from Japan and South Korea to the north up to Australia and New Zealand to the south, and this will be the case regardless of developments and the final outcome of the U.S.–China confrontation. This cooperation follows its own logic and has its own dynamics, which is independent of external factors.
Unlike New Delhi, Moscow needs no external security guarantees as it is quite capable of maintaining strategic parity with the U.S. or any other potential adversary on its own. For this reason, the issue of how reliable China’s security guarantees could be has never been on the agenda of Russia–China relations; consequently, the position Moscow enjoys in its relations with Beijing is preferable to that of New Delhi in its relations with Washington.
China is no less important a partner for India than the U.S.
Economic confrontation between the United States and China as well as enhanced state control of China’s economy present, as the moment arises, additional opportunities for Indian businesses. Yet, no matter how important India–U.S. trade and economic relations are for New Delhi, they remain far from serene. There are a number of problems here, stemming from the fact that India is essentially a rather closed economy. These were first broached by the Trump Administration, and they remain on President Biden’s agenda. India has its own grievances in trade and investment vis-a-vis the U.S., with New Delhi preferring to seek arrangements with the EU rather than the U.S. in some of the areas important for India. In this regard, Indian authors note that the current U.S. strategy in India provides no operational alternatives to economic cooperation between India and China and entails no significant programs for the U.S. to assist in modernizing India’s economy. During Trump’s presidency, U.S.–India relations were supposed to be rendered “self-repaying,” and this has not changed under Joe Biden in any principal terms.
At the same time, trade turnover between India and China is growing rapidly, as are China’s investments in India. For sure, India limits the access that Chinese companies may have to sensitive sectors of India’s economy (for instance, to the new generation of telecommunication networks). On the whole, though, the volume of economic ties between China and India is comparable to that between India and the U.S. In 2020, India exported $49bn worth of goods to the U.S. (17.9% of its total exports) and $19bn worth to China (6.89%). Yet, this year’s imports from China totaled $58bn (15.9%), while those from the U.S. stood at $26bn (7.23% of all Indian imports). In many aspects, India’s and China’s economies organically complement each other, which means that economic rapprochement between the two great Asian powers will subsist, even if political tensions between New Delhi and Beijing are still there.
India has to interact with China in the “shared neighborhood” countries, in one way or another. Although these interactions are primarily those of rivalry, there are pockets of cooperation in them, too. India’s leadership cannot but be apprehensive about China’s large-scale military aid programs to the neighboring Myanmar and Bangladesh as well as about China’s increasingly visible presence in the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Nepal. However, this is exactly the kind of Eurasian reality that has to be reckoned with. The U.S. can no longer replace China as the principal economic actor in South and Southeast Asia, nor can Washington reverse China’s expanding military-technical cooperation with many countries in the region. Therefore, India will inevitably have to account for China’s presence in subregions that are of crucial importance to New Delhi.
A settlement of India–China border disputes in the foreseeable future appears quite unlikely. We cannot, however, rule out the possibility of a stabilized situation and eased tensions, with a range of confidence-building measures implemented in the military area. If this happens, the current incentives to reinforce India–U.S. military cooperation will inevitably lose momentum. A broader détente or a reset in India–China relations cannot entirely be left out of account, and these developments would launch a de-fragmentation of the Eurasian continent that would be bound to end in a radical shrinking of America’s role as an arbiter and a balancer in Eurasian affairs.
For Russia, the economic heft of the U.S., its main strategic opponent, is far less considerable as compared to that of China vis-a-vis India. The share of trade with the U.S. in Russia’s overall foreign trade has never been significant, and it has been the European Union, not the U.S., that has served as the principal source of FDI, new technologies and practices. What this probably means is that China should outweigh the United States in its capabilities to use economic leverage. Once again, we would like to stress that China tends to more restrained than the U.S. in using unilateral sanctions, although this instrument is still present in China’s foreign policy toolbox as has been demonstrated by Beijing’s refusal to purchase Australian coal. It should also be noted that Moscow is forced to reckon with Washington’s significant influence in its neighboring states (Ukraine and Georgia), just as India has to take into account Beijing’s standing in the states of South Asia (Sri Lanka and Myanmar).
What does this mean for Russia?
The above prompts the conclusion that India will have to take careful stock of its foreign policy priorities in the near future, revising the relations with regional and global partners and rivals that have been shaped over the last two decades or even longer. This process will primarily be informed by how the U.S.–China confrontation evolves as well as by developments in China’s policies towards India. Still, New Delhi’s foreign strategy will increasingly be influenced by the country’s domestic agenda—above all, by the new ideology under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
What does all this mean for Russia? Most importantly, Russia does not have to panic as the India–U.S. cooperation is expanding in a number of areas. So far, this has not posed immediate threats to Moscow as it is largely a challenge for Beijing. The U.S. has been rather understanding in its attitude to Russia–India military-technical collaboration, believing it to be a form of balancing China’s dominance in Asia. Naturally, competition will further intensify on the markets that Russia prioritizes in India, with this competition not limited to military equipment, which is something Russia should be prepared for.
The changing rules of the global geopolitical game and the current diversification of New Delhi’s foreign policy priorities make it all the more urgent to explore new avenues in Russia–India partnership. Experts have long stressed that the current foundation for these relations is too narrow to create a solid fabric of social collaboration between the two nations. Biotechnologies, new energy, digital economy, higher education, transport logistics and tourism are but a partial list of the new opportunities that need to be carefully considered.
In a geopolitical sense, Moscow and New Delhi could lend each other a helping hand: New Delhi could do so in the India–U.S.–Russia triangle to become Moscow’s guide in the Indo-Pacific, while Moscow could do so in the Russia–China–India triangle by advancing the involvement of the other two in multilateral security and development projects in Eurasia. The international system slipping down towards a rigid bipolarity cannot align with the strategic interests of either Moscow or New Delhi while pushing them towards much closer collaboration. Provided both sides demonstrate due political will, patience and empathy, the Russia–India partnership could come to be one of the pillars of the continental and global order in the years to come.
From our partner RIAC
Pakistan’s Efforts for Protection of Minorities’ Rights, Facts on Forced Conversions and Blasphemy Convictions
It can be argued that the binary construction, inherently divisive and discriminatory, of ‘self’ and ‘other’ is an outcome of the conditioned and egoic state of humanity. It reminds of the French philosopher Jacques Derrida who said that ‘self’ and ‘other’ are different, but mutually constitute each other. Indeed, majority-minority group identities are constituted in a way where ‘majority self’, excludes ‘minority other’.
Therefore, the protection of the national cultural, ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities is a prerequisite for the establishment of a just, democratic and harmonious state and society. This was recognized by the founding father of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah when he said “You are free! You are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed—that has nothing to do with the business of the state,”. This set the framework for future national outlook and legislation with respect to the rights of minorities in Pakistan. Indeed, the establishment of such a framework for minority rights was based on the recognition that minorities are in a vulnerable situation in comparison to majority groups in society, and aims to protect members of a minority group from discrimination, assimilation, prosecution, hostility or violence, as a consequence of their status.
Notwithstanding its commitments to ensure minority rights in accordance with national and international laws and need for the preservation of the pluralistic social composition, Pakistan like any other country has faced challenges in the past. The deleterious effects of instrumentalizing religion and Islam during the Afghan Jihad against Soviet occupation in 1979 and later the US-led war against terrorism is well recognized and efforts are made to undone the damage. It is reassuring and commendable to see Pakistan achieving great strides in promoting and protecting minority rights. However, in this age of information warfare, Pakistan’s laudable efforts have not been duly appreciated as Indian propaganda machinery is in full swing to discredit and malign Pakistan’s global image. By presenting factually wrong statements and statics on the issue of minority rights in Pakistan, India has been trying hard, albeit unsuccessfully, to portray itself as the ‘safe heave’ for minorities and deflect international attention from its own worst record of suppressing minorities.
So, let’s consider if ‘forced’ conversions are indeed forced conversions or its more a hyperbole to malign Pakistan. The facts on the issue will help make an unbiased opinion. Consider this, since 2019 a total of 1169 cases of conversions occurred. The percentage of these conversions with respect to different groups are follows: Hindus (88%), Christians (9%), Sikh (less than 1%) and Qadianis (2%). Interestingly, of the 1169 conversions, individual conversions are only 17%, while 83% are family/ collective conversions. Less than only 1% are forced conversion cases in which girls are sent back to parent’s custody. Pakistan has enacted the Hindu Marriage Act 2017 to address the issue which extends to the whole of Pakistan except Sindh as Sindh government has passed the Sindh Hindu marriage Act 2016 (amended in 2018), to facilitate the Hindu community to solemnize their marriages in accordance with the Sindh Hindu marriage Rules, 2019.
To dispel the negative projection of conversion issue, Pakistan Hindu Council and Ulema reached an agreement according to which any Hindu approaching Ulema for conversion will be reported to local Hindu Community leader and his/ her meeting with parents will be arranged (in absence of Ulema). When it comes to the protection of minority rights, the response of the state has been swift and uncompromising. For instance, 117 suspected including 7 main instigators who set ablaze the Hindu Temple were arrested within 2/3 days of event. 12 police officials were dismissed and 92 police officials suspended for negligence in duties to protect mob on Hindu temple in Teri. In such cases the government also releases funds for the reconstruction purposes. Another case at hand is the state’s swift response for Protection of Minorities on Old Qilla Rawalpindi. On 27 Mar 2021, 15 religious motived individuals attacked and tried to damage under renovated temple at Purana Qilla Rawalpindi. FIR was registered against individuals and they were arrested. Unsurprisingly, over 6000 Pakistani Hindus launched a protest campaign against India for its smear campaign against Pakistan on the issue of minorities and 133 Hindus returned in last one year from India amidst improving conditions for minorities.
The response on Blasphemy Laws/ Cases is indiscriminate and since 2005, 56 individuals were convicted on blasphemy offense. 45 Muslims, 7 Christians, 2 Hindus, and 2 Qadianis (Muslims 80%, minorities 20%). Minorities convicted on blasphemy are given fair trial and rights of appeal in higher Judiciary. Acquittal of 5 Christians including Asia Bibi and Shagufta Kausar, Shafqat Emaneul etc by higher Judiciary are cases in point.
In fact, minorities in Pakistan are free to practice religion. There are 2652 Churches (1 church per 664 Christians), 732 Temples (1 Temple per 2734 Hindus) and 167 Gurdwaras (1 Gurdwara per 55 Sikhs) exist. If we draw a comparison in UK there is only one mosque for 2249 Muslims. Pakistan is committed to mainstream and empower the minorities. They are provided with equal rights to education, jobs and business opportunities (Reserve seats in Parliament, minorities on senior positions in bureaucracy, army etc). There are four reserved seats in the Senate and ten in National Assembly of Pakistan for minorities besides the proportional reserved seats in all Provincial Assemblies. The proportional reserved seats for minorities across the four provinces include Balochistan (3), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (3), Punjab (8) and Sind (9).
In pursuit of preserving the pluralistic composition and ensuring equal rights to minorities, Pakistan re-constituted The National Commission for Minorities (NCM) and increased membership of minority communities, who are new in the majority. Moreover, Mr. Chela Ram Kewlani, a member of the minority community, has been appointed as Chairman of the Commission. In terms of quota for Minorities in Services, Pakistan has allocated 5% Job Quota for minorities in all Federal Govt Services, in addition to open merit. On the directions of National Commission for Minorities, implementation of the job quota is being strictly observed by Provincial Governments, Federal Ministries/ Divisions, FPSC, Islamabad, however, Pakistan needs to address any shortcomings in realizing this by addressing the lack of education and awareness.
The Single National Curriculum introduced in consultation with faith scholars at primary level in educational institutions of Pakistan for seven non-Muslim communities (Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Kalash, Bahai, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism) is praiseworthy. Besides that, different welfare measures are being taken, including the creation of Endowment Fund in line with the bill passed by KP on December 8, 2022, increase in scholarships for minority students with effect from March 2014, and provision of free vocational education for Hindus and Sikhs approved by Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) on 15 January 2021.
Apart from the Interfaith Harmony Policy at the Federal level, the Ministry of Religious Affairs has taken a number of initiatives to promote interfaith harmony. These include Declaration/ Celebration of Minorities Day, Public holidays for minorities on their festivals of (Christmas and Easter for Christians, Holi and Diwali for Hindus, Biasakhi and Birthday of Guru Nanak for Sikhs, Nauroze of Zoroastrian, Eid-e-Ridvan for Bahai’s, Festival of Lights for Buddhist community and Chelum Jhust for Kalash people) at official level. The government has also established “District interfaith Harmony Committees” throughout the country and is holding “Interfaith Harmony Conferences” to promote interfaith culture, throughout the county. To mainstream Minorities, Minorities Welfare Fund was established, under which “Small Development Schemes” are carried out for the repair/ maintenance of the religious/ worship places of minorities. Also, Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) established on 16.04.2019 facilitates the Sikh Yatrees from India and across the word on their religious festivals in Pakistan.
Also, the Ministry of Human Rights introduced Hindu Marriage Act, 2017 which extends all over Pakistan except Sindh. This Act is the personal law and contains various provisions specially to protect Hindu women against abused in marriages. Ministry of Human Rights in consultation with Christian Minorities has also prepared a Christian Marriage and Divorce Act. However, certain factions of Christian communities want further deliberation over this draft bill. Once the bill is finalized it will be introduced in Parliament without any delay.
Pakistan has also taken incredible steps to promote Religious Tourism by opening historical Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib Corridor and its operationalization for Sikh community, holding of 550th birthday celebration of Baba Guru Nanak, initiation of Baba Guru Nanak Scholarship for deserving talented student form Hindu & Sikh community, hosting of more than 60,000/- yatrees form across the word, opening of Shewala Teja Mandir and Gurdawara Choa Sahib, Jehlum, filling up of Amer Kund (Holy Water) at Katas Raj, printing and distribution of Books and other promotional material on Sikh & Hindu Heritage. The security of minorities, especially during religious festivals is being strictly ensured. A grievance cell has been set up to resolve complaints of non-Muslims to ensure their democratic and fundamental right to practice their religion without any fear.
In the nutshell, if history is any guide, the protection of national minorities is essential to stability, democratic security and peace. Pluralist and genuinely democratic society should not only respect the ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious identity of each person belonging to a national minority, but also create appropriate conditions enabling them to express, preserve and develop this identity. The various measures adopted by Pakistan reflects its unwavering resolve to realize the dream of its founding father and to preserve the pluralistic composition of society.
Pakistan’s Governance and Security Challenges: The Way Ahead
Governance and security are the two key areas where states work and progress and lead towards the excellence. Pakistan as a state, has been failing on the governance side specifically rather its physical security is intact but many other forms of security are also compromised and creating hurdles for its governance. The idea of security is complicated and diversifying rapidly. We have travelled long to reach to the era of cyber security from conventional border security. Pakistan’s armed forces have been tackling the border issues excellently on all the spheres ranging from border security to cyber-attacks and nuclear arsenals. The issue of Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) is a perpetrating matter for us which may not be forgotten at any cost. Our civil and military leadership is pursuing the matter diligently. This is a bit of relief that Pakistanis may not be worried about our physical security and may concentrate on other dimensions. Climate change, the mother of all other security issues being faced by Pakistan. Devastated floods of this year are the prime example of it. The effects of the recent floods are immense.
There has always been a storm in Pakistan’s political matters; rather it be international, regional, national, provincial or local level. Political instability in the country is an issue it has always been bothering about. Politicians are focusing on their power struggle. When they are on opposition, they try to dismantle the governing party(ies) and when they are governing, they are not delivering and blaming the previous government. This blame-game continues and the masses keep suffering. Political stability is the key to progress. All the developed states progressed after dealing with the political stability at home and with the bordering nations permanently.
Corruption is the root-cause of most of Pakistan’s problems. We may remember that the corruption is not the illegally acquired money only; anyone who is not doing his work honestly is corrupt. A national level agreement on the eradication of it needed to resolve the problem. Corruption is a major cause for delaying or sabotaging the important matters and changing the priorities of the authorities. There is two prong accountabilities in Pakistan. One is to make the corrupts accountable and other is why they are actively pursuing the particular cases and not all the cases. Political victimization is a grave concern undermining the accountability efforts.
Pakistan has also been facing physical security challenges and Kashmir issue is on the top of the list. It is a persisting issue since the independence of Pakistan. India has occupied Jammu and Kashmir and even involved in changing its special status which is against the international law. Moreover, it is not obliging the resolutions of United Nations Security Council due to its fear of losing the occupied territory. Pakistan has been successfully staging protests on all the international forums for IHK as its people belong to the identity of their motherland, Pakistan. It should keep the momentum high and its impact may not be diminished from the minds of international community.
Climate change is the mother of many security challenges ranging from food security to human well-being. Pakistan is the 0.5% contributor to the climate change and one of the top five sufferers. Pakistan is bearing the cost it is not responsible for. Floods of this year are enough to open eyes of the whole world. The world community should pay attention to the severity of climate change and take the concrete steps to stop it before it is too late. The developed countries, which are mostly responsible for the disastrous climatic changes, will not be an exception to its effects. They might be the next victim of it.
On the other hand, Pakistan is responsible for its lack of capacity to deal with the natural disaster. It is also due to corruption that it is unable to deal with. Once Pakistan is aware of its vulnerability, it must prepare itself. Blaming the states which caused the issue is not enough as it will not bring any solution to our problems. It can proactively engage the world to help us bearing the cost of the climatic disasters and equip our state to deal with it efficiently. Pakistan lost over 1700 lives this year and over $40 billion of economic loss which cannot be recovered anytime soon or only with the help of other nations or entities.
Food is the basic need of human kind and Pakistan is one the countries who are facing issue of food shortage. In the coming times, the rich people will be those who own the agricultural land. As it is evident that Pakistan is seeing real estate boom for the last two decades; we have been building concrete jungles. There are housing societies in every city of Pakistan. The closer the area is to the metropolitans or motorway/ highway, the more attractive for the real estate business. This sector is encroaching the agricultural land or forests which do not seem precious in comparison to the real estate in the short run, but these are the most important part of our eco system. Boom of the real estate is also dangerous for the economy in the long run. Masses have started witnessing its effects. As an agricultural state, Pakistan must be self-sufficient in our food requirements rather than importing them from other countries.
Pakistan is also one of the top five countries whom economic conditions are most vulnerable in the world. Default of Sri Lanka has blown the whistle. Although Pakistan has no such circumstances where the country may default, but situation is not favourable. Current account deficit is enlarging with every passing month and foreign exchange reserves are depleting rapidly. A county of around 230 million people and having monthly exports of around $ 2.5 billion on average has only $7 to 8 billion as foreign exchange reserves. This is a critical situation it has been facing for long. Economy is the most important aspect of security which is directly or indirectly linked to all the security dimensions. Our state should be moving towards manufacturing rather than facilitating the real estate only.
- Politicians must think above party level to serve the national cause. Their focus on the current term and securing the next elections hits the country badly. They should govern the survived masses rather those who are always striving to survive.
- IHK must be our priority along with climate change. The Indian atrocities and human rights violations in the occupied territory seek our attention and best efforts to resolve the matter diplomatically and politically.
- There is a need of charter of economy on national level where all the political parties converge their manifesto for the betterment of people. Vulnerable economic conditions are not in favour of anyone.
- Food security is closely linked to the survival of agricultural land and the facilities/ subsidies given by the government to farmers/ agricultural land owners. A strict and immediate ban should be imposed on usage of agricultural land and forests for housing societies and other real estate ventures.
- Along with the accountability of corrupts, there should be a mechanism which makes those people accountable who are carrying the accountability.
- Pakistan should play an active role in the field of climate change as it is one of the top sufferers. Taking the issue to world community will not be sufficient. It also needs to take concrete steps. Moreover, accelerating efforts for capacity building to handle the situation efficiently is also its responsibility.
How does ‘1997 CHT peace accord’ pave the pay of ‘Peace and prosperity’ in Bangladesh’s CHT?
To put an end to the brutal confrontations between the government troops and the tribes and hillsmen of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord was signed 25 years ago. Following the agreement, it was thought that if it were put into practice, the economy would pick up. This hope has come true over the past 25 years. The locals’ way of life has changed. The government’s numerous development initiatives have improved the economic situation for millions of people in the region.
Before the deal, visitors were hesitant to visit the hilly areas. As the security situation has improved, tourists are now hesitantly visiting the mountains. Trade and commerce used to move slowly because of the inadequate communication infrastructure, but now it moves much more quickly. The wheel of everyday existence had been closed for two decades prior to then. In the modern regional and international arena, the successful political resolution of the CHT conflict is considered a remarkable achievement for our country. With the signing of the peace treaty, the hill country resumed its regular rhythm. Because of this, Sheikh Hasina’s UNESCO Prize recognized Bangladesh’s distinctive commitment to peace.
The 1997 Bangladesh government made an effort to create enduring peace in the hill areas. After that, in 1997, there was an armistice that ultimately came to be known as the Chittagong Hill Tracts Agreement or the Peace Accord. The majority of the agreement’s provisions, according to the administration, have allegedly been carried out. Additionally, the unrealized clauses will be promptly implemented, therefore a favorable climate is required.
On the other side, a number of schools and colleges, including Rangamati University of Science and Technology and Rangamati Medical College, have been established in the 20 years after the peace deal. The field of communication has seen advancement. With two-star hotels and a three-star tourism complex, Sajeke in Baghaichari was created with tourists in mind.
The majority of the jhum crops would have been lost along the route in the past, but since there isn’t as much traffic now, hill farmers can simply sell their jhum crops at the market.
The lumber industry has seen the largest improvement since the accord. Since the deal, the region’s timber trade has expanded. Despite not previously purchasing hillside tree gardens, traders are now doing so. The gardeners reap financial rewards.
All of the Chittagong Hill Tracts districts, including Rangamati, have experienced general economic development as a result of improvements in every area, including education, communication, and security. A native of Rangamati named Laxmidhan Chakma remarked, “Government jobs used to seem like golden deer to us.” The educated and deserving children of the Hill Tracts are now, however, easily obtaining government jobs as a result of the Hill Tracts Peace Accord. Without the agreement, it was never feasible.
The wheel of the mountain economy continued to turn after the peace deal notwithstanding a few episodes focusing on rivalry and hegemony among the regional parties.
Due to many actions the government took after the peace deal, economic prosperity has been attained in a similar manner to how people’s living standards have increased. Analyzing the periods prior to and following the peace accord can help us comprehend this.
The Hill People were allowed to trade easily following the Hill Tracts Peace Accord. The blockage of some regional groups frightened the general population. However, the residents of the hills are now exhaling in relief as a result of the ceasefire deal. With the administration’s unparalleled collaboration, the locals operate independently.
Before the Hill Accords, trade and business in the hill country were at a standstill. The typical person was unable to move freely. But that time is passed. People can conduct business freely today. Trade and commerce have benefited from the expansion in communication. The police administration is set up so that everyone in this place can carry out their responsibilities on their own.
Ten additional development projects have been started in the meantime to further develop the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The Planning Commission has received a proposal from the Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts for inclusion in the Green Leaf in the upcoming 2021–22 Fiscal Year’s Annual Development Program (ADP). The allocation has been requested concurrently for 19 active projects.
The Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Board’s Rural Road Development Project in Rangamati Hill District will last till 2021–2024. In the Rangamati Hill District, the construction period for rural infrastructure has been set at 2024.
The improvement of the water system in Bandarban Municipality and Lama Municipality of Bandarban Hill District is planned to include the construction of a master drain by 2023. Additionally, a deadline of 2023 has been set for the development of the different rural roads built by the Board in the Bandarban Hill District.
It has been determined that construction of a bridge and connecting road from Upazila Sadar to isolated regions of the Khagrachhari district will begin in 2025 with the goal of assisting the socioeconomic development of the Chittagong Hill Tracts’ underprivileged residents. The completion date for the road project connecting Khagrachhari district’s Laxichhari Upazila Sadar and Barmachhari Bazar is 2025. Building rural road infrastructure in the Khagrachhari Hill District is being done in an effort to connect isolated villages in various Upazilas to the Upazila Sadar communication network.
Construction is underway on a rural road that would connect Ruma Upazila in the Bandarban Hill District to Roangchhari Upazila Sadar. In the isolated Chittagong Hill Tracts, a high-value spice farming initiative is being conducted.
A master drain for the development of the drainage system of the Khagrachhari district headquarters and the elimination of water blockage are also being built, along with two bridges over the Sangu river and one over the Sonakhali canal in Bandarban Hill District.
Additionally, there is an increase in cotton farming in the Chittagong Hill Tracts region and a reduction in farmer poverty, as well as development in all Upazilas, including Rangamati municipality, and power supply via the installation of solar panels in remote Chittagong Hill Tracts areas (Phase II). Construction of irrigation drains in various Upazilas of the Bandarban Hill District, irrigation drains in various Upazilas of the Khagrachhari district of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, and the provision of potable drinking water via GFS and deep Tube Well in all areas in rocky areas in various Upazilas of the Bandarban district are all included in this project.
Other programs to reduce poverty include growing cashew and coffee in the CHT region, as well as managing water supply and sanitation in the Khagrachari district’s marketplaces and surrounding neighborhoods. establishing and executing the network, which at the moment serves as the main access point for the residents of the three hill districts of Rangamati, Bandarban, and Khagrachari to get essential social services.
The Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord recognized the hill people’s unique status and dignity. A regional council made up of the local government councils of the three hill districts has been established in accordance with the peace deal.
The Regional Council is organized as follows: Chairman 1, Native American Member 12, Native American Woman 2, Native (Non-Indigenous) Male 6, Non-Indigenous Member, Female 1. The accord asks for the creation of a Ministry of Tribal Affairs, headed by one tribe, to regulate operations concerning the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Their land will be returned if the tribes’ land ownership rights are established. In order to ascertain who owns the property, a land survey system will be implemented in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
Every home of the tribal people is now filled with educated young people. The literacy rate of Chakmas is 96 percent on average, with at least one employee per household.
The development of tribal people in the Chittagong Hill Tracts is significantly better than that of any outlying area of Bangladesh due to the implementation of quota systems in all jobs, including BCS, priority systems, and quotas for tribal students in all medical schools and universities as well as scholarships in Europe, America, and Australia.
The current prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, is always working to meet the expectations of the residents of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. In the highland areas, the current administration has not implemented any anti-people, anti-democracy measures. The Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Board’s chairperson was chosen when the Awami League administration took office.
The Minority Cultural Institutions Bill 2010 and the creation of the Land Commission have been approved by the National Assembly. In the interim, everyone has come to terms with the idea that tribes, minorities, ethnic groups, and communities can safeguard the nation’s integrity. We believe that in order for there to be development, Sheikh Hasina’s efforts to bring about peace must be supported.
The successful execution of numerous ongoing socio-economic development initiatives provides compelling evidence of the need for the Hill Tracts Peace Agreement to be put into effect. The conviction to uphold the rights of all citizens as stated in the peace agreement must be put into action, but the hill-Bengalis must work together to do so.
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