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Saffron arrogance

India’s new found frenzy of extreme right nationalism is radiating signals of intolerance amongst various segments of Indian society as well as erratic behaviour towards neighbours. Past year or so has seen a number of setbacks for India-Pakistan relations. It still remains to be seen whether New Delhi has a clear policy on Pakistan. In contrast, political parties across the political divide in Pakistan are on the same page when it comes to making peace with India. BJP government in India has already wasted too much time, and it should now seriously move forward on all bilateral issues with Pakistan. Modi is still learning to be a statesman; whether Modi shapes India or India shapes Modi is an interesting catch 22 projection!
There are as many roads to peace and stability as there are to crisis and conflict in South Asia. Modi‘s government has been anti-Pakistan from day one. It wishes to unilaterally design a bilateral framework, dictating what qualifies for dialogue, and what does not. It wants Pakistan to forget about Kashmir, water, Siachen and other important issues, and only stand accountable to India for terrorism, and that too as interpreted by India. While on the other hand, Pakistan is ready to resume a dialogue process with India simultaneously on all contentious issues. The entire world has endorsed Pakistan’s stance.
Nepal has adopted a new constitution much to Indian dislike. Despite numerous strategic concessions like a border agreement to India’s advantage and generous grant of transit rights, Bangladesh has not been able to get anything in reciprocation; even its rightful share of water continues to be usurped by India. Sri Lank is struggling to come out of the shadow of LTTE era, orchestrated by out-right Indian support to the Tamil terrorist entity. To ease its difficulties, Pakistan has offered to allocate space in its Special Economic Zones for Sri Lankan investors. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has realised that his obsession of friendly relations with India—during Modi era—is a pipe dream.
However, most remarkable resistance has come from within Indian civil society which has sharply reacted to Modi’s model of a polity where Shiv Sena (army of god) calls the shots with impunity—radiating a perpetual sense of insecurity. Amongst Pakistani public, Modi’s domestic policies have reinforced faith in two nations’ theory and that vision of Pakistan’s forefathers for a separate homeland for Muslims was a correct assessment of erratic political behaviour of extremist elements within Hindu community.
Modi’s critics point to a number of recent incidents, including mob killings, as evidence of a growing intolerance among Modi’s Hindu extremist base against India’s mainstream Hindu majority and religious minorities. Visits of Pakistani sportspersons, artists, intellectuals etc. are disrupted by Shiv Sena activists as a matter of routine. Indian prime minister also retains ties with the far-right RSS, a group that many argue is trying to turn India into a Hindu fundamentalist state.
When people of India are rejecting Modi-ism state by state, Modi thought it appropriate to get a shot in the arm by paying his respects to former colonial masters in London. For the first time since entering office, Modi is on the back foot and was hopeful that trip to Britain will restore him some glory. The red-carpet reception was a stark reversal of fortune for Modi, who had been banned from Britain until three years ago over anti-Muslim riots which killed over 1,000 people in 2002 in Gujarat, while he was chief minister of the state. Modi is believed to have let the carnage go on for three days, he intentionally did not act effectively to arrest the violence; taking the cures from the chief minister, law enforcers also chose to do nothing while looking busy. Later Kangaroo courts absolved Modi of most of the charges; and private entities and individuals who pursued the matter on unofficial channels faced Modi’s and Shiv Sena’s wrath.
And what a dip in British values: “This isn’t just a historic visit. It’s a historic opportunity,” Cameron said ahead of the visit. “It’s an opportunity for two countries, tied by history, people and values, to work together to overcome the biggest challenges of our age.” As one of the outcome of visit, India is buying more Hawk trainer jets for its air force. Britain is bending over backward to enhance trade with India. Cameron promised in 2010 to double Britain’s trade with India by this year. He has visited the country three times, but the trade figure has barely increased. India is one of the most difficult countries of the world to invest in. Ahead of the visit, Modi’s government, last week, announced plans to liberalise its foreign direct investment (FDI) regime in areas including defence, banking and construction. The move is seen as a bid by Modi to counter accusations that his reform drive is stalling, especially highlighted by BJP’s humiliating defeat in recent Bihar elections.
Narendra Modi undertook his visit to the UK under the shadow of unprecedented protests by Indian diaspora, cutting across ethno-sectarian divides, who warned of a “rising climate of fear” under Modi’s rule. Around 200 literary figures signed an open letter urging David Cameron to demand that Modi provide “better protection” for critical voices such as writers and artists and also raise the issue of freedom of expression. Also, around 46 MPs, including the leader of the opposition Labour party Jeremy Corbyn, signed a parliamentary motion urging Cameron to raise human rights issues with the Indian government. Before he even set foot in Britain, he was the target of a high-profile protest in the centre of London. It had a simple message: “Modi not welcome.” That message was briefly projected on Westminster — the meeting place of Parliament. A large number of Muslim and Sikh groups also protested Modi’s arrival in the UK. Kashmiri diaspora also protested, in numbers, Modi’s action in and about Kashmir and demanded the settlement of dispute in-line with the UN resolutions. Estimates have it that protesters outnumbered the state sponsored pro-Modi rally.
India has not responded to Pakistan’s overtures for peace in South Asia, the way it should have. Terrorism against any country is completely unacceptable, and Pakistan itself has not been spared from this scourge. Pakistan is presently fighting one of the biggest inland wars ever fought against terrorists, with little international help. Pakistan’s fight against terrorism is commendable, especially its role in fighting a difficult war in tribal areas— under the banner of Zarb-e-Azb.
Recently, while in Islamabad, former Indian foreign minister Salman Khurshid gave an overview of Pakistan-India relationship in recent times, noting that, “Modi is not used to talking to people who disagree with him,” as he illustrated the problematic manner in which the incumbent Indian government approaches dispute resolution with Pakistan.
Prime Minister Narendera Modi’s high ambitions of re-shaping India on an extremist Hindutva model and region as India dominated South Asia with other counties relegated to vassal status has come to a naught rather quickly. His invitation to all heads of SAARC countries to attend his inaugural ceremony was the first step in this regard; compliance by all stooges —though in good faith—gave Modi an impression that he had achieved this objective, so he started behaving like regional Maharaja, while at the same time submitting to the mighty by pouring tea for Obama.
Strong public consensus in Pakistan for improved relations with India is breaking down due to conditionality and stark messaging by Modi. Trade between the two sides would be favourable for both sides, but it is an unfortunate reality that economic and regional connectivity in South Asia continues to be hostage to political stalemate, largely sustained by Modi’s erratic signalling.


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Dynamics of FATF listing

Pakistan Focus Analysis. Indo-US anti-Pakistan nexus is so very obvious, both have in-chorus expressed their joy on Pakistan’s placement on grey list. Indian Express has reported that “India, US are one in saying Pakistan deserved to be demoted to anti-terror funding group's 'grey list’”. "India welcomes the decision of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to place Pakistan in its Compliance Document (grey list) for ICRG [International Cooperation review Group] monitoring," said India's ministry of external affairs. And; "outstanding counterterrorism deficiencies consistently raised by the Financial Action Task Force and [Pakistan] needs to take actions, including on the raising and moving of funds of UN-designated terrorist groups, a top US official said to news agency PTI”. Decision is politically motivated and is part of American strategy to pressurise Pakistan to settle some other scores. Pakistan has been placed among the jurisdictions (states) with strategic deficiencies: Ethiopia, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia and Yemen. FATF has called upon these states to complete implementation of the action plans expeditiously and within the proposed timeframes, vowing to closely monitor the implementation. It was also agreed in February Plenary that an Action Plan would be negotiated between Pakistan and FATF members by June. This has been done. The FATF has formally placed Pakistan on the grey list due to ‘strategic deficiencies’ in its anti-money laundering and terrorism financing regime. The decision came despite Pakistan had demonstrated reasonable progress in three out of four major areas of FATF concerns. Pakistan’s team led by Finance Minister apprised the plenary about measures that Pakistan had taken to stop money laundering and strangling the terror financing. In prevailing World Order, nothing works better than American pressures. During February plenary, the US and the UK went out of their way to by-pass the standard FATF procedures and jointly arm twist the FATF for nominating Pakistan for the grey list in June, regardless of its February-June period effort and progress; they were also joined by France and Germany. Pakistan has undertaken to work towards effective implementation of the Action Plan, while staying in the grey list. A similar situation took place in 2011 when Pakistan was included in the grey list and was taken out in 2015 after it successfully implemented the Action Plan. There were tall claims that Pakistan was unlikely to be placed on the grey list of the global financial watchdog as the country had made enough progress to meet international anti-money laundering and terror financing standards, such euphoric environment had been created before and during the previous FATF plenary meeting as well. There is a need to float realistic expectations before such international events. FATF identifies jurisdictions with strategic AML/CFT deficiencies in its two public documents: FATF Public Statement (call for action)– commonly known as black list—and Improving Global AML/CFT Compliance— nick named as grey list. It is an on-going process; these lists are updated three times a year. Interestingly, FATF does not use grey list/blacklist terminologies. The ICRG of the APG had identified four key areas of concerns: deficiencies in the supervision of Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Counter Terrorism Financing regimes; cross-border illicit movement of currency by terrorist groups; progress on terrorism financing investigation and prosecution; and implementation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions 1267 and 1373, for curbing terror financing. ICRG report has shown that Pakistan did show progress on three out of four major areas of concerns. Cross-border smuggling of cash was the only major area where Pakistan admitted deficiencies. Maximum number of conditions – nine to be precise – take into account the concerns of the UNSC resolutions, followed by eight commitments to address concerns regarding terrorism financing prosecution, four are about curbing currency movement across the border and five recommendations relate to improvement in the supervision mechanisms of banks and companies. Pakistan has undertaken to demonstrate that authorities are identifying cash couriers and enforcing controls on illicit movement of currency and understanding the risk of cash couriers being used for terrorism financing. Remember Ayan Ali case? And who protected her? Carrier is enjoying quality life abroad. Pakistan has made a “high-level political commitment to work with the FATF and APG to strengthen its Anti-money Laundering (AML)/Countering Financing of Terrorism (CFT) regime and to address its strategic counter-terrorist financing-related deficiencies,” according to FATF announcement. The FATF said Pakistan will also be demonstrating that remedial actions and sanctions are applied in cases of AML/CFT violations, and that these actions have an effect on AML/CFT compliance by financial institutions. “It will be demonstrating that competent authorities are cooperating and taking action to identify and take enforcement action against illegal money or value transfer services.” During the intervening period Pakistan government did strenuous hard work to plug the gaps. Ambitious laws were enacted. Finance ministry improved institutional mechanisms for handling anti-money laundering and countering financing terrorism issues. Coordination between the State Bank, Banking institutions and law enforcement agencies had also been strengthened to curb money laundering and terror financing. Pakistan has recently addressed issues raised by the FATF through a tax amnesty scheme, while Securities and Exchange Commission has issued Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Regulations (2018). National Security Committee has also reaffirmed its commitment to cooperate with the FATF. Through its Action Plan, Pakistan has demonstrated to the world that it was ready to go an extra mile to curb money laundering. Pakistan will have to deliver on the first goal by January next year and complete all the 26 actions by September 2019,” it is indeed a tight schedule. One wonders whether Pakistan has requisite mechanisms in place to implement and steer such an ambitious plan. An expert assessment has it that though Pakistan’s inclusion in the grey list may hurt its image in the international landscape, its economic impact will not be as severe as being portrayed. This is because when Pakistan was part of the grey list/blacklist (2008-2015), it successfully approached multilateral bodies, floated international bonds and had international trades. Hopefully Pakistan will be able to come out or grey list in September 2019, however it must follow consistent economic policies to remain out of such trouble spots. Caretaker government would do a great service by forming a national commission to identify and punish all those responsible for letting the things reverse back after Pakistan’s previous journey to blacklist was over.

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