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South Asia

India’s ethno-sectarian mosaic

Conceptually, one can trace back domestic façade of Hindu extremism to erstwhile Maha-Bharat mythology. Foundation stone is provided by the religion sanctified Hindu caste system.In the historic perspective, during 1820s or so the British tried to consolidate whatever the caste Hindus were available into a single organized entity. Then on, Hindu community started working towards their national reassertion and around 1925, the concept of “Hindu Rashtra” or Hindu nation state was floated. India is spreading hate-based ideology and Hindutva extremism under present government. Amendments are being incorporated in text books to tarnish Muslim leaders’ image. Prime Minster Narendra Modi, a well-known RSS representative in the BJP government and a flag bearer of the Hindutva ideology of RSS is behind the intimidating plot, rendering full governmental support and protection to the perpetrators of anti-minority drive. The ‘Ghar Wapsi’ movement is based on getting back emigrant Hindus into the folds of Hindutva and converting the Christians and Muslims into the fold of their ‘original religion’. The movement has gained momentum during the current regime. No reversal is expected in Indian behaviour. So, people of the region in general and minority groups living in India should learn to adjust to this stark reality and take measures to mitigate the impact of state practiced exclusionism by India, it is indeed a difficult path to tread. This pattern is likely to go on because “Hindu India” sells well among the rural Hindu masses which form the major chunk of Indian population. Hindu votes will continue to determine who could rule India. Therefore, even the mainstream political parties, which previously prided themselves with secular ideology have largely tilted towards appeasement of Hindu majority, at the cost of minorities. Indian is habitual of ignoring the reports of Human Rights watchdogs which convey their concerns about oppression of Indian minorities quite frequently and rather strongly. The United Nations need to take cognisance of the situation and place India on watch list with regard to its ill-treatment of minorities. Unless appropriate safeguards are built, in line with Universal Declaration of Human rights, majoritarian rule in Hindu India would continue to oppress the Indian citizenry.

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Evolving Pakistan-India thaw or another mirage?

Another Pakistan-India thaw in the offing?

Ceasefire violations across the Line of Control (LoC) and the Working Boundary(WB) became a new norm during Prime Minster Narendra Modi’s government. India reneged on a 2003 cease fire agreement, resulting in loss of property and innocent lives of Kashmiris. During last year alone, India committed 1,881 ceasefire violations, the highest number since the ceasefire arrangement broke down. During five months of current year 1,050 such violations have been committed by India. Notwithstanding, Pakistani leadership kept striving for bilateral talks. Hostility between the two is a significant impediment to the socioeconomic development in both countries. Now one wonder whether India's offer to revert back to 2003 ceasefire agreement is an Evolving Pakistan-India thaw or another mirage? During the current year things began to take a turn for the better. Pakistan invited Indian Defence attaché to attend Pakistan day celebrations; and he attended. Pakistan also hosted India with other Shanghai Cooperation Organisation(SCO) members to discuss regional terrorism. In September, Pakistan and India will also participate in SCO joint counterterrorism exercises in Russia. In the meanwhile, Pakistan also hosted a Track II dialogue with India. Last month India's home ministry had ordered its occupation forces in the IoK to stop operations during the fasting month of Ramazan. And a round of bilateral talks pertaining to maritime matters has just concluded. For its part, Pakistan has consistently advocated resumption of structured dialogue with India. And while it was preoccupied with fighting terrorism, it made strategic sense for Pakistan to seek at least a calm eastern frontier. A convergence in India’s strategic thinking towards Pakistan’s point of view could open the door to addressing, if not fully resolving, the major issues. India had also embarked upon a strategy to destabilise Pakistan domestically, and isolate internationally. Both did not work. On the contrary, a significant convergence has emerged between Pakistan and major regional powers, like Russia, China and Iran, on regional matters while India and the US are seen as spoilers. Despite Donald Trump’s anti-Pakistan rhetoric, an open-ended US confrontation with Pakistan and its designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, widely anticipated by India, have not happened. The US continues to rely on Pakistan’s cooperation with regard to Afghanistan end game. India triggered Doklam stand-off with China has also forced India to be realistic in its regional ambitions. India has once again acknowledged the significance of 2003 ceasefire arrangement and as there is no better alternative in place, India should steadfastly implement it.

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Kishanganga Dam: World Bank too slow to be effective

World Bank too slow to be effective

The familiar pattern is that while World Bank is still busy putting on its boots, India completes its marathon of constructing controversial dams, one by one, on the rivers allotted to Pakistan under the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT). While World Bank drags its feet, it allows India to continue building the dams. One wonders whether it is wilful connivance or (dys) functional inertia. Either way a course correction is needed to keep the World Bank relevant to the ITW. As of now, one may categorize World Bank too slow to be effective.However, the silver lining is that the “The World Bank remains committed to act in good faith and with complete impartiality and transparency in fulfilling its responsibilities under the Treaty, while continuing to assist the countries”.

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Strife Torn Kashmir: Longings for Peace

The Green of the valley has regularly witnessed the blood of militants, Kashmiris, personnel from armed forces and now even those of tourists. In the month of May (2018) earlier this year a school bus was stoned leading to the death of an eleven year old child. This is the background in which Mehbooba Mufti the Chief Minister of Kashmir, sitting on the heap of a coalition, which is ideologically spilt down to the last, requested for a unilateral ceasefire in Kashmir in the holy month of Ramadan. Kashmir lately has witnessed increased violence as Central Government, which is calling the shots in Kashmir has adopted the iron fist policy substituting the earlier one of being part sensitive to the grievances of local population. It is during this period that the fake encounter of Burhan Wani unleashed a series of protests, and the disgruntled and alienated youth intensified their favorite method of protest, ‘stone pelting’. Now the frustration levels of the protesters are so high that they are not scared of the consequences of the repressive steps of the state.UPA II undertook a major step by appointing a team of interlocutors. Dileep Padgaonkar, M M Ansari and Radha Kumar. They undertook extensive interaction with diverse groups within the state and submitted their recommendations, which were basically asking for promoting autonomy of state assembly, dialogue and improvement of relations with Pakistan. The report is lying deeply ignored. It is time that this report, the last major step at reconciliation on the issue, is revived to bring in peace in the Valley. The BJP’s role in the alliance has been very negative and has marginalized the Muslim community in a Muslim majority state. Can Mehbooba Mufti assert herself to articulate the democratic aspirations of the people of Kashmir is the question we need to ask. The anger of people against Mufti has grown immensely. The ceasefire declared by the Government is a welcome move and it needs to be backed up by humane policies to restore peace in the valley.

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Hamid Ansari, Jinnah’s Portrait and turmoil in AMU

Recently (May 2018) Hamid Ansari, the ex-Vice President of India, was invited to Aligarh Muslim University to honor him with life membership of AMU Students Union (AMUSU). He had due security with him, still the Hindu Yuva Vahini-ABVP activists could reach near his place of stay. The pretext of the armed protesters was that Jinnah’s portrait has been put up to please Ansari and that they will not allow Jinnah’s portrait in AMU. The usual violence followed few arrests of Vahini volunteers, most of them let off. This has been followed by series of statements from Yogi Adityanath, who incidentally is also the founder of this Hindutva group, saying that portrait will not be allowed, Subramaniam Swami questioned as to who will teach a lesson to AMU! The students of AMU are on the protest against the violence unleashed by Vahini and ABVP. With this AMU episode Hindu nationalist politics is killing many birds with a single stone. First, to target Hamid Ansari, whom they can’t approve of as his credential is thoroughly secular. Second is to create yet another divisive issue in the form of portrait of Jinnah, to add on to other emotive issues manufactured so far. And thirdly to intimidate the AMU campus in line with what has been done in JNU, Hyderabad universities to name the few. One can say the Ghost of Jinnah, who can be called as ‘Secular soul in Communal body’ will keep visiting us, and RSS combine through its efforts will keep propping up divisive issues one after the other!

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Is Congress a Muslim Party, is it against interests of Hindus?

Ram Puniyani: Currently there is propaganda from BJP combine that Congress is anti Hindu party. On every conceivable occasion it states that Congress is insulting Hinduism. In the wake of the verdict of Mecca Masjid blast cases; as the accused got released; BJP spokespersons went hammer and tongs saying that Rahul Gandhi-Congress have defamed Hindu religion, they should apologize for that. In the ongoing campaign for Karnataka elections (2018) BJP has taken out a Yatra against so called ‘anti Hindu policies’ of Congress. The propaganda has gone to such an extent that even Sonia Gandhi, the ex-Congress President had to say that Congress is perceived as a party for Muslims! Walking the secular talk is becoming more difficult by the day. Gandhi was killed for this and his disciple Nehru is being the subject of vilification and calumny for the same. The Muslim communalists rejoiced formation of Pakistan, where development and amity is missing. With Congress-Gandhi Nehru we could make a small journey towards fraternity and progress. The criticism of Congress as being Muslim party, as being against Hindus, reflects more about the sectarian agenda of those propagating it rather that the nature of Congress, which despite all the flaws has been trying to protect secular values, despite massive limitations!

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The fast disappearing Muslim in the Indian republic

The fast disappearing Muslim in the Indian republic

As the nation celebrates the Republic’s 69th year, the one dangerous trend that is becoming solidified since 2014 is the political invisibilisation of the Muslim, by denying the significant minority any political space. This is key to the Hindutva project of Hindu majoritarianism and the othering of the Muslim in every social sphere. The BJP is ruling 19 of the 29 states at the present, but has Muslim representatives in only three states. It has made “Congress Mukt Bharat” its rallying cry. But what is immediately manifest is the march towards a “Muslim Mukt Bharat.” The terrifying denouement of this will be especially catastrophic for the Pasmanda Muslim, who is subject to the “double-bind” of religious as well as caste discrimination, and who continues to remain on the margins of the nation’s socio-economic and cultural life. A democracy will become brittle when its minorities are systematically subject to a political apartheid and denied political representation. Certainly, no democracy can be a real democracy when its oppressed castes and classes are pitted against each other on the basis of religion.

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Pakistan’s gracious approach towards Jadhav

Pakistan’s gracious approach towards Jadhav

When Indian media and parliament were belittling Pakistan over Jadhav’s meeting with his mother and wife, they should have also taken stock as to how India treats its own prisoners. Indian MPs need to go through the memoir of journalist Iftikhar Gilani arrested for several months on false charges of spying. Gilani narrated in his book “My days in Prison” about the way his meeting took place with his wife: “I saw Aanisa. She was looking tired and pale. It was extremely frustrating not to be able to talk to her without the barriers. It was very difficult to see her under the watchful eyes of my tormentors. I could see Aanisa was also under great anxiety … Just getting to jail was difficult, and added to that was the incontestable humiliation at the hands of the jail staff she had to contend with.” Afzal Guru and Maqbool Butt are other examples of the way India illtreats its own prisoners. Let Jadhav be the judge, as to which of the two countries treat their prisoners more humanely. While Indian Foreign Minister Shushma Swaraj is known for playing dirty on grant of visa to Pakistani nationals even for pilgrimage and medical treatment, Indian Navy Commander Jadhav’s mother publicly thanked Pakistan for the humanitarian gesture. In a video message, Jadhav also thanked Pakistan’s government for setting up the meeting. “Thankful to the government of Pakistan for this kindness.” Pakistan’s Foreign Minister aptly put it: “We have allowed access to Jadhav’s family purely on a humanitarian basis. However, if we were in the same place, India wouldn’t have been so kind to us.” It is deplorable that as Pakistan was arranging a meeting of terrorist-spy Jadhav with his family members, Indian troops engaged in unprovoked firing on the Line of Control killing three Pakistani soldiers and injuring another on Rakhchikri sector.

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Drivers of instability in South Asia

Drivers of instability in South Asia

South Asia is an instable region; two major drivers of this situation are hegemonic designs of Indian leadership, and continued occupation of Afghanistan by the United States. Other contributory factors are inter-state territorial and resource distribution claims amongst the constituent states. With simultaneous rise of ultra-right nationalist leadership in the US and India, both leaderships have found a common ground in operationalizing Machiavellian tactics by perpetuating instability in select hotspots. This convergence of interest is resulting in prolonging the hardship of Kashmiri and Afghan people. Impeding development projects of Pakistan is another facet of Indian strategy, while the US is ganging up South China sea and East China sea littorals to bog down China in its own proximity. Then, there is second ring having heavy weights like japan, India and Australia to blunt Chinese growth. Pakistan is paying a high price for instability in Afghanistan. Presence of terrorist safe havens in Afghanistan is an established reality. Latest report by the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) confirms that more than 43 percent of Afghan territory is not under the control of the Afghan Government. This is alarming as it provides opportunity for all kinds of terrorist groups to use these as sanctuaries. Pakistan wishes to have friendly relations with all its neighbors. Pakistan, as a responsible member of the international community believes in peace and strategic stability—in South Asia and beyond.

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Booted out from Doklam, India meddles in Gilgit-Baltistan

Districts of Gilgit Baltistan

After a humiliating set back in Doklam to disrupt One Belt One Road (OBOR), India has shifted its focus on impeding China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) by fermenting unrest in Gilgit-Baltistan(GB). Importance of GB territory shot up in 1984 with the opening of the Karakoram Highway and this region's population came to be more connected with mainland Pakistan. With the improvement in connectivity, local population availed opportunities of getting educated in the rest of Pakistan. Improved connectivity also allowed broader socio-political development. Political parties of Pakistan and Azad Kashmir were able to setup local branches, and raise political awareness in the region. Root-taking by these political entities have played a laudable role in organizing a movement for democratic rights among the residents of GB.Rather than making efforts to have political engagement in Kashmir and truly follow the oft repeated assertion of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to emulate Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s doctrine based on “Insaniyat, Jamhooriyat and Kashmiriyat”, all those forces who are promoted and patronized by New Delhi are adding fuel to the fire. Pakistan has set an example by following a principled approach towards managing its GB region politically, India could learn a lot from this model.

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