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4 years of self-inflicted wounds, an era of banality

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By Anand K Sahay

As soon as Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived on the scene, many in India associated with professional diplomacy, and taking a cue from them the broad foreign policy-security establishment circuit (including the think tank crowd and journalists, especially television pundits), began to anticipate a new dawn in this country’s relations with the world.
What this upbeat assessment was based on was not clear, but everyone seemed awestruck by the PM’s apparent energy as the new man in charge rushed from country to country, hugging world leaders and making anodyne speeches at Indian diaspora jamborees — of which the show at the Madison Square Garden in New York was typical — got together by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Aided by a swooning and chauvinistic Indian visual media, a foreign affairs rock star had been born.
But this was no Metternich, Churchill, Kissinger, Nehru, Zhou Enlai, Lee Kuan Yew or Nelson Mandela — stalwarts who had a conception of world affairs and a strategic vision, in addition to the material, moral or intellectual means to deploy to realise their vision, as well as the hallmarks of a teacher in their own time and afterward.
Four years since Mr Modi’s advent, as the country slips into election mode and groans and grunts of disapproval are becoming audible around the country, it is not out of place to ask where the foreign policy manoeuvres of the “strong” leader, with a majority of his own in Parliament, have led us, and what laurels these have brought. Professional diplomats who once sang the leader’s praise are today gobsmacked as questions fly in all directions.
The stalwarts of the past did not speak words of self-praise, but Mr Modi did nothing but that as he flew around the world in designer jackets, uttering truths grown in his own kitchen garden.
His most profound sentences began and ended with the claim of him being the first Indian leader to land in such and such place in 10 or 20 or three years. In Canada, the self-advertisement was shown to be short on the truth. At any rate, it is not clear what has been gained from those visits. Nor did the PM bother checking if there was a reason why his predecessors had not been to a particular place.
In Kathmandu, the Indian PM strutted around the famous Pashupatinath temple dressed as the Hindu pope. In Lahore, he was the sari salesman bearing gifts for Nawaz Sharif’s mother. In Ahmedabad, he was the boatman on the waterfront for Xi Jinping even as Chinese soldiers were busy trespassing into perceived Indian territory in disputed border areas. Modi the innocent thought “charm” of this variety constituted the very essence of the diplomatic game. When it came to America, the PM was “aye, aye, sir!” whether it was Obama or Trump.
The pitiful results of these exertions lie scattered all around us. India’s neighbourhood is practically in revolt against New Delhi. Forget “Muslim Pakistan”, “Hindu Nepal” is telling Mr Modi to get lost. China has hinted that India cannot afford another Doklam crisis as that might entail having to deal simultaneously with Beijing and Islamabad.
New Delhi’s historical friend Moscow, which was the bulwark against anti-India Western manoeuvres on Kashmir in the UN Security Council, now openly flaunts its relations with China as well as Pakistan. It is this which has sent New Delhi diving to buy a consignment of S-400 missiles from Russia, in the process getting the Americans uptight.
No matter which way one cuts it, India’s foreign policy under Mr Modi leads to questions and no answers. In the months that remain, the peacock may dance but there will be no rain. For the first time since 1947, India’s foreign policy efforts lack a national consensus; indeed, a conscious effort has been mounted from the heart of the policy establishment — the PMO — to chest-thump solely in order to denigrate parliamentary opponents.
A video of the so-called “surgical strike” against Pakistan — which has proved to be of no deterrence value in fighting terrorism or against Pakistani incursions or ceasefire violations in Kashmir — was yet again wheeled out recently as a gift to certain television stations to drum up pro-government propaganda in the run-up to the national election and the clutch of state polls that precede it.
This act will ensure that the present regime will remain incapacitated from pursuing a meaningful Pakistan policy that has the nation’s backing. And, if there is no consensus on our Pakistan and China policies, which are among our most pressing international concerns, can we even say a foreign policy exists?
On an ultra-sensitive question like Kashmir, which draws international attention like flies are drawn to a pot of honey, the Modi government has ensured that its policy efforts elicit the deepest national cynicism, and produce despair. There is just no national unity as the regime goes about on a campaign of political abuse and vilification of regional Kashmir parties as well as national opponents.
On Kashmir, it was lack of policy direction and alertness on the part of the foreign policy establishment — whether residing in the external affairs ministry or the PMO — that the report of the UN Human Rights Council hit us smack in the eye and no one saw it coming. This has handed Pakistan and the Kashmiri extremists’ propaganda for a generation against which the government can do little. Who is answerable — the PM or his external affairs minister?
Before Narendra Modi became PM, he had no international exposure as such. Of course, he had the worldview of the RSS whose brightest postulate — deriving from the exclamations of its leader Mohan Bhagwat — is the curious demand that the world must acknowledge India as the “vishwa guru” or teacher to the world. Do we laugh at this, or cry?
As the election approaches, it will be interesting to see what new facts are manufactured to make the Modi foreign policy look grand, and mighty and powerful, and how the perception is managed to secure narrow, personal ends of the leader without doing a thing for the country.
If it was ever true that India’s foreign policy sank to the lowest depths of ordinariness, it is today. We have been witness to an era of banality and self-inflicted wounds.
(Asian Age)

 

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Beyond the edge

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Amir Suhail Wani

A voice lost to wilderness or the madman’s rubric, any talk of religion, God, metaphysic, values and reality suffers any of two possible consequences. Giving him the advantage of anonymity, a top notch Jamat I Islami scholar pertinently described modern epistemology with all its offspring as the means and instruments of ensuing and securing a revolt against the God and religion. Never before was civilization so shallow in matters of faith and never before a unanimous and collective onslaught was launched against the sacred, Transcendent and divine. A mere mentions of words like “Divine”, “sacred” or “Transcendent” makes people, experiencing the opiedation of modernism, to rise their eyebrows. Any talk of worlds beyond the sensual is termed as intellectual backlog. World has seen, now and then, people rising, out of their intellectual sincerity or otherwise rising against religion and God. But historically they could never enjoy the status of metanarrative, but were always, by virtue of historical entelechy confined to margins of civilization. In post renaissance era world has succeeded, by and large, in constructing a civilisation and culture with man rather than God as its ontic reference. This man centered civilization has paved all the possible ways for criticism and demolition of religious metanarrative.
Let’s come to philosophy first. Modern philosophy, starting with Descartian skepticism and evolving through the stages of Positivism, Naturalism, Materialism Nihilism and Existentialism, seems to have ultimately ended up at postmodernism. The possibilities of future development can’t be ignored nor can it be claimed that postmodernism is an all pervasive philosophical trend claiming universal adherence. But the broader picture of things has unfolded thus. Postmodernism maintains incredulity towards metanarrative and has brought with it a host of questions. Traditionally and even upto recent past man seemed to be unanimous on ontic and epistemic stability of things. But with postmodernism not only have been the institutions of religious and traditional importance held under scrutiny but the very fundamentals of human existence like language, society and all other institutions of human importance have been deprived of their ontic reference and have been made to float freely in abyss of uncertainty.
The case with science has been no better. Being a victim of excessive and inordinate empiricism, the Modern day science has surrendered to the plight of sensory epistemology. This has left little scope for the discovery of Transcendence in the framework of traditional science.
Ibn Arabi, a classical theorizer of Islamic mysticism noted that “God is a percept, not a concept”. In this single line, the master has resolved an age old question and the problems associated with it. The notion of “conceptual scheme” as it has been adopted unquestionably alike by scientists and philosophers has brought with it an equal number of goods and ills. Man has turned obsessive to reduce everything to his conceptual categories. The human attitude of dividing a problem into subunits, though it has paid heavily in scientific realm, but has simultaneously brought irreconcilable problems in other affairs of human existence. Modern medicine treats biology disentangled from psychology and this piecemeal approach has landed us in an era where we know more and more about less and less. In a sense we know everything about nothing and nothing about everything. Traditionally things were seen associated and entangled in the cosmic Web. Coming back to human methodology of understanding things by dividing them into subcategories and then understanding things in terms of local mental categories has distorted and ruined our understanding of God, sacred and divine. We need to understand that the laws formulated by human mind are refuted within the physical realm itself. Thus the laws obeyed by matter aren’t obeyed by light and the laws applicable to fermions are completely defied by bosons. So within our physical immediacy are instances to cleave apart our ultimate trust in the laws of physics. The unending quest for unified theory in physics might bring further insights in this direction. Thus we need to be careful and watchful to the fact that the laws of matter do not apply to the realm of spirit. Coming back to God who is neither material nor spiritual, neither defined by material boundaries nor circumscribed by contours of space we need to be all the more careful. While we try to understand God in terms of mental categories derived from our physical realm we need to be very cautious that all these categories do not hold true beyond this material universe. Our conceptual schemes, which in the final analysis rest on the categories of mundane material realm are too coarse and inappropriate to conceptualise and theorise the realm of divine, sacred and godhead. At a point where despite all boasting scientific discoveries man is yet incapable of understanding his basic biology and where despite of conquering the vastness of space man is yet to gain a glimpse of his psychological depths any sweeping statements and miscalculated statements oriented towards reduction of divine to categories of psyche seems but a naive affair. The enlightened theologians, mystics and philosophers of the past have explicitly denounced the access of finite human mind to infinite cosmic intelligence. What God has informed us here and there in sacred texts is to contemplate the nature and our own selves. This unbiased contemplation is sure to bring forth some indirect aspects of divine. Though we shall be fully conscious of the fact that within the physical universe and human civilization there are instances which are heartrending, discouraging and at times they run quite contrary to the notion of divine. But the mystics and enlightened men throughout the history have been able to dissect the veil of appearance and have succeeded in looking at the essence of existence. On having this enlightened vision they bowed their heads and understood the essence of these apparent vagaries of nature. Ibrahim, the father of modern monotheism, Buddha a silent contemplator, Nanak, a socially conscious religious purgatory amply demonstrate this state of enlightenment.
Modern scientific mind is highly welcome in questioning the authenticity of religion, aspects of divine and the apparent chaos that is witnessed everywhere in physical and social landscape. There can be no proper understanding in absence of questioning. Likewise doubt is an essential ingredient of faith. But while one raises questions in atheist or any such frame one must have patience, tolerance and wide sightedness to understand theistic point of view. To dub religion irrational for its simple disagreement with science seems a rather constricted opinion. Religion has been a great architect in shaping the course of human civilization and to unfasten our knots with this perennial source of wisdom, learning, inspiration and exaltation will amount to gross intellectual injustice. The need of hour is not to posit theists and atheists as antithetical but to encourage each to understand the point of other. Maybe in this collective endeavour humanity discovers a paradigm that has still not been thought of.
(The author is a freelance columnist with bachelors in Electrical Engineering and a student of comparative studies with special interests in Iqbaliyat & mystic thought. He contributes a weekly column for this newspaper that appears every Monday. He can be reached at: amirkas2016@gmail.com

 
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SURGICAL STRIKE ON AGING

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SHABBIR AARIZ

A man cannot alter his inevitable fate. But he can manage the way he comes to terms with it. If he does so, rather than simply letting events take their course, he can do much to prolong the richness of his life as well as his years. It is immediately after the middle age that one starts counting the years having added to one’s life and that is the time one is visited by unwelcome feeling of getting old. Aging upsets for a variety of reasons. One finds that his longtime associates with whom were his emotional bonds, such as parents and grandparents besides many more loved ones are not around while others down the line like children or grandchildren are genuinely for life’s pursuits drifting away. This shrinking socialization with one’s kith and kin throws psychological challenges leading to the feelings of loneliness, despair and depression. The problem is particularly acute in men who have themselves carried through important activities in their careers while making a living and find suddenly the phase coming to an end with the statutory age of retirement. That may be one aspect of feeling old but otherwise also there are other bells ringing like loss of energy and will, ailment and inertia. To combat the effects of old age, from a number of sources do come the suggestions and instructions like what kind of food, exercise, interaction and activity be undertaken once the old age sets in. Having due regard to the wisdom attached to that kind of counselling, I am more impressed and influenced while remaining in association of at least two exemplary elders of our society. One was a senior colleague, late K L Koul, who lived up to a hundred and for half of it as a diabetic but his grace, wit and wisdom stayed with him all his life. I was of the age of his grandchild, when he treated me as his friend the way he treated any of his own age. He always favored me with books that I could not have read otherwise as he was himself a great book lover. He continues to be my inspiration to defeat the effects of old age which he did while confronting numerous challenges of life and never giving in to any. Another model that I have come across, was father of my longtime friend Afzal. Afzal’s father, Kh Mohammad Sidique Parray of Shivepora kicked the bucket at the age of hundred and seven as an alert person with all the positive attitude towards life and interestingly gave himself a shave the morning he died. Always as affectionate and as friendly with his great grandchildren as with the people of his own generation. More surprising is the fact that he at the age of hundred wrote a book of memoirs, though yet to be published, reflecting socio-political life of the times when none of us were born. There may be many such examples but I have come across these two classic examples who were neither afraid of death nor were they bowed down by the cruelty of the old age. Two important things I learned from them is that reading and writing trains the mind towards positivity and halts negative thoughts. There are many other instances of the advantages of reading, writing or creative activity that we read about. Titian completed his “The Battle of Lepanto”, at 95; he began work on one of the most famous paintings in the world “The Descent from the Cross,” when he was 97. Benjamin Franklin invented bifocals at 78. These men are the exceptions, of course. But the fact that many people can mature creatively indicates that there is indeed hope for all of us. Age brings experience and sound judgement. Experience is the best teacher. Old people are wise and young people, impetuous. In fact nobody gets old by merely living a number of years. People get old by deserting their ideas and ideals. Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. Better is also not to tell your age. It is not important. If you keep telling your age to the people that will catalogue you then you are sure to be in a mold from which you cannot escape. Be yourself: Let the world think what it likes. It is better not to know the age or weariness or defeat. That is going to be wonderful. It is, therefore, not to have hangovers and wrap up the past in a scroll, tie a pink ribbon around it, put it away in a drawer and go about doing the things you have always wanted to do. Never confine to a trench as there is always a new firing line beyond.
(A leading lawyer and eminent poet, author can be reached at: vaklishabir@gmail.com)

 
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Migratory Birds: Across the Border & Yet at Home

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By Bhushan Parimoo


As the spring start replacing the winter, the Winged Visitors make necessary preparations once more for their seasonal migration. Migration has been a way of life for survival oscillating with a starling precision. Between summer and winter habitats apart thousands of Kilometres between each other. And each time before taking the flight for onward journey towards homeland. Wish the Host a thankful Goodbye with a usual V-Shaped Formation. For the homely comforts they had enjoyed here. They migrate usually in the formation of V-Shape .A typical of them to conserves their energy. Each bird flies slightly above the bird in front of him, resulting in a reduction of wind resistance. The birds take turns being in the front, falling back when they get tired. Thus fly for a long time before they must stop for rest. Easier for them to keep track of each member of the flock. Heart rates have also been found to be lower when flying in a V versus flying solo doesn’t fly in straight lines. State of Jammu and Kashmir has been a land of promise to them for centuries without fail. It is a home away from home for all the purposes in all the seasons. Late Master Samsar Chand Kaul a world famed Ornithologist from Kashmir while studying birds of Kashmir. Had often expressed that the State can be safely called a Paradise for the Migratory Birds: Universal Citizens on this planet. Geographically the State is positioned on Central Asian-Indian Flyway and the Palearctic – Oriental zoogeographic regions, partly within the Tibetan biome and on the boundary of Ladhakh. Offer ideal atmosphere and unmatched conducive Habitat. That is why it has the routes followed by migratory birds on their journeys between their breeding and wintering places. Serves passage as well a transitory camps enroute the plains of India and for the reverse journey too. Once State was proud to have envious large number of Wetlands/Lakes. Which made it a warm hearted host to winged visitors for all the seasons and reasons . Offered unlimited varied choice to offer to the migratory birds of all kinds or the local ones to select sites of their choices. That has been the reason these seasonal regular visitors make their way here to escape the harsh extreme freezing conditions prevailing in their summer resorts during this period of time and state provide them a homely environ to stay and thrive. Migrating birds cover thousands of miles in their annual travels, often travelling the same course year after year with little variation. Land here from Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, some countries of Eastern Europe (Russia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Siberia, China, Japan, Philippines. New Zealand and other regions of the world. It has been admitted beyond any shade of doubt, which elders knew over centuries though termed them illiterate, that the intimate linkages between some bird species and their habitats make them useful for identifying ecosystem health. As such, they were welcomed being indicators of deteriorating habitat quality and environmental pollution. More so as metrics to determine the success of restoration efforts. Helps in maintaining sustainable population levels of their prey and predator species and, after death, provide food for scavengers and decomposers. Many birds are important in plant reproduction through their services as pollinators or seed dispersers. This very basic parameters authorities, failed to take note of and leaving much to be desired to have measures taken to stick to basics of maintaining the wetlands and other water bodies. Lakes and other water bodies big or small are on constant on decline .In the process becoming the lesser the numbers year after year. Before our very eyes in recent past many of them have either vanished and others parching abandoned as orphans. Those still struggled to survive but like others are dying by degrees. Some of the spots scattered here all over the Kashmir range has not left even traces of them except in remembrance by the elders, laminating the wisdom of the authorities. It has been given to understand that there are 183 species from the sub-tropical plains of Jammu. In the wetlands, Pargwal, Kokerian, Gharana, Dansral, Nanga, and at other places. Except Gharana which has been reduced to one fifth of its original size all others has been vanished in the thin air. Out of 183 species said to be here in this part mention is often made of a few of them. For instance bar-headed geese, Gadwalls, common teals, purple swamp hens, , Indian moor hens, black-winged stilts, Cormorant, egret , Green Shanks etc .The Kashmir in its both the temperate and alpine regions has 262 species .Mention generally made of Brahminy Duck, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Garganey, Greylag Goose, Mallard, Common Merganser, Northern Pintail, Common Pochard, Ferruginous Pochard, Red-Crested Pochard, Ruddy Shelduck, Northern Shoveler, Common Teal, and Eurasian Wigeonthe Bar-headed Goose, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Common Pochard, Ferruginous Duck and Northern Cardinal and may be of a few more . Claimed to be spotted all the mountain areas like Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Sonamarg etc. For wild ducks (migratory / seasonal) and other waterfowl you can visit Hokarsar, Anchar, Manasbal, Wular, Dal & Nageen Lakes Feroze Nalla (Tangmarg). The cold high and dry -level desert of Ladakh has 225 species.. As winter winged visitors are being bade a heartfelt farewell here. At the same time passionate welcome awaits to the summer migratory winged visitor in Ladhakh plateau .The State Bird Black Necked Crane for whom every Ladhakhi wait eagerly to Greet .Some of the birds are found Bar-headed Goose, Himalayan Seacock, Tibetian Snowcock, Tibetan Sandgrouse, Grey-heads strike Lanius tephronotus (race lahulensis):White-throated Dipper Brown Dipper, Tickell’s Thrust Turdus unicolor, White-winged Redstart, White-brown Tit Wabler, Tibetain Lark Melanocorypha maxima.Plain-backed Snowfinch,Brandit’sMountain Finch Leucosticte brandti. Great Rosefinch Carpodacus rubicilla and many others .Noticed at,Tsokar Plains ,Tso-Kar (a salt lake) and Startsapuk-Tso (a freshwater lake) ,Tsomoriri Lake , Puga-Sumdo Valley,Nubra Valley and others. About the number of species found in the state is presumed to be compiled from the old records prior to pre 1947 reporting. Through media Department makes available number of winged visitors visited during the season, focusing a couple of places in the entire state. While this writer along with entire section of elders observe with each passing years the drastically reduction in numbers of the visitors. The sites with which the visitors had a centuries old relation are not mostly there now. And in many cases those do exits are in a pathetic conditions. What How many of the species mentioned remain, the number and the status at present seem to be a classified secret never made public. Come October Hosts both naturalists and the poachers pass days in expectation of their arrival at their usual sites in the valley as well as in Jammu. Delighted is everyone to find their arrival numbers grow with each passing days. This goes at times as late as February end. The Birdwatchers count the number compare with previous arrivals and worried all the time how to save them. It is revealing that the Department of Wildlife Protection, with limited resources do contribute to ensure to contain poaching these days. Protection Department but before those in power when involved it gets helpless which is most distressing aspect in the protection of these innocent harmless Guests. Some Hunting Gears including Guns has been reported seized by the enforcing agency at times at great risks, but past track record reveals almost nil convictions .Migration instinct have been emerged, developed and perfected in the animals for various reasons. Some travel long distances on a seasonal basis for food, finding their meal of choice hundreds and thousands of miles away. Others make their journeys to find mates while still others do it to avoid unfavourable weather. The golden jellyfish might travel just a few hundred meters on their daily migration, following the sun. Some kinds of plankton start their day hundreds of feet down the water column before coming up nearer the surface while the sun is out. At night they migrate back down to lower depths. Migratory Birds require a great deal of strength and stamina a huge feat of endurance. Roughly one in five bird species migrate. When travelling between their breeding and wintering grounds, birds don’t choose their paths at random. They undertake set routes that include suitable habitats where they can stop to rest and refuel along the way. Have remarkable migration patterns and navigation skills including homing (return to same area after migration) instinct which has always fascinated and puzzled human minds. Birds visualize and recognize even landmarks like mountains, rivers, and so on to navigate from one geographical region to other. Birds can get compass information from the sun, the stars, and by sensing the earth’s magnetic field. They also get information from the position of the setting sun and from landmarks seen during the day. There’s even evidence that sense of smell plays a role, at least for homing pigeons. Some species, particularly waterfowl and cranes, follow preferred pathways on their annual migrations. These pathways are often related to important stopover locations that provide food supplies critical to the birds’ survival. Smaller birds tend to migrate in broad fronts across the landscape. First-year birds often make their very first migration on their own. Somehow they can find their winter home despite never having seen it before, and return the following spring to where they were born. The secrets of their amazing navigational skills aren’t fully understood, partly because birds combine several different types of senses when they navigate. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act was enacted in 1918 prohibits the killing of them there are a little over 1,000 different species that are protected under the act .Unfortunately migratory birds are now more threatened than ever , with more than 40 percent of species declining. Desirable for the J&K Department of Wildlife Protection has to make necessary efforts to reach unto the people around the sites where these Visitors grace the State with their selection and stay. And make them aware the importance to save them, have their active participation to ensure to protect the habitats for which they have travelled thousands of Kilometres to be our guest. Let us hope, necessary orientation shall be carried to bring the mission on right track to Save Birds.
(The Writer is a Jammu based Environmentalist)

 
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