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Good governance involves far more than the power of the state or the strength of political will. The rule of law, transparency, and accountability are not merely technical questions of administrative procedure or institutional design. They are outcomes of democratizing processes driven not only by committed leadership, but also by the participation of, and contention among, groups and interests in society- processes that are most effective when sustained and restrained by legitimate, effective institutions. In practice the governance movement will encounter major pitfalls. While we know bad governance and its effects when we see them, good governance has no universally accepted definition, much less an agreed master plan. Some efforts have been strikingly effective, while others have had little benefit, have wasted finite resources and opportunities, or have done more harm than good. What are the major challenges to be anticipated, and what mistakes must we avoid?
In attempting to improve policy and implementation it is tempting to rely too much on laws and top-down policymaking. Controls on administrative, fiscal, and personnel systems can become so strict that managers cannot manage and elected officials cannot get their programs implemented. Discretion can be reduced to such a minimum that cases with any unusual aspects take weeks and months to be resolved. The resulting inflexibility wastes resources and opportunities, produces policies that are unresponsive to social realities (thus eroding the credibility of good-governance efforts), and can increase incentives to corruption. There is a need for policies that increase the space for debate and consultation, encourage innovation, and pursue desired outcomes with positive incentives rather than through prohibitions alone. Procedural controls may generate massive amounts of information, but if it comes in forms that only other officials can understand, or if it is generated predominantly by citizens’ giving information to government rather than government opening up to citizens, transparency is not aided and people are unlikely to develop a personal stake in reforms.
The controversy and delay that often accompany open political debate may seem an unaffordable luxury, or indeed a serious problem, in societies seeking to enhance the rule of law. Too many reformers view governance primarily as a set of technical administrative tasks, and public participation as either a proforma exercise or a process to be orchestrated from above via high-profile, but short-lived, mass campaigns. In either scenario citizens have little opportunity or incentive to participate in any long-term way, or to link official promises to the problems of their own communities. Civil society, where it exists, can and should help define the ends and means of governance reform, benefit from its successes, and claim part of the credit for initiatives that turn out well. Open debate airing real differences, while engendering some controversy, can elicit sustained participation—particularly if it has clear-cut effects upon the decisions and policies eventually implemented. In both established and renewed democracies citizens will be the final arbiters of what is, and is not, credible governance reform; thus it is important to involve citizens and NGOs in the shaping of reform agendas from the start.
There is no doubt that governance reform requires lasting leadership and commitment from above, and that identifying reform “champions” is an important early stage in providing such leadership. But such initiatives cannot be effective if they are confined to blue-ribbon commissions that hand down proclamations, or to a “one-man show” model of reform. Even though it takes time, effort, and resources, and even though it will involve sharing the credit for improved governance, it is far better to get out into communities, learn about popular concerns, and build a broad base of support.
As suggested, issues of concern can mobilize popular energies and commitment far more effectively than can “good ideas” alone. Without effective sorts of connections, citizens will see few links between the rule of law, transparency, and accountability on the one hand, and the concrete problems of everyday life, and they will not develop a sense that change for the better requires their own support, participation, and compliance. Reform leaders who cannot demonstrate broad-based and deep social support will find it all the more difficult to sway officials and interest groups sceptical about, or openly opposed to, reform. Actively corrupt figures will take such a lack of support as evidence that the reform movement will be short-lived—and often, they will be right. Over time, high-profile efforts that do not succeed will lead to public cynicism, and will make the next round of reform even more challenging.
Governance reforms often emphasize public goods, such as efficiency, honesty, cultural empathy, and the like, to the exclusion of private benefits. Other kinds of appeals—that better governance would cut taxes, make it easier to find jobs in a revived economy, protect one’s family and property—receive too little attention, even when the goal is enlisting the participation and support of civil society. As a result, good-governance efforts encounter collective action problems- people decide that if reform improves governance for anyone it will do so for all, and thus that their own efforts are inconsequential or even unwanted. Extensive efforts must be made to persuade citizens, government functionaries, and political leaders that they stand to benefit from reform—that is, to create the sort of sustaining stake in reform noted above.
6. PUBLIC OPINION MATTERS—in many ways. All of this suggests that even in emerging democracies reformers ignore public opinion at their peril. Surveys and community meetings to identify what people believe about the current state of affairs and expect of reform are essential. So are sustained efforts to educate the public about key problems, the justification for proposed changes, the costs of better governance, and actual results. Public education can also change citizens’ conduct by encouraging them to resist exploitation by officials or by other citizens, to file useful reports of problems, and to obey new laws and procedures. Technical improvements to government operations such as new budgetary and procurement procedures may be impressive. But if people do not think such measures will give them better police service or cut down on time lost in dealing with bureaucrats, then key sources of support will have been lost. The public’s reform criteria may well be achievable: better road repairs, an end to demands for bribes by the police, and fairer and more equitable tax assessments might be examples. Moreover, success at those levels can win support for more ambitious governance reforms, and the patience and tolerance needed for them to take full effect. But if reform leaders are not aware of what citizens think of when they hear words like “reform” and “good governance”, credibility may quickly be lost.
While a measure of coordination among segments of government is essential, it is only part of the picture. Government must also be able to check its own excesses. The judiciary is essential to interpreting and enforcing new laws and standards, and if it is not independent of the government of the day it will be ineffective. Similarly, executive agencies require oversight, and here legislative scrutiny and credible external “watchdogs” can enhance effective policy implementation and check abuses. An ombudsman system to which citizens can make complaints and reports may also be valuable, but citizens must be confident that they will not face reprisals and that their reports will be taken seriously. These sorts of oversights and controls must be active, consistent, and sustained; if invoked only in emergencies or in the wake of failures they will be of little benefit.
Many governance problems result from a shortage of resources or a lack of state technical and political capacity. But others persist because someone benefits from them, a fact that reformers cannot ignore. Serious reforms may encounter increasing resistance within government, or from segments of the public, to the extent that they begin to gain “traction”; yet it will be at precisely those points that active support from top leadership and from civil society may be most important. Transparency and accountability problems are particularly likely to persist because of vested interests in government and society, and reformers must be aware that at times those resisting enhanced transparency and accountability will go through the motions—filing reports, producing data, carrying out reviews and assessments—in ways that actually conceal rather than revealing and attacking governance problems. Here too, outside monitors—auditors, legislative oversight bodies, investigating judges—will be essential.
Neighbouring societies and governments may well be coping with similar problems and constraints, and may be finding ways to adapt rule of law, accountability, and transparency mechanisms to new and complex situations. In addition, few of the problems good governance is intended to attack are contained within national boundaries. Sharing ideas, experiences, and resources, coordinating rule-of-law functions on a regional basis, and peer review of governance procedures can all contribute to reforms appropriate to social realities, and can make better use of scarce resources.
Too often governance reform is a short-lived issue. This is particularly the case following a crisis or scandal; once matters settle down it is easy to conclude that all is well and governance problems have been fixed. Particularly with respect to the rule of law and its social foundations, governance reform will take a generation or more, not just a few months or years. Much the same is true of transparency and accountability too, in the sense that agency, political elite, and civil service “cultures” may need to be changed. More rapid progress may be possible in those areas to the extent that individuals can be replaced and the incentive systems of institutions overhauled. Even then, however, bureaucrats will need periodic retraining, elected officials will need continuing information on governance problems (and continuing incentives to fix them), and citizen support will be required over the long term. Here too, public education will be an integral part of any effort to deepen the rule of law, and to improve transparency and accountability.
(The author is practicing physician at Acharya Shri Chander College of Medical Sciences and Hospital Jammu besides being an Activist and Educator at Unacademy. E-mail: [email protected])


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What Do the Echoes of Operation Kabaddi Really Say?

The Kashmir Monitor



By Ali Ahmed

Two unconnected headlines at the start of the week are connected in this article. In one, the spokesperson of the United Nations Secretary General expressed the limitations of mediation as a conflict resolution mechanism for the conflict in Kashmir, arguing that both sides – India and Pakistan – needed to be on board for the Secretary General to exercise initiative under his good offices mandate enabled by UN Charter Articles 98 and 99.

While Pakistan repeatedly brings the Kashmir question to the attention of the UN – most recently during the visit of the President of the General Assembly to Pakistan last week – India takes the cover of the Shimla Agreement that buried the UN role in Kashmir by calling for a bilateral settlement of the dispute.


With India reluctant, there is little possibility of mediation figuring as a conflict resolution tool or the UN taking center stage in bringing to a closure its longstanding interest in the Kashmir question (To recall, the second longest serving UN observer mission is along the line of control (LC)).

However, there is one situation that can potentially propel UN center stage. This would be so if the actions hinted at in the second headline come to pass.

Among the contents of a book by a Jawaharlal Nehru University academic, Line on Fire: Ceasefire Violations and India-Pakistan Escalation Dynamics, is reportedly the revelation of an Indian plan to capture a few posts along the LC in late 2001, in a operation codenamed Operation Kabaddi. Apparently the operation was aborted by the intervention of 9/11 and onset of the United States’ led Operation Enduring Freedom in the region.

The book has it that the plan envisaged the capture of some 25-30 Pakistani posts along the LC in order to prevent the infiltration of terrorists into Kashmir, after preparations had been completed in end September. In the event, the plan could not be actioned even though there was a possible incident on October 1 that could have triggered the multiple attacks across the LC: the terrorist strike on the Kashmir Legislative Assembly in which some 38 people were killed.

The plan is precursor to the latter day surgical strikes of end September 2016. The surgical strikes did not have the same scope or magnitude, and with good reason.

Any operation – even if not as ambitious as made out in the book – would focus the UN Security Council on the escalatory possibilities connected with the outstanding issue that remains on its agenda as the ‘India-Pakistan question’ since the passage of its Resolution 39 (1948) on January 20, 1948. Mindful of the possibility of being forced to the table by a Security Council resolution, India sensibly restricted the scope of the surgical strikes, assuring Pakistan the following day that the operation had ceased.

Even so, the army’s ongoing reforms reportedly cater for leveraging its conventional advantage. After playing footsie with Cold Start – the freshly minted doctrine in wake of Operation Parakram in 2002-03 – by acknowledging its existence in fits and starts over its lifespan, the army owned up to it definitively, early in the tenure of the current army chief.

The army is currently engaged in a reform initiative in which the integrated battle groups that found mention in the doctrine are firmed in. The idea is of dedicated formations – likely heavier than brigade sized combat commands – formed for territory centric or destruction tasks. Pre-designated and programmed and having the requisite resources – firepower and engineer – intrinsic, these would be in a position for an early launch from a ‘cold start’, as envisaged in the evocative, if colloquial, name of the doctrine.

The JNU academic and author of the book Professor Happymon Jacob, hopes to focus attention on the continuing escalatory possibilities resulting from incidents along the LC which numbered some 3,000 last year, and the need for formalising the ceasefire dating to November 2003. The ‘ceasefire’ was not the result of a document, but is an understanding. This only reinforces Jacob’s fears of escalation, apprehensions that in light of the nuclear dimensions to war it can only bring the security minders of the international community – the Security Council – down on South Asia in quick time. The international community has a genuine interest in preventing a nuclear war outbreak, since the consequences are potentially global.

While India would press for having Pakistan in the dock for provoking the conflict in first place by a terror incident or a series of incidents that it could interpret as an armed attack, there is no guarantee that the Security Council will stop at that. This could release the Secretary General from his limitation encapsulated in the first news article referred to above, which incidentally was also voiced earlier in April last year.

India would be required then to engage with Pakistan meaningfully over Kashmir, something it is loath to do.

India therefore needs to reappraise its hardline in regard to Pakistan and in Kashmir. The hardline creates the conditions for a bust up over Kashmir. The army chief among his numerous media interventions has indicated that India has options up its sleeve along the lines of surgical strikes, but of a different sort and order that he did not dwell on in detail, keeping surprise in mind. In future such strikes cannot be as tame as the surgical strikes, fobbed off by the Pakistanis as a non-event.

Any future such strikes would need to be of the order of the hype that has since attended them, rather as they are depicted in the somewhat misnamed recent release Uri, which dramatises the surgical strikes. If the up-gunned Integrated Battle Groups are up and running by then – the exercises to prove their new design are due this summer – then their employment would have to reckon with the unintended outcome: international attention forcing India to the table to discuss Kashmir meaningfully.

For India, meaningful talks imply getting Pakistan to vacate its occupation of areas of the erstwhile kingdom of the maharaja. Keeping its claims alive, only last week India protested a Pakistani court order extending its sway over Gilgit-Balitistan as interference in India’s internal affairs. Its chief objection to the Chinese lifeline to Pakistan, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, is that it trespasses Indian territory. While India’s contention would no doubt figure in the talks forced on India, the casus belli (case for war) would likely lie in the tinder accumulated in Kashmir which would have to be reckoned with. Though distasteful, it would be a consequence of any Indian military action.

Proceedings at a book release function over the weekend organised by the Center for Land War Studies do not lend confidence that there is enough appreciation of the unintended consequences of military response. A significant reservation voiced by the speakers comprising retired members of the military brass who contributed to the CLAWS publication – Military Strategy for India in the 21st Century – was that there is little government-military interface on the nature of India’s military options.

This is little different from the criticism governments have faced over the past, which indicates this government’s security mindedness has been little different from its predecessors’, notable in light of its assiduous distancing from the past and its tom-tomming of the same. The difference is its hardline, which can land the region in a soup in quick time, absent mechanisms, other than routine diplomacy, for engaging Pakistan.

While to peaceniks the unintended outcome – meaningful talks perhaps mediated by the international community – of military action in line with Operation Kabaddi is not unwelcome, this is perhaps not an outcome sought by NSA AjitDoval’s team. In which case, Doval is best advised to read the CLAWS publication on military strategy and be mindful of the inadvisability of military options, and preventively defuse the conditions that keep Operation Kabaddi plans well dusted.

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How eluding is our justice system

The Kashmir Monitor



By Shabbir Aariz

Given the human imperfections and infirmities, perfect justice remains a divine attribute belonging to the throne of God. All humans being alike, therefore, dispensation of justice by one human being to another is not only difficult but impossible. Any hope of perfect justice at the human hand is a mirage. Yet the justice that lies within human grasp need not to be jeopardized in pursuit of perfection. Needless to say that even such pursuit in not felt in our system. Subversion of even the existing system after about three quarters of century of freedom and a constitution is loud and clear. The path of justice has not remained that straight where the freedom of the people could be defended against attacks from various quarters. The inclination to injustice increases instead of decreasing. Things seem to have reached to such a pass where defiance is celebrated and the system of safeguards is destroyed. The noblest desire, aspiration and hope in the society is always for fair and speedy delivery of justice which is becoming a dream with every passing day and which is needed to remain a constant goal of the system.

The Indian justice system, as various studies suggest, is too slow, too costly and too complex. It is a paradox that courts and police in India remain the least preferred mechanism for resolving disputes and access to and quality of justice further remain a question mark. The system has failed marginalized, disadvantaged and under privileged population. Democracy is never possible where the capacity of justice is lacking. India’s criminal justice system is so ailing and imperfect that even after decades trials are not concluded. As if this was not enough, we have seen in immediate past, people were found innocent after years of incarceration and their trials moving on slow pace at times out expediency. The law is not dead but appears to have slept. It no longer seems to have remained a sacred work to determine the rights, property, life and civil duties of the people. It has to be the prime duty of our judicial system to preserve the civility and reason instead of, though important as they are, the dignity of the administrators and rulers. We have been hearing of reforms also in the system but nothing has changed in reality so far. This insensitivity to reform or to change, has resulted in bad and erroneous verdicts even at the highest level also. Some of such verdicts are then forced down the throat of the other people or backed with bullets. This is more because of the fact there is shyness in accepting the fact that the mind has enormous capacity for error, self-deception, illogic, sloppiness, confusion and silliness which are required to be diminished. Judges are sworn in to decide according to the laws and not according to the good pleasure as there is no piety in that. A judge has responsibility as leader for setting the level of the administration of justice. Over two thousand years ago, Socrates said, “four things belong to a judge: to hear courteously, to answer wisely, to consider soberly and to decide impartially.” This mantra needs to be followed by all earthly systems of justice all over the globe. More particularly in a society one like India where over the years numerous verdicts from the highest court have become the subject of debate for wrong reasons. And equally those cases pending disposal for not a number of years but for generations. Judges have used extra-legal phrases and based their verdicts on such phrases and perceptions created totally extraneous to the law and circumstances. In the recent past , the overall pathetic situation of the justice system brought the then Chief Justice of India, Justice T. S. Thakur publically to tears and that holds the sufficient testimony to our ailing justice system at the highest level.


There may be a number of reasons for the system not coming up to the level of expectations and some are glaring. There has been a long standing practice of treating the judicial appointments at higher level as political patronage and outcome of nepotistic fiefdoms of well connected. Though now made permissible by the Supreme Court, judges as persons and courts as institutions have enjoyed greater immunity from criticism while being humans with common human frailties and fallibilities. This has resulted in loss of faith in the justice system on the one hand and in creation of a parallel system like khapp panchayats to set unhealthy trends in the society. It is therefore, imperative for those in position to seriously accord their thought and attention to the health of this third and important pillar of the state which makes it more urgent in a democratic system of the society. Unless it is so done, the system shall continue to elude those who seek justice.

(Well known poet and writer, the author can be reached at: [email protected])

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Chinese Islamophobia was made in the West

The Kashmir Monitor



By MobashraTazamal

In response to the rising international criticism regarding the detainment of more than a million Uighur Muslims in so-called “re-education camps”, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi defended the country’s actions, stating, “the efforts are completely in line with the direction the international community has taken to combat terrorism … if we can take care of prevention, then it will be impossible for terrorism to spread and take root.”

Other Chinese officials defended their country’s actions, claiming that Islam is an “ideological illness,” positioning the concentration camps as “hospitals” needed to “cure” people from this sickness. China’s ambassador to the US, Cui Tiankai stated that the country is trying to turn the Uighurs into “normal people,” and a pro-government newspaper tweeted: “The West should be consistent over its own value system. How can it be fine to kill terrorists with missiles, but a humanitarian crisis when Xinjiang attempts to turn them into normal people?” Such statements describe the faith of over 1.7 billion people as an illness from which they need to be cured.


Viewing Islam as an abnormality and the cause of “extremism,” is not exclusive to China, rather it finds its home in the West’s Countering Violence Extremism (CVE) programs, which view expressions of Muslim identity as uniquely associated with “extremism” and “radicalisation.” Programs aimed at “preventing extremism,” have resulted in the stigmatisation and criminalisation of Muslim communities.

Today’s public discourse on terrorism consists of a fixation on Islam and the expression of Muslim identity as indicators of “extremism,” “radicalisation,” and “terrorism”. It is not a line of thought constrained to the People’s Republic of China, rather this viewpoint permeates much of Western academic research and policies. Termed “new terrorism” studies, this field of work arose post-9/11 in an effort to explain, not understand, 21st-century political violence and argued that Islam was the root cause for individuals choosing to engage in violence. In the US, this framework led to destructive wars abroad, surveillance of Muslim communities at home, and broad violations of human rights.

In 2011, a US government white paper likened the hijab to “passive terrorism.” The author viewed an article of clothing – a headscarf worn by many Muslim women who feel it is part of their religion – as an indicator of support for violence. This same cultural racist argument underpins the hijab and veil bans that are sprouting up across Europe. Politicians and activists who support such measures argue that a piece of cloth is equal to violence and thus pass legislation that forces women to undress, resulting in the gross violation of individuals’ human rights. Such policies are built on a false and unfounded premise that identifies markers attributed to Muslim identity (growing a beard, attending mosque, wearing a hijab, etc) as indicators of “radicalisation” and “extremism.” China too has adopted this framework as veils and “abnormal” beards are forbidden in the Xinjiang region.

Chinese officials’ dangerous claim that Islam is an “illness” can also find precedent in the comments made by western politicians who have long used anti-Muslim claims to promote their hostile agendas. In 2014, Oklahoma state representative, John Bennett, described Islam as a “cancer in our nation that needs to be cut out.” Donald Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn described Islam as a “malignant cancer,” and asserted that “fear of Muslims is RATIONAL”. A 2016 tweet from Flynn shares eery similarities to China’s current claims, as he declares “Islamic ideology [is] sick and must B healed”. In 2015 on The Kelly File, conservative political commentator Glenn Beck argued that there is a “disease in Islam” and it must be addressed.

Such dangerous claims pathologising a belief system are not restricted to the United States. In March 2017, far-right Australian politician, Pauline Hanson, stated: “Islam is a disease; we need to vaccinate ourselves against that.” In 2017, Caroline Santos, a candidate for United Kingdom’s right-wing UKIP, described Islam as a “cancer” in a tweet praising far-right figure Tommy Robinson.

Noted anti-Muslim figures like Ayan Hirsi Ali and AsraNomani have also attributed common Muslim phrases of “Allahu Akbar,” (God is Great), and ‘inshAllah” (God willing) as being associated with extremism and terrorism. Nomani and Hirsi Ali are known right-wing figures who have made a career out of promoting dangerous and discriminatory views about Muslims, but their claims that Arabic terminology is a “red flag” for extremism and/or terrorism is not relegated to a niche political view.

In 2018, Swiss officials fined a man for saying “Allahu Akbar” in public, and defended their actions arguing that a “passersby could have mistaken him for a terrorist.” Today in China, Muslims who have been heard greeting one another with the common phrase, “As-Salam Alaikum,” (peace be upon you) have found themselves detained in the ever-expanding networkof concentration camps.

China is instituting the very calls made by western politicians to “cut out” Islam, by criminalising any expression of Muslim identity, including removing Qurans from people’s homes, restricting fasting during the month of Ramadan, and forbidding Muslim parents from giving their children Muslim names. In an effort to “heal” Muslims from this “dangerous ideology,” the government has established 28 detention camps, described by Amnesty International as comparable to “wartime concentration camps,” aimed at mass scale eradication of Uighur Muslim identity. Detainees in the camps are forced to endure psychological and physical torture, renounce their faith, and pledge allegiance to the Chinese communist party.

Under the guise of preventing terrorism, governments have been able to institute discriminatory and deadly policies targeting Muslim communities. Proponents of such measures justify their actions with the demonstrably false and discriminatory argument that identifies Islam as an explanatory factor in political violence.

What we’re currently witnessing in China is the product of a framework that points to Islam and the expression of Muslim identity as the root cause of terrorism, a viewpoint that finds its roots in, and is a staple of, Western political discourse.

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