Last week, India and Russia signed a 5.2 billion dollar air defence deal for S-400 system which is expected to be delivered by the year 2020. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was on a two-day visit to India, met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 5, and was personally welcomed by Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj at the airport. The S-400 Triumf is an advanced surface-to-air missile system, developed by Russia’s state-owned company Almaz-Antey, and can shoot down hostile aircraft and ballistic missiles. It has an estimated range of 250 kilometres and a possible upgrade is speculated to extend it to 400 kilometres. One cannot deny the importance of a strong defence system of the nation-states, more particularly in the prevailing global uncertainty and insecurity. But the basic question is does the purchase of heavy and sophisticated arms help meet the challenges facing the nation states. A strong defence system can protect the country from outside transgression. How can these help in terminating internal issues. The instance of the erstwhile USSR is before the world. The Soviet Union was equipped with over 10,000 nuclear arsenals before its death in 1989. It was no less powerful than America. But its sudden demise in 1991 showed that no amount of arms can protect a country from the internal turmoil caused by falling living standards, abject poverty, inflation, and the lack of basic amenities. It goes without saying that India are facing more internal challenges than the external ones. These challenges are in the shape of poverty, lack of basic amenities, social imbalance among various communities, communal onslaught, and the last but not the least, free-will political objectives. Ignoring the fundamental problems and spending on arms is bound to multifold the problems instead of solving one. Indian houses the poorest of poor people more than any other country in the world. In 2013, a United Nations survey revealed that African Sub Saharan countries were the poorest in the world. The same report, however, said that India house 40crore people poorer than Sub Saharan African people. In India 1.77 million people are still homeless. Around 732 million people don’t have access to toilets. Only 48.4 percent of households in India have improved sanitation facilities and the prevalence of diarrhoea in the country stands at 9.2 percent. Around 53.10 percent of non-pregnant women are anaemic while 50.30 percent of pregnant women suffer from the deficiency. Around 60,700 children die of diarrheal diseases every year. Analysts say that only $30 billion is needed to build 111.1 million toilets that can benefit a large number of people and help prevent many diseases. Another 100 billion dollar invested in social and health sectors would take the country to the new heights social standard. It needs to be understood that America is not a world power merely for possessing nuclear arms and military might. Its strength lies in providing quality healthcare, free education, decent housing, and other basic amenities to its citizens. The history of France and the UK isn’t different either. British fleets and French jets weren’t the only elements that turned Britain and France, respectively, into great powers. The real strength of these countries also lies in empowering their people by offering various provisions. The major fallout of India-Russia arms deal is that Pakistan, which is no different from India with regard to internal problems, will follow the suit. Islamabad is has already lagged behind New Delhi in terms of conventional strength. Despite being a smaller economy, Pakistan is already spending a huge amount on its defence. Forcing it make more spending on in unwanted sector could have catastrophic consequences not only for Pakistan also for the entire south Asian region. Government of India need to look inwards instead of outward and make policies and take decisions in tune with the needs of the common people.
The Drabu drop scene
In politics, as said, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way. Dr Haseeb Drabu has finally bid adieu to the PDP. On Thursday, Drabu sent his resignation letter to the PDP president Mehbooba Mufti calling it a day with the PDP. It is not known whether Drabu has bid adieu to his political career as well but the way he was treated by the PDP over the past one year, it is not unreasonable for him to be feeling cynical about politics. Drabu may not be a political saint or sage but he definitely gave PDP a meaning, both, in terms of politics and governance. PDP, for all probabilities, was founded on vague and nebulous ideas with no clear direction and outlook. The slogan of so called Self Rule was simply a misnomer with no party leader, including Mufti and his daughter little knowing what it meant. The slogan was borrowed from Pakistan President Gen Parvaiz Musharraf’s four point formula but Drabu gave it the shape of ideological frame and document. Before it, PDP would cross all borders in search of identity. From extreme separatist position to ultra-nationalist stand, PDP leadership, more particularly Mehbooba Mufti, tried every trick in the book to invent a new identity, way away from her past baggage. She revealed it on the floor of the state assembly during previous NC-Congress rule that Haseeb Drabu (he was Chairman, J&K Bank then) had drafted the document of Self-Rule for PDP. Indeed, it provoked a serious reaction from NC legislators in the House. Many people believe that this became a drop scene for Drabu’s removal as J&K Bank Chairman. Mufti many a time told the press that Drabu was the author of all the election manifestos of PDP. What prompted Mehbooba Mufti then to throw Drabu out of the cabinet should be read and understood in the proper context. Nobody can deny this fact that Mehbooba Mufti was going through a serious crisis of self-image after the death of her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. The BJP’s aggressive positioning and posturing on key issues directly related with the sentiments of the state’s majority community had taken heavy toll on her image. No doubt PDP, in real, owes its popularity and rise mostly to Mehbooba Mufti. But this too is an undisputable fact that the fall of PDP has also begun with her. One had expected her to take advantage of the Chief Minister’s office and strengthen her position as a credible and dependable voice of Kashmir.
But she, for all probabilities, proved a disaster. She could not be even a pale shadow of her yester-year’s self. Embarrassment and humiliation had become core of BJP’s agenda of governance with PDP. Dropping Drabu from the cabinet was her desperate attempt to remake her image. It was Haseeb Drabu who wove the alliance with the BJP twice paving way for Muftis—first Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and now Mehbooba—to take control of the state. Mufti, known as a master planner with astute sense of politics, gave no leverage to BJP to dictate terms. However, his death on January 7, 2015, virtually dealt a severe blow to the PDP.A section of PDP leadership began to hobnob with the BJP to form the government bypassing Mehbooba caused added damage to whatever the remains of the PDP. Sensing coup, Mehbooba again fell back upon Drabu to save the day for her. However, the same section of the PDP leadership crafted a narrative of “Drabu being a ‘BJP-man, RSS-man, a Delhi-man’. Ironically, Mehbooba not only allowed this smear campaign against Drabu swell but also adopted those very people in her coterie who had engineered coup against her. Drabu negotiated power with BJP for Muftis, not for himself. He did not do it by himself. He had the party’s and leadership’s (Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Mehbooba Mufti) instructions and mandate. PDP, more particularly Mehbooba Mufti cannot be more dishonest and ungracious than seeing the man who brokered power for her out of the party.
Over the centuries, Quranic concepts of an egalitarian human society have either been forgotten, or diluted through simple-mindedness, narrowness of thought and need for political mileage. Scholarship and discourse have centred on rituals and questionable ahadith. Culture and traditions have replaced religion.Today, much of what is practised in the Muslim world bears little resemblance to real Islam. It is time for Muslims to revert to the Quran with the aim to understand it more comprehensively.According to Dr Fazlur Rahman, the most significant ethical themes in the Quran are iman, Islam and taqwa, all of which are closely linked. ‘Iman’ primarily means to be safe, derived from ‘to be at peace’ and is used in the meaning of having faith in God and His message. Iman is an ‘act of the heart’, a decision to accept God totally and be at peace. This faith is not without knowledge, nor is it dependent upon it. It bonds the mind and knowledge.
According to the Quran, intellectual knowledge is not sufficient for faith, but equally, a human being cannot be guided without knowledge. Also, faith that does not result in actions is completely useless. To have faith with rationality, to constantly develop one’s knowledge and strengthen faith and to act out the faith reinforces one’s imanduring life.Faith and surrender purify a human soul.
The second concept — Islam — means ‘whole’, ‘integrity’, ‘peace’ and ‘surrender’. A Muslim is one who becomes complete by surrendering himself or herself to God. Nature is ‘Muslim’ because it obeys the laws of God. The term ‘Islam’ was formally given to the religion after the Muslims established themselves in Madina, and both Makkan and Madani verses speak of iman and Islam with the same meanings. “Those whom Allah (in His plan) willeth to guide, – He openeth their breast to Islam. …” (6:125).
Both bestow peace, security and integrity upon a Muslim. This equivalence is a departure from the conventional understanding that iman is belief and Islam is comprised of the obligations of prayers, fasting etc. It does mean, however, that Islam is the externally visible manifestation of iman and one has to be grounded in iman in order to express it outwardly. The two, therefore, imply each other. One cannot exist without the other. Islam relieves humans of the fear of everything else except fear of displeasing God, for the surrender to Him means they sense His presence everywhere and all the time.
‘Taqwa’ means fear of God, righteousness, piety and responsibility towards self and the world. It implies meanings similar to iman and Islam, comprising both faith and surrender. The rites of Haj must be carried out with due consideration for taqwa, deep from the heart, lest they become mechanical movements; behaviour towards the enemy should be with taqwa and collaboration with each other should be based on taqwa. One can only strive for taqwa, not achieve it totally. It is the best garment one can wear (7:26) and the best provision for the future (2:197). It is a protective shield against sin and evil. It is fear of one’s inclination towards temptation and human weaknesses that drive one to errors.
Taqwa includes self-evaluation-cum-correction, accompanied by seeking forgiveness from God and asking for guidance and light. The recognition that God will judge human beings after death will ensure that life in this world is not lived for the moment, but has longer-term goals.Simultaneously, a person has the opportunity to judge himself or herself every moment and develop self-awareness through taqwa. In this manner, ‘God-awareness’ is created through awareness of one’s own weaknesses and efforts to correct them. This rising above small-mindedness and preoccupation with earthly desires is what takes a person towards taqwa. God’s purpose in creation of humans is their tazkiya (purification) through imanand Islam and this moves them towardstaqwa and enables them to be true vicegerents of God. Faith and surrender purify a human soul and enhance its taqwa. The reverse is also true.
Imran Khan’s peace offensive
Opening up of Kartarpur corridor for Sikh pilgrims is turning out to be a major peace offensive of Imran Khan against India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has virtually been caught in a corner with little option to ignore. Though presently the Indian government has rejected all the peace moves initiated by Imran Khan but these are motivated by political exigencies staring at Narendra Modi’s face. The Indian Prime Minister is facing general election within a few months. Any move to make peace with Pakistan will not go well for him in the elections. Not that Indian people do not want peace with Pakistan but for the fact that Modi and his party has, of late, cultivated a support constituency squarely on Pakistan hysteria. Any climb down would mean the loss of this constituency.
As things stand, Modi and his men have little to showcase in the elections as ‘achievements’ to win favor of voters in the elections. The tall promises made by Modi in the last elections have come to haunt him as he has not been able to keep even one of them. Creation of five crore jobs, depositing Rs.15 lakh in each citizen bank account, bringing back black money and teaching Pakistan a lesson—none of them was kept. As against this, Modi government took some giant steps like demonetization, increase in petrol prices and GST which common people viewed as anti-people. If the reports emanating in national press are any guidance, the overall economy of the country has taken a downslide with prices of essential commodities sky rocketing. The even more horrifying is the condition of farmers. Thousands of farmers have committed suicide in the past four and a half year rule of Modi due unbearable burden of loans and other things. Over the past some time, farmers all across the country have been protesting against government’s anti farmer policies.
Recently thousands of farmers from all the country had gathered in Delhi to agitated their problems. At the elections, these are not good indicators for the sitting government. In this backdrop Modi and his party BJP are heavily depending on some emotional card to win back the voters. Pakistan and Muslims (in India) are the only two issues on which the BJP can get together the Hindu voter. The rejection of Imran Khan’s peace moves and frenzy created in the name of building Ram temple are the only issues that can whip up religious emotions. On Tuesday, India did not invite Pakistan to the Custom meeting of the 21-nation Asia Pacific to devise common strategy to counter organized crimes such narco-terrorism, money laundering and smuggling. Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj had earlier rejected Pakistan invitation to the inaugural function of Kartarpur corridor. Then, in response to Imran’s statement that Pakistan and India could make peace if traditional enemies like France and Germany can now be so friendly, Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat said that there can be no peace until Pakistan becomes a secular state.
But much to the chagrin of the BJP and the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Imran Khan, through his peace overtures, has created a constituency among Indian masses who favor good relations over acrimony between the two countries. A variety of media concerns, through editorial comments, have appreciated Imran Khan’s dialogue offers and are terming Imran Khan as the best bet India could ever have while dealing with Pakistan. What goes to the advantage of Imran Khan is that he has the army’s support. It would be in the best interests of the people in south Asia that Narendra Modi and his party rise above elections politics, and grab the opportunity to make peace a reality in the region.