Connect with us

Opinion

The deepening disconnect

Published

on

IST


By Suhasini Haidar

If there were any doubts about a ‘disconnect’ between New Delhi and Washington in the past few months, the U.S.’s decision to put off the first ‘2+2’ dialogue with India should put them to rest. The 2+2, as the enhanced engagement between the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defence is called, was an outcome of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Donald Trump’s first meeting last June in Washington. Exactly a year later, it is still to take off.
If the optics are bad, the messaging is worse. Since January, the U.S.’s Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act against those conducting business with Russia and Iran, as well as its decision to walk out of the Iran nuclear deal have come right up against India’s interests. India has, in turn, tightened its engagement with Russia, China and Iran, with Prime Minister Modi advocating a course of “strategic autonomy”. On bilateral trade, hardly a week goes by without the U.S. and India firing one salvo or another. And on their strategic relationship, upgraded to a ‘major defence partnership’ only recently, the two governments have failed to make progress on signing foundational agreements, which in turn has held up talks on defence procurement and technology transfers. Simply put, seldom in the past two decades since India and the U.S. rebooted ties have the two sides differed so publicly on so many fronts at the same time.
Unfortunately, one of the areas they had made good progress on, the U.S.’s South Asia policy, also appears to be in trouble. According to the policy announced about ten months ago, India was to be central to the U.S.’s efforts in Afghanistan while Pakistan would be ‘put on notice’ for its support to terror groups, including those that target India. The year began with Mr. Trump’s tweet lashing out at Pakistan, followed by suspension of U.S. military aid. The U.S. also sought to “greylist” Pakistan at the Financial Action Task Force on terror financing. However, there are enough indications that Mr. Trump’s South Asia policy is veering towards the U.S.’s Af-Pak policy of the past with the U.S. engaging Pakistan to help with Afghanistan, and India consigned a more supplementary role.
The first indicator of this shift is the increase in U.S.-Pakistan engagement, in conjunction with a rapid improvement in Pakistan-Afghanistan ties. In March, the then Pakistan Prime Minister, Shahid Abbasi, met U.S. Vice President Mike Pence in Washington, and a few weeks later Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Mr. Abbasi finalised the seven-point Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity. In June, Mr. Pence spoke with caretaker Prime Minister Nasirul Mulk. Next, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with Pakistan Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa, who then travelled to Kabul just ahead of the surprise Eid ceasefire between Afghan forces and the Taliban. During his visit to Kabul, General Bajwa also met the U.S. Commander for the Resolute Support Mission, General John Nicholson.
None of these appear to be coincidental, and together point to coordinated contacts between Washington, Kabul and Islamabad-Rawalpindi. Admitting as much in Washington, Mr. Trump’s point person for the region, Lisa Curtis, said that the U.S. had formally requested Pakistan to help facilitate the three-day Eid ceasefire. Concurrently, the U.S. administration’s language on Pakistan with Afghanistan has softened, and Ms. Curtis said this month that the U.S. sought to “understand Pakistan’s own core security concerns and ensure that its (Pakistan’s) interests are taken into account in any peace process.”
While the U.S. State Department has called for Pakistan to act against all groups operating in its territory, including the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), its own military actions have left many in Delhi bemused. To begin with, while the U.S. has carried out a number of drone strikes since Mr. Trump announced his new policy, the large bulk of them are on Afghan, not Pakistani, territory. According to the U.S.-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which tracks all reported strikes, American forces carried out more than 100 air and drone strikes in Afghanistan in 2017, and more than 40 till date in 2018. The corresponding figures for strikes in Pakistan are five and one, respectively.
What’s more, among the most prominent “kills” were leaders of groups that Pakistan had called on the U.S. to target, most prominent of them being Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Mullah Fazlullah. His killing in June is believed to be a direct trade-off for Pakistan’s assistance in bringing Afghan Taliban leaders to agree to the ceasefire, the first time they have done so. In an article in The New York Times on Wednesday, Mr. Ghani expressed his gratitude for the ceasefire, and the ensuing, albeit short-lived, peace that saw ordinary Afghans and Taliban fighters greeting each other. Extending another offer for talks, he wrote: “I will sit and negotiate with the Taliban’s leader, Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada, anywhere he wants.”
While the killing of terrorists anywhere as well as the cessation of hostilities must be welcomed by India, the contrast in terms of action it has demanded cannot be ignored. LeT chief Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of the Mumbai 26/11 attacks, is now addressing political rallies in Lahore for parliamentary elections in which his son and son-in-law are candidates, and JeM chief Masood Azhar lives undisturbed in his Bahawalpur home. Last month, he issued threats against India during the Kashmir cease-ops.
Finally, there are India’s regional concerns that stem from Mr. Trump’s Iran policy, which has spurred new sanctions against all countries and companies doing business in Iran and imposed a November 4 deadline to reduce oil imports from Iran to “zero”. Regardless of India’s determination to go ahead with its dealings with Iran, the impact of American restrictions will be felt in Chabahar Port, once billed as India’s gateway to Afghanistan, and a key component of its role in the U.S.’s South Asia policy. During the previous U.S. administration’s sanctions regime, India was able to get a ‘carve out’ for its port project and the railway line to Afghanistan through Zahedan. But there is no indication that the Trump administration will offer any such exemptions. Besides, as India is made perforce to yield to the U.S. on cutting oil imports, the Iranian regime is likely to look with disfavour at India’s engagement in Chabahar as well.
Clearly, none of these predicaments is new, and India has pulled the situation to its advantage in the past. The difference this time is that the India-U.S. dialogue is not as robust as before, while India’s planned engagements with Russia Iran and China in the next few months may render bilateral ties yet more difficult. Rescheduling the 2+2 at the earliest opportunity, in the face of the high stakes involved for both New Delhi and Washington, is crucial.
(The Hindu)

 
Comments

Opinion

The contours of contest ahead

The Kashmir Monitor

Published

on

By Mahesh Rangarajan

This summer will see a carnival of democracy in the general election. Much has changed in just five years. The elan of Narendra Modi’s party is more muted this time. Last weekend, key opponents, the Samajwadi Party and the BahujanSamaj Party, joined forces in Uttar Pradesh, making the contest real and not a walkover. The Index of Opposition Unity cannot predict outcomes but no one can afford to ignore it.

The Congress’s victories in the Assembly elections in three north Indian States have given it a shot in the arm. Equally important, the older party is firming up alliances in the southern States. The 131 Lok Sabha seats in five States (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana) and two Union Territories (Lakshadweep and Puducherry) have been critical to it in times of trouble.

 

The Telangana poll outcome was sobering for both the large national parties. Regional nationalism is not new to Indian politics: Jammu and Kashmir and Tamil Nadu were precursors. Regional formations have long governed West Bengal, Odisha and now Telangana. They may well hold the keys to power in New Delhi.

In 2014, it was the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that led in securing allies. Between then and now, BJP president Amit Shah has helped expand its footprint. Not only does it have more MLAs than the Congress, but its cadre fights every election like there is no tomorrow.

The challenge lies elsewhere. The Congress may have lost in 2014 and come down to a historic low of less than one in five votes cast. Yet, only a decade age, in May 2009, the roles had been in reverse. It was Congress that had then polled 29% and the BJP just 19% of the popular vote.

This time is different. It is 1971 that will be the textbook case for the ruling party. When the Grand Alliance said it would oust Indira Gandhi, she replied she wished to banish poverty. She won hands down.

Mrs. Gandhi did not have to contend with a powerful Dalit-led formation in the Ganga valley which commands 20% of the vote. Many of today’s regional parties were yet to be formed. She captured the public imagination. It was a gamble and she won hands down. Mr. Modi too will fight to the last voter. He will try to be the issue. He has sounded the tocsin against dynasty, caste and corruption. Hence the record in getting visible benefits to the individual and the family. The gas cylinder, the light bulb, that rural road: each will, he hopes, add to his appeal.

History has another instance too. The 2004 general election was held early. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was confident that ‘India was Shining’. The dream came apart on counting day. Rather than a unified Opposition (for there was none in the all-important State of Uttar Pradesh), ground-level discontent denied the ruling alliance another chance.

And yet, there is the cloud of the horizon. Even in 2004, the Congress was only a whisker ahead of the BJP — just seven seats more in the Lok Sabha. The Congress had 145 seats to the BJP’s 138. The key was on the ground, where the mood had shifted. The economic upturn began in 2003, but voters did not see gains early enough for the ruling bloc to reap an electoral harvest.

In 2014, the challenger drew on the tiredness with a decade of a Congress-led government and promised a fresh start. Runaway inflation and the spectre of corruption undercut the appeal of the Congress. This time the issues have changed. It is the squeeze on farm incomes and rural debt that are the key poll planks. Similarly, the issue of jobs is more pressing than ever. Cultivators across all strata and young people seeking productive employment want answers.

Two States are key. Maharashtra, a State critical in the histories of both the Congress and the BJP, is not only seeing a coming together of Opposition forces; it is undergoing drought and rural distress. Ominously, key farmer-led allies have walked across. Uttar Pradesh, a bastion of the BJP, has rival Dalit- and Mandal-led parties coalesce for the first time in a quarter century. Both States have something in common. In both, sugarcane cultivation is a determinant of electoral fortunes.

Cane (not caste) and jobs (not community slogans) may hold the key. Ganna and Naukri, not reservations or the emotive Mandir issue. What matters more: bread or identity? Even when both count what takes precedence?

Government policy has had a key role in this denouement. By according priority to consumers in cities (who want low prices for cereals, oil seeds and pulses), the government did not have to pay heed to rural residents who need to earn more. The latter, as producers, are larger in number and percentage than in any other democracy.

India still lives and votes in its villages. Under Mr. Shah, the cadre, organisation and outreach have made the BJP a vastly larger party than any other. But economic policies can strain such organisational gains.

Democracy is about more than development. In a polity where people can throw their rulers out, it is centrally about politics. Since 1999, there has been a bi-nodal system, and the choice is not simply between Mr. Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi.
We have effectively a one-party government with a firm hand on the wheel (but with the danger of an over-centralisation of power).

Against this, is ranged a looser coalition in which regional forces and rural interests have more play. Needless to add, the latter will be rockier, more contentious and tough to manage in a coherent fashion.

The Modi government is driven by ideology and not pragmatism on a range of issues. This is the first ever BJP government with a view of culture, history and politics that seeks to remake history as much as the future. Is this the party’s agenda or the country’s? This is a question in the background: if the Ram temple issue comes to the fore, it will be a major choice for the voter.

The pluralism and Hindutva debate have another dimension more so than ever, namely the federal question. Across the Northeast (including Sikkim), far more important to the country than its 25 Lok Sabha seats indicate, the idea of citizenship is at variance with the new Citizenship Bill passed by the Lok Sabha. Across the country, State-level parties see an accretion of powers in the federal government unseen since the 1980s.

True, Mr. Modi has a wider mass appeal than any one since Mrs. Gandhi. But history is witness that such appeal can also have limits if voters decide that enough is enough. Has that point been reached? We simply do not know.

More central is the question of questions. Are you better off than you were five years ago, and if not, why not? If so, and even if not, do you think we are moving in the right direction?

In 2014, The Economist observed that if India had the per capita wealth of Gujarat, the country would rank with Spain. Has that dream come true or it is unravelling and fast? How voters answer that will show who they stand with.

(The writer is Professor of History and Environmental Studies at Ashoka University, Haryana. Source: The Hindu)

Continue Reading

Opinion

Headwinds rock Rahul, Modi

The Kashmir Monitor

Published

on

By Jawed Naqvi

Recent headlines have offered clues about the way the wind is blowing before the general elections in India. A make-or-break element in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s re-election bid in May lies in Uttar Pradesh. It was here that he swept the 2014 polls on the back of anti-Muslim blood and gore set off in Muzaffarnagar, what some in the prime minister’s choral media have praised as ‘Modi Magic’. Spurring his win in the country’s most populous state was a palpably disharmonious opposition. That may have changed this year — or has it?

Let’s quickly scour the headlines. My first story refers to the Congress party’s bizarre plan to contest all 80 parliamentary seats in UP on its own. What then becomes of the promised coalition?

 

The second story seemed facetious at first but it describes a crippling fallout on the BJP of its ban on slaughter of cattle in UP. The alarmed party must now contain unwanted cattle in their post-productive state when they become a load on the farmers. Will the revered holy cow be artificially inseminated to produce more cows than bulls, as the animal husbandry minister says? How serious is the looming crisis in a political season?

A fourth story is The Hindu’s damning report by a former Indian supreme court judge, which gathered dust in the vaults of the apex court for over a year, on fake encounter deaths in Gujarat. Will it haunt the BJP together with an equally strong concern expressed by UN rights officials about allegations of widespread killings in Yogi Adityanath-ruled Uttar Pradesh?

And finally, the party’s national convention addressed by Modi where he offered himself as the only choice to lead India, which needs a ‘mazbootsarkar’, a strong government. The opposition alliance can only produce a ‘majboorsarkar’, says he, a government weakened by its own political compromises.

Two of the stories should suffice to indicate the headwinds ahead. The Congress party’s announcement of fighting all seats in UP, came not surprisingly a day after the backward caste Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Dalit BahujanSamaj Party (BSP), once bitter rivals,

declared a joint campaign in 76 constituencies, leaving four for Congress, presumably. In the last vote count, BSP (22.23 per cent) and the SP (28.07pc) totalled more than BJP (41.35pc) and Congress put together. Congress is an insignificant player in UP, and its irresponsible claim to contest all seats makes it a laughing stock given the high stakes in May.

What lies behind the absurdity? The fact is that Congress, perennially described a family enterprise of the Gandhis, is actually a coalition of powerful satraps, usually but not always shored up by Mumbai businessmen.

The business clubs have a chronic allergy to the Gandhis, though they are not averse to backing a Narasimha Rao or a Manmohan Singh in Congress. The allergens are old and damning. Nehru had jailed their leading businessman for corruption, Indira Gandhi had shut their banks, and Rajiv Gandhi ordered them to get off the backs of Congress workers. The tycoons came back hard at him with the Bofors smear though.

In the recent elections in Madhya Pradesh, a local Congress chieftain deemed close to a particular business family, opposed and subverted an alliance with Mayawati’s Dalit party. Congress won but not cleanly and it needs the BSP to sustain a majority. In Uttar Pradesh, the SP has strong ties with key business families, including the one that Rahul Gandhi has named in the Rafael warplanes scandal.

Given the state of play, the young Gandhi should ideally decide whether he wants to be a compromised representative of disparate, even contrary interests as prime minister, something his satraps would like him to be. Or should he be nudging the opposition parties, bereft of common ambition, with a Nehruvian vision to forge a truly durable secular polity?

The left had done this successfully with Indira Gandhi. The model can only strengthen Congress and its essentially left-leaning mass base. See it as a Tony Blair-Jeremy Corbyn moment within the Indian equivalent of the Labour Party. Else, the system in India, a tycoon-run deep state, would continue to harness Congress satraps and the BJP in a bind that undermines the constitution’s fair promise.

Signs of disarray in the opposition should comfort the BJP, but evidently the party for the first time is looking mortally afraid of losing. From ‘Congress-free India’, Modi is now talking about ‘a weak opposition government’. There’s more evidence of panic in Omar Rashid’s story in The Hindu about a cattle market that has collapsed, about stray cows raiding UP farms as impoverished farmers abandon their hungry animals.

Explaining the dilemma, BJP’s minister for animal husbandry said: “UP is a state of small and minor farmers, with two crop seasons. For 15 days of ploughing, a farmer no longer wants to feed two bullocks all year round.” To solve the problem the government has started a sex-sorted scheme under which the chances of a cow producing a female calf would be as high as 90pc to 95pc. Simultaneously, the BJP government is imposing a 0.5pc gaukalyan (cow welfare) cess on liquor and road toll collections, besides doubling an existing 1pc levy on the incomes of wholesale produce markets. The proceeds will fund construction and maintenance of new cow pens.

While the kitten entangles itself in the ball of wool, the opposition should be taking control of the narrative. But Congress, far from offering a vision, which only it could, is saddled with its recent promise to make cow urine economically viable while discussing the grade of the Brahminical thread Rahul Gandhi wears, neither of which is part of the winning calculation for the SP and the BSP.

Continue Reading

Opinion

The social fibre is in disarray

The Kashmir Monitor

Published

on

By Tawfeeq Irshad Mir

Kashmir lost its claim to heaven a long time ago but the debate today is not about ‘why’ but ‘who’ caused the paradise to fly away, leaving behind its miserable and yet romantic claimants.Say Kashmir, and the sweet aroma of pine takes over the mind fluttering among images of valley flowers,

While the valley is brewing to shivered cold, resorting to bone ache, and suddenly you get to hear the act, that tender your muscles and your brain starts oscillating in agony. While I was on the way to home, and as usual my phone keeps on beeping with variable feeds, and at a moment my eyes stuck to a feed, mentioning that a baby was thrown outside in a cartoon enveloped in polythene, across the road from the city’s maternity hospital Lal Ded. Not the first time, I got to hear such inhuman act, previously such incidents have filled the social networking sites with tetra byte data.

 

Kashmir, a Conservative populace with rigid religious beliefs, where such incidents dwindle the heart, to the core and ionise in the surroundings within fraction of the second.

,,, “oh foetid soul, you aren’t a burden,
Your cravings, your presence, is sacred,
” unworthy are those, who abandon you,
,,, “you are born to take nap at the realm of GOD,

This mischievous act is on surge in Kashmir citing numerous incidents in the past, Now concerning the aetiology of this social chaos, : over the years there has been a paradigm shift in the psychological, behavioural, living style of the people inhabiting valley, leading to variant changes, pertaining to psychosexual onslaught, Now we see pre-marital sexual relations, a non-serious concern leading to apathy in the ethos of society, the ramifications of this are vivid and perturbing, the couple especially in their teen ages, moved by their sudden hormonal changes engage in sexual relationships, and in certain cases, unaware of its complications, maybe due to lack of knowledge, debarring the use of protective devices, the female counterpart conceives and remains unaware for most of the time, as fear of surroundings, the societal rejection, the client fears to express the event to parents, till she develops such symptoms, and in reaction, either they go for illegal termination of pregnancy or wait for the term to deliver remaining in isolation carried out in privacy, and later the baby is abandoned.

In certain cases, the baby delivered from legal couple, go for termination, if it’s unwanted, or a female,, called female infanticide “in Kashmir such incidents are on record where foetus laden with blood were found in toilets, on the footsteps of shrines, some years back, an abandoned baby, caught by mob of dogs was noticed outside Lal Ded hospital, such incident shocked the consciousness of people,.

Congenital defects :Every single creation of God is not futile, but I can say, a sheer ignorance, the babies who are born with genetic defects have every right to continue life, even Stephen Hawkins was born with hereditary defect, still he rose to prominence, even normal human couldn’t think ever, contributes to the cause of abandoning babies, recently a horrendous incident captivated the conscious minds of valley where a father tried to Bury his live baby, citing the reasons of poverty, that he can’t afford the care of baby born with genetic defect.

Now describing the risk factors, loosening bondages from religious acuity, problems in socialisation, faults in upbringing, difficulties in coping up with puberty, lack of education, accelerate such incidents.

The treatment is more of a belief than literal.The old age adage holds true everywhere, we should focus on preventive strategies, we should be more religious, because not a single religion advocates such horrendous act, be more conscious when you go for such a relationship, we should profoundly act on such incidents, awareness schedule should be set up,
We need to develop legal resolutions for those abandoned, because we have many childless couples, so as to create balance.

Certainly at the end, those who abandon live births, are abandoning the humanity, the moment they opt for such gigantic mischief, they turn into wilds, and their ability to be human seizes.

(The writer is perusing graduation in Nursing at GMC, Srinagar. He can be reached at: [email protected])

Continue Reading

Subscribe to The Kashmir Monitor via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to The Kashmir Monitor and receive notifications of new stories by email.

Join 980,007 other subscribers

Archives

January 2019
M T W T F S S
« Dec    
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031  
Advertisement