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First COVID-19 Death Reported in Asia’s Largest Slum, Dharavi

teleSUR | April 3, 2020

Asia’s largest slum located in India’s financial capital of Mumbai has reported its first COVID-19 fatality, according to local reports.

The patient, a 56-year-old man, had no travel history and was admitted to a local hospital with a fever on Sunday and tested positive for the new coronavirus on Wednesday, an official of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said, according to Al Jazeera.

The authorities have sealed the building where he lived, which is located in a redeveloped part of the Dharavi slum, local media reported.

Also, seven members of his family were quarantined and tested on Thursday for the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease, the Xinhua news agency said.

Mumbai authorities are concerned over the possible spread of the new coronavirus, as Dharavi is known as the most densely populated slum in Asia. At the same time, a doctor and a worker from a municipal corporation also tested positive.

An estimated 700,000 to 1 million people live crammed in Dharavi – a roughly five-square-kilometer maze of narrow lanes, dilapidated buildings, huts, and open sewers.

Public health experts say it would be difficult to contain the virus if it spread in a slum-like Dharavi where eight to 10 people often share a room.

The population density is about 270,000 per square kilometer, making social distancing almost impossible. Scores of people share water sources and sanitation facilities, Al Jazeera reported.

Dharavi’s cases have raised concern that India may be experiencing community transmission of the disease despite a countrywide lockdown since March 25, as well as exposing the harsh reality and problems of inequality in the country.

For his part, Prime Minister Narendra Modi insisted that “testing, isolation and quarantine” will remain priorities in the coming weeks, ignoring the situation of places like Dharavi, the problems of its population, as well as the needs that have arisen in the public health system in the country.

The death toll due to the COVID-19 in India stands at 62 as of Thursday, according to the latest data, while the number of confirmed cases in the country is around 2,547.

April 4, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

India introduces new Kashmir domicile law, raising fears of demographic manipulation

Press TV – April 2, 2020

India has introduced a new law that would make its citizens eligible to become permanent residents of the Indian-administered Kashmir, raising fears of demographic change in the Muslim-majority, Himalayan region.

The new law, which was announced by the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs on Wednesday and which reportedly is not subject to parliamentary review, will deem any person who has resided in the Indian-controlled Kashmir for a period of 15 years or studied at certain school grades there as “domicile” of the territory.

The new law will also provide domicile status to the children of central government officials who have served in the Indian-controlled Kashmir for a total period of 10 years.

It will also open local jobs to non-residents.

The introduction of the law comes almost eight months after the Indian government stripped the disputed region of its limited autonomy. On August 5 last year, New Delhi revoked Article 370, a constitutional provision that had come into effect in 1949 and had granted special status to Kashmir, allowing it to have its own flag and constitution, among other rights.

In the lead-up to the revocation, India sent thousands of additional troops to the disputed region, imposed a curfew, arrested political leaders, and shut down telecommunication lines.

The new law also comes as the country of 1.3 billion people is under a 21-day lockdown in an attempt to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, raising speculation that the timing is intentional.

Legalizing settlements?

Residents in the Indian-controlled Kashmir fear that the new law would alter the demographic status of the region, with experts saying it will lead to “demographic flooding.”

“It is a lot to circumvent the law. I think it illustrates clearly that some will not stop from politicking during coronavirus [epidemic],” Siddiq Wahid, a political analyst based in the Indian-controlled Kashmir, said.

“Obviously it is an attempt to change the demographics, not only change but flood it. It will lead to demographic flooding,” Wahid said, according to Al Jazeera.

Sheikh Showkat Hussain, a professor of legal studies based in the region, said the move had already been in the offing.

“The whole purpose of revoking Article 370 was to settle outsiders here and change the demography of the [Jammu and Kashmir] state. Now this provides the modalities and entitles so many categories of Indians whose settlement will be legalized over here.”

India’s ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has denied that the new law is an attempt to change the demography of the region.

Kashmir has been split between India and Pakistan since partition in 1947. Both countries claim all of Kashmir and have fought three wars over the territory.

Meanwhile, Muslims elsewhere in India have also been facing abuse and violence.

April 2, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Illegal Occupation | , , | Leave a comment

Covid-19: Modi, Putin to coordinate efforts

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | March 26, 2020

Soon after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s address to the nation on Wednesday on the government’s coronavirus response and measures to be adopted to deal with the pandemic, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to him on the phone. The Indian and Russian readouts (here and here) have alike highlighted that the two leaders “agreed to strengthen coordination in the coronavirus response effort” (Kremlin).

The two countries are facing similar challenges. Having done very little by way of testing, the actual figures of coronavirus patients could be higher than the official estimate in Russia and India alike.

The total number of infected people as of today touched 840 in Russia, while the Indian figure has reached 660. Importantly, the figures are dramatically rising. There was a 28% jump in Russia since Wednesday.

Putin has admitted candidly that the outbreak is worse than what he had thought previously. The head of a top Moscow hospital treating coronavirus patients told Putin on Tuesday when he visited the patients undergoing treatment that Russia needs to “prepare for the Italian scenario.”

To a degree, the relatively low number of cases so far in both India and Russia can be attributed to an early ban on entry for Chinese citizens at the time the epidemic was at full swing in that country.

But India has been ahead of Russia in denying entry to all foreigners except diplomats and members of official delegations. It was only last week that Russia imposed such restrictions. Again, India shut down international flights earlier than Russia which announced the decision only today.

Both Indian and Russian authorities were inclined to project an upbeat view on the situation, claiming that all measures have been taken to prevent a bigger outbreak. But both have acknowledged lately that there is indeed a crisis looming ahead.

On Tuesday, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, who leads a task force on dealing with the virus, told Putin at a meeting in the Kremlin that provincial governors must receive orders to move more quickly to ready hospital beds for the gravely ill. “Otherwise, the system won’t be able to cope,” he said.

Sobyanin has ordered all Moscow citizens over 65 to stay home starting Thursday. Construction of a new hospital for coronavirus patients that is being built from scratch is going on at breakneck speed in Moscow suburbs.

Basically, Russia suffers from the same disadvantages as India to cope with a big coronavirus crisis — underfunded healthcare system, paucity of hospital beds, shortage of protective gear for medical communities, grossly insufficient network of labs to conduct / analyse coronavirus tests and so on.

But the Russian system is better adapted to handle such crises. Sobyanin signed a decree today “to temporarily suspend … from 28 March to 5 April, the work of restaurants, cafes, canteens, buffets, bars, snack bars and other catering establishments, with the exception of takeaway services without citizens visiting the premises of such enterprises, as well as order delivery.”

Shops, except pharmacies and those selling essential goods, will suspend operation during this weeklong period. Sobyanin was almost apologetic: “The restrictions introduced today are unprecedented in the modern history of Moscow and will create many inconveniences in every person’s daily life. But, believe me, they are absolutely necessary to slow down the spread of the coronavirus infection and reduce the number of cases.”

The big question is whether these measures will suffice or Putin will also opt for a “total lockdown”, as Modi ordered on Tuesday. But then, Russia is a vast country spanning 9 time zones, and the Kremlin can always ramp up measures as cases grow. The regional imbalances are simply mind-boggling — between Moscow and St. Petersburg (European Russia) on the one hand and the Caucasus, Urals, Siberia or the Russian Far East (Asiatic Russia) on the other hand. 

Having said that, the crucial difference is that Russia is a developed country in most ways in the social sector, thanks to the Soviet rule, whereas India is a developing country with a much lower level of social formation.

The mammoth population of India puts additional pressure on social sectors of the economy. Again, the structure of the Russian economy is very different. It has nothing comparable, for example, to India’s “informal sector” or “migrant labour” that infinitely add to the complexity of the present crisis.

Russia was all set to join the OECD when the Ukraine crisis erupted in 2014 and the European Union imposed sanctions. In fact, at that point in time, Russia had already signed on to some of the landmark OECD standards.

However, the raison d’être of the two countries’ desire to “to strengthen coordination in the coronavirus response effort” lies in their capacity to show a third way in addressing the present crisis.

Neither Russia nor India has followed China’s Wuhan model of “suppressing” the coronavirus and moving on to resuscitate the economy.

On the other hand, their humanistic traditions also do not allow the pitiless approach that US President Donald Trump espouses.

Both Russia and India stress “social distancing” as the key. PM Modi used a powerful metaphor from Ramayana which every Indian would understand, to drive home that one’s home is one’s ultimate citadel in these extraordinary times. Putin meant much the same thing when he said, “Don’t think: ‘This can’t happen to me.’ It can happen to anyone. The most important thing is to stay home.”

Putin announced paid leave for all Russians next week due to COVID-19. He announced, amongst other relief measures for the economy, that families eligible for maternity capital will receive an extra 5,000 rubles ($44.80) per month from the government for each child under 3 years old.

Small and midsized businesses will receive a six-month tax deferral. And those who lose their jobs or take sick leave will receive payments at minimum wage until the end of the year. The allowance for the unemployed has been raised by 50 percent and brought on par with the prescribed minimum wage.

Today, the Modi government also announced a massive $22 billion package of cash transfer and food security exclusively targeting the poor.

Both Russian and Indian leaderships are acutely conscious of grim economic warnings for their countries. Both economies could shrink significantly in a worst case scenario. Nonetheless, both Putin and Modi have chosen to concentrate on socially sensitive clusters — pensioners and families with children in Russia, the teeming hundreds of millions of poor people in India.

One may say they stay true to their history as “populist” leaders. But this time around, it is far from an opprobrium.

March 26, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , | Leave a comment

Amid COVID-19, India Buys $116M Worth Of Weapons to Israel

teleSUR | March 25, 2020

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed Thursday an arms deal with Israel worth hundreds of millions of dollars, as cases of the coronavirus infections are surging and concerns are rising over the country’s ability to face a health emergency of such magnitude.

Israel will deliver to the Indian military 16,479 Negev light machine guns, the Indian government said in a statement.

The US$116 million contract was signed as doctors and health professionals in India continue to sound alarms about the shortage of masks and protective gear, pointing out the country’s ill preparation to deal with the crisis.

The weapons contract is part of a series of arms agreements between India and Israel under Modi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“The provisioning of this operationally urgent and very critically needed weapon will boost the confidence of the frontline troops and provide much-needed combat power to the Armed Forces,” India’s defense ministry said.

There have been around 536 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in India with 10 deaths reported. But like several other countries, it has barely done any tests and is now going through a spike in infections.

India’s “total lockdown” began at midnight Tuesday and will continue for 21 days.

At a time of crisis with a fatal pandemic spreading like wildfire and concerns rising over the consequences it is likely to have on economies around the world, the decision to give priority to military spending has sparked indignation among critics.

A retired professor of International Relations and Global Politics at the University of Delhi, Achin Vanaik, described the move as “extraordinary and highly condemnable, especially as it becomes clear that authorities are well aware that official stats are a gross underestimation at this point.”

“India needs every rupee to deal with the very real danger of the coronavirus pandemic spreading in a country of 1.3 billion people – living in densely populated cities and towns. As it is, compared to Europe, North America or even China and other countries in Asia, the medical system here is woefully under-equipped to deal with this emergency. This diversion of funds is deeply distressing,” Vanaik told the MEE.

Likewise, many critics are denouncing the fact that the far-right government led by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chose to spend hundreds of millions on military purchases while it has so far not announced any measure to assist those who are losing their income sources as a result of the epidemic.

“People rendered suddenly jobless are forced to rush back to villages to survive, risking the spread of the virus as they go,” leader of the Communist Party of India Kavita Krishnan told MEE.

“Why is the government of India choosing to spend massive amounts on military purchases instead of prioritizing a corona relief package, medical infrastructure, free healthcare and testing for all right now?” Krishnan asked.

March 25, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , | 2 Comments

‘India Could Be Next Coronavirus Hotspot’

The Wire | March 18, 2020

In an exclusive 50-minute interview to Karan Thapar for The Wire, Dr Ramanan Laxminarayan said that he found it hard to believe the health ministry’s official figure which, on their website at 12 pm on March 18th, said India had 130 people with COVID-19 in addition to the 14 who had recovered and three who had died.

He says if the UK could accept that they have underestimated the number infected by a factor of 12, at the very least the situation would be the same in India. That means there are over 1,500 undetected cases. In fact, given our size and population density, Dr Laxminarayan estimates that India is bound to have 10,000 or more undetected novel coronavirus cases.

March 20, 2020 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Video | , | Leave a comment

Crippling lockdown on Kashmir surpasses 200 days

By Javed Rana – Press TV – February 21, 2020

The crippling security and communications lockdown in the Muslim-majority Indian disputed Kashmir region has entered its 200 days. Nearly 900,000 military and paramilitary troops are deployed to prevent mass agitation since August 5 last year when New Delhi revoked Kashmir’s special status and forcibly annexed it into India.

The controversial merger of the disputed territory was in defiance of eleven UN Security Council resolutions which call for a plebiscite to allow Kashmiris to decide on whether they want to stay with India or join Pakistan.

Since then, the top Kashmiri leaders including three former chief ministers have been imprisoned. In their absence, the second tier leaders held press conference in Islamabad to inform the world of what India seeks to hide.

India has banned the entry of independent journalists, human rights activists, observers and even many western politicians from entering into disputed Kashmir region.

Kashmiri leaders believe that the Indian government has been deliberately crippling the economy to create adverse conditions for Kashmiris to force them to sell their properties to Hindu businessmen. This, they say, is aimed at altering the demography of the Muslim-majority state.

February 21, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , | 1 Comment

US oil sanctions on Iran force India to look to Russia

By Shishir Upadhyaya | RT | February 9, 2020

Escalating US pressure on Iran, including sanctions targeting Iranian oil exports, may have had an unexpected consequence – pushing India to diversify its energy supplies by shifting from Tehran to Moscow as a major oil supplier.

State-owned oil refiner Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) has just signed a contract with Russia’s Rosneft for the supply of up to 2 million tons of oil by the end of 2020. The meeting took place on the sidelines of India’s largest weapons fair, DefExpo, currently going on in Lucknow.

“This is just the beginning,” Indian Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan told reporters after meeting with Rosneft chairman Igor Sechin in New Delhi on Wednesday.

The contract could be a precursor to an emerging energy security partnership between India and Russia, with more deals to come. India is the world’s third-biggest oil consumer and importer, shipping in more than 80 percent of its crude needs.

Security turmoil in the Middle East impacts energy trade

Iran was the third largest exporter of oil to India in 2018, right behind Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Between sanctions and spillover violence, the escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran have endangered all three of those sources.

US sanctions against Iran are intended to cripple Tehran’s economy and force it to give up any nuclear ambitions, ballistic missile development, and support for militants in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, and elsewhere.

The conflict has spilled over to neighboring countries, however. The largest Saudi oil complex was hit by a drone strike in September. Yemen’s Houthis claimed responsibility, while the US blamed Iran. Meanwhile, Iraq has been dealing with shipping interruptions due to ongoing protests over economic conditions, which only got worse following the January 3 US drone strike in Baghdad that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. Iranian retaliation by launching missiles against two US bases in Iraq appears to have driven India to take its oil business elsewhere.

Seeking diversification

India has already been seeking other sources for its energy needs away from the Middle East, in a bid to hedge geopolitical risks. Oil imports from the region shrank from 65 percent of India’s total in 2018 to 60 percent in 2019.

Another driver of this policy is the Indian government’s commitment to increase the use of cleaner fuels such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) from six percent to 15 percent by 2030. As a result of security developments in the Gulf since January, India’s energy cooperation with Russia has now acquired a sense of urgency never seen before.

IOC’s historical reliance on Middle Eastern sources has been partly due to their proximity and the resulting difference in shipping costs. Most ports in the Persian Gulf lie within 2,500 kilometers of India, while Russian ports are located over 7,500 kilometers away. For that reason, Indian state refiners have previously preferred to buy Russian oil via the spot market rather than under contract.

Pivot to Russia

The IOC-Rosneft contract is just the latest development in what appears to be India’s energy pivot to Russia. Following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Vladivostok in September 2019, Indian companies signed several long-term energy deals with Russian partners. India’s GAIL gas company inked a 20-year LNG contract with Gazprom, while Coal India made arrangements to buy coal from Russia’s FEMC mining company.

“We have had a major breakthrough in the energy sector,” Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said at the time. “This is a sector where we are looking to diversify our sources of supplies and we are increasingly finding it attractive to buy oil and gas from the Russian Federation.”

India’s strategic relationship with Russia can be traced back to the Soviet era, but the relationship between Moscow and New Delhi has evolved in recent years to encompass energy, defense, nuclear cooperation, and space. Russia and India are also committed to expanding bilateral trade, hoping to reach the mark of $30 billion in annual exchange by 2025, up from the current $11 billion.

On the whole, the actions of the Trump government in Iran and their wider impact on the Persian Gulf have elevated the Indo-Russia relationship, something that Washington may not have had in mind.

Shishir Upadhyaya is an internationally acknowledged defence and strategic affairs expert, former Indian naval intelligence officer and author of “India’s Maritime Strategy: Balancing Regional Ambitions and China.” Follow him on Twitter @Shishir6

February 8, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , , | Leave a comment

“Will Not Comment on Recent Events in Jammu & Kashmir”: Detainees Being Released Sign Gov’t Form

Sputnik | January 12, 2020

Thousands were detained under India’s Public Safety Act, a law that allows authorities to imprison someone for up to two years without charge or trial, in Jammu and Kashmir before the Narendra Modi-led government revoked Articles 370 of the Constitution, stripping the state of its special status on 5 August.

The detained people, who are being released after five months of imprisonment, have to sign a bond where they say they will not make any comment or statement on the “recent events” in Jammu and Kashmir.

The bond, signed under Section 117 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), includes Section 107, which states that the executive magistrate has the power to apprehend any individual for not more than a year on information that a person is likely to disturb peace and public tranquillity.

“I undertake that in case of release from the detention, I will not make any comment(s) or statement(s) or make public speech(s), (or) hold or participate in public assembly(s) related to the recent events in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, at the present time, since it has the potential of endangering the peace and tranquillity and law and order in the State or any part thereof for a period of one year,” section two of the bond reads.

Nearly 4,000 people were arrested and some political leaders were detained after the revocation of Article 370, over fears of outbreaks of unrest and “most of them were flown out of Kashmir because prisons here have run out of capacity”, news agency AFP had quoted an official as saying.

The government bifurcated the state into two federally-administered territories – Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. The union territory then imposed a communications clampdown as new charges for mobile phone services were imposed. Postpaid mobile calling and messaging services along with broadband internet have been resumed, but internet services remain suspended. India’s apex court has termed the restrictions unconstitutional.

A delegation of envoys from 15 countries such as the United States, South Korea, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Maldives, Morocco, Fiji, Norway, Philippines, Argentina, Peru, Niger, Nigeria, Togo and Guyana visited the Jammu and Kashmir on 9 January.

January 12, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | Leave a comment

India’s three-step communal game plan

Through the NRC-NPR process, the Modi government aims to create a category of second-class citizens

By Prakash Karat | The Hindu | December 22, 2019

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019, and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) are interconnected and twin measures. The Home Minister, Amit Shah, had repeatedly made this clear both in Parliament and outside. First, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill would be adopted by Parliament following which the NRC would be taken up.

In the wake of widespread protests against the CAA, the Central Government is trying to obfuscate the issue of implementing the NRC. It is taking advantage of the lack of clarity and the inadequate information available on how the NRC is going to be implemented in the whole country. The Minister of State for Home Affairs, G. Kishan Reddy, has said: “A countrywide NRC had not been notified so far and no one should fear.” The Government has put out advertisements in Hindi and Urdu newspapers stating that “The NRC has not been announced yet and if it is done so in future, then rules and regulations should be such that no Indian citizen is troubled.”

The NRC-NPR link

These and other such pronouncements are an exercise in disinformation. A crucial fact is that the NRC process begins with the compilation of the National Population Register (NPR). This is the first stage of the NRC. The notification for preparing and updating the NPR was issued by the Registrar General of Citizen Registration, on July 31, 2019. For this, house to house enumeration will be conducted throughout the country (except in Assam) for “collection of information relating to all persons who are usually residing within the jurisdiction of the Local Registrar”. This enumeration will be undertaken between the first day of April 2020 and September 30, 2020.

The compilation of the NPR is a preliminary step towards preparing the NRC. On the basis of the NPR, the local register of Indian citizens will be finalised after due verification. This is the procedure set out under the “Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules 2003”.

So, from April 1, 2020 onwards, the National Register of Citizens process will begin with house to house enumeration for the National Population Register.

It is important to note that, as per these Rules, during the verification process, particulars of such individuals whose citizenship is deemed to be “doubtful” shall be entered by the local Registrar with appropriate remarks in the Population Register for further enquiry; and in case of “doubtful” citizenship, the individual or the family shall be informed in a specified proforma immediately after the verification process is over.

Another clause of these Rules, 4(5)(a) states that: “Every person or family specified in sub-rule (4), shall be given an opportunity of being heard by the Sub-district or Taluk Registrar of Citizen Registration, before a final decision is taken to include or to exclude their particulars in the National Register of Indian Citizens” [emphasis added].

Use of biometric data

Fifteen questions will be asked in the survey, including questions on the place of birth, the date of birth, and the name of the father and mother. The new addition will be eliciting the details of Aadhaar, which will then be crosschecked with the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) for verification of biometrics of the individual. So, the NPR compilation will also have the biometric data of those listed, which raises troubling questions.

It is at the verification stage that communal profiling will take place in line with what the Home Minister had declared — the purpose of the NRC is to eliminate “infiltrators” as against the Hindu refugees who will become eligible for citizenship under the CAA. Those summoned as “doubtful citizens” will have to go through the tortuous process of submitting proof of their citizenship.

The NRC does not require any new law or amendment. It is already part of the Citizenship Act of 1955 through an amendment made during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 2003. For the first time, the concept of a National Register of Citizens was introduced by making it compulsory to register every citizen of India and to issue a national identity card. Based on this, the rules for registration for citizenship were issued subsequently in which provision was made for a National Population Register.

Further, there is confusion created by the fact that the updation of the NPR is being done along with the Census enumeration for 2021. It is the Census authorities who undertake both these processes, but they are two separate things. The NPR is directly linked to the NRC.

That the game plan of the BJP is to create a communal division in States such as West Bengal is absolutely clear. On the one hand, it claims that the NRC process will eliminate all those who are “Muslim infiltrators” from Bangladesh. On the other hand, by amending the Citizenship Act, Hindu migrants who have come from across the border over the decades will be given citizenship.

Superfluous and expensive

The NRC process is being undertaken at a time when the Aadhaar identity card has already covered most of the population. There is also the Electors Photo Identity Card issued by the Election Commission of India. The necessity for another citizenship register and identity card is superfluous. Moreover, it will entail a huge amount of expenditure. The NRC process is weighted against the poorest sections of the population — migrant labour, Adivasis living in remote areas, and other marginalised communities.

The movement against the CAA has correctly linked it to the NRC. The CAA and the NRC must be seen in tandem. While the former would legitimise non-Muslim migrants as citizens, the NRC would target the so-called “Muslim infiltrators”. What the Narendra Modi government is aiming to do is to create a category of second-class citizens whose rights would be severely circumscribed.

Prerogative of States

It is imperative that the communal agenda of the BJP and the Central Government is foiled. This requires stoppage of the NRC. An important step in this direction will be to halt the NPR process in the States. Several Chief Ministers have gone on record that they are opposed to the NRC. Even Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister of Bihar, and Naveen Patnaik, Chief Minister of Odisha, whose parties supported the CAA in Parliament, have said that they do not want the NRC.

Already Pinarayi Vijayan, Chief Minister of Kerala, and Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal, have announced that they are suspending the NPR process in their States. The work in the NPR gets halted since it is the State government which provides personnel for the enumeration and verification process. Other State Governments should also do so. If the Central Government stands by the announcement that the NRC process has not begun, then it should withdraw the July 31, 2019 notification for the updation of the NPR.

Prakash Karat is a Politburo member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)

December 25, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , | Leave a comment

UN Security Council Meeting on Kashmir at China’s Request Postponed Indefinitely

Sputnik – December 17, 2019

A crucial closed-door meeting at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on the Kashmir issue has been postponed for a month at least.

The meeting was scheduled on Tuesday to discuss the humanitarian situation in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir.

Previously, a first such meeting was held in August this year in the aftermath of India’s decision to revoke the seven decades old special status of Kashmir on 5 August. However, the provisional schedule and daily meetings of the UNSC don’t mention the consultative meeting on Kashmir.

In its August programming schedule, the UNSC clearly mentioned the closed door consultation on India and Pakistan. But in December’s schedule no such meeting is planned. Two diplomats have also confirmed the development.

Currently, the decision to postpone the meeting on Kashmir came ahead of crucial boundary dispute talks between India and China.

India’s National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi are expected to meet on 20-21 December to stabilise relations and discuss the contentious boundary issues between the two nations during Special Representatives-level talks.

The boundary discussion was stalled for months due to strained relations between the two Asian giants over Kashmir. Beijing termed the Indian decision to revoke the special status of Kashmir as unilateral and impinged upon the sovereignty of China.

The last time the issue of Jammu and Kashmir was on the UNSC agenda was during a meeting on 21 December 1971. It was followed by the adoption of a resolution calling for a durable ceasefire, the halt of all hostilities in conflict areas, and the provision of international assistance to refugees impacted by the territorial dispute.

In a related development, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has also cancelled his scheduled visit to Malaysia to participate in a meeting on Kashmir.The development comes two days after Khan met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman in Riyadh, during which matters related to bilateral relations were discussed.

A summit of Muslim leaders is expected to deliberate upon a shared agenda of Islamic countries and their collective challenges in a highly interconnected world.

India and Pakistan have contended for the Kashmir region, the southern part of which lies in India’s Jammu and Kashmir state (now a union territory), since the end of British rule in 1947. Despite a ceasefire being reached in 2003 following several armed conflicts, instability has continued, leading to the emergence of various extremist groups.

December 17, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , , | Leave a comment

The ballad of India’s Kashmir and Israel’s Palestine

Palestinian children play outside their dwelling in al-Eizariya town in the Israeli-occupied West Bank with the Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim in the background.
By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | November 29, 2019

“I believe the security situation will improve (in J&K), it will allow the refugees to go back, and in your lifetime, you will be able to go back … and you will be able to find security, because we already have a model in the world.”

“I don’t know why we don’t follow it. It has happened in the Middle East. If the Israeli people can do it, we can also do it.” 

The above reported remarks by India’s consul-general in New York Sandeep Chakravorty while addressing an audience of Kashmiri Pandits raised some dust in the Indian media. But his job or career is no mortal danger.

For, Chakravorty must be an intelligent man and probably estimated that he was only articulating from a Track 1.5 platform the Modi government’s surreptitious policy in J&K  — following the Israeli footfalls of forcible occupation and colonisation of lands inhabited by alienated people. 

Whether the policy is doable or not is for time to tell. To my mind, the final word is not yet available whether even the brutal Israeli policy will work or not. Besides, circumstances are vastly different, and Kashmir is not an analogous situation. 

The main difference is that although the Indian state resorted to the use of force, much like Israel had done in Palestinian lands, the security situation has only deteriorated over the years, over decades. There are no two opinions that even half a million troops could not achieve anything by way of enduring results in the Kashmir valley. 

The ground realities in the valley militate against repression and state terrorism as viable policy option for a country such as India. The stark evidence of it lies in the government’s decision in August to change the status of J&K, which is an admission of failure rather than a mark of triumphant glory. 

Consul-general Chakravorty seems unaware how Israel went about systematically to prepare an external environment first by subduing the Arab countries that surrounded it and harboured sympathy, and were willing to support the Palestinian cause. Arguably, India too should begin with defeating and subduing Pakistan first? But, honestly, such an option is not available for India in our thermonuclear era, now or ever, the bravado of our ruling elite and their acolytes notwithstanding. 

Then, there is the western support for Israel, which helps it to get away with murder. The underlying factors here are complex and deep rooted in history. At its core, the western countries are constantly forced into an attitude of atonement for their anti-semitism that has a long and loathsome history dating back centuries. Remember the notorious Dreyfus affair in France — leave alone the slaughter of Jews in the Holocaust, which makes Angela Merkel wobbly in the legs even today when she mentions Israel. 

Israel plays the “anti-semitic card’ very effectively. In actual practice, any criticism of Israeli state violations against Palestinians is instantly discredited as being “antisemitic”. Today, US Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib and British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn are in the crosshairs of the Israeli lobby for this reason. Corbyn’s sin is that he has pledged to cut military trade with Israel and move to officially recognise a Palestinian state, if elected to power. 

The well-known commentator Finian Cunningham recently wrote, “This conflation of valid criticism of the Israeli state with being “anti-Jew” is a cynical distortion which is wielded to give Israel impunity from international law. It plays on moral blackmail of critics by equating the historical persecution of Jews and in particular the Nazi holocaust with the sanctity of the modern Israeli state.” 

Unfortunately, there is a notion even amongst educated Indians (including bureaucrats in the Indian Foreign Service) that linking up with the Jewish organisations would enable India to piggy ride on the Israeli lobby in the US. The false notion largely stems from sinister claims about the influence of “Jewish money” — and, it is not of recent origin. Didn’t Brajesh Mishra, the NSA under Atal Bihari Vajpayee, envisage a US-Israel-India condominium? 

The heart of the matter is that India is not Israel. Unlike Judaism, Hinduism is not an Abrahamic religion and it is not joined at the hips with the Christian world. This is one thing. Second, while large sections of Hindus too have suffered cruel persecution through centuries, it happened to be at the hands of their co-religionists. Clearly, there is no reason for atonement on the part of the West. 

Third, while Indian-Americans are a prosperous community relatively, their clout in the Wall Street is minimal. Unlike the “Jewish lobby”. Simply put, following the Israeli footfall on the occupation and colonisation of the Palestinian homeland or the territories illegally annexed during wars will not take India very far in regard of the J&K situation. 

The bottom line is that the western opinion on Kashmir is supportive of neither India nor Pakistan. It always rooted for the “Third Option” — an independent and sovereign state of Kashmir. The official US position, in particular, always made it a point to stress that any solution should take into account the “wishes of the Kashmiri people.” 

In the prevailing geopolitical situation in Asia, an independent Kashmir state will be a strategic asset for Washington. Surely, any colonisation of Kashmir Valley by non-Kashmiris grates against the US interests. Israel, on the contrary, is itself a western creation on the map of the Middle East and the US condones Israel’s war crimes and aggressive state policies as a matter of regional strategy. 

One would imagine that an Indian diplomat of the rank of ambassador would know that discretion is the better part of valour. Yet, he voiced maverick opinions like a run-of-the mill rabble-rouser on the Hindutva platform, which, he should be intelligent enough to grasp, would only serve to confirm Pakistani allegations regarding the Modi government’s intentions behind the change of status of J&K. The politicisation of the Foreign Service, which such sordid episodes highlight, won’t serve any good.

November 29, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

Bereft of soft power, India stands diminished in Hindu Kush and Central Asia

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | November 24, 2019

The dichotomy between the regime policy and public opinion is nowhere near as sharp as in the world of diplomacy. And nowhere in the contemporary situation is this maxim so sharply visible as in the dalliance of the West Asian oligarchies with Israel. The romance began at least a decade ago — perhaps, more — but it still remains an illicit affair.

Israel would have liked an open relationship. It has a lot to gain thereby. But that’s possible only when pigs fly. The reason is that the authoritarian rulers of Muslim Middle East are acutely conscious of the so-called ‘Arab Street’. This may seem a paradox — that oligarchies need to be mindful of popular opinion — but, in actuality, they do not enjoy such a big leeway as one imagines to trample upon public opinion to the extent that strong elected leadership would have.

When they defy or ignore public opinion, it must be for weighty reasons — mostly, when existential issues are involved such as the regime’s survival, for instance. Israel doesn’t fall into that exceptional category — it is not as if without a relationship with Israel, the Arab oligarchies would face extinction. The dalliance between the Arab regimes and Israel is characterised by pragmatism rather than principles or critical imperatives. So long as Israel lacks any ‘soft power’ in its Arab neighbourhood and the ‘Arab Street’ views it negatively, the hands of the authoritarian rulers are tied. They can go only thus far, and no further. In turn, it severely limited the relationship.

The Indian leadership should realise the limitations of pragmatic external relations in diplomacy. There is no gainsaying the fact that India’s ‘soft power’ is depleting at an alarming rate. The acolytes of the Modi government do not seem to care and even those amongst the few amongst them who are erudite enough to comprehend the significance of what is happening tend to put on an air of defiance or studied indifference — or worse still, become polemical.

The External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s recent remark that Imperial Britain divested India of $44 trillion is a typical remark. Faced with the quandary of searing criticism in Britain regarding the J&K situation, he takes a de tour to malign Britain. (How this round figure of $44 trillion has been arrived at is another matter — even if one doesn’t want to get into the modernisation of India under British rule that made the evolution of the Indian state as a political entity possible.)

Today, ‘soft power’ is no longer in vogue in the Indian diplomatic toolbox. The obsession with ‘macho’ image is so overpowering. Under the Modi government, the accent on ‘soft power’ began with a bang in 2014 and is quite visibly ending after five years with a whimper.

A number of mistakes have been made during the past 5-year period that dented India’s ‘soft power’ (which one doesn’t want to go into there). But it is the appalling situation in the Kashmir Valley that dealt a body blow to India’s image.

An opinion is steadily gaining ground in the Muslim countries in India’s ‘extended neighbourhood’ that the Modi government is adopting state policies that are decidedly ‘anti-Muslim’. Even the elites in friendly countries such as Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia or Turkey, who are by no means ‘Islamist’ tend to see Kashmir as a ‘Muslim issue.’

A recent opinion piece in the influential US magazine Foreign Policy is entitled Kashmir Could Wreck India’s Reputation Among Afghans. It is a nuanced analysis — by no means ‘anti-Indian’ — of how Afghan public opinion, which is traditionally friendly, is discernibly getting disenchanted with India’s repression of Kashmiri Muslims.

This is a depressing scenario, because ‘soft power’ has been historically the bedrock of India-Afghan relations, and for that reason, Delhi under successive governments right from 1947, placed great emphasis on people-to-people relations between the two countries.

Certainly, our diplomacy will be by far diminished if the Afghans perceive us as no different from Pakistan — pursuing cold, pitiless geopolitical objectives in their country. It is small comfort that Afghans will probably continue to view India as a ‘stabilising factor’.

To quote Hari Prasad, the author of the article, “The positions of political actors in Afghanistan have ranged from neutral to explicitly pro-India, primarily for India’s support for the Afghan government as well as anti-Pakistan animus. But our discussions with journalists and Afghans in the region show the popular reaction is decidedly more nuanced. Many working-class Afghans, drawing from their own experiences of conflict and oppression, identify with Kashmir’s Muslims.”

The analysis makes the foreboding conclusion: “Afghans are closely watching the actions of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in Kashmir and throughout the region. That should be a reality check for New Delhi; its courting of Afghan opinion can only go so far. India may have the funding and power to shape public opinion and support in Afghanistan, but it will take much more to overcome growing mistrust.”   

If the changing perceptions regarding India are such in Afghanistan, can it be any different in the Central Asian region? The people in the steppes are, if anything, far more deeply immersed in Islamic culture, ethos and identity than Afghans, given the historical reality that their region was also the cradle of Islam in its golden era.

The Uzbeks, for instance, take great pride that Babur set out from Fergana, which, incidentally, has a museum dedicated to Babur. One of the most evocative historical monuments in Kabul is the Bagh-e Babur (Garden of Babur), the final resting place that the great emperor chose for himself — rather than Agra.

Even if Delhi were to build half a dozen parliament buildings in Kabul, Afghans will continue to treasure the Bagh-e Babur as the living monument to their abiding links with India.

November 24, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | Leave a comment