The Inaugural ceremony for Aero India 2021, Asia’s largest aerospace and defence exhibition is being held at Air Force Station, Yelahanka, Bengaluru between 3-5 February 2021. This year Aero India 2021 has been organised in hybrid mode with a concurrent virtual exhibition to encourage maximum participation.
Opening the proceedings Secretary (Defence Production) Raj Kumar addressed the gathering and said that India has taken a leap in organising a completely Covid compliant Aero and Defence exhibition. He expressed his gratitude to ambassadors and delegates from more than 55 nations who were in attendance. Raj Kumar said that the large attendance at Aero India 2021 reflects positive temperament of people across the world and renewed global interest in the capabilities of India. He said that Aero India 2021 would provide a platform for exchange of ideas and forge partnerships in the aerospace and Defence sectors. He also provided a brief about the events to be organized during Aero India 2021, including the Chief of Air Staffs Conclave, the Bandhan ceremony and the India Pavilion.
Later contract documents to produce Light Combat Aircraft Tejas were handed over by the Ministry of Defence to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). Chairman and Managing Director, HAL Mr. R Madhavan presented a model of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas to Raksha Mantri Rajnath Singh. This was followed by the screening of a short film on the journey of the aircraft.
Addressing the gathering, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh expressed his happiness at the attendance of delegates from around the world at Aero India 2021. He said that the existing supply chains developed over the years by aerospace and engineering firms and an investor friendly government with simplified procedures and single window clearance mechanism makes Karnataka an attractive destination for industry. He expressed his gratitude to Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa for extending full support in organising Aero India 2021.
Speaking on Aero India 2021, Rajnath Singh said the exhibition would display the vast potential and the multifarious opportunities that our country offers in the field of defence and aerospace sector. He added that it promises to be the world’s first ever hybrid aero & defence exhibition with a concurrent virtual exhibition making it a truly digital and global event.
The Defence Minister appreciated the growing optimism of the global community, reflected in the participation of over 540 exhibitors including 80 foreign companies and defence ministers, delegates, service chiefs and officials from more than 55 nations. He highlighted that the unique opportunity in defence and aerospace manufacturing that India offers through a “Sangam” of rising demand, greater innovation, conducive policies and maturing ecosystem in the sector.
Rajnath Singh also announced that the government plans to spend 130 billion dollars on military modernisation over the next seven years. He said that steps had been taken to strengthen the nation’s security apparatus with domestic manufacturing and complex Defence platforms becoming the focus of the Aatmanirbhar Policy. He said that the government had enhanced Foreign Direct Investment in the Defence Sector up to 74 per cent through the automatic route and 100 per cent through the government route.
Hailing the reforms brought in by the government since 2014 he said that they would create a conducive system for exports, foreign direct investment and offset discharge. The newly introduced (Buy Global-Manufacture in India) category of capital procurement in Defence Acquisition Policy 2020 allows outright purchase of equipment from foreign vendors and indigenous manufacture through an Indian subsidiary, a joint venture or an Indian agency. He said a large number of indigenous Defence equipment had been developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation to cater to the needs of the nation’s defence forces.
Rajnath Singh informed that reforms aimed at bringing ease in doing business, have shown good results. India has jumped from 77th rank in 2019 to the 63rd rank in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Rankings. He added that industrial licensing requirements have been eliminated for a number of items in the defence sector. More than 500 companies have now taken defence licences, doubling the number in the last 6 years.
The Defence Minister invited business leaders from across the globe to take advantage of the various initiatives of the government of India and set up manufacturing units. Rajnath Singh said that the India pavilion at Aero India 2021 would showcase India’s design and manufacturing supply chain associated with various facets of the rotary wing system. Raksha Mantri expressed great happiness that HAL got the orders for 83 new indigenous LCA-Tejas MK1A for Indian Air Force valued at more than Rs 48,000 crore, the biggest “Make in India” defence contract till date. He said with a strong and diversified Micro, Small, Medium Enterprise sector composed of more than active 5000 units, India has the potential to become a reliable supplier of defence equipment to many of its friendly nations. He shared the vision of making India one of the biggest countries of the world in defence sector, from design to production, with active participation of public and private sector. He said that to achieve the twin goals of self-reliance and exports, we have set a target to achieve Rs 1,75,000 crore turnover, including export of Rs 35,000 crore in aerospace and defence goods and services by 2024.
Rajnath Singh recognised India’s interests beyond its shores and said that it was India’s duty to remain capable and willing to assist them in times of natural calamities and security challenges. He expressed happiness at the organisation of the first Indian Ocean Region’s Defence Ministers’ Conclave with the theme “Enhanced peace, Security and cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region” in this edition of Aero India. He said that this was an implementation of the concept of the Indian Ocean built around Security and Growth for All (SAGAR), visualised during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Indian Ocean Island states in 2015. Raksha Mantri emphasised that India is also a victim of the global threat of state sponsored and state inflicted terrorism. He said that the nation has long witnessed attempts by other to change the status quo along our borders. He assured that India is vigilant and prepared to counter and defeat any misadventure as well as to defend its territorial integrity and its people. He said that this resolve is exhibited in India’s growing defence capabilities, which will be showcased in Aero India 2021. Rajnath Singh concluded his address by declaring Aero India open.
Karnataka CM Yediyurappa said that it was a matter of pride for people of Karnataka and Bengaluru for being selected to host yet another edition of Aero India. He said that the holding of Aero India this year was an expression of confidence in the ability of the state administration to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and assured that his government has taken measures to ensure the safety of participants and delegates.
The Chief Minister said that Karnataka made a significant contribution to the nation’s aerospace and defence sector of India and was the first state to announce an aerospace policy with a proposed investment of close to Rs 14,700 crore and employment potential for about 10,600 people. He highlighted the role of Micro, Small and Medium scale enterprises in the growth of the country’s industry. The Chief Minister said that “Laghu Udyog Bharati” and IMS foundation with the support of Government of Karnataka would be organising the MSME, Aerospace and Defence expo in Bengaluru from 27th to 29th September, 2021 to realise the potential of MSMEs and requested the support of the Ministry of Defence in this endeavour. He thanked the Defence Minister for reposing faith in the Karnataka Government for Aero India.
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INDIAN NAVY SEIZES NARCOTICS WORTH RS 3,000 CRORE
New Delhi: Indian Naval Ship Suvarna, whilst on surveillance patrol in the Arabian Sea, encountered a fishing vessel with suspicious movements. To investigate the vessel, the ship’s team conducted boarding and search operation, which led to the seizure of more than 300 Kgs of narcotics substances. The boat with its crew have been escorted to the nearest Indian Port of Kochi, Kerala for further investigation. The approximate cost the catch in the international market is estimated to be Rs 3,000 crore. This is a major catch not only in terms of the quantity and cost but also from the perspective of disruption of the illegal narcotics smuggling routes, which emanate from the Makran coast and flow towards the Indian, Maldivian and Sri Lankan destinations. Apart from the human costs from drug addiction, the spoils of narcotics trade feed syndicates involved in terrorism, radicalisation and criminal activities.
RAJNATH SINGH REVIEWS PREPAREDNESS OF MOD AND ARMED FORCES AMID SPIKE IN COVID-19 CASES
The Defence Minister asks them to aid civilian administration to tide over the current coronavirus situation; gives go ahead for emergency procurement of critical medical supplies.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh held a virtual meeting to review the preparedness of Ministry of Defence and the armed forces to deal with the recent spike in Covid-19 cases across the country, in New Delhi on Tuesday. Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh, Chief of Army Staff General M.M. Naravane, Director General Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) Surgeon Vice Admiral Rajat Datta, Secretary (Defence Production) Raj Kumar, Secretary Department of Defence R&D and Chairman Defence Research and Development Organisation Dr G. Satheesh Reddy, Financial Adviser (Defence Services) Sanjiv Mittal and other senior civil & military officers attended the meeting via video conferencing.
Rajnath Singh was briefed about the measures taken by AFMS, DRDO, Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs), Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and other organisations of Ministry of Defence such as National Cadet Corps (NCC) in providing aid to the civil administration in this hour of crisis. The Defence Minister was informed that a COVID care centre established by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is active in Bengaluru assisting the civil administration. He was informed that arrangements are being made by the DPSUs to buy oxygen plants that will help them in production of oxygen cylinders at a faster pace. The Defence Minister asked the DPSUs, OFB and DRDO to work on war footing to provide oxygen cylinders and extra beds to civil administration/state governments at the earliest. Rajnath Singh called upon the Armed Forces to be in close contact with the state governments and be ready to provide any required assistance. In a significant decision, the Defence Minister directed the Armed Forces and other stakeholders to go ahead with procurement of critical medical requirements under emergency powers of procurement.
DRDO Chairman briefed that a Covid-19 facility, developed by DRDO, has again been made functional in New Delhi and efforts are being made to soon increase the number of beds from 250 to 500. Dr Sathish Reddy informed the meeting that the ESIC Hospital, which was converted to Covid hospital in Patna, has started functioning with 500 beds and a Covid hospital will soon be made functional at Muzaffarpur in Bihar. He also informed that work is on at war footing to set up a 450-bed hospital in Lucknow, 750-bed hospital in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh and 900-bed hospital in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Rajnath Singh was also informed that based on the On-Board Oxygen Generation Technology developed for LCA Tejas, a 1000 litre/minute capacity oxygen generation plants technology has been given to the industry and the Uttar Pradesh government has placed order of five such plants with the industry. Dr Reddy informed the Defence Minister that more plants can be supplied by the industry to cater to the hospital requirements. He further said SpO2 (Blood Oxygen Saturation) based supplemental oxygen delivery system developed for soldiers posted at extreme high-altitude areas can be used for Covid patients as their conditions become similar. The product will be available soon in the market from the industry as per technology provided by DRDO. The Defence Minister was informed that the AFMS has mobilised its man power and other resources in various military hospitals dealing with Covid patients. To augment the manpower if required, the minister suggested to utilise the services of vaccinated retired Armed Forces personnel to assist the civil administration/state governments to deal with the current situation. During the meeting, Rajnath Singh also discussed ways to contain the spread of Covid-19 among the Armed Forces personnel and the officers/staff working in Ministry of Defence. He focused on Covid-appropriate behaviour at the work place, stressing on the need to strictly follow all the Covid protocols such as wearing of masks at all times and maintaining physical distancing.
HERITAGE AS LEGACY IN THE EVOLUTION OF INDIA: CASE STUDY OF NAVAL DOCKYARD IN MUMBAI
The Indian terrestrial approach lured us away from the seas which were left almost unprotected.
India is a maritime nation with a rich heritage. History records our oceanic links with other nations of Indian Ocean and beyond from the Harappan civilisation and lasting through the centuries. Indian maritime influence can be seen in all walks of Indian history. Our development is owed to the maritime economy and a gradual advancement of maritime infrastructure along the coastal frontiers. If we are to learn from our history, the biggest lesson is that the Indian terrestrial approach lured us away from the seas which were left almost unprotected. The failure amongst the Indians to perceive the potential threat from the maritime frontiers and percolate a maritime vision and policies among the masses was one of the grave problems that led to the rise of Colonial rule in India. This article highlights one facet as an outcome of “Manthan” or churn of the sea saga of Indian journey.
Under the Company and the Crown, the city of Bombay was developed further taking into consideration of all the physical features it had which gave it an edge. Even with self-gain as the motive, the emerging vision aided colonial officials to analyse the importance of the geography of Bombay and developed it as ‘Urbs Prima in Indis’-the premier city of the Empire.
Today as we traverse the heritage precinct of Fort area in South Mumbai, we are reminded of the lasting legacy that is the built heritage across the city’s waterfront. The Naval Dockyard that stands tall as a custodian of Mumbai’s coastline is a heritage facility in itself. The Wadia Master builders were commissioned to develop this shipbuilding and docking facility (erstwhile Bombay Dockyard) in Bombay in 1735. Today, this is used by the Western Naval Command of the Indian Navy that upholds its heritage and continues to maintain its legacy.
With the Industrial revolution in Europe, change was inevitable. In the wake of Industrialisation in England, there was a paradigm shift in the realms of production. Technology took over and since then it has only developed. Ironically, this phase also marks the deindustrialisation in the Indian subcontinent in order to facilitate and furnish the English industries. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and the need for better docking and banking facilities at such a juncture is self-explanatory. The undertaking of construction for new dock building and related facilities was deemed necessary and beneficial for improving the efficiency of the maritime trade and commerce.
Bombay Dockyard and nearby facilities made ‘Ships-of-the-Line’ for the Royal Navy that were considered to be of superior quality and craftsmanship. The skills and nautical expertise of the Indian shipbuilders was a legacy in itself. But, the Indian shipbuilding industry that was once sought after met its downfall as the sail ships were replaced with the steam vessels. Despite such setback, this never deterred the Indian shipping industry. Bombay faced economic repercussions but the indomitable spirit of the city as we see today was blazing even then. After an initial slump in the shipbuilding industry, the Dockyard and other facilities gave rise to a number of other associated industries that aligned with the needs of the shipping sector thereby creating a market for economy with wider avenues. Soon, the docking facilities were equipped and gained momentum as a ship repair and refits industry which made a lot of progress.
Built heritage and maritime affairs intermingle with economic matters-thus creating a legacy and building a stronger future of our nation. A gradual progression in the maritime infrastructure and its resultant impact on the economy has played a vital role in the development of the Indian shipping sector. Promotion of our maritime heritage and traditions by a holistic development of the coastal communities by integrating them in the mainstream policies will ensure the promotion of our rich maritime legacy.
The evolution of the Mumbai city is owed to the maritime economy and due to harnessing of its maritime connect and development of the infrastructure. The role and contribution of the maritime sector in developing the city to what it is today must be acknowledged. The mushrooming of allied industries in the shipping industry is a subsequent factor. The economy of Bombay strengthened which led to the creation of an industrial infrastructure. This was the rise of a modern SEZ i.e. Special Economic Zone, a precursor to the modern metropolis that Mumbai has become today.
Shortly after the World Heritage Day commemorated on 18 April 2021 this week sees launch of a multi-stakeholder initiative to revive maritime consciousness in form of a unique workshop titled “Indian Maritime History : A Manthan”. In the two day workshop, 21 – 22 April 2021, Dr Malini Shankar, IAS (Retd), Vice Chancellor, Indian Maritime University will deliver the Keynote Address while Commodore Odakkal Johnson, Director, Maritime History Society will mentor the proceedings and provide the thematic setting. The contents will benefit students, faculty & maritime enthusiasts. The workshop will evolve elements of an approach towards a long-term facility for excellence in Maritime History as envisaged in Maritime India Vision 2030. Maritime History Society and Indian Maritime University invite an enthusiastic response toward the resurgence of Sea Mindedness through participation, promotion and resource infusion into the journey to enhance influence for greater maritime consciousness in India.
Janhavi Lokegaonkar is a Research Associate at Maritime History Society with a focus on modern aspects of Indian Maritime History
Imminent power vacuum in Afghanistan beckons India
The withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan will leave a power vacuum in Kabul, which might signal the return of the Taliban. In such a landscape, should India take initiative and extend support and troops to the Abdullah Abdullah regime for greater stability in the region?
The US is likely to exit the landlocked Afghanistan soon. Does India have a stake in the troubled region of Afghanistan today? The answer is a poignant yes. And left alone, things will get from bad to worse.
Here is a leaf out of history. In 600 BC, the famous land of Ambhi, Kamboj and the valley of the five milky rivers, the Panchashira or Panjshir valley, bordered by the Hindukush ranges on the west, was a challenge for Alexander attempting his eastward conquest after Darius of Persia. A quote from an Ashwin Sanghi narrative goes, “But the Macedonian conqueror made short shrift of the arrangement of Darius and over-running the Achaemenid empire, dashed into Afghanistan and encountered the stiff resistance from the Kambojas tribes, called Aspasian and Assakenois, known in Indian texts as Ashvaya and Ashvakayana”. The Ashvakayans were the ancestors of the Afghans and Shivagupta was a famed king of the Ashwakayans.
The Hindukush, in the 21st century, is still India’s gateway to an international standing in the comity of nations.
US, AFGHANISTAN AND INDIA
The US entered Afghanistan in 2001. Two decades and four presidents later, current president Joe Biden sent across a message in April 2021 about an intention to withdraw US troops in September 2021. Since the US-led invasion that ousted the Taliban after the September 11, 2001 attacks, America has spent more than USD 1 trillion in fighting and rebuilding in Afghanistan. About 2,450 US soldiers have been killed and over 20,700 others have been injured in the war in Afghanistan. It is the longest running conflict for the USA. The date of this announcement coincided with the 20th anniversary of the attacks on US soil in 2001. Former President Donald Trump, who lost the re-election to Biden in November last year, had set the withdrawal deadline for the US on May 1 this year, which is now September 11. The implication of this has set the cat among the pigeons in Kabul.
Over the past 20 years, US involvement in Afghanistan has not worked out well for either side. The idea of OP Moshtarak was a classic example of the US’ disconnect with rural Afghans. In the initial years, Operation Moshtarak was launched in Marjah and Lashkar Gah. The concept of ‘killing a lot of Taliban and having tea with locals’ did not work out as the Taliban remained inseparable from the locals. Cultural advisers were then embedded with the US troops on ground to lend a community approach prior to operations.
The stage today is set differently from the first decade of the millennia. The Ahmed Shah Massouds and Dostams of the Northern Alliance are long gone. A power vacuum in Afghanistan would now bring back Taliban with a vengeance, revisit Mazaar-i-Sharif-like massacres and leave many ‘Najibullahs’ shamed in every street of Kabul. Invariably, a UN-led peace enforcement under the UN Security Council Chapter VII is the most likely scenario, which would evolve but probably after much wasted time and unnecessary bloodletting. This is the right time and place for India to take notice of the looming Taliban threat that will soon spill over to Kashmir, if it does not act now. Positive participation in peace enforcement is on the cards.
THE RATIONALE OF THE US DRAWDOWN
In 2009, as Vice President under Barack Obama, Joe Biden had strongly opposed expanding US military presence in the country and maintained that its goal should be restricted to counterterrorism missions. But despite his arguments, Washington went on to increase the number of its troops from 36,000 in 2009 to almost 1 lakh in 2010. It was only after the killing of Osama bin Laden by a SEAL team in Pakistan’s Abbottabad in 2012 that the US began winding down its presence in Afghanistan.
The decision to withdraw is based on data gathered by American intelligence, which suggest that Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups do not pose an immediate threat to the United States from Afghanistan, The New York Times reported. This is a clear indicator that ‘regional stability’ is not on the US platter. Given the Chinese activism against the US in the South China Sea, the USA has its bags full.
A VIETNAM OF A DIFFERENT KIND
A peek at Central America, Vietnam and Iraq would show the barren trail of US forces withdrawing around the globe. Recently on April 18, famous BBC correspondent Lyse Doucette, in her reflections, observed that the Taliban saw US withdrawal as a victory for them while at the Doha (US-Taliban) conference in Qatar in 2020. She observed that the Taliban will simply come back to Kabul, revert to an Islamic society, and Pakistan will again be flush with refugees fleeing an Islamizing Afghanistan where a witch hunt for all non-Islamic people would be on.
Here is a challenge for India: should India take the initiative and extend a stabilizing support with active troops to the Abdullah Abdullah regime? Much of the Afghan security establishment since the days of Hamid Karzai is trained by Indians; their diplomatic orientation is pro-India. A lack of expression by a strong Indian nation that has warded off the PLA adventurism would send wrong signals to the Taliban.
The recent remarks by the Chief of the Indian Army on Kashmir are a further indicator of the things to come. It is the right juncture for India to raise its concerns in the Security Council regarding the evolving Afghan conundrum. At this point, China is grappling with its Uighur problem and the US with its Quad issues is not likely to oppose as long as financial contribution comes from the G20 nations. That is a matter of detail for the UN Headquarters in New York and concerned UNHCR at Geneva. When the deployment is approved by the UN, India should be the largest contributor of troops.
The author is a veteran of the armed forces, having served 30 years with counter-terrorism and LC experience. As an Army aviator he has carried out extensive operational flying in J&K including Ladakh and participated in the Kargil conflict. An MPhil from Panjab University, he also has literary interests. Familiar with the terrain north of Pir Panjals, he focused on Afghanistan for his MPhil while at Panjab University. He took early release from service in 2017 and is settled in Hyderabad, now pursuing research in Defense and Strategic Studies.
CHINESE HYPOCRISY OVER HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES
China raising ‘India’s worrying human rights record’ is a classic case of pot calling the kettle black.
The CCP mouthpiece Global Times came out with an article on Thursday (15 April) titled “US not criticising India over human rights exposes hypocrisy” that desperately aimed at pointing out to the over hyped faux bubble of ‘India’s worrying human rights record’. Ironically, such statements by Chinese state media are perfect examples of the saying: “Pot calling the kettle black”.
All of a sudden, China showing concerns about the US, took up the noble initiative of warning her by highlighting the fact that “it‘s not in America‘s interest to become close partners with countries moving away from shared values.” Liu Zongyi also subtly reprimanded Biden by saying “Biden administration is rather restrained in speaking out against India‘s human rights violations” indicating a requirement of mid-course correction in consonance with American foreign policy.
Interestingly (as per the article), Global Times is not only a well wisher of the US but also for India as it points out the fact that “the Biden administration may use India‘s human rights issues as a bargaining chip, demanding India to make concessions at the economic level, or cooperate with the US”.
On 15 April itself, the Chinese embassy spokesperson Wang Xiaojian protested over the remarks made by US Indo-Pacific Command chief Admiral Phil Davidson and others in Raisina Dialogue about Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan, by describing happenings in these regions as China’s internal affairs. “Making baseless and irresponsible remarks is not acceptable. We are firmly opposed to interference in China’s internal affairs by any country or anyone under any pretext,” he said.
In other words, conduct of systematic genocide by state, establishing rehab camps, human trafficking, organ harvesting & forced labours under state supervision, threatening by sending fighter aircrafts into ADIZ of another state, or curbing basic human rights of people by altering security laws & sending armed forces under that pretext are all internal affairs of China. However, passing of a bill in Indian Parliament regarding Indian Citizenship or management of farmers‘ produce in Indian market is definitely not an internal matter of India & China expects the US to come up with harsh comments on them. As such, China herself is absolutely justified in publishing Op-Eds on the topic in its state sponsored media.
REASON BEHIND THE RHETORIC
It does not require to be very erudite to fathom the reason behind China’s squealing. The past year has been awfully bad in almost every sphere. Putting the pandemic aside, which most of the global intelligentsia doubt to be a Chinese menace, China has taken a beating economically, geo strategically & even internally. But the Chinese heinous crimes that have caught the eye of everyone are its policies & HR violations against non-Han Chinese, be it the Uighurs, Tibetans or Mongols. In October last year, Germany led the statement of 39 countries including US, UK & Japan in expressing grave concern & condemning China over policies and Human Rights abuses in Xinjiang, Tibet & Hong Kong. Last month, EU, UK, US, Canada and other Western countries imposed sanctions on officials in China as a coordinated effort over HR abuses against the mostly Muslim Uighur minority group.
Similarly, Indian media has also been hyper vocal on China over these issues especially post Ladakh Standoff. As China failed to gain any upper hand over India in its Ladakh adventure and in fact, facilitated a strong alliance in the form of Quad, China wishes to kill two birds with a single stone by sponsoring such propaganda articles. One is to hide its own actions behind such stories & secondly to try & drive a wedge in between Indo-US relations that is all set to challenge its ambitions of hegemony in the Indo-Pacific Region.
Human Rights Watch in its annual report states, “This has been the darkest period for human rights in China since the 1989 massacre that ended the Tiananmen Square democracy movement”. “Since Xi Jinping came to power the repression has gotten worse and worse overall, in every aspect of Chinese society you can see how the party is becoming more intolerant of any kind of independent activity,” said HRW researcher Yaqiu Wang.
International response to worsening repression has made the rest of the world more confident in criticising China who until now were afraid of Chinese retaliation. 2020 provided them with ‘safety in numbers’, reflecting Beijing’s inability to retaliate against the entire world. In fact, this growing pressure did force Xi Jinping to bend as China for the first time revealed that 1.3 million Uighurs had gone through what it termed “vocational training centres”.
No wonder that China behaves like a sulking schoolboy who has been reprimanded by all while his bench mate continues to get a pat on his back for everything he does or doesn’t. No matter the number of complaints he raises, everything seems to fall against the deaf ears of school staff. China might be a bigger economy or hold a larger military, but it certainly knows that unchallenged hegemony in the South Asia & Indian Ocean Region will remain a distant dream till India continues to enjoy global support & moral ascendancy over China.
After all, Sun Tzu said, “Divide & Conquer” and Xi, like a worthy student, won’t leave any stone unturned to break the strong alliance between India and the US, even if it calls for propaganda and rumour mongering. Knowing the Chinese acumen in this field we are sure to see many more propaganda pieces coming up with different contents but same motive in the coming months with a willing whole hearted support from its sidekick—Pakistan.
THE FIVE CANCERS OF PAKISTAN
Why Pakistan is plumbing new depths of toxicity and will continue to do so.
When we think of Pakistan the pictures which come to mind are its economy, nuclear weapons, terrorism, politicians, elite, Army, frontline status, Afghanistan, CPEC and so on. That is scratching the surface. Actually, these are only the symptoms. The diseases are deep-rooted and slowly taking the state into anarchy. In my opinion, Pakistan is beset by five cancers as under:
1. Bone Marrow Cancer: Religious extremism
2. Cervical Cancer: Rape
3. Brain Cancer: Killing journalists
4. Body Cancer: Population explosion
5. Stomach Cancer: Food insecurity
These cancers are now endemic to Pakistan with no solution. They are only growing more malignant day by day. The extent of the spread is evident in the words of their own people. Whether these cancers are terminal or not will be judged by history as it unfolds. However, I can judge that they are incurable and will be metastatic with time.
BONE MARROW CANCER: RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM
Hostage to Extremism @ https://www.dawn.com/news/1618140/hostage-to-extremism?preview and Beyond the Ban @ https://www.dawn.com/news/1618523/beyond-the-ban
TLP is a new phenomenon which has cropped up and taken the nation by storm. I had foreseen it and wrote about it in my earlier article, Pakistan Societal Fracture. It is being supported by TTP and the Pashtun movement. What is TLP? It is religious extremism down to the marrow… preaching anti-blasphemy. I call it bone marrow cancer. As I am writing this article, all French citizens have been asked to leave Pakistan including diplomatic staff. This is unprecedented. The state has capitulated to extremism of a paralytic variety.
It is not for the first time that a religiously motivated group has disrupted civic life but what happened this week is extremely serious. The state seemed to have disappeared as the followers of a radical cleric blocked highways and train tracks connecting the country’s main cities. Violent mobs held sway in many parts of the country. Most disturbing are the videos circulating on social media of some security personnel approvingly responding to the crowd.
The TLP emerged as a major political force in the 2018 election. The group might not have won a National Assembly seat, but it was the third largest group in terms of votes in Punjab.…How can a particular group become so emboldened as to paralyse the entire country? Once again, the TLP has succeeded in bringing the administration to its knees. The inaction of successive governments and the policy of appeasement has created a veritable monster. The PTI government’s overdose of religiosity has given impunity to extremist religious groups. Now the government faces a more violent form of zealotry. The spectacle of the mob beating police officers and making them hostage has exposed the false claims of the rule of law.
For more than four days, the PTI government remained mum in the face of pitched battles across Pakistan between activists of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan and local police that erupted after TLP chief Saad Rizvi was arrested from Lahore. And then came the announcement by the interior minister that the organisation was to be proscribed…formal bans do not translate into substantial dents in the armour of religious militancy is explained in part by the fact that our strategic planners have not abandoned the policy of weaponising religion for political ends. We are a country of over 220 million people, most of whom are young. The rank and file of far-right militant groups remains mostly young boys and men, often those from the lower rungs of the social ladder…the TLP has put paid to the lazy notion that right-wing militancy is particular to any ethnic group. Most of the dramatic violence that played out over the past week took place in small-town Punjab, as well as Sindh’s urban centres. Pakistan is undergoing a youth bulge, then it follows that Punjab is home to a majority of this youthful population. Only a small percentage of this population is upwardly mobile. Most of the TLP cadres involved in the violent protests this past week hail from precisely that segment of youth that, even if it has aspirations for upward mobility, is imbued with an almost existential rage against the ‘system’…The TLP, like many other right-wing movements in Pakistan’s recent history, may not have come into existence without the establishment’s machinations. But it is far from an inorganic phenomenon that can be wished away by a ban….
CERVICAL CANCER: RAPE
Rape in Pakistan @ https://www.dawn.com/news/1618007/rape-sexual-aggression-not-aggressive-sexualityand @ https://www.dawn.com/news/1580011/in-pakistan-rape-culture-is-not-only-systemic-it-is-reinforced-at-every-level
These articles are a must read in full, the depravity of Pakistani society is stark. I would term rape as cervical cancer in Pakistan and the pain of being raped and being unable to do anything about it is bone chilling. It comes out threadbare in these articles. And these generals, they are busy selling their country with children and girls thrown in to China.
In all societies, there are people who are born into the prism of unbelonging. And to continue to survive, they have to pay a humanity tax to those who managed to escape such birth. The humanity tax is not a monetary payment; that is easy. The humanity tax is a performance designed to emotionally exhaust them. For my humanity tax, every few months I have to convince fellow country(usually)men, that I do not deserve to be raped. I have performed my humanity tax for the following people: complete stranger on the street, complete stranger on the internet, family member in my drawing-room, male colleague at my workplace, a professor addressing a classroom, a friend making a crass joke, a religious cleric addressing thousands of people.
In a society that does not even have a word for rape, the act itself is very common. I can do what everyone does to try to jar you. I can give you statistics. Tell you how according to massively underreported numbers from Punjab alone, 256 cases of rapes were reported in the first month of this year; that is more than eight rapes in a day. That national statistics imply a woman was raped in Pakistan every two hours in 2020, but the conviction rate of rapists remained 0.3%. I can tell you that in 2020 again, 2,960 cases of child sexual abuse were reported, 49% of them were boys. And in a majority of the total cases—1,780 cases—the accused was either a relative or an acquaintance.
Here is an incomplete list of all that has been raped in this country: women wearing jeans, women wearing a chadar, men in jeans, men wearing shalwar kameez, girls in school uniforms, boys in school uniforms, a donkey with no clothes on, a chicken with no clothes on, a toddler in whatever it is that toddlers normally wear, a dead body seven feet under the ground and wrapped in a shroud. Rape is not common because the punishment is not harsh enough, rape is common because the rapist is aware he is most likely going to get away with it. It is not the legislation, but the execution of said legislation that is the problem.
In this country, where women who ask for their rights are called sex workers in a national newspaper and no one bats an eye; where a woman’s attire is blamed for a global pandemic; where when a woman gets kidnapped, social media is flooded with comments from men wishing she gets raped because she “deserves” it; where women are forced to marry their rapists because they got pregnant due to the rape, do not, do not, have the audacity to tell me that anyone meant “both” genders when they spoke of “fahashi” and “pardah” (from the first article).
Rape culture in Pakistan is systemic. It is reinforced at every level; from blaming women for ‘getting themselves raped’ to never really expecting men not to rape women. The idea that men simply cannot be expected to control their baser impulses in the presence of women has been normalised. The premise that ‘getting raped’ is a woman’s fault for driving alone, on the wrong road, at the wrong time, in the wrong place, without a suitable escort, etc, is just another way of saying that the men who assaulted her couldn’t have helped themselves. For some absurd reason, most men are comfortable with the assumption that all men are inherently rapists, but some decent ones choose not to rape women (from the second article).
BRAIN CANCER: KILLING JOURNALISTS
The Perils of Being a Journalist @ https://www.dawn.com/news/1618139/the-perils-of-being-a-journalist
Every nation depends upon its press and media to think for it. Journalists think for the nation… they could be left right or centre… eloquent or not so…they could be paid or unpaid. They present issues to the public and make them aware of options which are available and the choices they have to make. When these people are muzzled of gunned down it by a section of the society it is tantamount to cancer of the brain or lack of it.
Being a journalist in Pakistan is a dangerous proposition. A noose is put around your neck when you begin and it is tightened gradually as journalists you know are ‘disappeared’ or harassed or murdered outright. Many of those who manage to stay afloat are targets. The tiniest act of rebellion or upsetting someone powerful can constitute a real threat for the journalists of the country.
One can go on and on enumerating the killing and intimidation of Pakistani journalists. One can go on and on about how the cases are never solved. All of it is pointless for the simple reason that everyone knows that those who do not toe the line or are outspoken are targeted and made an example of.
This then is the primitive state of public discourse in Pakistan. Instead of tolerating differing points of view, instead of creating forums where divergent views can be expressed and discussed and a culture of tolerance fostered, the voices of those who disagree are muffled in various ways by various actors, state or non-state. This is not very different from what primitive man faced when he did not agree with his tribe. He would be made an example of to warn the rest of the clan. Pakistan’s legacy of authoritarianism means that no one pays much attention to the growing roster of threats to journalists.
BODY CANCER: POPULATION EXPLOSION
Missing Threat by @ https://www.dawn.com/news/1614874/missing-threat
Very erudite article on population problem facing Pakistan. Beautifully compared—Bangladesh development vs Pakistani non development. To me the scary part is… 340m Pakistanis by 2050… they are more than a nuke! Need to think ahead and out of the box. Will the day come when the question arises whether we have to shoot down impoverished Pakistanis on the border fence or accept them as part of our humanity?
The national security dialogue last week renewed hope that finally Pakistan plans to focus on its own issues and rising internal non-traditional threats. Included in the agenda were climate change, water security, food security and a host of other challenges.
However, it did not go unnoticed that there was no reference to concerns regarding our unabated population growth rate or planning for projected population numbers. Once again in a policy shift that stressed greater introspection for national security issues, the conversation on population is missing. Clearly, 220 million people, growing at twice the level of others in the region, with threats to their livelihood and survival, were not deemed an important topic.
Bangladesh is now posting statistics showing that child mortality is half the levels in Pakistan and its citizens will live five years longer on average, while female literacy has gone up to 72 per cent (compared to 47pc in Pakistan). If we do not care about these statistics, we certainly should when other figures that do matter to our powerful leaders are presented. Our per capita income today is approximately $1,400 while that of Bangladesh is above $2,000; their foreign exchange reserve is $42 billion, ours is half that at about $21 billion; their economic growth during the pandemic last year was 5.2% compared to our -0.4% or so.
Bangladesh has achieved replacement fertility of 2.1 children allowing them to make investments in people and their education and health. Our fertility today is 3.6 children per woman. Bangladesh will stabilise at 200m, implying its population size will level off at that maximum for many years while we leap beyond the 350 million-plus mark in a few decades. Who is more likely to prosper, combat pandemics, improve health systems, maximise exports and become more prominent as a nation?
The choice is between two paths: we can focus on one of the largest non-traditional threats or on ‘big boy’ issues. I fear I know which path Pakistan will take. So, let us be prepared for the consequences for internal security and viability as the threat implodes with all the pressure exerted by 340m Pakistanis by 2050.
STOMACH CANCER: FOOD INSECURITY
Food Insecurity @ https://www.dawn.com/news/1595706/low-earnings-and-agricultural-neglect-push-pakistan-into-food-insecurity
This article is dated. I have reproduced it here to give an idea of the continuity of the problems in Pakistan. The average Pakistani is trapped in a mountain of personal debt besides the burden of state debt…he has had to contend with a double-digit inflation in food prices ranging from 10-20%. There is no food basket at the end of an imaginary rainbow also… the number of poor will reach 75 million in a year… the problem started only in 2018…
Life was not as hard two years ago as it is today for Tariq Mahmood, a 39-year-old taxi driver in Islamabad. He works seven days a week for 12 hours a day but rarely has more than a few hundred rupees left after feeding his family.
Mahmood said he has not felt this dejected by his dwindling finances in the past 14 years. For cab drivers like him the real culprit is not Covid-19, which shut down businesses, or the advent of ride-sharing services, which siphoned off customers, but spiralling food prices.
“I cannot afford the education of my child after paying for food for the family,” Mahmood told The Third Pole: “All my savings dried up during the lockdown and now I’m trapped under a mountain of debt,” he said.
Reflect on the content of all these articles. They are fully interrelated. Pakistan is plumbing new depths of toxicity and will continue to do so; trying to make peace with this nation is like sleeping with a cobra. However, we have to live with it. In my opinion, we will have to do something out of the box to maintain peace. We are looking at an unstable and volatile AfPak region beyond control of the Pakistan Army, in which case these greedy Pakistan generals might even externalise the situation. Never has Pakistan dealt with a loaded gun to its head more lethally.
Lt Gen P.R. Shankar was India’s DG Artillery. He is highly decorated and qualified with vast operational experience. He contributed significantly to the modernisation and indigenisation of Artillery. He is now a Professor in the Aerospace Dept of IIT Madras and is involved in applied research for defence technology. His other articles can be read on www.gunnersshot.com.
The TLP emerged as a major political force in the 2018 election. The group might not have won a National Assembly seat, but it was the third largest group in terms of votes in Punjab… How can a particular group become so emboldened as to paralyse the entire country? Once again, the TLP has succeeded in bringing the administration to its knees. The inaction of successive governments and the policy of appeasement has created a veritable monster.
Being a journalist in Pakistan is a dangerous proposition. A noose is put around your neck when you begin and it is tightened gradually as journalists you know are ‘disappeared’ or harassed or murdered outright. Many of those who manage to stay afloat are targets. The tiniest act of rebellion or upsetting someone powerful can constitute a real threat for the journalists of the country.
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