The very definition of the Indo-Pacific is equally puzzling and one that is still very much in its infancy. Looking at the possible tangents in which discussion surrounding what constitutes the Indo-Pacific geographically and what are the core issues to be addressed take shape, one may chance upon a rare opportunity to define not just the area, but also the subject matter of what it encompasses. The imminence of the shift from what was earlier called the geographical Asia-Pacific to the conceptual construct of the Indo-Pacific today betrays not just the geostrategic significance of the region, but also a certain bias that arises thereof. For India, this is an opportune moment to not just lead that discussion as we have done on the economic front in the developing multilateral fora like the G20.
What makes the Indo-Pacific particularly interesting is the foreign policy agenda it is setting forth for the region’s stakeholders. The genesis of this idea can be traced to the late Japanese PM Shinzo Abe’s “Confluence of the Two Seas” in the Indian Parliament in 2007. Although at this point, it was not so much a construct to counter China, in the future iteration of the concept by resident powers like the US, it became clearer that the concept grew out of a reactionary approach. The nemesis was identified from the offset in official statements arising out of Washington, and the focal points of US’s Indo-Pacific strategy were streamlined to give primacy to this idea. Washington recognises India as a pivotal partner in establishing an open, inclusive and rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific. However, it is a larger question as to whether this conception of the Indo-Pacific originating from the Eastern Pacific Ocean is limiting itself to one that is exclusionary and reactionary.
First, since India’s position as a lynchpin to the US’s Indo-Pacific strategy has been in the spotlight ever since the Indo-Pacific construct gained traction, one must look into the internal priorities when it comes to our national interests. For one, with a coastline of nearly 7,500 kilometres, most of our continental and maritime security challenges originate from the Western Indian Ocean encompassing the Arabian Sea, Northern Indian Ocean and the Eastern coastline of Africa. Therefore, for India, setting the definition right is extremely important to draw attention to this part of the world and the challenges rising thereof.
Second, attesting to the power of narrative in global politics, one might want to consider how an overarching consensus among western powers is emergent lately as to who is to be pushed back in terms of economic and military power. Beijing and Washington have had their differences before, but the colluded effort at isolating Beijing can be blamed on the pandemic and before that the aggressive inward-looking protectionist measures undertaken by the Trump administration. This beginning of a Cold War 2.0 was identified and advanced by Washington’s partners in the Indo-Pacific, albeit not without contradictions.
It is almost ironic that Washington’s rejection of Beijing’s posture in the Indo-Pacific may not be in the region’s best interests or agreeable to most of the resident nations. For starters, Indo-Pacific thrives, as goes the consensus, on ASEAN centrality. ASEAN shows certain levels of reluctance when it comes to engaging with the western-led Indo-Pacific construct because the regional grouping of 10 south-east Asian countries has active economic, socio-cultural and political-security relations with China. Beijing has lasting economic and security interests in ASEAN given all ten have joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). China is also ASEAN’s largest trading partner mapping a growth of $680 billion and both being party to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) essentially mean their commercial cooperation is expected to deepen. Additionally, the ASEAN nations have dialogue mechanisms with China to address territorial disputes in the South China Sea, and any order of events that upset this status quo is unattractive to the Southeast Asian nations. In fact, the regional grouping has long been vocal of their reservations in terms of nuclear proliferation about Washington-led AUKUS. Therefore, any rhetoric to counter China in the Indo-Pacific construct is a complicated matter and may actually require a nuanced approach. And finally, outside of the metanarrative about Beijing-origin military threats, the Indo-Pacific rhetoric excludes much needed discussions around non-conventional security challenges. The Quad, famously a non-military alliance, limits its activities to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) and vaccine diplomacy from among the plethora of non-conventional and imminent threats in the region like climate change, migration, refugee crisis, regional instability and maritime security. And that grouping has a long way to go in terms of convincing regional powers to join the Indo Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), announced in June 2022, which is also dubbed a counterweight to China’s BRI.
For Indo-Pacific as a construct to gain currency in the region, especially among the south-east Asian and Pacific Island nations, it must take cognizance of challenges and opportunities that go beyond conventional frameworks of systemic analysis. The most efficient way to go about it would be to have active dialogue mechanisms with difficult countries like China, rather than isolating them. In the event of a future alliance between China and Russia in the region, which need not seem too far-fetched at this point in history, the rest of the world must not feel left without the means to discuss and deliberate with them. At least in realpolitik, everything shifts and it is only a matter of time before allies and rivals realign themselves, again.
Sharon Susan Koshy is a Research Associate at the Centre for Public Policy Research.
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The road ahead will be difficult for Kharge
Mallikarjun Kharge will become the 98th National President of the Congress on the 18th of this month. There is no apprehension about his victory yet, as he has the full support of the Gandhi family. However, the Gandhi family was missing on the day of nomination. The candidate is definitely there, but only for formality. Congress has set him up so that this message can be given to the country that there is democracy in the party, that it is the only party in the world where the president is elected in a democratic manner. Such narrative only has an entertainment value. But the truth is that the whole world knows the status of a non-Gandhi president. This is a matter of great debate. Let’s talk about the President. The Congress is a 135-year-old party. It was formed in 1885 to fight for independence. The first president was Womesh Chandra Banerjee. In 135 years, after leaders like Subhash Chand Bose, Lala Lajpat Rai, Mahatma Gandhi, Vallabhbhai Patel, Madan Mohan Malviya, Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, P.V. Narasimha Rao, and Sitaram Kesari, in 1998, Sonia Gandhi took charge of the party. Since then, in a way, she has continuously remained the president and has set a new record of being the president continuously for 24 years. Between 2017 and 2019, her son Rahul Gandhi had become the president for two years. But after the crushing defeat in the Lok Sabha elections, the party has been running without a President. The thing to note is this. The Nehru family got the chance to remain in the post of President for the longest time or the Gandhi family got the chance. Jawahar Lal Nehru became the President six times. His daughter Indira Gandhi became the President for a year in 1959. But in 1978, a new party named Congress I was formed, which still exists. In 1980, the Election Commission declared the Indian National Congress. After the death of Indira Gandhi, in 1984, her son Rajiv Gandhi took charge of the party. After his death in 1991, P.V. Narasimha Rao became the Congress President and Prime Minister. During the five years of Rao’s tenure, it was felt that the Congress was out of the shadow of the Gandhi family. But the result was that the party was divided into many factions. After Narasimha Rao, Sitaram Kesari had taken command in Kolkata in 1996 as a non-Gandhi, but he was humiliated and removed from the post after two years. After that, Sonia Gandhi entered politics in 1998 and took charge of the party. Since then, the Gandhi family has been in control of the party.
Now in 2022, the Gandhi family has given a chance to non-Gandhi Mallikarjun Kharge. Talking about experience and stature, the 80-year-old Kharge has been in many positions in government and organization. Before independence and after, till 1978, big prominent people held this position and enhanced the dignity of the party, but 14 years after Indira Gandhi’s formation of the new Congress, for three years in 1992, Narasimha Rao was such a leader whose stature is counted among the big leaders. It is worth noting that after Rao, Kesari ran the party amid much infighting. Then he was forcibly removed. Since then, the Congress Gandhi family is running the party. In these 24 years, under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi, the party came to power in 2004. It ran the government for 10 years without a majority. This phase of the alliance was very costly for Congress. The party is unable to emerge from the crushing defeat in the election. The process of defeat continues. The Congress, which is going through its worst phase, had to make a lot of effort to choose a non-Gandhi president for itself. The Gandhi family first gave the green light to the Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Ashok Gehlot, then suddenly he was refused. The Gandhi family was so confused by the meeting of MLAs in Jaipur that their most trusted leader, Gehlot, was taken away from them. The Gehlot episode has created many challenges for the new president. Kharge is definitely a senior leader, but he does not fit the stature of the leaders who have been becoming the president. Whatever one may say, it is out of compulsion that the Gandhis have made Kharge a candidate.
Kharge also knows what being the Congress President means in today’s situation. Perhaps Kharge was also sad about what happened in Rajasthan. He must have been definitely sad about the kind of “conspiracy” that is being done with a leader who has been loyal to the party for 50 years. But he was not in a position to do anything. Kharge may even become a non-Gandhi president. But his authority will not be like that of Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, and Priyanka Gandhi. The real high command will be the Gandhi family. Kharge will definitely sit at 24 Akbar Road, but it has to be seen how much the office bearers of the Gandhi family will listen to him. Kharge has nothing to get now. He will get the highest post in Congress on 18 October. If Kharge is successful in showing the door to those people who kept the Gandhi family in the dark for their own interests and brought the party to the worst of times, then perhaps he will find a place in history.
Extra active anti-India forces and hate crimes
India’s rise in terms of economic and military strength has provoked these forces who cannot digest the fact that India has emerged as a strong power and there is no looking back.
An increase in attempts to create conflict using various fault lines, whether in India or on the issue of India in other countries, is an indication that anti-India forces have become extra active. These forces cannot digest the fact that India has emerged as a strong power and there is no looking back.
India’s rise to power in terms of economic and military strength has provoked these forces. Their failure to destabilize the country or use large-scale violence to besmirch the image is showing. An alert government is thwarting their efforts, but these forces also know that it is now or never kind of situation for them.
India has recently overtaken the United Kingdom in terms of economy and is slated to do well despite all odds. Indigenization of defence production is reducing dependence on imports and the country plans to export its arsenal to neighbouring countries and also others that could not afford the costly weapon system of the West.
In the recent developments, we have seen India can call the spade a spade and take independent stand on international situations. It has withstood a strong China on the borders and has not lowered its guards ever. World leaders have often heard as saying that take Narendra Modi into confidence if you wish the world to succeed.
Naturally, these forces that thrived on showing India in a poor light would not be happy. They want to see India as a land of conflict and have presented it as such. The PFI with links to Pakistan would do everything to destabilize the country. The best way is to foster the Hindu-Muslim divide, create riots, and show to the world that India is yet to progress to being a civilized country. It suits their narrative if Muslims and Hindus are caught in the web of hatred.
India and Pakistan began their journey together. Pakistan that became a religious state became the source of terrorism and fear across the world. It tried to bleed India and launched jihad, but it failed. Today, while Pakistan has lost international image on all counts, India has marched ahead and is fast claiming its rightful place in the new world order.
Thus if you can’t do much, try to defame India everywhere. Pakistan has been supportive of the Khalistan movement and has been trying to create a wedge between Hindus and Sikhs. No wonder some Sikhs have been found to be indulging in hate crimes against Hindus.
Suddenly, we come across a spate of news where Hindus have been targets of hate crimes in the US, United Kingdom and Canada. A US-based research organization, Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI) recently found out the “dangerous hybridization of hate against Hindus globally” by “Islamists and White Supremacists”.
“We’ve seen that there’s been a growth of over 1000 per cent and anti-Hindu slurs are stoking fears of replacement mixing with anti-Semitic memes, with other forms of narratives, and hatred shared by white supremacists, by Islamists, and others, and creating a toxic atmosphere of hostility,” Joel Finkelstein of the NCRI said.
Let us look at some of the recent incidents where Hindus were made targets of attacks. A large section of Indian Americans believes that Hinduphobia is on the increase. A Khalistani supporter abused Krishna Iyer of California. He was called “ugly Hindu, a “dirty Hindu” and one who “showers in cow urine”.
A Mexican American woman was charged with abusing a woman of Indian origin. She shouted “Go back to India”, and “I hate Indians” and assaulted the woman physically. Hindu American Foundation has found out that six men were smashing the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in New York. While using a sledgehammer to destroy the statue of the Mahatma, they used slurs and made repeated calls for Khalistan.
Leicester in England came into the news for hate Hindu crimes when Indians were celebrating India’s victory over Pakistan in the group stage match in the Asia cup recently. All the rumours spread to justify attacks on Hindus or to defame them were proved to be false. “The Guardian” had painted a negative image of Hindus and tried to apportion the blame on Hindus which led to demonstrations by some Hindu organizations outside the office of the prestigious newspaper. The same hate crime was seen as spreading to Burmingham when some Islamists gave a call for a demonstration outside Shree Sanatan Hindu Temple in Wembley.
The signboard of the recently inaugurated Shree Bhagwat Gita Park in Brompton (Canada) was vandalized. Prior to this the Swamynarayan Temple in Canada was vandalized. A Canadian lawmaker described this as hate crime and asked for remedial action.
Why this sudden jump in this new phenomenon? Have Hindus suddenly become bad? Not at all. They are the same but a rising India has made them realize that they can take genuine pride in being an Indian. Modi is known all over and suddenly respect for them has increased in the ruling establishments and political circles in their respective countries.
Almost everyone recognizes that Indians have contributed significantly to the development of the countries they work for. Canada has stressed this. The UK is thankful to the Indians for running their National Health Services (NHS) and the US landscape of high-tech and digital technology is powered by Indians.
Islamists coming from Pakistan and those they can influence locally despise Hindus who do not interfere in the works of others and are happy giving extra hours at work and spending the weekend in cultural activities. Hindus there are happy and proud and contribute significantly to the country’s economy. The Islamists are desperate to present the Hindus as hardliners and a community seeking conflict. These attempts were made at Leicester, Wembley and Canada.
Indians are despised by some locals too since they grab the coveted jobs that require hard work and technological minds. In the situation of joblessness, it is natural for locals to imagine that the Indians are taking their jobs. But the jobs are high-skilled and it is difficult for MNCs to find suitable locals at a reasonable salary.
The Khalistanis have a different axe to grind. India witnessed bloodshed when some misguided Sikhs made a demand for Khalistan as a separate country. It spoiled the minds of youths and the country lost a Prime Minister. Some echoes of the past are being heard again coming mostly from Canada.
Some newly empowered Sikhs in Canada and elsewhere may find it fashionable to talk of Khalistan but they should never forget history. Many young Sikhs had taken up arms in the 1980s to realize the dream of Khalistan. Many lives were lost and the movement died out.
Such movements would not succeed before a determined and powerful State. Living in Canada it is easy to talk and misguide our youths. The authorities in Canada should also realize the pitfalls of supporting such a movement there. Before terrorism hit the US twin towers of WTC on 11 September 2001, the West and Europe used to teach India how to tackle terrorism. They tried to justify terrorism by terming it as the result of deprivation in education and employment.
While dealing with hate crimes, it is expected that these countries would do justice irrespective of the political fallout. They are facing the litmus test after having proclaimed that they are governed by Justice. For the Indian community outside, it is a big challenge and their success would lie in not getting provoked.
Jaishankar’s swipe at U.S. strikes the right chord
During an event in Washington last week, External Affairs Minister (EAM) S. Jaishankar lashed out at the US over its F-16 package to Pakistan. He slammed the US for its decision to provide Pakistan with a $ 450 million package for what the Pentagon called the “F-16 case for sustainment and related equipment”. EAM did not show any hitch in questioning the merits of the US-Pakistan partnership, saying it had not served either country.
The US’ clarification evoked much sharper reaction from EAM. The Biden administration clarified that the move was not “designed as a message to India; rather, it is associated with America’s defence partnership with Islamabad, which is primarily focused on counterterrorism and nuclear security.” On this, Jaishankar remarked that the reasons were not “fooling anybody”. In other words, Jaishankar called a spade a spade, and this kind of reaction was a much-needed and timely move. What was more significant and remarkable is that he made these remarks while attending a function in Washington only. So, the message was stronger, firmer and more categorical to the Biden administration. While Pakistan continues to provide safe haven to various terror organisations and internationally blacklisted terrorists, US’ decision to ramp up defence cooperation with it cannot be justified and should rather be criticised worldwide. The US’ clarification that it is “giving fighting power to Pakistan against terrorism is something that even a person with the least understanding about geopolitics and issues related to the same cannot buy. EAM pointed it out too. Referring to the argument made by the US that F-16 sustenance package is to fight terrorism, Jaishankar said everybody knows where and against whom F-16 are used. “You’re not fooling anybody by saying these things,” he said.
Does Washington’s move not suggest that the US is running with the hare and hunting with the hounds? This is the question that the Biden administration must be asked repeatedly. America is answerable to this question as well. On the one hand, the US tries to be seen backing the global war against terrorism emanating from Pakistan, Afghanistan and other geographies of the world, while on the other, it is militarily helping Islamabad which is the fountain-head of terrorism. Many US officials have on the basis of evidence and reports announced in the past that terrorist are being trained and protected on the soil of Pakistan. Why then is the US not stopping the supply of weapons, arms and financial help to Pakistan? Jaishankar’s outbursts in Washington have triggered a debate based on these questions that the Biden administration needs to answer. What is also needed is that India must continue to highlight these issues that expose contradictions in US’ approach towards Pakistan which is a breeding place for terrorists. Jaishankar was right when he said that America’s relationship with Pakistan has not served either of the two countries. “Very honestly, it’s a relationship that has neither ended up serving Pakistan well, nor serving the American interests. So, it is really for the United States today to reflect on what are the merits of this relationship and what they get by it,” he said. This is no secret that America’s longstanding military partnership with Pakistan’s army has emboldened the latter to shield terror elements and their organisations. There is no denying that Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI, as evident from previous incidents and terror activity records, has been using these elements for terror attacks in India from time to time. The US is not unaware that Pakistan has failed to punish the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks in which several foreign nationals had also been killed. What the US officials do is just make a customary statement on the anniversary of the Mumbai attack every year, asking Islamabad to punish those involved in these killings. What is more objectionable is that the Biden administration recently tried to sort of revive the equivalence between India and Pakistan, calling both the partners of the US with different points of emphasis. The US help to Pakistan in the IMF bailout is also questionable. So, given all this, Jaishankar’s strong reaction to the growing US-Pakistan defence ties was a welcome move. India must continue to highlight concerns related to any such action on the part of the US in future as well.
At last, Asha Parekh, a woman actor conferred the Dada Saheb Phalke Award
The long wait has ended and the Centre after many years decided to honour a woman actor for her life-long achievements to the celluloid world. Asha Parekh, yesteryear’s heartthrob who made her debut as a teenager in Nasir Hussain’s Dil Deke Dekho’ was finally conferred the prestigious Dada Saheb Phalke Award. Asha Parekh has acted in multiple block-busters and her movies were known for their outstanding musical scores. She paired with some of the most popular male actors of her time and was regarded as a big box-office draw. In real life also, she had innumerable fans and as the story goes, a Delhi based Industrialist was so smitten by her that he would send car loads of flowers in his air conditioned Toyota to Jaipur every day where the actor was shooting for a film. A well-known politician of the 1970s was also amongst her greatest fans and never made any attempt to conceal his admiration for her. Asha Parekh’s most famous starrers include Mere Sanam, Jab Pyar Kisi Se Hota Hai, Teesri Manzil, Kati Patang and Caravan. It is significant to note that there are many other women actors whoso contribution to the world of cinema are second to none and should in the future be considered for the same award which was first won by Silver Screen’s first lady, Devika Rani. Kamini Kaushal at 97 is the oldest living actor from Bollywood perhaps. There is Waheeda Rehman, who was known both for her histrionics as well as her charm. She is amongst the very few women actors who paired with Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand and Raj Kapoor, the big three of her time, besides doing some memorable roles for Guru Dutt films. Vyjantimala is another big star who was considered one of the most exceptional dancers of her time. Her performances in multiple films,Sangam,’ Suraj’ ,Amarapali’ and `Jewel Thief’ are deeply etched in the minds of her innumerable fans. There is Mala Sinha, who was known for her musical timings and starred in few of the biggest block busters of her time. She featured in Guru Dutt films as also for B.R.Chopra and starred opposite Dev Anand and Raj Kapoor in several films. Helen, the dancing sensation, who on many occasions overshadowed all her co-stars is another name which needs to be considered besides a whole lot of others from the regional cinema. In the past, many male stars have been conferred the honour, more for their proximity to the powers that be, rather than for their contribution to Cinema. This should not ever happen and only the best should be honoured. Interestingly, three members of the Kapoor family have won this award and all of them—Prithviraj Kapoor, Raj Kapoor and Shashi Kapoor were deserving winners though Shammi Kapoor and Rishi Kapoor fans felt cheated that they did not get this honour. Asha Parekh had a long innings in the film industry and should be congratulated by her fans and movie-goers. One hopes that more women are bestowed the Dada Saheb Phalke award in the future.
The reason Mahatma Gandhi travelled third class
On this Gandhi Jayanti on 2 October, also known as the International Day of Non-Violence following a 2007 resolution passed by the UN General Assembly, let’s pause to remember the Mahatma in a less serious, almost light-hearted fashion.
Anyone familiar with Gandhi’s life and writings would know that he possessed a great sense of humour, and he also did not mind it overmuch when others made fun of him. On a certain occasion, Sardar Patel called him a true ‘bania’ when despite being unwell, he got up from his sick bed in order to meet with industrialists who came to attend an event with the idea of making a possible financial contribution to the coffers of the Indian National Congress. Gandhi, the Sardar joked, had been roused because the ‘bania’ in him at once caught the scent of money.
The Mahatma had a witty side to his personality and once remarked that he would have committed suicide long ago if he did not have a sense of humour. In 1931, he met King George V, grandfather of the recently deceased Queen Elisabeth at Buckingham Palace. Gandhi was dressed in his usual simple and modest attire, and after his meeting he was asked by a correspondent if the king had anything to say about his attire. ‘What could he say?’ joked the Mahatma. ‘He was wearing enough for the two of us.’
Sometimes though, Gandhi was also unintentionally humorous. The image of goat’s milk being brought in for him from the palace kitchen while King George V sipped tea in his study, still makes us smile. It would considerably humanise the Mahatma and make him more relatable to the younger generation, were more to be written about these aspects of his personality. Experts on Gandhi, and others who claim to have been influenced by him, should consider writing a book on him specially targeted at children and young adults.
An example of unintentional humour can be found within the pages of Hind Swaraj. Gandhi is determining how to respond to an imaginary situation where a robber has entered his home and he pauses to consider the possibility that the thief was his father.
‘I fancy,’ he writes, ‘that I should pretend to be sleeping whether the thief was my father or that strong armed man.’
At this point, a reader might imagine that Gandhi would pretend to be sleeping in the case of his father owing to traditional Indian reverence for the elderly. After all, how distressing would it be to find one’s own father a thief, and that too in one’s own house! This is not at all what the Mahatma means to say, however.
‘The reason for this,’ he writes, with unintentional humour, ‘is that my father would also be armed.’
Gandhi does not explain anywhere why he is so certain that his father ‘would also be armed’ but the observation raises a chuckle in the mind of the reader.
The humour exists partly because Gandhi has reversed the unexceptional scenario where a son tries to rob or steal from his father. In today’s times it would surprise no one, if a son stole money from his father, especially if he was young and short of money. In a lighter vein, and without in any way endorsing theft, in families and nations where there has been advancement in women’s rights, daughters too may steal from their fathers and even mothers – although such progress in gender equity may be considered highly dubious.
A second reason why the example given by the Mahatma’s tickles the funny bone is because of the image it conjures up. Eventually, Gandhi came to live in such simplicity that even a robber would have felt ashamed and turned away. This is, after all, the man, who was eco-friendly much before it became fashionable, who used a pencil till the very end, rather than throw it away when it became less comfortable to grip. Rather than buy a new pair of frames for a pair of damaged spectacles, the Mahatma would carefully consider, much before the concept became a management buzzword, if any ‘jugaad’ was possible by tying some string. A hypothetical robber may have departed Gandhi’s home with a feeling of pity, and even considered leaving a brand-new pencil to replace the pencil stub the Mahatma made do with.
Unintentional humour apart, Gandhi’s discussion of non-violence in Hind Swaraj is simple, yet brilliant. What stands out in his analysis is that there is no one size fits all solution he advocates while using nonviolence. He would handle a robber differently if he were unarmed and differently if he were armed. He would also handle a robber differently if he and the intruder were somehow related, such as when the intruder happened to be his father.
If you stop to think of it, given our shared cultural heritage with Pakistan, in the violence that followed the terrible Partition of 1947, which broke the Mahatma’s heart, brother was pitted against brother, father against son, and vice versa, so perhaps Gandhi’s example should be taken in that context. Warfare between groups who share ethnicity, culture, language and religion often takes place whenever nations break up anywhere in the world, and also when neighbours go to war.
Closer to present times, millions of ethnic Russians who are citizens of Ukraine, are embroiled in the present conflict with the Russians. There too brother is pitted against brother, and father against son, and there does not appear, thus far, to be any end in sight. Leaving aside the issue of cultural, ethnic and other affinities, are all humans not brothers and sisters in a sense? Even if we discount the biblical Adam and Eve story, many scientists believe we all descended from a common African ancestor.
To come now to the reason why Gandhi travelled third class. Ostensibly, it was to express solidarity with the poor and downtrodden. His own response, though, to a reporter’s question on the issue was: ‘Because there is no fourth class.’
(Rajesh Talwar is an author of 34 books across multiple genres. He has worked for the United Nations for over two decades across three continents in numerous countries.)
The emblem debate and new India
With this verdict, the Supreme Court, with a single stroke of the pen, also laid to rest frivolous allegations by many in the Opposition who had alleged that the Modi government had changed the character and nature of the said Lions.
On 30 September 2022, the Supreme Court dismissed a plea by two lawyers who had moved the Court, saying the Lions in the bronze cast atop the roof of the new Parliament building were deliberately designed to be “ferocious and aggressive”.
“It all depends on how you look at it,” said a bench of Justices M.R. Shah and Krishna Murari. “It cannot be said that the State Emblem of India installed in the Central Vista project is in violation of the State Emblem of India (Prohibition of Improper Use) Act, 2005.”
With this verdict, the apex court, with a single stroke of the pen, also laid to rest frivolous allegations by many in the Opposition, including likes of Jairam Ramesh who had alleged that the Modi government had changed the character and nature of the said Lions. Remember, the Congress called the “deviation” in the design, an “insult” to the Emblem. Thankfully, the apex Court called out the bluff of these propagandists.
Sunil Deore and Romiel Moses, who designed the 9500 kg bronze Emblem, have categorically said that there is “no deviation” in design. “We’ve paid attention to detail. The character of Lions is the same. There may be very minor differences. People may have different interpretations. It is a large statue, and a view from below may give a distorted impression,” Deore said. It is obvious that the new structure which is at a height of 33 metres from the ground, compared to the original structure which is almost at ground level, will look much bigger in dimension. Does the law of the land permit the government to amend the national Emblem? The relevant law to be considered with regard to the State Emblem would be the State Emblem of India (Prohibition of Improper Use) Act, 2005, and the State Emblem of India (Regulation of Use) Rules, 2007, which specifically deal with State Emblems. The schedule of the Act states that the State Emblem of India is an adaptation from the Sarnath Lion Capital of Asoka which is preserved and shall conform to the designs as set out in Appendix I or Appendix II.
Section 6(2)(f) of the same Act further, specifically states, “Subject to the provisions of this Act, the Central government shall have powers to do all such things (including the specification of design of the emblem and its use in the manner whatsoever) as the Central government considers necessary or expedient for the exercise of the foregoing powers.” Therefore, to cut a long story short, as advocate Radhika Roy, lawyer at the Delhi High Court, says, the 2005 Act, grants the Central government the power under Section 6(2)(f) ato institute changes in the specification of the design of the Emblem which is described and specified under the schedule and regulate manner of its use. The only caveat is that, the State Emblem of India must conform to the designs set out in Appendix I or II. Roy adds, “What flows from this is that not only does the Central government have the power to stipulate the specification of the design of the Emblem, but there is nothing that prevents the Central government from changing the State Emblem completely by way of an amending Act. That is, of course, subject to approval by both the Houses, but at any point of time, some of the national symbols can be changed at discretion of the legislature. Basically, the law authorised the Central government to regulate the use of the Emblem, subject of course to some caveats. Hence the hue and cry by the Opposition, even from a legal stand-point, is nothing but mere noise from an electrically debilitated group, that is desperately trying to gain relevance after being booted out in election after election, by the electorate.
“The Emblem atop the new Parliament is meant to be viewed from at least 100 metres away.” In a series of tweets, Union Housing and Urban Affairs Minister, Hardeep Puri, further added that one needed to appreciate the impact of “angle, height and scale when comparing the two structures” as the standalone Emblem atop the new Parliament building is 6.5m tall, while the original is only 1.6m in length. He added that there will be no difference in design if the Sarnath Emblem was to be scaled up or the Emblem on the new Parliament building is reduced to that size. Except for the size, the adaptation of the Emblem is an exact replica.
The first big construction in the Parliament complex took place post 1970. Then President of India, V.V. Giri laid the foundation of the Parliament Annexe Building on August 3, 1970. But the Sansadiya Soudha building was eventually inaugurated by then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, on 24 October 1975.
The second big construction in the Parliament complex, too, had the Prime Minister of the day occupying the center stage. On August 15, 1987, PM Rajiv Gandhi laid the foundation of the Parliament Library building. To cut a long story short, there have been umpteen instances in the past, where neither the Speaker nor the President, but it is the Prime Minister of the day, who has unveiled portraits, monuments, statues, buildings et al. Going by past convention therefore, there is absolutely nothing wrong with PM Modi inaugurating the cast of the Emblem atop the new Parliament building. Articles 74 and 75 of the Indian Constitution give sweeping powers to the PM with respect to a wide variety of functions. Similarly, Articles 93,94,95 and 96,talk about powers of the Speaker. Reading all these “Articles” parallely, give ample reason to believe that PM Modi was absolutely right in unveiling the new Emblem. As for the Lions in the new Emblem looking aggressive and not gentle, suffice to say that the Opposition’s mendacity on this issue has been embarrassing. Lions roar, they do not meow. Lions are meant to be fierce, fearless, determined, invincible and majestic; they defend their territory against predators with characteristic fortitude and unwavering zeal. For decades, under a decadent Congress Party, India could not harness its true potential, shackled by a timid & imperialist mindset. The Lion Emblem atop the new Parliament building is therefore, in many ways, a symbol of “New India”, whose majestic rise under the fearless and indefatigable PM Narendra Modi, is unstoppable.
Sanju Verma is an Economist, National Spokesperson of the BJP and the Bestselling Author of ‘The Modi Gambit’.
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