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Pakistan’s paranoia regarding India is unfounded

Pakistan’s brazen belligerence continues towards India in spite of the extension of an olive branch from time and again by India for good neighbourly relations.

ASHOK BHAN

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Pakistan using terrorist groups as part of its security and foreign policy shows its obsession with India which it perceives as an existential threat. The ideology of Pakistan is built on twin pillars of Islam and antagonism towards India. Pakistan never realised that as a nation state it should create its own history and move forward but lived with historical appropriation and distortions of the past. Pakistan could acknowledge its Indian heritage as well as the Muslim-ness of a majority of its population. Instead successive Pakistani leaderships and the intelligentsia preferred to build the idea of Pakistan on pillars of Islam and antagonism towards India. But Pakistan’s paranoia regarding India is unfounded.

The relations with Pakistan have been defined by the Partition in 1947, the Kashmir conundrum and the military conflicts fought between the two South Asian neighbours. The relations have always been plagued by conflicts, hostilities and suspicion despite the fact that the two share common linguistic, cultural, geographical and economic linkages. Pakistan on her own asking got 23% of land mass and 18% of the population of undivided India. The notification of 14th. August declared India the Successor State. Pakistan groped in the dark for its legacy, cultural moorings and its existential history. Nations while living in the present do not forsake their history which continues as a guide for the future nation building. The new India could not escape the radical and toxic thought process of Pakistan. The chronic communal hostility became central to Pakistan-India narrative. India is always considered as a Hindu State and Pakistan as an Islamic nation. The claim to Kashmir by Pakistan on communal basis got support from the west. Pakistan was created as a homeland for Muslims and if the new State was not premised on Islamic Ideology and made a Secular State, the pre partition movement would have been termed as a waste exercise.The fundamental differences, imbalance in size and resources created a sense of hostility in Pakistan rulers. It is this mind set of Pakistan that led to trust deficit between the two neighbours. Currently Pakistan exerts to seek Parity with India that “amounts to collecting the dew.”

India and Pakistan, particularly Northern India and Eastern Pakistan, to some degree have similar cultures, cuisines and languages due to common Indo-Aryan heritage which span through the two countries and throughout much of the northern subcontinent which also underpin the historical ties between the two. Pakistani singers, musicians, comedians and entertainers have enjoyed widespread popularity in India, with many achieving overnight fame in the Indian film industry Bollywood. Likewise, Indian music and film are very popular in Pakistan. Being located in the northernmost region of the South Asia, Pakistan›s culture is somewhat similar to that of North India, especially the northwest.

The Punjab region was split into Punjab, Pakistan and Punjab, India following the independence and partition of the two countries in 1947. The Punjabi people are today the largest ethnic group in Pakistan and also an important ethnic group of northern India. The founder of Sikhism was born in the modern-day Pakistani Punjab province, in the city of Nankana Sahib. Each year, millions of Indian Sikh pilgrims cross over to visit holy Sikh sites in Nankana Sahib. The Sindhi people are the native ethnic group of the Pakistani province of Sindh. Many Hindu Sindhis migrated to India in 1947, making the country home to a sizeable Sindhi community. In addition, the millions of Muslims who migrated from India to the newly created Pakistan during independence came to be known as the Muhajir people; they are settled predominantly in Karachi and still maintain family links in India.

The Indo-Pakistani border is the official international boundary that demarcates the Indian states of Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat from the Pakistani provinces of Punjab and Sindh. The Wagah border is the only road crossing between India and Pakistan and lies on the famous Grand Trunk Road, connecting Lahore, Pakistan with Amritsar, India. Each evening, the Wagah border ceremony takes place at the Wagah border in which the flags are lowered and guards on both sides make a pompous military display and exchange handshakes.

 Hindustani is the lingua Franca of North India and Pakistan, as well as the official language of both countries, under the standard registers Hindi and Urdu, respectively. Standard Urdu is mutually intelligible with standard Hindi. Hindustani is also widely understood and used as a lingua franca amongst South Asians including Sri Lankans, Nepalis and Bangladeshis, and is the language of Bollywood, which is enjoyed throughout much of the subcontinent. Apart from Hindustani, India and Pakistan also share a distribution of the Punjabi language (written in the Gurmukhi script in Indian Punjab, and the Shahmukhi script in Pakistani Punjab), Kashmiri language and Sindhi language, mainly due to population exchange. These languages belong to a common Indo-Aryan family that are spoken in countries across the subcontinent.

Pakistan’s brazen belligerence continues towards India in spite of the extension of an olive branch from time and again by India for good neighbourly relations. Pakistan’s Kashmir rants echo always in United Nations Human Rights Council at Geneva and rakes up the issue at UNGA. India fiercely replies calling Pakistan as “Terroristan” and asserts J&K as its integral part. India is not willing to renegotiate Kashmir’s territorial status. The bilateral issues can be addressed through talks and negotiations.Recently last week Pakistan repeated its ritual rant on Kashmir at UNHRC Geneva and India rebutted with usual assertion.Abduction of two Indian high commission officials recently in Islamabad is yet another provocative act of Pakistan.

There have been military wars, continuing undeclared wars, numerous skirmishes and stand offs. Many successful attempts to improve relations through Shimla Agreement, Agra and Lahore summits, etc, have fallen apart. The relations soured after Siachen conflict of 1980, Kashmir insurgency of 1989 onwards and the Kargil war. Terror attacks on Indian Parliament in 2001 almost brought two nuclear nations to a brink of war. Mumbai terror attack of 2008 by Pakistani terrorists that killed hundreds, and its continuous support to terrorists in Kashmir to delegitimise the idea of India has soured our relations further.   Modi Government’s national narrative and diplomatic policy is central to isolate Pakistan from the concerned Countries especially the UAE, Central Asian countries and other relevant nations,with his unidirectional efforts, has succeeded. By now the world has acknowledged the stark truth that Pakistan is the sponsor of terrorism in Afghanistan and India and poses a serious threat to security in the South Asian region. As such no dialogue with Pakistan is the policy narrative of the MEA, PMO and the foreign policy experts.

 The US has always been helpful and concerned about the regional security in South Asia. US experts feel that India-Pakistan tensions will complicate and spoil US’ interest in the region. In India, the foreign policy experts wish to alert PM Modi on the implications of the close ChinaPakistan relations as Beijing is trying to remake geography by launching huge infrastructure roads and bridges on the borders. The recent Chinese incursions and stand-off is a testimony. Therefore, persistent and astute diplomatic engagement on India’s terms, at a comprehensive level with neighbouring nations in the region becomes important.

After the dissolution of the British Raj in 1947, two new sovereign nations were formed—the Dominion of India and the Dominion of Pakistan. The subsequent partition of the former British India displaced up to 12.5 million people, with estimates of loss of life varying from several hundred thousand to 1 million.India emerged as a secular nation with a Hindu majority population and a large Muslim minority, while Pakistan with a Muslim majority population and a large Hindu minority later became an Islamic Republic although its constitution guaranteed freedom of religion to people of all faiths, later lost most of its Hindu minority due to migration and after East Pakistan was separated in the Bangladesh Liberation War.

Soon after their independence, India and Pakistan established diplomatic relations but the violent partition and numerous territorial claims would overshadow their relationship. Since their Independence, the two countries have fought three major wars, one undeclared war and have been involved in numerous armed skirmishes and military standoffs. The Kashmir conflict is the main centrepoint of all of these conflicts with the exception of the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971 and Bangladesh Liberation War, which resulted in the secession of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). There have been numerous attempts to improve the relationship—notably, the Shimla summit, the Agra summit and the Lahore summit. Since the early 1980s, relations between the two nations soured particularly after the Siachen conflict, the intensification of Kashmir insurgency in 1989, Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests in 1998 and the 1999 Kargil war. Certain confidence-building measures — such as the 2003 ceasefire agreement and the Delhi– Lahore Bus service – were successful in de-escalating tensions. However, these efforts have been impeded by periodic terrorist attacks. The 2001 Indian Parliament attack almost brought the two nations to the brink of a nuclear war. The 2007 Samjhauta Express bombings, which killed 68 civilians (most of whom were Pakistani), was also a crucial point in relations. Additionally, the 2008 Mumbai attacks carried out by Pakistani militants resulted in a severe blow to the ongoing India-Pakistan peace talks.

Despite having started to reboot its diplomatic ties with the US to end the stalemate of the last few years, Islamabad’s relations with other nations have been on the downside because it lied to the world about the presence of Al Qaeda chief — Osama bin Laden — in Pakistan. The Americans nailed these lies by carrying out Operation Neptune Spear and he was found in Abbottabad near the elite military school in Pakistan and was liquidated. All eyes are on Pakistan and it has to come clean and stop breeding terrorists in its backyard and root them out.

US President Donald Trump has been voicing  his strong-arm policy against terrorism. Pakistan has to take it seriously if it wishes to get financial aid from the US. Financial Action Task Force is eyeing Pakistan. China removed the objection to put Pakistan on the grey list by FATF. Pakistan is being placed on global terrorist financing list from June 2018 onwards that would endanger its handful of remaining banking links to the outside world causing financial pain to its economy. Saudi Arabia has also removed its objection and now only Turkey is supporting Pakistan. President Trump has said it is time to expose and hold responsible those countries who breed, support and finance terror groups. The Trump administration has charted a new South Asia policy in which it has sought a larger role for India in Afghanistan and in South Asia and has put Pakistan on notice.

Pakistan’s temper tantrums and petulance responses have not convinced the US and other nations. Pakistan has to take a hard look at options. It has to play tough against Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-eTaiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Haqqani Network and all other similar groups. The Afghan government suspect the newly surging ISIS in Khorasan and other terror groups are getting support from Pakistan and are allowed free operations from its soil, raise funds, march in raucous rallies and openly support terror export to other countries, including India, with the help of handlers in Pakistan.

From almost on the brink of war in the beginning of the year to the opening a peace corridor for Sikh pilgrims in November, the two nuclear-armed neighbors, India and Pakistan, remained largely on the edge in 2019.  In February, following the militant attack in the Indian part of Jammu and Kashmir that killed dozens of soldiers, New Delhi carried out airstrikes in Pakistan, igniting a military stand-off.A day later, Islamabad retaliated by dropping shells inside Jammu and Kashmir, near military installations and shot down an Indian jet. It also arrested an Indian pilot, who was released later as a «goodwill gesture» in order to put relations back on the track.

 But, the gesture failed to calm nerves. In a fresh wave of border clashes along the Line of Control (LoC), a de facto border that divides the disputed Himalayan valley between Pakistan and India Kashmir, dozens of soldiers and civilians were killed from both sides.

The year also saw the two countries fighting a legal battle in the International Court of Justice in The Hague over the issue of Kulbhushan Jadhav, an Indian national facing death sentence in Pakistan. The perennial enmity deepened further, after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi government, not only revoked the special status of Kashmir but also divided the Muslim majority state into two centrally administered territories. The move angered Pakistan, which downgraded diplomatic ties by expelling Indian envoy from Islamabad.

The whole year, especially February fared badly in terms of relations between the two countries. At one point, they were on the verge of war,» the events that unfolded in 2019 have made it one of the worst years in the relations between the two countries. India›s military muscle display was unprecedented when its jets crossed not only the LoC, but the international border between Pakistan and India. It almost pushed the region close to a full-scale war»but nuclear deterrent and diplomacy prevented war.Hawkish elements in the Pakistani establishment wanted a tit-for-tat response. But the saner elements led by the top military leadership prevailed and «It was International diplomacy that refrained India from launching a large-scale invasion despite having a numerical advantage in terms of conventional war. world cannot afford a nuclear war in South Asia.But the  continuing clashes along the LoC and innocent Indians/civilians killings in Kashmir by terrorists where Pakistan is directly aiding and supporting terrorists and playing an elephant in the room may turn into a bigger conflict.

Experts believe that there is no possibility of any change in the relations between the two countries.  They don’t see any change in the current situation in the near future until unless there is a major change either in India’s policy. Chances are scanty for both. The opening of a historic peace corridor to allow Indian pilgrims visafree access to Sikhism›s holiest shrines in Kartarpur is a confidence building measure and may bring hopes of normalization of relations.

PM Modi is advised to know that he may not be able to transact any big issue with Pakistan because it wants business on Siachen and Sir Creek, which in turn is always demurred. India does not buy any formula on Kashmir, as it firmly believes terror and talks cannot go together until and unless Pakistan brings to the book perpetrators of 26/11 Mumbai killings and other killings in Uri & elsewhere.The territorial status of Kashmir is not negotiable. Thus, the only issue that can find an agreement is fighting the deadly Coronavirus (Covid-19) by mutual efforts,improve trade relations and other economic development schemes but that too will take some time.

Conducting frequent talks at different levels, which do not yield satisfying outcome, is part of diplomacy. India and its Prime Minister are to be seen as a participant in the process of buying peace with even the hostile neighbouring countries to promote his credentials as a moderniser internationally. No foreign policy or diplomacy of a nation state runs without engagement and dialogue with other countries. The BJP and Sangh Parivar have to change their political narrative from the emotive right-wing rhetoric to a tolerant and moderate political discourse, backing up the Prime Minister’s diplomatic effort. Only then the PM can focus on the prospects of resolving the bigger issues of the country.

Ashok Bhan is Senior Advocate practising at Supreme Court of India and a Geopolitical analyst

Opinion

EKNATH KHADSE’S RESIGNATION WOULD HURT BJP IN MAHARASHTRA

Pankaj Vohra

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The decision of former Maharashtra Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse to quit the BJP and join the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has not come as a surprise. In fact, the saffron party’s strongman from Jalgaon, who had been elected six times from the Muktainagar Assembly segment, had been unhappy with the manner in which he had been treated by former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, and therefore, it was natural that he accused him of ruining his political career, after joining his new party. Khadse has been one of the unsung architects of the BJP in the state, and many had even considered him at one point as a possible Chief Minister. However, politics has its own uncertainties and when the time came, the party’s central leadership preferred Fadnavis over him, and he had to settle for a ministerial berth to begin with. His rivalry with Fadnavis persisted and in 2016, Khadse was forced to resign from the Cabinet, following charges of corruption levelled against him. It was alleged that as the Revenue minister, he had brokered a deal where his family members benefited. The allegation could never be proved and the matter is still pending. The resignation put a blot on Khadse’s political journey, and prevented him from aspiring for any major position thereafter. Matters became worse for him when he was last time denied an Assembly ticket. His daughter-in-law, Raksha Khadse, in the meantime, was elected as a BJP candidate from the Raver Lok Sabha constituency in 2019. She continues to be with the BJP, though Khadse, who is likely to join the Maharashtra Cabinet, has started his new innings under Sharad Pawar.

Fadnavis has been on the defensive ever since, and has been trying to explain how he had no role in pushing out Khadse from the party. The damage has already been done. The former Chief Minister’s supporters are of the view that his leaving the BJP would not make any difference. They may be totally wrong. Whenever a strongman of any party parts company with the organisation he has helped to build, there is always a huge cost. In 1977, when Jagjiwan Ram along with H.N. Bahuguna and Nandni Satpathy resigned from the Congress and formed their own party, Congress for Democracy, Indira Gandhi knew that it would be extremely difficult for her to win the Lok Sabha elections. Rest is history since the sitting Prime Minister lost to her opponent, Raj Narain, from her traditional Rae Bareilly seat. In Delhi, Madan Lal Khurana left the BJP briefly but the result was for everyone to see. The BJP has never won the Delhi Assembly for the past 22 years. Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy’s resignation from the Congress sealed its fate in the undivided Andhra Pradesh. Similarly, there are many examples including those of Dushyant Chauthala in Haryana where the parent party got affected due to the activities of its own people.

Khadse should have been treated with the dignity he deserved. His example should help the BJP and its rivals to learn some elementary lessons. Loyalists of the party should not be sacrificed in power politics. If that happens, every political party should be prepared to pay the price.

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Time to shatter the glass ceilings in our minds

The emancipation of woman is not possible without the emancipation of man. As women aim to shatter the glass ceilings outside in professional spaces, men need to look inwards and shatter the glass ceilings of prejudice, regressive conventions and patriarchy.

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Do glass ceilings exist only in professional spaces? Look around and think again! Glass ceilings exist everywhere: In professional, social, emotional, physical and material contexts as constructs to subvert female views and ideas, needs and desires, egos and identities.

We bring up our boys and girls in an all-pervasive misogynist culture, where boys are raised to entitlement and girls to submission. Sometimes, it is subtle and, at other times, explicit in both the formal education mores at school and the verbal and social transmission of education in homes.

“Boys will be boys” is the idea used as a dictum for the normalisation of several things. For instance, boys’ sexuality blossoming too rapidly in middle school is a topic parents shy away from considering. The boy enters a box of rehearsed patriarchal learning and a script to abide by for the rest of his life which tells him that licence for sexual activities is to be taken for granted. It teaches him that once “the adolescent sex drive is triggered”, even he himself isn’t responsible for where it leads him to and that taking “no” for an answer is an impossibility.

The normalisation of a licentious, free-wheeling sexual exploration, that is allowed and acceptable for boys, creates a position of the male as the active and the female as the passive. However, female sexuality is taboo, if explored by the female herself. It is only to be at the mercy of men, to be tampered with or even exploited. Hence, there exists the huge pop culture industry in India normalising phallocentric language in songs and erasing the need for “consent” in the portrayal of man-woman relationships in movies: “kudiyon ka laga hai buffet, jo chahiye, karlo choose”.

Girls and boys grow up singing these songs and unconsciously plotting in their consciousness the notion of women being “meat” for display, for objectification, for “physical gratification”, for “lustful enjoyment” as it were, and a “piece of flesh” which has no right to say “no”, thus rehearsing the same patriarchal script of rules over and over again. Young girls if found to be consuming adult literature are penalised hard, but for young boys, parents look the other way for the same so-called “violation” committed, because “it’s just a part of growing up”. “Boys will be boys”, after all!

In other words, patriarchy is not promoted and preserved by the man alone. The woman too, in her own way, contributes heavily through the various inhibitions, social mores, folklore, customs and glass ceilings which she religiously holds on to as a “normal” in her life, besides teaching her daughter to accept the same as a given in hers, instead of something to be shattered and done away with. Therefore, it is no wonder that the battle for women’s equality is mired in so many obstacles, when a woman’s mother, mother-in-law, neighbour, grandmother, sister, aunt, teacher, and boss are up against her, simply because she dares to dream of achieving everything that a man is capable of.

Many argue that equality is slowly and steadily making its way into our lives, citing how the gender divide is tilting in favour of the fairer sex, especially in urban India. Is that so? Equal doesn’t necessarily mean identical. A woman and man are essentially different in their sensibilities, physiologies, social and emotional aspirations, even in terms of the yardstick of professional gratification and hence it is not as simple as just switching a man with a woman and vice versa, while overlooking the immense responsibility every woman is also occupied with generally, whether mentally or physically or on the home front.

Equalising a woman to liken a man in terms of cloning his ways of working or simply exchanging gender roles is just another way of reiterating patriarchy. And that is neither equality, nor liberation for women. A woman needs to be treated as a “human equal”, not a “man equal”—and our professional spaces, both public and private, are still far from it. Male subordinates still cringe while taking orders from female bosses, especially if they are in technical fields and the female boss hails from general administration. Females are also expected to be nice and humble, and not behave in a matter-of-fact manner and professionally in their work spaces and are even criticised for possessing these qualities, whereas a male boss is deified for being curt and “professional”. Glass ceilings are being shattered by women painstakingly in the professional world, but what about the glass ceilings that exist in the patriarchal minds of both men and women? Is there a way to shatter those?

The answer lies perhaps in education and social awareness, where the media has a big role to play. Education needs to encompass more life skills like conflict management, critical thinking, communication skills, problem solving, emotional intelligence, stress management, sex education, etc, rather than rote academic skills. Education needs to aim at nurturing humane and human equals rather than clones of each other in the name of equals. Misogyny is a mindset that is embedded in childhood through lesser and under-dignified chores and routines reserved for daughters. Females are only regarded as passive bearers of everything sanctimonious or paradoxically unholy on earth. Hence, all slangs and cuss words are shaped after them, abusing their body parts. Thus, education, instead of helping in perpetuating the status quo, needs to purge itself of these blemishes and emerge as a bridge between the different sexes—male, female, transgender—to help build a stronger nation.

In this regard, the media needs to promote idols who have shattered the glass ceiling in different fields: Social workers like Kailash Satyarthi, who has been working for the cause of children for decades, and Harish Sadani of MAVA (Men Against Violence and Abuse), who has been working relentlessly for women’s causes, coaches like Pullela Gopichand, who mentors super girls like P.V. Sindhu, and fathers like Mahavir Singh Phogat and Harvir Singh Nehwal, who raised daughters like the wrestler Phogat sisters and shuttler Saina Nehwal. The media needs to reiterate their vision and portray instances of equality that is achievable and worth emulating, instead of only the utopian mirage of urban prototypes in nightclubs with no holds barred on intoxicants and excesses or the placard-brandishing feminists who cry foul at the very mention of the word “man”—both of whom are an exaggeration and an exception in a country where the heart still resides in small towns and villages where patriarchy is still the order of the day unfortunately.

Sophocles had said in his famous tragedy, Antigone, “If my body is enslaved, still my mind is free.” For women, things will look up only when she herself learns to look up, when she learns to unshackle her mind and think in terms of solutions to problems instead of avoidance or endurance of them, for the biggest of battles are first won in the mind.

Two things that can make her think along those lines are education (both vocational and academic) and economic independence, however miniature in form and structure it may be, because with every penny she earns, she earns much more in terms of self-confidence, courage, and dignity of labour. The various educational and vocational training provisions of the government therefore need to orient themselves to serve that end, whereby it is important that the authorities do not treat this as an isolated women’s issue but as a family welfare issue since the woman is the nucleus of the family unit. Her physical and mental wellbeing affects the family at the micro level and the nation at the macro level. The concerned authorities should, therefore, envisage long-term and short-term programmes enabling the rural family unit to emancipate organically as a whole, and not by imposing some utopian hired foreign model upon them for quick magical results. The emancipation should also be “organic” because India is a heterogeneous society with variant social, economic, cultural and political ambient features which play very significant roles in determining the success or failure of such schemes and operations.

The way forward is through collaboration. The emancipation of woman is not possible without the emancipation of man. As women aim to shatter the glass ceilings outside in professional spaces, men need to look inwards and shatter the glass ceilings of prejudice, regressive conventions and patriarchy that often exist in their mind spaces.

Debaroopa Bhattacharyya is founder and editor-in-chief of Tribe Tomorrow Network. The views expressed are personal.

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TIME FOR INDIA TO START FORMALISING RELATIONS WITH TAIWAN

Joyeeta Basu

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Amid unconfirmed reports that India could be pursuing a trade pact with Taiwan, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has asked New Delhi not to forget the “one China principle”, according to which the island nation of Taiwan is an inalienable part of China. Beijing also reminded New Delhi that this principle is “the political basis for China to develop ties with other countries”. The statement was the latest in a series of gratuitous “advice” that Beijing has been offering not only to New Delhi but also to the Indian media about Taiwan. This tone is expected to get shriller and threatening once a possible trade pact is taken out of the realm of speculation and given shape. It is hoped that such threats will be ignored, considering India has started thinking of its own interests for a change, instead of worrying about angering China. Any such pact will mark an important step towards formalising relations at the government to government level between India and Taiwan, and could be the meeting ground for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Act East Policy and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-Wen’s New Southbound Policy, which aims to enhance trade and cooperation with countries in South East Asia and South Asia. That the two countries have started giving a lot of importance to the relationship is apparent from the senior level appointments that the two have been making at their respective offices in the two countries. Taiwan’s last representative in New Delhi, Tien Chung-kwang, was made Deputy Foreign Minister of his country after his India stint. India-Taiwan relations have a lot of potential since Taiwan is a technological powerhouse, apart from being a good listening post for all that is happening in China. Strategically too, as part of the first island chain, Taiwan is an important line of defence against an expansionist China. Amid this, the One China policy is a drag. It is India’s interests that should determine its foreign policy and not the burden of history when a non-visionary leader hurriedly put his stamp on One China. Following this policy for seven decades has not helped India develop a stable relationship of mutual cooperation and understanding with China. Moreover, accepting One China policy means, by implication, accepting China’s position on Arunachal Pradesh, which it claims to be its own—and now even Ladakh. Who knows where this will stop, especially if, as consensus is building that China is eyeing to control the whole of the Himalayas with the intention of controlling the water there and choking India, so that the latter does not pose any threats to its ambitions in Asia. Being sensitive to China’s concerns has not got India anything except for Doklam and Galwan, apart from the constant threat of war hanging on its head. In fact the kind of aggressive rhetoric emanating from Beijing is bizarre. It’s strange that a world leader of Xi Jinping’s stature will ask his troops to start preparing for war. Which responsible leader uses such rhetoric? But then Xi’s China has got away with murder, literally—the murder of hundreds of thousands of people by unleashing the Wuhan virus on the world. And if the world does not stand up to it, Xi’s China may think it will get away by pushing countries such as India into a war as well.

The One China policy is a drag. It is India’s interests that should determine its foreign policy and not the burden of history when a non-visionary leader hurriedly put his stamp on One China. Following this policy for seven decades has not helped India develop a stable relationship of mutual cooperation and understanding with China.

This being the situation, it is heartening to see winds of change blowing through the corridors of India’s rather circumspect foreign policy establishment. It appears to be acquiring the much needed edge, keeping with the requirements of the time. If it were business as usual, Australia would not have got the invitation to participate in the Malabar Exercise, much to the chagrin of China. It is hoped, now that Mike Pompeo is visiting India a week ahead of the Presidential election in the United States, substantial progress will be made in the signing of the third and final foundational agreement needed for deeper India-US military cooperation—Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), which has been forever in the making. It is also hoped that some movement will be made towards the formalisation of the Quad. It’s only a united world that can tackle the Chinese Communist bully. India seems to have woken up to this reality—as long as it does not flatter to deceive.

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Why India fails to have an industrial renaissance

Most of our graduates are becoming coders for the software industry. Even our ITI-trained turners and fitters refuse to work on the shop floor. Should we blame them? No, not as long as a stock broker earns more than an engineer, typing code is mistaken for technology and governments do not amend antique labour and land laws.

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In a country which invests barely 3% of its GDP in education, we have education departments buying smartboards, tablets and smartphones, when they can’t even pay salaries to their teachers. Why do we need tutoring apps for children? With different types of tutoring, education will no longer be a means for upward social mobility. True education has to be through personal interaction and we are being stupid falling prey to these apps, which can prepare students for examinations and tests but not for life. 

A large portion of our economic growth in the last four decades has been in the services sector, predominantly the IT sector. Barring some of the large companies, most IT startups are platforms for aggregation of services, which essentially produce nothing. Their claim to bring in efficiency and provide services at cheaper rates actually pushes down the earnings and wages of the workers, forcing them to work on inhuman terms, while at the same time cutting into the profit margins of enterprises engaged in real, physical economic activity. The question here is: Who are these cheaper prices for? Is it really for the people who can afford to pay more, even at the cost of fair wages and humane working conditions for the deprived? It is the latter who need more money, to buy more and kick-start the economy. A little redundancy is actually good. It not only generates jobs, but it also ensures better conditions for our working people.

Do we know who bears the cost of frauds in the banking sector? While financial institutions aim to cut their transaction costs by employing less people, the cost of frauds is transferred to the customers who end up paying larger processing charges and get lower rates of interest on their deposits. Once again, we are pushing more money into the hands of those who have enough and grabbing it from the smaller man whose job has been taken away under the guise of technology. Worse, there is a whole new breed of criminal entrepreneurs who make insane amounts of money by compromising sensitive data and communications. In the US, companies are now quietly paying off hundreds of thousands of dollars to organisations that trace, negotiate and settle stolen money. Security frameworks are becoming more difficult with cloud services bringing in enormous complexity and security challenges. It has become a scary war of wits between nation states and crime syndicates playing for big bucks. The criminals invest unimaginable amounts of money in finding vulnerabilities and writing algorithms to break passwords and even compromise OTPs.

In a country which invests barely 3% of its GDP in education, we have education departments buying smartboards, tablets and smartphones, when they can’t even pay salaries to their teachers. Why do we need tutoring apps for children? With different types of tutoring, education will no longer be a means for upward social mobility. True education has to be through personal interaction and we are being stupid falling prey to these apps, which can prepare students for examinations and tests but not for life. 

Am I against technology? No, I am only saying that we have to be awake and clear about our priorities. Our priority today is to create jobs for millions, not to bring in technology to enrich a few. Yes, we must master the latest technology but also use it judiciously for high-end research and innovation, not for reducing jobs and making people poorer.

When it comes to innovation, my first observation is that all the major inventions and discoveries like electricity, telephony, the internal combustion engine, thermionic valve, transistor, LCD, LED, etc, had been made before the 1960s came to an end. Since then, the game has been to scale up processor speeds and integration to keep increasing computing power. New research is expensive and time-consuming and, with state funding drying up, meaningful research has taken the back seat. The result is that we are seeing more applications than inventions and discoveries. 

There is also the growing realisation that these technologies, if you can call them that, are playing havoc with social equilibrium. Countries are concerned over the concentration of power in the hands of companies like Apple, Amazon and Google. What is also worrisome is that IT and social networking are perpetuating stereotypes, reinforcing perceptions and prejudices, instead of challenging them. Emerging infotech is fuelling global inequality, while increasing social tension and dividing humans into hostile camps. They are doing a tremendous disservice by pushing people into pigeonholes where they can be classified and controlled. 

It is sad to see that many of our bright engineers can only think of apps when considering ideas for startups. The super efficiency promised by these apps is a chimera—it is bad for society. Can we use human-scale technology, in sync with nature, without being obsessed with efficiency? Fair wages for employees, humane working conditions, social security, education, health and shelter for the families have to be a part of the human cost, not forgetting a component of leisure, recreation and upgrading of skills. Check why American farmers are increasingly opting for old-fashioned tractors, like the John Deere Model D of 1923, instead of modern fuel-efficient models. They want machines which are simpler to maintain with no proprietary software and expensive spares. Also, we can no longer shut our eyes to the ecological damage, destruction of biodiversity, fatal addictions, malnutrition, organ damage, violent conflicts, inhuman working conditions, suppression of wages and profiteering which are being normalised by many oil companies, pharmaceuticals, fast food chains, armaments, financial institutions and rating agencies.

We have world-class technology institutes. They should be leading an industrial renaissance. But instead of that, 80% of our graduates are becoming coders for the software industry. Even our ITI-trained turners and fitters refuse to work on the shop floor. Should we blame them? No, not as long as a stock broker earns more than an engineer, typing code is mistaken for technology and governments do not amend antique labour and land laws. A correction here can be a game-changer. I am reminded of how Bajaj Auto emerged as a world leader in building the 100-cc engine motorcycle. They started by offering more attractive packages than the software-wallahs to suitable students from good engineering colleges. These were students with a passion for engineering. Bajaj Auto built a formidable R&D capability with these engineers and, together with TVS and Hero, they are now global leaders in the motorcycle market. We also saw how Sundram Fasteners became one of the top ancillary manufacturers for General Motors and Mukand became a major stainless steel manufacturer. There are many such stories of what can be achieved if leaders in positions of authority can get the big picture. Let us do it now.

The writer is an Indian civil servant and a former Chairman of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). The views expressed are personal. This is the third of a five-part series that will appear over a period of time.

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The crisis of credibility facing Indian media

The phenomenal growth of the media in India, including the unregulated arena of social media, has brought with it a significant decline in accountability and reliability. A solution to this lies perhaps in the setting up of a new Media Commission.

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The media in India is facing an unprecedented crisis of credibility. Its exponential growth coupled with diminishing accountability has underlined the urgent need to draw up an agenda in the current scenario for the media to fulfil its constitutional obligations.

The media has a crucial role in promoting democratic and social values, waging a crusade against aberrations and imperfections in the polity and strengthening the edifice of democracy and ensuring good governance.

Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, guaranteeing the freedom of speech and expression, empowers the media to serve the people with news, views, comments and information on matters of public interest in a fair, accurate, unbiased, sober and decent manner. But the moot question in today’s context is about who will define the “public interest” and whether the media can be goaded to follow any selective interpretation of this phrase.

The government and regulatory mechanisms like the Press Council of India (PCI) think it imperative that the media learn to differentiate between matters of “interest to the public” and “those in public interest”, remaining unbiased not only in covering latest developments in political, social and economic fields but also in highlighting the real issues agitating the masses, such as economic disparities, social discrimination, gender inequalities, child abuse, sanitation, environment, poverty, unemployment, education and healthcare, rather than thriving on non-issues.

But this “imperative” too can’t be enforced either by law or through an executive order. The right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1) (a) is limited by the “reasonable restrictions” contained under Article 19(2) on eight vital grounds on which laws can be made. But Article 19(2) in no way takes away the right of the media to promote its own interests within these reasonable restrictions, especially in this era of liberalisation.

In Bennett Coleman & Co. v Union of India, the Supreme Court held that freedom of press entitles the media to achieve any volume of circulation and freedom, both in its circulation and content.

In the landmark case of Sakal Papers v. Union of India, the Supreme Court held that the Constitution permits the imposition of reasonable restrictions only within the grounds expressly stated within Article 19(2). These include security of state; friendly relations with foreign states; public order; decency or morality; contempt of court; defamation; incitement to an offence; and sovereignty and integrity of India.

The apex court opined that if a law does not fall within these grounds and abridges the right to freedom of speech and expression, then it is liable to be declared void.

Several professional bodies, including the Editors’ Guild of India, are seriously concerned about the behaviour of a section of the media and the inevitable fall out of all this is that “others” now seek to regulate. The media industry too is not oblivious of the tremendous pressures to self-regulate and set its house in order.

The NDA government has been adopting a very cautious approach in dealing with the highly sensitive Indian media. So far it appears to favour persuasion rather than the imposition of statutory regulation in any form. Even the previous UPA government had been unhappy about a “free-for-all” in the name of free media.

Lord Denning, a famous British judge, in his famous book, Road to Justice, observed that the “press is the watchdog and that even the watchdog may sometimes break loose and has to be punished for misbehaviour”.

The government, which sometimes appears eager to rein in the media, may like to study the report of the Lord Justice Leveson public inquiry which was set up by then British Prime Minister David Cameron in the wake of the infamous phone hacking scandal. The Justice Leveson public inquiry was asked to look into phone hacking and police bribery by the News of the World. It alsoconsidered the culture, practices and ethics of the wider British media. The Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid News of the World was found involved in the phone hacking scandal, which rocked the British government and jolted public opinion across the world. Several high-profile heads rolled when the story behind the scandal unfolded. The Justice Leveson inquiry recommended a statutory independent regulatory mechanism with powers to enforce its decisions on the media in all its manifestations. The report castigated the British media for its behaviour which it said often “wreaked havoc” in the lives of innocent people. 

The Indian media has also often drawn flak from various quarters for “sensationalism” and “trivialisation”. Intemperate language used by some politicians and social activists reflecting their gender and community bias has invariably underlined the need for the media to scrupulously avoid devoting precious time and space to “non-issues” which may be of interest to certain segments of the society but do not serve the public interest.

Several professional media bodies have been pressing for the setting up of a Media Commission on the lines of the First Press Commission and the Second Press Commission for an extensive review of the entire media industry. The proposed Media Commission may recommend, among other things, the setting up of a Media Council of India, replacing the existing Press Council, which has the mandate to regulate only print media. The jurisdiction of the proposed Media Council may include all types of media—print, electronic and the Internet/social media. But the idea has failed to take off in the face of stiff resistance from the industry.

The News Broadcasters Association (NBA), a private association of different current affairs and news television broadcasters in India, and the Indian Newspapers Society (INS), representing the print media industry, for long have enjoyed considerable clout in the corridors of power. Together they have been lobbying hard against the setting up of a Media Commission which may review the functioning of all segments of the media and address other important issues including cross-media ownership, paid news syndrome, press-politician relationship, monopolistic TV rating points, concentration of advertisement, the wage structure for employees in the media industry, etc.

The first Press Commission set up by the Nehru government in 1952 looked into the control, management and ownership, the financial structure as well as other aspects of the newspaper industry. It recommended the appointment of the Registrar of Newspapers for India (RNI), setting up of a Press Council of India and the enactment of the Working Journalists’ Act, besides other things. The Second Press Commission was set up by the Janata Party government, headed by Morarji Desai, in 1978. The Commission in its report wanted the media to play a responsible role in the development process. The Press Council of India was reconstituted as per recommendations of the Second Press Commission.

The media industry, both electronic and print, would like us to believe that the question as to how the media can and should focus its enormous strength and reach on developmental reporting and positive news interests could be addressed only through self-regulation. The Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) is India’s apex organization of television broadcasters. It promotes the interests of the Indian television industry and provides a meeting ground to ensure that its members work in consensus to achieve common goals and have a common platform to air grievances and arrive at solutions. The IBF has adopted a programme code. It has empowered the Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (BCCC) to impose fines on TV channels found violating the programme code.

A few channels have already been faced with financial penalty for screening obscene content and directed to tender an on-screen apology for violating the programme code. The BCCC has also been regularly issuing advisories to TV channels cautioning them about their content, particularly depicting victims of incidents of rape and acid attacks on women and girls, stereotyping of women in general and the portrayal of minority communities. But all these measures on self-regulation appear “clumsy” and the paradigm of self-regulation needs to be strengthened by reviewing this model.

It is a catch-22 situation. Self-regulation without a statutory binding to enforce it among all the players of the game will be a half-hearted attempt to make the TV channels accountable to the people. And any legal framework would be rejected by the industry as violating the right to freedom of speech and expression. A way out has to be found for an effective and smooth functioning of the media as a potent weapon to strengthen Indian democracy. And then there is the phenomenal growth of the unregulated social media with the potential to breach privacy, create social disorder and pose a threat to national security.

An answer lies perhaps in the setting up of a Media Commission (another Press Commission) for a fresh look at the whole gamut of media functioning in India. It is the need of the hour. It may be headed by a sitting or retired judge of the Supreme Court of India and its findings binding on all the stakeholders. The proposed Media Commission may recommend a truly representative statutory Media Council in place of the existing Press Council. The proposed Media Council may encompass the media in all its dimensions with adequate provisions to enforce strict vigilance and discipline.

It may be possible sooner than later. What is required is a powerful public opinion in its favour and a strong political will on the part of our lawmakers.

The writer is a senior journalist and currently a part-time member of the Prasar Bharati Board. The views expressed are personal.

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IT’S NOT JUST POLITICAL, IT’S ALSO PERSONAL

Priya Sahgal

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The state of Bihar is all set to go to the polls next month but equally there is another interesting battle that will take place around the same time. This is the slew of bypolls slated for 28 seats in Madhya Pradesh where the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government rules with a wafer-thin majority. Of these 28 seats the BJP needs 9 seats to cross the halfway mark on its own; and just two seats to continue in government with the help of its current allies: Currently, the BJP has 107 seats in the 230-strong Assembly. It also has the support of four Independents, two BSP MLAs and one suspended SP MLA. Since these are fickle allies who will switch sides with anyone who has the numbers, the BJP is keen to get a simple majority on its own and is targeting nine seats at the very least. For a government in the saddle, that is not too difficult an ask.

But the Opposition led by former CM Kamal Nath seems surprisingly confident, though the Congress has a much more difficult task. After Jyotiraditya Scindia defected to the BJP with his faction, the party is now reduced to 88 seats. Ideally it should win all 28 to cross the halfway mark, but even if it wins around 20 odd seats, it is confident of wooing away some of the smaller allies and independent MLAs from the BJP to wrest back the government.

However, this is not the twist in the tale for until now this is just a fight between an incumbent and a former Chief Minister. The story gets interesting when you add Scindia into the mix, for unlike Chauhan versus Nath which is a straightforward electoral battle, the Scindia versus Nath fight is very personal. Even before Scindia destabilised the Nath government, the two were rivals, for the former always saw himself as the rightful claimant to the CM’s chair while both Nath and Digviijaya Singh saw his as a bit of a pretender who whiled away his time in Delhi and only showed up to claim the prize. This interestingly is a turf war that dates back to Jyotiraditya’s father, the late Madhavrao Scindia’s time when Nath backed Digvijaya’s candidature as Chief Minister over Scindia senior’s claims in 1993.

These bypolls are as crucial for Jyotiraditya as they are for Shivraj and Kamal Nath. As many as 16 of the 28 bypoll seats are from the Gwalior-Chambal region, which is touted as his stronghold. The BJP tickets have been given to the Congress rebels who switched sides with him, thereby upsetting the BJP leaders in the area. Most of the thwarted BJP candidates have been accommodated by Nath, either within the Congress or they have his support as independents. According to senior journalist Rasheed Kidwai, “Nath has deputed a party worker for every 20 voters, he has a band of two lakh fifty thousand workers for these 28 bypolls.” This is the same formula he had used to win the 2018 state polls as well, taking on Amit Shah’s panna pramukh model with his own.

Since Scindia has not yet been accommodated in the Modi cabinet, a lot will depend on how he performs at the ground level. The cabinet reshuffle at the Centre is slated to take place after the Bihar and MP elections. And apart from Nath, he also has to take on the discontent within the state BJP which is not too happy to have ‘Maharajah’ thrusted upon them. Both the PM and the Home Minister are staying out of the bypolls, preferring to focus their energies on the Bihar elections. This leaves the field clear for the state BJP which recently came out with a star campaigners list that had Jyotiraditya as low as Number 10 with others like V.D. Sharma (state BJP chief) and Narender Singh Tomar above him. The message is not lost on those who recall that when he was with the Congress, Scindia headed the campaign committee. Equally telling is the fact that Scindia’s face is not there amongst the official BJP posters.

For Nath too, the stakes are high. This could be his last shot at relevance for one is not sure if the Congress would project him as the CM candidate in the next state elections due in 2023. He knows this and has been working hard throughout the lockdown. His team seems confident of winning at least twenty of these bypolls. and though there are WhatsApp videos being circulated by the Scindia camp to show the empty seats at Nath’s rallies, the latter’s supporters point out that these are seats at the fag-end of the tent and that too during corona times. They instead talk of his confident body language and the fact that he is leading the campaign from the front. And there are also WhatsApp videos of Scindia being greeted with Murdabad cries that are in circulation, only one is not sure whether these are from the Congress or sent by his newfound BJP colleagues.

And so while the media focus is on the Bihar polls, there is an equally interesting and high voltage battle being fought in Madhya Pradesh with the theatre of action being the Gwalior-Chambal region

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