In 2006, Joe Biden, while announcing his vision for the future of US-India relations said: “My dream is that in 2020, the two closest nations in the world will be India and the United States.” The time has come to test Biden’s golden words. Will India continue its honeymoon in relations with the US?
Since Biden nominated the Indian-American and AfroAmerican-origin California Senator, Kamala Harris, as his running mate, the interest and scope of the diaspora’s inclusive participation have suddenly increased in the presidential polls. The support from the diaspora for the Biden campaign, including funds and poll management, is pouring out all the way from the East to West Coasts.
Suddenly, the Biden campaign has an electrifying current, triggering strong speculation about his entering the White House. This has made many think tanks and experts busy in forecasting the future for India. New Delhi is also reading the fine lines between Biden’s quote of 2006, which leads to the question: Will India have the same vital status of an honest friend and a key strategic partner in the US diplomacy at the Capitol Hill as it has enjoyed under President Donald Trump?
Biden was instrumental in the strong India-US ties that picked up momentum during the Obama presidency, including being the man behind the signing of the civil nuclear deal and opened prospects for trade and business partnerships with India. Can he be the same for India 15 years later? It is not yet final who will the new owner of the White House in January 2021, but the diplomacy experts, business leaders and the top names of the Indian-American diaspora are hopeful even if it is Biden-Harris combine calling the shots next. However, they prescribe the world’s largest and oldest democracies to “be accommodating for the future of global democracies against the arbitrarily expansionist China”.
In fact, the strong diaspora will be the best bridge of continued strong ties between Capitol Hill and Raisina Hills. The strong, influential and affluent Indian-American community, most of whom are big funders and supporters of the Democratic Party, would be the key in building a strong narrative of India in America.
A top Democrat supporter, fund-raiser and a strong voice for the Indian diaspora, Frank Islam says, “India needn’t worry about the buzz on the Biden administration that it will be anti-New Delhi. In fact, there is a bipartisan consensus on US-India relations in this country. That will continue under the Biden administration”, says Islam, adding, “India should not worry about a Biden administration, which I think would be better for India on many levels, including on issues such as a trade, work visas and immigration.”
However, some point out that the Biden campaign, which is currently infiltrated with strong Left-liberals, would definitely push someone like Harris to take India head-on on the issues of Kashmir, Citizenship Amendment Act and the NRC. It is also a strong possibility that Democrat leaders may raise these issues in public or private to play to their political constituencies.
But given the state of IndoUS strategic, defence and trade engagements, New Delhi should not waver at the prospect of losing its current global status and also its diplomatic status in the US foreign policy, particularly in the context of the Indo-Pacific region. “That is impossible,” says a top diplomat in the New Delhi circles, while commenting on the “new owner of the White House”. The European ambassador said: “As geopolitics is changing the political and economic landscape, India will become even more important, especially for the US. In a demand/supply angle, India is on a unique curve. The US will need India much more than before. Be it economically, for innovation and talents, even for technology, or most importantly, for security reasons. India will be vital for the future anchor of global stability, namely the Indo-Pacific. India has the scale, the skills and the speed.”
Will the US new administration in the White House, be it Biden or Trump, ignore this fact? “Not really,” says Michael Kugelman, a top South Asia expert and Deputy Director in the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC.
“India-US ties will be on the upswing no matter who comes to power. There is strong bipartisan support in Washington for a deep US-India partnership, and an increasingly powerful China that is causing concerns for both countries in Asia will only accentuate, for whatever party controls the White House, the importance of US-India ties,” Kugelman says.
But Kugelman adds, “You may see a bit more of a willingness from the Biden government to be more critical of India on its human rights policies, especially in Kashmir, so New Delhi may need to be ready for that. But this wouldn’t become a major new feature of the relationship. Also, with US-India relations poised to move forward in a big way following the India-China crisis, there may be an urge for Delhi from the Biden administration to engage in more operational-style security cooperation with the US. But this is something we can expect from another Trump administration as well.”
Mukesh Aghi, president and CEO of US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF), is sceptical, saying that it is to be seen which way the wind moves. “Not only India, many other nations may have to fine-tune their ties and diplomacy with the US if Biden comes to the White House.”
Aghi told TDG: “Should Vice President Biden win the 2020 election, every nation will need to fine-tune its approach. Geopolitically, while we are aligned, the differing interests of lobbyists can change the nuance of the relationship. If Pakistan-supported lobbyists gain influence, then the Kashmir issue or Article 370 will resurface, which so far has been ignored by the Trump administration. While economic priorities will sustain, Hindutva issues could come to the spotlight. Therefore, India will have to fine-tune its approach to a Biden administration.”
Insiders in the US diplomacy, however, say, “PM Narendra Modi’s multi-polar diplomacy and its current tough resolve against China will compel the new White House policymakers to rethink against any detour from the current level of diplomatic ties the two enjoy.” The White House also realises the fact that India will not change its narrative on Kashmir from here and given the US own pressing domestic issues out of the current pandemic, Washington will be focused on putting the life on rails first and get the economy running and health infrastructure equipped to handle any more pandemics like the Covid-19.
Assets and liabilities of political regimes go hand-inhand in diplomacy. We take some, shun others to accommodate. The experts see many areas of strong IndiaUS engagement even under the Biden administration. Kugelman says, “The same ones we’ve seen with Trump: security, especially revolving around maritime collaborations, arms trade, technology transfers and intelligence cooperation; energy, which has only recently emerged as a key area for collaboration; and diplomacy, particularly in terms of partnering with India in global forums to pursue mutual interests. I also would anticipate Biden — who is more of a pro-free trade centrist Democrat than an anti-free trade progressive Democrat – to try to make efforts to resolve trade tensions with New Delhi.”
Adds Aghi, “Defence will get more and more pivotal, Indo-Pacific strategy will evolve purely from defence to an economic trade corridor among the Quad partners. Global supply chain will get more important where India will play an important role, specifically in the healthcare sector. India will need to open its market further, especially to Quad partners and forge a stronger economic relationship with the US, Japan and Australia.’’ The same can be extended to South Korea, Taiwan and countries like Vietnam and the Philippines for their strong US focus.”
Many like Islam see the partnership getting strengthened on the issues of terrorism, Pakistan and China. “On the issue of terrorism, India and the United States are on the same page. On Pakistan, China and defence, a Biden administration would play a more constructive role than the Trump administration, which has left all allies and friends everywhere to fend for themselves. Bilateral cooperation in energy has been increasing under each successive administration. In fact, there will be more commercial transactions under a Democratic White House than the current one, which has proved to be very protectionist,” Islam told TDG.
Many feel the urgency for New Delhi to engage with Washington DC as usual. Islam says, “It is always important to have a good relationship with an incoming administration. But in India’s case, a potential Bidenled White House is likely to have many old India hands such as Ambassador Rich Verma and former Assistant Secretary Nisha Biswal. There is a perception in this country that New Delhi is emotionally invested in Trump and wants him reelected. While I don’t believe that to be true, the Indian government should avoid any perception that it is taking sides.”
But many like Islam also know the fact that India is a true friend of the US. Personal chemistry doesn’t come in between country-to-country ties, especially for the two democracies having common strategic bonding points like terrorism, and now China.
It is to be seen whether Biden, if he comes to power, will complete the unfinished task of President Obama — supporting India’s place in the United Nations Security Council. Now with China becoming a common threat and a factor to strengthen the India-US defence and security partnerships further, New Delhi and Washington DC will surely find ways to accommodate each other.
“Yes, we can!” seems to be the way ahead for India with whoever comes to the White House in January 2021.
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AN OPPOSITION ON THE MOVE, FINALLY
It’s the season for political yatras what with Rahul Gandhi’s 3570 km Bharat Jodo yatra, Arvind Kejriwal’s countrywide Make India No 1 mission and Prashant Kishor’s 3500 km padyatra in Bihar. The one unifying narrative here is that all these are opposition leaders who have taken to the streets, so in a way what we are getting is the optics of an opposition on the move. Finally. Because for the last eight years we have largely been treated to the visuals of a somnambulant opposition, giving the BJP a walk-over.
Of the three it is Rahul’s yatra that seems to be getting the maximum headlines. Which by itself is no mean feat given the cold shoulder the Gandhi scion has been getting from the media in recent times, due to a variety of reasons. However, now and especially on social media, Rahul seems to have upped the ante. What helps is that a yatra provides for some great visuals, of interactions with the public, of him addressing a rally in the rain or just some playful exchanges with some of his colleagues. All of which makes for better TRPs than his preachy, finger waving sermons at rallies. Some credit must be given here to the party’s media department lead by Jairam Ramesh and fellow ‘yatri’ Pawan Khera who have keep the social media blitzkrieg alive with interesting snippets along with Supriya Shrinate; not to mention colleagues such as DK Shivkumar, Srinivas BV, Madhu Goud Yaskhi, Surendra Rajput to name a few.
Ironically Arvind Kejriwal’s mission was launched on 6 September in Hisar, around the same time as Rahul’s Bharat Jodo amidst great fanfare with the patriotic Rang de Basanti Chola playing in the background and Punjab CM Bhagwat Mann dancing in the foreground. Since then I am not quite sure if the mission is still carrying on in the form of a yatra or if it’s been transformed into the Gujarat and Himachal election campaign. But the AAP Chief has succeeded in making waves in both the states, specially Gujarat where more people seem to know his name than that of the sitting Gujarat Chief Minister (that’s the problem with changing so many CMs so often). But since this is Gujarat the votes for the BJP will be in Modi & Shah’s name, regardless of who the CM is, so that doesn’t matter. Will Kejriwal’s rallies translate into votes? While few doubt that the BJP will come back in the state, it would be interesting to see if AAP manages to replace the Congress in the second position.
As for Prashant Kishor, he has just embarked on his yatra a few days back. He clearly sees a void in Bihar’s leadership with Nitish Kumar doing one too many somersaults and the RJD still a faction ridden outfit. The BJP is trying to fill this same vacuum but it lacks a tall regional leader to take on Nitish, Lalu and Tejashwi. From Prashant’s rhetoric he is targeting the youth, talking about jobs and education more than caste arithmetic. Will it work and will the election strategist be able fashion a win for himself the way he has done for his clients?
Sometimes, even in politics, it is not the end but the journey that matters. And it is a healthy sign for our democracy to see opposition leaders walking their talk.
As Sindh struggles, Imran Khan rolls on
With Pakistan witnessing its worst floods, several questions have risen, both inside the country and worldwide. Before the floods, Pakistan was already going through political, economic, and social turmoil, with tensions visible through recurring protests, news of ethnic persecutions, human rights violations, and dire living conditions for Pakistanis in many regions. The southern province of Sindh has been the most affected. According to Sindh’s Information Minister, more than 600 people have died in flood-related causes, and the province is set to face unsurmountable losses in agricultural production. Ironically, before the floods, Sindh faced an acute water shortage. The situation was so grave that Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali had appealed to farmers not to cultivate rice. Sindhi leaders blamed Punjab’s provincial administration for stealing Sindh’s water and creating a water crisis.
Floods and failures
The floods have exacerbated underlying tensions in Pakistan, which the leaders have tried to bury for a long time. The indifference toward human rights and ethnic minorities came under the spotlight as floods’ devastating effects started mounting. In one such incident, Sindh police arrested journalist Nasrallah Gaddani after he covered the story of Hindu flood victims who were expelled from the flood relief camp.
In many ways, Sindhis are waking up to the realisation of having been docile with their government for far too long. Several recent videos circulating over social media platforms like Twitter highlight that the worsened situations are being blamed not on floods but the government’s mismanagement and the pursuit of selfish political interests.
Pakistani politicians have not helped their case either. While surveying the region on a boat, a viral video showed senior Sindh government leaders comparing the flooded areas of Sindh with Italy’s Venice. A few days later, the same leader was seen running away in a video when flood victims blocked roads and surrounded him, demanding accountability.
In another instance, hundreds of protestors came to bring to notice to the visiting PM Shehbaz Sharif, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, and Sindh CM that they haven’t been provided relief materials even after multiple assurances. In response, Sindh police lodged cases against over 100 unidentified persons on terrorism charges for allegedly inciting flood victims outside a relief camp and attacking police personnel.
Shifts in Sindh
A lot of Sindh’s turmoil has its roots in the ongoing political discourse. The dynamic between the three biggest political parties in Pakistan—Imran Khan’s PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf), Sharif’s PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League-N), and Bhutto’s PPP (Pakistan People’s Party)—can be seen at play in Sindh.
After successfully removing Imran Khan from the helm through a no-confidence motion in April this year, PPP and PML-N formed a coalition government, electing Shehbaz Sharif (former PM and party founder Nawaz Sharif’s brother) as the PM and making Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (son of party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari) the foreign minister.
PTI is the largest opposition party in Sindh, which is ruled by PPP (with Syed Murad Ali Shah as CM). In the 2018 general elections, the PML-N lost its stronghold in old Punjab province, with the PTI coming to power through a coalition government. Now, it looks like Bhutto’s might also lose their stronghold Sindh to Imran Khan’s PTI in next year’s general elections.
Several reasons contribute to shifting tides in Sindh. Firstly, the floods have anguished Sindhis to a great extent. It has been highlighted over social media that Sindh police created hurdles for trucks and vehicles loaded with relief goods, especially those arriving from Punjab. It has been alleged that police allowed vehicles to pass only after taking bribes. Other videos showed Sindhis complaining that they have not received the 25000 rupees aid promised to flood victims by the PPP government while underlining that people in PTI ruling provinces have received the aid. For Sindhis, while the PPP and the Bhuttos are falling short of their promises, Imran Khan is exceeding expectations.
Secondly, political backlash against PPP is now coming from multiple directions. The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Karachi head (another Pakistani political party) condemned the Sindh government over rampant street crimes. He warned that the party would assemble masses for protests in front of police stations if the government and police department failed to put an end to the increasing number of mugging incidents and robberies. As floods recede and the exact toll on livelihoods comes to light, the after-effects might worsen the law and order situation in Sindh cities even more.
Thirdly, as the flood worsens Pakistan’s economic and food security, Sindh, an agricultural hub, will be significantly affected. While prices of essential commodities were already soaring, a shortfall in crop production will affect both exports and domestic availability. This can lead to more protests in the coming months.
Finally, the Imran Khan factor is set to play a big role in Sindh. Since his ouster, he has gained immense popularity among the masses of Pakistan, who now see him as a beacon of hope for democratising Pakistan and standing up to the Pakistani army and China. Asif Ali Zardari (the PPP co-chairman) is said to have been the chief architect behind the no-confidence motion in April. In a recent interview, Imran emphasised that the ‘Zardari mafia’ has kept Sindh undeveloped through loot and plunder and said that Zardari’s days were numbered. Highlighting the ‘system of injustice’ installed by Zardaris, Imran urged the youth to fight and defeat him in the coming elections. He also vowed to raise donations for Sindhi flood victims through his international telethon (fundraising event). He had already collected 5 billion rupees worth of donations successfully through these telethons.
What lies ahead?
It is expected that it will take years to rehabilitate and rebuild Sindh and other affected areas in Pakistan. But while these regions struggle, Pakistani politics will not slow, especially with next year’s general elections. Meanwhile, Imran Khan is making all the right noises and reaching out to people in ways that have not been seen in Pakistan in the last several decades. Sindh provides a glaring example of these developments. As Imran rolls on, the shaping dynamics will be monitored closely in Washington, Beijing, and New Delhi. The ongoing floods might bring some significant changes to Pakistani political discourse.
(Divyanshu Jindal is a Research Associate at Centre for Air Power Studies)
Frailties of University Ranking
World Rankings of universities are fraught with frailties. They serve no real purpose but to trigger a mindless rat race. Their efficacy of signalling excellence is suspect as well.
Fads are not as much bothered about comfort or utility as they are about looks and appearances and this is no more limited to the fashion industry alone.
Universities, probably the last bastion to buck the trend, have been pushed out of their ivory towers and have been made into the rat race for rankings.
They are made to believe that their survival, growth, funding, faculty, and students, now depend upon their ability to make it into the league table at the highest echelons.
Barring a few exceptions, most ranking agencies fan the fad, for it serves a substantial commercial interest. Most governments and higher education regulators lapped up the idea for it provides them with a tool to tame universities.
Governmental and peer pressures notwithstanding, no more than 10% of higher education institutions presently participate in the global ranking.
The most coveted and widely used Academic Ranking of the World Universities (ARWU), for example, had 2,500 universities participating in it.
QS World Ranking of Universities too had 2,500 participants in 2023, whereas the Times Higher Education (THE) Ranking had only 1,600 in 2022.
Taken as a whole, at least 28,000 of the 31,000 universities in the world do not participate in the global ranking process. They are happily reconciled that they lack the lustre to compete for this luxury that the ranking offers.
They have also realised that even without ranking, just on the strength of their accreditation, they attract the students and faculty that they need. They are, thus, self-assured of their relevance to seeking a third-party certification for their relative prowess in performance.
To them, the ranking serves no real purpose and it is just a euphemism for being elite. But the top 100 higher educational institutions could educate only a minuscule proportion of the higher education enrolment.
Thus, no more than 3,000 higher educational institutions in the world are trapped in the ranking rat race. Ranking enthusiasts call them aspirational.
They commit a lot of their time and resources to get included in the league table. Some unscrupulous ones may, in fact, fudge or manipulate their data to get a higher rank.
Consultants with little exposure to teaching and research have sprung up in large numbers to help universities realise their aspirations. Many universities fall for them even though they might charge heftily.
They are engaged for their competence to steer steering the ranking process, but also for their contacts at appropriate levels and places.
Commercial and unethical aspects aside, rankings suffer from some inherent deficiencies. The choice of the agency, for example, could make a university rank higher or lower. Such examples are aplenty.
It is commonplace to find that universities ranked amongst the top 1000 by THE find no mention in QS or ARWU. There are also cases where a university is ranked by a world-ranking agency even though it could not by the national ranking.
Significant variations in the ranks of universities by different ranking agencies are also very common. Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, for example, is ranked 155th in the world by QS, whereas THE places it in the rank category of 301-350.
This could simply be because the three ranking agencies use different parameters, data sources and methodologies. However, since they claim to measure quality and excellence, such wide variations in their ranking comments adversely on the consistency, reliability and validity of the ranking.
They obviously err in measuring what they claim to measure and report. The policy planners who promote the participation of universities in the ranking or base their critical decisions on the ranks conferred by different agencies, ought to be majorly concerned. Sadly, they seem oblivious to these frailties of higher education ranking.
Interagency variations apart, exogenous and extraneous factors too seem to influence the ranking of a university. Quite often, the geographic location and its demography play a more critical role than the policies for promoting excellence.
A university located in a populous country with a high unemployment rate like India has a huge disadvantage as compared to a country, say the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which is scantily populated, has a near-full employment rate and has a large expatriate population.
Universities in UAE with much lower scores in parameters like citation per faculty and academic reputation were ranked much higher. This was simply because universities in UAE had scored a hundred out of a hundred in parameters like international faculty and international student ratios. This has obviously jacked up their overall scores and the consequent ranking.
The Indian university, on the other hand, with a significantly higher score on citation and academic reputation were ranked much lower, ostensibly because they had scored abysmally low on the count of international faculty and international student ratios.
UAE Universities had an inherent edge due to the demographic characteristics of their country. With 89 per cent of its population comprising expatriates from 200 different nationalities, it is an extremely diverse place to work and live in. This diversity is, undoubtedly, reflected in their faculty and student population.
International faculty and students are important indicators of diversity. They can, however, be swayed by the location and the context in which an institution exists and operate. These are but only a few examples that point out the flaws in the ranking system.
Ranking costs money and time. It takes a toll on the precious faculty time, which could have otherwise been used for improving teaching and research. University administration spends innumerable hours to ranking related activities rather than focusing their attention on improving quality and promoting excellence.
But isn’t it time to ask why being excellent, the best, very good and good, as indicated by the accreditation, is not sufficient? Why must we insist to know how an institution compares with the rest? Why should we go through the ranking rituals annually? Wouldn’t a quinquennial cycle serve the purpose better?
Furqan Qamar, former Adviser for Education in the Planning Commission, is a Professor of Management at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.
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.
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