Are you ready for a Dutch Trump?

The general elections of Netherlands, scheduled to be held on the 15th of March, 2017, may seem unimportant, yet the Dutch hold the key to unleashing greater hatred and intolerance in the so called ‘civilized’ western world. Liberalism is to the Dutch what oil is for the US. Netherlands is literally the embodiment of liberal democracy with the country having legalized prostitution, abortion and euthanasia. They have a free drug culture and were the first nation to legalize same-sex marriage.
Yet, for a country marked by so many liberal firsts, it comes as a surprise that one of the favorites for the elections is a hardcore right winger, Geert Wilders of the Party for Freedom (PVV) who holds the distinction for comparing mosques to Nazi temples and the Quran to Mein Kampf.

The Dutch elections aren’t that complex. It involves elections to the House of Representatives comprising of 150 seats. The Dutch have decided to count the votes by hand after alleged hacking attempts by Russian groups. There are a striking 82 parties vying for these 150 seats making an outright majority for one particular party improbable, if not impossible. The Dutch hold the unenviable distinction of no cabinet having finished their term since 2002.

The belief that Wilders might get elected is indicative of a populist turn in the European politics that began with Brexit. It seems that the Europeans are tired of their capitalist, immigrant friendly societies. A potential Wilders prime minister, howsoever unlikely it may seem (even a Trump presidency was unlikely), could be the next step in the wars against globalization that have swept the West.

This resentment against immigrants is nothing new. Such resentment might actually be able to trace its roots to the Native Americans who must’ve been pissed off by the arrival of Columbus. However, after the acceptance of Donald Trump, it most likely isn’t politically incorrect to keep out immigrants. While the United States is a country of immigrants, the Netherlands has a significant native population which may feel that it is well off without immigrants. It is this ideology that is gaining acceptance around the Western world leading to greater popularity of right wing leaders like Geert Wilders. To be honest, Geert Wilders does have several characteristics that remind you of Trump. While he may not have talked about building a border wall, he does have a pathetic hair-do that is the only identifier that he needs. Wilders has proposed leaving the EU and the euro if he’s elected, leading to further fragmentation and break-up of the European Union that is already unstable owing to several nations vying for an exit.

If the opinion polls are anything to go by, it is the PVV that is poised to emerge as the single largest party. However, due to its unnerving anti-Muslim propaganda, it may not be able to stitch together a steady coalition. Riding under his own version of “Make America Great Again” i.e. “The Netherlands is ours again” Mr. Wilders has been rubbing the other parties the wrong way. Several parties have now outright rejected a coalition with Wilders’ PVV. If history is anything to go by, the PVV buzz always fizzles out on the Election Day. Yet, Mr. Wilders is not perturbed and has been vocal in his agenda to ‘de-Islamize Netherlands. What may calm the Dutch though is the fact that most polls conducted in December predicted the PVV to win around 37 seats. However, their current tally as per the polls seems to have leveled around 29-33 seats.

The current coalition of the conservative People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and the Labor Party (PvdA) under the Prime Minister of VVD’s Mark Rutte seems unlikely to take on an emboldened PVV. In the improbable scenario that they do manage to chalk up a coalition, keeping the single largest party (most likely the PVV) out of the coalition might be seen as going against the will of the people. It is PvdA, i.e. the Labor Party that is poised to emerge as the biggest loser as it will cede territory to the PVV and other pro-European parties.

If Wilders does end up winning the majority vote, an alternate coalition (one excluding the PVV) will be a complex one having no less than 5 parties, as suggested by Rem Korteweg, senior research fellow at the Centre  for European Reform (CER). Yet, not all is well, as the far left Socialist Party, which is apparently the third largest party in Parliament, has ruled out working with VVD due irresolvable differences. The increasing threat of Islamic terrorism posed by migrants is resonating with the voters of Netherlands who are already in acquiescence with Wilders’ propaganda.

For now though, it falls on the undecided voters to realize whether they are ready to fall in line with an anti-Muslim venom spewing candidate or maintain the status quo, which an increasing number of voters find unsavory.

-First seen on The Economic Transcript

https://economictranscript.wordpress.com/2017/03/13/%E2%80%8Bare-you-ready-for-a-dutch-trump/

How The Third World War Is Likely To Start

The question to be asked about the Third World War is when will it happen and not if it will happen. Because obviously, a Third World War is long overdue. Let’s rewind a little; the First World War started after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and other unsolved grievances, the Second World War was a manifestation of unresolved issues from the previous war. So how do you think the next war is likely to start? Let’s chalk out a probable scenario of how such a war is likely to take place.

The most likely scenario in my opinion was pointed out rightly by Mahamandleshwar Swami Akhileshwaranand Giri, chairman of executive council of the Madhya Pradesh Gaupalan Evam Pashudhan Samvardhan Board. So, based on his opinion, the Third World War will start over a cow. I had my doubts about it but acute insomnia over such a dreadful prediction and lot of free time brought me around to his viewpoint. Now, as we all know, in Hinduism cow is a much revered animal and people go gaga over religion.

3rd ww.jpg

Now that we have established that India will play a part in this role, let’s look at the spark which will ignite this war. No prizes for guessing, it will be Pakistan, because Indians lose their shit once we talk about Pakistan. Photos emerge of senior Pakistan politicians and army butchering unarmed Indian cows that have unwittingly trespassed into Pakistani territory and are labelled as RAW spies. Pakistan approaches the UN and releases tapes showing the cows eating grass on their side of the border near Lahore which is apparently a conspiracy to support secessionist movement in Baluchistan somehow. Mahamandleshwar Swami Akhileshwaranand Giri calls for complete boycott of all talks with Pakistan and mobilization of troops.

Donald Trump, the US President will call on Modi and in his trademark style will ask us to build a border wall so Indian cows will not trespass and get involved in this bloody conflict. What follows is a tweet marathon by Arvind Kejriwal in which he blames Modi and the BJP for promoting drug culture in Punjab (by citing Udta Punjab) which led to the cows, who were high at the time, not realizing that they had crossed the border. Rahul Gandhi goes to a gaushala in Punjab and dines with the cows to show his solidarity with their cause. Protests begin across college campuses in India, especially JNU, once Kanhaiya Kumar proclaims that the cows were actually Dalits and the government is not doing enough to protect them. From being a symbol of Hindu Nationalism, the cow has now become a unifying symbol of Indian nationalism. The nation unites as one in condemning Pakistan.

Reports surface that cows across India refuse to be milked until their brethren are revenged. Losses mount on Amul and Mother Dairy. In such a circumstance, the central government has no choice but to call for massive troop movements. India and Pakistan are on the brink of war for the fifth time. China falls behind Pakistan because the Chinese don’t give a damn about human rights, why would they care about cow rights? Organizations crop up around the world (funded by Mahamandleshwar Swami Akhileshwaranand Giri) calling for cow rights. Trump declares support for India because milk from Indian cows helped him ‘Make America Great Again’. Soon enough, American troops began arriving in Mathura to take blessings from Sri Krishna’s cows. “Holy Cow” becomes the war cry of the Indo-American troops as they train together. Other countries also start picking sides and as the first bullets are fired, the world is engulfed in yet another war leading a few people to ask, ‘How much cow is too much cow?’

Where India Shamefully lags behind Pakistan

Of course we know that India and Pakistan cannot be compared, India being this great country viewed as a future superpower while Pakistan being described as a radicalized failed state. However, there is one area where Pakistanis have put us Indians to shame. It is with a heavy heart and genuine shame that as an Indian I have to accept this. Pakistan is better at incubating startups than India is.

51

Surprised? Well we have all these great IITs, so many engineering colleges, students etc. We have such a vibrant startup economy with success stories like Flipkart, Olacabs, Zomato, Inmobi and whatnot. Unfortunately, our government is not as supportive of these startups as Pakistan is despite the Startup India program.

You might now start to doubt me and ask “Well where are the statistics?” Unfortunately, no one has yet effectively compared our start-up economies due to their diversity. So here I present to you a comparison of Indian and Pakistani startups for your enlightenment.

Sr. No. Incentives India Pakistan
1 Free Unlimited Finance No Yes
2 Travel Facility Abroad for Business Purposes No Yes
3 Purchase of Devices and Machinery No Yes
4 Tax Free No Yes
5 Active State Support No Yes
6 Training and Development at No Cost No Yes
7 Conferences with Successful Foreign and Domestic Startup Founders at no Cost No Yes
8 Retirement and Family Pension No Yes

 

The above chart clearly represents why Pakistani startup economy is clearly in a much better shape than the Indian startup economy. The blame lies entirely on the Modi government as well as the previous governments for ignoring entrepreneurship and employment generation opportunities for the youth of this country.

India has failed to provide a robust infrastructure mechanism that allows founders to employ their full potential towards successfully converting a startup into a full-fledged business. Moreover the Indian mentality is such that parents would prefer their child to have a stable job with a stable salary rather than to venture out on their own. Since Pakistan’s overall economy is a bust, the youth do not find well-paying jobs and are forced to engage in self-employment which is creating an increasingly wonderful trend in this country of suicide bombers.

Moreover, unlike successful Indian startups, most of the Pakistani startups are involved in exporting their services which as everyone would agree is a lot better than capturing just the domestic market. While this does not mean that the domestic Pakistanis have not been influenced by these startups. A lesson lies here for the Indian bureaucracy and the government to allow a free hand to our startups and take a page out of their books.

Here’s a list of some of the most successful Pakistani startups:

  1. Lashkar-e-Toiba (huge exporter in the Indian market)
  2. Jaish-e-Mohammed (having vast business interests in India)
  3. Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD)
  4. Haqqani Network
  5. Al-Qaeda
  6. Taliban
  7. Indian Mujahedeen

While some of them may not have initially started out in Pakistan, they definitively would have failed but for Pakistan’s aid. Shame on India, for discriminating against foreigners; while Pakistan treats them all fairly. Even Indian startups are given adequate funding and machinery by Pakistan.

Yes we suffer from Brain Drain. Here’s why it can be good.

As Indians, brain drain or more euphemistically called human capital flight, is something we come across quite significantly. Owing to our high fascination for reproduction, emigration was always going to be a big issue for us. More troubling is the emigration of a highly skilled workforce. However, such actions are rarely unjustifiable. People leave the nation for better educational and employment opportunities which is their right.

A large number of Indian migrants pick the United States as a favored destination, ‘The land of the Free and the Home of the Brave’. The Indian-American community has established a niche for itself and counts among several model minorities. “A model minority is a minority group whose members are perceived to achieve a higher degree of socioeconomic success than the population average.” It is principally the Indian Americans who are considered to be the most educated and wealthy of the Indian immigrants. And it is this diaspora which can contribute much more to India than it ever can by reversing this brain drain.

Indian Americans occupy chief spots in politics such as Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and South Carolina governor Nikki Haley (both of them being the most notable). Indian Americans also occupy key spots in international tech giants such as Microsoft and Google (Alphabet Inc.). A Pew Survey found that the median income of Indian American household is higher than any other Asian subgroup at $88000 against a national average of $49800. We Indians take a lot of pride in throwing around names like Satya Nadella, Sundar Pichai, Indra Nooyi, Nikesh Arora, etc. Yet it is time we ask how most of these IITians can give back to the nation. It is time the Indian American community contributes to India what a robust Jewish American community contributes to Israel.

Being a shade under 3.5 million, the Indian American community has a significant clout in academia and government. Yet just as the Jewish American community identifies solely with Israel, we Indians lack a unifying identity towards India. What works in our favor though is that most of these Indian Americans still have a large amount of folks back home and the Indians, wherever they maybe, pride themselves in having a highly rooted family culture.

It is primarily this soft power which Narendra Modi attempted to target in his Madison Square Garden address. Just like a robust Jewish lobby, the Indian expats must work towards forming an active Indian lobby. While such lobby groups do exist, such as the US-India Political Action Committee, their success has been limited considering the economic might of the Indian Americans. In contrast, Jewish lobbies have significantly influenced American policy making towards benefitting Israel in the Middle East. One cannot emphasize enough how such a lobby can benefit Indian interests now that India is vying for a bigger role on the global stage.

The Indian diaspora abroad can contribute significantly to the Indian economy as well by investing in India and sending back remittances. It is time that the government provides significant incentives to this community to mobilize the soft power it holds such as a dialogue on dual-citizenship for the expats making life significantly easier for them. The time has gone for right-wingers like Subramaniam Swamy to question the patriotism of Indian Americans like Raghuram Rajan. While the nation may still feel let down by the massive scale brain drain, effective lobbying for Indian interests is the best way the Indian diaspora can contribute to our growth story. To quote a cheesy cliché, “You can take the Indian out of India, but you can never take India out of the Indian”.

Nuclear Weapons = New Peacemakers?

World over nuclear flashpoints have been springing up like anything. These flashpoints have made the world much more unstable than what it used to be. Kashmir, Ukraine and Korea are amongst the most active and dangerous ones at present. Any escalation between the parties can lead to an all-out war with disastrous efforts which may never be mitigated. There is a definite arms race in South Asia, although not overt in its characteristics. With increase in weapons stockpile, we are at the brink of a nuclear war every passing day. Or are we?

While we may argue that nuclear weapons are undoubtedly a dangerous proposition, can we not say that they have prevented the skirmishes worldwide from turning into full scale wars? A perfect example is the Kargil War. India and Pakistan declared themselves as nuclear powers in 1998. This was followed by a brief Kargil War in 1999. Pakistan, riding on the fact that it had a sizable nuclear stockpile to counter India, occupied strategic Indian peaks leaving India red-faced. The Indian Army then undertook a serious challenge to oust these invaders and ultimately succeeded. What if the war would have continued? There was a serious possibility of it turning into an all-out war on all fronts with a high chance of involvement of nuclear weapons. However, I personally believe that it was the threat of the consequences of nuclear fallout which prevented both the nations from resorting to full scale devastation. In the end Pakistan anticipated Indian caution correctly. This was followed by a bold attack on the temple of the world’s largest democracy, the Indian Parliament, again leading to troop mobilization along the LoC. Perhaps in all subsequent years Pakistan has tried to provoke India and India has had ample reasons to resort to aggression yet perhaps it is the elephant in the room, aka, the nuclear weapons which prevents an all-out war.

India and Pakistan have been at each other’s throat since Independence and even after 1971, there have been ample instances where a war would have been justifiable. But the threat of international fallout and the inability to control the effects of a nuclear war has resulted in wars being fought at a micro level. Kim-Jong-Un may or may not have a nuclear stockpile but his veiled threats are enough to keep the Americans and South Koreans guessing leading to peace on stand-by mode. As the nuclear deal with Tehran has been signed off, the Middle East will become another nuclear flashpoint with Israel also being an alleged nuclear power.

All in all, worldwide, the possibility of a nuclear war has kept nations at bay which ensures that no skirmish turns into an all-out war with unimaginable consequences. With the number of instances of this being higher, one can correctly argue that due to the presence of nuclear weapons, many a war has been prevented from escalating. Nuclear stockpiles are playing a major role in de-escalating tensions.

The danger though is still very real. There are nations which possess the virtue of responsibility and in their hands these weapons have indeed become weapons of peace. India being one such nation. Despite ample provocations from Pakistan, we have managed to put off an impending war on more than one occasion simply by the threat of a nuclear war which I doubt Pakistan would have been able to outlast. However, was India to give Pakistan reason to start a war, would the ISI and the army hold back from going nuclear?

The threat of an atomic war seems very real with unstable nations like Pakistan being able to possess weapons of mass destruction. The civilian government in Pakistan has as much say as the President in India. It is merely titular and the army runs the show. The army and ISI’s goals are short-term and they would see a nuclear war as highly beneficial despite knowing India’s superiority. Besides this, Pakistan harbors terrorists which not only attack India but also Pakistan. Unstable nations like Pakistan would never be able to safeguard their stockpile so as to not let it fall in the hands of extremists. In fact they would have a conflict of interest from keeping these weapons safe from a LeT or ISIS for example.

So despite the nuclear weapons being weapons of peace in the hands of countries like India, US, Russia, etc. Pakistan and North Korea are the prime example of rotten apples whose immediate goals clearly take precedence over peace and stability. With responsible nations, nuclear weapons supplement diplomatic back channels to resolve conflicts from escalating into all-out wars but with unstable pseudo-democracies, they are indeed weapons of mass destruction.

Pakistan’s Peace Paradox

Pakistan’s obsession with Kashmir has meant that the valley has always remained a flashpoint over the decades. Peace has eluded Kashmir ever since independence and repeated blows have been dealt upon Kashmiris who require nothing more than peace and tranquil. In this turf war between these two nations, the sole sufferers are the people. While both nations allege violation of UN statutes by each other, the gunfire continues abated.

Over the years politicians from both sides have tried to establish friendly relations but in vain – most infamous being Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s trip to Karachi and the subsequent Kargil war, for which the erstwhile BJP government drew flak. Every time an Indian leader puts a hand of friendship forward, he runs the risk of being bitten by the snake that is the Pakistani Army. Talks often break down and the two nations often chide each other in public after such incidences.

Even after innumerable instances, India has not registered the fact that the civilian government in Pakistan is more for show than for actual ruling. Civilian governments come and go as the army pleases and while these governments may genuinely want peace, it is not at all in the interest of the army or the ISI. No matter how many peace accords one may sign with the government of the day, it is but a faux pas. The army always has the last laugh in Pakistan and if a Prime Minister fails to go along with the army’s wishes, they’ve got a coup on their hands.

The bonhomie displayed by Modi and Sharif at Ufa shows how Indian governments have no other choice but to participate in such photo-ops for the rest of the world to see that we’re trying to resolve our issues though mutual dialogue when actually covert actions have become the norm. As often quoted, most nations have an army, while in Pakistan it is the army which has a nation. Pakistan has never acted like a nation, for the benefits of its citizens but is a breeding ground for terrorists and anti-India activities. In these circumstances, peace with Pakistan is for fools. With ceasefire violations becoming more and more frequent, Pakistan has its priorities laid down. It is for us to decide whether we like to be treated like a tennis ball, being bounced on either side of the court, or we wish to hold the racquet once in a while just to see what it feels like!

For too long, Indian leaders have fallen prey to this cycle of appeasing Pakistani politicians, only to be backstabbed by the army. Then again efforts to reconcile take place ignoring the giant elephant in the room a.k.a. Pakistan’s sponsor of terrorism. Why must we continue with this pathetic little charade? The answer is simple. India is trying to orchestrate itself as the big brother in the neighborhood and that image won’t go out unless Pakistan remains unhinged. Dialogue with Pakistan is fruitless and will be. We must ensure that we do not give up our dignity in the hope for some reciprocation of peace.

“Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself”

neighbor

This is an important message which every person must imbibe. India and more importantly Modi must learn to conform to this message. India believes it can one day be on the cusp of attaining an impregnable status not only in its dodgy neighborhood but also worldwide. For it to attain this objective it must show that being the leader comes naturally to it. So far, our foreign policy has been dictated by concerns of local populace, as in the case of our relations with Sri Lanka, being conformist to the agenda of Tamilians. We have not devolved a clear agenda on our neighbors and whilst being seen as a big bully in our neighborhood, we can never claim the Permanent Seat on the UNSC that we so desire. In my opinion, so far, India has failed to develop envious relations with any country, except maybe Russia in the past. Under Modi, one could see glimpses of a change in this field evident by the fact that he invited all the SAARC heads for his swearing-in ceremony, the focus being on Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif. Of late, however, our relations with our aggressive neighbor have dampened owing to the incessant shelling and firing across the international border. Following are our major concerns regarding our immediate neighbors whose instability can spell our doom.

 

Pakistan

India foreign policy without Pakistan is like bread without butter. They go hand in glove. One must see India as the big brother here, due to its stability and greater economic as well as military prowess. Therefore, the onus lies on India to move ahead with the process and prevent adjournments motivated by separatists and infiltrators. However, that said, Pakistan is not absolved of the responsibility of maintaining peace. Pakistan must realize that India as an enemy poses significantly large economic disadvantages to it. While India has granted Pakistan the Most-Favored Nation (MFN) Status in terms of trade, Pakistan has still not extended the same courtesy. Bilateral trade between the two nations is still negligible and Pakistan must frame the season for its own harvest. War is not an option, citing the importance India places on its economy and the presence of nuclear arsenal. The focus must be on the economy and not on militancy and while India can flex its muscles all it can want, it realizes that war with Pakistan is not an option.

China

India-China relations have never been warm. While on the outside their leaders may shake hands but the borders always paint the true picture. As evidenced by the Chinese President, Xi Jinping’s visit to India recently, marked by a border stand-off, to show India its right place in the relations. While relations between Nehru and Zhou Enlai were friendly to say the least, they took a volatile turn after India’s tough stand on the border issue, ultimately resulting in the Sino-Indian conflict of 1962.

China still dominates the bilateral trade and cheap Chinese products have flooded the Indian market while Indian firms have been facing significant restriction in the Chinese market. There is no doubt as to who the dominant partner is in this relation, again owing to China’s frightening military and economic prowess. China’s foreign policy is much more evolved and it involves keeping Pakistan much closer than India would like. China has also been involved in an encirclement policy in the Indian Ocean Region establishing ties with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives. While Chinese influence in Nepal puts India on the back foot, India’s relations with Vietnam or Japan cannot attract similar fears among the Chinese.

India must be weary of the Chinese as they can never even be fair-weather friends (let alone all-weather friends) but are at most ‘not enemies’. India must not only maintain a strong stance on the border without pandering to the Chinese but also keep them at arm’s length. A conflict with China will most certainly spell doom for our economy without ruffling their feathers.

Nepal

Nepal is an important buffer state for India with respect to China. Nepal’s strength and sovereignty must be as important to us as ours owing to its geo-political importance and our cultural ties. Historically, India has been seen as a big bully by Nepal due to the influence (read interference) we have on its internal politics. This has started to dawn on the government in recent times owing to China’s policy of encirclement, Nepal being an important pawn of China in this game. China’s investment in Nepal has been on the rise while our bureaucracy and disastrous foreign policy has meant that India’s influence is starting to wane. Modi, importantly, has understood Nepal’s strategic importance and is leaving no stone unturned in extending credit lines and inking hydropower projects. India must realize that the fruits of its economic expansion must accrue to Nepal if it wants to end Chinese influence on its policies.

Bangladesh

As a nation, Bangladesh must owe us one for helping them attain freedom, although we didn’t assist them totally out of the goodness of our heart. However, tensions have existed ever since its independence over the sharing of water from the Teesta river and infiltration. Bangladeshi refugees residing in Assam have become an important poll issue for many parties. Again, Bangladesh has seen considerable Chinese investment and China exercises a good deal of influence here as well. India has been caught off guard as its Bangladesh hasn’t been able to reap the fruits of our economic progress and enmity has thrived over time. Redrawing of the boundary is a must. Engaging in much more economic dialogue has great advantages for us from a political point of view.

Afghanistan

Afghanistan is a very important nation national security-wise and a rare friend in the neighborhood. In Afghanistan’s stability lies India’s security. Once the inevitable American forces pull-out begins, the Taliban will have a free hand. Its influence will extend over Pakistan and India will see some spill-over effect. Over the years our investment in Afghanistan has risen and India has also helped train Afghan soldiers and doctors. India’s warm relations with the former Afghan PM Hamid Karzai greatly irked Pakistan. Pakistan has been kept busy on the Afghan front and this reduces its capabilities in Kashmir. Afghanistan can become an important all if India decides to pursue an aggressive policy on Pakistan.

Sri Lanka

The island nation is perhaps India’s Vietnam. India has had dark experiences with Sri Lanka and this has left a bad taste in our mouth. The policy towards Sri Lanka has always been seen the through the prism of the Tamil Nadu populace whose brethren form Sri Lanka’s exploited minority. Sri Lanka is a crucial ally for China, which has already docked a submarine here officially.  In order to thwart any Chinese influence here, investment is the only answer. So while China builds world-class ports in Sri Lanka, what have we been doing? We have been engaging in bitter battles of exchange of poor fishermen who stray in each other’s territories. India must explore new avenues of foreign policy with regard to Sri Lanka instead of acting like the big brother.

Therefore, one must realize that for far too long we have been the big bully in the neighborhood. Our neighbors resent our economic growth for the simple reason that we don’t share it. India’s leadership in SAARC has been nothing but ordinary up till now with no major successes. We are allowing China to play a bigger role in the Indian Ocean Region, which has curtailed our influence. Unless we learn to take our neighbors hand-in-hand and show that we can lead South Asia, we do not deserve to sit at the big boys’ table. India has immediate economic and security concerns in South Asia which if left unaddressed can develop into major rivalries. We have been to interfering which paints us as a hypocrite when we cry foul upon Pakistan’s calls to the UN for resolution of the Kashmir issue. Modi has to realize that foreign policy is intricate as running the nation and you can only make friends with muscle power or money power in this region, both of which China hasn’t been afraid to throw around.

Israel vs. Palestine; India’s Neutrality

Israel Palestine

As conflict in the Gaza strip sets in, disruptions in Parliamentary proceedings have happened thousands of miles away in a country neither directly nor indirectly involved in the conflict, India. Israel and Palestine have been at each other’s throats ever since Israel’s creation after the Second World War in previously-controlled Palestinian territory. The recent violence has blown out of proportion as Israel’s bombs rock the Gaza strip amid serious provocations by the Hamas-ruled Gaza strip. Hamas, described by many western nations as a terrorist organization has been in control of Gaza in recent times and has orchestrated several attacks against Israel. Israel too is supposed to be blamed for such a conflict.

As Jewish refugees fled Nazi strongholds after the Second World War to the land of Israel, they assisted in creating new refugees in the form of Palestinians. Today, Palestinian refugees live on Israeli military-administered territory alongside Jewish families and their basic amenities are disregarded. A classic example of how the hunted has become the hunter. Over the years aimless peace talks went on under US supervision. This frustration gave birth to the Hamas. A violent Sunni Muslim organization, Hamas fights for the rights of Palestinians.

A few days back, Parliamentary proceedings in India were disrupted by the opposition party, Congress which demanded answers from the external affairs minister, Sushma Swaraj, about the stand that India plans to take in the conflict. The ruling BJP has not picked sides as yet and has refrained from doing so. India is presented with a sticky wicket here and the government has a lot to lose by taking sides. If the Congress would have been the ruling party, it would have come out in favour of the Palestinians in order to appease its widespread Muslim vote bank despite Israel being an important defense and strategic ally of India. Backing Israel is seen as a rightist policy, which may actually happen, considering the BJP mindset.

The government has kept its cards close to its chest. Backing Israel today would mean disenchantment of those Muslims who are Muslims first and Indians second (a potential Congress vote bank). Also, the Middle East is India’s prime oil supplier and any policy to oppose their moves could backfire easily. India has cultural ties with the Middle East which go centuries back and therefore, the Middle East has always emerged as a natural ally amid its conflicts with Israel. India also had positive communications with the erstwhile Saddam regime while India has business interests in Egypt, Iraq and Iran.

Israel has always been protective of Jews everywhere, whether Indian, American or Ethiopian. In the 26/11 attacks, even Nariman House, a Jewish landmark was attacked provoking reactions from the state of Israel. By disregarding Israel’s claims and supporting the Middle Eastern regimes, India risks opening the Pandora’s Box of being labelled as a Hamas sympathizer by Western powers, which it cannot risk in such tumultuous times for its defense forces. Israel can provide India valuable defense training and technology which will be invaluable in times of Chinese and Pakistani aggression and infiltration. By risking Israel’s disenchantment, we lose out on defense contracts.

Must we lose out on prospective all-weather allies by being stupid and picking sides in a war that doesn’t concern us?

Another Iraqi Crisis

ISIS

As Iraq undergoes a tough challenge against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Levant) ISIS/ISIL, India must take a step back and watch very carefully. The Modi government now faces its first foreign affairs challenge wherein, it’s under pressure to evacuate Indians stranded in the country safely. India has opened channels of communication with Saudi Arabia, thought to have some sort of control over the hardened Sunni militants, who began as the Al-Qaeda’s little brother but have carved for themselves a niche in the world of terrorism.

ISIS plans to establish a joint Iraqi and Syrian Sunni Muslim state and also has eyes on world dominion. The US has denied any ground troops in Iraq after its earlier debacle and the high cost for maintaining the army in Iraq. Even soldiers of the Iraqi military have been deserting their posts amid deteriorating working conditions and fatigue. Shia clerics have been calling for the majority Shi’ite population to arm themselves and fight the Sunni militants along with the residual Iraqi forces.

India must hope for a reverse in fortunes of the Shi’ite led Iraqi forces, backed by the US for a multitude of reasons. Iraq has been one of the major crude oil suppliers of India and with the country being overrun by militants, crude oil prices are bound to skyrocket. This presents a bold challenge for the government as rising prices would fuel the already sky-high inflation figures, which can spell trouble for it amid rise in prices of train fares and a supposed rise in duty on sugar. The government must prepare itself for a huge public outcry as soaring prices will break the back of the middle-class Indian. After the fall of major Iraqi cities to ISIS, the Indian Sensex, which was soaring amid high hopes from the Modi government also crashed for consecutive days.

The bigger challenge though for the Ministry of External Affairs is the evacuation of Indians stranded in the country whose passports have been confiscated by the companies they work for. While some are hiding in war-torn areas, 40 others have been reportedly abducted by the militants. One cannot hope any kindness by them towards Indians as India has been on Al-Qaeda’s radar, which is evident due to the surfacing of a video by the militant organization calling for restart of Jihadist organizations in the Kashmir valley. Along with the 40 Indians kidnapped, trapped also are a few nurses working in militant-occupied Tikrit whose safety still remains a glaring concern. The Indian government must now sit back and hope for the best as more and more Iraqi cities fall to the militants and the death toll rises.

Kashmir Conflict

kashmir-map_14

Kashmir, the valley with unparalleled beauty in the entire subcontinent, was often referred to as the Switzerland of the East by its last ruler Hari Singh. As the name suggests, Hari Singh was the Hindu ruler of Kashmir, ruling over a vastly predominant Muslim populace. Like many other princely states existing at the time of partition, Kashmir too refused to sign the Instrument of Accession to India and instead chose to remain independent. Pakistan nevertheless, was keen on securing this key state after losses of Hyderabad and Junagadh to India. Even after several persuasive attempts by the last Viceroy Mountbatten, Kashmir’s accession was never a done deal.

Hari Singh’s wish was to project Kashmir as a politically neutral and independent state. Kashmir’s beauty and the King’s ideology were both in sync with Switzerland. However, that was not to be. Pakistan believed that the Kashmiri Muslim would be in favour of acceding to Pakistan instead of India. Unlike Pakistan, India was established on secular lines and the fact that Kashmir composed mainly of Muslims was irrelevant to India. Under such circumstances, post-independence, Pakistan-backed tribals launched a guerilla attack on Kashmir which could not be countered by the erstwhile King. A dejected Hari Singh decided to ask for Indian military intervention on the condition that he would sign the Instrument of Accession. India grabbed the opportunity with both hands and soon an onslaught by the Indian army and local Kashmiri fighters pushed back the guerillas. Kashmir was on course to become a whole and sole part of the Indian Union but Nehru decided to seek UN intervention. As expected, the UN called for a ceasefire and a plebiscite to determine the wishes of the Kashmiri populace. Its conditions were that Pakistan must back off from the region while India should REDUCE military presence in the region. Pakistan categorically denied to roll back its army and decided to hold on to the territory for India hadn’t pulled back its troops. It then blamed India for not being able to conduct a plebiscite.

The extent to which India pushed back these rebels is today known as the Line of Control (LOC). Today, Kashmir is divided into 3 parts, most of which is administered by India, a part falls under Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK) and a minute area called Aksai Chin belonging to China. So who can claim Kashmir today? Legally, India has the right to the whole of Kashmir, administered by the erstwhile ruler Hari Singh as India holds Kashmir’s Instrument of Accession. Pakistan can perpetrate all kinds of violence it wishes to but the fact is India actually has the right to POK as well.

However, that said, are we morally or ethically justified in bringing Kashmir under our control? Even after the rulers of Junagadh and Hyderabad were ousted, a plebiscite was conducted. In Junagadh, the plebiscite was one-sided, in favour of India while in Hyderabad, it was not required seeing the massive support the Indian army received after ousting the Nizam. Why not apply the same rationale in Kashmir as well? We can argue all we want that the King decided to accede to the India Union however, a referendum is important to judge where the people stand. While we have constant military deployment in the region under AFSPA, we never seemed to care about the wishes of the Kashmiri. But the time for such a referendum is long gone. The Kashmir issue is here to stay and India must accept the fact that it has erred on several grounds. Like the BJP, many Indians are against conducting such a plebiscite and prominent lawyer Prashant Bhushan, in favour of a referendum, is often criticized for such views.

India’s basic argument for not conducting a plebiscite was that Pakistan never vacated the territory it occupied. Though technically true, it doesn’t matter much as even our army stayed back in huge numbers. Nehru erred while taking the dispute to the UN which took a highly humanitarian view. In light of Indian (and even Kashmiri interests) the issue would have been best settled once the rebels were completely driven out and then a referendum was conducted. The argument that the Security Council tried to overcompensate against its Muslim biases is baseless. Fact of the matter is that even though we can legally lay claim on Kashmir, it isn’t ours in humanitarian terms. Overtime, anti-Indian sentiments have built up in parts of Kashmir. ISI backed terrorists have reduced but insurgency still remains as a major issue and it is finally the Kashmiri that suffers. The onus now lies on India to maintain peace and thwart all Pakistani attempts aimed at disruption and insurgency. Maintaining status quo is important and working towards abrogation of Article 370 is imperative.