Modi government and several state government's incompetence is largely responsible for India’s pandemic disaster, as infections and deaths mount at a terrifying pace in India, the prime minister’s team's culpability for the crisis has become startlingly clear. A literate leader might have saved India from this manmade disaster.
India might have been spared this humanitarian crisis had Modi and his team not neglected their duties and vilified those who offered him, constructive counsel. He had the time, means, and access to expertise to prove the country against this inferno. As early as last November, a parliamentary committee had issued warnings of a second wave and urged the government to stockpile oxygen. But rather than bolstering India’s capacities, Modi used the virus to burnish his cult and pillage the country.
Last March, days after plunging India into chaos by announcing a nationwide lockdown with a four-hour notice, he sought tax-free donations for a fund called PM CARES to help the poorest of the poor, buy personal protective equipment and build oxygen plants across India. The equivalent of more than a billion dollars flowed into it during the first week. What did Modi do with all that money? Nobody knows and nobody is allowed to know.
Like those other leaders, Modi has spent more time diminishing the pandemic’s seriousness than combating it. In early March, even as cases in India rose alarmingly, he again boasted that the country would serve as “the world’s pharmacy,” churning out vaccines for developing nations. His health minister judged India to have entered the “endgame” of the pandemic. In a new cricket stadium named after Modi, tens of thousands of largely unmasked people turned out to watch matches between India and England last month. Many more unprotected people turned out for Modi’s recent election rallies in the state of West Bengal, and an estimated 3.5 million people attended, with the encouragement of Modi’s Hindu nationalist colleagues, the Kumbh Mela religious festival.
COVID-19 has shown that we have underestimated the insidious nature of and the menace posed by biological weapons to humanity. It is difficult to anticipate new, highly infectious, and deadly bioagents like COVID-19. The absence of immediate bio-defenses and the time-lag in finding treatment(s) and vaccine(s) enables the invisible enemy to inflict high morbidity and mortality. The latency period and mutation into virulent and different strains, along with the chances of a recurrence in waves, make disease detection and control more challenging.
Mass contagion and efforts to contain it, including through the Great Lockdown, have brought even the most powerful countries to their knees and economies to a grinding halt. It has pushed robust democratic societies into turmoil and has led governance into crisis. The pandemic has generated a psyche of fear, uncertainty, and helplessness among people everywhere.
Wish the ruling class in India should be literate enough to understand the scientific inputs rather than the usual election dynamic of dividing communities into communal, caste, and class lines.
The writer is Prashant Tewari, Editor-in-Chief of The Opinion Express Group)
THE MAHA BLUNDER: Many political leaders, who were in influential positions in Maharashtra and Gujarat during 1990s had developed close relations with underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and his henchman Iqbal Mirchi. This assertion was officially put down on paper when the N.N. Vohra committee submitted its report to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in 5 October 1993, roughly three months after it was established on 9 July 1993 in the aftermath of 12 March 1993 Bombay bomb blasts. While the contents of the report, which was subsequently made public on 1 August 1995 in Parliament, were only limited to 11 pages, it is a part of the government’s own records that the finding of the report, in total, was close to 100 pages. It is these 100 pages that were never made public, that have now become relevant, almost 26 years after they were brought into existence after Union Home Minister Amit Shah highlighted the issue on the floor of the parliament. The 100 pages with annexures, which are the most vital part of the report, according to old Intelligence Bureau (IB) hands, contain the names of leading politicians and bureaucrats who helped Dawood and Mirchi from the 1970s till 1993 and beyond.
However, there is strong hope among former Intelligence officials that the present dispensation at North Block will now be able to gather the courage to make 100 pages of the report public, especially with the BJP now raking up the issue of the connections between politicians and Dawood. The matter has taken a serious turn in the present context when Pakistan is using Dawood & Co extensively to sabotage the progress of India. The terror attacks, gold smuggling, drug trafficking, and money laundering is extensively pushed by the Dawood network to weaken the Indian state on the behest of hostile neighbor Pakistan, a proxy controlled by China.
The growth of Dawood and Mirchi was due to the fact that the concerned enforcement agencies did not timely take action against him and, later, this perhaps became difficult on account of the enormous patronage that he had developed. MHA was given all kinds of information, in volumes of pages, which were ‘ultra-sensitive’ in nature. This information clearly showed how politicians were on the payroll of Dawood and how they were acting as his servants. Much of this information was produced in the Vohra committee report, in the portion which was not made public. We can understand why it was not made public before, but now, there is no political compulsion as such. It should have been presented before the public to show the deep nexus that existed between the politicians, police and criminals. All the recent developments in Maharashtra related to Vazegate and his handlers rouge police commissioner Paramvir Singh, NCP & Shiv Sena political leadership are known to the entire country. It further establishes the fact that nothing has changed on the ground when it comes to the criminal synergy between the various stakeholders.
Syndicated crime has dented the prosperity of the country and it has infected the system from top to bottom. It is imperative that the present government must table the Vohra committee report on the floor of the parliament and expose the nexus between the politics, police, bureaucrat, and media linkage with the syndicated mafia to clean up the governance. Narendra Modi has repeatedly promised corruption-free governance, and transparent society and his strong-willed home minister should take up the Vohra committee report seriously and the process to clean up the opaque corrupt system controlled by the mafia must end. The role of the state governments is critical to clean up the mess since law & order is a state subject. The roadmap set up by UP Chief Minister to clean up the syndicated mafia should be taken as a glaring example to set law & order right. Our country has limited resources and the scarcity is going to increase further, hence the distribution of available resources becomes key for the success of the nation. We need a coordinated effort from all the stakeholders to erase the mafia nexus so that the next generations can live in peace.
As a COVID-19-induced slowdown marks the Modi 2.0 term, there is a desperate need to get the economy back on track. The country urgently needs a revival of the spirit, ultimately it is a question of the survival of over a billion people. Next-generation reforms include opening most of the railways to foreign direct investment (FDI), allowing more private sector participation in coal production and FDI in construction projects, extending the validity of industrial licenses, removing the last 20 remaining protected sectors under the small-scale industries list, and deregulating diesel pricing.
Reforms noticeably slowed as the Modi 1.0 term progressed but the government managed to institute two key reforms by its mid-term; the goods and services tax (GST) and the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC). By contrast, two years into Modi’s 2.0 term, only two reforms namely 25 percent corporate tax limit and the controversial Farm Bills 2020 were pushed by the government.
The compulsion to remain in power has refocused the government’s political energies on socio-political issues like ending the temporary special status of Kashmir, doing away with triple talaq, fast-tracking citizenship for regional minorities through the Citizenship Amendment Bill, and starting the Ram Mandir construction. Socio-political issues are popular but detract energy from taking steps to revive the economy. Reforms that can spur economic activity, boost confidence, and put people back to jobs are the real game-changers yet the focus is largely missing on economic management. The need for reforms, although ever-present, becomes even more critical in a COVID-19-induced slowdown. The government recently announced a slew of reforms that were akin to budget announcements, though implementation timelines are unclear.
Big-ticket and high-impact reforms are required. Lifting foreign equity restrictions in protected sectors and giving more autonomy to major ports can provide a quick bump in growth. Other reforms related to judicial reform, securing timely business licenses/clearances, and making land acquisition easier are long-awaited and can boost business and investor sentiment amidst a slowdown. Some reforms that made sense pre-COVID are even more relevant today, like creating a paperless court system, pushing e-governance, reducing the fiscal deficit, reducing oil imports and promoting clean energy sources to make the country self-reliant. Narendra Modi is blessed with a majority government and the present leadership must take urgent steps to bring back focus on the economic management of the country before it is too late.
The chaos and confusion, allegations and counter-allegations, and social media war are the new order of the day. On every contentious issue, citizens are on roads to settle their grievances. The redressal mechanism through the courts has become extremely weak and our country is under seizure for the entire year. Farmer’s protest in India’s national capital has created headlines globally but why the farmers are protesting, what is controversial in the contentious farm laws is hardly known to the majority of the people. The situation worsened further on republic day as a section of protesters reached the Red Fort on their tractors and stormed into its ramparts. The protesters climbed onto the ramparts of the Red Fort and waved their religious flags. One of them even climbed the flag post where the Tricolour was hoisted by the Prime Minister of India on Independence Day and replaced it with a religious flag there. Later, the police resorted to mild lathicharge and removed the people from the red Fort premises. It is imperative to fix the responsibility for this grave security failure that has led to the shaming of 1.3 billion people living in India. The weakness shown by the government will prove extremely costly in the times to come.
Farmer leaders have clearly stated that the agitation would continue till the farm laws are repealed. The entire confusion is fueled by the exit of NDA partner Akali Dal from the government in protest of the passing of the Farm Bill 2020 without enacting the MSP clause in the final draft of the Farm Bill 2020. It is fair to suggest that the Narendra Modi-led government being in the absolute majority is ignoring the sentiments of its allies since their absence has no impact in the lower house of the parliament for the government's survival. But as rightly suggested by Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amrinder Singh that anti-national forces are looking for an opportunity to penetrate any controversial movement to destabilize the country. Failed Khalistan push by overseas forces may trigger confusion in the minds of the sulking farmer community of Punjab to misguide them on the pretext of ethnic-religious divide hence the government of the day must remain vigilant and the requisite concessions should be extended to the farming community to defuse the unnecessary bitterness and heartbreak between the government and its people.
The government is lacking in communication skill set hence on every contentious issue - strikes and lockdowns are setting in. Lastly, the uncalled international intervention by certain groups and foreign leaders in an internal matter of the country is highly deplorable and it must be condemned in the strongest words. The government must defuse the crisis at the earliest and restore normalcy to accelerate the pace of developmental work that has suffered due to the Covid lockdown. The budget presented has a long-term vision and the government must focus on economic rejuvenation without any manmade disruption.
(The writer is Prashant Tewari, Editor-in-Chief, Opinion Express)
The downtrend of the Congress party can be traced back to one single event when the Bofors scam rocked the nation. The perception of the Congress party subsequently is built around corruption thereafter. Amateur, inexperienced and perhaps innocent late Rajiv Gandhi was crucified by a powerful cartel of middlemen facilitating the destruction of India’s oldest political party. Consequently, the wrong man died and middlemen flourished. Till today, Congress has reluctantly defended itself despite the established fact that the late Rajiv Gandhi was fooled by his associates to bring about his political death during his lifetime. Later, the Gandhi family handpicked middlemen namely Ahmed Patel, V George became leaders and party-junked PV Narsimha Rao, ND Tiwari, Pranab Mukherjee, Buta Singh, GK Moopanar, K Karunakaran, JB Panaik, SM Krishna, HR Bharadwaj, Shukla Brothers, Jagan Reddy, Mamta Banerjee in their lifetime. The middlemen take over pushed crony capitalism: Anil Ambani, Hinduja, Dhoot’s, BR Raju, Vijay Mallaya, GVK Reddy and many more became rock stars of the corporate world, together they milked the public sector banks with impunity to bring India’s growth story to a grinding halt.
The government of the day and the proactive courts must reopen the investigation of the BOFORS SCAM with a focus on exposing middlemen rather than the past ruling establishment primarily because the Bofors scam triggered birth to a new class of “dalals” in India and they gained tremendous control over the crucial institutions, establishing India as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Though we are fortunate to have had fiscally clean Prime Ministers in the last few decades yet corruption is rampant in the country at every level. So, where it went wrong? The answer is simple, the country is held hostage at the mercy of middlemen operating in politics, bureaucracy, corporate, legal and media domains. The country is bleeding from corruption and the current sufferings of the desperate poor masses are synonymous with this system's failure.
Today, the sanctity of the four pillars of democracy is in deep crisis because the process that started with the Bofors scandal has vitiated our democracy and spawned so many subsequent frauds and scams. One can't help wondering as to how many subsequent cases of corruption would have been avoided had the Bofors scam not provided a veritable template to the Kalmadis and Rajas that followed. The pride of 1.3 billion countrymen, our defense forces and their valour, demand a just and definitive denouement to this protracted murky saga of treachery to the nation. It is high time that the CBI intervened in Ajay Agrawal’s petition in the Bofors case pending before the Supreme Court with complete details of documents in the box given by Swedish Police in 1997 to reinvestigate the case and bring guilty to books. India must eradicate and punish “Dalals” from the system to leap-bound herself at the global level and lead the new world order. The onus is on the present Narendra Modi government and hyperactive Supreme Court of the country to order reinvestigation in the case without any political overtone and present correct facts to undo the damage done by middlemen by giving them exemplary punishment for breaking the backbone of the vital institutions of this glorious country. It will act as a strong deterrent to the operating middlemen community and certainly, it will clean the toxic system.
(The writer is Prashant Tewari Editor in Chief, Twitter: prashanttewar11 FB:email@example.com)
The chaos and confusing, allegations and counter allegations, social media war are the new order of the day. On every contentious issue, we are on roads to settle the grievance. The redressal mechanism through the courts have become weak and our country is under seize for entire year. Farmer's protest in India's national capital has created headlines globally. But why the farmers are protesting, what is controversial in the contentious Farm Bills is hardly known to majority of the people.
The farmers are protesting against two Farm Bills that the Rajya Sabha recently passed: (1) the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, and (2) the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020. The two bills had already cleared the lower house – the Lok Sabha. When they were introduced in the Rajya Sabha, there was ruckus and finally, the Bill was passed through a voice vote. It is noteworthy to mention that NDA ally Akali Dal has quit the government in protest of the passing of the bills in the parliament.
This Bill allows the farmers to sell their produce outside the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) regulated markets. The APMCs are government-controlled marketing yards or mandis. So, the farmers clearly have more choice on who they want to sell. This Bill makes provisions for the setting up of a framework for contract farming. The farmer and an ordained buyer can strike a deal before the production happens. The farmers of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and Haryana are angry fearing that the Minimum Support Price (MSP) guarantee that was their safety net since the Green Revolution of the 1960s kicked in, maybe snatched away from under the pretext of giving the farmers more playing ground and better platforms. Farmers fear the two recent bills as they feel these agriculture reform processes will kill the government procurement process as well as the MSP. And why do we see most protesters from Punjab and Haryana? That is because they are the biggest beneficiaries of this safety net.
Farmer leaders have clearly stated that the agitation would continue till the farm laws are repealed. The entire confusion is fueled by the exit of NDA partner Akali Dal from the government in protest of the passing of the Farm bills 2020 without enacting the MSP clause in the final draft of the farm bills 2020. It is fair to suggest that Narendra Modi led government being in absolute majority is ignoring the sentiments of its allies since their absence has no impact in the lower house of the parliament for the government survival. But as rightly suggested by Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amrinder Singh that anti national forces are looking for an opportunity to penetrate in any popular controversial issue to destabilize the country. Failed Khalistan push by overseas forces may trigger confusion in the minds of the sulking farmer community of Punjab to misguide them on the pretext of ethic religious divide hence the government of the day must remain vigilant and the requisite concessions should be extended to farming community to defuse the unnecessary bitterness and heart break between the government and its people. The government is lacking in communication skill set hence on every contentious issue, strikes and lockdowns are setting in. Lastly, the uncalled international intervention by certain groups and foreign leaders in an internal matter of the country is highly deplorable and it must be condemned in strongest words.
(The writer is the Editor-in Chief of The Opinion Express Group)
It has taken almost fifty-eight years since 1962 to settle the India-China relationship at a comfortable level but Covid 19 pandemic has forced confused President Xi Jinping to pick up a fight with the almost entire world including India by making the borders hot since March 2020. India has no option but to react with aggression to safeguard its national interest. India, following the ‘One China policy, does not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan but India is having commercial, economic and cultural ties with Taiwan. While nearly 23 countries have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, several countries have opened offices in Taipei. These countries, which include the United States, western European, Japan, Australia, and many others, follow ‘One China policy. However, the current hawkish Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen of DPP is pushing for nationalistic agenda. The Taiwanese know fully well the might of China. Yet, they are constantly looking for expanding their room for maneuver. US support is vital to Taiwan and supplies arms to Taiwan while maintaining a ‘One China’ policy: India has a unique diplomatic tool to push for renewed ties with Taiwan since China is continuously pushing armed insurgency in North East, J&K via Pakistan, arming Maoist rebellion against in several states via Nepal, endorsing terror by saving Masoor Azhar in United Nation.
The assertions of sovereignty by China over the South China Sea and US’ pivot to Asia policy have led to the rise of tensions in the region. The Taiwanese, taking note of India’s growing influence in regional and global affairs, want to engage with it in the hope that their room for maneuver vis-à-vis China will increase. Keenly watching the development of India’s ‘look east’ policy, they want to understand how India defines and protects its interests in Asia. India, which has a delicate and sensitive relationship with China, is naturally careful in dealing with Taiwan. India has sought to enhance functional linkages with Tai-wan without offending China. The bilateral trade between India and Taiwan crossed $15 billion in 2019-20. A joint study has been launched to explore the possibility of a free-trade agreement between the two sides. India has interests in Asia, particularly, the South China Sea. The Indian integration with ASEAN, South Korea and Japan is deepening. Given the large complementarities between India and Taiwan, the latter can be a good economic partner for India. India’s software skills and Taiwan’s hardware capabilities can be combined in joint ventures. Taiwanese companies can invest in Indian infrastructure. Further, Taiwan, which boasts of some high-quality universities, think tanks, and academic institutes, can be a good source for Indian institutions for academic exchanges. Presently, nearly 1000 Indian students are studying at Taiwanese science and engineering universities.
India is a large country following independent policies. India can pursue a functional relationship with Taiwan without deviating from its ‘One China' policy, however, if China plays deceptive games at border, trade and foreign policy: Taiwan and Tibet should be raked up by India at international forums to expose China’s expansionist regime. But India must have a consistent foreign policy in respect of Taiwan in alignment with the democratic nations of the world so that Taiwan can react to Chinese hostility with conviction. When China can defy the world and promote all-weather friends Pakistan and North Korea then India should act independently to frame its foreign policy.
Rampant corruption is a way of life, an accepted evil in India. Today, the mega political scams are restricted but the crony capitalists have continued their practice unabated leading to a slowdown in technological advancement, a lack of competition and an era of monopolies. While we must give the present government some credit for its implementation of the GST to expand the formal economy platform, since the shadow economy leads to an unorganized workforce, where workers face problems regarding salaries, job security, contract agreements, working conditions, etc. An informal workforce hampers the growth of manufacturing firms through lower degrees of productivity. It should not be surprising that India is a country that largely consists of an informal workforce and the continuation will have an effect on both the quantitative and qualitative aspects of growth in the long run.
The present government was clear with its agenda when it came into power six years ago and to some extent the intention to get rid of corruption through the main economic reforms that the government introduced (demonetisation and GST). The reality of the situation however reflects the plain and simple fact that nothing has changed or it has gone worse. The PNB scam is a clear indication of this, and of course, the situation has been reflected in Transparency International’s global corruption index. A lower ranking for India compared to previous years is certainly a black mark on the BJP government’s report card. Bofors Scam, Spectrum Scam, CWG Scam, Fodder Scam, FCI Scam, Coal Scam, Aircel Maxis Scam, National Herald Scam, Banking Scams of Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi, Vijay Mallya, Sandesara scam have largely gone in sleep mode. Congress or BJP, fraudsters have mastered the art of over-power the system.
All wings of democracy are infected by the corruption virus. Legislative, Executive, Judiciary and Media are overpowered by corporate money power. Today, Lok Sabha elections are heavily funded by corporate money hence irrespective of the outcome, they decide the leadership issue. The prime posting in the key government positions for bureaucrats is decided by a third party in consultation with the ruling elites to secure their interests. In recent times, the appointment of Judges in the higher judiciary is pushed by vested interest groups to safeguard their interests and lastly, the national media is completely controlled by select big pocket corporate houses directly or indirectly to set up a narrative that suits the interest of their business. The essence of democracy is crushed by the vested interest lobbies and the common man on the street is left off-guard to secure his basic rights guaranteed in the constitution. It is conclusively said that unless the nexus between money and governance is smashed, the common citizen of the country will be treated as the consumer by the so-called ruling elites and their super bosses and the dream of establishing an ideal democracy will remain an illusion.
Who wants Khalistan? The native Indian Sikh community in Punjab has absolutely no interest even to discuss the subject in their routine life. Sikh Diaspora attached to the mainland has no interest in the issue. But some disgruntled anti-national set of people prompted by the foreign funding is running a futile campaign to instigate the subject with no support from credible places. The Sikh community in India is the most progressive and prosperous community in the country. Independent India with a majority 80% Hindu population size has showered tremendous love and respect on the 2% Sikh community in every sphere of life. It can be a unique case study model anywhere in the world wherein the overwhelming population majority has voluntarily offered respect and position to the almost dismal population size group. The Sikh community has completely justified the faith and they have reciprocated the gesture with full commitment in every sector that it has been represented.
But the tragedy of Sikhs is that they have not found a leader worthy of carrying forward the legacy of their illustrious Gurus since Maharaja Ranjit Singh The first work of Guru Nanak who is invariably referred to as the founder of Sikhism, maintained, propounded original teachings, established a new religion and gathered round himself a following drawn from both Hindu and Muslim. This continued for about a century till Guru Hargobind, the sixth guru whose period occupies most of the first half of the seventeen century adopted the doctrine of ‘miripiri’ and resorted to an arm rebellion against the attempts made by Mughals to interfere and curb the religious rights of non-Muslims in India. He accordingly responded `to the Mughal threat of violent repression by arming his followers though nothing basic had, however, been changed. The tenth Guru Gobind Singh having observed the growing hostility of Mughal authorities reached a momentous decision to form a structured group of fighters to be named Khalsa having the military discipline
The present self-proclaimed leaders of the Sikh community are illiterate and anti-national. They have no intellect to understand the historical perspective and the current geopolitical games. We are still trying to get over the fallout from the lack of vision and leadership of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, now another “visionary”, Gurpatwant Singh Pannu, has appeared from America. He now wishes to lead the Sikhs by carrying forward the legacy of Bhindranwale. No one has divided Sikhs more than Bhindrawala and also poisoned the minds of our youth who have limited understanding of our faith and history but feel angry due to the attack on the Golden Temple.
And we in India must stop blaming Pakistan for fuelling the insurgency in recent times. Rather the blame must go straight to the ignorant Sikh groups who have either no access to their own history or are blinded by the power of foreign money to destabilize their own motherland. No one has supported operation blue star in totality but the rebel community elements must realise that the issue is permanently dead, just to keep raking up the issue repeatedly and playing to the opponent gallery has discredited the entire community. India has given Sikh President, Prime Minster, Army Chief, top bureaucrats and prominent businessmen and surely it makes the Sikh community the most respected group of the country but any activity against the strategic interest of the country used by any religious or ethnic group must be permanently eliminated. The new offensive defensive policy of the nation must send shivers to the militants and terror groups representing any section of society. And permanent elimination will be scripted if the larger interest of the country is hurt by any insane action conducted by them directly or under the influence of foreign forces against India.
Tax reforms were a long-standing demand by the salaried class. Will PM Modi’s measures go far enough?
Income tax-paying citizens of our country have often argued that they are the most ignored lot of voters by the political classes despite them “paying” the most to the Government. While there is a feeling of sympathy for them, one has to understand that while the incidence of income tax payers is low in our country, almost every Indian contributes to nation-building through indirect taxation. That said, the income tax system in India has become unduly complex over the years with all sorts of exemptions and cess payments as well as innovative ways for individuals and companies to escape paying up. The beginning of the reform process came in the form of simpler slabs, announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman during this year’s budget, while the existing slabs with exemptions remained. This could be seen as a start for the simplification of the tax code although the impact, particularly on charitable donations, remains to be seen.
In essence, the reforms announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday, that will impact personal income taxpayers, are relatively simple. However, increased digitisation will have a dramatic impact on the way disputes and issues are handled. Fewer “informal” ways of dealing with the taxpayers, with all communication digitised, will lead to fewer discrepancies and most importantly, reduced corruption. There is an overwhelming sense in India, despite punitive action taken over the past few years, that the taxman is a corrupt rent-seeker. These reforms might not do much for the taxpayer for now, but if implemented well, could help rehabilitate the image of the much-maligned taxman. Much work remains to be done to improve the methods of tax collection. Thousands of loopholes remain. In particular, the rich have taken advantage of them for years, including the infamous “farming income” being non-taxable. These gaps need to be plugged. Everyone should be made to pay their fair share of tax. If they do so, the nation will only benefit and the Government will not be seen as always attacking the honest salaried worker’s wallet with its money-grubbing hands. The reforms might be mainly some lip service but if they can spark a change, that would be a positive step.
Imran Khan releases arbitrary map absorbing Kashmir, possibly at China’s behest. But there won’t be takers
Everybody knows that Pakistan never misses an opportunity to internationalise the Kashmir issue but the “cry wolf” screams make for such a tired and wasted diplomatic move that they don’t make news at all. Yet it could not have let the anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370 go past without making some noise. So it released a new map of Pakistan, incorporating Kashmir, parts of Ladakh and Junagadh in Gujarat in a naked display of its territorial ambitions and highly wishful thinking. India has rightly called the vacuous and unilateral declaration, that is not backed by any credible reasoning, support groups, historical reasoning or legal validity, as a “political absurdity.” Worse, the challenge to our globally accepted sovereignty came from none other than Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who cited the endorsement of his Cabinet, the Opposition and an unnamed Kashmiri leadership as the rationale for the new map. But it was what Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that shows this cartographic offensive to be a part of a larger pattern and not just Pakistan’s independent move. “The new map shows Kashmir shares a clear border with China,” he said, a clear indication that like Nepal, this attempt to redraw boundaries was made at China’s behest and underlines our eastern neighbour’s desire for strategic contiguity in the region than Pakistan’s any real concern for Kashmir. While India is firm on Chinese withdrawal from eastern Ladakh that seems to have driven a wedge in their greater plan to control the Karakoram by squeezing us with salami-slicing, Pakistan’s map claims are clearly intended to warn us of a two-front offensive. With the Chinese reluctant to pull back from claimed spurs and ridgelines in Ladakh, India is looking at a long haul of vigil and alertness this winter. China just wants to exhaust our capacities at the heights by opening up a second flashpoint. Just last month, Pakistan had moved almost 20,000 soldiers to the Line of Control (LoC) to match Chinese deployment on the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Strangely it hadn’t positioned such troops even after the Balakot air strikes. The simultaneous build-up along the border and Pakistan’s renewed push on infiltration are clearly intended to stretch our resources thin and wear us out so that both could manage some territorial grabs in the process. If recent reports are to be believed, then the Chinese are no longer shadow-boxing. Just like in Nepal, their officials have had a series of meetings with Pakistani ones on Gilgit-Baltistan. China is also encouraging Pakistan to revive the defunct terrorist network of Al-Badr that was once active in Kashmir. Debt-trapped by the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), with its economy in the doldrums and heavily dependent on borrowings and bailouts, Pakistan is but a pawn in China’s gameplan. The hyperbolic claims of Imran Khan are less spontaneous and more in alignment with the grandiloquent declarations of the Chinese dream.
Of course, Khan is also looking at extracting some home advantages with this move. He wants his constituents to know that he has not lost the leadership of the Kashmir cause although his repeated attempts to raise the change in its status at several international fora have not got any traction over the last year. At China’s insistence, the UN held a closed-door meeting on Article 370 last August but stopped short of censuring India and described Kashmir an internal issue within India’s constitutional space. At one time, he himself had conceded ground, saying he wasn’t being able to turn the tide of international opinion because India was a “large market.” So he needed to show he still means business. Second, by involving Turkey in its criticism of India, Khan wants to stake his claim to leadership of a neo-Islamic axis involving Pakistan, Turkey and Malaysia. This is evident from the Pakistan Government’s information campaign, encouraging both China and Turkey to issue anti-India statements and tweets. It is trying to get Kashmir under the banner of pan-Islamism. Most significantly, the US is now more an ally of India to humour it. So it is now left to Pakistan to devise its own exportable Kashmir strategy. This is one of the reasons why the Government must make efforts for a civil integration of Kashmir lest the perceived alienation becomes a fertile ground for Pakistan to implement a new separatist agenda. Already the Kashmiri youth, who have been more interactive with mainstream discourse because of pursuing higher education and jobs across the country, are sensing a conspiracy to keep them out with continued curfews and internet bans. There must be political engagement with people’s representatives as confinement is only making them martyrs before locals when they could be used as assets to push governance. The ground situation will be chaotic or negative but one has to work through it rather than risk Pakistan whipping up its agenda at our expense. If indeed the Government wants to publicise normalcy, then it should take a step forward, no matter what the risks. Or else the political economy of Kashmir could just drift away.